Global Treaty to End Commercial Use of Mercury

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

The commercial use of mercury could end within three decades under a legally binding treaty signed as international law at a gathering last week of nearly 140 government delegations.

To date, 92 countries have signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury treaty — the first new global convention on environment and health in nearly a decade, according to the UN Environment Programme. The agreement still must be ratified by at least 50 countries that signed the treaty, AP reports. The US planned to sign the treaty, but was unable to last week due to the government shutdown, AP reports.

New CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships Launched

Since 2003, the Energy Department has supported a set of regional centers to help organizations understand how combined heat and power (CHP) can improve their bottom lines and lower energy bills. Today, the Advanced Manufacturing Office announced the launch of seven regional CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships, the next generation of these centers. Located in California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Washington state, these organizations will support analyses of CHP market opportunities, offer information on the energy and non-energy benefits and applications of CHP, and provide technical assistance to end-users considering CHP at their facility.

Find more information on how the new CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships will promote and assist in transforming the market for CHP, waste heat to power, and district energy with CHP technologies and concepts throughout the United States.

Learn more about the Energy Department’s continued commitment to advancing CHP through the fact sheet and Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About CHP blog also released today.

U.S. energy-related carbon pollution at lowest since 1994

Read the full story at Planet Ark.

Carbon dioxide emissions from energy production in the United States fell to 5.29 billion metric tons in 2012 – its lowest level since 1994 – despite a growing economy and rising population, according to government data released on Monday.

The Energy Information Administration, the statistics arm of the Department of Energy, said there was a 3.8 percent drop from the previous year.

That marked the largest decline in a non-recession year since EIA started tracking the data.

The latest decline came amid a large drop in energy intensity, the amount of energy consumed relative to GDP.

The 10 Cheapest States To Drive An Electric Vehicle

Read the full story at FastCo.Exist.

How much cheaper is it to run an electric car compared to a gasoline model? It depends where you live. While the average for the U.S. is roughly three times cheaper, there are big regional differences, as a recent analysis from the U.S. Energy Department reveals.

The graphic here, produced by Sustainable America, shows the states where the difference between the price of a gallon of gas and an e-gallon (the equivalent cost of running an EV) is greatest. As you can see, the best savings are in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

Cars Are Deadly, But Not How You Think: Pollution Causes More Death Than Crashes

Read the full story at FastCo.Exist.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks car crashes as “one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.” In 2011, fatal car crashes accounted for nearly 7% of all deaths in the country.

But according to a recent study by a team from MIT, those figures don’t even begin to cover the true number of deaths caused by cars. In the long term, exposure to tailpipe pollution could cause 30% more premature deaths than car crashes, researchers report in the journal Atmospheric Environment.

Annual Review of Environment and Resources 2013

Volume 38 of the Annual Review of Environment and Resources is now available online.

View the full Table of Contents for Volume 38.

The 19 reviews in this volume evaluate the most significant research developments in environmental science and engineering. Topics in this volume include agricultural biotechnology, an assessment of global manufacturing, environmental tipping points, smart grids, and water conservation in urban areas of the developed world.

Note that full-text access is subscription-only. If you’re a University of Illinois affiliate, you can access the content through the University’s campus network or via the Library’s proxy server, if you’re off-campus.

The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America

Download the document.

Here’s a superbly-kept secret: All those dates on food products — sell by, use by, best before — almost none of those dates indicate the safety of food, and generally speaking, they’re not regulated in the way many people believe. The current system of expiration dates misleads consumers to believe they must discard food in order to protect their own safety. In fact, the dates are only suggestions by the manufacturer for when the food is at its peak quality, not when it is unsafe to eat.

U.S. consumers and businesses needlessly trash billions of pounds of food every year as a result of America’s dizzying array of food expiration date labeling practices, which need to be standardized and clarified. Forty percent of the food we produce in this country never gets eaten. That’s nearly half our food, wasted — not just on our plates, but in our refrigerators and pantries, in our grocery stores and on our farms. Much of it perfectly good, edible food — worth $165 billion annually — gets tossed in the trash instead feeding someone who’s hungry. Misinterpretation of date labels is one of the key factors contributing to this waste.

Confusion over dates, according to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, leads nine out of 10 Americans to needlessly throw away food. For the average family of four, this could translate to several hundred dollars’ worth of food being thrown away every year. A senseless waste, when we’re all keeping a close eye on our household budgets, and when one in six Americans lacks a secure supply of food. Because regulators, industry players, and citizens have become accustomed to seeing date labels on many food products over time, policymakers have not asked important questions about the date labeling system, and there has been a dearth of rigorous policy analyses of how these labels affect consumers’ choices surrounding purchasing and discarding food products.

This report by NRDC and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic examines the historical impetus for placing dates on food — namely a desire to indicate products’ freshness — and the ways in which the system has failed to meet this goal. Relevant federal laws and authorities are described along with a comparison of state laws related to food date labeling.

They also provide a useful infographic for consumers.