Day: November 15, 2017

Some Chinese coal ash too radioactive for reuse

Read the full story at Science Daily.

Many manufacturers use coal ash from power plants as a low-cost binding agent in concrete and other building materials. But a new study finds that coal ash from high-uranium deposits in China is too radioactive for this use. Some coal ash analyzed in the study contained radiation 43 times higher than the maximum safe limit set for residential building materials by the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

Crystal clear Great Lakes might not be so healthy

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

At Brighton Beach outside Duluth, the waters of Lake Superior are stunningly clear. Looking into about six feet of water, it’s easy to see smooth rocks at the bottom.

But Lake Superior has lost its long-held title as the clearest of the Great Lakes. A recent study showed that lakes Michigan and Huron have changed drastically.

This “Climate Beneficial” Wool Hat Comes From Carbon-Positive Sheep

Read the full story at Fast Company.

The North Face’s new beanie is woven from wool from sheep raised on a farm that takes in more carbon than it puts out.

Repair or Renovate? Puerto Rico Faces Stark Power Grid Options

Read the full story in Scientific American.

It has been 68 days since Hurricane Irma took down much of Puerto Rico’s aging power grid and 54 days since Hurricane Maria finished the job, leaving nearly all 3.4 million residents without electricity. The island’s state-owned utility company, the U.S. government and workers on loan from other utilities are installing new poles, lines and power distribution circuits to replace those blown away by the storms. Despite the progress that has been made, more than half of Puerto Rico continues to soldier on without some of modern life’s bare necessities—including lights, refrigeration, air-conditioning and access to computer networks. Without significant improvements to create a more resilient grid, however, many are questioning how Puerto Rico can avoid a similar catastrophe the next time a major storm hits.

The consensus among the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others involved in the current restoration project is that Puerto Rico is—and has been for a long time—in desperate need of a power grid makeover. Last Wednesday, during a press conference, Ricardo Ramos, executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), indicated the utility has created a “transformation plan” to improve service. Within 24 hours of the press conference a transmission line supposedly repaired a few days earlier failed, plunging San Juan and several other cities back into darkness until power could once again be restored in the following days.

Such is the nature of power in Puerto Rico, as PREPA struggles to keep its fragile electrical grid online while promising to make improvements that to date have failed to materialize. A three-day blackout in September 2016 derailed the power utility’s previous push to upgrade the island’s fragile grid. (pdf, in Spanish) Ramos’s new plan lacks specifics but includes two key components: better distribution of power plants throughout the island and the implementation of microgrids that serve fewer customers but can keep the lights on when the main grid fails.

The road ahead: The KPMG Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2017

Download the document.

This is the 10th survey since the first edition was published in 1993. This year, KPMG member firm professionals reviewed corporate responsibility (CR) and sustainability reporting from 4,900 companies in 49 countries and regions, making this the most extensive survey ever. The survey provides a detailed look at global trends in CR reporting and insights for business leaders, company boards, and CR and sustainability professionals.

It is designed to offer guidance on good practice to corporate professionals who assess and prepare their own organization’s CR reporting. It also serves as a guide to investors, asset managers and ratings agencies who now factor environmental, social and governance (ESG) information into their assessments of corporate performance and risk.

The survey is based on several months of research, with KPMG member firm professionals analyzing thousands of company financial reports, corporate responsibility reports, and websites. The number of companies and markets involved in the survey means that it is one of the most comprehensive and authoritative pieces of research on CR reporting available worldwide.

A Wide-Open Door for Pesticide Lobbyists at the Agriculture Department

Read the full story from ProPublica.

A former lobbyist for the pesticide industry now leads the deregulatory team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Visitor logs show old ties remain strong.

MIT students fortify concrete by adding recycled plastic

Read the full story from MIT.

Discarded plastic bottles could one day be used to build stronger, more flexible concrete structures, from sidewalks and street barriers, to buildings and bridges, according to a new study.

How Germany can lead on climate, despite setbacks

Read the full story in Pacific Standard.

The country’s clean-energy transition has stalled somewhat, but the Green Party’s rise to power is spurring hopes for a quick phase-out of coal.

Double-duty textile could warm or cool

Read the full story at Science Daily.

Stanford researchers have developed a reversible fabric that, without expending effort or energy, keeps skin a comfortable temperature whatever the weather.

Can carbon dioxide removal save the world?

Read the full story in the New Yorker.

Carbon-dioxide removal could be a trillion-dollar enterprise, because it not only slows the rise in CO2 but reverses it.

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