Day: January 29, 2018

10 Monkeys and a Beetle: Inside VW’s Campaign for ‘Clean Diesel’

Read the full story in the New York Times. See also German Carmakers Criticized for Emissions Research on Monkeys.

In 2014, as evidence mounted about the harmful effects of diesel exhaust on human health, scientists in an Albuquerque laboratory conducted an unusual experiment: Ten monkeys squatted in airtight chambers, watching cartoons for entertainment as they inhaled fumes from a diesel Volkswagen Beetle.

German automakers had financed the experiment in an attempt to prove that diesel vehicles with the latest technology were cleaner than the smoky models of old. But the American scientists conducting the test were unaware of one critical fact: The Beetle provided by Volkswagen had been rigged to produce pollution levels that were far less harmful in the lab than they were on the road.

The results were being deliberately manipulated.

The Albuquerque monkey research, which has not been previously reported, is a new dimension in a global emissions scandal that has already forced Volkswagen to plead guilty to federal fraud and conspiracy charges in the United States and to pay more than $26 billion in fines.

Formaldehyde Voluntary Consensus Standards Final Rule

EPA is publishing a final rule to update several voluntary consensus standards listed at 40 CFR § 770.99 and incorporated by reference in the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products rule. Read a prepublication copy of the final rule.

These updates apply to emission testing methods and regulated composite wood product construction characteristics. Several of those voluntary consensus standards (i.e., technical specifications for products or processes developed by standard-setting bodies) were updated, withdrawn, and/or superseded through the normal course of business by these bodies to take into account new information, technology, and methodologies.

Additionally, the final rule amends the rule at 40 CFR § 770.20(d) by allowing the formaldehyde emissions mill quality control test methods to correlate to either the ASTM E1333-14 test method or, upon a showing of equivalence, the ASTM D6007-14 test method. The correction aligns the mill quality control testing requirements with the California Air Resources Board standards allowing mill quality control tests to be correlated to the more commonly used ASTM D6007-14 test method. The final rule also clarifies that test data generated beginning December 12, 2016 may be used to establish the required annual equivalence and correlation until new annual equivalence and correlations are required. Beginning on the publication date of the final rule, new data used to establish annual equivalence and correlations must be generated using the updated test methods and standards referenced in the final rule.

Coursera: Writing in the Sciences

This course teaches scientists to become more effective writers, using practical examples and exercises. Topics include: principles of good writing, tricks for writing faster and with less anxiety, the format of a scientific manuscript, peer review, grant writing, ethical issues in scientific publication, and writing for general audiences.

Scientists discover material ideal for smart photovoltaic windows

Read the full story in Science Daily.

Researchers have discovered that a form of perovskite, one of the hottest materials in solar research currently due to its high conversion efficiency, works surprisingly well as a stable and photoactive semiconductor material that can be reversibly switched between a transparent state and a non-transparent state, without degrading its electronic properties.

The big picture of Great Lakes mercury pollution

Read the full story in Science Daily.

A transdisciplinary team examined regulatory impacts on Great Lakes mercury, focusing on an Upper Peninsula tribal community with high fish consumption.

Tracking wastewater’s path to wells, groundwater

Read the full story from Science Daily.

We often “flush it and forget it” when it comes to waste from toilets and sinks. However, it’s important to be able to track this wastewater to ensure it doesn’t end up in unwanted places. A group of Canadian scientists has found an unlikely solution.

Tracing where this water ends up is hard to measure: What’s something found in all wastewater that will allow us to account for all of it? The answer, of all things, is artificial sweeteners. These have several advantages over other compounds sometimes used to track wastewater in the environment.

Manufacturers May Soon Profit from Bio-Nylon Process

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Materials used by the nylon industry have traditionally been derived from crude oil, but manufacturers will soon be able to create their own “bio-nylon” made from plant-based renewable ingredients. Aquafil and Genomatica have announced an agreement to create sustainable caprolactam, an ingredient used in nylon that is usually made from crude oil.

The Current State of Agricultural Education

Read the full story in Modern Farmer.

While overall agricultural enrollment at America’s 75 land-grant universities remained relatively flat between 2004 and 2015, the number of programs devoted to sustainable-farming practices, or “agroecology,” has soared since the USDA started tracking them in 1988.

SEE Action Guide for States: Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification Frameworks: Guidance for Energy Efficiency Portfolios Funded by Utility Customers

Download the document.

This guide describes frameworks for evaluation, measurement, and verification (EM&V) of utility customer–funded energy efficiency programs. The authors reviewed multiple frameworks across the United States and gathered input from experts to prepare this guide. This guide provides the reader with both the contents of an EM&V framework, along with the processes used to develop and update these frameworks.

Researchers use wild rice to predict health of Minnesota lakes and streams

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota.

By studying wild rice in lakes and streams, a team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota has discovered that sulfate in waterways is converted into toxic levels of sulfide and increases other harmful elements. This includes methylmercury, the only form of mercury that contaminates fish…

To read the complete research papers below for free, visit the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.

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