agriculture * food * energy * environment
Here are some tips from Auburn University in Alabama about the best way to obtain cleaning products that are relatively free of toxic effects is to make these yourself, which may provide several additional benefits:
Choose from these formulas for general purpose cleaning:
Mix ½ cup white vinegar with one cup water.
Mix 1 tablespoon ammonia, 1 tablespoon liquid detergent and 1 pint of water.
Mix ½ cup washing soda or Borax with 1 gallon warm water.
Use this formula for glass cleaning:
Mix ¼ cup ammonia, 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 cup water.
Rub dry and polish with newspaper or lint-free cloth. Coffee filters work well for shining.
Choose from these formulas for furniture cleaning (relatively non-toxic):
Mix beeswax and olive oil.
Mix 2 teaspoons of lemon oil and 1 pint mineral oil in a spray bottle.
Mix 1 tablespoon mild soap powder, 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon household ammonia and 2 tablespoons boiled linseed oil or good furniture oil.
Mix equal portions of denatured alcohol, strained fresh lemon juice (not canned or frozen) olive oil or boiled linseed oil and gum turpentine. Shake mixture each time before using. This polish keeps indefinitely.
For carpet cleaning use club soda directly on spot or soiled areas.
Use these formulas for cleaning bathroom s and removing mildew:
Use one cup water mixed with ½ cup bleach and let stand five minutes to remove mildew from tile and disinfect toilet.
For cleaning toilet bowl, pour ½ cup chlorine bleach into toilet bowl, let stand for 30 minutes, scrub and flush.
Wash with Borax.
For removing mildew, dissolve ½ cup Borax in warm water and mix with ½ cup vinegar. Make fresh for each use.
These formulas are for cleaning drains:
Cover drains with screens, to prevent them from clogging,.
Flush pipes with ½ pound of Borax in 2 cups boiling water, then rinse. Do this once a month.
Mix 1 cup each of baking soda, salt and white vinegar. Wait 15 minutes. Pour in drain and flush thoroughly with boiling water. Use a rubber plumber’s snake if drains are seriously clogged.
Mix 1 cup each of baking soda and salt. Add ¼ cup cream of tartar. Pour ¼ cup in drain, add 1 cup boiling water and flush with cold water. Use weekly to keep drain open.
Use the following formulas for freshening the air:
Open a window or turn on a fan.
Sprinkle baking soda in odor-producing areas, such as in the refrigerator, freezer, trash compactor and garbage cans.
Sprinkle on carpet and under couch cushions. Pour old baking soda down drains with warm water.
Place a dish of white vinegar in odor-producing areas.
Pour pickle juice (vinegar) down drains.
Put used lemon or orange rinds down food disposals and flush with hot water.
Embracing a greener lifestyle isn’t just about preserving rain forests, it can also mean improving your health, using less toxic products, padding your bank account, and improving your overall quality of life.
Some tips from Karen Blakeslee, Kansas State University Research and Extension food scientist when it come to shopping at farmers’ markets.
Brushing off dirt, sand or other debris from freshly harvested crops grown either in soil or in close proximity to the ground is, however, recommended.
With politics and political posturing (along with a major economic downturn), getting a comprehensive national policy together to address climate change is proving to be difficult.
Any attempt by Congress to address a well-intention national policy to address global climate change this year is doubtful. We have yet to find away to balance business concerns with a national climate change policy, even though there’s literally a brand new source of economic development that provide a dramatic surge in the nation’s economy and put millions of people to work in a new industrial paradigm for society.
But one things gets in the way and it’s our dependency on fossil fuels, which is the cause for the warming of our planet.
Agriculture’s success is highly dependent on fossil fuel whether it’s to power farm equipment to the fertilizers and chemical applied to help crops grow and ward off weeds and insects.
Attempting to deal with climate changes by addressing how we use fossil fuels will come under heavy examination, especially by agricultural groups.
For example, Nebraska Farm Bureau is “strongly oppose” to the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), which would cap the amount of carbon-based emissions from certain sectors of the U.S. economy.
According to Keith Olsen, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau, “What this means for agriculture is higher input cost on the farm or ranch. While most businesses are able to pass these increases off to consumers, farmers and ranchers are unable to do that and would simply take the hit. This piece of climate change legislation ignores the complex needs of Nebraska’s very diverse agricultural industry.”
Olsen said the overall goal of the bill currently moving through the House Energy and Commerce Committee, looks to cap U.S. greenhouse gas emissions with a reduction of 83 percent by the year 2050.
He said companies with excess emission permits could then trade them off to other companies, something that is currently being done on a voluntary basis.
Also, under the bill, states would be required to get certain amounts of electricity from wind, solar and biomass. The bill sets the number at 15 percent by 2020, plus it requires a reduction of energy use by 5 percent by 2020 through energy efficiency.
Before Congress can efficiency address climate change, it must first address a comprehensive national energy policy that shifts the way our economy depends on fossil fuels.
And time is running out.
What is being called the most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century shows that without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago – and could be even worse than that.
The study, according to MIT, used the its Integrated Global Systems Model, “a detailed computer simulation of global economic activity and climate processes that has been developed and refined by the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change since the early 1990s.”
According to MIT, the new research involved 400 runs of the model with each run using slight variations in input parameters, selected so that each run has about an equal probability of being correct based on present observations and knowledge.
Other research groups, MIT researchers say, have estimated the probabilities of various outcomes, based on variations in the physical response of the climate system itself.
But the MIT model is the only one that interactively includes detailed treatment of possible changes in human activities as well – such as the degree of economic growth, with its associated energy use, in different countries, according to the study co-author Ronald Prinn, the co-director of the Joint Program and director of MIT’s Center for Global Change Science.
Prinn said that regarding global warming, it is important “to base our opinions and policies on the peer-reviewed science.”
And in the peer-reviewed literature, he said the MIT model, unlike any other, looks in great detail at the effects of economic activity coupled with the effects of atmospheric, oceanic and biological systems.
“In that sense, our work is unique,” he said.
According to MIT researchers, the new projections, published recently in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, indicate a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, with a 90 percent probability range of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees.
Prinn said this can be compared to a median projected increase in the 2003 study of just 2.4 degrees.
The difference. he said, is caused by several factors rather than any single big change. Among these are improved economic modeling and newer economic data showing less chance of low emissions than had been projected in the earlier scenarios.
Other changes include accounting for the past masking of underlying warming by the cooling induced by 20th century volcanoes, and for emissions of soot, which can add to the warming effect.
In addition, MIT researchers said measurements of deep ocean temperature rises, which enable estimates of how fast heat and carbon dioxide are removed from the atmosphere and transferred to the ocean depths, imply lower transfer rates than previously estimated.
Prinn said these and a variety of other changes based on new measurements and new analyses changed the odds on what could be expected in this century in the “no policy” scenarios – that is, where there are no policies in place that specifically induce reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Overall, he said, the changes “unfortunately largely summed up all in the same direction.”
“Overall, they stacked up so they caused more projected global warming.” Prinn said.
While the outcomes in the “no policy” projections now look much worse than before, there is less change from previous work in the projected outcomes if strong policies are put in place now to drastically curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to the MIT researchers.
Without action, “there is significantly more risk than we previously estimated,” Prinn says. “This increases the urgency for significant policy action.”
To illustrate the range of probabilities revealed by the 400 simulations, according to MIT, Prinn and the team produced a “roulette wheel” that reflects the latest relative odds of various levels of temperature rise. The wheel provides a very graphic representation of just how serious the potential climate impacts are.
“There’s no way the world can or should take these risks,” Prinn says.
And the odds indicated by this modeling may actually understate the problem, because the model does not fully incorporate other positive feedbacks that can occur, he said.
For example, if increased temperatures caused a large-scale melting of permafrost in arctic regions and subsequent release of large quantities of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. Including that feedback “is just going to make it worse,” Prinn said.
Prinn said that the computer models are built to match the known conditions, processes and past history of the relevant human and natural systems, and the researchers are therefore dependent on the accuracy of this current knowledge.
Beyond this, “we do the research, and let the results fall where they may,” he said.
Since there are so many uncertainties, especially with regard to what human beings will choose to do and how large the climate response will be, “we don’t pretend we can do it accurately. Instead, we do these 400 runs and look at the spread of the odds,” Prinn said.
Because vehicles last for years, and buildings and powerplants last for decades, Prinn said it is essential to start making major changes through adoption of significant national and international policies as soon as possible.
“The least-cost option to lower the risk is to start now and steadily transform the global energy system over the coming decades to low or zero greenhouse gas-emitting technologies,” he said.
By Robert Pore
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged that corn-based ethanol “does indeed have a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions compared to regular gasoline,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, ag program manager for the Nebraska Corn Board.
According to Brunkhorst, in the EPA’s proposed rulemaking for the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), it noted that corn-based ethanol provides a “61 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to gasoline.”
As required by EISA, Brunkhorst said EPA also included a calculation for “indirect land use” in its life-cycle calculations of corn-based ethanol.
He said including EPA’s estimate for indirect land use changes, corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 16 percent compared to gasoline, but that further reductions were possible.
According to Brunkhorst, EISA requires that future ethanol production must meet a reduction of 20 percent – existing operations are grandfathered in.
He said EPA also said it was going to ask that indirect land use change calculations be peer-reviewed and that such calculations, as they currently exist, will be open to scrutiny.
“This proposal is important on many levels because it helps clarify the environmental benefits of corn ethanol, while at the same time noting that there is room for changes,” Brunkhorst said.
He said the Nebraska Corn Board is “especially encouraged by the idea that EPA acknowledged that land use changes are in question and should be examined more closely.”
“Using questionable science, computer models or best guesses is not good policy,” said Brunkhorst.
A new study from Stanford University in California, found that while biofuels, such as ethanol, offer an alternative to petroleum for powering our cars, “growing energy crops to produce them can compete with food crops for farmland, and clearing forests to expand farmland will aggravate the climate change problem.”
In trying to maximize the “miles per acre” from biomass, researchers said the best bet is to convert the biomass to electricity, rather than ethanol.
According to their calculation, compared to ethanol used for internal combustion engines, bioelectricity used for battery-powered vehicles would deliver an average of 80 percent more miles of transportation per acre of crops, while also providing double the greenhouse gas offsets to mitigate climate change.
“It’s a relatively obvious question once you ask it, but nobody had really asked it before,” said study co-author Chris Field, director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution.
Field said the kinds of motivations that have driven people to think about developing ethanol as a vehicle fuel have been somewhat different from those that have been motivating people to think about battery electric vehicles.
“But the overlap is in the area of maximizing efficiency and minimizing adverse impacts on climate,” he said.
Researchers performed a life-cycle analysis of both bioelectricity and ethanol technologies, taking into account not only the energy produced by each technology, but also the energy consumed in producing the vehicles and fuels.
For the analysis, they used publicly available data on vehicle efficiencies from the US Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations.
And what the researchers found was that bioelectricity was the clear winner in the transportation-miles-per-acre comparison, “regardless of whether the energy was produced from corn or from switchgrass, a cellulose-based energy crop.”
For example, the researchers found that a small SUV powered by bioelectricity could travel nearly 14,000 highway miles on the net energy produced from an acre of switchgrass, while a comparable internal combustion vehicle could only travel about 9,000 miles on the highway. (Average mileage for both city and highway driving would be 15,000 miles for a biolelectric SUV and 8,000 miles for an internal combustion vehicle.)
“The internal combustion engine just isn’t very efficient, especially when compared to electric vehicles,” said Elliott Campbell of the University of California, Merced, who helped to author the study. “Even the best ethanol-producing technologies with hybrid vehicles aren’t enough to overcome this.”
The researchers found that bioelectricity and ethanol also differed in their potential impact on climate change.
“Some approaches to bioenergy can make climate change worse, but other limited approaches can help fight climate change,” says Campbell. “For these beneficial approaches, we could do more to fight climate change by making electricity than making ethanol.”
According to the researchers, the energy from an acre of switchgrass used to power an electric vehicle would prevent or offset the release of up to 10 tons of CO2 per acre, relative to a similar-sized gasoline-powered car.
Across vehicle types and different crops, this offset averages more than 100 percent larger for the bioelectricity than for the ethanol pathway, according to the study.
Bioelectricity also offers more possibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through measures such as carbon capture and sequestration, which could be implemented at biomass power stations but not individual internal combustion vehicles, the study found.
While the results of the study clearly favor bioelectricity over ethanol, the researchers caution that the issues facing society in choosing an energy strategy are complex.
“We found that converting biomass to electricity rather than ethanol makes the most sense for two policy-relevant issues: transportation and climate,” said Dave Lobell of Stanford University, who also co-authored the study. “But we also need to compare these options for other issues like water consumption, air pollution, and economic costs.”
Campbell said there is a big strategic decision “our country and others are making: whether to encourage development of vehicles that run on ethanol or electricity,.
“Studies like ours could be used to ensure that the alternative energy pathways we chose will provide the most transportation energy and the least climate change impacts,” he said.