A Green Travel Plan for Everyone and Every Trip

A Green Travel Plan for Everyone and Every Trip

Author: Melissa Evans

Simply put, green travel is travel in which a positive environmental impact is kept to a maximum and a negative environmental impact is kept to a minimum. Keeping your carbon footprint as tiny as possible while traveling will help preserve the entire planet, including that favorite vacation spot you always visit. That being said, traveling green sounds like something any traveler would be interested in, right? Right, but although many travelers may be interested in Green Travel it can seem a little intimidating or complicated and not everyone knows where to start. SO, I put together this Green Travel Plan that makes traveling green easy for anyone, no matter what their shade of green. What’s even better is you don’t have to camp out in the jungle or hike from place to place to make an impact (unless of course, that’s what you’re into). Remember, every little bit counts and following any or all of these steps will add up to a world of change.

A Green Travel Plan for Everyone and Every Trip

Before You Go:
Help be a part of the solution by booking with a green organization like the Green Travel Hub by RezHub.com; they actually donate 20% of the proceeds from every trip to an environmental group so that every trip can make a difference. They donate whether the travel you choose is labeled green or not.

Consider booking with Green Travel Options like green hotels, hybrid rental cars, and carbon offsetting programs. RezHub also offers all these programs.

When renting a car, choose Enterprise. They not only have the largest selection of hybrid and fuel efficient cars available for rent, they also take huge steps for the environment. They’ve pledged to plant 50 million trees over the next 50 years, they donate millions to alternative fuel research, and the list goes on.

Look for hotels with a green certifications or a “Green Score.” In the Green Score program, hotels can earn points and Green Branches for each environmental program they have in place. While some hotels may only have one leaf, keep in mind that even one leaf is a step in the right direction. It’s important to support the green efforts that each hotel takes because it shows management that they are doing the right thing, and it encourages further expansion of green programs. Remember, where one leaf sprouts, another is sure to follow!

Offset your Carbon Footprint. Choosing to go carbon neutral is one of the gateways to responsible travel. It’s easy to do, and it’s inexpensive! We suggest offsetting your carbon footprint with Sustainable Travel International and MyClimate. Their program is the best we’ve seen in that it’s comprehensive and supports both kinds of offsetts. They’ll let you calculate your exact offset, or you can choose a standard donation from $1 all the way up to $500.

While You’re There:
Plan to green-up your stay, and feel good about where you’re going. These are some really simple steps you can take to help green up your stay, even if you didn’t book with a Green Scored Hotel
• Encourage the hotel you chose to go green or thank them for the green programs that they participate in! Speak with the management and let them know that green options are important to you.
• If your hotel has a sheets and towels reuse program, use it. If they don’t, start your own! Let housekeeping know that you don’t need them to replace your sheets and towels every day; this will reduce energy and water usage.
• Turn off the lights, air conditioner or heater, and the electronics in your room while you’re out. • Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, and take shorter showers.
• Bring your own toiletries, or if you use what the hotel provides make sure to take what’s leftover home with you.

Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints…
• When you’re visiting a park or any natural setting, don’t disturb the plants or wildlife. • Never buy anything made from an endangered animal or plant.
• Make sure you save any trash until you find a garbage can, and wherever possible save your recyclables for a recycling drop-off. Check out http://www.earth911.org to find a recycling drop off center in the US.

Go local…
• Whenever you can, shop and buy from the local vendors. This helps support the local economy, and submerges you in the areas culture.
• Try to avoid the large chains that carry goods shipped in from overseas. All that shipping creates tons of CO2 and the large chains can push the locals out of business (if you wanted to shop at Wal-Mart you could’ve stayed home, right?) .

Give back…
• Consider volunteering some time on your trip. Spending even just one day volunteering makes a difference. Contact not-profit organizations in the area and set something up before you go.
• Check out the Volunteer Travel Hub where you can find the perfect place to lend a hand. These bite-sized volunteer vacations (short term) are free and can be included on any trip!

When You Get Home:
Write a letter or send an email to the hotel you stayed in, the airline you flew and the rental car company you chose. Thank them for going green or encourage them to do so.

Send an email to greentravel@rezhub.com or post to RezHub.com’s Green Travel Forums, if you tell them about how you turned your trip green, you might even win a FREE trip!

Keep these tips in mind while you’re at home too, conserving resources almost always saves you green in the long run. And remember, it really is true that every little bit counts. If each of us took just one of these steps, imagine the difference it would make. I’ll end with a quote from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Article Source:

About the Author:

Melissa Evans is an avid environmentalist and the Marketing Director for RezHub.com. Having experience in both the environmental and travel industries, she is a green travel expert.

Cracking the secrets of ice

July 24, 2008

Sandia researchers successfully image ice using scanningice imaging tunneling microscope

Sandia’s Konrad Thürmer (shown here) and Norm Bartelt pushed the boundaries of scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) to image ice – a material believed to be unsuitable for STM because of its insulating nature. (Photo by Randy Wong)

LIVERMORE, C.A. — Taking images of ice a few nanometers thick as it forms bulk ice was supposed to be impossible. A scanning tunneling microscope (STM) shouldn’t work with ice because STMs create images by relying on conducting current, which runs contrary to one of ice’s basic properties—insulation.

But that – successfully using an STM to image ice – is precisely what Sandia National Laboratories physicists Norm Bartelt and Konrad Thürmer did.

“How water interacts with solids is extremely important,” says Bartelt. He points to the design of fuel cells and water purification systems as two areas that could benefit from new STM information. “Getting direct information is difficult, so imaging how small ice crystals grow on solid surfaces is an important advance. This is solid information that allows basic theories to be verified. This was our goal—to provide unambiguous information.”

Ice Cubes or Snowflakes?
Bartelt’s and Thürmer’s research was motivated by Sandia colleague Peter Feibelman’s theoretical research in water–solid interactions. In 2002, Feibelman had a major breakthrough in interpreting water–solid interactions. His research explained why an initial layer of water molecules lies flat on the precious metal ruthenium.

The ice-growth images answer a fundamental mystery about ice: snowflakes form in the classic six-sided symmetrical shape, but at low temperatures, ice grows in a cubic form. This phenomenon is something that has puzzled scientists for 60 years.

What Bartelt and Thürmer discovered was that when an ice film is extremely thin, measuring an average of about one nanometer thick, the water molecules form small, tabular islands of crystalline ice. Once the thickness reaches four or five nanometers, the ice islands join together and start to form a continuous film. In a recent Physical Review B paper, the researchers showed that cubic ice forms when the ice crystals merge. Because of a mismatch in the atomic step heights of the platinum substrate relative to ice, the coalescence often creates screw dislocations in the ice. Further growth occurs by water molecules attaching to the steps that spiral around screw dislocations, creating cubic ice in the process.

Pushing the Boundaries of STM
The STM is a notoriously finicky piece of scientific equipment, and working with ice only increased the difficulty. An STM functions by positioning a sharp, needle-like tip near the sample and then allowing a tiny electrical current to flow across the gap. As the tip of the STM is scanned across the sample surface, the voltage required to position the scanner is used to form an image of the sample.

“Typically, an STM only works if the substrate is conductive,” says Bartelt. Through persistence and patience, Thürmer learned that to image ice, one needs a current smaller than had previously been tried — in fact, three orders of magnitude smaller than what is normally used.

It was Thürmer’s intuitive decision to change the STM’s parameters, namely those for voltage and current, that made imaging ice crystals feasible. Basically, Thürmer found the sweet spot where none was believed to have existed.

The STM was developed in 1981 and earned its inventors, Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohr, a Nobel Prize for physics in 1986. “The discovery caused a rebirth of surface science and completely changed the field, but until now, people had not been able to apply it to ice,” says Bartelt. “The fact that we can apply these same methods to ice is very exciting.”

STM experiments don’t always work. “Because you are trying to get atomic resolution, a few atoms on the apex of the tip can completely throw off the experiment,” says Bartelt. “If you are not getting an image, you don’t know if your tip is bad or you are choosing the wrong parameters.”

In fact, the two physicists never expected that they could image thick ice films; they were hoping for a few molecules. Thürmer explains that even after he began imaging thicker ice films, he didn’t trust the results. Instead, he thought they were just misleading electronic artifacts.

Because Thürmer only expected to see films a few molecules thick, he had the STM tip set too close; it was shaving off the top of the films. “For about a month, we thought the films were not really as high as they seemed. We thought the insulating quality of ice made them appear to be higher,” he explains. “I increased the voltage, and the ice appeared to really pop out. Still, I thought it was just the same electronic artifact.”

However, the researchers could not come up with another explanation for why the films appeared so high. Thürmer then purposely grew very thick films and reversed the polarity on the STM, which resulted in an ice carving that proved the thickness was, in fact, real.

The two Sandians are not resting on their initial success; in fact, the two physicists say they are working to build on their breakthrough. Future experiments include putting salts on an ice crystal to see how salts change the crystal’s growth and depositing molecules that react with water, such as atomic oxygen, to determine the exact point on the surface where water dissociates.

“Our ability to image these ice films opens the door to a multitude of exciting new experiments,” says Thürmer.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Farmer turns to fruit tree to power tractors

By Rich PhillipsThe jatropha tree contains golf-ball-sized fruit that can be made into biodiesel.

LABELLE, Florida (CNN) — Bryan Beer, a citrus grower in southwestern Florida, sees himself as a bit of a pioneer. He’s not digging for gold. It’s more like he’s planting for oil.

The jatropha tree contains golf-ball-sized fruit that can be made into biodiesel.

He is planting a jatropha tree, a plant that can produce diesel fuel and could one day power a 747. His plans are a little less ambitious; he just wants to plant enough to run his tractors.

“Any kind of relief or help we can get from a cheaper source of oil could impact the agricultural industry tremendously throughout the country, throughout the world,” said Beer, whose family has been growing citrus for decades.

Jatropha means “doctor food.” It originated in South America, where it was once used for medicinal purposes. There are three seeds within the golf-ball-sized fruit. When pressed, its oil can be used as fuel in any standard diesel engine with zero processing, experts say.

Sound like a pipe dream? It’s not.

It’s being taken very seriously by companies all over the world, including the Chrysler motor company and Air New Zealand. The airline is planning a test flight in November in Auckland in which jatropha biodiesel will be mixed with diesel fuel.

This is what has farmers, scientists and engineers excited.

“It is a superior oil,” said Roy Beckford, an agricultural scientist with the University of Florida.

Air New Zealand says the quality and quantity of the product may be so good that the airline could run the test flight without having to mix the jatropha biofuel with any normal aviation fuel.

Beckford said countries like China, India and Brazil have planted millions of acres of jatropha, but the United States has yet to make that sort of investment.

“We are way, way behind these people,” he said. “But certainly we have the ability, and we have shown that over and over again that we can beat people on technology and applying that technology.”

Beckford has been experimenting to see how the tree grows best. He says jatropha can be grown in soil that is not suitable for most food crops.

“Even under harsh drought conditions with minimal amount of water or moisture, it will survive,” he said.

Jatropha is being tested in nurseries and farms, primarily in Florida and Hawaii, to see if it can be used as a viable alternative biofuel nationwide. Caribbean nations have used jatropha for years as biofuel and a home-made medicine to treat constipation and inflammation, Beckford said.

He says jatropha would probably never be the main biodiesel crop but should be added into the mix of biodiesel crops. “It think it’s going to be part of the equation.”

Beckford’s research is done on a small patch of land in Fort Myers, Florida, where 176 seedlings were planted last year. Some are fertilized; some are not. Some are exposed to insects, and some plants are scattered around the foundation of an old home.

Beckford showed how the jatropha plant thrived right in the middle of the foundation, within the dirt and rocks.

He and his researchers believe that U.S. technology will aid in the growth of the trees. Currently, each tree yields only about two gallons of oil a year.

“In the next four or five years, I think we’ll increase not only the fruits per jatropha tree, but we’ll also increase the amount of oil in each of those seeds,” Beckford said.

Right now, biodiesel is a growing industry but hasn’t made an appreciable dent on the global dependence on heavy crude oil, from which diesel fuel is processed.

The National Biodiesel Board says that less than 1 percent of the 60 billion gallons of diesel fuel used each year comes from biodiesel, most of it produced from soybeans, animal fats and recycled oil. But, the board says, the 20 million gallons of diesel fuel saved from these alternative fuels was the equivalent of eliminating the emissions from 700,000 cars.

Some consumer groups say it’s unrealistic to think that biofuel will replace oil totally. Experts also say the potential savings here may be offset by higher prices somewhere else as farmers use their more crop land to experiment with alternative fuel crops.

“There are implications to dedicating more and more crop land to fuel production rather than food production,” said Tyson Clocum of the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen. “That comes in the form of tighter supplies for food production, and that leads to higher prices.”

Beer says he’s not looking to abandon his family’s citrus business. LaBelle Grove Management has been around for more than 40 years. He’s currently farming 30 acres of jatropha, compared to 2,500 acres of citrus.

Beer is trying to figure out how he’s going to afford to put diesel in his heavy equipment. He has four tractors that each run on 120 gallons a day.

“We have to have these machines running. If we don’t have these machines running and we don’t have diesel fuel, we don’t produce our crops,” he said.

So, for now, Beer is taking a stab at growing his own fuel. Jatropha won’t be a replacement crop for him, but it may help him fill up his tractor.

“To be a better America, we are going to have to have a secondary source besides oil,” he said.

Tapped Out: The True Cost of Bottled Water

Tapped Out: The True Cost of Bottled Water
by Solvie Karlstrom

From childhood, we’re told to drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Unfortunately more and more Americans drink those eight glasses out of plastic bottles—a convenience that stuffs landfills, clogs waterways and guzzles valuable fossil fuels.

Last year Americans spent nearly $11 billion on over 8 billion gallons of bottled water, and then tossed over 22 billion empty plastic bottles in the trash. In bottle production alone, the more than 70 million bottles of water consumed each day in the U.S. drain 1.5 million barrels of oil over the course of one year.

Banning the Bottle

Though the sale and consumption of bottled water is still on the rise, certain policy makers and activists have taken steps to reduce it. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in June that bars city government from using city money to supply municipal workers with bottled water, and New York City launched an ad campaign this summer encouraging residents and tourists to forego the bottled beverage for the city’s tap, long considered some of the best water in the country. “New York waste and pollution is on a massive scale,” says Michael Saucier of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. “Considering that the average New Yorker consumes nearly 28 gallons of bottled water each year, New York clearly hasn’t been doing enough to encourage residents to drink tap.”

Even restaurateurs are doing their part to keep water bottles out of landfills. Upscale eateries in Boston, New York and San Francisco have taken bottled water off the menu, offering filtered tap instead. At the Italian restaurant Incanto in San Francisco, carafes used to serve filtered tap water are refilled 2,000 times on average before they’re cracked and retired. Owner Mark Pastore explains that leaving bottled water off the menu is “a tiny thing that we can do to be a little more sustainable.”

Avoiding Chemical Intruders

Not only does bottled water contribute to excessive waste, but it costs us a thousand times more than water from our faucet at home, and it is, in fact, no safer or cleaner. “The bottled water industry spends millions of dollars a year to convince us that their product is somehow safer or healthier than tap water, when in fact that’s just not true,” says Victoria Kaplan, senior organizer with Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit that recently launched a Take Back the Tap campaign to get consumers to ditch bottled water. “As much as 40 percent of bottled water started out as the same tap water that we get at home,” she adds. A 1999 Natural Resources Defense Council study found that, with required quarterly testing, tap water may even be of a higher quality than bottled, which is only tested annually.

Water aside, the plastic used in both single-use and reusable bottles can pose more of a contamination threat than the water. A safe plastic if used only once, #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the most common resin used in disposable bottles. However, as #1 bottles are reused, which they commonly are, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a known carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disrupter. According to the January 2006 Journal of Environmental Monitoring, some PET bottled-water containers were found to leach antimony, an elemental metal that is an eye, skin, and lung irritant at high doses. Also, because the plastic is porous you’ll likely get a swill of harmful bacteria with each gulp if you reuse #1 plastic bottles.

While single-use water bottles should never be used more than once, some reusable water bottles simply shouldn’t be used. The debate continues over the safety of bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical known to leach out of the #7 polycarbonate plastic used to make a variety of products, including popular Nalgene Lexan water bottles. New studies keep cropping up that don’t bode well for BPA, demonstrating that even extremely low doses of the chemical can be damaging. Recent research has linked the chemical to a variety of disorders, including obesity and breast cancer, and one chilling 2007 study, published in the journal PLoS Genetics, found that BPA exposure can cross generations. Pregnant mice exposed to low levels of BPA led to chromosomal abnormalities, which possibly cause birth defects and miscarriages, in grandchildren.

Yet, in spite of mounting evidence, polycarbonate water bottles don’t seem to be losing popularity. A 2006 Green Guide reader poll found that roughly a third of respondents still preferred the Nalgene Lexan over other reusable bottles. If you’re partial to the brightly colored containers, Nalgene does manufacture safer alternatives made from #2 high density polyethylene (HDPE).

Avoid the perils of plastic altogether with a metal water bottle that can handle a variety of liquids, including acidic fruit juices, and won’t leach chemicals into your beverage. Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel bottle is lightweight, durable, and entirely chemical free. Avoid detergents that contain chlorine when cleaning Klean Kanteens; chlorine can corrode stainless steel. Another attractive alternative to plastic is the aluminum Sigg bottle with a taste-inert, water-based epoxy lining. Independent lab tests commissioned by the company found that the resin leached no detectable quantities of BPA, while other unlined aluminum and polycarbonate bottles subjected to the same conditions did.

Noting that the federal share of funding for water systems has declined from 78 percent in 1973 to 3 percent today, Kaplan urges consumers to “support public policies that promote safe, affordable, public tap water for future generations.” Visit http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/ and take the pledge to take back the tap, promising to choose tap water over bottled whenever possible and to support policies that promote clean public tap water for everybody. And meanwhile, invest in a safe, reusable bottle.

Better Bottles

Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottle w/ cap, 27 fluid ounces ($17.95; http://www.kleankanteen.com/)

MLS Stainless Steel Thermos Bottle, 1 liter ($22.16; http://www.mls-group.com/)

Nissan Thermos FBB500 Briefcase Bottle, 1pt ($35; http://www.coffee-makers-espresso-machines.com/)

Sigg resin coated aluminum sport bottle, 25 ounces ($19.99; http://www.mysigg.com/)

Platypus #5 polypropylene 2+collapsible water bottle, 2.4 liters ($9.95; http://www.rei.com/)

Nalgene HDPE Loop-Top Bottle, 16 ounces ($4.53; http://www.nalgene-outdoor.com/)


Green Design – 12 Easy Ways To Efficiently Upgrade and “Green-Up” Your Bathrooms and Kitchens!

Green Design – 12 Easy Ways To Efficiently Upgrade and “Green-Up” Your Bathrooms and Kitchens!

By Jeannene Edwards

No matter what your favorite color is . . . when thinking of your home, it needs to be GREEN! With growing concerns over rising energy costs, global warming and protecting our environment for future generations, the desire to “Green-Up” has dramatically increased.

There are affordable ways that homeowners can upgrade their bathrooms and kitchens to make them more water and energy efficient. The following are some easy ways that have been suggested by the National Association of Homebuilders to “Green-Up” when remodeling:

Water Heater – Replace your existing water heater with a money $aving, energy-efficient tankless model.

Showerhead – A high efficiency showerhead can help you $ave on your water bill each month, making it a simple choice when remodeling.

Toilet – With the addition of high efficiency toilets to your home, you again are $aving on water usage.

Ventilation Fans – Home owners will $ave electricity by using energy-efficient exhaust fans. When remodeling your bathroom, remember to look for an Energy-Star-Rated fan which will $ave you both money and electricity over the lifespan of the product.

Bathroom Faucets – High-efficiency water faucets for sinks and tubs have been designed to give you better performance as well as $ave water consumption.

Refrigerators – Energy-$aving fridges have been designed to perform more efficiently, and for more years than older models.

Dishwashers – Again, look for Energy-Star-rated models which will use 41 percent less energy than other dishwashers.

Microwave Ovens – Energy-efficient microwaves cook much faster than conventional ovens, but also can use up to 80% less energy. While not appropriate for all types of cooking, they can $ave you both time and money!

Oven Ranges – Gas burners use 55% of the energy produced compared to 65% for electric cooktops. Additionally, self cleaning ovens tend to have more insulation, making them more efficient as well.

Countertops – Recycled glass, stone and concrete have a great modern look, and have given these old materials a new life. Many of these same products also work well as tiles for your kitchens and baths.

Cabinetry – Consider recycled or reclaimed wood which is durable and both economically and environmentally friendly.

Flooring – Renewable flooring like cork or bamboo have become quite popular for both kitchens and bath areas. They offer durability and easy maintenance with a long-lasting natural look. And of course, stone and wood floors will last you a lifetime!

It’s important for us as homeowners to realize that we ALL can help save the planet by lowering our energy bills, one at a time . . . and doing all we can to conserve our natural resources. Green Building and Green Remodeling should no longer be viewed by us as an option, but as our RESPONSIBILITY!

Jeannene H. Edwards, owner of INTERIORS DEFINED,INC. is a highly sought after professional home stager and licensed interior designer in Orlando, Florida. She has merged with DAVID EDWARDS CONSTRUCTION to now offer complete architectural design and building services to further meet the needs of her clientele. Jeannene, known for her dynamic and informative seminars, is available to speak for sales meetings and group events. Her award winning designs and ‘how-to’ articles have been widely published in newspapers, magazines and trade manuals nationally. INTERIORS DEFINED, INC. is a five-star full service interior design and staging company, specializing in classic design and casual sophistication. To show you how to avoid the guesswork and save thousands of dollars and aggravation to get your home sold in today’s challenging market, or further information regarding the many additional design, remodeling and building services being offered, please contact Jeannene Edwards or David Edwards at: http://interiorsdefined.com/, http://idihomestaging.com/, http://davidedwardsgc.com/

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Jeannene_Edwards

Life in the Balance: Coral Reefs Are Declining

Government Report Says Pollution and Climate Changes Threaten Coral ReefsCoral Reef

Coral reefs — a key element in ocean ecosystems that provide not only coastline protection but billions of dollars in benefits from tourism, as well as ingredients used in cutting-edge medicines — are increasingly threatened from the effects of global warming and other hazards, according to a new U.S. government report.

Photo Credit (Getty Images)

The report estimates that nearly half of the coral reefs in areas from the Caribbean to the Pacific “are not in good condition and are continuing steadily on a long-term decline.”

“It’s a pretty alarming situation,” said Jeannette Waddell, the report’s co-editor and a marine biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service. “Coral reefs around the world are confronted by the same types of threats. In some places it is worse. In some places, it’s slightly better. But we’re finding that even remote reefs are showing signs of decline,” she told ABC News. The NOAA report looked at the health of coral reefs in 15 areas under the jurisdiction of the United States and a group of countries called the Pacific Freely Associated States, which include Palau, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.

A major threat facing corals is climate change, the report says, which affects coral reefs in multiple ways.

First, warmer ocean temperatures cause corals to expel the colorful living algae in their tissues, leaving them with a “bleached” white look.adsonar_placementId=1280605;adsonar_pid=42753;adsonar_ps=-1;adsonar_zw=165;adsonar_zh=220;adsonar_jv=’ads.adsonar.com’;

“It really stresses out the coral and makes them more susceptible to things like disease,” Waddell said.

A major bleaching and disease event in 2005 devastated coral reefs across the Caribbean. In the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, scientists say an average of 50 percent of the coral was lost. Some areas lost 90 percent of their coral.

Another problem for corals is that human-induced climate change is altering the chemistry of the oceans, making them more acidic. It happens as fossil fuels are burned, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Much of that carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, which becomes more corrosive.

“If the ocean continues to acidify, it’s possible that it would preclude corals from growing, because they won’t be able to draw the nutrients and elements out of the water that they need to create the structures that they produce as coral colonies,” Waddell said. “It’s also possible that ocean acidification may become so extreme that it may begin to dissolve the corals that already exist, which would spell disaster for coastal communities.”

A 1997 report in the science journal Nature estimated that the resources and economic benefits derived from coral reefs are worth $375 billion a year.

“Coral reefs only cover about one percent of the world’s surface, but they are a very diverse and important environment or ecosystem,” said Mark Monaco, a marine biologist with NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

“They provide us fisheries, they provide us culture from the cultural resources, they provide us pharmaceuticals, and they provide us protection from storm events,” he told ABC News.

In areas that have been hit by severe tsunamis, experts point out that damage is usually less severe in places with intact coral reefs just offshore.

Scientists who study the medical benefits of coral reefs say there are about 20 compounds in clinical trials derived from the corals themselves or the many organisms that depend on them.

“That biodiversity is holding the key to treatment of diseases current and future,” said William Gerwick, a professor of oceanography and pharmaceutical sciences who holds a dual appointment at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“As we disturb that biodiversity, and reduce the species’ richness, we change that equation dramatically,” said Gerwick, who was not involved in the NOAA report.

Gerwick points to a drug compound derived from a species of sea squirt — small, colorful organisms that live on coral reefs — that has been approved by the European Union for treating soft tissue cancers. The drug, marketed under the name Yondelis in Europe, is in clinical trials in the United States.

Some corals have recently gotten better protections from the federal government. In 2006, two coral species were designated as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

Climate change isn’t the only threat to coral reefs. Tropical storms, coastal pollution, even boats and their anchors are serious concerns.

“The declining conditions that we’re seeing is exacerbated by having a number of threats work together to cause the decline,” Waddell said.

The report — the work of 270 contributors — is being presented today at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“I think if we don’t change the way we’re going with these reef ecosystems we can’t expect them to get better,” Monaco said. “So we’re going to have to make some hard choices — society-wise, political-wise, economic-wise — to protect these ecosystems.”


Earth Policy Institute
Plan B Update
For Immediate Release
August 19, 2008

Jonathan G. Dorn

With fossil fuel prices escalating and countries searching for ways to reduce oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions, capturing the earth’s heat for power generation is garnering new attention. First begun in Larderello, Italy, in 1904, electricity generation using geothermal energy is now taking place in 24 countries, 5 of which use it to produce 15 percent or more of their total electricity. In the first half of 2008, total world installed geothermal power capacity passed 10,000 megawatts and now produces enough electricity to meet the needs of 60 million people, roughly the population of the United Kingdom. In 2010, capacity could increase to 13,500 megawatts across 46 countries–equivalent to 27 coal-fired power plants.

Originating from the earth’s core and from the decay of naturally occurring isotopes such as those of uranium, thorium, and potassium, the heat energy in the uppermost six miles of the planet’s crust is vast–50,000 times greater than the energy content of all oil and natural gas resources. Chile, Peru, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Russia, China, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries along the Ring of Fire (an area of high volcanic activity encircling the basin of the Pacific Ocean) are rich in geothermal energy. Another geothermal hot spot is the Great Rift Valley of Africa, which includes such countries as Kenya and Ethiopia. Worldwide, 39 countries with a cumulative population of over 750 million people have geothermal resources sufficient to meet all their electricity needs. (See data at http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/Update74_data.htm.)

Typically, power generation using the earth’s heat required underground pockets of high-temperature water or steam to drive a steam turbine. Now, new technologies that use liquids with low boiling points in closed-loop heat exchange systems allow electricity to be generated at much lower temperatures. This breakthrough is making geothermal power generation viable in countries such as Germany that are not known for their geothermal resources and is one reason why the number of countries using the earth’s heat to generate electricity could almost double by 2010.

One advantage of geothermal power plants, beyond the benefit of producing electricity from a low-carbon, indigenous energy source with no fuel costs, is that they provide baseload power 24 hours a day. Storage or backup-power is not required.

The United States leads the world in generating electricity from the earth’s heat. As of August 2008, geothermal capacity in the United States totaled nearly 2,960 megawatts across seven states–Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. California, with 2,555 megawatts of installed capacity–more than any country in the world–produces almost 5 percent of its electricity from geothermal energy. Most of this capacity is installed in an area called the Geysers, a geologically active region north of San Francisco.

Thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which made geothermal power generation eligible to receive the federal renewable energy production tax credit, electricity generated from geothermal resources now costs the same as fossil-fuel-based electricity in many markets in the western United States. With favorable economics, the geothermal industry is experiencing a surge in activity. As of August 2008, some 97 confirmed new geothermal power projects with up to 4,000 megawatts of capacity were under development in 13 states, with some 550 megawatts of this already in the construction phase. Expected to create 7,000 permanent full-time jobs, the new capacity will include numerous large-scale projects such as the 350-megawatt and 245-megawatt projects by Vulcan Power near Salt Wells and Aurora, Nevada; the 155-megawatt project by CalEnergy near the Salton Sea in southern California; and the 120-megawatt project by Davenport Power near the Newberry Volcano in Oregon.

Current development is only scratching the surface of what is possible. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that with emerging low-temperature technologies, at least 260,000 megawatts of U.S. geothermal resources could be developed. A study led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicates that an investment of roughly $1 billion in geothermal research and development over 15 years (roughly the cost of a single new coal-fired power plant) could lead to commercial deployment of 100,000 megawatts by 2050.

In Europe, the top countries in geothermal energy development are Italy with 810 megawatts and Iceland with 420 megawatts. Italy is expected to nearly double its installed capacity by 2020. Iceland, with 27 percent of its electricity needs met by harnessing the earth’s heat, is number one in the world in the share of its electricity generated from geothermal energy. Germany, with only 8 megawatts of installed capacity, lags behind but is beginning to see the effects of a feed-in tariff of €0.15 (US $0.23) per kilowatt-hour that was implemented in 2004. Almost 150 plants are now in the pipeline in Germany, with most of the activity centered in Bavaria.

Ten of the top 15 countries producing geothermal electricity are in the developing world. The Philippines, which generates 23 percent of its electricity from geothermal energy, is the world’s second biggest producer behind the United States. The Philippines aims to increase its installed geothermal capacity by 2013 by more than 60 percent, to 3,130 megawatts. Indonesia, the world’s third largest producer, has even bigger plans, calling for 6,870 megawatts of new geothermal capacity to be developed over the next 10 years–equal to nearly 30 percent of its current electricity generating capacity from all sources. Pertamina, the Indonesian state petroleum company, anticipates building most of this new capacity–adding its name to the list of conventional energy companies that are beginning to diversify into the renewable energy market.

The geothermal development potential of the Great Rift Valley in Africa is enormous. Kenya is the frontrunner in the effort to tap this potential. In late June 2008, President Mwai Kibaki announced a plan to install some 1,700 megawatts of new geothermal capacity within 10 years–13 times greater than the current capacity and one-and-a-half times greater than the country’s total electricity generating capacity from all sources. Djibouti, aided by Reykjavik Energy Invest’s commitment to provide $150 million for geothermal energy projects in Africa, aims to tap the earth’s heat to produce nearly all of its electricity within the next few years. Further stimulating development is the African Rift Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo), an international organization partly funded by the World Bank that seeks to increase the use of geothermal energy in the Great Rift Valley by protecting investors from losses during early stages of development.

Industry, which accounts for more than 30 percent of world energy consumption, is also starting to turn to reliable, low-cost geothermal energy. In Papua New Guinea, a 56-megawatt geothermal power station owned by Lihir Gold Limited, a leading global gold company, meets 75 percent of corporate power demand at a notably lower cost than oil-fired power generation. In Iceland, five geothermal power plants planned near Reykjavik, which are slated to have a total capacity of 225 megawatts when completed in 2012, will provide electricity to new aluminum refineries.

Despite development potential measured in the hundreds of thousands of megawatts, tapping this renewable source of power is still in its infancy. But as more and more national leaders begin to see renewable energy as a cost-effective, low-carbon alternative to price-volatile, carbon-intensive fossil fuels, geothermal power generation is expected to move rapidly from marginal to mainstream.

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For more information on Earth Policy Institute’s goal of 200,000 MW of CSP worldwide, part of a plan to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020, see Chapters 11-13 in Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, available at http://www.earthpolicy.org for free downloading.