Environment and Politics, Infernal Batteries, Wolves on the Ballot, and the Future of Flight-Fuel

New Nooze for a Tuesday morning: peter dykstraFirst, from Peter Dykstra, writing for Society of Environmental Journalist's new issue of SEJournal, a look at "the convergence of money, politics, ideology and nature."

Analysis: Obama's Second Term - Enviro Breakthrough or Train Wreck?

Among the questions facing Obama is the future of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which has drawn protests like this one in Washington, D.C., in November 2011. (Photo Emma Cassidy via Flickr.)

When Ronald Reagan took office 32 years ago, he brought along a scandal-prone EPA boss and an Interior secretary who made conservation policy based on the Great Flood and the prospect of an imminent Rapture. But even this president, whose reign arguably marked the beginning of our eco-ideological divide, pointed out what was obvious to so many: “Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.”

For the most part, Congress agreed. In the 1980 scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters, House Democrats averaged a 54 percent voting score, Republicans 37 percent. From the conservationists’ standpoint a Republican leader was Georgia freshman Rep, Newt Gingrich, who got a 50 percent approval rating. A democratic laggard was Tennessee second-termer Al Gore, at 35 percent.

That was then, this is now. In 2011, Democratic reps scored 91 percent on LCV’s pro-environment scale, Republicans 11 percent. Since the 2008 financial crisis, public support for environmental measures has tanked... Read more. 

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Seth borensteinNext, Seth Borenstein, science writer with the AP, writes about one of the biggest hindrances to energy advancement:

What holds energy tech back? The infernal battery

As 21st century technology strains to become ever faster, cleaner and cheaper, an invention from more than 200 years ago keeps holding it back. It's why electric cars aren't clogging the roads and why Boeing's new ultra-efficient 787 Dreamliners aren't flying high.

And chances are you have this little invention next to you right now and probably have cursed it recently: the infernal battery.

Boeing is the first company to make extensive use in an airliner of technology's most advanced battery - lithium ion. But a Jan. 7 battery fire aboard a Dreamliner in Boston, followed by a similar meltdown in Japan, led authorities around the world to ground the fleet this month, highlighting a longstanding safety problem that engineers have struggled with... Read more.

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john flesherJohn Flesher, also with the AP, writes about wolves on the ballot:

Michigan advocates want statewide vote on wolf hunting

In this 1987 photo released by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, a wolf stands in the snow near Ishpeming. / Associated Press

Animal welfare activists have protested in vain the past couple of years as the federal government dropped the gray wolf from its endangered species list and legislatures in five states allowed hunters to shoot the resilient predators. In Michigan, they're trying a new tactic: taking their case directly to the voters. 

Lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder approved a bill in December that designated the wolf as a game animal — a first step toward allowing hunts. The Natural Resources Commission, a panel appointed by the governor that regulates hunting, fishing and trapping, has the final say. The commission could schedule a hunt as early as this fall in the rural, woodsy Upper Peninsula, where the wolf population is estimated at around 700.

But opposition groups and native Indian tribes in favor of protecting the wolves are campaigning for a statewide referendum on the new law. If they gather enough petition signatures to get the issue on the November 2014 election ballot, the measure — and any potential hunt — will be put on hold until after the vote... Read more.

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rebecca kesslerAnd finally, from Becky Kessler, writing for Environmental Health Perspectives, a look at the future of flight-fuel:

Sunset for Leaded Aviation Gasoline?

Flying in a small piston-engine plane bears little resemblance to flying in a commercial jet. There are no lines at the airport, no baggage checks, and often less legroom once you duck inside the cabin. You can feel every bump in the tarmac as the plane heads down the runway, every rumble of the engine. Once you are aloft there’s no denying the improbability of flight; the low cruising altitude offers detailed views of the land passing below. The experience is more like traveling in an airborne car than in the insulated cocoon of an airliner. For passengers like this writer, it’s also much more fun.

There’s another less obvious difference. Unlike commercial jets, which use kerosene-based jet fuel, piston-engine aircraft still mostly run on leaded aviation gasoline, or avgas. In fact, avgas is one of the few fuels in the United States that still contain lead,1 leaving it the single largest source of lead emissions in the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).2,3 Concern over the health effects of lead has sparked a contentious effort to finally get the lead out of avgas—something the aviation and petroleum industries have been attempting for more than two decades, to no avail... Read more.

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