January 2009


I know it seems like I’m dedicating January to posts about the uses for algae but so much is happening in this sector, it’s hard to ignore. Besides the fascinating news that scientists now believe that algae production in the oceans will help alleviate the carbon explosion, I know hear about big advances in algae production as a biofuel. It seems that OriginOil has announced the successful automation of its Helix BioReactor system. The Helix is a groundbreaking technology that optimizes algae growth, making large-scale commercial algae production scalable.

The design of the Helix BioReactor utilizes low-energy lights arranged in a helix pattern combined with a rotating vertical shaft design, which allows algae culture to replicate exponentially within a smaller installation footprint. This system allows the replication of algae on a large scale basis, making it a viable source of fuel for all purposes, including automobiles. Now, the automation of this system is a key step towards continuous algae production, taking the work out of human hands and onto equipment that can run 24/7. Talk about reduction in manpower and labor costs! Like all automation, this process allows greater control of the growth environment and efficient, low-cost industrial algae production. It means that algae can be produced in jaw dropping tonnage and done so cheaply.

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This is fascinating stuff and I just have to present it. It seems that a team of UK scientists have discovered a natural process that could delay, or even end, the threat of global warming. This is absolutely amazing but they are offering some convincing findings in their research. Imagine such a thing; an end to global warming. Just like that.

The researchers making this claim, working from aboard the Royal Navy’s HMS Endurance, have found that melting icebergs off the coast of Antarctica are releasing millions of tiny particles of iron into the southern Ocean, helping to create huge ‘blooms’ of algae that absorb carbon emissions. The algae then sinks to the icy depths, effectively removing CO2 from the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Doesn’t this seem like the Earth cleaning itself? Is it possible that it actually does this?

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In his New Year’s message to Koreans, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the Korean government to take a more active role in global efforts to tackle climate change. This is a big move for Korea, which had always resisted efforts to curb emissions in Korea for financial reasons. Korean industry is economically challenged on a global scale and even more so now with the onset of the global recession. But Ban encouraged Korea and stressed that this is the UN Year of Climate Change, challenging Seoul to live up to its growing status in the international community.

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I know it’s hard to believe right now, while we’re in what might be the worst winter in many years, but a new report from Britain is warning that 2009 may be the among the top five warmest years on record. According to the studies, it is on track to be exactly that. It kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it? We are having all this extreme weather year round now, from devastating floods to slamming hurricanes to multiple tornadoes and now a blizzard winter for the books. Then, they are telling us, we need to gear up for the hottest summer still to come! Ouch.

According to Reuters, the average global temperature for 2009 is expected to be more than 0.4 degrees celsius above the long-term average. This is despite the continued cooling of huge areas of the Pacific Ocean, a phenomenon known as La Nina. I know everybody was breathing a big sigh of relief when we heard that La Nina was back. But now it’s looking like it won’t make a big difference. I think that’s scary.

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Depressing news for those you who love old bathtubs. In fact, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love a deep, solid porcelain tub, especially the ones with little feet or fancy faucets. But guess what! They are full of lead! I’m not kidding. We’ve been soaking ourselves in these gorgeous tubs and getting a max whop of lead exposure in the process.

Studies have found high levels of lead that trace back to bathtubs and this is not a fluke, it appeared in a number of cases. There was even one where a middle aged man underwent personality changes, becoming irritable, aggressive and paranoid. The doctors discovered that he also had short term memory loss, abdominal pain and constipation. All of these are classic symptoms of serious lead poisoning. It turns out he was drinking wine made from grapes that had soaked in a bathtub with a lead enamel glaze.

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Online at Reuters.com, last summer, I saw a report from Mexico City. It is reported that the Mexicans have planted more than 8 million trees as part of a push to correct it’s reputation for environmental indifference. It has become well known that Mexico has been poor in their environmental management, even to the extent of rampant mismanagement and continuously ignoring the rampant illegal logging of trees.

The government uncharacteristically supplied the saplings and large groups of volunteers trekked up and down Mexico wielding shovels and wheelbarrows. They actually planted a 8.3 million trees, according to the environmental ministry.

Illegal logging in Mexico destroys some 64,000 acres (26,000 hectares) of Mexican forest each year, according to government reports, putting Mexico near the top of a U.N. list of nations losing primary forest fastest. Worldwide, environmental activists say the figure is much higher.

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According to a fantastic investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) has kept data about potentially dangerous chemicals secret.. The newspaper said its analysis of more than 2,000 EPA dangerous chemical filings over the past three years found that the agency allowed the names of chemicals added to consumer products to remain undisclosed in more than half those cases. As well, in hundreds of the registered reports, both the company and its address remained confidential.

In its mission to protect human health and the environment, the EPA is supposed to act as a clearinghouse for information about hazardous chemicals. It is not a protectionist agency and it should not be invested in trade secret keeping or other patent and copyright protection activities. Therefor, there is no excuse for keeping these chemicals secret except to protect specific companies from public backlash. Their first duty is to the consumer, not the producer.

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