Money Matters - Simplified


Tapping natural gas could unleash uranium

Buffalo, N.Y. -- Plans to tap one of the largest sources of natural gas in the United States could release naturally trapped uranium into the environment, researchers say.

Proposals to drill into the Marcellus shale -- a massive rock formation that stretches from New York through Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia -- have critics focusing on the effects of pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground to fracture rocks to release the natural gas.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo in New York say the process, known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," could force uranium in the rocks to move into groundwater, a university release said Monday.

India to build neutrino observatory

New Delhi -- India says it will build a more than quarter-billion-dollar underground facility to join the worldwide search for elusive neutrino particles.

The country's Environment and Forests Ministry has given the Atomic Energy Department the go-ahead for the neutrino observatory to be built in the Bodi West hills on the coast of Tamil Nadu state, the BBC reported Wednesday.

The $270 million facility will be only the fifth observatory in the world dedicated to detecting the almost mass-less elementary particles, sometimes called "ghost particles."

About 90 scientists from 26 organizations will be involved in the Indian Neutrino Observatory, organizers say.

Sea cow 'mermaids' facing extinction

United Nations -- Dugongs, or sea cows, thought to be the source of ancient legends of mermaids, could be extinct within 40 years, a United Nations panel says.

Urgent measures including banning fishing nets that trap them and setting up marine reserves are vital for their survival, the U.N. Environment Program said.

"Man-made threats pose the greatest risk to the gentle sea cow," a U.N.-backed forum concluded after a meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, of governments, international and non-governmental organizations on the fate of the seemingly clumsy animal, the world's only herbivorous mammal living in marine waters.

China's environment challenges eyed

East Lansing -- China's environmental problems have global implications and countries such as the United States need to help solve them, a U.S. environmental scientist says.

A Michigan State University researcher argues developed nations such as the United States need to help China adopt integrated solutions for the sake of global sustainability, a university release says.

"What happens in China affects the rest of the world," fisheries and wildlife Professor Jianguo "Jack" Liu said.

"China is growing very quickly and as its economy has grown, so have its environmental challenges.

Review: EU falling down on environment

Brussels -- The European Union has earned a failing grade on its environmental commitments in almost all areas, recent officials studies say.

From protecting biodiversity to improving air quality in the cities, official reviews of the EU's performance overwhelmingly say more must be done, Inter Press Service reports.

The European Commission, the bloc's governing body, confirms the worrisome problems in its latest Environment Policy Review released Aug. 2.

Although many official environmental protection programs have been launched and progress is evident in some areas, "further efforts are needed, in particular (to tackle) the loss of biodiversity," the EC review said.

Medvedev warns of Moscow monopolies

Moscow -- Moscow officials need to improve the city's competitive environment, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says.

But First Deputy Premier Igol Shuvalov told Medvedev it will take up to 18 months for the city's economic climate to return to pre-recession levels, Russia's RIA Novosti said Saturday.

Medvedev said Moscow officials should look for monopolies in the city, which make it uncompetitive, the report said.

"Monopolies easily arise in large rich cities; Moscow's market is highly uncompetitive. Moscow city government has to think about this," the president said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

EPA sets mercury limits for cement plants

Los Angeles -- The Environmental Protection Agency says it has completed regulations limiting the release of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from cement plants.

These are the first federal restrictions on emissions from existing cement kilns. They are meant to reduce the annual emissions of mercury 92 percent, hydrochloric acid by 97 percent and sulfur dioxide by 78 percent by 2013, the Los Angeles Times.

Environmentalists in California, the nation's largest producer of cement, applauded the EPA action.

"From the Bay Area to San Bernardino, Californians are going to have cleaner, healthier air thanks to the EPA's new rule," said James S. Pew, a staff attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice.

Rainforest trees better for environment

Canberra, Australia -- Australian researchers say reforestation of damaged rainforests is better for the environment than planting single-species plantations in their place.

Mixed-species rainforests are much more efficient at capturing carbon than softwood monoculture plantations, an article published in the journal Ecological Management & Restoration says.

Monoculture plantations are grown for industrial purposes and are used as a cheap and abundant source of resources such as timber and rubber. The plantations are highly controversial, however, with some ecologists describing the lack of diversity as a "green desert."

Discovery could improve drug research

Evanston, Ill. -- U.S. scientists say new discoveries about chemical catalysts could lead to creation of pharmaceutical drugs with less chemical waste or harm to the environment.

Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered how to get two different catalysts working on the same task, something nature does easily but is hard to achieve in the laboratory, a university release said Tuesday.

The findings will allow drug chemists to invent new reactions and produce desirable compounds faster with less impact on the environment, the release said.

Chemistry using catalysts is inherently green, the researchers say.

Hospitals urge antiobiotic-free meat

Chicago -- Some U.S. hospitals say they are changing their food menus to feature antibiotic-free meats -- for the health of patients and the health of the environment.

Amid concerns about drug-resistant pathogens, medical professionals are urging more use of grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef on hospital patient menus, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.

Hospital administrators say they hope increased demand for such products will reduce the use of antibiotics, including penicillin and tetracycline, to treat cattle. Scientists believe the use of antibiotics can cause pathogens, some of which attack humans, to become more resistant to drugs, the newspaper said.