In today's On the News segment: The Environmental Protection Agency has some new standards for vehicle emissions, and they could save some serious cash; almost 80 percent of the antibiotics consumed every day in our nation is going straight into our food; the United Kingdom got soaked with catastrophic floods this winter; the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has two words for BP – pay up; and more.
Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest of....science & green news.....
You need to know this. The Environmental Protection Agency has some new standards for vehicle emissions, and they could save some serious cash. The EPA's new guidelines call for the amount of sulfur in gasoline to be cut by two-thirds. That requirement will have an immediate impact on air quality, and it could save us up to $19 billion dollars of health care costs every single year. And, the benefits don't stop there. By 2018, just one year after these new rules go into effect, smog-forming pollution will drop by 260,000 tons – the equivalent of switching out 30 million current cars with new, zero-emissions vehicles. In addition, cleaner fuel means that auto makers can move ahead with designing cleaner engines. They estimate that by 2017, new cars will produce 80 percent less smog-forming pollution. With this one new set of standards, the EPA is helping to cut pollution, lower health care costs, and enable more innovation from our nation's leading manufacturers. As we've said before, good science can be good business – for our health, our environment, and even our economy.
Last summer, catastrophic floods soaked Europe, and the United Kingdom also got soaked this winter. While these extreme events used to be rare, a recent study says that soon they may just be the new normal. According to the journal Nature Climate Change, the frequency of massive floods could double by the year 2050, and the average losses from these destructive events could increase fivefold. Between the years 2000 and 2012, floods caused almost $7 billion dollars in damage per year, but losses have more than doubled since 2013. The floods last June caused $16.6 billion dollars in damage throughout nine European countries. One of the team's lead authors, Brenden Jongman of the Univeristy of Amsterdam, said, “We brought together expertise from the fields of hydrology, economics, mathematics, and climate change adaptation, allowing us for the first time to comprehensively assess continental flood risk and compare different adaptation options.” Our world must prepare for these extreme events, and for their costs, and we need to fight climate change before floods like this only get worse.
According to RadCast.org, we now know a bit more about what happened at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Nuclear expert Arnie Gunderson is reporting that there was a ceiling collapse inside the underground mine. That collapse damaged canisters containing radioactive material, and released plutonium, americium, and other particles. So far, 13 workers at that plant have been diagnosed with radiation exposure, but many nuclear experts predict that that number could grow. There were over 600 people working in the mine on the day of the accident, so many more could have been exposed to dangerous radiation. RadCast warns that there is a lot of conflicting information circulating about this incident, and some of the extreme radiation readings being reported are most likely inaccurate. However, even small amounts of these nuclear particles are extremely dangerous, and officials should not be claiming that this event poses no threat to human health. Many people could have been exposed to radiation just by being near one of the workers who were in the plant that day, and air samples near the site suggest that radiation leaks may be ongoing. You may not hear about any of this in the corporate media, so be sure to check out RadCast.org for the latest details on this plant – and much more nuclear news.
Fifty-one tons of antibiotics are consumed every day in our nation, and almost 80 percent of that is going straight into our food. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all those extra antibiotics pose a serious risk to our health. Antibiotics are given to livestock to promote growth, and ward off infection caused by the typically-unsanitary conditions at factory farms. However, by pumping our food full of antibiotics, we're destroying our ability to fight off infections from bacteria like salmonella. The CDC estimates that 23,000 people die every year as a result of drug-resistant infections, but thankfully, another government agency is stepping in to do something about that. Last December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration enacted a voluntary program to stop the practice of pumping livestock full of antibiotics to make them grow bigger. Although the program should be mandatory, and factory farms should be forced to clean up, at least we're finally taking a step towards eliminating the overuse of antibiotics in our food supply.
And finally... The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has two words for BP – pay up. Last week, that court rejected the oil giant's attempt to stop businesses in the Gulf from collecting on losses resulting from the 2010 oil disaster. BP claimed that the companies were trying to recover “fictitious losses,” but the New Orleans court didn't buy it. In a 2-to-1 ruling, the judges upheld an earlier ruling against BP, and said that an injunction on BP payments to Gulf businesses should be lifted. These payments are part of a settlement that BP agreed to back in 2012 – a settlement that the oil company said was “good for the people, businesses and communities of the Gulf, and in the best interests of BP's stakeholders.” The company is simply trying to back out of the deal after underestimating the full amount of claims from local businesses. Instead of the $7.8 billion dollars that BP planned to spend, they estimate that the total cost of claims will be over $9 billion. But the fact is, there's no dollar amount that can replace our sea life, and no price high enough for destroying our Gulf. If BP wants to avoid future claims from oil-related disasters – there's one easy way for them to do so – stop drilling for toxic fossil fuels.
And that's the way it is - I'm Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News for the week of March 10, 2014.