Friday, May 7, 2010

Another Reason to Buy Organic Strawberries?

(besides that they typically taste better)

The State of California has proposed approving the strawberry fumigant methyl iodide. The state would require further, stringent regulations on the use of the soil fumigant, going beyond the federal rules that allow for its use in other states. But the stricter measures have done little to quell the fears of opponents.

Methyl iodide is a replacement for methyl bromide, a pesticide that is known to contribute to depletion of the ozone layer and is being phased out under the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances. Methyl iodide is an effective pesticide and ozone-friendly, but it is a known mutagen, and it could cause cancer, nerve damage or fetal-development problems among workers and people living near fumigated fields.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the fumigant in October 2007, finding it safe for use. But a report by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) concluded in 2009 that the compound posed "significant health risks". The DPR commissioned an independent review, which stated amongst its findings that "adequate control of human exposure would be difficult, if not impossible". Nevertheless, the DPR decided on 30 April that further restrictions would make methyl iodide safe enough for use.

Read more here, in Nature News.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NREL's Top 10 List of Green Power Programs

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released its annual assessment of leading utility green power programs. Under these voluntary programs, consumers can choose to help support additional electricity production from renewable resources such as wind and solar.

According to the NREL analysis, more than 850 utilities across the US now offer green power programs. Utility green power sales in 2009 exceeded 6 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), and represent more than 5% of total electricity sales for some of the most popular programs. Wind energy represents approximately two-thirds of electricity generated for green energy programs nationwide.

Using information provided by utilities, NREL developed a Top 10 list of utility programs for 2009 in the following categories:

  • total sales of renewable energy to program participants
  • total number of customer participants
  • percentage of customer participation
  • green power sales as a percentage of total utility retail electricity sales
  • lowest price premium charged for a green power program using new renewable resources

Ranked by renewable energy sales (kWh/year), Austin Energy in Austin, Texas sold the largest amount of renewable energy in the nation through its voluntary green power program. Rounding out the top five are Portland General Electric (OR), PacifiCorp (OR and five other states), the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (CA), and Xcel Energy (CO, MN, WI, and NM).

Ranked by the percentage of customer participation, the top utilities are City of Palo Alto Utilities (CA), Portland General Electric, Madison Gas and Electric Company (WI), the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and the City of Naperville (IL).

NREL analysts attribute the success of many programs to continued efforts to raise awareness of the availability of green power options and the decrease in the rate premium that customers pay for green power. The average net price premium for utility green power products has decreased from 3.48¢/kWh in 2000 to 1.75¢/kWh in 2009.

See additional rankings and read the full press release here.