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Iowa Pipeline Leaks 140,000 Gallons Of Fuel In Largest U.S. Diesel Spill Since 2010

<span class="articleLocation” style=”transform: translate3d(0px, 0px, 0px);”>Magellan Midstream Partners LP (MMP.N) said on Thursday its refined products pipeline in Worth County, Iowa, remained shut after spilling about 3,300 barrels of diesel.

The spill, equivalent to nearly 140,000 gallons of fuel, is the largest diesel spill in the U.S. since 2010, federal authorities confirmed to the Associated Press.

Magellan said it expects to begin pipeline repairs later on Thursday but did not have an estimate on when pipeline operations will resume on the damaged segment of its system.

“We do not expect this incident to disrupt supply of gasoline, diesel and other refined petroleum products in the region,” Magellan said in an emailed statement.

The spill comes as pipeline safety has become a hot-button issue in the United States. Protesters and environmental activists rallied for months against plans to route the Dakota Access pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying it threatened water resources and sacred Native American sites.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed orders on Tuesday smoothing the path for the Dakota Access oil pipeline and another controversial project – the Keystone XL pipeline.

The diesel fuel released from Magellan’s pipeline has been contained in the immediate area of the pipeline release and the fuel did not come into contact with any waterways, the company said.

Magellan said its representatives along with environmental and cleanup professionals are making “significant progress” in recovering diesel fuel in the immediate area.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), however, said on Wednesday that weather conditions, including high winds and blowing snow, were affecting cleanup efforts.

“At the time of the incident, there was about 12 inches of snow in the area and the primary issue was getting response vehicles to the site,” David Miller, environmental specialist at Iowa’s DNR, told Reuters. “Now that has largely abated and weather is no long hindering cleanup efforts.”

Magellan told the Iowa DNR it hoped to recover all of the spilled fuel in about one or two days and then aims to excavate the contaminated soil, Miller said.

There have been no injuries or evacuations associated with the spill, Magellan said.

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Sri Lanka Is Suffering Its Worst Drought In 40 Years

Sri Lanka is suffering through what officials have called the country’s worst drought in four decades. More than 1 million people are experiencing acute water shortages, Al Jazeera reported on Sunday. And officials warn that the prolonged dry spell is far from over.

The country has had warnings for months that a severe drought was impending. There were rainfall shortages across the nation for almost the entirety of 2016; according to Reuters, some districts witnessed a 60 to 70 percent reduction in average annual rainfall.

In October, a lack of rain and scorching temperatures caused some local wells and reservoirs to run dry. “We are almost dying of thirst,” Tissa Poddibanda, a villager from North Central province, one of the areas hit hardest by the drought, told Reuters at the time.

The nation’s major reservoirs have since succumbed to the dry weather. Lalith Chandrapala, head of Sri Lanka’s Meteorological Department, said last week that the country’s main reservoirs are less than 30 percent full ― which is less than half of what is required to support a normal rice harvest at this time of year. 

Officials say the rainfall deficit is likely to continue until the next monsoon, not expected until June or July. In the meantime, water shortages are likely to become even more severe and widespread. A rice shortage is also expected to strike later in the year. 

Due to a lack of irrigation water, only about a third of the country’s rice paddy fields have been planted, according to Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center. It’s reportedly the country’s worst planting season in 30 years.

All our paddy was destroyed,” Rabanda, a farmer, told Al Jazeera. “We don’t have a way to survive and now we don’t even have water to drink.”

The drought has also put pressure on the energy sector in Sri Lanka, a country that relies heavily on hydroelectricity. Due to the dry spell, the government-owned Ceylon Electricity Board has had to purchase over $50 million in electricity from the private sector, according to The Sunday Leader, a Sri Lankan newspaper.

“This drought is affecting both the agricultural and the hydro-power generation,” Chandrapala told Al Jazeera this week. “It is one of the worst droughts since the 1970s.” 


In recent years, severe drought, punctuated by spells of flooding (including last May’s deadly storm), has become a fact of life in Sri Lanka, a tropical island nation that’s been called “highly vulnerable to impacts of climate change.”

“It’s getting drier and drier,” Lareef Zubair, one of the country’s leading climate scientists, told The WorldPost on Tuesday from the Maldives, where he’s conducting research. “There are water shortages pretty much every other year.”

“Even the farmers perceive it,” Zubair went on. “When we do interviews with them, they are consciously talking about the drought.”

Climate change has been linked to more frequent and more intense episodes of extreme weather around the world, including drought and floods. In Sri Lanka, there’s evidence that such changes are already underway.

“We see that weather patterns have changed, and unexpected weather-related disasters have increased,” Mahinda Amaraweera, Sri Lanka’s minister for disaster management, said during a United Nations climate event in 2013. The country, he noted, would need to be better prepared for such disasters in the coming years.

Zubair said, however, that while Sri Lanka is at risk of “serious climate impacts,” those effects are – for now – “poorly understood.” 

“The depth and quality of research has been poor [in this area],” he said. “Absolutely more work and more research needs to be done. There will be serious impacts, and they need to be taken seriously.”


Dominique Mosbergen is a reporter at The Huffington Post covering climate change, extreme weather and extinction. Send tips or feedback to dominique.mosbergen@huffingtonpost.com or follow her on Twitter

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6-Year-Old Scientist Charms Ellen With His Brainiac Ways

Ellen DeGeneres invited a 6-year-old science lover on her talk show, and he delivered both laughs and interesting facts.

Wearing a lab coat and a tie, a boy named Nate charmed DeGeneres and the audience with all things science and talked about his podcast titled “The Show About Science.” Nate explained that he’s loved science for a while, which inspired his podcast.

“Science has been my favorite topic since I was 3,” he said.

The 6-year-old usually books guests for the show himself, but sometimes his dad arranges for scientists to come on to offer their expertise on topics like animals, evolution and climate change.

“But I still have to approve of them,” Nate said. “And if we’re lucky, sometimes our guests book us.”

Nate told DeGeneres he’s made $500 through his podcast. Most of it went to his college fund, but only after he got permission from his parents to buy a customized bobblehead that looked like him.

We can’t wait to see the bobblehead in his fancy lab one day when he’s still crushing the science game. 

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We Know What The Country Looks Like Without The EPA: Filthy

Soon after the Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970, it began a monumental project to photograph the United States, in all its industrial glory.

The initiative, dubbed Documerica, employed more than 100 freelance photographers to capture “images relating to environmental problems, EPA activities, and everyday life.” From 1972 to 1977, they took more than 81,000 photos, many before the EPA instituted programs to clean up the country’s fouled landscapes, air and waterways. 

“By the late 1960s, the American landscape was ravaged by decades of unchecked land development, blighted by urban decay in the big cities, and plagued by seemingly unstoppable air, noise, and water pollution,” C. Jerry Simmons, an archivist and historian at the National Archives in Washington, wrote in 2009. “The project takes rightful credit for the United States’ first serious examination of its rapidly decaying natural environment.”

The EPA tasked each of its photographers with documenting a specific environmental problem in certain areas, from noise pollution in Boston to health impacts on coal miners in West Virginia.

More than 15,000 images from the Documerica series were published online in 2009. Simmons wrote then that many of the ills shown in the photos continued to plague the country:

“When we look at images of today’s environment, we can see that what troubles the environment in the new millennium is what troubled it in the early 1970s, and DOCUMERICA confirms it. Thousands of images of pollution, strip mining, crowded cities, and land abuse could well be photographs taken in recent times. Though a great deal has been done over the past 30 years to correct problems depicted in the photographs, there is a common consensus that there is so much left to accomplish in the race to save America’s natural resources.”

Since it was created by President Richard Nixon, the EPA has been in charge of enforcing some of the most important environmental protections in modern history, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the banning of the pesticide DDT and the phaseout of lead in gasoline. More recently, the agency toughened rules for vehicle emissions and readied former President Barack Obama’s controversial Clean Power Plan, since stalled by court challenges.

Environmentalists fear many of those efforts may soon come to the fore once again under the presidency of Donald Trump. Trump’s pick as EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, is a climate-change denier who has sued the agency 13 times as Oklahoma attorney general. Pruitt has repeatedly said the environment would be “fine” without the EPA, and has threatened to roll back regulations protecting air and water.

Pruitt acknowledged during his confirmation hearing last week he doesn’t believe climate change is a “hoax,” but he refused to agree with 97 percent of scientists who say the phenomenon is caused by human activity.

Just this week, the EPA froze all of its grant programs (including funding for research and air quality monitoring) and told employees not to talk to reporters or use social media until further notice. On Tuesday, Trump announced he’ll push forward the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, which opponents say will worsen climate change.

Below, take a look at some of the images of America as it existed during the EPA’s advent. The entire Documerica archive is available online.

Click on each photograph for a description from the National Archives.

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So, That Delaware-Sized Iceberg Is Even Closer To Breaking Off Antarctica

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Earlier this month, researchers warned a 2,000-square-mile chunk of ice was perilously close to breaking away from Antarctica after a major crack in the Larsen C ice shelf grew more than 10 miles in December. Now, that crack has grown even bigger, scientists say. Another massive expansion has left just 12 miles of ice holding a Delaware-sized iceberg from breaking off the continent.

Researchers with Project MIDAS, a British initiative to track the effects of climate change on the Larsen C shelf, said on Thursday that the crack grew an additional 6 miles in the first three weeks of January, based on recent satellite images. The ice shelf is the northernmost major ice sheet in Antarctica.

“When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded,” Adrian Luckman, the lead researcher behind the MIDAS Project, said in a post. “This event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.”

While the calving of the ice shelf wouldn’t directly contribute to sea level rise (the ice is already floating on top of the water, like ice in a glass), scientists say the collapse could trigger the melting of land ice the Larsen C is currently holding back.

Luckman previously told the BBC he’d be “amazed” if the ice shelf didn’t break away in the next few months, saying: “It’s so close to calving that I think it’s inevitable.”

While he noted such predictions are hard to make, in an interview this week he told the outlet the rapid expansion of the crack may portend a quick demise for the section of the shelf, which would create one of the largest icebergs in recorded history.

“My feeling is that this new development suggests something will happen within weeks to months, but there is an outside chance that further growth will be slow for longer than that,” Luckman said.

Two sister ice shelfs in the region, the Larsen A and Larsen B, have already been cleaved from Antarctica in dramatic fashion, in 1995 and 2002, respectively. The Larsen B’s demise was captured in a spectacular video released by NASA that shows the sheet disintegrating into the ocean.

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Here’s One Way To Keep Oceans From Having More Plastics Than Fish

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Each year, 8 million tons of plastic wind up in the ocean. At this rate, by 2050, we’ll have more plastic than fish in our big blue seas.

That threat played a major role in motivating Unilever, the company behind such brands as Dove and Suave, to upend its approach to packaging. Unilever announced on Jan. 14 that all of its plastic packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

“If we want to solve the issue of plastic in the ocean, we can’t go to the symptoms,” CEO Paul Polman told The Huffington Post. “We have to go to the source.”

While recycling experts welcomed the announcement, some said they were “cautiously optimistic” about how effective it will be. 

Jennie Romer, attorney and founder of plasticbaglaws.org ― a resource for cities and states looking to reduce plastic bag consumption – emphasized that while introducing recyclable packaging is a move in the right direction, it won’t serve as a cure-all. 

Just because something is recyclable, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be recycled, Romer noted.

Just 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 

Ramping up recycling figures will also mean improving recycling programs, ensuring products will be accepted at curbside bins and developing informative programs for consumers.

“This is a step towards getting there,” Romer said of Unilever’s commitment. 

But Romer added that she wants to make sure Unilever’s plan amounts to more than a public relations announcement that gives “consumers that warm and fuzzy feeling.”

Romer noted that while Unilever has altruistic intentions, it’s also responding to pressure from environmental groups and consumers. And “that pressure needs to continue,” she said.

To achieve a true circular economy – one that effectively reduces waste and pollution – Romer stressed the need for companies to make their packaging from post-consumer recycled plastic, such as an empty shampoo bottle that can be broken down and repurposed.

Unilever has committed to using post-consumer recycled plastic in its packaging. The company said it will increase its use of recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25 percent by 2025. 

Part of why this element is so critical is because it creates demand for purchasing reusable plastic, explained Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, the largest recycler in the United States.

Unilever emphasized its intentions to work in coalitions, with governments and other companies in order to propel the movement toward sustainable packaging and improved recycling figures.

Together with 40 industry leaders, Unilever joined an initiative launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The goal is to increase global recycling rates for plastic packaging to 70 percent. 

Polman said it’s “difficult to identify” how much it will cost Unilever to transition to a more sustainable packaging model.

But in an effort to make it easier for other companies to adopt similar strategies, Polman said Unilever is eager to share some of its innovative breakthroughs.

“We’re willing to share this because we think it’s more important that we all do this,” Polman said.

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Businesses, Markets and Innovation Can Beat Climate Change

Businesses, markets and innovation can reduce emissions of gases that warm the planet. And they can do this while generating profits, creating jobs and growing the economy. In fact, they already are.

Voices that warn acting on climate change will harm business, kill jobs and hurt the economy are, ironically, underestimating the power of private enterprise to focus vast human, material and financial resources on solving challenging problems. Numerous businesses, across a wide range of industries, are finding and exploiting ways to make profits that are literally helping to save the planet. To be sure, the public sector in the U.S. and abroad have critical roles to play too if emission reductions are to go deep enough to limit warming to well below 2 degrees C, as called for in the Paris Agreement. More on that in due course. But first let’s focus on the private sector.

Businesses, propelled mostly by market forces, and to a lesser extent by regulation, are innovating to reduce costs, raise productivity and bring new technologies and products to market in ways that have cut U.S. energy use and carbon emissions per dollar GDP (1). They have even reduced the absolute amount of carbon emissions in recent years. While corporate social responsibility values, desires to promote positive brand images and regulatory pressures play roles, the primary motivation is the expectation that these actions benefit the financial bottom line.

One area this is happening is the U.S. electric power sector, which has shifted dramatically over the past decade to become less carbon intensive. Natural gas prices began falling in 2009 as hydraulic fracturing technologies enabled development of vast amounts of gas from shale formations, making it a lower cost fuel than coal for producing electric power (2). It’s also less carbon-polluting per unit of energy than coal. Average levelized costs have fallen dramatically for two zero-emission renewable sources of electric power, from 22¢/kWh in 2006 to less than 5¢/kWh in 2015 for solar, and from 5¢/kWh in 2006 to 2.3¢/kWh in 2014 for wind (3). Responding to these cost changes, electric power generation with natural gas and non-hydro renewables rose rapidly as coal fell. Natural gas will surpass coal this year with a 33 percent share in electric power generation, while renewables will provide 14 percent and nuclear, another zero-carbon source, provides 19 percent. New capacity is favoring renewables and natural gas. In 2015, wind and solar accounted for 41 and 26 percent of new electric generation capacity respectively, while natural gas accounted for 30 percent (4). Renewables now stand at 19 percent of US electric generation capacity.

Numerous other changes are afoot that are reigning in carbon. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles are improving performance, falling in price and increasing in sales. LED lighting is maturing and has captured over 30 percent of the market. A variety of products and production processes are being re-engineered to save costs by being less material and energy intensive. New buildings are increasingly being designed and constructed to meet high energy performance standards such as LEED, Passive House and Living Building Challenge. Companies like Walmart are working to make their supply chains more efficient and less carbon intensive. More businesses are choosing to locate in high-density urban areas where they can benefit from efficient transportation networks and proximity to customers and employees – enabling them to save time, energy, money and carbon.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs (5) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (6) project that trends in renewable energy and natural gas will continue to put downward pressure on carbon emissions, even with changes in federal policies and regulations that seem likely in the new Trump administration. Goldman Sachs expects continued expansion of a “low carbon economy” driven by solar PV, onshore wind, LED lighting and electric vehicles.

A variety of innovations are in the works that may help to further decarbonize the U.S. economy. Renee Cho provides a few examples (7). TerraPower is developing a nuclear “traveling wave reactor” that uses depleted uranium to produce power, thereby helping solve nuclear waste disposal problems and potentially lessening nuclear proliferation threats. General Fusion is working to make fusion technology commercially viable for producing power from abundant deuterium and tritium. Aquion Energy is working on saltwater batteries to provide safe and sustainable energy storage, while LightSail Energy is developing a technology that stores energy using compressed air.

A number of initiatives are striving to raise capital for innovative climate solutions or stimulate innovation through competitions. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is forming a network of private investment to accelerate energy innovation. The Global CO2 Initiative is raising capital to invest in capturing CO2 and using it to make products that include construction materials, fuels, plastics, fertilizers, carbon fibers and nanotubes. Their goal is to capture and use 10 percent of the world’s carbon emissions (8). The Carbon XPrize competition is offering $20 million prize money to challenge teams of innovators to develop technologies for converting captured CO2 into products. Carbon Engineering is working to commercialize a technology that captures CO2 from ambient air, allowing it to be located near producers with demand for carbon and at scales that match their demand.

The above examples give evidence of how businesses are profiting while reducing carbon and other emissions of climate changing gases. All very encouraging. And yet, they add up to far less than what is needed if we are to limit warming to levels that can be managed without suffering highly damaging impacts from climate change. To avoid that unwanted future, US carbon emissions need to fall 80 percent by 2050.

Can that be done? What would it take? The good news is that it is technically feasible and it can be achieved while meeting growing demand for energy services at a manageable cost, perhaps 1 percent of GDP per year. Under some assumptions, fuel cost savings exceed other costs, producing a net gain and not a cost to the economy. These are the findings of a new study by the Risky Business Project (9), as well as an earlier study of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (10). Other studies using different methodologies have reached similar conclusions. Not included in the calculus are the benefits of limiting climate change damages and reducing adverse health impacts from conventional air pollutants, which make deep decarbonization a clear winner.

There are multiple pathways by which a low carbon future can be reached that vary in details about the market penetration of solar, wind, nuclear, carbon capture and other technologies. But three features are common to all. First, shift energy end-use from fossil fuels to electricity wherever possible, including transportation and heating. Second, generate electricity using energy sources with zero or near-zero carbon emissions. Third, use energy much more efficiently in buildings, transportation and industry. All of this can be done with currently available technologies; no major technological breakthroughs are necessary.

The bad news is that these changes cannot be delivered at the required scale and speed by the market acting alone. Businesses that cut carbon are not rewarded directly for the benefits of avoided climate change and air pollution. They capture only a part of the value their actions create – their reduced resource costs. Consequently, the market does not give them sufficient incentive to move as aggressively as our common welfare calls for. Meanwhile, other businesses that use the atmosphere as an unpaid resource in which to dump their waste gases are essentially being subsidized, gaining an unearned competitive advantage.

Thoughtful, carefully considered pubic policies can provide the incentives and business environment that would balance the scales and enable businesses to make investments that would transition us to a low carbon economy while providing good jobs and meeting our energy needs. These include putting a price on carbon; making substantial public investments in research & development and energy infrastructure; and creating incentives to promote similar investments by the private sector. Also needed are investments in community development programs targeted to regions where fossil energy sector jobs would be lost. In addition, participation in the Paris Agreement will be crucial for assuring that the playing field is as near level as possible with respect to carbon for businesses in the U.S and elsewhere.

We are at a critical juncture. The scientific evidence is clear to those who care to read it objectively. Bipartisan support needs to be forged now for deep reductions in carbon emissions; delay or partial measures will prove costly and economically destabilizing. Policies that harness the power of the market to incentivize private business and innovation offer the best potential for finding common ground.

Previous Huffington Post articles:

Why the U.S. Should Stay in the Paris Climate Agreement

What a Trump Presidency Means for Fighting Climate Change


1. U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, 2014.

2. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Natural gas expected to surpass coal in mix of fuel used for U.S. power generation in 2016, March 16, 2016.

3. CleanEdge, Clean Energy Procurement.

4. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Wind adds the most electric generation capacity in 2015, followed by natural gas and solar, March 23, 2016.

5. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. The Low Carbon Economy, Technology in the Driver’s Seat, Nov 28, 2016.

6. Ethan Zindler, Trump and Clean Energy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, November 18, 2016.

7. Renee Cho, What five tech companies are doing about climate change. State of the Planet, Earth Institute, Columbia University, March 4, 2016.

8. The Global CO2 Initiative.

9. Risky Business Project, From Risk to Return: Investing in a Clean Energy Economy, 2016.

10. Williams, J.H., B. Haley, F. Kahrl, J. Moore, A.D. Jones, M.S. Torn, H. McJeon (2014). Pathways to deep decarbonization in the United States. The U.S. report of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

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