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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
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Long Before Trees Overtook the Land, Earth Was Covered by Giant Mushrooms

July 17, 2013 3:14 pm
Long Before Trees Overtook the Land, Earth Was Covered by Giant Mushrooms

Digging up a Prototaxites fossil. Photo: University of Chicago
From around 420 to 350 million years ago, when land plants were still the relatively new kids on the evolutionary block and “the tallest trees stood just a few feet high,” giant spires of life poked from the Earth. “The ancient organism boasted trunks up to 24 feet (8 meters) high and as wide as three feet (one meter),” said National Geographic in 2007. With the help of a fossil dug up in Saudi Arabia scientists finally figured out what the giant creature was: a fungus. (We think.)

The towering fungus spires would have stood out against a landscape scarce of such giants, said New Scientist in 2007.

“A 6-metre fungus would be odd enough in the modern world, but at least we are used to trees quite a bit bigger,” says Boyce. “Plants at that time were a few feet tall, invertebrate animals were small, and there were no terrestrial vertebrates. This fossil would have been all the more striking in such a diminutive landscape.”

Fossils of the organisms, known as Prototaxites, had peppered the paleontological findings of the past century and a half, ever since they were first discovered by a Canadian in 1859. But despite the fossil records, no one could figure out what the heck these giant spires were. The University of Chicago:

For the next 130 years, debate raged. Some scientists called Prototaxites a lichen, others a fungus, and still others clung to the notion that it was some kind of tree. “The problem is that when you look up close at the anatomy, it’s evocative of a lot of different things, but it’s diagnostic of nothing,” says Boyce, an associate professor in geophysical sciences and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology. “And it’s so damn big that when whenever someone says it’ssomething, everyone else’s hackles get up: ‘How could you have a lichen 20 feet tall?’”

That all changed in 2007 when a study came out that concluded the spires were a fungus, like a gigantic early mushroom.

But not everyone was sold on the idea that Prototaxites was an early fungus...

Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/07/long-before-trees-overtook-the-land-earth-was-covered-by-giant-mushrooms/#ixzz2jza2aue9
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Offering a hypothetical on National Dem Party's handling of NJ Governor's race

I've heard a lot of criticism about lack of Democratic support for Buono, and I thought this might be similar to the way the decision was looked at. I don't know what I'd do, because I can see a case for both sides.
Anyway, on to the hypothetical:

Consider Christy as a threat to Democrats in 2016.

Consider the Tea Party is a threat to the Nation.

Predict that an extraordinarily large Christy win, together with other results from the elections will probably act as a force to counter the Tea Party influence in Congress over the next 3 years.

Balance that against how much value you assign to having a Democratic Governor together with the Democratic legislature in NJ and the probability of that occurring given the popularity dynamics going into the election season.

You are the Top Dem Decider on Who Gets the Money.

What do you do about the NJ Governor's race?

You (and hatrack) might want to work on your terminology

When someone says "the invisible hand of the market" they aren't referring to policies that direct market results; they are saying that the mass of individual choices based solely on self interest via unregulated transactions will produce more beneficial results for society writ large than those made 'by human masterminding'.

The particular challenge facing us is that we need to transition away from carbon to renewables.

How do we deal with that?

Invisible hand proponents will say "do nothing, if one product is superior it will defeat the other".

That is idiotic because nearly every market develops distortions that remove it so far from the ideal that it simply can't help but serve special interests.

That leaves us with a two step process:
1) Arriving at a normative decision that remedial action needs to be taken to override or correct the undesirable market forces.

2) A policy which can achieve the goal and that is acceptable to all the stakeholders needs to be developed and implemented.

In this case the Gordian Knot confronting us is that we don't capture the cost of the damage that fossil fuels are doing in their price. This results in the carbon sources having an unfair price advantage over the low carbon alternatives.

That means we have two compatible paths to follow:
1) We can artificially raise the price of carbon with mechanisms like cap and trade, carbon credits or a carbon tax. As you can see, these are all variations on a theme.
2) We can artificially (subsidies) or substantively lower the price of the alternatives.

With that in mind I hope you can see why I don't understand your remarks.

What You Read On MSNBC.com Might Be Written By The Fossil Fuel Industry

What You Read On MSNBC.com Might Be Written By The Fossil Fuel Industry

MSNBC relaunched on October 30 with a pretty new website, an impressive slate of newly-hired progressive reporters, plus a couple of questionable “launch partners,” corporate sponsors who will write content for the site. General Electric (GE) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) will contribute “native advertisements,” meaning ads branded as MSNBC stories, to the news site in exchange for sponsorship.

ANGA is a natural gas industry group that promotes increased natural gas exploration and drilling and discourages regulation. An ANGA spokesperson recently told the Los Angeles Times that using more natural gas “can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” which is not true over the long term. Natural gas does burn cleaner than coal and some see it as a bridge fuel to wide renewable energy adoption — though that bridge must be short to meet key climate goals.

It is as yet unclear what America’s Natural Gas Alliance will cover, though it will be featured in sponsored polls housed in a section focused on facts about natural gas. It is unknown whether that entire section will be an advertisement. GE’s will focus on the “Industrial Internet,” the “Brilliant Machines Innovation,” and how they are impacting our world.

A look at ANGA’s previous sponsored stories for other outlets can give a good idea of what they will write. The Huffington Post ran two stories “Presented by America’s Natural Gas Alliance” on September 10, entitled “8 Cities Embracing Natural Gas” (reposted on October 18 at “8 Greenest Cities Embracing Alternative Fuel”) and “The Quiet Revolution Behind Your Light Switch,” the latter authored by Marty Durbin, President and CEO of ANGA.

Durbin repeats ...


Nuclear energy film overstates positives, underplays negatives

Nuclear energy film overstates positives, underplays negatives
By Ralph Cavanagh and Tom Cochran, Special to CNN
updated 5:25 AM EST, Wed November 6, 2013

After the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, anti-nuclear groups take issue with a new film about nuclear energy.

Natural Resources Defense Council: "Pandora's Promise" a "love song to nuclear power"
NRDC: Film overlooks scientific statistics on radiation impacts
"Star of the film" is the Integral Fast Reactor, but the movie fails to mention downsides

(CNN) -- The new film "Pandora's Promise" is a love song to nuclear power that claims to be a documentary, but like all good propaganda it omits key parts of the story, overstates the positives and underplays the negatives.

Built around the (false) proposition that improved quality of life requires commensurate growth in energy use (a recurring visual theme is a globe that glows brighter and brighter), the movie presents nuclear power as the only plausible solution to global warming.

No American utility today would consider building a new nuclear power plant without massive government support. Of 29 power plants on the drawing boards in 2009, only a handful are going forward, with government help, and even those are experiencing delays and cost overruns.

No major U.S. environmental group endorses nuclear power as a solution to climate change caused by fossil fuels, but this movie lionizes environmental activists who have become nuclear power enthusiasts, led by Michael Shellenberger and Stewart Brand. Shellenberger notes in the film that he at one time worked for NRDC and other major environmental groups in a consulting role. Their narratives are juxtaposed against unflattering, decades-old clips of veteran anti-nuclear activists like Helen Caldicott, Jane Fonda and Ralph Nader, suggesting that being pro-nuke is modern and hip.

One of us...


Editor's note: Ralph Cavanagh is co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's energy program and formerly served as a member of the U.S. Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board. Tom Cochran is an expert on nuclear energy and an NRDC consultant. He sits on three subcommittees of U.S. Department of Energy's Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee. CNN Films' presentation of the nuclear power documentary "Pandora's Promise" airs Thursday, November 7, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

EU Seeks (Mandatory) Nuclear Power Disaster Insurance

EU seeks nuclear power disaster insurance plan

November 05, 2013 8:54 am

The European Commission's energy chief says the bloc's executive arm will present a proposal on mandatory disaster insurance for nuclear power plants in coming weeks.

Guenther Oettinger said Tuesday the proposal should be one of the first items on the European Parliament's agenda following elections in May. He declined to elaborate.

The world's nuclear power plants have hardly any coverage. Governments implicitly guarantee they'll pay for the bulk of a disaster.

In several EU nations, required insurance only covers liabilities of a few hundred million dollars, while a worst-case scenario accident is estimated to cost up to hundreds of billions...


Deep carbon reductions in California require electrification and integration across economic sectors

Deep carbon reductions in California require electrification and integration across economic sectors
Publication Type Journal Article
Year of Publication 2013
Authors Wei, Max, James H. Nelson, Jeffery B. Greenblatt, Ana Mileva, Josiah Johnston, Michael K. Ting, Christopher Yang, Chris Jones, James E. McMahon, and Daniel M. Kammen
Journal Environmental Research Letters
Volume 8
Issue 1

Meeting a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 80% below 1990 levels in the year 2050 requires detailed long-term planning due to complexity, inertia, and path dependency in the energy system. A detailed investigation of supply and demand alternatives is conducted to assess requirements for future California energy systems that can meet the 2050 GHG target. Two components are developed here that build novel analytic capacity and extend previous studies: (1) detailed bottom-up projections of energy demand across the building, industry and transportation sectors; and (2) a high-resolution variable renewable resource capacity planning model (SWITCH) that minimizes the cost of electricity while meeting GHG policy goals in the 2050 timeframe. Multiple pathways exist to a low-GHG future, all involving increased efficiency, electrification, and a dramatic shift from fossil fuels to low-GHG energy. The electricity system is found to have a diverse, cost-effective set of options that meet aggressive GHG reduction targets. This conclusion holds even with increased demand from transportation and heating, but the optimal levels of wind and solar deployment depend on the temporal characteristics of the resulting load profile. Long-term policy support is found to be a key missing element for the successful attainment of the 2050 GHG target in California.

Open Access paper can be downloaded here:

The Atomic States of America

The Atomic States of America

• HOST A LOCAL SCREENING - specialtystudios.com/page.asp&content_id=33502
• PURCHASE A DVD - videoproject.com/atstofam.html

Screened at Sundance, THE ATOMIC STATES OF AMERICA journeys to nuclear reactor communities around the country to provide a comprehensive exploration of the history and impact of nuclear power to date, and to investigate the truths and myths about nuclear energy.

The film raises profound questions about the safety, viability and future of nuclear power in the United States -- casting substantial doubt that more promises about the potential for nuclear power, as raised in "Pandora's Promise", are largely unrealistic fantasies.
A film by Don Argott and Sheena Joyce

Watch here:


Exelon's CEO: Analysts 'have it very wrong'

Exelon's CEO: Analysts 'have it very wrong'
By Steve Daniels October 30, 2013

Facing deteriorating sentiment on Wall Street, Exelon Corp. CEO Christopher Crane today directly challenged analysts' views on his company and restated his confidence that the depressed wholesale power markets largely responsible for the Chicago-based utility giant's declining earnings will recover.

But, though Mr. Crane delivered it more pointedly than in the past, his message is one analysts have heard before, with no evidence afterward that the market fundamentals were changing. So this time Mr. Crane put a time limit on his patience: one year.

If wholesale power prices don't show signs of increasing by late next year, Exelon will begin shuttering power plants, he said on a call to discuss the company's third-quarter earnings, which surpassed analysts' expectations.

“We will shut down facilities that we do not see a path to long-term sustainable profitability,” Mr. Crane pledged.

Among the nuclear power plants regarded as the most vulnerable in that scenario...


Coal Mine Muck Spills, Dumping 264 Million Gallons Into Canadian Waterways

Coal Mine Muck Spills, Dumping 264 Million Gallons Into Canadian Waterways

An estimated one billion litres — or about 264 million gallons — of muck from an Alberta, Canada coal mine broke out of its containment pond on Halloween. The liquid flowed down two creeks and across 25 kilometers from the Obed Mountain coal mine to the Athabasca River, and is now headed downriver.

“There’s actually quite a noticeable change of color [in the river],” said Alberta Environment spokeswoman Jessica Potter. “It’s like muddy water… murky, muddy water.”

Staff from the Alberta Health Services are now analyzing water samples to check if any of the sediments could cause environmental or health damage. The water contained coal dust, clay, mudstone, sandstone, shale and dirt, though the Edmonton Journal quoted an anonymous Sherritt official claiming “the materials in the pond are inert and aren’t toxic to humans or fish.”

According to the Journal, such containment bodies are generally designed so that water runoff from the operations flows into the ponds, and then stays until the sediments settle to the bottom, leaving the water safe to release. Operations at the mine, which is owned by Sherritt International, were actually suspended last November, and it since been undergoing reclamation.

Fortunately, most of the nearby communities don’t draw their drinking water from the river, and...

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