Biofuels Tradeoffs

corn-field-farm-vertical-PA
Biofuels Tradeoffs (start time: 8:27): In this week’s show David DeGennaro, an agriculture policy specialist with the National Wildlife Federation and author of a report called “Fueling Destruction,”  talks with host Susan Moran about the environmental consequences of biofuels, and about possible solutions. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed maintaining record support for biofuels, namely corn. Last week the EPA ended an open public comment period leading up to a decision to maintain, increase or scale back its current support of biofuels as part of the Renewable Fuels Standard, a federal mandate to blend corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels into conventional gasoline. NWF and some other environmental organizations, along with former California Congressman Henry Waxman, have been urging the EPA and Congress to reduce biofuels mandates. Increased demand for corn has led to the conversion of millions of acres of habitat-rich grasslands and into croplands — all without significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Alejandro Soto
Additional contributions: Alejandro Soto

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The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson (start time 6:20). The book Silent Spring, published in 1962, is widely credited for setting the stage for the modern environmental movement. Its author, Rachel Carson, an unassuming field biologist and writer, uncovered how in the process of killing crop pests, chemicals such as DDT were also killing birds, fish and other wildlife.  Fifty years after Silent Spring was published, several of the worst offending toxins are off the market – at least in the U.S. – but many more persist and new ones have emerged. And they’re wreaking havoc on human health, not just wildlife. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran talks with William Souder, author of the new book On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, which was just published last month to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of Silent Spring.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Joel Parker
Producer: 
Joel Parker
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: 
Jim Pullen

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Clean Water Struggles // 2011’s Big Sci-Enviro-Tech Stories

Mining retention pond in Colorado. Image courtesy of the EPA.

Clean Water Struggles. Co-host Susan Moran interviews journalist Judith Lewis Mernit about how small rural communities in the West are struggling to afford complying with federal water-quality standards as they relate to water pollutants. Mernit wrote an article on the topic in High Country News’ Dec. 12 issue. She explores the unintended consequences of complex federal  standards, which place a disproportionately heavy burden on small communities.  A big bone of contention, and a source of a flood of lawsuits, is a provision in the Clean Water Act that forces states to assess their impaired waterways and set maximum limits, or loads, for nitrates and other pollutants in them.

Bastrop, Texas fire. Photo courtesy of Michael Kodas.

2011’s Big Sci-Enviro-Tech Stories. In the second feature co-hosts Susan Moran and Tom Yulsman are joined by How On Earth’s Tom McKinnon and Shelley Schlender, as well as photojournalist Michael Kodas (author of a forthcoming book on megafires) to reflect on 2011’s major science, technology and environment stories. The list includes extreme weather events, record-high carbon dioxide levels, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Boulder’s November vote to consider municipalizing its electricity, and advancements in proteomics. Stay tuned for plenty more coverage of these topics on How On Earth in 2012. (Scroll down to download the audio file of the show.)

Hosts: Susan Moran, Tom Yulsman
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineers: Tom McKinnon, Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Tom McKinnon

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