Environment Forum

Special report: Ten years of oil spills


The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and subsequent oil leak this summer captured urgent intellectual efforts of leading scientists around the world.

Though it was the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, it was not the first oil spill nor will it be the last.

To date, scientific studies and published reports on the topic number in the hundreds of thousands. After two months of sorting these reports, Thomson Reuters’ Science Watch is releasing their findings in an extensive Special Topic report with the  most influential research on oil spills, from remediation (including dispersants) to bioindicators.  Citation data from January 2000 to June 2010 was approached from various angles, and trends and anomalies emerge handily.

Science Watch also launched an interactive map that snapshots key research at over 10 global spill sites, including photos. Another section published graphs that detail key findings of scientific reviews.

Longterm effects of BP’s Macondo blowout and spill that sent close to 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Atlantic ocean this summer are yet to be known. Perhaps the hard scientific research of the past can help researchers probe the questions to alleviate any potential damage in the future.

Jay Leno’s garage: a lot of EVs

The fact that comedian Jay Leno has a serious collection of cars in his 17,000 square-foot-garage in southern California may not surprise fans, but his soft spot for electric and hybrid vehicles most likely will turn a few heads.

In this exclusive interview with GigaOM‘s Green Overdrive crew, the host of “The Tonight Show” opens the door to his solar-powered home for dozens and dozens of cars for an animated tour of his collection, including three cherished vintage electric models from the 1900s.

Ice thaw exposes trove from pre-Viking hunters

threearchA thaw of ice in the mountains of Norway is helping Lars Piloe and his team of archaeologists uncover a 1,500-year-old trove of equipment used by ancestors of the Vikings to hunt reindeer.

Their work as “ice patch archaeologists” points to one of a few positive side-effects of man-made climate change, widely blamed for shrinking glaciers worldwide.

On other missions to dwindling ice fields they have found arrows, even some with feathers attached. And another expert found a 3,400-year-old leather shoe. (…they speculate that the shoe’s first owner threw it away because it has a hole in the sole).two

The Green Gauge: Shell and BASF guilty in Brazil

A Shell petrol station sign is seen reflected in a puddle in London February 4, 2010. Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it planned even deeper cuts to its oil refining and retail operations after downstream weakness caused a 75 percent fall in fourth-quarter profits to $1.18 billion (743.87 million pounds).  The photograph has been rotated 180 degrees.  REUTERS/Luke Macgregor (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS ENERGY)

Royal Dutch Shell and German chemicals maker BASF were dealt a costly blow last month in a court ruling in Brazil that found both companies liable for contaminating groundwater with toxic waste northwest of Sao Paulo.

The ruling puts Shell and BASF in the lead position in this installment of The Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies that made headlines Aug. 22 to Sept. 6 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

Could wind push energy bill to fruition?

A state-of-the-art wind turbine at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) spins on a sunny day near Boulder, Colorado July 21, 2010.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking

–Andris (Andy) E. Cukurs is chief executive officer of North American operations of India-based Suzlon Energy Ltd., the world’s third-largest wind turbine manufacturer. Any views expressed here are his own.–

The climate bill may have stalled and, with it, a renewable electricity standard that would promote wind and other renewable-energy sources. But at the same time, wind energy continues to make strong strides.

Just look at the commitment of large corporations, like  Google, purchasing 20 years of wind-generated electricity in Iowa, ostensibly to operate its huge data centers. Or SC Johnson & Son, installing turbines at its Wisconsin headquarters and putting up a windmill at its largest European manufacturing plant – in addition to nearly half its Ziploc plant in Michigan powered with wind.

Norway: recovering ‘petroholic’ or prudent saver?


My name is Norway and I’m a petroholic.

“I’ve tried it all: Vaseline, kerosene, gasoline, jet fuel and diesel. I’ve even tried natural gas,” says a leaflet from the most controversial stand at Norway’s biggest oil and gas exhibition.

Situated next to lavish exhibits of dozens of oil and gas companies and hundreds of oil sector contractors, green group Bellona is preaching the sober message of the renewables revolution at the heart of Norway’s oil world – the ONS conference in Stavanger.

In a 12-step rehab plan for Norway, Bellona says the world’s No. 5 exporter of oil and No. 2 gas provider has based its prosperous economy on resource extraction that will not last, and is already exhibiting signs of a “petro hangover”.

The Green Gauge: CF Industries told to clean up

Christopher Greenwald

– Christopher Greenwald is director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. –

It never looks good when the EPA raps you on the knuckles for failing to take care of your surroundings. Such was the case last week for CF Industries, a fertilizer-maker now facing a price tag of more than $12 million to improve conditions at a facility in Florida.

Here are the highlights of companies in the news from August 8 to 23. Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

from The Great Debate UK:

Why Pakistan monsoons support evidence of global warming

-Lord Julian Hunt is visiting Professor at Delft University, and former Director-General of the UK Met Office. The opinions expressed are his own.-

The unusually large rainfall from this year’s monsoon has caused the most catastrophic flooding in Pakistan for 80 years, with the U.N. estimating that around one fifth of the country is underwater.  This is thus truly a crisis of the very first order.

Heavy monsoon precipitation has increased in frequency in Pakistan and Western India in recent years.  For instance, in July 2005, Mumbai was deluged by almost 950 mm (37 inches) of rain in just one day, and more than 1,000 people were killed in floods in the state of Maharashtra.  Last year, deadly flash floods hit Northwestern Pakistan, and Karachi was also flooded.

In Gaza, it’s not easy being green


– This story by Theodore May originally appeared in Global Post. –

In the small central Gaza town of Deir el Belah, one family has made a cottage industry out of green innovation.

“There was a period in Gaza when there was no gas or you had to wait for hours in line to get gas. So we made the oven according to our needs,” said Maher Youssef Abou Tawahina, who, along with his father, runs a hardware shop in town.

Abou Tawahina is referring to a solar-powered oven that he and his family invented two years ago. The oven, which sits in the family’s backyard, takes five minutes to heat up using electricity. Then, its glass ceiling uses the sun to continue the heating process. The oven is not quite hot enough for baking bread, he said, but it’s perfect for roasting chicken.

from Photographers' Blog:

An aerial view of Sumatra Island

I joined a Greenpeace tour flying over Sumatra Island to take pictures of their protest over forest destruction.

Five photographers and a TV cameraman set off early in the morning, while it was still dark, in a new, single-propeller aircraft. No one told me it would be nearly three hours to get to Jambi on a small plane with no toilet. Luckily for me I had an empty bottle as an emergency measure.

This was the first time I’ve taken aerial shots, so I took so many types of pictures. I took every single detail that caught my eye -- forest, reflected light from the sun during sunrise, palm oil plantations, river, sea,  houses, everything.  When we started to take pictures, all five photographers jostled around one opened window. The wind blew very hard, pushing the glass against my face. After one hour, one of the other photographers gave up, and had to take a rest after throwing up all his breakfast. That made me happy – more room for me to take pictures.