Airports are looking to convert cooking oil into jet fuel


Airport
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | May 17, 2022

Major airports are converting cooking oil into jet fuel. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is using the grease from the DFW McDonalds to create fuel, helping to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and increase sustainable efforts. 

According to Pratik Chandhoke, the technical services manager for sustainable aviation fuel at Neste US Inc., the chemical makeup of fuel and cooking oil is similar. He said, “If you look at any oil, they all have these building molecules, hydrocarbons. We can take those atoms, and we then do some processing magic in our refineries, and we actually mimic the chemistry of a jet fuel.” 

Around 32,000 pounds of cooking oil is recycled from restaurants at DFW airport and converted to sustainable aviation fuel or SAF. One gallon of cooking oil is about three-quarters of a gallon of SAF.  

Other major airports are committed to becoming more sustainable by eliminating jet fuel. As SAF becomes more common the price will even out and become more comparable to the current price of fossil jet fuel. Right now, the cost of creating SAF can be up to six times higher than normal fuel.  

Company in Le Mars fined $17,000 for fish kills


Dead fish
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Elyse Gabor | April 5, 2022

According to the DNR, Nor-Am Cold Storage has been fined $17,000 for causing two fish kills.
Based out of Le Mars, the company has polluted a creek nearby with ammonia-laden water. This has occurred twice in the past four years.

The leaks occurred when the refrigeration units on the company’s rooftop were serviced. While performing the tasks, anhydrous ammonia was used as a refrigerant. The ammonia-laden water leaked from a bucket and made its way to a city storm sewer.

The first contamination was discovered in May 2018 when citizens nearby could small ammonia. The DNR reported that over 20 pounds of ammonia ran into the creek and sewer. The next day, about 50 dead, small fish were reported. Nor-Am spent hours pumping the water out of the creek to prevent the contamination from reaching the Floyd River. The company then agreed to pay a $7,000 fine.

Another fish kill in Le Mars was reported in September 2021. DNR environmental specialist Jacob Simonsen said there were around 20 dead fish near the creek. Soon after, Nor-Am reported that another ammonia leak had occurred just three days before. This time, around four pounds of ammonia had been leaked. The company must report any possible leaks to the DNR but failed to do so due to a reason unknown. However, the company agreed to pay a fine of $10,000 for the leak and is believed to write a plan to the DNR in hopes of stopping future pollution.

Iowa Senate Votes to Allow Retailers to Stop Accepting Bottle and Can Returns


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Josie Taylor | March 31, 2022

Under a bill that was approved Tuesday by the Iowa Senate retailers would be allowed to opt out of accepting bottle and can returns starting in 2023. Redemption centers would get a raise, and beverage wholesalers would continue to keep unredeemed deposits. 

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, floor manager of Senate File 2378, said it was “an attempt to save the bottle bill.” Democrats who opposed the legislation said it would do the opposite.

The bill increases the handling fee for redemption centers from 1 cent to 3 cents per container. Retailers that continue to accept containers will continue to receive a penny per container.

One of the main points of disagreement between the two sides is whether the increased handling fee will be enough to encourage new or expanded redemption centers to open. If retailers opt out of the program, more redemption centers will be needed so consumers can return their containers and collect their 5-cent deposit.

The bill passed with a vote of 31-18. Now it will move to the House, which is considering a separate bill that allows some retailers – grocers and some others – to opt out of accepting container returns.

Climate change has harmed Iowa’s tree population


tree
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Elyse Gabor | March 29, 2022

Intense temperature changes, lack of rain, and more frequently occurring storms have harmed Iowa’s tree population. Climate change has caused the loss of hundreds of trees around the state. One of the leading causes of tree loss was the derecho in 2020. 

Mark Rouw, who resides in Des Moines, has measured Iowa’s largest trees for more than 40 years. His findings are shared on the Big Trees of Iowa official registry for the DNR. In his 2021 update, he noticed that many trees that had been previously on the list no longer existed due to the derecho. Some of the lost trees include a 92-foot-tall ponderosa pine in Cedar Rapids and a 70-foot tall butternut in Lisbon. 

“I had so many big trees I’ve been monitoring so many years it’s almost like losing a friend,” Rouw said. “Especially some of those that were so big and impressive and unique that after they came down, you’re looking at the contenders and there’s nothing else that comes close.”

Last week, Rouw measured Atlantic white cedars at the Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, where he saw University of Iowa arborist Andy Dhal. The two frequently measure Eastern Iowa trees. The state champion tree is a black walnut located on the University of Iowa’s Pentacrest. 

While at Brucemore, they found a new winner, an Atlantic white cedar that now holds the title of state champion. 

New Study Finds Glaciers Contain Less Ice Than Previously Thought


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Josie Taylor | February 10, 2022

Advances in satellite technology have revealed that the world’s glaciers contain significantly less ice than previously thought, according to a study published in Nature Geoscience on Monday.

The Nature Geoscience study assessed how quickly glaciers were moving across the landscape, or their velocity. These measurements allow scientists to more accurately measure volume, but collecting this information has been limited by technology.

The work analyzed more than 800,000 pairs of images of glaciers taken between 2017 and 2018, and found that many were shallower than previously assessed. Scientists now estimate there is 20 percent less glacial ice present with the potential to melt into the ocean and raise sea levels. 

The revised estimate reduces global sea level rise by 3 inches if all glaciers were to melt. This raises concern for some communities that rely on seasonal melt from glaciers to feed rivers and irrigate crops. If glaciers contain less ice, water will run out sooner than expected. Between 2000 and 2019, these rivers of ice lost roughly 5.4 trillion tons.

Countries are already struggling with disappearing glaciers. Peru is investing in desalination to make up for declining freshwater, and Chile hopes to create artificial glaciers in its mountains.

On February 9th the University of Iowa is hosting its Decarb2040 Seminar


The Old Capitol Building on the University of Iowa Campus.
Via Flickr

Elyse Gabor | February 8, 2022

The University of Iowa Decarb2040 Seminar will be held virtually on February 9th from 12-1 PM. It will feature guest speakers Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Alejandro Plastina, and Ron Rosmann. 

Mahdi Al-Kaisi is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University. Alejandro Plastina is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at Iowa State University. Ron Rosmann is a master farmer in Harlan. 

The seminar will talk about the benefits the state of Iowa and individual farmers will receive from expanding carbon markets and other opportunities to reduce net carbon dioxide emissions through various management practices. They will present a question and answer session that will discuss the opportunities and barriers to the adoption of climate-friendly farm practices. The speakers will address topics including:

  • Climate-smart agriculture practices and carbon capture.
  • Lessening CO2 emissions through crop rotations, fertilizer practices, and other cropping and livestock system decisions.
  • Economic opportunities in removing carbon from the atmosphere. 

You can register for the event at https://bit.ly/3KmLIF4

Deadly Tornadoes Hit Kentucky and Others this Weekend


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Josie Taylor | December 13, 2021

Late Friday night and early Saturday morning brought deadly tornadoes to Kentucky and other states nearby. There were at least 50 tornado reports from late Friday into Saturday in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

As of this afternoon, the death toll stands at 74 in Kentucky, with 109 Kentuckians still unaccounted for, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. The numbers are coming from emergency management. 

The tornado that devastated numerous communities in Kentucky was on the ground continuously for at least 128 miles in the state, and likely longer, an official with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Paducah told CNN on Monday.

Scientists know that warm weather and precipitation are key ingredients in tornadoes and that climate change is altering the environment in which these kinds of storms form, however they can’t directly connect those dots. The research into the link between climate and tornadoes still lags behind that of other extreme weather events such as hurricanes and wildfires.

The Iowa Environmental Council is Holding a Clean Energy Talk


Via Iowa Environmental Council

Josie Taylor | November 16, 2021

On Thursday, November 18, the Iowa Environmental Council will hold a two-hour Bright Ideas 2021 event to discuss sources of clean energy in Iowa, like solar and wind power. 

The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Des Moines but has satellite, group-viewing options in Iowa City and Waterloo. Attendees also have the option to watch a livestream that doesn’t allow participation. 

The featured speaker is Destenie Nock, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. She plans to address energy equity. 

The in-person locations include a brunch. The cost to attend ranges from $25 for online viewing to $65 for the Des Moines location. Students and young professionals will get discounts.More information is available here.

Americans in High Risk Climate Areas are Waiting for Climate Change Solutions


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Josie Taylor | November 1, 2021

As climate change worsens, natural disasters are becoming more devastating. Americans in high risk areas are being hurt and are anxiously awaiting solutions. 

Although some of the damage is irreversible, halting the advance of climate change is both attainable and vital for life as we know it, according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global consortium of climate scientists from 66 nations. 

The panel’s report “Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis” is described by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres as a “code red for humanity.” It is a centerpiece of the global climate summit opening Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland. Some 30,000 people from around the world are gathering for it. 

The IPCC says climate warming is already at 1.2 degrees C and must be limited to 1.5 C, though it is on trajectory to 2.8. Beyond 1.5 C, the climate will become more dangerous — with prolonged heat waves, severe droughts, widespread flooding, and worsening health conditions — and by 4 C, it will be unfit for human habitation, client scientists predict.

If action is not taken, Americans in areas like Florida or California will see life threatening situations with floods and wildfires, though Americans around the country will see the effects as well.

Greenhouse Gas Levels Reached a New Record


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Josie Taylor | October 27, 2020

Heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record last year, with the annual rate of increase above the 2011-2020 average. That trend has continued in 2021, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

As long as emissions continue, global temperature will continue to rise. CO2 has a long life, therefore the temperature level already observed will persist for several decades even if emissions are rapidly reduced to net zero. Rising temperatures is not the only thing that these emissions will cause. This also means more weather extremes like intense heat and rainfall, ice melt, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. All of these extremes also have socioeconomic impacts.

Roughly half of the CO2 emitted by human activities today remains in the atmosphere. The other half is taken up by oceans and land ecosystems. The Bulletin flagged concern that the ability of land ecosystems and oceans to act as “sinks” may become less effective in future. This means that more of the CO2 will go into the atmosphere and temperatures will increase at an even higher rate. 

Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, accounting for approximately ⅔ of climate change effects, mainly because of fossil fuel combustion and cement production.