USGS study finds waterways have high levels of neonicotinoid in Iowa, Midwest


Nick Fetty | July 24, 2014
The Raccoon River near Water Works Park in Des Moines. Photo by Carl Wycoff; Flickr
The Raccoon River near Water Works Park in Des Moines.
Photo by Carl Wycoff; Flickr

A new study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) finds that waterways in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest are experiencing particularly high levels of an insecticide known as neonicotinoid.

Farmers and gardeners use neonicotinoids – or neonics – because their effectiveness against a whole range of pests. However, the insecticide has been linked to decreased bee populations as well as a fall in the number of certain prairie bird species.

Neonics – which are chemically similar to nicotine – disolve in water quickly which means they’re susceptible to running off fields and polluting rivers, streams, and other waterways. A 2013 Dutch report found that imidacloprid – one of the chemicals in neonicotinoid – had harmful effects on “a wide range of non-target species.” Similarly, a 2014 Canadian study found neonics to be detrimental on wetland ecosystems.

The use of clothianidin – another chemical found in neonicotinoid – on corn in Iowa nearly doubled from 2011 to 2013. In 2013 the Iowa DNR released a 114-page report examining polluted waterways throughout the state.

New analysis spells out risks of climate change on Midwest business


A page from the Risky Business Report's section on the Midwest, which highlights the effects of warming temperatures on the region.
A page from the Risky Business Report‘s section on the Midwest, which highlights the effects of warming temperatures on the region.

An extensive risk analysis report released Tuesday outlines what a warmer climate could mean for U.S. private and public sectors, with significant shifts in store for the Midwest.

The report was released by the Risky Business Project, an effort to apply risk assessment principles to climate change in the U.S. The project’s new report looks at the risks associated with rising temperatures and sea levels on business, infrastructure and agriculture in various regions of the country up to the year 2100.

For the Midwest, the report focuses on the region’s role as an important agricultural resource for the rest of the country. It assesses what rising temperatures could mean for the region’s commodity crops if the country continues at current carbon emission rates. Farmers would adapt, the report says, but agriculture would move north into Minnesota and Canada. Iowa would see a 10% decrease in crop yields over the next twenty years and a stunning 66% decrease by 2100.

The bipartisan project aims to convince corporations and businesses to view climate change as another business threat like any other, without going into detailed, highly-politicized solutions. Its Risk Committee includes former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Cargill CEO Gregory Page, three former U.S. Secretaries of the Treasury and various public and private officials.

For the compete report and for statements from the co-chairs of the project, visit riskybusiness.org.

Utility-scale solar development needs mandate


Photo by the Iowa Energy Center
Photo by the Iowa Energy Center

Iowa and other Midwestern states are unlikely to see large utilities invest in solar energy without setting the standards that require it, Jonathon Weisgall said.

Weisgall is the vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, the parent company of MidAmerican Energy. MidAmerican is the largest energy company in Iowa.

Berkshire Hathaway recently started a $2.5 billion solar project in California, but the state’s regulatory environment supports that cost.

A few Iowa utilities are building solar capacity without solar mandates, but setting standards will help drive development, Nathaniel Baer, energy program director of the Iowa Environmental Council said.

Currently, wind energy provides 40 percent of MidAmerican’s energy.

Baer said wind energy is a great example of setting a goal and seeing what follows.

To read the full story, head to the Des Moines Register. 

Construction begins on Wever fertilizer plant


Photo by David Pitts; Flickr

The Iowa Fertilizer Company’s plant in Wever, Iowa will be one of the top fertilizer plants in the world. According to Dave Pearson, a director for Orascom Construction Inc., the plant will have the ability of producing 7 million tons of nitrogen-based fertilizer.  Continue reading

On the Radio: Warmer temperatures linked to increased rainfall


Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr.
Photo by iowa_spirit_walker, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses the connection between warmer temperatures and increased rainfall.

A University of Iowa study shows an increase in heavy rainfall is connected to increased temperatures in the upper Midwest.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Continue reading

Heat wave sweeps across the Midwest


It’s hot out there, folks.  And temperatures are hitting remarkable levels all over Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. 

Check out this coverage from Weather Underground and a map of Thursday’s heat forecast below.

Map courtesy of Weather Underground

Continue reading

On the Radio: Runoff contributes to largest dead zone in history


Photo by Steve Shupe, Flickr

 Listen to this week’s radio segment here.  It discusses the impact that Miswestern runoff has on the Gulf of Mexico.

Imagine an area of the ocean equal to 20 percent of Iowa that’s unlivable for most marine life. This will soon be a reality in the Gulf of Mexico as they prepare for the largest dead zone in history. Continue reading