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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fewer big fish in the sea, say scientists

Yellowfin tuna are being fished as a replaceme...Image via WikipediaFewer big, predatory fish are swimming in the world's oceans because of overfishing by humans, leaving smaller fish to thrive and double in force over the past 100 years, scientists said Friday. Big fish such as cod, tuna, and groupers have declined worldwide by two-thirds while the number of anchovies, sardines and capelin has surged in their absence, said University of British Columbia researchers.
Meanwhile, people around the world are fishing harder and coming up with the same or fewer numbers in their catch, indicating that humans may have maxed out the ocean's capacity to provide us with food.
"Overfishing has absolutely had a 'when cats are away, the mice will play' effect on our oceans," said Villy Christensen, a professor in the UBC Fisheries Centre who presented the research findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Washington.
"By removing the large, predatory species from the ocean, small forage fish have been left to thrive."
The researchers also found that more than half (54 percent) of the decline in the predatory fish population has taken place over the last 40 years.
Christensen and his team examined more than 200 global marine ecosystem models and extracted more than 68,000 estimates of fish biomass from 1880 to 2007 for the study.
They did not use catch numbers reported by governments or fishing operators.
"It is a very different ocean that we see out there," said Christensen. "We are moving from wild oceans into a system that is much more like an aquaculture farm."
While the number of small fish is on the rise, the little swimmers are also being increasingly sought after for use as fishmeal in human-run fisheries, Christensen said.
"Currently, forage fish are turned into fishmeal and fish oil and used as feeds for the aquaculture industry, which is in turn becoming increasingly reliant on this feed source," he said.
The researchers said that despite the spike in small fish, the overall supply of fish is not increasing to meet human demand.
"Humans have always fished. Even our ancestors have fished. We are just much much better at it now," said UBC scientist Reg Watson.
Examining the 2006 numbers, 76 million tons of commercial seafood were reported, meaning about "seven trillion individuals were killed and consumed by us or our livestock," said Watson.
Watson said fishing efforts have been growing over the past several decades, reaching a collective point of 1.7 billion watts, or 22.6 million horsepower, worldwide that year.
In terms of energy use, that would amount to 90 miles (150 kilometers) of "Corvettes bumper to bumper with their engines revving," he said.
"It looks like we are fishing harder for the same or less result and this has to tell us something about the oceans' health. We may in fact have hit peak fish at the same time we are hitting peak oil."
Seafood makes up a large part of the global human diet according to research fellow Siwa Msangi of the International Food Policy Research Institute, who said the rise in demand is largely being driven by China.
"Meat provides about 20 percent of the per capita calorie intake and of that... fish is about 12 percent," he said, referring to global figures.
Almost 50 percent of the increase in the world's fish consumption for food comes from Eastern Asia, and "42 percent of that increase is coming from China itself," he said.
"China is a driver of both the demand and the supply side. That is really why the management issue becomes so important."
Jacqueline Alder from the United Nations Environment program suggested that the world needs to see a swift cut in the amount of fishing boats and fishing days in order to allow global fish stocks time to gain numbers.
"If we can do this immediately we will see a decline in fish catches. However, that will give an opportunity for the fish stocks to rebuild and expand their populations," she said.
Projections about future fish populations decline further, however, when coupled with forecasts about the impact of climate change.
"Our study indicates indeed we may get a double whammy from climate change," said Christensen. "In the sense that higher water temperatures... are going to mean there will be less fish in the ocean."
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Weather Modification

The power to use tornadoes, hurricanes, and the deadliest weather as weapons of war may now be possible. We’ll investigate reports that weather weapons are in development and we’ll reveal the technology that in the future could turn hurricanes, earthquake, even tsunamis into some of the most powerful and plausibly deniable weapons of mass destruction the world has ever seen.
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Really big eruptions, lots and lots of CO2

Really big eruptions, lots and lots of CO2
(PhysOrg.com) -- Pour enough magma out through Earth's crust, and you can change the atmosphere radically.
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Study: Ozone layer's future linked strongly to changes in climate

Study: Ozone layer's future linked strongly to changes in climate
The ozone layer -- the thin atmospheric band high-up in the stratosphere that protects living things on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, not to be confused with damaging ozone pollution close to the ground -- faces potential new challenges even as it continues its recovery from earlier damage, according to a recently released international science assessment. The report, prepared by the Scientific Assessment Panel of the U.N. Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, also presents stronger evidence that links changes in stratospheric ozone and the Earth’s climate.
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Increased flooding driven by climate change: study

Increased flooding driven by climate change: study
Global warming driven by human activity boosted the intensity of rain, snow and consequent flooding in the northern hemisphere over the last half of the 20th century, research released Wednesday has shown. Two studies, both published in Nature, are among the first to draw a straight line between climate change and its impact on potentially deadly and damaging extreme weather events.
Australia, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Pakistan have all been recently ravaged by massive flooding, raising questions as to whether global warming was at least partly to blame.
Computer models have long predicted that the observed rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases would magnify episodes of diluvian rainfall.
But up to now, the link has been largely theoretical.
"This paper provides the first specific evidence that this is indeed the case," said Francis Zwiers, a researcher at the University of Victoria in Canada and a co-author of one of the studies.
"Humans influence the intensity of precipitation extremes," he told journalists in a telephone press conference.

Data gathered between 1951 and 2000 from across Europe, Asia and North America showed that, on average, the most extreme 24-hour precipitation event in a given year -- whether rain, snow or sleet -- increased in intensity over the last 50 years of the 20th century.


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Thawing permafrost may speed global warming: study





Washington (AFP) Feb 16, 2011 Global warming could cause up to 60 percent of the world's permafrost to thaw by 2200 and release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere that would further speed up climate change, a study released Wednesday warned. Using projections based on UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Colorado estimated that if global warming continues even at a moderate pace, a third of the earth's permafrost will be gone by 2200.
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Trialling Ocean Temperature Forecasts For Fish Farms




The first near-shore water temperature forecasts are being developed to assist Australia's aquaculture farm managers contend with rising ocean temperatures.

Hobart, Australia (SPX) Feb 17, 2011 Marine scientists are trialling the first near-shore water temperature forecasts to assist Australia's aquaculture farm managers contending with rising ocean temperatures. While land farmers have used seasonal forecasting for nearly a decade, marine farmers in south-east Australia have sought the technology for a region identified as a climate change hotspot, with rates of ocean warming up to four times the global average.
CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship scientist, Dr Alistair Hobday, said the project, funded through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, is a response to requests by Tasmania's four major salmon companies for short-term ocean forecasts for their farm sites.
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Worldwide Sulfur Emissions Rose Between 2000-2005, After Decade Of Decline




Manmade sulfur dioxide emissions by country show a decline by the historically large emitters - Europe and the US - but increases in growing economies up to 2005.

College Park MD (SPX) Feb 17, 2011 A new analysis of sulfur emissions appearing in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics shows that after declining for a decade, worldwide emissions rose again in 2000 due largely to international shipping and a growing Chinese economy. An accurate read on sulfur emissions will help researchers predict future changes in climate and determine present day effects on the atmosphere, health and the environment.
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Rising Seas Will Affect Major US Coastal Cities By 2100



This map shows where increases in sea level could affect the southern and Gulf coasts of the US. The colors indicate areas along the coast that are elevations of 1 meter or less (russet) or 6 meters or less (yellow) and have connectivity to the sea. Credit: Jeremy Weiss, University of Arizona.

Tucson AZ (SPX) Feb 17, 2011 Rising sea levels could threaten an average of 9 percent of the land within 180 U.S. coastal cities by 2100, according to new research led by University of Arizona scientists. The Gulf and southern Atlantic coasts will be particularly hard hit. Miami, New Orleans, Tampa, Fla., and Virginia Beach, Va. could lose more than 10 percent of their land area by 2100.
The research is the first analysis of vulnerability to sea-level rise that includes every U.S. coastal city in the lower 48 with a population of 50,000 or more.
The latest scientific projections indicate that by 2100, the sea level will rise about 1 meter - or even more. One meter is about 3 feet.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vulnerable Communities Seek Resiliency in Wake of a Degrading Gulf Coast

Vulnerable Communities Seek Resiliency in Wake of a Degrading Gulf Coast

PR Newswire
America ' s WETLAND Foundation launches new program to assist communities in preparing for their future

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mike Ludwig | Feds Approve Monsanto Herbicide-Resistant Crops

Mike Ludwig | Feds Approve Monsanto Herbicide-Resistant Crops
Mike Ludwig, Truthout: "The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved plantings of three genetically engineered (GE) crops in as many weeks, including Monsanto Co.'s Roundup Ready sugar beets and alfalfa that are engineered to tolerate Roundup Ready weed-killing herbicide. The USDA on February 11 also legalized, without restriction, the world's first GE corn crop meant for biofuel production. Biotech giant Syngenta's Event 3272 seed corn will simplify ethanol production and is not meant to feed animals or humans."
Read the Article
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Rising seas will affect major US coastal cities by 2100

Rising seas will affect major US coastal cities by 2100

Rising sea levels could threaten an average of 9 percent of the land within 180 U.S. coastal cities by 2100, according to new research led by University of Arizona scientists.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Walker's World: The new Egypt needs food

Walker's World: The new Egypt needs food

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Martin Walker London (UPI) Feb 14, 2011 As Egypt seeks to establish a new and representative political system after the fall of the Mubarak regime, the one helpful action the United States and Europe could take would be to ensure that Egypt's drama doesn't turn into desperate tragedy by ensuring its food supply. Food shortages and rising prices were one of the underlying factors behind the explosions in Tunisia and Egypt, with demonstrators brandishing loaves of bread and complaining of the high price of staples like lentils. The increased costs of feeding Egypt, the world's leading importer of wheat, could topple the fledgling new government.
Other Arab and Islamic governments have been desperately buying up wheat on world markets. Algeria paid top price for 800,000 tons of wheat last month. Indonesia is buying 800,000 tons of rice. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya and Bangladesh are all scouring the world markets for more, spurring the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization appeal against panic buying that would "aggravate the situation."
With world food prices hitting highs this month, the situation is about to get a deal worse thanks to the latest report of what the official Xinhua news agency says is China's worst drought for 60 years. Xinhua added that Shandong Province, the heartland of Chinese grain production, was facing its worst drought in 200 years unless serious rains come this month.
Reports from witnesses say the land is so dry from Beijing south through the provinces of Hebei, Henan and Shandong to Jiangsu province and Shanghai that trees and houses are coated with dust -- the topsoil that has blown off the drought-parched farmland.
Almost 8 million hectares of winter wheat -- 42 percent of the total planted in the eight major producing provinces -- are affected by the drought, a statement Friday by Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu claims. China's President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao each visited the drought-stricken regions and each called for "all-out efforts" to cope with the water shortage.
"China's grain situation is critical to the rest of the world -- if they are forced to go out on the market to procure adequate supplies for their population, it could send huge shock waves through the world's grain markets," argues Robert S. Zeigler, director of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. "They can buy whatever they need to buy and they can outbid anyone."
That is the real concern for the threatened regimes of the Arab world. Once China with its massive sayings of almost $3 trillion in cash starts to hit world food markets, few other countries are likely to be able to afford to import the grain needed to fend of riots and even starvation. Hungry people have little patience and few options and if the United States and Europe want events in Egypt to unfold in an orderly and peaceful manner, food supplies may be the key.
Even without the drought in China, the world was already facing a food crisis. The drought and fires in Russia last year, followed by the devastating floods in Australia and Brazil, have pushed world food stocks dangerously low and driven prices to record highs -- with disturbing political implications.
"People often in developing countries spend half or three quarters of their income in food, so they've got little margin," World Bank President Robert Zoellick noted last week. "Egypt is a very big wheat importer, food prices have been going up, so while we're in a transition process we have to be trying to think of how to help the country get through to the next steps."
Governments around the world are reacting in different ways by buying stocks or by trying to force food prices down, as Israel did last week by cutting fuel and water taxes, or by passing new legislation. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last week that his government was introducing a Right to Food Act to guarantee safety net for India's 400 million poorest people among whom malnutrition was particularly high.
U.S. Department of Agriculture data indicate the world's top wheat importers are Egypt, with almost 10 million tons a year, and Iran with 8 million tons. Algeria imports more than 5 million tons, Morocco imports 4 million tons and Nigeria and Turkey each import 3.5 million tons. So the vulnerability of Arab and Islamic countries to rising prices is particularly severe.
But China is the joker in the pack. Usually self-sufficient in food, China accounts for almost 20 percent of global wheat output, producing nearly twice as much wheat as the United States or Russia and more than five times as much as Australia. China also produces one-fifth of the world's corn, mostly in the northern provinces where the current drought is most acute.
The new concern is for China's rice crop, grown mostly in the south and highly vulnerable to drought. The signs are ominous, since the Hong Kong Observatory reports that the region received only half of its usual rainfall in December and only 22 percent of its usual rainfall in January.
As the world's largest importer of soybeans, mainly for animal feed, China already has a steep food import bill. And with more than 50 million tons of wheat stockpiled, about half the usual harvest, China has a cushion. And it can call on military resources to seed clouds to stimulate rain. But if this year's rice and corn harvests are disappointing, China may have to buy heavily on world markets, plunging Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Iran into new crises.

Putting Trees On Farms Fundamental To Future Agricultural Development




illustration only

Nairobi, Kenya (SPX) Feb 14, 2011 Trees growing on farms will be essential to future development. As the number of trees in forests is declining every year, the number of trees on farms is increasing. Marking the launch of the International Year of Forest by the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF9) in New York on 29 January, Dennis Garrity, the Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre, highlighted the importance of mixing trees with agriculture, the practice known as agroforestry. "Over a billion hectares of agricultural land, almost half of the world's farmland, have more than 10 percent of their area occupied by trees," said Garrity, "and 160 million hectares have more than 50 percent tree cover."
Growing trees on farms can provide farmers with food, income, fodder and medicines, as well as enriching the soil and conserving water. As natural vegetation and forests are cleared for agriculture and other types of development, the benefits that trees provide are best sustained by integrating them into agriculturally productive landscapes.
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New model changes view of climate change

New model changes view of climate change
 

(PhysOrg.com) -- Using new, high-resolution global ocean circulation models, University of Massachusetts Amherst geoscientist Alan Condron, with Peter Winsor at the University of Alaska, report this week that massive glacial meltwaters assumed to have flooded the entire North Atlantic 8,200 years ago, drastically cooling Europe, instead flowed thousands of miles further south. "These results dramatically affect our understanding of what causes climate change," Condron says.
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Arctic Climate Variation Under Ancient Greenhouse Conditions

Based on reconstructions of Arctic climate variability in the greenhouse world of the Late Cretaceous, Southampton scientists have concluded that man-made global warming probably would not greatly change the climatic influence associated with natural modes of inter-annual climate variability such as the El Nino - Southern Oscillation (ENSO) or the Arctic Oscillation/ North Atlantic Oscillation (AO/ NAO).
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Biogeochemistry At The Core Of Global Environmental Solutions

Biogeochemistry At The Core Of Global Environmental Solutions
 

Millbrook NY (SPX) Feb 14, 2011 - If society wants to address big picture environmental problems, like global climate change, acid rain, and coastal dead zones, we need to pay closer attention to the Earth's coupled biogeochemical cycles. So reports a special issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, published this month by the Ecological Society of America.
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Researchers Map Out Ice Sheets Shrinking During Ice Age


A set of maps created by the University of Sheffield have illustrated, for the first time, how our last British ice sheet shrunk during the Ice Age. Led by Professor Chris Clark from the University's Department of Geography, a team of experts developed the maps to understand what effect the current shrinking of ice sheets in parts of the Antarctic and Greenland will have on the speed of sea level rise.
The unique maps record the pattern and speed of shrinkage of the large ice sheet that covered the British Isles during the last Ice Age, approximately 20,000 years ago. The sheet, which subsumed most of Britain, Ireland and the North Sea, had an ice volume sufficient to raise global sea level by around 2.5 metres when it melted.

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Record Low Arctic Sea Ice Extent for January




NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using AMSR-E data and sea ice extent contours courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Caption by Michon Scott. Instrument: Aqua - AMSR-E. Image reference

Greenbelt MD (SPX) Feb 11, 2011 During the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2010-2011, unusually cold temperatures and heavy snowstorms plagued North America and Europe, while conditions were unusually warm farther north. Now the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has reported that Arctic sea ice was at its lowest extent ever recorded for January (since satellite records began). This image shows the average Arctic sea ice concentration for January 2011, based on observations from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) aboard NASA's Aqua satellite.
Blue indicates open water; white indicates high sea ice concentrations; and turquoise indicates loosely packed sea ice. The yellow line shows the average sea ice extent for January from 1979 through 2000.
NSIDC reported that ice extent was unusually low in Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and Davis Strait in the early winter. Normally frozen over by late November, these areas did not completely freeze until mid-January 2011. The Labrador Sea was also unusually ice-free.
NSIDC offered two possible explanations. One reason is the Arctic Oscillation (AO), a seesaw pattern of differences in atmospheric pressure.
In "positive" mode, the AO includes high pressure over the mid-latitudes and low pressure over the Arctic, setting up wind patterns that trap cold air in the far North.
In "negative" mode, air pressure isn't quite as low over the Arctic and isn't quite as high over the mid-latitudes. This enables cold air to creep south and relatively warm air to move north.
The AO was in negative mode in December 2010 and January 2011, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
At mid-latitudes, the negative mode resulted in extremely cold temperatures and heavy snow in Europe and North America. At the same time, warm air over the Arctic impeded sea ice growth. NOAA has forecast that the AO should return to positive mode in February 2011, but for how long was unclear.
Another factor in the low Arctic sea ice extent, NSIDC explained, could be that the areas of open ocean were still releasing heat to the atmosphere. Due to its bright appearance, sea ice reflects most of the Sun's light and heat back into space. Dark ocean water, by contrast, absorbs most of that energy and reinforces the melting process.
References: NOAA Climate Prediction Center. (2011, February). Monitoring weather and climate. Accessed February 4, 2011. NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis. (2011, February 2). Arctic Oscillation brings record low January extent, unusual mid-latitude weather. Accessed February 4, 2011. NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using AMSR-E data and sea ice extent contours courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Caption by Michon Scott. Instrument: Aqua - AMSR-E
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Opening Statement Before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Opening Statement Before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power As prepared for deliveryMr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify about Chairman Upton’s draft bill to eliminate portions of the Clean Air Act, the landmark law that all American children and adults rely on to protect them from harmful air pollution. 

The bill appears to be part of a broader effort in this Congress to delay, weaken, or eliminate Clean Air Act protections of the American public. I respectfully ask the members of this Committee to keep in mind that EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act saves millions of American children and adults from the debilitating and expensive illnesses that occur when smokestacks and tailpipes release unrestricted amounts of harmful pollution into the air we breathe. 

Last year alone, EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act saved more than 160,000 American lives; avoided more than 100,000 hospital visits; prevented millions of cases of respiratory illness, including bronchitis and asthma; enhanced American productivity by preventing millions of lost workdays; and kept American kids healthy and in school. 

EPA’s implementation of the Act also has contributed to dynamic growth in the U.S. environmental technologies industry and its workforce.  In 2008, that industry generated nearly 300 billion dollars in revenues and 44 billion dollars in exports. 

Yesterday, the University of Massachusetts and Ceres released an analysis finding that two of the updated Clean Air Act standards EPA is preparing to establish for mercury, soot, smog, and other harmful air pollutants from power plants will create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, the Supreme Court concluded in 2007 that the Clean Air Act’s definition of air pollutant includes greenhouse gas emissions.  The Court rejected the EPA Administrator’s refusal to determine whether that pollution endangers Americans’ health and welfare.

Based on the best peer-reviewed science, EPA found in 2009 that manmade greenhouse gas emissions do threaten the health and welfare of the American people. 

EPA is not alone in reaching that conclusion.  The National Academy of Sciences has stated that there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that the climate is changing and that the changes are caused in large part by human activities.  Eighteen of America’s leading scientific societies have written that multiple lines of evidence show humans are changing the climate, that contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science, and that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and the environment. 

Chairman Upton’s bill would, in its own words, repeal that scientific finding.  Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question-- that would become part of this Committee’s legacy. 

Last April, EPA and the Department of Transportation completed harmonized standards under the Clean Air Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act to decrease the oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of Model Year 2012 through 2016 cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. 

Chairman Upton’s bill would block President Obama’s plan to follow up with Clean Air Act standards for cars and light trucks of Model Years 2017 through 2025.  Removing the Clean Air Act from the equation would forfeit pollution reductions and oil savings on a massive scale, increasing America’s debilitating oil dependence. 

EPA and many of its state partners have now begun implementing safeguards under the Clean Air Act to address carbon pollution from the largest facilities when they are built or expanded.  A collection of eleven electric power companies called EPA’s action a reasonable approach focusing on improving the energy efficiency of new power plants and large industrial facilities.

And EPA has announced a schedule to establish uniform Clean Air Act performance standards for limiting carbon pollution at America’s power plants and oil refineries.  Those standards will be developed with extensive stakeholder input, including from industry.  They will reflect careful consideration of costs and will incorporate compliance flexibility. 

Chairman Upton’s bill would block that reasonable approach.  The Small Business Majority and the Main Street Alliance have pointed out that such blocking action would have negative implications for many businesses, large and small, that have enacted new practices to reduce their carbon footprint as part of their business models.  They also write that it would hamper the growth of the clean energy sector of the U.S. economy, a sector that a majority of small business owners view as essential to their ability to compete. 

Chairman Upton’s bill would have additional negative impacts that its drafters might not have intended.  For example, it would prohibit EPA from taking further actions to implement the Renewable Fuels Program, which promotes the domestic production of advanced bio-fuels.

I hope this information has been helpful to the Committee, and I look forward to your questions.