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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

News Follow-up

Air Date: Week of

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New developments in stories we’ve been following recently.


Time now to follow up on some of the new stories we've been tracking lately. In 1994 we talked with environmentalist Lester Brown about his book, Who Will Feed China? Brown warned that as China's population grew richer, the country would need to import vast quantities of grain to feed its people. China reacted by ramping up production. Now, in an editorial, the Wall Street Journal asserts that Brown's recommendations led to huge dust storms and wound up doing more to hurt the environment than help.

In his defense, Brown says Beijing has its own policies to blame for the disaster:

BROWN: They ended up encouraging the plowing of land in northwestern provinces in the country, land that shouldn't be plowed, and it has started to blow. That is certainly not something that I recommended.

TOOMEY: Brown adds that, rather than increasing water efficiency, China has added to its troubles by overpumping its aquifers.

We told you about a fatal fuel pipe explosion two years ago in Bellingham, Washington. Now another section of that pipelines has been reopened. This stretch runs through the city of Renton. Mayor Jessie Tanner says his community is satisfied with the safety tests British Petroleum ran on the closed pipe, but he remains concerned about a larger pipeline that crosses the city.

TANNER: Our goal now is to get them to pressure test the 20 inch pipeline. That may be somewhat harder to do than a 16 inch pipeline, because it was shut down, whereas the 20 inch pipeline is presently, and always has been, transporting fuel.

TOOMEY: The pipeline supplies fuel to the Seattle/Takoma International Airport.

You may remember our story a few years ago about the veggie van that runs on recycled vegetable oil. Now, the first bio-diesel filling station is open for business in Sparks, Nevada. Russ Teall of Bio Diesel Industries says anyone with a diesel engine can fill up with the fuel, made partially of recycled cooking oil from Las Vegas hotels and casinos. Teall says a gallon goes for just $1.62.

TEALL: They have a choice now, and it's actually a better fuel. The fact that it also cleans up the air and reduces pollution and your exhaust smells like fresh fries are all bonuses.

TOOMEY: Another bio-diesel station has recently opened in San Francisco, using a blend of virgin soy oil.

And finally, an update on the continuing quest for an environmentally friendly after-life. Cremation releases toxic gases, and bodies buried in the conventional manner take about a half-century to decompose. Now, a Swedish scientist has found a way to convert a body into pure organic matter by immersing it in liquid nitrogen. Bury those remains in a thin coffin in a shallow grave, and it will be enriching the soil in short order. And that's this week's follow-up on the news from Living on Earth.




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