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Geography in the News: The Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone

By Neal Lineback and Mandy Lineback Gritzner, Geography in the NewsTM The Gulf’s Growing Dead Zone With rising demand over the past decade for the corn-based fuel additive ethanol, American farmers have grown more corn than at any time since World War II. Unfortunately, the nitrogen fertilizer being applied to cornfields is contributing to a…

EPA Proposes Lower Biofuel Mandate

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday announced cuts to a federal mandate dictating how much ethanol must be blended into gasoline. The mandate—under the Renewable Fuel Standard—would have been scheduled to reach 18.15 billion gallons in 2014, up from 16.55 billion gallons this year. The EPA instead proposes to set the 2014 requirement at 15.21 billion gallons, equal…

Bacteria Surviving at High Altitudes Could Play a Role in Global Climate

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that even as high as 30,000 feet in the sky, fungi and bacteria are present in the air. These living microorganisms could very well affect global climate. “The million-dollar question in the field [right now] is how much living things can impact clouds, the hydrological cycle and…

Crop Damage Sparks Fuel Versus Food Debate

Dry conditions that continue to grip Midwestern states, damaging crops and threatening to push up food prices, stirred new debate this week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released crop yield projections capturing the severity of the drought. Though the U.S. is the largest producer of corn and soybeans, the report puts corn production at 10.8 billion bushels, down 13…

Fight Over Tar Sands Pipeline May Lead to Cancellation, “Huge” Consequences

In November, the Obama administration decided to delay a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to bring tar sands from Canada to the United States. But in December, Republicans attached a provision to a tax bill, which President Obama signed, that urges the administration to decide on the pipeline within 60 days,…

Ending Oil Tax Breaks Could Pay For New Jobs—and Some May Be Green

President Obama unveiled a new job creation plan in a major speech to Congress last week and follow-up speeches this week, in which he called for an end to tax breaks for oil and gas companies to bring in an additional $32 billion over 10 years to pay for increased government spending. Earlier this year, Obama called…

China Aims to Become Solar Powerhouse with New Subsidies

China is already the world’s biggest solar panel manufacturer, but now it is making a move to become a major solar energy consumer as well, with a nationwide feed-in tariff to pay people or businesses a subsidy for electricity they produce with solar panels. This follows on the heels of the country’s wind energy feed-in tariff in…

Debt Ceiling Impasse Could Hit Clean Energy Hard

Clean energy could be among the hardest-hit sectors if the U.S. government does not raise the debt ceiling and then defaults on the national debt. If there is a default, it could hurt in direct ways, by stopping payments for cash grants and loan guarantees that support many renewables projects. It could also hit innovation, by putting the Department…

Ethanol Tax Breaks Survive, but Vote May Have “Broken the Dam”

While a bill to slash $6 billion in annual tax breaks for ethanol fuel failed to pass the U.S. Senate, it was still hailed by some lawmakers and analysts as a major break from the past. It raises a philosophical quandary, says the Christian Science Monitor: “If Congress takes away a tax subsidy, should that count as…