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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.


    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.


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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A round of applause for soil scientists


The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) applauds what it calls the 'visionary action' taken by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and his colleagues who helped usher in legislation to recognize soils as an 'essential' natural resource, placing soil on par with water and air.

On June 23, Senator Brown was joined by co-sponsoring Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and George Voinovich (R-OH) to successfully pass Senate Resolution 440 [*.pdf], which also highlights the 'critical role' soils professionals play in managing soil resources.
This resolution comes at a time when soil is widely undervalued. Soil, and specifically sound soil management, is essential in our continued quest to increase the production of food, feed, fiber, and fuel while maintaining and improving the environment, and mitigating the effects of climate change. Being the essence of all terrestrial life and ecosystem services, we cannot take the soils for granted. Soil is the basis of survival for present and future generations. - Rattan Lal, Ohio State University, SSSA Past President
The Senate resolution passed six months after the European Union's Soil Protection Framework was tabled due to irreconcilable differences among Parliament membership:
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My years growing up working on our family farm taught me the value of hard work and the importance of soil. Often overlooked, healthy soil is vital to maintaining our natural resources and feeding our nation. This resolution is an important first step in cultivating awareness of our nation's soil policies. - U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown
One of the co-sponsors, Senator Ken Salazar, earlier introduced legislation aimed at promoting biochar research (previous post). Biochar, also known as 'agrichar' or 'new terra preta', is seen increasingly as a viable concept to improve and conserve the crucial functions of soils, while generating carbon-negative energy. Salazar's biochar amendment was very ambitious and eventually made it into the new farm bill, but in a strongly watered-down version.

Image: soil scientists analysing soil texture. Credit: SSSA.

References:

Eurekalert: Senate resolution shines spotlight on the importance of soils - July 8, 2008.

U.S. Senate Resolution 440: Recognizing soil as an essential natural resource, and soils professionals as playing a critical role in managing our Nation’s soil resources [*.pdf] - June 23, 2008

Soil Science Society of America.

Biopact: Towards carbon-negative bioenergy: U.S. Senator introduces biochar legislation - October 07, 2007


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