Dinosaur Belches and Farts Made More Global Warming Gas than All of Today’s Sources

(p. A6) Gassy dinosaurs may have spewed so much methane into the air that it could have helped warm the climate tens of millions of years ago, when temperatures were much higher than today, a team of U.K. scientists reported Monday.
The stomach gas released each year by a group of long-necked, plant-eating dinosaurs, which included the world’s largest known land animals, may have equaled the total amount of methane produced every year today from all natural, agricultural and industrial sources, the researchers said Monday in the journal Current Biology. Methane, a greenhouse gas, is 23 times as effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
The new scientific work highlights the importance of wildlife, livestock and other natural sources of greenhouse-gas emissions in shaping the global climate.
As with cows, sheep and buffalo today, these plant-eating dinosaurs, known as sauropods, likely digested their leafy greens with the help of methane-producing microbes in their stomachs that fermented the plant matter after it was chewed and swallowed. Generally, other plant eaters and creatures that eat meat, including people, don’t digest their food this way and pass gas that is mostly nitrogen and carbon dioxide, with traces of methane and hydrogen.
Cattle belching and gas account for about 20% of U.S. methane emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

For the full story, see:
ROBERT LEE HOTZ. “Dinosaur Gas Emissions May Have Warmed Air.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., May 8, 2012): A6.
(Note: online version of the story is dated May 7, 2012.)

The academic article on sauropod methane emissions is:
Wilkinson, David M., Euan G. Nisbet, and Graeme D. Ruxton. “Could Methane Produced by Sauropod Dinosaurs Have Helped Drive Mesozoic Climate Warmth?” Current Biology 22, no. 9 (May 8, 2012): R292-R93.

A Renting Labor Force Is More Dynamically Mobil

RentalPropertyGraphic2012-06-12.jpg

Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. C2) The U.S. economy needs the dynamism that renting enables as much as–if not more than–it needs the stability that ownership engenders. In the current economy, there are vast gulfs between the employment pictures in different regions and states, from 12% unemployment in Nevada to 3% unemployment in North Dakota. But a steelworker in Buffalo, or an underemployed construction worker in Las Vegas, can’t easily take his skills to where they are needed in North Dakota or Wyoming if he’s underwater on his mortgage. Economists, in fact, have found that there is frequently a correlation between persistently high local unemployment rates and high levels of homeownership.

For the full essay, see:
DANIEL GROSS. “Renting Prosperity; Americans are getting used to the idea of renting the good life, from cars to couture to homes. Daniel Gross explores our shift from a nation of owners to an economy permanently on the move–and how it will lead to the next boom..” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., May 5, 2012): C1 & C2.
(Note: the online version of the essay has the date May 4, 2012.)

Feds Subsidize First Solar’s Losing Technology

(p. B2) First Solar’s solar-panel business, which is focused on large solar installations that feed electricity to power companies, is dependent on government subsidies awarded to such developments.
. . .
But some worry that First Solar isn’t well positioned for industry trends. The global solar-power market is moving toward rooftop solar-power systems, rather than the large-scale utility power plants where First Solar’s products are most effective, said Jesse Pichel, an analyst at Jefferies Group Inc.
“This was a market leader, but its technology is being usurped or surpassed by the Chinese,” said Mr. Pichel. “Their product is not competitive in the most economic and sustainable solar market, which is rooftop.”

For the full story, see:
CASSANDRA SWEET And RUSSELL GOLD. “First Solar Cuts 2,000 Jobs; Panel Maker Laying Off 30% of Workers, Slashing Production Amid Supply Glut.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., April 18, 2012): B2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: online version of the story is dated April 17, 2012.)

Bill Gates Backs 4th Generation “Miracle” Nuclear Reactor

GatesBill2012-06-12.jpg

Bill Gates. Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. R2) MR. GATES: . . .
The next miracle is nuclear energy. The plants that are out in the world today are basically generation-one and -two plants. There’s a few generation-three plants. The thing I’m investing in is a fourth-generation design.
MR. MURRAY: Can you explain a little bit about how this technology works?
MR. GATES: The part of uranium that’s fissile–when you hit it with a neutron, it splits in two–is about 0.7%. The reactors we have today are burning that 0.7%. There was a concept that you would do a different type of reactor that would make a bunch of another element called plutonium, and then you would pull that out and then you would burn that. That’s called breeding in a fast reactor. But plutonium is nuclear-weapons material, it’s messy, and the processing you have to get through is not only environmentally difficult, it’s extremely expensive.
The concept of the TerraPower reactor is that in the same reactor, you both burn and breed. Instead of making plutonium and then extracting it, we take uranium–the 99.3% that you normally don’t do anything with–we convert that and we burn it. The 99.3% is cheap as heck, and there’s a pile of it sitting in Paducah, Kentucky, that’s enough to power the United States for hundreds and hundreds of years.

For the full interview, see:
Alan Murray, interviewer. “In Search of One Energy Miracle; Bill Gates on the need to think big.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., March 26, 2012): R2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

Coal Mines Help Paleontologists Learn about Environmental Change

DiMicheleWilliamSpringfieldCoal2012-06-12.jpg “SUBTERRANEAN; William A. DiMichele in the Springfield Coal. The dark mass is a coal seam; the lighter shale above is interrupted by a fossil tree stump.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. D3) In the clammy depths of a southern Illinois coal mine lies the largest fossil forest ever discovered, at least 50 times as extensive as the previous contender.
. . .
“Effectively you’ve got a lost world,” said Howard Falcon-Lang, a paleontologist at Royal Holloway, University of London, who has explored the site. “It’s the closest thing you’ll find to time travel,” he added.
. . .
The reach of the Springfield forest should allow scientists to undertake ecosystem-wide analyses in a way never before possible in landscapes so ancient, and such studies may help them predict the effects of global warming today.
“With our own CO2 rises and changes in climate,” said Scott D. Elrick, a team member from the Illinois State Geological Survey, “we can look at the past here and say, ‘It’s happened before.’ ”
Today, we burn the scale trees of the Carboniferous by the billions: they have all turned to coal. Newly discovered, the Springfield forest is already crumbling to bits, as coal-mine ceilings quickly do after exposure. But with continued mining, more ceilings are being revealed every day.
“You have to dig to find fossils, going inside the anatomy of the planet,” Dr. Johnson said. “Bill DiMichele realizes he has an entire industry digging for him, creating a tunnel into an ancient world.”

For the full story, see:
W. BARKSDALE MAYNARD. “An Underground Fossil Forest Offers Clues on Climate Change.” The New York Times (Tues., May 1, 2012): D3.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date April 30, 2012.)

AncientRiverbedMap2012-06-12.jpgSource of map graphic: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

With Low Ratings, Planet Green Is Unsustainable

(p. B3) . . . , Discovery Communications — which owns the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, the Science Channel and others — announced in early April that it was shutting down Planet Green, a four-year-old channel that featured environmental programming. The channel floundered with low ratings and what executives said were a lack of entertaining eco-themed shows.

For the full story, see:
BRIAN STELTER. “No Place for Heated Opinions.” The New York Times (Sat., April 21, 2012): B1 & B3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: online version of the story is dated April 20, 2012.)