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Converting Cow Manure To Fuel Is Growing Climate Solution, But Critics Say Communities Put At Risk

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California’s Pixley — In some of the rural country of California, the smell of cow excrement, urine, and ammonia makes people keep their windows and doors closed. To combat the odor and, they claim, ward against air-related illnesses, some people run air purifiers around the house all the time.

Beverly Whitfield stated, “We have a lot of health problems going around in this community and most of them are respiratory problems,” in the middle of dairies in Pixley, a little Tulare County village. She thinks pollution from adjacent dairies is the cause of her allergies, her adult son’s asthma, and the respiratory problems of others.

Among the worst pollutants in the San Joaquin Valley, a top agricultural area in the United States with poor air quality, are existing industrial-scale dairy farms. Now, Whitfield locals fear that methane digesters, which may convert manure into a biofuel cleaner than conventional fuels like gasoline, may make health problems worse. Experts in biofuel claim digesters help lessen air pollution.

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Cow | PixaBay Image

Converting Cow Manure To Fuel Is Growing Climate Solution, But Critics Say Communities Put At Risk

California is the leading dairy producer in the nation, with over 1.7 million cows. It also contributes significantly to methane emissions. Cow burps and manure release a strong greenhouse gas that is far more potent than carbon dioxide over a shorter time frame.

Digesters that turn manure and other organic waste into biogas to power cars or generate electricity have increased nationwide in recent years.

The number should increase since waste management techniques like digesters are now qualified for financing under President Joe Biden’s climate change law, the Inflation Reduction Act.

Most digesters are found in dairies, which convert methane from cow dung lagoons into biofuel. Commonly, liquid cow manure is kept in a covered digester where bacteria from the digestive systems of the animals make gas. After that, the gas is purified and squeezed into a liquid fuel suitable for use as energy.

Around 120 digesters have appeared in California within the past ten years, and another hundred are planned. However, a device heralded as an affordable means of assisting the state in achieving its methane reduction targets has drawn controversy.

Environmental justice groups demand that California cease offering financial incentives for building digesters because most low-income, Latino neighborhoods are already suffering from pollution from them. According to critics, state laws support industrial dairies and unsustainable animal farming.

According to Rebecca Wolf of the environmental organization Food and Water Watch, the state is rewarding dairy farmers to continue operating huge, already polluting facilities. With this setup in place, she declared, “You’re never going to stop polluting.”

Dairies contend that the financial agenda of the state is crucial. “There has to be some financial incentive there to give up some portion of your land to operate these systems,” said dairyman Brent Wickstrom, whose digester just went online.

Proponents emphasize that the technique effectively slows down climate change. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, AgSTAR projects that manure-based digesters will have cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2022. That equates to about the yearly greenhouse gas emissions from almost two million passenger cars.

Supporters point out that by substituting cleaner vehicle fuel for fossil fuels like gasoline, biofuel derived from methane lowers pollution.

“This technology lessens odors and some local air pollutants,” said Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas public policy director Sam Wade. The greenhouse gas emissions are lowered concurrently.

The pungent smells and flies bother the locals living close to dairies.

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Cow | PixaBay Image

Converting Cow Manure To Fuel Is Growing Climate Solution, But Critics Say Communities Put At Risk

Whitfield, who relocated to Pixley in the 1970s, stated, “You don’t want the doors open because you’re afraid of all the smells.” “The dairies have changed everything now.”

Some dairies believe that manure-covering digester tarps help minimize odor. Merced County dairyman Wickstrom remarked, “If anything, it should be keeping some of that odor in as opposed to making more.”

Studies have linked living close to big dairies to weariness, respiratory issues, burning eyes, and runny noses when odors are strong enough. Digesters can raise ammonia emissions by as much as 81%, according to a 2017 University of Wisconsin study. Fine particulate debris that ammonia can create can enter the circulation and lungs. Heart and respiratory problems have been associated with prolonged particle exposure.

Lead author Michael A. Holly, an associate professor at the Green Bay campus, said, “You want to consider the human health impact even though a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions is great.”

According to California air authorities, the many digester types and weather variables in this state make the Midwest study not always applicable. They also mentioned that research on digester effects on ammonia emissions is now underway.

The California Air Resources Board recently sponsored research indicating that dairy waste emissions from the San Joaquin Valley had minimal effect on levels of fine particulate matter and ozone.

Professor Michael Kleeman of the University of California, Davis, the main study researcher, said, “The air quality implications are essentially minimal, so we can choose whether or not digesters should be adopted based on greenhouse gas emissions. The agriculturally rich areas already have so much extra ammonia that digesters won’t be able to considerably improve the air quality.

74-year-old campaigner and former farmworker Maria Arevalo thinks pollution from dairies close to her Pixley house is the cause of her asthma and sleep apnea. She uses an apparatus to assist her breathing as she sleeps. Her grandchild is eleven, and her son is thirty-four.

She noted that although many families cannot afford air conditioning or open windows to let the breeze in, her neighborhood frequently smells ammonia. These dairies ought not to be located close to towns.

There are more cows than people in her community of approximately 4,000. The non-profit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability estimates Pixley has about 140,000 cows in its 26 dairies. AgSTAR reports that nine have digesters working on farms with thousands of animals.

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Cow | PixaBay Image

Converting Cow Manure To Fuel Is Growing Climate Solution, But Critics Say Communities Put At Risk

15 Congressmen have written to the USDA protesting the agency’s decision to allow federal support for large-scale farming operations, such as roofs and coverings for waste disposal facilities.

They claimed that the hundreds of thousands of liters of liquid manure contaminate the nearby towns’ air and water. Digesters merely serve to reinforce this fundamentally unsustainable manure storage system.

According to Eric McAfee, CEO of Aemetis, a business that makes sustainable fuels and biochemicals, because trucks operate on natural gas, biomethane improves city air.

On his 2,900-cow farm, Joey Airoso discovered that odors decreased and nitrogen-rich leftovers could be used as agricultural fertilizer. He said that reduces the amount of nitrogen being applied, which is a major environmental benefit.

Digesters offer advantages, but Colin Murphy of the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy added that they don’t cure air pollution or make living close to one any more enjoyable.

Residents in the valley who have complained about respiratory problems and odors claim they have been told to relocate. But many had been residents of tiny, rural communities even before dairies were established, and moving is not often an affordable option.

Where are you planning to relocate to? You can’t afford to relocate, the allergic Pixley resident Whitfield stated.

Kiara Grace is a staff writer at VORNews, a reputable online publication. Her writing focuses on technology trends, particularly in the realm of consumer electronics and software. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for breaking down complex topics, Kiara delivers insightful analyses that resonate with tech enthusiasts and casual readers alike. Her articles strike a balance between in-depth coverage and accessibility, making them a go-to resource for anyone seeking to stay informed about the latest innovations shaping our digital world.

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NASA Astronauts Will Stay At The Space Station Longer For More Troubleshooting Of Boeing Capsule

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NASA | AP News Image

Two NASA astronauts will stay longer at the International Space Station as engineers work to resolve issues with Boeing’s new space capsule that arose during the mission.

NASA announced on Friday that the astronauts would not return until ground testing was completed and that they were safe.

“We’re not in a hurry to come home,” said NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Steve Stich.

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NASA | AP News Image

NASA Astronauts Will Stay At The Space Station Longer For More Troubleshooting Of Boeing Capsule

Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, veteran NASA test pilots, launched aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft toward the orbiting laboratory on June 5. Boeing’s first astronaut launch came after years of delays and disappointments.

The test voyage was intended to last about a week, giving Wilmore and Williams adequate time to inspect the capsule while docked at the station. However, issues with the capsule’s propulsion system, which is used to steer the spacecraft, forced NASA and Boeing to postpone the flight home many times while investigating the issue.

They also sought to avoid station astronauts interfering with spacewalks. However, this week’s spacewalk was canceled due to water leaking from an astronaut’s spacesuit. The problem still needs rectification, and the planned spacewalk next week has been postponed.

As Starliner approached the space station a day after launch, last-minute thruster malfunctions nearly ruined the docking. Five of the capsule’s 28 engines failed during docking; only one was restarted.

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NASA | AP news Image

NASA Astronauts Will Stay At The Space Station Longer For More Troubleshooting Of Boeing Capsule

When the Starliner launched into orbit, it already had one minor helium leak, and numerous more appeared during the voyage. Helium is utilized to pressurize the fuel for the thruster. Boeing stated that the two issues are not a worry for the return trip.

NASA and Boeing delayed the astronauts’ return because they required extra time to gather information about the thruster problems and leaks while the spacecraft was docked. Both are in the service module, a device attached to the capsule that burns up during reentry.

NASA initially stated that the Starliner might stay docked at the space station for up to 45 days owing to battery limitations. However, according to Stich, in-flight studies have proven that the limit can be expanded.

Officials said they would wait to set a return date while conducting ground tests of capsule thrusters in the New Mexico desert, estimated to take a few weeks. They want to try to duplicate what happened during docking.

“I want to make it very clear that Butch and Suni are not stranded in space,” said Stich, adding that Starliner is designed for up to 210-day missions.

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NASA | AP news Image

NASA Astronauts Will Stay At The Space Station Longer For More Troubleshooting Of Boeing Capsule

Stich stated that if the space station experiences an emergency, the astronauts could return to Earth via Starliner.

After the space shuttle fleet terminated, NASA handed astronaut rides to private businesses. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has completed nine taxi flights for NASA since 2020. NASA intends to alternate between SpaceX and Boeing in transporting astronauts to and from the space station.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Why Mount Rainier Is The US Volcano Keeping Scientists Up At Night

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Mount Rainier, Washington’s snowcapped peak that stands 4.3 kilometers (2.7 miles) above sea level, has not had a significant volcanic eruption in the last 1,000 years. More than Hawaii’s exploding lava fields or Yellowstone’s vast supervolcano, Mount Rainier has many US volcanologists concerned.

“Mount Rainier keeps me awake at night because it poses a significant threat to the nearby villages. “Tacoma and South Seattle are built on 100-foot-thick (30.5-meter) ancient mudflows from Mount Rainier eruptions,” said Jess Phoenix, a volcanologist and ambassador for the Union of Concerned Scientists, on an episode of CNN’s “Violent Earth With Liv Schreiber.”

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Volcano | CNN Image

Why Mount Rainier Is The US Volcano Keeping Scientists Up At Night

The sleeping giant’s deadly potential does not stem from flaming lava flows, which, in the case of an eruption, are unlikely to spread more than a few miles beyond the boundary of Mount Rainier National Park in the Pacific Northwest. According to the US Geological Survey, most volcanic ash will likely drift downwind to the east, away from populated centers.

Instead, many scientists are concerned about a lahar, a fast-moving slurry of water and volcanic rock formed when ice or snow is rapidly melted by an eruption. Lahars gather debris as they run down valleys and drainage channels.

According to Seth Moran, a research seismologist at USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington, Mount Rainier’s tall height and ice and snow cover make it resilient to eruptive activity. “Hot stuff … will melt the cold stuff and a lot of water will start coming down,” he explained.

“And there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people who live in areas that potentially could be impacted by a large lahar, and it could happen quite quickly.”

A lahar is a rapidly flowing debris flow.
The deadliest lahar in recent memory occurred in November 1985, when Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz volcano erupted. Just a few hours after the eruption began, a flow of mud, rocks, lava, and freezing water surged over the village of Armero, killing over 23,000 people in minutes.

In an episode of CNN’s “Violent Earth,” Bradley Pitcher, a volcanologist and Columbia University lecturer in Earth and environmental sciences, described a hardened, concrete substance that can be difficult to escape.

Pitcher stated that Mount Rainier had approximately eight times the amount of glaciers and snow Nevado del Ruiz had when it erupted. “There’s the potential to have a much more catastrophic mudflow.”

According to the US Geological Survey’s 2018 threat assessment, Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano is the most dangerous in the US, which is unsurprising given its proximity to the population and periodic eruptions. Mount St. Helens exploded violently in May 1980 and was voted second most dangerous, followed by Mount Rainier in third.

Lahars are most commonly associated with volcanic eruptions, but landslides and earthquakes can also create them. Moran said geologists have discovered evidence that at least 11 massive lahars from Mount Rainier have reached the surrounding area, known as the Puget Lowlands, over the last 6,000 years.

Scientists have not linked the most recent of these lahars, which occurred approximately 500 years ago, to any volcanic activity. According to analysts, the flow event could have been the result of a huge landslide on the mountain’s west face.

The loose, weak rock remains in that location, and Moran and other volcanologists are particularly concerned about the possibility of a similar, spontaneous landslide-induced lahar.

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Volcano | CNN Image

Why Mount Rainier Is The US Volcano Keeping Scientists Up At Night

“We now know that the volcano can do it again. “And then we’re in this world where anything can happen at any time,” Moran explained.

“If it were the same size, it would be 10 minutes to the nearest places where people live and 60 minutes to the nearest significant settlements. “And those are very short time frames,” he added.

A 2022 study considered two worst-case scenarios. In the first scenario, a 260 million cubic meter, 4 meter deep (9.2 billion cubic feet, 13-foot deep) lahar would form on Mount Rainier’s west slope. According to Moran, the debris flow would be equivalent to 104,000 Olympic-size pools and could reach the heavily populated lowlands of Orting, Washington, roughly an hour after an eruption, moving at a rate of 13 feet (4 meters) per second.

According to the simulation, a second “pronounced hazard” area is the Nisqually River Valley, where a major lahar may displace enough water from Alder Lake to allow the 100-meter-tall (330-foot-tall) Alder Dam to spill over.

Mount Rainier’s neighbor, Mount St. Helens, farther south in the Cascade Range, erupted four decades ago, causing a disastrous lahar that did not reach any highly populated regions.

Venus Dergan and her then-boyfriend, Roald Reitan, were trapped in the Mount St. Helens lahar while on a camping vacation and are among the few persons known to have survived being swept up in a debris flow.

“I tried to cling on as we were swept downstream, but the tree bark was scraping. … During an interview for CNN’s “Violent Earth,” she recounted feeling it on her legs and arms.

“At one point, I went under the logs and dirt and accepted that this was the end. I was not going to get out of this, and I was going to die.

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Volcano | CNN Image

Why Mount Rainier Is The US Volcano Keeping Scientists Up At Night

Following the explosion of Mount St. Helens, the US Geological Survey established a lahar detection system on Mount Rainier in 1998, which has been modified and expanded since 2017.

About 20 places on the volcano’s slopes and the two paths identified as most at risk of a lahar now have broadband seismometers that send real-time data and additional sensors such as trip wires, infrasound sensors, web cameras, and GPS receivers.

Moran explained that the device is designed to identify both a lahar if the volcano erupts in the future and a lahar caused by a landslide.

Because of the constraints of 1990s technology, the original system had limited bandwidth and power requirements, resulting in data transmission every two minutes.

In March, 45,000 kids from Puyallup, Sumner-Bonney Lake, Orting, White River, and Carbonado, Washington, took part in a lahar evacuation simulation. According to the USGS, this was the first time numerous school districts exercised on the same day, making it the world’s largest lahar drill.

Approximately 13,000 pupils walked up to 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) to specified areas outside of the defined lahar zone, while the remaining schools outside the lahar zone practiced sheltering in place.

Moran stated that the fail-safe components of the Lahar detection system are roughly 45 minutes away from the next significant community; thus, that was the time window within which communities had to work.

“Most of what happens at volcanoes is close by, and that’s why you try to keep people away because things happen fast, but lahars can travel a long way from the volcano and have a big impact.”

SOURCE – (CNN)

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Tropical Storm Alberto Weakens Over Northeast Mexico After Heavy Rains Killed 3

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TAMPICO, MEXICO – Tropical Storm Alberto, the season’s first named storm, weakened Thursday as it headed inland across northeast Mexico after dumping torrential rainfall in areas of the arid region and killing at least three.

The storm swiftly faded over land, and the United States National Hurricane Center reduced it to a tropical depression with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kmh). Coastal storm watches and warnings in Mexico were withdrawn as Alberto proceeded westward at 18 mph (30 kmh).

However, forecasts predicted several inches of rain were still anticipated inland in Mexico’s Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, and Coahuila states. South Texas was expected to experience less rain on Thursday.

Immediately after it came ashore in Tampico, there was disappointment at the lack of rain. Showers had been irregular throughout the early morning, with the sun occasionally bursting through.

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Alberto | AP news Image

Tropical Storm Alberto Weakens Over Northeast Mexico After Heavy Rains Killed 3

“We hoped it would come because water is so important here, but as far as I can tell, it went somewhere else,” said Tampico resident Marta Alicia Hernández.

The rain Tampico had hoped for could still be arriving from some of the huge system’s outer bands. Heavy rains were reported inland in the adjacent state of Nuevo Leon.

Civil protection authorities reported three deaths as a result of Alberto’s rains. They said that one guy died in the La Silla River in Monterrey, the state capital, while two kids perished from electric shocks in the municipality of Allende. According to local media, the children were riding bicycles in the rain.

Nuevo Leon Gov. Samuel García said on social media site X that Monterrey metro and public transportation services would be suspended from Wednesday night until midday Thursday when Alberto dies away.

Alberto had prompted tropical storm advisories for most of the western Gulf of Mexico’s coastline, from Texas to Veracruz. The storm landed with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 km/h).

Schools in Tamaulipas state, where Alberto touched ashore, were closed through Friday. Shelters were set up across the state to accommodate residents fleeing flooding.

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Alberto | AP news Image

Tropical Storm Alberto Weakens Over Northeast Mexico After Heavy Rains Killed 3

According to the hurricane center, some portions of northeast Mexico and southern Texas could receive up to 5 inches (13 centimeters) to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain, with higher isolated totals likely. Some higher elevations in Mexico could experience up to 20 inches (50 cm) of rain, causing mudslides and flash flooding, particularly in the states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Nuevo Leon.

Mexican authorities had minimized Alberto’s risk, instead relying on its potential to alleviate the region’s water shortage.

“The (wind) speeds are not such as to consider it a risk,” said Tamaulipas state Secretary of Hydrological Resources Raúl Quiroga Álvarez during a news conference late Wednesday. Instead, he urged people to welcome Alberto cheerfully. “This is what we’ve been waiting for for eight years in all of Tamaulipas.”

Much of Mexico has suffered from severe drought, with northern Mexico particularly heavily afflicted. Quiroga highlighted that the state’s reservoirs were depleted, and Mexico owed the United States a significant water debt for their shared usage of the Rio Grande.

“This is a win-win event for Tamaulipas,” he told reporters.

Alberto was also causing rain and floods along the Texas coast.

According to the National Weather Service, the major hazard for southern coastal Texas is flooding caused by excessive rain. On Wednesday, the NWS stated that there is “a high probability” of flash flooding in southern coastal Texas. Tornadoes and waterspouts are possible.

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Alberto | AP News Image

Tropical Storm Alberto Weakens Over Northeast Mexico After Heavy Rains Killed 3

On Wednesday, areas along the Texas coast experienced road flooding and severe rip currents, while waterspouts were reported offshore.

Octavio González, a Tampico resident, was noticeably disappointed with Alberto’s light rain.

“Very little water fell,” he explained. “We are experiencing severe drought on the south side of Tamaulipas. And the truth is, we have a lot of optimism for rain.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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