Using seaweed to reduce methane burps!

Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

Scientists are combing Ireland’s west coast for seaweed to feed to cattle and sheep after research showed it could stop them breathing out so much climate-warming methane.

The project, coordinated by a state agriculture body, is tapping into the country’s growing seaweed harvesting industry, which is seeking new markets as it revives centuries-old traditions…

About 20 species of seaweed, most from Ireland’s windswept Atlantic coast, have been tested by researchers while dozens more have been collected by the project’s partners in Norway, Canada, Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Scientists in the United States and Australia have already demonstrated dramatic methane-reducing qualities from one seaweed type – Asparagopsis – when small quantities are added to the feedstock…But they have not yet managed to scale up production of the seaweed, which is not easy to grow in northwest Europe.

The Irish project aims to find abundant native seaweeds to use instead, even though the researchers admit they are unlikely to match the reduction in emissions of more than 80 percent shown with Asparagopsis.

Researchers are also working on how to integrate the feed additives into Ireland’s predominantly grass-based cattle farming system.

Bet they’ll find something local. RTFA and especially check out the gear used to isolate and measure methane production from the cattle. Modern science rocks!

Sugar was/is used to hook Americans on cigarettes

❝ …The connection between junk food and cigarettes runs…deep…as Gary Taubes details in a revelatory chapter of his book The Case Against Sugar, set to be released on Dec. 27.

Taubes…argues that sugar is the main driver of the chronic diseases plaguing Western civilization in the 21st century, including (but not limited to) diabetes, heart disease, and obesity…

But wedged between chapters on the long history of humans’ insatiable lust for sugar…and the economic resilience of sweets is a little-known story: the alliance between the sugar and tobacco industries.

❝ Tobacco itself has a natural sugar content, which curing alters. While flue-curing increases the sugar content, making the tobacco more palatable for smokers, it also results in lower content of nicotine, an addictive stimulant. By early in the 20th century, the industry had found a way to make its product both more enjoyable to smoke and higher in nicotine. Air-curing Burley tobacco creates relatively high levels of easily absorbed nicotine; sugar-soaking, which follows, enhances flavor.

Soon, “sugar-sauced” Burley tobacco was being blended into R.J. Reynolds’s Camels, and other manufacturers followed suit, Taubes writes. By 1929, more than 50 million pounds of sugar a year were being used to “candy up” the tobacco in more than 120 billion American cigarettes…

❝ For this chapter, Taubes relies largely on Tobacco and Sugar, a 1950 report by the Sugar Research Foundation, the industry trade group at the time, that openly celebrated the union.

“Were it not for sugar,” said Wightman Garner, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture tobacco official quoted in the report, “the American blended cigarette and with it the tobacco industry of the United States would not have achieved such tremendous development as it did in the first half of this century.” Later in the report, the author refers to the development as “this most promising field of sugar utilization.” The combination, the report says, was a “stroke of genius.”

Recent industry-funded research has found that the added sugar doesn’t increase the toxicity of the cigarettes, but other studies confirm that it does make cigarettes taste better, getting people to smoke more of them.

Disgusting way to maintain, encourage, an addiction.

Kratom, a botanical dietary supplement alternative for addicts — is addictive itself

Three shaky months into recovery from heroin addiction, Dariya Pankova found something to ease her withdrawal. A local nonalcoholic bar sold a brewed beverage that soothed her brain and body much as narcotics had. A perfect solution — before it backfired.

Ms. Pankova grew addicted to the beverage itself. She drank more and more, awakened her cravings for the stronger high of heroin, and relapsed. Only during another stay in rehab did Ms. Pankova learn that the drink’s primary ingredient, a Southeast Asian leaf called kratom, affects the brain like an opiate and can be addictive, too.

“It’s preying on the weak and the broken,” said Ms. Pankova, 23, a Brooklyn native who received treatment in Delray Beach. “It’s a mind-altering substance, so people like me who are addicts and alcoholics, they think just because it’s legal, it’s fine. It’s a huge epidemic down here, and it’s causing a lot of relapses…”

Concern is particularly high in South Florida, where a rising concentration of drug-treatment providers has coincided with the sprouting of kratom bars. But kratom is now available around the country. Powdered forms of the leaf are sold at head shops and gas-station convenience stores and on the Internet. Bars have recently opened in Colorado, New York, North Carolina and other states where customers nurse brewed varieties, varying in strength, from plastic bottles that resemble those for fruit juice…

Just because a substance is “green” – and not yet illegal, doesn’t mean it isn’t addictive and harmful. Of course, a sensible drugs policy which regulated public access and distribution of any substance like this would go a long way towards providing help for addictive personalities and nudge DEA coppers and drug squads in the direction of useful employment.

That ain’t about to happen either. But, don’t kid yourself about quasi-legal green goodies always being better for your health. Just a prettier monkey on your back.

Is there pink slime in your meat? USDA says labels are voluntary

As consumers clamor for more transparency about the beef product dubbed “pink slime,” federal agriculture officials have agreed to allow several meat producers to list the stuff on package labels.

That means grocery shoppers soon could know whether some packages of ground beef contain the ammonia-treated meat that has been at the heart of a controversy that has shuttered plants, scuttled jobs and sparked uproar over the contents of the nation’s hamburgers…

At least one big beef maker, Cargill Inc., said that firm officials had requested the labeling changes, in part to address the groundswell of consumer concerns…

“If the product had been labeled from the start, I doubt we’d see anything like the consumer backlash that the media has stirred up in the past few weeks,” said Bettina Elias Siegel, author of the blog “The Lunch Tray,” which helped force agriculture officials to allow schools to opt out of using the beef byproduct in school lunches…

Combined with Siegel’s quest to get the product out of schools, the current controversy led big U.S. supermarkets, including Safeway Inc., Kroger Co. and Supervalu Inc. to pledge to stop using the products.

It forced BPI to halt production at some of its plants last week, and this week forced another processor, AFA Foods, into bankruptcy…

Much of the contention in scientific circles has centered on whether the ammonia-treated product should actually be considered meat, or whether it should be considered and identified as an additive…Others have urged that labeling products with LFTB should be mandatory.

Of course, it should be mandatory. It’s just more conservative corporate ideology fiddling around with discussion between the meatpackers, the FDA and the USDA. There’s no one in that discussion actively representing consumers.

There are enough dumbass people in the United States who will continue to eat a certain amount of crap food based on price alone. At root, that’s not exclusively an economic decision – especially if you leave out factors like nutrition and health in making that decision. There’s still an old saw about an educated consumer being the best customer.

Microwaves utilized to convert used motor oil into fuel

It has been estimated that over 8 billion US gallons of used motor oil are produced every year by the world’s cars and trucks. While some of that is re-refined into new oil or burned in furnaces for heat, neither of those processes are entirely environmentally-innocuous. In other cases, it is simply discarded. Today, however, researchers from the University of Cambridge announced the development of a process that uses microwaves to convert waste oil into vehicle fuel.

Scientists have already been using a process known as pyrolysis for recycling oil. It involves heating the oil to a high temperature in the absence of oxygen, and causes the oil to break down into a mixture of gases, liquids, and solids. While the gases and liquids can be converted to fuel, the Cambridge scientists state that traditional pyrolysis doesn’t heat the oil very evenly, making the fuel conversion process difficult and impractical.

What they did, however, was to add a microwave-absorbent material to samples of waste oil, before subjecting it to pyrolysis by heating it with microwaves. The addition of the material caused the oil to heat more evenly, allowing almost 90 percent of it to easily be converted into a mixture of conventional gasoline and diesel.

Another step forward presented this week at the meeting of the American Chemical Society. Great news.

[I actually know someone who is a member of that body. I must ask him if he attended?]

A greener antiwear additive for engine oils

NIST materials scientists Dan Fischer and Cherno Jaye

Titanium, a protean element with applications from pigments to aerospace alloys, could get a new role as an environmentally friendly additive for automotive oil, thanks to work by materials scientists from Afton Chemical Corporation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Researchers have established that a titanium compound added to engine oil creates a wear-resistant nanoscale layer bound to the surface of vulnerable engine parts, making it a credible substitute for older compounds that do not coexist well with antipollution equipment.

For years antiwear additives for high-performance oils have been phosphorous compounds, especially ZDPP, that work by forming a polyphosphate film on engine parts that reduces wear. Unfortunately phosphorus is a chemical poison for automobile catalytic converters, reducing their effectiveness and life span, so industry chemists have been searching for ways to replace or reduce the use of ZDDP.

Titanium is one candidate replacement. Mechanical tests of an organic titanium compound at Afton demonstrated that it provided superior wear resistance when added to a fully formulated engine oil, suggesting that oil chemists could use less ZDDP.

Measurements revealed that the antiwear enhancement comes from titanium chemically bound into the metal structure of the engine surface, forming a hard oxide, iron titanate…While considerably more work remains to be done, the results suggest that titanium could play an important role in future low-phosphorus lubricating oils.

Bravo! And an excellent example of profit and non-profit cooperative research.