Many countries in the European Union are drawn to the benefits of fracking: cheap energy and energy independence. But many Europeans, including these protesters standing outside EU headquarters in Brussels, object to the practice on environmental grounds.
While watching the turmoil in Ukraine unfold, you may feel as though it has little to do with the United States, but the conflict is stirring a contentious debate in Europe over a topic familiar to many Americans: fracking.
Much of the continent depends on Russian natural gas that flows through pipelines in Ukraine. European countries are asking themselves whether to follow the U.S. example and drill for shale gas.
Chinese leaders and lawmakers are huddled in Beijing for the annual session of parliament, and one man towers above the rest. That's because he's seven feet, six inches tall. The former Houston Rocket center Yao Ming is one of China's best-known athletes. He's also in his second year as a member of China's nominal Upper House of Parliament.
NPR's Anthony Kuhn has this report from Beijing on the former basketball star's foray into law and politics.
Researcher Jack Hopkins used barbed-wire snares to collect hair samples from bears in Yosemite. Analysis of isotope ratios in hair samples showed how much of the bears' diets came from human food.
Credit Courtesy of Jack Hopkins
<strong>Not as cute as Yogi's pic-a-nic thievery: </strong>Food left out at a campsite in Yosemite National Park is likely to attract bears like this one, seen scavenging at Tuolumne Meadows Campground in 2008.
One of the great joys of camping out in a national park is chowing down by the fire. But campers aren't the only ones drawn to burgers and s'mores roasting over an open flame, beneath a mass of twinkling stars.
Those rich aromas can also prove irresistible to the local critters. From bears to foxes to coyotes, biologists have documented wildlife getting irrevocably hooked on our food and food waste. And for good reason: Our food is way more calorie-rich — and thus, better for making babies — than the standard black bear fare of insects and leaves.
Refineries looking for a place to store an ashy petroleum byproduct called pet coke can cross Chicago off their list. A new, tough city ordinance bans new storage facilities and prevents existing ones from expanding.
NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.
CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Before pet coke is shipped overseas where it's burned as fuel, huge piles of it are often stored in open air facilities. Residents in Detroit complained so much about swirling pet coke dust, it ordered a company to move the piles out.
In New Mexico, the nation's only nuclear waste dump is closed. It's been several weeks since radioactive material was detected in the air at the site. As NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports, the incident is shaping up to be yet another setback in the quest to find a home for America's nuclear waste.
Here's some good news about the water situation in Northern California: More rain is falling today. San Francisco has seen eight inches over the past week and down south, L.A., has seen four. That's more rain than those two cities received over the whole past year. But the drought is still on and is still severe. And California's farmers are still looking at a bleak situation.
Looks like reports of a looming "guacapocalypse" have been vastly overstated.
This morning, guacamole lovers woke to headlines warning that Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle could eventually be forced to drop the dip from its menu, if changing global weather patterns continue to drive volatility in the price of avocados.
In Wyoming, the borders of the Wind River Indian Reservation recently grew by about a million acres, thanks to a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency. Tribes on the reservation see the EPA's action as righting a historical wrong, but the state is fighting the move. Wyoming Public Radio's Irina Zhorov reports.
Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 11:39 am
A large dam in Washington state has a 65-foot-long crack below its waterline, say officials who are planning repairs at the Wanapum Dam, which is owned by a county utility. Divers found the 2-inch-wide crack that runs sideways after an engineer noticed an odd curve in a conduit near the dam's roadway.
In northern Nevada, a place famous for its wide, open spaces and expansive cattle operations, ranchers are in a bind due to the historic drought.
Much of the state is desert, so when people talk about drought, they're really talking about the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. It's at barely 20 percent of average.
This is a huge concern for farmers and ranchers like Julie Wolf, because the mountains store the snow that melts and feeds rivers and reservoirs. These bodies of water then allow the desert to bloom with grass and alfalfa for her cattle.
In Louisiana, Mardi Gras comes each year with dozens of parades filled with marching bands, colorful floats and parade-goers who scream, "Throw me something, Mister!"
That "something" the crowd wants are beads. The goal of any Mardi Gras parade is to catch as many as possible. After the revelry, people often have so many beads around their necks they can barely turn their heads.
Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum who last month debated TV personality Bill Nye "The Science Guy" pitting his Biblical literalism against Darwinian evolution, says the highly publicized showdown has been like manna from heaven for a foundering $73 million Noah's Ark theme park.
In the desert outside of Phoenix, there have been 18 shootings in the last five years, a series of mysteries that has stumped federal investigators.
Let's be clear, we're talking about donkeys: specifically, wild burros, the federally protected asses of the Old West. In late January, out among the desert scrub and beavertail cactus, two from the Lake Pleasant herd were found dead.
There are about 2,000 dairy cows on Pete Olsen's fifth-generation farm in northern Nevada. A new milk processing plant is now putting pressure on Olsen and other dairy farmers to expand the size of their herds. But with the ongoing drought, farmers are struggling to get enough feed for the cows they already have.
When Pete Olsen talks about drought on his fifth-generation dairy farm in Fallon, Nev., he's really talking about the snowpack 60 miles to the west in the Sierra Nevada.
The Sierras, Olsen says, are their lifeblood.
That is, the snowmelt from them feeds the Truckee and Carson rivers and a tangle of reservoirs and canals that make this desert bloom. Some of the highest-grade alfalfa in the world is grown here. And it makes perfect feed for dairy cows, because it's rich in nutrients.
Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 2:17 pm
They're a quiet bunch, the hundreds of animals residing at the well-guarded botanical oasis in California's Ojai Valley. They've been brought to the Turtle Conservancy from countries around the world, like modern-day refugees escaping certain and persistent perils.
Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 8:32 pm
The sheer volume of food wasted in the U.S. each year should cause us some shame, given how many people are hungry both in our own backyard and abroad.
Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided us with a way to understand our flagrant annual waste in terms of calories, too. It's pretty mind-boggling — 141 trillion calories down the drain, so to speak, or 1,249 calories per capita per day.
Levees, like this one in New Orleans, must be certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before appearing on federal flood maps. This change has resulted in higher flood insurance premiums in some areas.
Credit Mario Tama / Getty Images
Ward Aucoin is facing a sharp jump in his flood insurance premium, due to a 2012 law that may be revised. A crabber to make ends meet, Aucoin lives in Louisiana with his wife and two daughters, Taylor (far right) and Zoe.
California is getting some much needed rain this week, but more than two-thirds of the state is still in extreme drought conditions, and that has the state thinking about alternative ways of getting water.
On the coast in Carlsbad, Calif., construction workers are building what will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. When finished in early 2016, it is expected to provide up to 50 million gallons of fresh drinkable water every day.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a lot on its plate, now add to that budget concerns. The agency is hoping to trim its staff. Like a number of other government agencies, the EPA is offering buyouts to employees.
As NPR's Brian Naylor reports, it's all part of a shrinking federal workforce.
Desalination is just one way of tackling the drought. Another technique to conserve water is quite simply to reuse it. David Sedlak is professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California Berkeley. David, welcome to the program.
Images of Folsom Lake, a reservoir in Northern California, show the severity of the state's drought. The photo at left, taken on July 20, 2011, show the lake at 97 percent of total capacity and 130 percent of its historical average for that date. The photo at right shows the lake on Jan. 16, 2014, when it was at 17 percent of capacity and 35 percent of its historical average.
Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 11:58 am
Farmers in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency last month, are facing hard choices as a drought threatens to ruin their crops. They must weigh the costs of paying for irrigation against the chance that their fields will never get enough water this season.
Cattle graze at a Brazilian Agricultural Research experimental farm in Planaltina in Goias state. To reduce emissions from deforestation, the Brazilian government is experimenting with grazing on integrated forest and pasture lands.
Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 11:31 am
We Americans are heavy consumers of meat, and we're increasingly reminded that eating less of it will shrink our carbon footprint. Growing the crops to feed all those animals releases lots of greenhouse gases.