AmeriScan: July 1, 2003

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Energy Secretary Promotes Renewables, Efficiency

GOLDEN, Colorado, July 1, 2003 (ENS) - On a tour of the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Lab today, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham encouraged Americans to use energy efficient technologies and practices in their homes and businesses in the wake of rising natural gas prices this year.

Demand for natural gas is expected to rise by as much as 50 percent over the next 25 years, the secretary said. The nation's inventory of natural gas lags behind past stocks of the fuel, and demand continues to rise.

Abraham said that the advances made by the department's renewable and energy efficient technology research are readily available to the public to employ in their homes and businesses.

"By incorporating advanced energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that reduce energy use into building designs, the U.S. building sector is achieving significant results," Abraham said.

"Individuals can also play an important role in reducing energy usage,” he said. “Conserving energy in the home saves consumers money today while also helping ensure abundant energy supplies in the future."

Abraham said the challenge this year is to ensure adequate natural gas supplies at prices consumers can afford.

"America's natural gas shortage effects everyone, from senior citizens living on fixed incomes, to small business owners trying to keep the lights on," Abraham said.

"While we work to increase our production and storage capacities for natural gas, we must also focus on using our natural gas resources wisely and to our own best benefit."

Visit the Energy Department's new energy saver website at: http://www.energysavers.gov. It offers resources and tips on cutting home energy prices, from insulation and heating and cooling tips to the latest information on windows and their efficiency.

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Solar Power Could Cure Natural Gas Shortage

WASHINGTON, DC, July 1, 2003 (ENS) - The Solar Energy Industries Association released an analysis that shows that clean, renewable solar power could replace nearly one-third of the natural gas supply shortage in 2005, if the federal government took steps this year to promote solar expansion.

The news comes amid growing concern that the current shortage of three to four billion cubic feet of natural gas per day cannot be alleviated for several years, at a minimum.

Much of the problem stems from the growing use of natural gas to generate electricity.

“If Congress included a solar power stimulus section as part of its pending energy bill, we could mitigate nearly a third of the natural gas shortfall with clean, renewable power from the sun in 2005,” said Glenn Hamer, executive director of the Solar Energy Industries Association, the national trade organization representing solar electric and solar thermal manufacturers, component suppliers, and distributors.

The association proposed steps that would allow the U.S. solar industry to meet these goals. First, a federal solar electric rebate pegged at $4 a watt, which would phase out over time. This would be modeled on successful state rebates, or “buy downs.”

Another proposed step is a 25 percent tax credit on solar system purchases by homeowners, businesses, farms, and government entities. The group wants to extend the wind energy production tax credit to solar, including a temporary triple multiplier for the first 1,000 megawatts of solar to come on line.

The association also urges passage of the other solar provisions pending in the House and Senate energy bills.

“As the President and Congress recognize, the tax code is the fastest way to jumpstart the economy. It’s also the fastest way to stimulate new clean energy production to alleviate the natural gas shortage,” Hamer said.

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Court Rules in Favor of Hemp Foods

SAN FRANCISCO, California, July 1, 2003 (ENS) – A federal appeals court has struck down a planned Drug Enforcement Administration interpretive rule that would have banned edible hemp seed and oil under the Controlled Substances Act.

Writing for the majority opinion in declaring the rule invalid, Judge Betty Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, said, "Because the DEA rule is inconsistent with the THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] regulation at the time of promulgation, it is a procedurally invalid legislative rule, not an interpretive rule." THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

On March 28, the Hemp Industries Association, several hemp food and cosmetic manufacturers and the Organic Consumers Association filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asking for a review of the Drug Enforcement Administration's final rule regarding hemp foods.

The brief charged that the final rule should be invalidated because the agency is exercising "arbitrary and capricious authority" by attempting to outlaw hemp seed and oil without holding formal hearings on the issue or finding any potential for abuse.

Because trace THC in hemp seed is not psychoactive, Congress exempted non-viable hemp seed and oil from control under the Controlled Substances Act, just as Congress exempted poppy seeds from the act, although the seeds contain trace opiates otherwise subject to control.

North American hemp food companies voluntarily observe reasonable THC limits similar to those adopted by European nations as well as Canada and Australia to protect consumers from psychoactive effects or workplace drug testing standards.

"This is great news," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and free market for Industrial Hemp. "But because the court narrowly declared the DEA Interpretive Rule invalid on procedural grounds, hemp food remains in legal limbo until the court decides on the industry's challenge to the DEA's final rule, which is virtually identical to the interpretive rule," he said.

"However, this court ruling not only ensures hemp foods will continue to be legally available to consumers in the meantime,” Steenstra said, “but it also strikes a major blow to the ultimate validity of DEA's final rule."

Oral arguments begin September 17 in San Francisco, California.

The brief and other court documents are available at: http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/HIAvDEA_finalrules_petition.pdf.

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Economic Benefits of Hybrid Cars Forecast

ROCHESTER, New York, July 1, 2003 (ENS) – Hybrid vehicles will become the cars of the future, and they will save money over today’s gas guzzlers according to a new study, and the savings will be in the billions of dollars every year.

The study by James Winebrake, chair of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology, analyzed a hypothetical transportation future and found economic benefits exceeding billions of dollars annually.

Winebrake's study, published in the spring issue of “Futures Research Quarterly,” assessed impacts of hybrid vehicles on U.S. gross domestic product, trade and labor as well as on fuel cycle emissions. He then compared the results with Department of Energy's forecasts.

"Based on the scenario we looked at, the transfer of dollars from oil imports to domestic fuels, namely electricity, generates higher gross domestic product, labor and reduced trade deficit," said Winebrake.

It is not small change, either. "We estimate a gross domestic product impact of about $40 billion annually due to this transfer," Winebrake said.

“In the end we think electric drive vehicles are where the vehicle industry is headed,” Winebrake said. “We wanted to get a sense of the potential impacts due to this shift."

The study was conducted for the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the electric power industry.

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Malnutrition Contributes to Child Mortality

ITHACA, New York, July 1, 2003 (ENS) – About 11 million children die worldwide each year. A Cornell University expert, writing in the authoritative medical journal “The Lancet,” says that eight million of those deaths could be prevented each year.

That is because almost 60 percent of deaths of children under the age of five in the developing world are due to malnutrition and its interactive effects on preventable diseases.

"Every single day, 365 days a year, an attack against children occurs that is 10 times greater than the death toll from the World Trade Center," says Jean-Pierre Habicht, professor of epidemiology and nutritional sciences at Cornell.

Almost 90 percent of child deaths occur in just 42 countries, and a quarter of these deaths occur before age five in the poorest countries, such as the African countries of Angola and Niger.

"We know how to prevent these deaths,” said Habicht. “We have the biological knowledge and tools to stop this public health travesty, but we're not yet doing it."

Habicht, a member of the Bellagio Child Survival Study Group of child health researchers, has authored the first of a series of five articles on how to prevent the global toll on young children in the June 28 issue if "The Lancet." The others will follow in the next four consecutive issues.

Ten years ago, child health experts believed that malnutrition played only a negligible role in child mortality in the developing world.

Habicht and his colleagues at Cornell then published a study showing that the majority of these childhood deaths were due to the interactive effect of malnutrition on disease, and that more than 80 percent of malnutrition related deaths were due to mild to moderate malnutrition rather than severe malnutrition.

The researchers found that malnourished children are up to 12 times more likely to die from easily preventable and treatable diseases than are well nourished children.

"Malnutrition kills in two strokes,” said Habicht. “It makes children more vulnerable to severe malnutrition if they fall ill, and this, in turn, contributes substantially to the global level of malnutrition that kills if a child is ill."

The first step in preventing child death is to make sure that every child is well nourished, Habicht said, a notion that is both scientifically and economically feasible.

Habicht points out that both malnourished and well nourished children are killed by a few preventable diseases, such as measles, malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia, which can be prevented or managed effectively to prevent death.

"These are also the diseases that kill malnourished children, so dealing with these diseases is a first step for well fed children and a fallback step for malnourished children," Habicht said. ”Preventing deaths from these diseases costs only pennies per year.”

Despite effective and inexpensive preventions, the death toll is high because of problems at upper levels of organizations, Habicht said. Either families do not get the information they need to seek medical care or help is not available because the organization of services is inadequate.

"These issues turn out to be more difficult to resolve than the biological challenge was," said Habicht, adding that little research is devoted to developing, testing and implementing strategies for care compared to the amount of research that goes into improving the biological effectiveness of care.

"We know how to prevent the deaths of millions of children," said Habicht. "Now we just have to do it."

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Federal Funds to Help Protect Florida Coasts

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, July 1, 2003 (ENS) - Florida's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has received $2.8 million in grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to protect and revitalize the state’s coastal communities.

"Florida's world renowned sandy white beaches draw millions of visitors to our state annually," said DEP Secretary David Struhs.

"By revitalizing waterfronts, reducing coastal hazards and providing public access to coastal resources, we are protecting the enormous environmental and economic value of our coastal communities," said Struhs.

The Coastal Management Program works with local communities and businesses to repair Florida's sensitive coast and preserve it for future generations, said Program Director Lynn Griffin.

"With this new funding, the department can continue working with Florida's coastal communities to reduce pollution, revitalize beach areas and battle erosion."

The latest grant will be used to continue funding Coastal Management Program projects.

The Waterfronts Florida program offers financial and technical assistance to help revitalize deteriorated waterfronts. The Blue Ways project organizes and integrates ecological information for the state’s coastal, estuary and ocean environments.

The Coastal Partnerships Initiative supports innovative local coastal management projects, and the Uniform Beach Access plan designs and distributes a beach access sign, free of charge, to Florida's local governments.

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Independence Declared From Hazardous Chemicals

WASHINGTON, DC, July 1, 2003 (ENS) - On the eve of the Fourth of July holiday, more than 10,000 Americans from all 50 states have signed the "U.S. Declaration of Independence from Hazardous Chemicals," says WWF, the conservation organization.

Spurred by policy reforms underway in Europe, citizens from around the country have demonstrated their support for improved protection from chemical hazards.

WWF is one of the 60 environmental, health, and trade groups that have endorsed the declaration.

"From Anchorage to Atlanta, Albany to Albuquerque, Americans are proclaiming their right to be free from hazardous chemicals that threaten wildlife and people around the world," said Clif Curtis, director of the World Wildlife Fund toxics program.

"As we celebrate our country's independence, we are reminded of our duty as U.S. citizens to speak out when governmental policies fail to protect us."

The "U.S. Declaration of Independence from Hazardous Chemicals" is being submitted to the European Commission and President George W. Bush.

The European Union has requested public comments on proposed legislation known as Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH), which would govern how 30,000 chemicals are used in Europe by requiring companies to provide data on potential health or environmental hazards.

"REACH could revolutionize the management of chemicals and is already inspiring action in states and cities across the United States," said Daryl Ditz, senior program officer for the World Wildlife Federation’s toxics program.

"While the Bush administration and chemical industry lobbyists are working behind closed doors to derail this promising European initiative,” Ditz said, “it is encouraging to know that Americans are strongly in favor of healthier families, safer jobs, and cleaner communities."

The "Declaration of Independence from Hazardous Chemicals" is available at: http://www.worldwildlife.org/toxics/whatsnew/declaration.cfm

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Website Offers Forest Conservation Information

ARLINGTON, Virginia, July 1, 2003 (ENS) - The Nature Conservancy and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service have launched a website for private forest landowners and managers whose primary management objective is forest conservation.

"The urgent need for conservation means we cannot afford to repeat past mistakes or ignore past successes," said Jonathan Adams, program director for conservation knowledge and communities at the Nature Conservancy.

"This website will not only provide foresters and private landowners with current, useful information on how to manage their lands for conservation and non-timber values, but also enable them to share their own experiences and expertise with the broader conservation community."

The site, at: http://www.privateforest.org, has four primary sections offering information and support for conservation minded forest owners and managers.

The Library offers a link to The Nature Conservancy's database of forestry related resources. At the online discussion forum, moderated by a Department of Agriculture Forest Service expert, users can share information and seek answers to forest management questions.

The Forest Management 101 section offers basic information about forest management. The State Resources section provides links to individual state forestry resources.

"The Forest Stewardship Program is an important aid for people who want to manage their forests to benefit wildlife and water quality as well as timber production,” said Joel Holtrup, deputy chief for state and private forestry.

The website is supported by the Forest Service's Forest Stewardship Program, a 10 year old program run jointly with state forestry agencies that encourages forest owners to actively manage their forests by providing technical assistance nationwide.

The site is maintained by The Nature Conservancy and funded in part by the Forest Service.

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Massachusetts Man Kills Hawk With Handgun

BOSTON, Massachusetts, July 1 (ENS) - A Middleboro resident was convicted today in federal court of killing a federally protected hawk with a handgun in violation of a federal wildlife protection statute, United States Attorney Michael Sullivan along with other federal and state officials announced.

John Winnett, 45, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Collings to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

At today's plea hearing, the prosecutor told the court that, had the case proceeded to trial, the government's evidence would have proven that in February of 2002, a neighbor of Winnett's heard two gunshots and then saw Winnett run into the neighbor's yard and pick up what appeared to be a hawk.

The neighbor collected some feathers and other material from the scene and called the Middleboro Police and the Massachusetts Environmental Police who responded to the scene.

Winnett initially denied shooting the bird but when confronted with the evidence, later admitted to investigators that he shot the hawk with a .38 caliber handgun. At that time, Winnett did have a permit for the gun, which has since been revoked by the Middleboro Police Department.

Investigators collected the firearm and the carcass of the red-tailed hawk which Winnett had thrown into the woods. An autopsy of the bird confirmed that it was killed by a gunshot.

During the course of the case, Winnett argued that he was merely defending his chickens which, he claimed, were being attacked by the hawk. But the court ruled last week in a written decision that a defense of property argument was not available to Winnett under federal law and that there are other legal methods available to him to provide protection for his chickens.

Judge Collings set sentencing for September 3, 2003. Winnett faces up to six months' imprisonment, to be followed by one year of supervised release, and a $15,000 fine.

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