Environmental News: Cooking Oil Powers Qantas Aircraft; Chickens on Prozac, Caffeine

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By Green Times | April 16, 2012 9:38 AM EST

Green Times

Cooking oil powers Qantas aircraft

A Qantas flight between Sydney and Adelaide today is using a 50-50 mix of conventional fuel and refined cooking oil. The biofuel costs far more than conventional fuel, partly due to its importation from the United States. But Qantas says it is absorbing the one-off cost because it is keen to highlight the need for an Australian biofuel source, at a time when airlines and passengers around the world are dealing with high jet fuel and carbon emission costs. John Valastro of Qantas says the flight is a commercial first in Australia. "It's actually really significant because it's the first commercial flight to be powered by sustainable aviation fuel in Australia and that's a big step for this country," he said. He says the flight will produce far less carbon emissions than if conventional jet fuel were used. "We're talking about a 60 per cent reduction in the overall life cycle of the fuel, so that's a substantial improvement," he said. The biofuel component of the fuel used for the flight is from refined cooking oil. Biofuels are sometimes criticised for cutting into potential food supplies but Qantas says it has used a product that is not a food crop. The oil came from and was refined in Houston before it was shipped to Australia. It has cost more than four times an equivalent flight using normal fuel, partly because of the shipping distance involved. But Mr Valastro says passengers are not paying a surcharge. "We're actually using this opportunity to highlight what needs to be done, getting people on board," he said.

  New Research Finds Chickens Fed Caffeine, Prozac, Arsenic...

A new study researching the types of chemicals fed to the chickens we eat is alarming enough to make even the most devout meat eaters cringe. While it's already recognized that chickens are sometimes fed arsenic, this new research has also found a cocktail of drugs such as banned antibiotics, Prozac, and caffeine. The researchers originally began testing the chickens just for banned antibiotics, but expanded to look for other substances because it didn't cost more to do. The results even had their minds blown. The researchers tested the chicken's feathers, which accumulate traces of chemicals similar to how human nails or hair strands do. They found small traces of caffeine, acetominophen, antihistamines, arsenic, and even Prozac in chickens imported from China. They also found fluroquinolones, an antibiotic that's banned due to its overuse helping to cause antibiotic resistant superbugs. Prozac was apparently fed to chickens because the more stress a chicken has, the tougher its meat will be. The brutal and harsh environments of factory farms often leave chickens nervous and distressed. These chickens were also fed green tea powder and coffee pulp to help them stay awake longer so they eat more food and plump up faster. It seems to me that if you don't want to consume these things, go for organic chicken, but the best plan might be to give up chicken altogether! Do findings like this tend to impact your food choices?

  Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapse Linked To Ancient 'Mega Flood'

By Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience Staff Writer: Dramatic warming at the end of the last ice age produced an intense rise in sea level and a massive ice sheet collapse in the Antarctic. The sea level rise is known as Melt-Water Pulse 1A, and new research indicates it increased sea level by about 45 feet (14 meters) sometime between 14,650 and 14,310 years ago, during the same time as a period of rapid climate change known as the Bølling warming. Understanding the impacts of earlier warming and sea-level rise is important for predicting the effects of future warming. "It is vital that we look into Earth's geological past to understand rare but high-impact events, such as the collapse of giant ice sheets that occurred 14,600 years ago," study researcher Alex Thomas of Oxford University said in a statement. "Our work gives a window onto an extreme event in which deglaciation coincided with a dramatic and rapid rise in global sea levels - an ancient 'mega flood.'" During this period, "sea level rose more than ten times more quickly than it is rising now," Thomas said, with the rising seas resulting from melting ice sheets that had formed during the ice age. "This is an excellent test bed for climate models: If they can reproduce this extraordinary event, it will improve confidence that they can also predict future change accurately." The expedition brought the scientists off the coast of Tahiti to collect fossilized coral cores going back thousands of years. "Tahiti is located at a sufficiently considerable distance from the major former ice sheets to give us close to the average of sea levels across the globe, as a non-volcanic island it is also subsiding into the ocean at a steady pace that we can easily adjust for," study researcher Pierre Deschamps, of the Centre Européen de Recherche et d'Enseignement des Géosciences de l'Environnement, said in a statement. The researchers used radioactive dating and species analysis of the coral samples to reconstruct the rise in sea level over the last deglaciation. Different species of corals live at different depths, so by analyzing the coral makeup in cores and comparing that with the coral's age, researchers can get an idea of the sea level during those time periods. "Corals are outstanding archives to reconstruct past sea-level changes as they can be dated to within plus or minus 30 years stretching back thousands of years," Deschamps said. They found that the sea level rose about 45 feet (14 meters) in less than 350 years. To figure out where all that water came from, the researchers compared sea-level rise in Tahiti with previous measurements of sea-level rise for the same time period in Barbados. With the two islands showing similar rises in sea level, the researchers say the water must have come from the Antarctic ice sheet. If the water had come from the Laurentide ice sheet, which covered a large area of North America during the Ice Age (the other main theory), there would have been a sea-level rise of about 40 percent less in Barbados due to its location, the researchers said.

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