Stories tagged pollution


Pollution exchange: photo from  Wikimedia Commons
Pollution exchange: photo from Wikimedia Commons

Marketing pollution on the Chicago Climate Exchange

Most people will agree that something needs to be done about the pollution and greenhouse gasses resulting from our consumption of petrochemicals. One solution would be to encourage reducing emmissions by financially rewarding those that meet their quotas and penalize those that don't.

How it works

To illustrate, the American Electric Power's Mountaineer coal plant is America's single largest emitter of greenhouse gases - sending as much out from its stacks as Canada.

Last year the Mountaineer plant generated 10.5 million megawatt-hours of electricity, and a corresponding 8.6 million tons of CO2e. That would make its emissions, in CCX terms, a $39 million cost. If improvements yield just a 1 percent cut, the plant has almost $400,000 of emissions to sell. Looked at another way, the emissions are suddenly 20 percent of the cost of Mountaineer's fuel. CNN Money

The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) is the world’s first and North America’s only voluntary, legally binding greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and trading system for emission sources and offset projects in North America and Brazil. Members make a voluntary but legally binding commitment to reduce GHG emissions.

By the end of Phase I (December, 2006) all Members will have reduced direct emissions 4% below a baseline period of 1998-2001.Phase II, which extends the CCX reduction program through 2010, will require all Members to reduce GHG emissions 6% below baseline. CCX website about page

AEP Mountaineer plant uses the CCX in three ways. If its emissions are below its allowance, it can sell the difference, meaning the company has an incentive to emit as little as possible. If it needs to emit more, it can buy the difference from another member. Or AEP can invest in an offset program - say, planting carbon-sucking trees - that would earn the company new credits. The goal of the CCX is to create a market for pollution that, in effect, becomes a mechanism for reducing it.

The cost to pollute has doubled in six months

The currency at the Chicago Climate Exchange is a Carbon Financial Instrument contract, otherwise known as a CFI contract. One CFI contract is equal to 100 metric tons of CO2. The price of a CFI unit was less than $1 in 2004, rose to $1.75 in Jan. 2006, and now (Aug) are over $4.

To see what Europe is doing

go to European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS)


Scientists at the Max Plank Institute in Germany have discovered that living trees are a major source of methane in the Earth's atmosphere. Methane is a major "greenhouse gas," implicated in global warming.

Trees and sun: Trees and sun

Before this study, scientists thought plants only released small amounts of methane, and then only when they decomposed (as in swamps). The new research shows that plants release methane throughout their lives, and in large amounts—up to 30% or more of the planet's total methane production may come from plants.

This forces us to re-think environmental efforts. Strategies for dealing with climate change, such as the Kyoto Protocols, often call for planting more trees. And it's true that trees do take a lot of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere—the most prevalent greenhouse gas. But now it turns out trees also release methane, so their benefit is not quite as great as once thought.


In August 1995, schoolchildren found deformed frogs in a wetland near Henderson, Minnesota. Some frogs had extra legs, others no legs at all. Some had missing or extra eyes, toes, or feet. And some also had problems with their internal organs. By the fall of 1996, there were over 200 reports of freakish frogs, from two-thirds of Minnesota's counties. Deformed frogs have since been found in 44 states.

Deformed frog: This frog has two right back legs. Others have been found with missing legs, missing parts of legs, or legs in unexpected places.
Deformed frog: This frog has two right back legs. Others have been found with missing legs, missing parts of legs, or legs in unexpected places.Courtesy Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

A 1997 study raised frogs in the lab, mixing pure water with water from two Minnesota sites that had lots of deformed frogs. The more pond water that was used, the more likely the lab frogs were to be deformed. Water from sites with healthy frogs produced healthy animals in the lab. The scientific conclusion was, "There's something in the water." But what could it be? Since then, several researchers have been hunting for the cause.

Scientists have proposed several explanations for the deformities. It may be parasites, chemicals, ultraviolet light, or some combination of the three. Lab studies have shown that all of these factors, alone or in combination, can cause some deformities. But no single cause seems to explain it all. The research doesn't yet add up to a neat and tidy answer, so scientists continue to puzzle out the story.

Who cares about frogs? You should. If there's something wrong with the water, it may eventually hurt all of us. But it will hurt frogs first. Frogs have thin skins, and easily absorb any contaminants in the water. Frogs seem to be in trouble all around the world. There are more and more reports of deformities. And some species have disappeared, or no longer live in their old habitats. It's a wide-spread problem that may affect us all.