Thursday, April 24, 2008

DOE is Finally Getting the Idea

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the issuance of a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for up to $7 million in federal funding over two years (FY 2008 - 2009) for advanced research and development in converting non-food based biomass to advanced biofuels. Combined with a requirement for private minimum funding of at least 20%, approximately $8.5 million would be invested in this research effort.
Last month, DOE announced two Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA), valued up to $14 million, to better integrate the United States’ universities into DOE’s nuclear research and development (R&D) programs; and contribute to assuring a new generation of engineers and scientists necessary for pursuing nuclear power - a safe, reliable, affordable and emissions-free source of energy. These FOAs support the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) University Readiness and the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative for Consortia (NERI-C). These new awards will bring total Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 funding to universities that support nuclear energy programs to over $54 million.
Last May, DOE announced funding for companies to develop storage solutions, manufacturing approaches, and new system concepts for large-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) plants in hopes of reaching a target of 5-7 ¢/kWh by 2020. This would result in a savings of 36-80 million tons of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere each year relative to coal plants of similar capacity.
Clearly, the United States is not sitting on its laurels waiting for someone else to come up with clean, safe alternative energy sources for our future.
Once the path has been made clear and the door has been opened to a reliable source of renewable energy to wean us off of foreign oil then all of the other pieces of natural energy, i.e., wind power, solar power, wave power, etc, will all fall into place.
In the meantime, DOE is still pursuing exploration and production of domestic resources of natural gas and oil. It is hopeful that very soon a major break-through in alternative research will occur which will alleviate the need for further extraction of gas and oil from geographically challenging areas in such places as offshore deepwater locations and within our national parks.
Now, if only they would halt the misguided and inappropriate use of food crops for biofuel while we research other sources maybe our food prices will come back down.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

From Green Roofing to Vertical Farming

Green roofs, eco-roofs, vegetated roofs, or living roofs, whatever you want to call them are becoming trendy commercial building additions in many parts of the world.
This photo of a re-creation of Viking houses in Newfoundland illustrates the use of grass as a building feature that helped maintain a comfortable living environment year-round. Plus it was readily available and cheap. But this was on buildings many centuries ago.

Today, we have commercial buildings such as this one in Fukuoka, Japan. This building, designed by architects Emilio Ambasz & Associates, houses offices, retail space, a 2,000 seat theater and a museum. Home to 35,000 plants, the ‘living’ roof greatly reduces the amount of energy required to heat and cool the building occupants. For more views of this building click here.

The Hundertwasser house (Forest Spiral), built in Darmstadt, Austria between 1998 and 2000 was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the famous Austrian architect and painter, who was widely renowned for his revolutionary, colorful architectural designs which incorporate irregular, organic forms, e.g. and onion-shaped domes. The structure houses 105 apartments that wraps around a landscaped courtyard with a running stream.

Canada’s largest green roof, Vancouver’s Convention and Exhibition Center, is currently under construction. It is expected to be completed in 2009 and will host the international media and broadcast center in the 2010 Winter Olympics. At a cost of over 850 million dollars the cost of this mammoth undertaking is being viewed by some Vancouver residents as excessive saying the money should, instead, go towards housing and feeding the poor.

One of the world’s largest green roof is in the USA, at Ford Motor Company's River Rouge Plant, Dearborn, Michigan, where 42,000 square meters (454,000 ft²) of assembly plant roofs are covered with sedum and other plants. Other well-known American examples include Chicago’s City Hall and the Gap headquarters in San Bruno, CA. Recently, the American Society of Landscape Architects retrofitted their existing headquarters building in Washington, D.C. with a green roof designed by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh. The cities of Chicago, Atlanta and Portland, Ore. also boast numerous green roofs.
This photo of the green roof Mountain Equipment Co-op in Toronto Canada is a prime example of mixing beauty with functionality to city rooftops.

Switzerland has one of Europe's oldest green roofs, created in 1914 at the Moos lake water-treatment plant, Wallishofen, Zürich. Its filter-tanks have 30,000 square meters (320,000 ft²) of flat concrete roofs. To keep the interior cool and prevent bacterial growth in the filtration beds, a drainage layer of gravel and a 15 cm (6 in) layer of soil was spread over the roofs, which had been waterproofed with asphalt. A meadow developed from seeds already present in the soil; it is now a haven for many plant species, some of which are now otherwise extinct in the district, most notably 6,000 Orchis morio (green-winged orchid). More recent Swiss examples can be found at Klinikum 1 and Klinikum 2, the Cantonal Hospitals of Basel, and the Sihlpost platform at Zürich's main railway station.
Green roofing represents the next step in the growing evolution for more sustainable struwctures. Commercial structures that can collect and reuse rainwater to better manage stormwater runoff can avoid the need for expensive underground sand filters. They also combat the urban heat island effect of traditional building materials that soak up the sun’s radiation and re-emit it as heat, making cities at least 4 degrees Celsius (7 °F) hotter than surrounding areas. Here, Atlanta Georgia’s City Hall is covered with vegetation and soil creating energy savings as well as aesthetic benefits.
Rooftop water purification is also being implemented in green roofs. These forms of green roofs can actually have ponds built onto the rooftops. They are built either from a simple substrate (as being done in Dongtan China) or with plant-based ponds (as being done by WaterWorks UK Grow System).
Green roofs also provide habitat for insects, birds, bees and butterflies. Rooftop greenery complements wild areas by providing "stepping stones" for songbirds, migratory birds and other wildlife facing shortages of natural habitat.
As our natural habitat is replaced by urban development with its impenetrable asphalt and concrete surfaces, wildlife is being relentlessly pushed into smaller habitats. This results in food and shelter becoming less abundant and therefore their numbers are dwindling. Reintroducing green spaces into the environment has several other benefits for both humans and wildlife. The already mentioned benefits of stormwater management, energy conservation, mitigation of the urban heat island effect, are coupled with increased longevity of roofing membranes, as well as providing a more aesthetically pleasing environment in which to work and live. The construction and maintenance of green roofs provide business opportunities for nurseries, landscape contractors, irrigation specialists, and other green industry members while addressing the issues of environmental stewardship.
The next evolution in green roofs is rooftop farming, or sky farming. If you can grow grass and flowers on the roof, why not grow food?
Traditional indoor gardening facilities (factory greenhouses) designed to produce what used to be considered seasonal food crops year-round have sprung up in Japan, Scandinavia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada. These are all single-story buildings. The time for a new direction in indoor farming has come. Vertical farming, stacking multiple layers of farm acreage into towers to provide fresh food crops to urbanites which simultaneously cuts down on transportation costs of getting the produce to market.
With earth’s population approaching the apex beyond which we can no longer produce enough food to sustain it, vertical farming is a theoretical construct whose time has come. It is predicted that food prices will increase dramatically over the next year due to food shortages. Already we have seen the effect of higher food prices artificially created by the misguided reapportioning of food crops to biofuel production. The spike in oil prices has pushed up fertilizer prices, as well as the cost of trucking food from farms to local markets and shipping it abroad. Climate change seriously disrupt harvests by freak weather, including prolonged droughts in Australia and southern Africa, floods in West Africa, and this past winter's deep frost in China and record-breaking warmth in northern Europe.
Vertical farming can address these issues and others. One self-sustaining vertical farm taking up one square city block and rising up 30 stories could provide enough nutrition to feed 10,000 people, utilizing currently technology. The building could also produce a net output of clean water and energy. Estimates show that 150 such buildings would be required to feed the entire city of New York for a year. However, we still need research in many areas to produce the greater yield that is going to be required to make these structures financially viable. According to experts, additional research in hydrobiology, engineering, industrial microbiology, plant and animal genetics, architecture and design, public health, waste management, physics, and urban planning, are needed to make this increase possible.
Architects have designed some very promising structures to help meet the expected need. Here Daekwon Park designed what is called a Symbiotic Interlock system of modular, prefabricated units that are attached to the outside of existing highrise buildings. The system of stackable modules add an extra layer of infrastructure to existing buildings via sky docks and bridges, vertical gardens, cultural spaces, and energy producing wind turbines. It addresses some of the shortcomings of green roofs by internalizing green environments within its biomorphic structure while contributing functionality, energy, and food.

Architect Pierre Sartoux of Atelier SOA designed this vertical farming skyscraper. A light-shading skin wraps around the structure and opens to admit sunlight at particular locations for various functional (and aesthetic) purposes. The building’s air, heating and cooling systems are wind-driven and circulate oxygen and carbon dioxide between growing and living spaces. The simple but reinforced structure is designed to handle additional dead loads from the weight of growing floors and also serve to make the entire building more durable (and thus sustainable).
In a different direction we go below the busy streets of Tokyo, just steps from the subway system, where you can find Pasona O2, an indoor urban farm where vegetables, rice, flowers and herbs flourish under fluorescent lights and LEDs in an environment that is almost entirely chemical-free. In a basement that was once a bank-vault, plants are cultivated and nourished hydroponically using nutrient-enhanced water instead of natural soil. Temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels are all controlled by computers. This kind of tank-farming makes it possible to grow plants rapidly, all year round, by maintaining an optimal balance of nutrients.
Shanghai has also moved its greenery below ground. Shu Yu, deputy director of the Shanghai Urban Underground Space Development Institute, has revealed that local architects are working on developing China’s first underground park. Architects will landscape one of Shanghai’s existing underground shopping malls or pedestrian walkthroughs and complete the park in three years. The park is set to cover hundreds of square meters and eventually look like a small forest with winding streams. Can farming be far behind?
Moving onto the waterways running through cities is another adventure in farming. The Science Barge is a sustainable urban farm designed by New York Sun Works, a Manhattan-based environmental nonprofit organization. Situated atop a floating ‘barge’ greenhouse powered by solar, wind and biofuels, and irrigated by rainwater and purified river water, the farm grows food in the city with no carbon emissions, no net water consumption, and no waste stream. The vegetables grown on the Science Barge require seven times less land and four times less water than traditional field crops. The center also uses a method called ‘recirculating greenhouse hydroponics’ to grow tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and peppers. No soil or pumped in water is utilized in this cultivation process.
Clearly ingenuity is flowing throughout our society. Hopefully, these new forms of high-tech, urban farming will encourage a new generation of farmers.

Further reading and study:
National Roofing Contractors Association has published a manual providing in-depth information about green roof projects.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

China’s whitewashed green initiative

China plans on shutting down many Beijing-area factories and cement plants for two months beginning in late July as a key part of the effort to clean the city's famously polluted air for the Olympic Games. Sorry China, temporary closures, while all eyes are on you during the Olympics does not count as cleaning up the environment.

Oh but they are planning on banning the use of half the city's 3.5 million vehicles, disallowing spray paint and other harsh chemicals to be used outdoors, closing about one-tenth of the city's gas stations, and halting construction in the Beijing area, which now has about 40 square miles of construction sites. This is only a temporary measure. They are basically going to put the city on hold during the Olympic games.

Their idea of staging “green games” does not involve anything more than to temporarily mothball 19 heavily polluting enterprises, including steel mills, coke plants and refineries. Coal-burning power plants, in China, account for a marked increase in soot, toxic chemicals and other climate-changing gases emitted into the atmosphere last year. In early April, a dense cloud of pollutants over Northern China sailed to nearby Seoul, sweeping along dust and desert sand before wafting across the Pacific. An American satellite spotted the cloud as it crossed the American West Coast.

The increase in global-warming gases from China's coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks.

Sulfur dioxide production threatens the health of China’s citizens, contributing to about 400,000 premature deaths a year. It also causes acid rain that poisons lakes, rivers, forests and crops. Photo courtesy of Chang W. Lee, New York Times.

China uses more coal than the United States, the European Union and Japan combined. Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China that is big enough to serve all the households in Dallas or San Diego.

China has a history of buying cheap and often antiquated equipment from well connected domestic suppliers rather than importing costlier more fuel efficient modern equipment from other industrialized nations that would better serve to help clean up the gases and other pollutants emitted from their coal burning plants.

China is beginning to enjoy the increased access to electricity that until only recently was available for a few hours in the evening for many rural families. Bringing electrical power to hundreds of millions of people will take some time and the quickest and cheapest way to do this is through burning through their abundant supply of coal. Unfortunately, the rest of the world is suffering from the resultant pollution.

Filters near Lake Tahoe in the mountains of eastern California "are the darkest that we've seen" outside smoggy urban areas, said Steven S. Cliff, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California at Davis.

Shutting down a few factories and banning cars from Beijing’s roads may help visitors breathe a little easier during the Olympics but China has a long way to go clean up the air we will all breathe after the Olympics are over.

Driving to save fuel

Here are a few tips I stole from The Good Human, sorry Dave. But they bear repeating and I did give you a plug.

1. Driving 55 vs. 70 mph saves up to 20% more fuel. Use cruise control when appropriate to save even more. (This is a biggy people, slow down and save more than just fuel)

2. Drive consistently. Jackrabbit starts and hard stops burn more gas.

3. Avoid idling. Sitting in the drive-through for 15 minutes for that quarter-pound burger can burn up to a quarter of a gallon of gas. Consider parking and going inside to order. Think about how much that burger ends up costing when you add the cost of the fuel you just burned waiting for it.

4. Chill out. Roll down your windows to cool off in city driving, saving the air conditioner for highway travel, when open windows are a drag - literally - on a vehicle’s aerodynamics.

5. Lighten the load. Carrying extra cargo burns more gas. So take the golf clubs out of the trunk when not hitting the links.

6. Fill up when it’s cool. Early morning or late evening fill-ups generate fewer vapors.

7. Don’t top off the tank. Doing so can result in spilled gasoline, which creates environmental issues. There’s a good reason why the nozzle automatically shuts off, pay attention to it.

8. Use the correct fuel grade. Unless the manufacturer requires it, high-octane gas is a waste of money. The vast majority of engines are not high-performance and therefore you are wasting money on high grade. Read your owners manual.

9. Climb every mountain…but build up speed first, then maintain it on the way up. Coast down to save gas.

10. Remove the roof rack. If you don’t need it, stop wasting gas carrying it around.

11. Get a tune up. A properly tuned engine improves fuel economy by about four percent, according to the EPA. Doesn’t sound like much but it adds up.

12. Replace a dirty air filter. One that is full of dirt, or even marginally dirty, makes the engine work harder and can let impurities damage the engine. Replacing a plugged air filter improves fuel economy by up to 10%. An even bigger saving than tune-ups.

13. Keep your tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can decrease mileage by 3% and can lead to reduced tire life-spans, not to mention decreased stopping ability.

Common sense tips that everyone can do and they all add up to stretching our limited supply of fuel as far as possible. Let’s all do our part.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Parking lot generates its own power

Santa Monica city planners decided it needed to get on the map for something other than golden beaches and a sultry Pacific Ocean coastline, urban walkways and sandy terrain, gourmet cuisine and world-class dining, and first-rate couture and upscale boutiques. This six-story, 882-space structure at the Civic Center is just one of several buildings in Santa Monica that have gained LEED certification. The structure features photovoltaic roof panels, a storm drain water treatment system, recycled construction materials and energy efficient mechanical systems.
The structure’s photovoltaic panels -- which cost $1.5 million -- will pay for themselves in 17 years by generating $90,000 a year in electricity,” said Craig Perkins, director of Environmental and Public Works Management for the City.
The building was designed by International Parking Design, Inc with Moore, Ruble, Yudell.
The City of Santa Monica is getting serious about encouraging green building practices by passing an ordinance that will allow expedited plan checks for LEED registered projects and offering a grant program to encourage construction of LEED certified buildings and implementation of Innovative Green Building Technologies.
Santa Monica leads the world in LEED certified building per capita.
This low income single-occupancy housing project will be one of the first urban buildings of its type in the US that is 100% energy independent, using solar energy and natural gas powered microturbines.

The Public Safety combines police and fire department headquarters in a 117,000 square foot building. The building performs 36% better than California Title 24 energy efficiency regulations. It is the first City building designed to qualify for USGBC's LEED Silver certification.

The Santa Monica main library was designed to integrate many energy efficiency, water efficiency, and indoor environmental quality features. It is was expected to be LEED Silver certified, but in the end achieved the higher Gold Level certification.

The Natural Resource Defense Council completed their West Coast Headquarters in the downtown area of Santa Monica. It is designed to qualify for the Platinum rating under the LEED certification program which is extremely difficult to attain. The building includes daylighting, solar photovoltaics, and an onsite greywater treatment and reuse facility.

The Civic Center Parking Structure is the first building of its kind to be LEED-Certified. The building combines needed parking capacity with retail space in a structure that will serve as an aesthetic entryway to the City from the I-10 freeway. Some notable features are the photovoltaic panels on the roof and the public art incorporated into the design of the building.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Is global warming a conspiracy

There’s an undertow to global warming today concerning scientists who don’t believe global warming is as big of a threat to humanity as is the general consensus.
In the vast global warming arena, hurricane building is one method scientists use to debate global warming’s impact.
William Gray, the well-known Colorado State University hurricane forecaster, routinely uses the annual National Hurricane Conference as a platform to bash global warming. Gray argues that the scientific consensus on global warming is bogus — and "a mild form of McCarthyism has developed toward those scientists who do not agree" that mankind is in danger.
He basically derides anyone who portrays global warming as a doomsday scenario to be alarmists and charlatans out to brainwash our children.
In the pre-Inconvenient Truth days global warming was a topic discussed mainly among environmental hobbyists and a few scientists. Since then it has become the number one threat to all mankind.
Is global warming the harbinger of Earth’s final days? And does mankind have anything to do with hastening its arrival?
Al Gore is not a scientist, he does however possess the ability to marry climate change science with fears of climate change to produce a very effective piece of documentary film work that has garnered a huge following.
Casting Al Gore as the unchallenged guru of climate change is dangerous and disingenuous to true scientific discipline. It represents the lazy mans way of scientific study.
In this day of quick and easy access to an overwhelming amount of data on any subject, we tend to search for and more readily accept easily digestible packets that best match our view of the world. Access to widespread distribution allows for quicker dissemination of popular ideas which are then, too often, taken for fact. When you invest your belief system in what later turns out to be erroneous facts you begin to question your ability to determine what is real or fiction.
At the risk of being labeled a climate change contrarian, I will state that environmentalist want to believe that mankind is the evil doer in the climate change scenario. Climate change has been taking place since the earth was created. I will not dismiss human-kinds effect on climate change, I just want to go on record that the human connection to climate change has not yet been definitively defined. I am certain there are other mitigating factors of which I am sure humans have some link to but we are not alone in bringing about global warming. Nor do I believe we will come to an end as a result of it.
We need more proof before buying into what amounts to be a conspiracy theory of which every human has unwittingly taken part.
Science has been stumbling through theories about the climate since a Swedish scientist published, in 1896, the new idea that as humanity burned fossil fuels such as coal, which added carbon dioxide gas to the Earth's atmosphere, we would raise the planet's average temperature. This process was dubbed "greenhouse effect" and was only one of many speculations about climate, and not the most plausible.
In the early 1970s, the rise of environmentalism raised public awareness of the effects of human activity on the planet. Curiosity soon turned into anxious concern. Alongside the greenhouse effect, some scientists pointed out that human activity was putting dust and smog particles into the atmosphere, where they could block sunlight and cool the world. Analysis of Northern Hemisphere weather statistics showed that a cooling trend had begun in the 1940s. This contradiction in scientific findings led to a division in public opinion, those who believed we were headed toward major flooding of coastal area as the ice caps melted versus the school of thought that the Earth was about to enter a catastrophic new ice age.
Climate is a vastly intricate system that responds to many influences, such as variations in the heat of the sun, volcanoes erupting clouds of smoke, subtle changes in Earth’s orbit, and even the raising and lowering of mountain ranges which divert wind patterns and ocean currents. These changes are subtle and beyond man’s control, but they do have an influence on the climate. To say that mankind’s influence on the climate overshadows any of these naturally occurring phenomena is simply placing too great an importance on mankind’s ability.
We can of course minimize our own influence but that would require a Herculean effort to get everyone to act as one and truly, when has that ever happened? Not a very likely scenario is it? Scientists cannot even get organized enough to give us a single answer to the cause of global warming because there are simply too many influences. How could we possibly come up with a solution to reverse the global warming trend?
So, why do we put so much faith in one man who is not even a scientist or an expert in the field of climatology?
Perhaps if scientists could all pool their money and create a flashy documentary film that would show climate change to be a good thing and tirelessly push it on the talk circuit the rest of us would relax enough to live our lives and not worry so much about that which we truly have so little control over.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Biofuel Update: ALGAE

One of the latest attempts at creating a biofuel source has been with algae. Algae are among the fastest growing plants in the world, and about 50 percent of their weight is oil. That lipid oil can be used to make biodiesel for cars, trucks, and airplanes.
A company in Texas, Valcent Products, has created an algae greenhouse to harvest this green fuel that many believe will help ease our dependence on fossil fuel.

Instead of growing algae in ponds, Vlacent uses a closed loop bioreactor system that can produce algae over an extended period. Using long rows of moving plastics bags exposes a larger surface area to the suns rays thereby growing more algae in less space. The system is expected to produce about 100,000 gallons of algae oil a year per acre, compared to about 30 gallons per acre from corn; 50 gallons from soybeans.
More than one type of algae
There are currently 65,000 known algae species, with perhaps hundreds of thousands more still to be identified and researchers are convinced they will be able to target the exact species of algae most perfectly suited to whatever end product is desired. One species may be best suited for jet fuel, while the oil content of another may be more efficient for truck diesel.
Algae as a food source
Seaweeds, e.g., the kelps (kombu) and the red algae Porphyra (nori), have long been used as a source of food, especially in Asia. Both cultivated and naturally growing seaweeds have been harvested in the Pacific Basin for hundreds of years. Kelp are also much used as fertilizer, and kelp ash is used industrially for its potassium and sodium salts. Other useful algae products are agar and carrageen, which is used as a stabilizer in foods, cosmetics, and paints.
Another commercial use is as a health food drink, usually sold as "Spirulina" which claims to increase natural cancer fighting substances in the body.
Algae as a filtering agent
Locating algae facilities next to carbon producing power plants, or manufacturing plants could sequester the C02 they create and use those emissions to help grow the algae, which need the C02 for photosynthesis. An bioreactor built in just the right way can have the added benefit of preventing carbon dioxide emissions, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide, from entering the atmosphere.
A Sonoma State University biology professor and his graduate student have teamed up with the City of Santa Rosa to investigate the potential use of algae to remove excess nutrients and other contaminants from municipal wastewater effluent.
Algae is considered a better alternative to using corn and soybeans as a biofuel due to three factors, one: algae generates more fuel using less acreage, two: the diversion of corn and soybean from food to biofuel use increases the cost of food products, and three: the high agricultural use of nitrogen based fertilizers for corn and soybeans contaminates the water table and eventually runs off into the oceans adding to the already huge Dead Zone.
A decade ago, the U.S. Department of Energy said that after 18 years of study algae oil could never compete economically with fossil fuels. But that was when the price of oil was about $20. With the cost of a barrel of oil over $100 I think its high time we use plants like algae and switchgrass for biofuel sources and keep food crops out of the gas tank.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

American chestnut to heal scars

A few days ago I wrote a post showing the effects of strip mining on some of our most beautiful mountain tops. Since then I learned how some of those scars are merely covered up and how planting American chestnut trees could actually help those scars heal.

The use of the American chestnut is important to note here because a fungus blight that destroyed nearly 3.5 billion of the trees in the early 1900’s decimated the species nearly leaving it extinct. A few surviving trees, recently discovered in Warm Springs Georgia near Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Little White House, grow at the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains in an area known as Pine Mountain.

The federal government has been, for the last 30 years, requiring mining companies to smooth over all scars and seed the area with grass yet nearly 2.7 million open-sore acres still remain. Mining companies have been working to abide by the regulations but recently, federal regulators have begun promoting the planting of chestnuts and other hardwoods to improve drainage, reduce erosion and return the landscape to a more natural state.

In early March, 60 volunteers in a public-private partnership clambered over a coalfield on Zeb Mountain, 50 miles north of Knoxville, Tennessee and planted more than 200 germinated chestnut seeds over a two-acre plot of rocks, boulders and sandstone. The same thing will be done in the coming weeks in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland and Virginia.

Mining companies should not be expected to be environmentalist or have forestry service talents, so working with individuals and organizations that do provide the know how is the best of all possible worlds. The project got its start in 2004, when regulators and university researchers in Appalachia and the mid-Atlantic states formed a network to push for the planting of chestnuts. It joined forces with the American Chestnut Foundation, and the idea soon gained backing from the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and the U.S. Forest Service. Only 300,000 acres are suitable for growing the chestnut so other trees and shrubs are planned.

The blight still lingers, along with the scars, but scientists are hopeful they can develop a blight-resistant hybrid and environmentalists are seeing a more sustainable answer than just planting grass. It is good to see that a collaboration between mining operators and environmentalist and scientist can lead to something meaningful.

300,000 acres down and 2.4 million acres to go.