Category Archives: Publications

3 magic words to mute ‘sustainababble’

The latest P2 Impact column is now available at John Mulrow of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center explains how three magic words can mute “sustainababble” and clarify the progress that organizations are making to become more sustainable.

Read previous P2 Impact columns at


The Emerging Arctic: A CRF InfoGuide Presentation

Download the document.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has released a new interactive guide examining the economic opportunities and environmental risks emerging in the Arctic. Climate change, technological advances, and a growing demand for natural resources are driving a new era of development in the Arctic region. Many experts assert that Arctic summers could be free of sea ice in a matter of decades, opening the region up to hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, most notably in energy production and shipping.

But the region’s warming will also bring new security and environmental complications, particularly for the five Arctic Ocean coastal states—the United States, Russia, Denmark (Greenland), Canada, and Norway…

The “Emerging Arctic” InfoGuide includes:

  • an overview video with insights from Scott Borgerson, CEO, CargoMetrics and Cofounder, Arctic Circle; Michael Byers; Heather Conley, senior fellow and director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Marlene Laruelle, research professor of international affairs at George Washington University;
  • a timeline highlighting commercial, political, and environmental milestones in the Arctic;
  • infographics detailing the region’s demographics, oil and gas potential, and ships and shipping routes;
  • an interactive diagram showing the intersecting affiliations of Arctic Council member states; and
  • policy options for a stable and sustainable future in the Arctic.
  • an interactive map showcasing the receding sea ice, regional oil and gas resources, areas of diplomatic dispute, seasonal shipping routes, and the five Arctic Ocean coastal states

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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Climate change, Publications


Unlikely Pesticides Found in Alaskan Fish

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Alaskan fish are showing traces of pesticides that likely were never used in the state, according to new research.

A study by the National Park Service found the chemicals in fish at three Alaska parks — Lake Clark National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Katmai National Park. The contaminants are carried from distant points on atmospheric currents, then brought down to earth with precipitation.

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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Ecotoxicology, Publications, Wildlife


A few “problem wells” source of greenhouse gas

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

High levels of the greenhouse gas methane were found above shale gas wells at a production point not thought to be an important emissions source, according to a study jointly led by Purdue and Cornell universities. The findings could have implications for the evaluation of the environmental impacts from natural gas production.

The study, which is one of only a few to use a so-called “top-down” approach that measures methane gas levels in the air above wells, identified seven individual well pads with high emission levels and established their stage in the shale-gas development process.


IPCC: Mitigating climate change more challenging than ever

Read the full post at Science Insider.

Global greenhouse emissions are skyrocketing. Emissions cuts required to avoid dangerous impacts of climate change are steep. And despite decades of talk, world governments have made paltry efforts to address the problem.

That’s the grim picture painted by a major report on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


Petroleum Refining: Industry’s Outlook Depends on Market Changes and Key Environmental Regulations

Petroleum Refining: Industry’s Outlook Depends on Market Changes and Key Environmental Regulations. GAO-14-249, March 14.
Highlights -

What GAO Found

Stakeholders GAO contacted and information reviewed by GAO identified the following three major changes that have recently affected the domestic petroleum refining industry:

Increased production. U.S. and Canadian crude oil production have increased, leading to lower costs of crude oil for some refiners. After generally declining for decades, monthly U.S. crude oil production increased over 55 percent compared with average production in 2008.

Declining consumption. Domestic consumption of petroleum products declined by 11 percent from 2005 through 2012, resulting in a smaller domestic market for refiners.

Key regulations. Two key regulations—the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Department of Transportation’s (DOT) coordinated fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) vehicle emission standards, as well as EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—have contributed to declining petroleum-based fuel consumption. For some refiners, compliance with the RFS increased costs in the first half of 2013, though costs have since declined to some degree from their peak. According to some stakeholders GAO contacted, this was primarily due to RFS requirements exceeding the capability of the transportation fuel infrastructure to distribute and the fleet of vehicles to use renewable fuels. Moreover, EPA has missed the statutory deadline to issue regulations establishing annual RFS blending standards since 2009. EPA has not systematically identified the underlying causes of these delays or changed its approach in order to avoid them. A late RFS contributes to industry uncertainty, which can increase costs because industry cannot plan and budget effectively, according to some stakeholders.

Stakeholders GAO contacted and information reviewed generally suggested that the U.S. refining industry’s outlook depends on the following factors:

Domestic consumption. Future consumption of petroleum products is uncertain, with projections ranging from stable to slightly increasing through 2020 but not returning to consumption levels of the past. Forecasts GAO reviewed suggest higher future refinery production in scenarios with higher domestic consumption.

Costs of key regulations . The extent to which requirements in the key regulations increase costs for refiners will affect the industry’s outlook. For example, future costs to comply with RFS may depend on the annual renewable fuel volumes EPA sets and whether EPA issues annual RFS standards on time. In general, increasing costs may be absorbed by refiners (i.e., by reducing their profits), be passed on to consumers through higher prices, or both.

Foreign markets. The U.S. refining industry has increasingly relied on foreign markets. Exports grew from 7 percent of production in 2007 to 17 percent in 2012. The extent to which domestic refiners export their products will depend on the competitiveness of U.S. refiners. Factors that may affect competitiveness include domestic environmental regulations, levels of U.S. and Canadian crude oil production, and the balance between global refining capacity and demand for petroleum products.


Why GAO Did This Study

The U.S. petroleum refining industry—the largest refining industry in the world—experienced a period of high product prices and industry profits from the early 2000s through about 2007. Since the recession of 2007 to 2009, the industry has been in transition.

Federal and state agencies regulate petroleum refining and the use of petroleum products to protect human health and the environment, as well as for other purposes. EPA, DOT, and California recently proposed or strengthened five key regulations, including EPA and DOT’s coordinated fuel economy and GHG vehicle emission standards, and EPA’s RFS, which has required that refiners and others ensure transportation fuels include increasing amounts of renewable fuels such as ethanol produced from corn.

GAO was asked to provide information on the domestic petroleum refining industry. This report examines: (1) major changes that have recently affected the industry and (2) the future of the industry. GAO reviewed information including studies by agencies and consultants and company financial filings; interviewed stakeholders, including agency officials and representatives of refiners and environmental organizations; and reviewed forecasts by the Energy Information Administration and others.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that EPA identify the underlying causes of delays in issuing RFS standards and implement a plan to issue RFS standards on time. EPA generally agreed with GAO’s findings and recommendations.

For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or

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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Oil and gas industry, Publications


ISTC releases five new case studies

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center recently published five new case studies. They are:

Governor’s Sustainability Award Case Studies

E3 Case Study

Zero Waste Case Studies

Browse the ISTC’s complete case study collection and other publications on the website and in the ISTC community on IDEALS, the University of Illinois’ institutional repository.


Energy breakthrough uses sun to create solar energy materials

Read the full story from Oregon State University.

Researchers have discovered a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power, but also to directly produce the solar energy materials that make this possible. This breakthrough could make the sun almost a ‘one-stop shop’ that produces both the materials for solar devices and the eternal energy to power them.

Citation for the research paper: Peter B. Kreider, Ki-Joong Kim, Chih-Hung Chang. “Two-step continuous-flow synthesis of CuInSe2 nanoparticles in a solar microreactor.” RSC Advances, 2014; 4 (27): 13827 DOI: 10.1039/C4RA00467A

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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Publications, Solar


Studies: Efficiency still the cheapest energy resource

Read the full story in Midwest Energy News.

Energy efficiency remains far cheaper – especially in the Midwest – than investing in additional generation.

That’s the case even in states where a long history of energy-efficiency has pushed up the cost of squeezing out additional savings.

Those are among the findings of two recently-published studies, one by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), the other by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Energy efficiency, Publications


Computer models soybean crop with 8.5 percent more productivity, using 13 percent less water

Read the full story from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Crops that produce more while using less water seem like a dream for a world with a burgeoning population and already strained resources. This dream is closer to reality for researchers who developed a new computer model to help plant scientists breed better soybean crops. The model predicts a soybean crop with 8.5 percent more productivity, but using 13 percent less water, by breeding for slightly different leaf distribution, angles and reflectivity.

Citation for the research paper: Darren T. Drewry, Praveen Kumar, Stephen P. Long. “Simultaneous improvement in productivity, water use, and albedo through crop structural modification.” Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12567

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Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Agriculture, Publications, Water


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