Extracting biodiesel from poultry carcasses
The project, by Dr John Abraham for his Ph.D, was conducted at the Veterinary College and Research Institute (VC&RI). Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University statistics show that the daily average mortality rate of egg laying chicken is 0.03%. "On an average about 4,000 birds die every day. About 90% of them are disposed of under unhygienic conditions," Dr Abraham noted.
Calculating the annual mortality rate at 12,000,000 birds in this district, Abraham realised the opportunity in the form of extracting fat of dead birds and producing bio-diesel from two different methods. While each bird weighs about 1.5 kg, fat constitutes 14.5% of the bird's weight.
"Of the two methods, solvent extraction method makes it possible to extract 97% of the bird's fat and needs six birds for extracting a litre of diesel. Sixty-three per cent fat extraction is possible through centrifugal method and requires 16 birds for producing the same quantity of diesel," he noted.
"The cost of producing a litre of diesel using centrifugal method is Rs. 35.68 per litre, against the solvent extraction method where it is only Rs. 22 per litre. Every year, 200,000 litres of biodiesel could be produced with layer birds that die in poultry farms in Namakkal through solvent extraction. Establishing a solvent extraction plant costs Rs. 2.5 crore, which is more than establishing a centrifugal plant," he said.
Dr. Abraham added that the bio-diesel could be used as a low-cost blend with diesel at 20% with 80% of diesel, which has been successfully tested and put to use. The quality assessment of bio-diesel from poultry carcass was done at the Center of Excellence in Bio-Fuel at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. TANUVAS has applied for a patent for the processes. Courtesy: The Hindu.
Millions for nation's first offshore wind farm at risk
As it seeks investors, a project off the Massachusetts coast that aims to be the nation's first offshore wind farm must reach fast-approaching benchmarks or risk missing out on hundreds of millions in critical funding.
To qualify for a tax credit that would cover a major portion of its capital costs, Cape Wind either must begin construction by Dec. 31 or prove it's incurred tens of millions of dollars in costs by then.
Also, a $200 million investment — the only one of a specific dollar amount Cape Wind has announced — is conditioned on whether developers can fully finance the rest of the project by year's end.
With less than two months until the deadline, Cape Wind isn't publicly discussing financing efforts. It also has yet to start on-site construction and isn't detailing how it can qualify for the tax credit, only that it expects to.
Even if Cape Wind fails to qualify, spokesman Mark Rodgers said, "We will move this project forward, we will secure financing and we will construct the project."
The 130-turbine, $2.6 billion Cape Wind project was proposed for Nantucket Sound in 2001 and touted as a large, clean energy source near a high-demand coastal area. It's been delayed by a thick bureaucracy and opponents who say the project will ruin the sound and threaten wildlife and maritime traffic.
Cape Wind has sold about three-quarters of its planned power output to two local utilities and aims to be producing power for homes and businesses in Massachusetts by 2015.
First, it must continue to lock down what financing it has and get more of it.
Of two major federal tax subsidies available to renewable energy projects, Rodgers said Cape Wind is pursuing one, an investment tax credit, which could cover a hefty 30 percent of its capital construction costs.
But to qualify for the credit, the project must have begun construction by Dec. 31. Alternatively, Cape Wind can qualify if developers incur 5 percent of the wind farm's cost by year's end.
If the project doesn't qualify for the credit, Cape Wind would be left to fill a huge financing hole. And under its deals with the utilities, failure to obtain the credit would increase the starting price of its power from 20 cents per kilowatt hour to 22.7 cents, with 3.5 percent annual increases.
It's unclear how that would impact the average utility customer's bill. But estimates when the utilities struck their deals (and Cape Wind's starting price was projected at a lower 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour) indicated their average ratepayers would pay about $1 to $1.50 extra per month for Cape Wind's power.
Any further bump in price is sure to inflame critics, who frequently note that Cape Wind's power is far more expensive than other energy sources, including more than double that of land wind.
Though Cape Wind hasn't started erecting turbines in Nantucket Sound, IRS regulations provide other ways to qualify as having begun construction, said Arnold Grant, a tax law expert at Reed Smith, which helps develop renewable energy projects but isn't tied to Cape Wind.
For instance, if an offshore wind farm's turbine supplier is doing significant work off-site, that can count toward having begun construction.
Grant also said meeting the 5 percent costs milestone doesn't even require the company to spend the money by Dec. 31. The delivery of goods from a large equipment contract, for example, can help a company meet the threshold, even the company hasn't paid the contract by year's end.
The bottom line, Grant said, is that companies looking to qualify for the investment tax credit can usually figure it out.
"The rules are out there. You need to satisfy them, but there are different ways of doing it," he said.
Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a Cape Wind opponent, said the fact construction hasn't started in the sound speaks to Cape Wind's slow progress, whether it gets the credit or not.
"They can't begin physical construction in Nantucket Sound, so any other means of wasting taxpayer money on Cape Wind would be obtained through a loophole," Parker said.
It may be a steeper climb for Cape Wind to secure more than $2 billion in financing by year's end to meet the conditions of the Danish pension fund PensionDanmark's $200 million investment.
Even if PensionDanmark comes through with a commitment, the project appears well short of the needed financing, said Parker. Cape Wind is pursuing a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, but it's unknown when a decision will be made Parker said she doubts Cape Wind can be financed without it.
Oregon's brown pelicans may starve after crash in West Coast sardine population
Scientists and conservation groups are worried the crash in West Coast sardines that has triggered deep cutbacks in commercial fishing is also starving brown pelicans that feed off California, Oregon and Washington.
Federal budget cuts have left scientists unable to do the research to figure out exactly what is going on. But the bits and pieces emerging don't look good.
"Prey availability for the pelican is definitely something we are concerned about, and we are making efforts to come up to speed ourselves along with other resource agencies," said Jeff Phillips, deputy assistant field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura, Calif. "We are really in the information gathering mode right now."
That frustrates Anna Weinstein, seabird program manager for the National Audubon Society in San Francisco.
"We don't think it is OK for the service to do a high five and walk away from the brown pelican just as it seems to be entering troubled waters," she said.
A formal status report required by the Endangered Species Act is due next year, but Phillips said it is not clear whether there will be money to do it. There are so many court-ordered efforts to determine whether endangered species listings are warranted, and so few resources since mandatory budget cuts kicked in, that work that is not under a court order, such as pelican monitoring, becomes a lower priority.
The California brown pelican was declared an endangered species in 1970 after its population was pushed to the brink of extinction by the pesticide DDT, which caused the bird's eggshells to become so thin that chicks could not hatch. After DDT was outlawed, the bird made a recovery and was taken off the list in 2009, when the West Coast population was 150,000.
Breeding has been good in Mexico's Gulf of California, which accounts for 90 percent of the West Coast birds, but no monitoring was done this year on the northernmost breeding colony in the Channel Islands off Southern California, said Dan Anderson, emeritus professor of wildlife biology at the University of California, Davis. Anecdotal reports suggest breeding was lousy.
"There is long-term data on pelican populations, but what's going on right now? Who knows? There is no systematic monitoring. It has been kind of a hit or miss thing," he said.
One hit comes from the 2013 Northwest survey by the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex. It found 7, 018 brown pelicans, half the average of the past decade, and the lowest number since 1999.
California brown pelicans eat mostly sardines and anchovies, which school near the surface, making them a perfect target for pelicans when they dive into the water and fill their beaks. Sardines are well known for cyclical population booms and busts. The most recent assessment for the Pacific Fishery Management Council put their overall biomass at 28 percent of a peak in 2006, leading to a decision to cut fishing harvests by two-thirds next year. Anchovies typically fill the gap when sardines crash, but it is not clear whether they are stepping up this time.
Sardines were declining in 2010 when wildlife rescue centers in California were filled with emaciated pelicans. The same year, young pelicans attacked murre nesting colonies in Oregon, shaking the chicks until they regurgitated fish, then eating the fish. They did it again in 2011 and 2012, said Robert Suryan, associate professor of wildlife at Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Center.
"Hundreds of murre chicks littered the shoreline," Suryan said. "It's a good example of what happens when you are hungry, and what you'll do to get food.
Merck Animal Health Launches Global Awareness Campaign to Support Pet Diabetes Month
Merck Animal Health has launched a global awareness campaign to support Pet Diabetes Month™ this November. The “A Healthy Pet = A Happy Family” campaign highlights that just like humans, dogs and cats can also suffer from diabetes – a relevant message as November is also American Diabetes Month. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the signs of the condition among pet owners, in an effort to encourage them to visit their veterinarians to have their pets screened and treated.
“Pet owners should be aware of the possible warning signs of pet diabetes and see their veterinarians for a definitive diagnosis,” said Madeleine Stahl, DVM. “Considering the fact that pet diabetes can be effectively managed, lack of owner awareness may be the biggest risk factor associated with this condition.”
Lethargy, excessive thirst and frequent urination are some of the most common signs of diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats. Pets may also exhibit increased hunger while losing weight, cloudy eyes (due to cataracts) in dogs and weakness of the back legs in cats. Risk factors that may contribute to the development of diabetes mellitus include age (middle-aged to older dogs and cats are more susceptible), genetics, breed and obesity. Merck Animal Health has created three videos as part of “A Healthy Pet = A Happy Family” to help pet owners learn more about the condition and its signs. Those videos can be found at www.petdiabetesmonth.com along with a variety of pet owner educational materials.
It is important for pet owners to recognize the signs of the condition as the prevalence of diabetes mellitus in dogs and cats ranges from at least one in 1001 to one in 500.2 The number of dogs diagnosed with the condition has tripled during the past 30 years3. Today, dogs receiving the proper treatment have the same expected lifespan as a non-diabetic dog of the same age and sex. With consistent treatment and proper diet, a diabetic cat can also live a happy, healthy life. If a dog or cat displays signs or is at risk, pet owners should talk to their veterinarians, as getting the condition under control early is paramount to survival. Lack of diagnosis and treatment can lead to severe and life-threatening health issues.
Pets are members of the family, and when their diabetes is well-regulated, diabetic pets can live happy, healthy lives with the families who love them. Today, along with proper diet and exercise, VETSULIN® (porcine insulin zinc suspension), the only veterinary insulin product approved for use in both dogs and cats, plays an important role in successfully managing the condition. VETSULIN has been proven safe and effective for more than 20 years in hundreds of thousands of diabetic pets.
Merck Animal Health is committed to the highest standards in research and development and continuing to work toward better solutions and treatment options. For more information about pet diabetes, please visit www.petdiabetesmonth.com.
VETSULIN should not be used in dogs or cats known to have a systemic allergy to pork or pork products. VETSULIN is contraindicated during periods of hypoglycemia. Keep out of reach of children. As with all insulin products, careful patient monitoring for hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia is essential to attain and maintain adequate glycemic control and prevent associated complications. Overdosage can result in profound hypoglycemia and death. The safety and effectiveness of VETSULIN in puppies and kittens, breeding, pregnant and lactating dogs and cats has not been evaluated. See package insert for full information regarding contraindications, warnings and precautions (see link below).
About Merck Animal Health
Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck Animal Health, known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada, is the global animal health business unit of Merck. Merck Animal Health offers veterinarians, farmers, pet owners and governments one of the widest range of veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions and services. Merck Animal Health is dedicated to preserving and improving the health, well-being and performance of animals. It invests extensively in dynamic and comprehensive R&D resources and a modern, global supply chain. Merck Animal Health is present in more than 50 countries, while its products are available in some 150 markets. For more information, visit www.merck-animal-health.com .
Merck Forward-Looking Statement
This news release includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of Merck’s management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.
Risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to, general industry conditions and competition; general economic factors, including interest rate and currency exchange rate fluctuations; the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and health care legislation in the United States and internationally; global trends toward health care cost containment; technological advances, new products and patents attained by competitors; challenges inherent in new product development, including obtaining regulatory approval; Merck’s ability to accurately predict future market conditions; manufacturing difficulties or delays; financial instability of international economies and sovereign risk; dependence on the effectiveness of Merck’s patents and other protections for innovative products; and the exposure to litigation, including patent litigation, and/or regulatory actions.
Merck undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in Merck’s 2012 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC’s Internet site (www.sec.gov).
Fresh effort to clone extinct animal
Scientists in Spain have received funding to test whether an extinct mountain goat can be cloned from preserved cells.
The bucardo became extinct in 2000, but cells from the last animal were frozen in liquid nitrogen.
In 2003, a cloned calf was brought to term but died a few minutes after birth.
Now, the scientists will test the viability of the female bucardo's 14-year-old preserved cells.
The bucardo, or Pyrenean ibex, calf born through cloning was an historic event: the first "de-extinction", in which a lost species or sub-species was resurrected.
The Aragon Hunting Federation signed an agreement with the Centre for Research and Food Technology of Aragon (CITA) in Zaragoza to begin preliminary work on the cells from the last animal, named Celia.
One of the scientists behind the cloning effort, Dr Alberto Fernandez-Arias, told BBC News: "At this moment, we are not initiating a 'bucardo recovery plan', we only want to know if Celia's cells are still alive after having been maintained frozen during 14 years in liquid nitrogen."
In addition to this in vitro work, they will also attempt to clone embryos and implant them in female goats.
"In this process, one or more live female bucardo clones could be obtained. If that is the case, the feasibility of a bucardo recovery plan will be discussed," Dr Fernandez-Arias, who is head of the Aragon Hunting, Fishing and Wetlands Service, explained.
The bucardo (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica) was a sub-species of ibex, with distinct physical and genetic characteristics to other mountain goats inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula. It was perfectly adapted to life in its mountain habitat, and to survive the extreme cold and snow of winter in the Pyrenees.
However, its population had been declining for years for several reasons, including hunting. In April 1999, researchers captured the last animal, a female named Celia. They obtained skin biopsies and froze the tissue in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196C (-321F).
The following year, Celia was killed by a falling tree in the National Park of Ordesa in north-east Spain. But a team including Dr Fernandez-Arias, Jose Folch and others were able to inject nuclei from Celia's preserved cells into goat eggs that had been emptied of their own DNA.
Then they implanted the eggs into surrogates - hybrids between Spanish ibex and domestic goats. Of 57 implantations, seven animals became pregnant and one was carried to term.
The baby bucardo was born in 2003 - the first successful "de-extinction". But the clone of Celia died a few minutes later due to a defect in one of its lungs. Earlier this year, Dr Fernandez-Arias related the story in a TEDx talk, as part of a meeting on de-extinction.
Even if the new effort succeeds in producing healthy clones, any future recovery plan for the bucardo would be fraught with difficulty - especially given the only frozen tissue is from a lone female.
One possible approach for bringing back the bucardo might be to cross a healthy female bucardo clone with a closely related sub-species - such as the Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica) or the Gredos ibex (Capra pyrenaica victoriae) - and then selectively breeding the offspring to enhance traits typical of the bucardo.
Several other possibilities could also be explored. For instance, researchers have been able to reverse the sex of female mouse embryos by introducing a key gene that makes them develop as males.
In addition, George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard University, explained that a technique known as Crispr opened up new opportunities in the field of endangered species conservation and de-extinction. The technique allows researchers to edit genomes with extraordinary precision.
Such "genome editing" techniques could be used to introduce genetic diversity in populations that are so closely related it poses a threat to their survival.
"In some cases, you have a hunch as to what diversity is needed. You might specifically want diversity in the major histocompatibility complex [a large gene family involved in immune responses]," Prof Church told BBC News.
"For example, part of the problem with the Tasmanian devil is that they are so closely related in terms of their immune system that they have problems rejecting the facial tumour cells that they spread by biting each other."
However, he said, such techniques might eventually offer a way to extensively edit the genome of an Asian elephant to make it more like a mammoth, using a genetic sequence from the extinct animals.
Commenting on plans for the bucardo cells, the Aragon Hunting Federation said it wanted to "develop initiatives in the field of ecology in order to defend the natural environment".
The sum provided to fund the research at CITA has not been disclosed.