July 13 News: Japan PM Urges Nuclear-Free Future; House GOP Wants to Scale Back Offshore Drilling Oversight; Has Obama Admin Signed Off On Keystone XL Pipeline?

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"July 13 News: Japan PM Urges Nuclear-Free Future; House GOP Wants to Scale Back Offshore Drilling Oversight; Has Obama Admin Signed Off On Keystone XL Pipeline?"

A round-up of climate and energy news. Please post other stories below.

Path appears clear for oil pipeline from Canada

At a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania in early April, President Obama was asked about a bitter fight between industry and environmentalists over a proposed $7-billion, 2,000-mile pipeline to ship crude from Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

Because the pipeline crosses the U.S.-Canadian border, a decision on a permit is pending at the State Department. Obama avowed neutrality: “If it looks like I’m putting my fingers on the scale before the science is done, then people may question the merits of the decision later on.”

But a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa suggests the scale may have already been tipped.

The cable, obtained by WikiLeaks, describes the State Department’s then-energy envoy, David Goldwyn, as having “alleviated” Canadian officials’ concerns about getting their crude into the U.S. It also said he had instructed them in improving “oil sands messaging,” including “increasing visibility and accessibility of more positive news stories.”

Goldwyn now works on Canadian oil sands issues at Sutherland, a Washington lobbying firm, and recently testified before Congress in favor of building the 36-inch underground pipeline, Keystone XL.

Environmentalists and industry experts say the cable is among several examples from unguarded moments and public documents that signal the administration’s willingness to push ahead with the controversial pipeline, even as its agencies conduct environmental and economic reviews.

Japan PM urges nuclear-free future

Japan’s centre-left Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Wednesday that the country must gradually reduce its reliance on atomic power with the eventual goal of becoming nuclear-free.

Four months after the March 11 quake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima nuclear accident, the world’s worst since Chernobyl 25 years ago, Kan has repeatedly argued that Japan must focus more on renewables.

Speaking in a televised press conference, he said: “By reducing its reliance on nuclear power gradually, we will aim to become a society which can exist without nuclear power.”

“Considering the grave risk of nuclear accidents, we strongly feel that we cannot just carry on based on the belief that we must only try to ensure (nuclear) safety.”

Kan earlier announced a full review of Japan’s energy plan, under which atomic power had been set to meet over half of demand by 2030, up from about one third before the March 11 quake-tsunami disaster.

The premier has said he wants to make clean energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal a new “major pillar” of the industrial power’s energy mix.

“If everything goes as scheduled, a renewable energy bill will be discussed in the Diet (legislature) starting tomorrow,” Kan said.

The premier, Japan’s fifth in as many years, made the speech at a time when he is under intense pressure to step down from political adversaries who accuse him of having bungled Japan’s response to the tsunami.

‘The Watchdog’: House Committee Wants To Drop Proposal To Expand Offshore Drilling Oversight

House Republicans want to drop one of the key components of the Interior Department’s overhaul of the troubled agency responsible for oversight of offshore drilling — expanding the enforcement of regulations to contractors.

Though BP and rig owner Transocean have been largely blamed for last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, contractor Halliburton has come under scrutiny for its cementing work on the job. The presidential commission investigating the tragedy uncovered documents showing that several separate tests by Halliburton indicated the cement was “unstable,” yet didn’t report all of those results to BP. Halliburton, which has claimed that those were preliminary tests, did admit that it did not perform a stability test on the actual cement recipe used on the well. The oil services giant has rejected blame for the failed cement job and pointed the finger at BP.

In the wake of the tragedy, Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement expanded its rules beyond just the oil companies that hold the drilling leases. But a committee report released with Interior’s fiscal 2012 spending bill limits that expansion (h/t The Hill):

Intelligent street light system uses 80 percent less electricity

Of all the energy-saving tips out there, probably the one we hear most often is to not leave lights on when we leave a room. It’s good advice, yet cities around the world are not following it in one key way – their streetlights stay on all night long, even when no one is on the street. The Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology is experimenting with a new streetlight system on its campus, however, in which motion sensor-equipped streetlights dim to 20 percent power when no people or moving vehicles are near them. The system is said to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 80 percent, plus it lowers maintenance costs and reduces light pollution.

Delft Management of Technology alumnus Chintan Shah designed the system, which can be added to any dimmable streetlight. The illumination comes from LED bulbs, which are triggered by motion sensors. As a person or car approaches, their movement is detected by the closest streetlight, and its output goes up to 100 percent. Because the lights are all wirelessly linked to one another, the surrounding lights also come on, and only go back down to 20 percent once the commuter has passed through. This essentially creates a “pool of light” that precedes and follows people wherever they go, so any thugs lurking in the area should be clearly visible well in advance.

Sources: UAW, Detroit automakers meet on Obama fuel efficiency proposal

The UAW, which is concerned about how automaker profits, jobs and wages could be impacted by higher fuel economy standards, met with Detroit automakers today to discuss new regulations proposed by the Obama administration.

Among those meeting with the union were Pete Lawson, Ford’s vice president for government relations, and executives from General Motors and Chrysler, according to people familiar with the session.

The automakers, UAW and National Automobile Dealers Association have argued that the proposed corporate average fuel economy standard of 56.2 m.p.g. would add thousands of dollars to the cost of vehicles and eliminate jobs assembling larger and heavier vehicles such as full-size pickups and SUVs.

While the Detroit Three have made progress with their small cars, a large percentage of sales and profits still comes from trucks and larger SUVS.

Redskins installing solar panels at FedEx Field

The Washington Redskins are installing 8,000 solar panels in a FedEx Field parking lot that will generate enough electricity to supply a portion of the stadium’s power on game days and all of its electricity the rest of the week, according to people with knowledge of the organization’s plans.

Construction is underway in the team’s Platinum A1 parking lot to set up panels that will generate two megawatts of electricity — enough to decrease FedEx Field’s annual energy use by 15 percent, according to people within the organization. The panels also will be used to create an 850-space covered carport that will feature 10 charging stations for electric vehicles.

The construction is part of a nine-year agreement with a Princeton, N.J., firm, NRG Energy, which owns and operates one of the country’s largest and most diverse power generation portfolios. The company will install three different types of solar panels at the stadium. The cost of the effort could not be ascertained Tuesday.

The Redskins are expected to fully unveil their plans Wednesday.

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