Today is the final public hearing on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Climate activists are showing up to make their voices heard in opposition to the pipeline. We’ll have coverage from that hearing later today. In the meantime, here are some top stories on Keystone XL (and other issues, too.) Please post additional stories below.
Environmental groups and the oil industry will square off in their final public showdown on Friday before Barack Obama renders a decision on a controversial pipeline carrying crude from the Alberta tar sands to refineries in Texas.
The encounter promises to be contentious, with one activist Whit Jones (@whitjones) tweeting that the Occupy Wall Street movement had come to the state department.
By 9pm on Thursday night – more than 12 hours before the scheduled start of the public hearing in the basement of the Ronald Reagan trade centre in Washington – about two dozen activists had turned up with sleeping bags determined to camp on site to be the first in the room.
To their frustration, however, industry had a similar plan for the hearing, which was hosted by the state department. Activists said contractors for the TransCanada pipeline company had sent in a professional line-sitter who promptly claimed his spot in line – and then telephoned for reinforcements.
“The industry has done what they can to ensure that their voice is louder than ours at the hearing,” said Christine Irvine, an activist with 350.org.
A Canadian company that is waiting for a federal permit to build an oil pipeline through the High Plains has used a technicality in U.S. environmental regulations to begin removing an endangered species—the black and orange American burying beetle—from the proposed route.
A spokesman for Alberta-based TransCanada said the company has done nothing wrong. The beetles were removed as part of TransCanada’s “commitment to protecting the environment and endangered species along the Keystone XL route,” Shawn Howard told InsideClimate News. According to Howard, the beetle is the only endangered species identified along the pipeline’s proposed route from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
But pipeline opponents say that by moving beetles from the Nebraska sandhills and mowing miles of grass where the insects once lived, TransCanada has illegally begun construction on the project. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the U.S. State Department is in charge of the permitting process. The agency is expected to make its decision by the end of the year.
On Wednesday three environmental groups filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Omaha against the State Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking that the beetle removal work be stopped.
As the debate unfolds about whether to build a 1,711-mile pipeline to carry crude oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas, the focus is on the oil spills and carbon emissions that inevitably come with it. But we need to ask a more fundamental question. Do we really need that oil?
The United States currently consumes more gasoline than the next 16 countries combined. Yes, you read that right. Among them are China, Japan, Russia, Germany, and Brazil.
But now this is changing. Not only is the affluence that sustained this extravagant gasoline consumption eroding, but the automobile-centered lifestyle that was considered part of the American birthright is fading as well. U.S. gasoline use has dropped 5 percent in four years.
Four key developments are set to further reduce U.S. gasoline use: a shrinking car fleet, a decline in the miles driven per car, dramatic mandated future gains in new car fuel efficiency, and the shift from gasoline to electricity to power our cars.
The head of the Energy Department’s embattled loan program announced Thursday that he was stepping down amid an expanding probe of the agency’s $535 million loan to a now-shuttered solar company.
The departure of Jonathan Silver comes as the Obama administration faces intense pressure from Capitol Hill about whether it properly vetted the solar start-up Solyndra before providing it with taxpayer backing. President Obama used a Thursday news conference to credit agency officials with using their “best judgment” in approving the loan, part of a $35.9 billion federal effort to invest in breakthrough technologies that could create jobs and spur economic growth.
Silver had been criticized by Republicans during a House subcommittee hearing three weeks ago, and White House e-mails released this week showed that officials were anxious about the loan program and whether the agency was properly monitoring it. Silver’s boss, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, has accepted responsibility for the Solyndra decisions.
Energy officials said Thursday that Silver decided to leave the job in July, recognizing that funding for the program was expiring. His office handed out an additional $4.7 billion in loan guarantees on Sept. 30, the last day of the program.
European bioethanol producers have broken ranks and urged EU policymakers to introduce rules on the indirect climate impacts of biofuels that distinguish between “good and bad biofuel pathways”, Reuters has learned.
The call is the first sign of a split within the EU biofuel industry on the controversial issue of indirect land use change (ILUC), which threatens to undermine the green credentials of some biofuels due to their role in diverting food into fuel tanks.
In a letter to the EU’s top climate and energy officials seen by Reuters, bioethanol industry body ePURE said it backs the introduction of EU rules that address ILUC directly.
A direct approach that penalises crop-specific biofuels for their indirect side-effects could wipe out much of Europe’s estimated 13 billion euro-a-year ($17.3 billion) biodiesel sector.
“ePURE will support a policy that… differentiates between good and bad biofuel pathways (and) addresses ILUC directly,” said the letter sent to EU energy chief Guenther Oettinger and climate chief Connie Hedegaard in July.
ILUC states that if food crops are diverted to biofuel production, those missing tonnes of food must be grown elsewhere to avoid increasing global hunger.
In a previous life, I was a technology reporter who covered a company called Apple Inc. and a guy named Steve Jobs. I was lucky enough to be there in San Francisco when Jobs introduced something called the iPod, the iPhone and a bunch of other iProducts in between and after.
I never really knew what the “i” stood for in all those Apple products. But certainly, it could’ve stood for “innovation.” Steve Jobs was an innovator extraordinaire in the most innovative industry in recent history, the technology industry.
So maybe it’s not surprising that a day after his death, it was Jobs who came to mind while I listened to President Obama speak about what could and should be the next great inflection point in American innovation: Clean energy.
Obama was asked at a press conference Thursday about the Solyndra debacle and the Department of Energy loan guarantee program that created by Congress in 2005 (not by Obama or the current White House, mind you) to help get the clean energy industry rolling in America.
Obama’s response, at least to me, sounded a bit reminiscent of Steve Jobs.
“If we are going to be able to compete in the 21st century, then we’ve got to dominate cutting-edge technologies,” Obama said.
That’s what Jobs did with Apple.