Other stories below: Ranchers fight Keystone XL; Why cities can’t tackle global warming on their own
In the wake of lobbying by President Obama and Senate Democratic leaders, the Senate Thursday defeated legislation to speed up construction of a U-S.-Canadian oil pipeline.
The White House victory came after the president started personally calling Democratic senators Wednesday night. The vote underscored the extent to which rising gas prices and energy supply have become a central political issue.
Republicans–along with the oil industry, which is running a nationwide advertising campaign about energy supplies — have been attacking Obama on the campaign trail for failing to fully exploit traditional oil and gas resources while Americans are financially stretched. Democrats and their environmental supporters counter that the president must weigh the benefits of fossil fuels against their environmental impact and the importance of promoting renewable energy.
Oil has put bread on Eleanor Fairchild’s table in Wood County, Tex., for more than 50 years. Her late husband was a geologist who worked on exploration for different energy companies, and was part of a team that discovered oil in Yemen in the 1980s. That doesn’t mean she welcomed a TransCanada (TRP) worker who appeared on her doorstep in March 2009.
The company wanted to run nearly a mile of its 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline across Fairchild’s 350-acre farm 90 miles east of Dallas, the representative explained, and was willing to pay her $43,000 for an easement on five acres. Fairchild pondered the offer for several weeks. She says the company upped it to $60,000, but “they were really pushy, and that doesn’t go over well with me,” Fairchild says. “It’s my land.”
Whenever global warming drops off Congress’s radar, some environmentalists point out the real action is occurring locally, anyway. Some 500 U.S. mayors have signed pledges to reduce carbon emissions. Berkeley, for one, promises an 80 percent cut by 2050. But do these plans actually do anything?
Not really, it turns out. Nate Berg points to an intriguing new paper in the Journal of Urban Economics by McGill’s Adam Millard-Ball that finds two things. First, from analyzing a large sample of localities in California, Millard-Ball found cities that sign climate pledges really do take more steps to reduce their emissions. They have more green buildings. They spend more on biking and walking infrastructure. They capture more methane from landfills. But here’s the hitch: Those cities also tend to have eco-conscious residents and would’ve adopted these measures anyway, even without the plans.
Wetlands development has always been a bit of an oxymoron. So perhaps it comes as little surprise that when Ohio State University studied two manmade wetlands — planting marsh varietals in one and letting nature take its course in the other — it found that over a 15-year period, both produced nearly identical plant life. Still, the natural one managed to sequester more carbon.
The analysis appears in the March issue of the journal BioScience.
A tiny, cloverlike plant with heart-shaped leaflets caught Steve Brill’s attention as he scanned the ground of a Brooklyn park.
“We have really messed up our climate if this plant, which dies in November, is alive now,” Brill announced as he introduced the plant, yellow wood sorrel, to the group following him.
Brill leads foraging tours for edible plants in the New York area, and his first tour of the 2012 season, in Prospect Park, yielded some surprises brought by the unusually mild winter. The lemony-flavored sorrel, for instance, had shown up at least a month earlier than normal.
In the beginning, House Republicans wanted a six-year transportation bill for highways, bridges and transit. Something long-term. Something to end Congress’s addiction to short-term spending bills that leave states unable to plan. (Congress has passed eight such stopgaps since 2009.)
But that didn’t work out so well. The House GOP’s original six-year highway bill would have cut overall spending levels on roads — in part because it relied solely on shrinking gas-tax revenue. That caused much unhappiness. So the GOP went back and expanded the bill using money from hypothetical future drilling exploits. That also caused much unhappiness. So now John Boehner is suggesting that the House may throw up its hands and vote on the two-year extension the Senate’s now considering. And if that doesn’t work, then Congress can always just pass yet another two-month extension before all highway funding runs out March 31. So how much chaos are these stopgap bills causing?
US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has introduced a measure to prevent a tax increase on American entrepreneurs and innovators in clean and renewable energy, and in effect reviving the Production Tax Credit, which expired in 2010.
“We cannot allow a tax increase on American businesses that are creating clean energy jobs in America,” Stabenow says.
The measure makes electricity produced from older biomass facilities, such as pulp mills, eligible for the state’s renewable energy mandate. Supporters say it will benefit rural communities and a struggling timber industry.
Since voters approved Initiative 937 in 2006, there have been numerous attempts by lawmakers, utilities and industry to expand what qualifies as a renewable energy source.
The law requires nearly a third of the state’s utilities, those with at least 25,000 customers, to build toward getting 15 percent of their power from wind, solar, geothermal and certain woody biomass by 2020.
It’s probably hard to imagine all of Manhattan tumbling into the Hudson River and washing away in less than five minutes, but that’s the equivalent of what you’ll see in the film “Chasing Ice,” as a city’s worth of towering icebergs collapse violently into the ocean — and that’s just one of countless spectacular images that flash across the screen in this astonishing documentary by director and cinematographer Jeff Orlowski, which premiered at Sundance in January and is opening at SXSW this week.
The film is a documentary about a documentarian — a scientist-turned photographer named James Balog, whose obsession with images of ice has gotten him into the pages of The New Yorker and National Geographic. Despite his training as a geographer and geomorphologist, Balog was stunned to see how fast some of the glaciers that he shot were receding in the face of global warming. So he decided to create a long-term photography project he called the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), which he hoped would merge art and science into a compelling story in pictures about what humans are doing to the climate.
China is blocking orders for at least $12 billion worth of Airbus jets to protest the European Union’s emissions trading fees, in a new challenge to the program aimed at fighting global warming, the planemaker said Thursday.
With some analysts warning of a brewing trade war, Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said his company is seeing “retaliation threats” from 26 countries, “in particular from China.”
Speaking to The Associated Press, he said 35 orders by Chinese airlines for A330 planes are on hold because China’s government is refusing to approve them. He said orders for another 10 A380 superjumbos are also under threat, and that the combined list prices of the aircraft is $12 billion.
A new international accord on the management and safety of nuclear power plants should be a priority for governments, an influential global energy organisation has said.
A year after Japan’s Fukushima reactor was shut down, the World Energy Council – whose members include many of the biggest energy companies from around the world – said an agreement was possible and should be a matter of urgency. “Global nuclear power is one of the rare issues on which an international accord could be achieved with a reasonable level of efforts— the need to act is urgent, and the time is right,” its report found.
“Very little has changed in respect of improving global governance of the nuclear sector, highlighting the need for action. There is critical need to inform the public about issues relating to nuclear generation technologies, safety, costs, benefits and risks.”
The WEC also found that nuclear energy continues to be a popular choice when governments around the world are setting their future priorities, despite concerns over the safety of reactors following the Fukushima disaster last March.