"January 30 News: House GOP to Force Keystone Decision; Arctic Warming Risks “Domino Effect of Tipping Points”"
Other stories below: Southwest turns an anxious eye toward a shrinking Lake Mead; Renewable energy deals hit record high in 2011
Speaker John Boehner says that the House will try again to tie approval for the Keystone pipeline project to a new jobs bill being introduced next week.
“All options are on the table. If it’s not enacted before we take up the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, it’ll be part of it,” Boehner said of the Keystone project, which would extend an oil pipeline from Canada through the United States.
Boehner led an unsuccessful effort to attach approval of the Keystone project to the extension of the payroll tax cut in December, but had to back down after not securing Senate support.
Professor Carlos Duarte, a leading scientist from The University of Western Australia, says human kind is set to face dire consequences as the first signs of climate change manifest in the Arctic. He says the region is approaching “a series of ‘tipping points’” that could trigger a domino effect of climate change on Earth.
In a paper, the lead author Professor Duarte, who is also the Director of the University’s Oceans Institute, said the Arctic region contained arguably the greatest concentration of potential tipping elements for global climate change.
“If set in motion, they can generate profound climate change which places the Arctic not at the periphery but at the core of the Earth system,” Professor Carlos Duarte said. “There is evidence that these forces are starting to be set in motion.”
“This has major consequences for the future of human kind as climate change progresses.”
In a dramatic reversal of fortune compared to last year, an unusually dry winter is causing the level of Lake Mead, Nevada, to decline, making water managers increasingly anxious about supplying water to the thirsty Southwest.
During the past three years, the level of Lake Mead has followed a boom and bust cycle, dropping to a record low in 2010 during an intense drought, then recovering during 2011 thanks to record mountain snowfall, and now dropping again in the midst of a dry winter.
According to an article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, water managers are forecasting the lake level to drop by about 13 feet due to the dry winter so far. As the newspaper reported:
“In December, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was predicting a roughly 11-foot rise in Lake Mead over the next year. Now the bureau expects the nation’s largest man-made reservoir to shed about 13 feet by January 2013.”
Just as it pioneered curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks a decade ago, California is championing standards that could transform the fuel that goes into their tanks.
But its new rule, which requires lowering the amount of carbon in fuel sold in the state, has become embroiled in a fierce public battle and has been barred from being enforced. In light of tight state budgets, litigation over California’s program and a strong lobbying campaign against them, the question is whether the ambitious climate policy will get off the ground.
“To us, it’s the most credible and powerful mechanism we can put in place,” said Dan Sperling, a member of California’s Air Resources Board and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California-Davis. “It’s an incentive to invest in other things besides oil.”
Many oil industry officials in the United States and overseas say the standards are too complex, will drive up gas prices and cannot be met given the current supply of petroleum alternatives.
Republicans are pressing Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to buck his leadership and use his authority in the payroll tax conference to green-light the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
Baucus has told business leaders in Montana that winning authorization for the transnational pipeline is one of his highest priorities for 2012.
Republicans say Baucus, as co-chairman of the payroll tax conference, has the power to include Keystone language in must-pass legislation and will pressure him to act.
“The quickest and surest way to get the pipeline going is for the Democratic chairman of the conference committee to put it into a must-do piece of legislation, the payroll tax package,” said a senior Senate Republican aide.Senate Democrats think Baucus will stick with the caucus and oppose the inclusion of language to force President Obama’s hand on Keystone but they acknowledge the senior Montana lawmaker could go rogue, as he has in the past.
Global renewable energy deals climbed 40 percent to a record high of $53.5 billion last year from $38.2 billion in 2010, as solar, wind and energy efficiency overtook hydropower as the main deal drivers for the first time, a report said on Monday.
Historically, hydro power has dominated renewables deal flow, but deals worth $1 billion or more in wind, solar, biomass and energy efficiency have outnumbered hydro by seven to one, the PriceWaterHouse Coopers report said.
The renewables market is maturing, fuelling more consolidation, and a rethink of the role of nuclear in many countries after the Japanese nuclear crisis last year provided an extra boost to renewables generation in certain markets.
“Sustained high deal numbers and record total value reflect a maturing of the sector,” said Paul Nillesen, PwC renewables partner.