March 28th News: Natural Gas Cloud Continues Leaking From North Sea Rig, Forcing Evacuation

Other stories below: GOP running out of gas on Solyndra; What if July beats heat records the way March just did?

North Sea gas cloud forces evacuations

A cloud of explosive natural gas boiling out of the North Sea off the coast of Scotland has forced the evacuation of a second rig and forced coastguards to set up an exclusion zone to ward off ships and aircraft.

French oil firm Total said the leak was the most serious problem it had faced in the North Sea in a decade of drilling, adding that it was taking “all possible measures” to try to identify the source and cause of the leak and to bring it under control.


“It’s not going to be solved straightforwardly — it will take at least a few days,” a Total spokesman said, adding that experts were being flown in from around the world to help stop the leak.

What if July Beats Heat Records the Way March Just Did?

Last month I wrote about how global warming might not be so bad after all. Not for me, anyway. Sure, sea level is rising, threatening millions of Americans and many more millions of people around the world. Sure, glaciers are melting and winter snowpack is disappearing in the West (and again, in other parts of the world), putting summer water supplies at risk. Sure, extreme weather is on the rise, almost certainly as a result of human-triggered climate change.

But February, which normally alternates between cold and bitterly cold in Princeton, N.J., where Climate Central is headquartered, was unusually mild. Call me selfish, but I kind of liked it. I didn’t realize at the time that March would be even warmer, and I really liked that. The average high here in central New Jersey is 50°F in March, but this month we went over 60° no fewer than 15 times (the forecast says we might do it once more before April begins). We topped 70° eight times. We hit 78° twice, and once we got all the way up to 79° — fully 29° above normal.

GOP running out of gas on Solyndra

House Republicans look like they’re running out of ammunition on Solyndra.

Gone are their threats of hauling Rahm Emanuel and Carol Browner up to the Capitol to testify about how they helped the now bankrupt California solar company.

The White House hopes to soon remove the GOP’s threat of a contempt of Congress vote by turning over the final scraps from thousands of pages of internal documents.

And one of the main GOP investigators, Rep. Cliff Stearns, is mired in his own political mess after questioning the legitimacy of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and over allegations he tried to bribe another Florida Republican to get out of their August primary race.

More than a year into a probe that’s extended to the Energy Department loan guarantee portfolio, Republican investigators even acknowledge they’ve fallen short of substantiating their allegations that the administration helped political allies like Tulsa oilman George Kaiser secure hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies through a loan guarantee to Solyndra.

Solyndra Kept Government Informed, Report Says

Solyndra LLC, whose abrupt bankruptcy filing last summer put the Obama administration’s solar-power efforts in the spotlight, kept the government well informed of its finances and business prospects, according to a report by the company’s chief restructuring officer.

The report — whose author was hired by Solyndra’s board — is based on a four-month investigation and was filed in bankruptcy court on Tuesday. It concludes that the Department of Energy, which had guaranteed a $535 million loan to Solyndra, was fully aware of the risks and kept up to date on the solar-power company’s deteriorating finances.

Study: Birds adjusting slowly to climate change

A new study based on the National Audubon Society’s North American Christmas Bird Count finds birds have taken decades to adjust their ranges northward in response to warming winters.

Frank La Sorte, a post-doctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, was lead author of the study published online this month by the Journal of Animal Ecology. He said animals adjust to rising minimum winter temperatures by shifting their ranges northward. Since birds are highly mobile and migrate north and south with the changing seasons, they’re better able to shift their ranges than less-mobile, non-migrating species, like amphibians.

But the study of 59 bird species found it’s not all that easy or quick. And some birds are better equipped to follow the changing climate than others.

Link Builds Between Weather Extremes and Warming

Extreme weather events over the past decade have increased and were “very likely” caused by manmade global warming, a study in the journal Nature Climate Change said on Sunday.

Scientists at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Research used physics, statistical analysis and computer simulations to link extreme rainfall and heat waves to global warming. The link between warming and storms was less clear.

“It is very likely that several of the unprecedented extremes of the past decade would not have occurred without anthropogenic global warming,” said the study.

EU Tidal Energy Initiatives Fall Short of Expectations

Europe’s wave and tidal power technology is likely to disappoint EU expectations for 2020 and take over a decade to contribute to energy supply in a significant way, even though it is chalking up rapid growth and drawing in big industrial investors.

The nascent industry has attracted a flurry of investor activity over the past year, securing an estimated few hundred million euros from companies such as Siemens and Vattenfall.

It is making fast progress from prototype devices toward full-scale sea trials and promises to be more reliable than many types of renewable power that depend on the weather.