Archive for March, 2011

The Obama Administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future

(March 30, 2011)

The White House Blog

In a speech at Georgetown University Wednesday, President Obama pledged that in a little more than a decade from now, the US will have cut the 11 billion barrels of oil imported daily when he took office by one third.  He put forth a plan to produce more oil at home and reduce overall dependence on oil through alternative fuels and increased efficiency.  To help achieve this, the Obama Administration has released a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future (pdf), aimed to:

  • Develop and secure America’s energy supplies
  • Provide consumers with choices to reduce costs and save energy
  • Innovate our way to a clean energy future

Status of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant

(Published March 16, last updated March 30th)

New York Times

This article continually updates the situation of each of the 6 reactors at the Fukushima Power Plant.  Four of the building have been damaged from explosions, and none have operated since the quake.  The danger now concerns the melting and radioactive release of fuel and spent fuel in the reactors and buildings.

Japan extended reactor’s life, despite warning

(March 21, 2011)

New York Times

Just one month before the earthquake and tsunami that proved disastrous for the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, a 10- year extension was granted by government officials for the oldest of 6 reactors, despite warnings for its safety.  The Tokyo Electric Power Company admitted that it failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment related to the cooling system, and has since the earthquake struggled to “keep the reactor and spent fuel pool from overheating and emitting radioactive materials.”  This extension also reflects “a global trend in which aging plants have been granted longer lives.”

Nuclear Power Situation in the US

The recent nuclear disaster in Japan has caused many nations to take a closer, harder look at nuclear energy and alternatives.  Here are some of the recent happenings, releases, updates, and a comic, from the US:

U.S. response to Japan’s crisis should be a new spent fuel strategy, senate panel is told

(March 31, 2011)

New York Times, by Peter Behr of ClimateWire

“The nuclear crisis in Japan provides an impetus for Congress to confront a failed national policy on dealing with spent fuel from U.S. reactors, witnesses told a Senate subcommittee yesterday.”  Current policy concludes that spent fuel can be stored at sites for up to a century.  Witnesses called the treatment of spent fuel “unfathomable”, stated that proper risk management of spent fuel has “utterly failed”, and found a lack of national policy troublesome.

Obama lays out plan to cut reliance on fuel imports

(March 30, 2011)

New York Times

In his speech at Georgetown University, President Obama called for a 1/3 reduction in American consumption of oil over the next 10 years.  He asserted that nuclear power will remain an important part of this plan as it provides one fifth of current electricity supplies and does not emit carbon dioxide.  He stated that he was determined to make sure that it was safe, and that “he had directed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to undertake a comprehensive safety review of the 104 reactors now operating in the United States.”

Nuclear jitters brighten solar industry’s path

(March 29, 2011)

The Associated Press

The potential for increased public interest and government subsidies in alternative and renewable energy sources in the wake of the recent nuclear disaster may represent increased opportunity for the “fast-growing solar industry.”  After mass anti-nuclear protests in Germany following the quake, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced new investments in renewable energy and a planned phase-out of nuclear power.  Last week, US based solar stocks rose above average, and Kaufman Bros. analyst Jeffrey Bencik predicts renewed public support for the development of renewable energy technologies, a decrease in the relative price of solar and wind energy as more investment enters the market, and an overall benefit to solar companies.

Do you live in a Nuclear Danger Zone?

(March 22, 2011)

Mother Jones

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) is calling for closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, located 38 miles from New York City, stating “This plant in this proximity to the city was never a good risk.”

How close is your home to a nuclear power plant?

CNN has released a map showing the nuclear power plant locations throughout the US.

Tom Toles comic


March 21, 2001

Senate vote could curb EPA’s climate-change powers

(March 30, 2011)

Associated Press

The Senate votes Wednesday on measures to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.  Many Republicans and businesses support the bill, while many Democrats and environmental groups do not.

3- 4 EPA limiting measures have been introduced as riders on an unrelated small-business bill (The Hill.com):

McConnell-Inhofe-Upton (R-KY,OK,MI), Amendment #183 would gut the Clean Air Act indefinitely for carbon pollution, overturning EPA’s scientific finding that climate change is a threat to public health. Inhofe has stated that he plans to attach the proposal to as many bills as he can.

Rockefeller (D-WV), Amendment #215 – guts Clean Air Act provisions that regulate big polluters like coal plants. It’s branded as a two-year “delay,” but it would likely result in an indefinite halt to coal plant regulations.

Baucus (D-MT), Amendment #236 – weakens climate rules for industrial polluters and big agriculture.

Stabenow (D-MI), floated last night, this measure would include similar rollbacks to Rockefeller, but with extra exemptions for big ag, and funds for manufacturing. It’s unclear whether or not this bill will receive a vote.

Gas price snake oil: Fred Upton’s EPA-blocking bill will put more of your money in oil industry pockets.

(March 14, 2011)

Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog

While Republicans are claiming that EPA regulations will raise gas prices at the pump, Natural Resources Defense Council’s David Doniger states that the opposite is true.  Nullifying the EPA’s clean car standards will result in more gasoline consumption by all vehicles and a higher price at the pump.

Along similar lines, a Grist article: Bingaman tells the truth about gas prices, is lonely in doing so highlights a statement by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) that emphasized that the only real way to ease the burdens of high domestic gas prices is to become less vulnerable to oil price-changes, which can only happen by using less oil. 

Examining climate change effects on wheat

(February 24, 2011)

USDA Agricultural Research Service

In experimental wheat fields in Maricopa, AZ, infrared heaters were installed to simulate expected growing conditions in the year 2050.  The increased heat had effects on a variety of necessary growing conditions, but effects on yield depended on when the wheat was planted.  Full results are “published in Global Change Biology, [and] will provide guidance to growers on how to adjust planting schedules as the climate warms.”


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In the wake of Japan’s nuclear emergency, the White House remains committed to nukes

(March 16, 2011) / (March 14, 2011)

Washington Post / Politico

While still dealing with the devastation of the recent earthquake and tsunami, the threat of nuclear meltdown looms now as the primary threat to Japan.  An additional summary  and update of the problem is provided by Grist: What exactly is happening with the Japanese nuclear reactors?

White House press secretary Jay Carney stated that “nuclear remains a part of the president’s overall energy plan” and deflected questions on whether Obama would support a freeze on new US nuclear plant permits until  more was known about the causes of the current disaster in Japan.

Can Mexico Lead the Way in Proving Carbon Cuts?

(March 14, 2011)

Scientific American

Mexico has begun a new program to track its climate and emissions progress in a move that it hopes will provide more transparency, gain international credibility, and eventually help secure the funding necessary for it to meet its long-term reduction goals.    In conjunction with a US consulting firm, they have developed a simpler, more accurate, internet-based system that can track progress in any economic sector, geographic region, or even specific project, and can provide a complete report on the country’s climate progress every 2 months.

Moray Firth rocks ‘could store 15 years of carbon emissions’

(March 14, 2011)

The Guardian

A new, industry- funded report out of Scotland finds evidence that sea-water filled rock formations could have immense potential for storing carbon.  According to the study, a sandstone formation east of the Moray Firth known as Captain sandstone could eventually store up to 100 years of Scottish power plant CO2 emissions using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.  Emissions would be pumped back into existing gas reservoirs in the rock formation.  Environmental campaigners are skeptical about the reports claims and assumptions about Scotland’s role in CCS technologies, and investment bankers are skeptical about finding the massive amount of funds necessary to build these plants and technologies.

Short-Term CR expected to pass, then what?

(March 13, 2011)

National Journal

After two weeks of stalemate, Senate and House leaders are expected to pass yet another short-term spending bill, funding the government through April 8th.  Negotiations will then continue for another short-term spending bill.  Larger problems loom as lawmakers face a considerable challenge in either reducing the nation’s debt, or raising the nation’s debt limit.  Meanwhile, the planning challenges and uncertain future conditions for the EPA and other federal environmental programs operating under yet another stopgap CR  are highlighted in this New York Times article: Three-Week Stopgap Measure Likely, but Long-Term Budget in Doubt.

California Cap-and-Trade Faces Potential Hurdle

(March 3, 2011)

Wall Street Journal

AB 32, California’s landmark effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions through cap and trade trading, faces challenges as it is opposed by local residents and environmental justice organizations.  Several groups and individuals have sued state regulators, claiming that the climate plan wont reduce pollution.  They say that industries should focus on reducing emissions instead of trading them.  At a January 27th ruling, Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith agreed  with the plaintiffs, placing doubt on the future of the program.  He said that the “Air Resources Board, which is tasked with lowering air pollution, hadn’t conducted an adequate environmental review before it approved the plan”.   A final ruling is scheduled for the next few weeks.

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Articles and News

Upton, Inhofe release bill to block EPA climate authority

(February 2, 2011)

The Hill

Amidst several other House-initiated EPA-blocking bills, Republican Senators Inhofe and Upton have released the draft beginnings of a bill in Congress that would permanently block the EPA’s authority to issue climate change regulations.  The Obama administration has suggested that it will veto any bills limiting EPA authority, and a new poll commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that 77% of Americans think that “Congress should let the EPA do its job.” More results from this poll can be viewed at Climate Progress blog here.

EPA’s Power Plant Rules Would Spur Job Creation

(February 9, 2011)

New York Times

New sets of rules regulating air pollution from power plants “would create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next five years”, a new Ceres Report states. Despite claims that new EPA clean air regulations are killing jobs at a time of low employment, 2 new rules proposed by the EPA would require the equivalent of 290,000 new jobs over the next 5 years in order to install and update new air pollution controls and plants.

Climate and Clean Energy Funds Could Be Casualties in Broader Budget War Ahead

(February 22, 2011)

New York Times

House Republicans have proposed a $60 million  budget cut in federal domestic discretionary spending while Democrats and the White House want to maintain current spending levels.  With intense partisan bargaining predicted ahead, many of the proposed cuts attack environmental policy and eliminate climate change research and regulation funding.  The bill is being called “prime veto bait” by pro-climate advocates, and the deep partisan splits may result in a temporary federal services shutdown when current spending authority ends on March 4th if compromise is not agreed to prior to this date.

Poll: Westerners wary of climate change action

(February 23, 2011)

The Aspen Times

A survey of voters in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and New Mexico shows that a substantial portion aren’t convinced that action needs to be taken on global warming.  But the survey shows they nevertheless tend to support federal regulations requiring reductions in carbon emissions from such sources as power plants, cars and factories to reduce climate change.”

Bonneville Power to Wind Generators — Shut Down, and You Get Free Power

(February 25, 2011)

New York Times

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is preparing to sharply decrease wind generation output during extreme high water flows in the Columbia Water system.  The efforts are a last resort to protect threatened fish populations from hydropower dams.  In times of high wind power and high water flow, energy in the regional grid would exceed demand.  Increasing water flow over the hydro dam spillways could raise nitrogen levels downstream, violating federal fish-protecting regulations, leaving little choice but to reduce wind-produced power input.

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