Archive for March, 2011

It was a year ago when the Senate’s climate change bill between John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham fell apart. Since then, it has been up to the EPA to protect the environment from polluting businesses. Alas, the U.S. is wandering on without a true climate change policy – and it’s only going to get worse.

The Senate today is contemplating whether to continue to allow the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This all comes despite the Supreme Court’s ruling a few years ago that the EPA has free reign to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions among businesses and residents. Yet, the Senate pushes on with a vote today that is one more step backward in the fight against climate change.

Though lawmakers will vote on as many as three amendments, which would be attached to a small-business bill, the most closely watched measure is one offered by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.) to suspend the EPA regulations for two years. Last year, Senate Democrats held together enough lawmakers from their own caucus to protect the EPA rules from being overturned — but lawmakers such as Sen. Jim Webb (D., Va.) indicated they would break ranks and support a measure to suspend the rules.

Among the body of 100 senators, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico is at least trying to drum up support for a comprehensive energy package. However, this all comes as President Obama tries to gain support for his energy policy, which – while also giving lip-service to wind and solar energy – offers major bonuses to oil and gas companies. And so, the U.S. wanders on, searching for any type of comprehensive plan to halt climate change.

A long effort to revive nuclear power faces a strong test (NY Times). There’s also new scrutiny for the storage of nuclear waste (Wall Street Journal).

Reports of extreme radiation levels in Japan were apparently incorrect (LA Times). Meanwhile, radiation can follow an unpredictable path (NY Times).

US subs conduct exercises in the Arctic (MSNBC).

A court decision is only expected to be a temporary setback for California’s climate efforts (LA Times).

An oil spill threatens endangered penguins (NY Times).

The carbon-trading market stumbles (Washington Post).

Cleaning out your trunk will help your lighter car be more efficient.

Not a lot happening this week. Starting next week the New York Times will require payment if you want to read more than a small number of articles per month, which will cut off my leading source of articles. I’ll just have to work that much harder.

Natural gas is poised to take off (NY Times).

A new report explains why the blowout preventer failed in the BP well (NY Times, also see Washington Post).

A report this week on cities’ design coupled with a recent baby boomer trend could prove to be a good sign for the environment.

A report on how a city’s design and transit system can ease gas costs seems rather obvious. Those who symbolize living in a big city with leaving a big carbon footprint are simply wrong. The amount of energy a person living in the city uses is far less than someone living in the suburbs.

The average American driver logs 25 miles per day. Motorists in compactly developed cities that have extensive transit systems can drive nearly 50% less. The way to cut back on driving miles in a city isn’t by reducing commutes, says Carol Coletta, president and CEO of the group: “What adds up is all those small trips, which are much shorter and not as necessary,” she says. “The question is, how do we make the city a place where we don’t have to drive as much or as often?”

It makes sense considering suburban sprawl has coincided with the rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Should we all just live in big cities? I’m sure the mayors of Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland would love to make that mandatory, but for many Americans its unreasonable – and too stressful. But not for seniors.

Baby boomers older than 60 have been left with large, empty houses in the suburbs – and now are moving back toward cities for many reasons, including gas prices, environmental concerns and social and demographic change. But cities are adapting, according to this article:

Ms. Evans says many decorators are telling her that the boomers want to transform the style of their houses along with their lives, trading in a suburban house for an urban loft, for example. She added: “Baby boomers have always been experimental. That won’t change as they get older. They’re willing to go outside their comfort zones.”

It seems the baby boomers might have the answer to climate change after all.

The death toll in Japan is now estimated at 15,000. The LA Times says radiation levels appear to be coming down and also has this radiation Q&A. The BBC speculates on what could happen next.

This Washington Post article says the disaster is the latest event to complicate the effort for a national energy policy. It’s also provided a spark for anti-nuclear groups (NY Times).

Gray wolves lose protections in Montana and Idaho (LA Times).

Switching to LED lighting could be a good investment for businesses (Boston Globe).

Instead of using staples, use a paper clip to reuse office supplies.

Nuclear power plant problems persist in Japan (Washington Post).

The EPA proposes new power plant emission rules (NY Times).

Here’s another article about cups and utensils in the House cafeteria (NY Times).

The effects of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown are devastating for Japan’s environment. The main threat is radiation and from there, miles upon miles of the country have been completely destroyed by the tsunami and quake and will have to be rebuilt. But on a different scale, what does the disaster in Japan do for climate change?

The obvious change is that people will be scared away from nuclear power once again. While all of the nuclear power plants in production won’t be stopped, the increase of nuclear power plants likely won’t happen.

The nuclear industry is facing issues in Europe, with tens of thousands of people in Germany protesting against their government’s decision to extend the life of reactors. While China is tripling the number of reactors, its National Development and Reform Commission has indicated it will look carefully at the effects of the Japan disaster as it completes plans for 2011-15.

It was seen as the major solution to climate change for some countries, but most will be unwilling to invest heavily in nuclear power after this latest tragedy. Should that be the case? Well, the quake was not the cause of the meltdown, it was the tsunami. So should we just build nuclear plants in safer locations? That’s one possibility. There’s also the thought that maybe Bill Gates’ nuclear predictions about being able to reuse the nuclear waste will come true.

With countries unwilling to turn to nuclear power, one could theorize that Japan might turn to coal and oil facilities to power its country. But there’s just as good a chance that countries could increase wind and solar production. Let’s hope that is the solution – enough change has already occurred for the worse that we don’t need to go backward on climate change.

Several nuclear power plants are at risk in Japan (Washington Post) and the disaster could be the worst since Chernobyl (NY Times). Also see this Q&A from the LA Times.

Electric cars insulate their owners from higher gas prices (LA Times). The high prices could also help renewable energy efforts (LA Times).

Add Maine to the list of places where environmental policies are in trouble (Boston Globe). In Congress, a House subcommittee votes to remove the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases (NY Times).

President Obama won’t tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve just yet (Washington Post).

NIMBYism plagues some environmental initiatives (NY Times).

Climate change will challenge the Navy, a report says (MSNBC).

Incandescent bulbs are hard to let go of for some (NY Times). Here’s a short Q&A on CFLs and LEDs (Boston Globe).