Archive for September, 2012


Obama and Romney are far apart on energy production (LA Times), though the campaign has pulled Romney to the right (NY Times).

Shell remains confident in Arctic drilling (Washington Post).

Paper and plastic shopping bag bans are increasing (NY Times).

Natural gas production could change the U.S.-Russia dynamic (Washington Post).

Climate change may shrink fish sizes (BBC).

Closing the 405 has a huge impact on LA’s air quality (LA Times).


Melting offers Greenland threats and opportunities (NY Times).

Sea level rise has been uneven across the world (BBC).

People outside the New Orleans levee system remain vulnerable (LA Times).

An Arizona resort will use sewage effluent to make snow (NY Times).

Construction of the Western hemisphere’s largest desalination plant is set to begin (Washington Post).

Global fisheries are declining but could still recover (Washington Post).

What would happen if cars became 1/3rd more efficient on top of getting on average 55 mpg in 2020? Well, it seems Google might be providing an answer to our George Jetsonesque dreams. And California is the land where it will all happen. A bill passed this week explicitly allows driverless cars on the road.

Google, which has been building the cars, says they are safer because they nearly eliminate human error. They could also be more fuel-efficient, the company says, and place California and the United States at the forefront of automobile innovation.

If cars are driving themselves, they will know exactly when to accelerate and brake, especially when communicating with other cars. That “perfect” timing on accelerating and braking will make cars superefficient. It’ll never “gun” the engine. It’ll never needlessly drive 85 mph when it knows 65 mph will do the job since there’s traffic up ahead. It will change everything.

“Today we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality — the self-driving car,” Calif. Gov. Jerry  Brown said. “Anyone who gets inside a car and finds out the car is driving will be a little skittish, but they’ll get over it.”

Google Inc. has been developing autonomous car technology and lobbying for the regulations. The company’s fleet of a dozen computer-controlled vehicles has logged more than 300,000 miles of self-driving without an accident, according to Google.



Data centers are huge energy hogs (NY Times (long)).

Taxpayers foot the bill for California solar projects (LA Times).

Hydrofracking benefited from early government support (Washington Post).

The oil boom is a mixed bag for an Alaska town (LA Times).

The Arctic ice has many ebbs and flows (BBC).

A study says climate change will shift marine predators’ habitat (Washington Post).

The wind industry is losing its tailwind (NY Times).

The drought has created lucrative opportunities for GMO crops (LA Times).

The Keystone Pipeline may disturb sacred tribal ground (Washington Post).

BMW focuses on gasoline engine fuel efficiency (NY Times).

The UK wants a halt to Arctic drilling (BBC).

Tree cutting for the space shuttle gets final approval (LA Times).

We’ve touched on the melting arctic sea ice in the past month or so, and it certainly has gotten even worse this week as sea ice has melted to an all-time low this week.

But it’s not all bad news as – for once – the oil companies have suffered a setback. Shell had planned to exploit the melting sea ice and drill in the arctic, but luckily they seem to have fallen short.

But there was still the unruly Arctic to deal with. Shell managed to drill for about a day before encroaching sea ice forced the company to move its rig out of harm’s way. And the damage to the containment dome during testing has forced the company to abandon its oil hopes this summer—the Interior Department’s permit was contingent on Shell having a spill-containment system in place.

Great news! The more these oil companies fail, the better chance the environment has.


Japan plans to phase out nuclear power by 2040 (NY Times).

Oil prices are at a four-month high (Washington Post).

The Peach State isn’t talking much about the drought (LA Times).

An expiring tax credit brings headwinds for wind power (NY Times).

Wolves are now fair game in most states (Washington Post).

The U.S. declares a fishery disaster in the Northeast (NY Times).


New York City isn’t ready for rising seas (NY Times).

Chain stores are leading users of solar power (NY Times).

Climate change is hurting power plant operations (Washington Post).

Obama’s and Romney’s energy policies differ in many ways (Washington Post).

Mt. Everest Sherpas aren’t happy about glacial lake studies (BBC).

It’s always good when you look at an organism as helping stop climate change. I’m obviously not talking about humans. Usually, we’re talking about trees, but who’s watching the forests? Well, as far as kelp forests under the sea, we now have an answer: sea otters.

Yes, in an odd twist, sea otters are killing off sea urchins (they sound evil, don’t they?) and that’s stopping the sea urchins from destroying kelp forests. That in turn allows the kelp forests to take in more carbon dioxide, thus helping the atmosphere.

It’s rather simple – and while we might do best to see all sea urchins wiped out, this story reminds us how fragile and interconnected the environment is. You can’t begin to imagine what one thing might effect another – and how we’re all reliant on a healthy environment.

Now if we can just set the sea otters to take on climate change deniers …


Shell starts Arctic drilling (LA Times).

Scientists are amazed by the melting Arctic (BBC). Meanwhile, a race is on to save Arctic archaeology (BBC).

The drought has forced animals to look elsewhere for food (NY Times).

A black market emerges for a banned air conditioning coolant (NY Times).

Human activities have cut desert diversity (BBC).