Archive for December, 2012


Carbon taxes make Ireland even greener (NY times).

New Delhi is covered in smog (NY times).

Sandy may change utilities’ thinking on upgrades (NY Times).

So far, no sign of extending the wind energy tax credit (BBC).

Avalanche deaths are on the rise (LA Times).


The EPA administrator will resign (Washington Post). Her term fell shy of environmentalists’ hopes (NY Times).

New York City reports buildings’ energy use scores (NY Times).

Wind farm developers are racing against time (NY Times).

A British attempt to drill through 3 km of Antarctic ice is called off (BBC).

Scientists are trying to perfect the Christmas tree (LA Times).

As 2012 winds down, it’s time to recap the year for the environment. It was a busy end to a year that came in softly, but saw major environmental stories pop up in the final 6 months.

10. Towns ban bad products – Barrington, R.I., bans plastic bags; Concord, Mass., bans plastic water bottles; Brookline, Mass., bans plastic bags and styrocene products. All across the country, the same bans were being put in place as town governments took the lead in fighting to stop climate change and using less harmful products to the environment.

9. EPA tightens standards – As the year came to a close, the EPA came out with tougher soot standards. It’s just the first of what’s expected to be a slew of tougher standards from the EPA on boilers, refrigerators and other products.

8. Top experts cause waves – Climate change activist Bill McKibben, Global warming godfather James Hansen and former climate change skeptic Richard Muller all came out within a couple of weeks of each other in the summer, calling for drastic change to our country’s energy policy. The cry was heard in many corners, but ignored in the corners that matter most.

7. Oill spill fallout – As the 2-year anniversary of the BP oil spill in 2010 came and went, the fallout was still happening. The former CEO landed on his feet at a new company and BP was still turning massive profits despite having to pay out up to $35 billion in lawsuits. Oh, and the Louisiana shore was still feeling effects as tar oil washed ashore in large quantities during a recent Hurricane.

6. Sea-ice at all-time lows – The alarm sounding continues as the sea-ice in the Arctic hit an all-time low this year. Trouble looms ahead as major sea ice packs melting could allow (gasp!) the oil companies to start drilling there for oil.

5. International pacts waver – Sure, the Kyoto Protocol was extended until 2020 during the U.N. climate change conference in Doha, but are any countries still following that? Hope fizzled for a more comprehensive plan at the Rio+20 talks during the summer. And the international community remains at a standstill as far as moving forward to fight climate change.

4. Keystone XL pipeline stopped – The project to extend a pipeline throughout North America was stopped in its tracks by environmental activists who were worried about the impact of the pipeline on some areas – not to mention how easy it would make life for the booming energy companies.

3. Hydrofracking explodes onto scene – A new way of taking natural gas from the ground allowed many states in the United States to see an energy boom much like the old energy booms of centuries past. In North Dakota, the state is thriving as natural gas is extracted from the ground. But the effect on the environment of getting the gas – and then using the fossil fuel – is very costly. Look for greater regulations on the industry in 2013.

2. Climate change barely registers in U.S. election – GOP challenger Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan – a climate change denier – as his running mate. President Obama said during a debate that he was a friend to big oil. None of it mattered much as climate change was avoided throughout the campaign and the debates. That all changed in the final week, however, as Superstorm Sandy hit and the public focused on the effects of global warming. NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Obama in the final days, but strongly mentioned how disappointed he was in the president’s environmental policies.

1. Superstorm Sandy – A once-in-a-lifetime storm came as a hurricane met up with another weather system on the East Coast and delivered a walloping punch of rain and wind to New York and New Jersey. It killed 253 people and created $65 billion worth of damage. Scientists have theorized it was about 10 percent worse than it would have been without global warming, but whether or not global warming affected this particular storm, it’s not hard to visualize just how bad and frequent these stronger storms will be if our world doesn’t take quick action on global warming.


Antarctica is warming faster than previously thought (BBC). The continent is also dealing with invasive insects (BBC).

Pot farms are frying Northern California’s environment (LA Times).

India’s having trouble with coal (Washington Post).

Polar bear trade remains controversial (Washington Post).

The EPA issues new air pollution standards for boilers (NY Times).

Truffles are suffering in the heat (NY Times).


The U.S. has moved much closer to energy independence (Bloomberg).

Coal may catch oil in the next 10 years (BBC).

Still, some U.S. coal plants are going under (NY Times).

Trees are dropping like flies (BBC).

California issues proposed fracking rules (LA Times).


The EPA tightens soot standards (Washington Post).

Brazil increases mining of ancient caves (NY Times).

Britain approves hydrofracking (NY Times).

Reservoirs can affect rainfall intensity (BBC).

A UN climate report is leaked (BBC).


The Colorado River is unlikely to meet future demand (LA Times).

Renewable energy needs a lot of fossil fuel backup (LA Times).

Rising temperatures could melt the ski industry (NY Times).

Mining firm profits on public lands are a mystery (Washington Post).

Big solar firms are facing increased scrutiny (Washington Post).

Indianapolis plans to move to an entirely electric and hybrid vehicle fleet (LA Times).

The push to ban plastic bags has grown in recent months. In Massachusetts, Brookline banned plastic bags. And in Rhode Island, Barrington did the same. This is one solution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Take a look below to see how harmful plastic bags are to the environment (thanks to Jessica Wallace at LearnStuff).

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The Kyoto Protocol is extended to 2020 (BBC). The UN talks posed a dilemma for the US (BBC), whom other countries saw as an obstacle to a deal (Washington Post).

Obama is likely to continue on a middle path on the environment (LA Times).

LNG exports are a hot topic (Washington Post).

A pipeline from the Missouri River is one idea for saving the Colorado River (NY Times).


Arctic sea ice loss set a record this year (LA Times).

Natural gas exports may soon be rising (NY Times).

Stimulus money wasn’t enough to keep this battery firm off the auction block (LA Times).

Small island states want climate compensation (BBC).

A Ghana solar plant will be Africa’s largest (BBC).

African lion populations are way down (Washington Post).