President Obama spoke in dismissive terms of the Keystone XL pipeline Monday during an interview on "The Colbert Report Monday, saying its modest benefits need to be weighed against its contribution to climate change, "which could be disastrous."
During an interview taped at George Washington University, the president did not explicitly say whether he would grant or deny a permit to the controversial project that would transport heavy crude from Hardisty, Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast. But he highlighted many of the pipeline's disadvantages, and downplayed its benefits.
As the Obama administration nears a decision on whether — and how — to clamp down on methane leaking from active oil and gas operations, new research suggests abandoned wells may be a significant source of the potent greenhouse gas.
The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on 19 representative abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, it can be extrapolated to the approximately 3 million across the country.
And while federal regulators are now concentrating on methane emitted during oil and gas production, the new study conducted by researchers with Princeton University suggests that accumulating leaks from abandoned wells over decades may be a bigger problem.
Oil, gas and coal interests that spent millions to help elect Republicans this year are moving to take advantage of expanded GOP power in Washington and state capitals to thwart Obama administration environmental rules.
Industry lobbyists made their pitch in private meetings last week with dozens of state legislators at a summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an industry-financed conservative state policy group.
The lobbyists and legislators consideredseveral model bills to be introduced across the country next year, designed to give states more power to block or delay new Obama administration environmental standards, including new limits on power-plant emissions.
The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.
But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.
"Outstanding!" William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt's office. The attorney general's staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general's signature. "The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House."
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq heads to the United Nations climate summit this weekend with no new targets and no commitment to action on Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases in the oil sands, but with a pledge to crack down on a little-known chemical that represents a tiny portion of this country’s emissions.
On Friday, the minister announced that Ottawa will enact new regulations to control hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in air conditioning and heating. The powerful short-term greenhouse gases account for only 1 per cent of Canada’s overall emissions. But she reiterated that Ottawa will not move to regulate emissions from the oil sands until the United States is ready to address its oil industry – a decision that, according to many analysts, makes it virtually impossible for Canada to hit its 2020 target.
The Church of England said it was in the process of filing shareholder resolutions on climate change at BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
"The resolution is intended to challenge the companies to run their businesses so that they participate constructively in the transition to a low carbon economy," The Church of England wrote in a blog. (bit.ly/1tUBUlN)
The Church said it chose BP and Shell because they have the biggest carbon footprints of all the companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.
The German government passed far-reaching energy policy resolutions on Wednesday, signing off on the first Energiewende Progress Report, the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (NAPE) and the Action Programme on Climate Protection 2020.
At the presentation of the program, German Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it is currently up to the government to integrate and connect energy and climate policy.
Much has already been achieved in the energy sector, Gabriel said: the amendment of the Renewable Energies Act (EEG) is taking hold, the debate over the electricity market has gained momentum and a plan for further steps has been tabled.
Bill McKibben, a chief antagonist of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, is stepping down as chairman of the environmental group 350.org that he helped create.
McKibben, an author and climate advocate, said the move will give him more time to write and to organize campaigns. He'll remain as a senior adviser to the New York-based group that pushes for action to combat climate change.
"If this sounds dramatic, it's not," McKibben wrote in a letter to supporters sent from Sweden, where he is receiving the Right Livelihood Award from Parliament. "I will stay on as an active member of the board, and 90 percent of my daily work will stay the same, since it's always involved the external work of campaigning, not the internal work of budgets and flow charts."
Germany's biggest utility firm, E.ON, has announced plans to split in two and spin off most of its power generation, energy trading and upstream businesses, responding to a crisis that has crippled the European energy sector.
E.ON said it wanted to focus on its renewable activities, regulated distribution networks and tailor-made energy efficiency services, citing "dramatically altered global energy markets, technical innovation, and more diverse customer expectations."
"E.ON's existing broad business model can no longer properly address these new challenges," the chief executive, Johannes Teyssen, said in a statement.
Germany's power sector has been in turmoil, hit by a prolonged period of weak demand, low wholesale prices and a surge in renewable energy sources which continue to replace gas-fired and coal-fired power plants.
E.ON said it would prepare next year for the listing of the new company created by its breakup, with the spin-off taking place after its 2016 annual general meeting.
The split will not be accompanied by job cuts, E.ON said, adding that about 40,000 employees would remain with the parent group, while the remaining 20,000 would join the new company.
E.ON did not provide an earnings breakup for the two future companies. E.ON’s generation, upstream and global commodities units, the last of which includes trading, accounted for about 35% of its €9.32bn (£7.4bn) in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in 2013. Renewables and regulated businesses alone accounted for 54%.
E.ON will hold a news conference on Monday about its plans, which will include investing more in wind and solar power.
The Obama administration unveiled an ambitious plan Wednesday that it said would improve public health by slashing the ozone pollution that causes smog.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy framed the update to the ground-level ozone standard as an imperative, bringing agency rules in line with the latest science to protect the nation's most vulnerable populations from a range of respiratory illnesses including asthma.
"Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk," McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday morning.