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Today's Climate

October 17, 2014

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has corrected a controversial claim that small amounts of global warming could have overall positive economic impacts, after I pointed out that it was based on inaccurate information.
Sweden has called on the European Union to adopt a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 50 percent by 2030s, 10 percentage points higher than current proposals.
A group of Pacific Islanders joined an environmental protest blockading the Newcastle coal port on Friday, disrupting shipping traffic by paddling canoes across the harbour mouth. Members of the Pacific Climate Warriors action group traveled from nations including the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tokelau, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to draw attention to the effects of climate change on their island nations, and to protest Australia's continuing commitment to coal.
(Washington Examiner)
The proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in Nevada could safely store spent fuel long after its doors close, federal nuclear regulators said. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined that Yucca "meets the requirements" for long-term storage.
New York's highest court has rejected an attempt by the oil and gas industry to revive its fight against local fracking bans. In a precedent-setting decision last June, the Court of Appeals ruled that communities have the right to use local land-use authority to prohibit oil and gas operations within their borders. On Thursday, the court denied a motion by the trustee for bankrupt Norse Energy to reargue its case against the town of Dryden.
(Toronto Star)
October is not typically the month for avalanches in Nepal. It is also not the time for blizzards. The fall month usually means clear skies and sunshine in the Himalayan country when thousands of foreigners climb its tall mountains. Hikers were doing exactly that earlier this week when an avalanche and blizzard struck, killing at least 26 people, including four Canadians.
Climate change has shrunk Peruvian glaciers by 40 percent in the past four decades and the melt-off has spawned nearly 1,000 new high-altitude lakes since 1980, Peru's government said on Wednesday. Nearly 90 percent of Peruvian glaciers are smaller than 1-square-kilometer, putting them at greater risk of disappearing in coming years, Peru's water authority said in an update of its glacier inventory from the 1970s.
(New York Times)
Amid the calls to capture carbon to save the climate, a Texas company is preparing to do that job for profit. At Capitol Aggregates, a cement plant near San Antonio, the Skyonic Corporation of Austin, plans to open a $125 million factory next week that will make industrial chemicals.
(Fuel Fix)
A subsidiary of Houston-based ATP Oil & Gas will pay a $1 million fine to settle government charges alleging it illegally dumped oil and chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico. Under the settlement agreement reached between ATP Infrastructure Partners LP and the United States, the company will also be forced to remove a pipe from its Innovator platform that the government says allowed the firm to inject chemical dispersants into the water and mask illegally discharged oil.
(Midwest Energy News)
A full rainbow arched over the Calumet River on a bleak day in late September, lending a hint of beauty to the massive abandoned grain elevator, the ramshackle warehouses and the lines of barges moored by the Illinois International Port. Some of the barges were covered, but at least nine of them were uncovered and piled high with a powdery black material that appeared to be petroleum coke, or petcoke, the byproduct of oil refining that has sparked a grassroots uprising and political debate in Chicago.
Oil traders might see the 27 percent slide in global prices as a bear market. For U.S. consumers, it's more like an early holiday gift. The drop in crude has pulled retail gasoline down more than 50 cents a gallon from the year's high in April. That means annual savings of $500 for the average U.S. household, which consumes about 1,000 gallons of fuel a year, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration and Energy Information Administration.
(CNBC Africa)
Fracking could be the 100 billion U.S. dollar energy game changer that Africa needs at the risk of destroying the Karoo. It's has sparked conflict before a drill has touched the earth.

October 16, 2014

(USA Today)
Tom Steyer, one of the biggest political donors of the midterm elections, said his multimillion-dollar crusade to slow global warming rests on exposing the human consequences of fossil-fuel consumption. On a recent weekday, that quest took the California billionaire to a heavily industrial corner of southwest Detroit whose residents figure prominently in his campaign to disrupt American politics by making climate change a wedge issue in campaigns.
Sweden's seventh largest city has committed to divest its €225 million funds from fossil fuels. Örebro becomes the first Swedish city to fully withdraw from coal, oil and gas investments.
(Albuquerque Journal)
Mora County still has its first-in-the-country ban on oil and gas drilling, for now. The County Commission voted 2-to-1 Tuesday to maintain the anti-drilling "community rights ordinance" which has attracted national attention – as well as two lawsuits from drilling interests.
There is concern over the safety of drinking water in part of Trempealeau County. This comes after a frac sand mine near Independence was shut down and is now being investigated for three different violations that go against its permit with the county.
(Texas Tribune)
Texas' biggest power company may reward its executives with up to $20 million in bonuses even as it navigates one of the largest bankruptcies in U.S. history, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.  In a ruling from his bench in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. District Judge Christopher Sontchi said Energy Future Holdings may continue a handful of bonus programs despite objections from a federal bankruptcy monitor.
(The Times-Picayune)
Plaintiffs' lawyers on Wednesday (Oct. 15) urged a federal judge to block BP's request to remove Patrick Juneau as head of 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill claim payments, painting the move as an example of the company's "fundamental and recurring mischaracterization" of the settlement deal.
Oil Slump Means Canceled Projects as Investment Declines
The global crash in crude prices is reverberating through the oil and gas industry, pressuring producers to curtail investment to protect profits and avoid cuts to dividend payments. Projects in the Canadian oil sands, offshore fields in Norway and drilling-intensive U.S. shale deposits are among the most vulnerable as oil prices come perilously close to production costs. The world's largest oil companies have rarely spent so much for so little reward.
The pipeline that launched so many street protests, ad campaigns and political headaches for the White House is increasingly irrelevant in the midterm elections and the energy markets—even for the groups that have fought so hard to either build it or block it. Neither side will say publicly that the Keystone XL pipeline is less important than it once was. But after Keystone's three-year rise to the top of Washington's energy agenda, fueling lobbying and advertising bills well into the tens of millions of dollars, green groups and the oil industry are both moving on.
(New York Times)
In 2008, when the archbishop of the Church of Sweden convened a conference on the threats posed by climate change, the church's investment managers took notice. The next year, they began removing fossil fuel companies from the church's financial portfolio—a process that was completed last month with the removal of several natural gascompanies.
Climate change and invasive mussels may have made Lake Erie a more inviting host for toxic bacteria in recent years, suggesting that ambitious goals are needed for reducing phosphorus runoff that feeds large blooms like the one that forced a temporary tap water shutdown in and near Toledo, Ohio, scientists said Wednesday.
(The Hill)
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is calling out federal agencies for not implementing part of a 2009 law meant to reduce ocean acidification. The GAO said a federal task force has outlined a plan to increase the government's understanding of ocean acidification, a process caused by carbon dioxide that harms marine life and shores, along with how the government could respond.
Beijing has a color-coded smog alert system, but its deployment is as much political as technical. According to Beijing's environmental protection bureau, when the "Air Quality Index"—a figure derived from real-time measurements of such pollutants as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, PM 2.5, and PM 10 (the last two refer to the size of airborne particulate matter)—exceeds certain levels, the city should declare "yellow," "orange," or "red" alerts.

October 15, 2014

(Financial Post)
Canadians with an interest in the proposed Alberta-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline will be watching closely as Americans go to the polls in next month's mid-term elections. While President Barack Obama is not on the ballot, he has acknowledged that his policies are, and whether he should approve completion of the long-delayed, increasingly costly Canadian project has emerged as a major campaign issue.
(Battle Creek Enquirer)
Lawyers expect a trial of two or three days for a man charged with obstructing police and trespassing as he protested construction of an oil pipeline. Prosecutors and a lawyer for Christopher Wahmhoff told Calhoun County Circuit Judge James Kingsley on Monday they have not reached an agreement on a plea agreement and they expect the case to be tried.
(USA Today)
Melting glacial ice and ice sheets have driven seas to levels unmatched in the past 6,000 years, says a study out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers studied examples of past sediments in Australia and Asia that dated back 35,000 years and found that overall, the planet's sea level was fairly stable for most of the past 6,000 years.
Crude extracted from the largest U.S. oil field weakened against the U.S. benchmark after producers lost access to Midwest markets when a 4,000-barrel spill in Louisiana forced the shutdown of a key pipeline. West Texas Intermediate in Midland, Texas, weakened by 75 cents a barrel to a discount of $7 relative to the same grade in Cushing, Oklahoma, at 11:47 a.m., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It's the largest discount since Oct. 1. Midland is the pricing point for the Permian Basin, which produces about 1.76 million barrels of oil a day.
(Washington Post)
The roller-coaster ride of oil prices is speeding downward, carrying with it bickering members of OPEC, anxious U.S. shale oil producers and a Russia that relies heavily on petroleum revenue. With a weak global economy, the customary swing producer of oil—Saudi Arabia—has cut prices instead of cutting production, setting off a scramble on world markets.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC are emitting more carbon dioxide despite tapping less oil and natural gas. For every barrel they pump, the two biggest Western oil companies generated 10 percent more in greenhouse gases each last year than they did in 2011, according to company data.