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Today's Climate

November 14, 2014

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote on Friday to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline that will help transport oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, but a companion bill in the Senate may lack votes to pass next week. The bills would circumvent the need for approval of TransCanada Corp's $8 billion project by the Obama administration, which has been pending for more than six years.
What if they voted for a pipeline but nobody came? As Congress rushes to approve the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, it is questionable whether or not the project will make as much of a difference as proponents expect. Since June, crude oil has declined by 28 percent, pushing the price that oil from new wells in Canada may command below what the expected cost will be to produce it.
(New York Times)
American consumers are going to enjoy a more bountiful Christmas this year, thanks in part to a most unlikely source: Saudi Arabia. The steepening drop in gasoline prices in recent weeks—spurred by soaring domestic energy production and Saudi discounts for crude oil at a time of faltering global demand—is set to provide the United States economy with a multibillion-dollar boost through the holiday season and beyond.
This week's China-U.S. climate agreement between the world's top two polluters puts pressure on India, No. 3 on the list, to become more energy efficient and should encourage investment in renewable energy. But the pact is also a relief for India because it acknowledges the long-held view among developing economies that industrialized nations have been emitting heat-trapping gases for many more decades and so should shoulder more of the burden for tackling climate change. Emerging economies argue they should have fewer constraints to pollute as they grow.
(Los Angeles Times)
British energy giant BP, which supplies natural gas to California state agencies under a $250-million annual contract, overcharged the state by as much as $300 million over eight years, a lawsuit contends. The oil company failed to buy gas for the state at competitive prices, the whistle-blower suit says, and then knowingly sold it at inflated prices.
(The Durango Herald)
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, once again hit the spotlight in Colorado on Thursday, with a report suggesting air-quality regulations are not keeping up with the industry's rapid growth.
Efforts to prohibit hydraulic fracturing and other oil extraction techniques in Los Angeles have hit a road block in the city's Planning Department. In a new report, city planners recommend that Los Angeles not pursue the moratorium approved by the city council eight months ago.
(Al Jazeera)
International oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has admitted that the 2008 Oil spills in Bodo, Nigeria were larger than initially anticipated. In the run-up to a high-profile compensation case in England's High Court, the Anglo-Dutch company announced on Thursday that the two spills had been far greater than the previously believed figure of 4,144 barrels. However Shell did not give a revised figure.
South Africa got funds for a program that may cost 10 billion rand ($900 million) to clean up toxic water leaking from abandoned mine shafts in and around Johannesburg. After intensively mining in the region for 120 years, Africa's richest city is littered with enormous underground mined-out caverns that have become flooded. Water combines with toxic metals such as uranium, a by-product of gold mining, and seeps out into rivers, a process called acid-mine drainage.
(Climate Central)
While severe weather like hurricanes and tornadoes typically only hit particular areas of the globe, lightning can strike anywhere. And it does, a lot. A bolt of lightning flashes through the sky and hits the ground somewhere around the world about 100 times every second. That's 8 million lightning strikes in a single day—yes, you read that right: just one day. Now, a new study finds that lightning strikes will become even more frequent as the planet warms, at least in the continental U.S.

November 13, 2014

The historic emissions deal between China and the U.S. removes a key barrier in United Nations-led efforts to craft a global climate pact. Now President Barack Obama has to find a way to make it happen at home.
(National Journal)
The White House has begun hinting that President Obama would veto legislation that mandates approval of the Keystone XL oil-sands pipeline.
(Washington Post)
President Obama is fond of telling Congress that it should pass things with the overwhelming support of the American people, including (among other things) comprehensive immigration reform, increasing the minimum wage, and increasing gun background checks.
Jack Blankenship was pinned facedown in the dirt, his neck, shoulder and back throbbing with pain. He was alone on an errand, in a dark tunnel a mile underground at the Aracoma Alma coal mine in Logan County, W.Va., when a 300-pound slab of rock peeled away from the roof and slammed him to the ground. As his legs grew numb, he managed to free an arm and reach his radio. For two hours, he pressed the panic button that was supposed to bring help quickly.
(Think Progress)
A clear majority of Americans now oppose hydraulic fracturing, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center. And while most voters still support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, support is slipping there as well.
As a federal judge considers the constitutionality of one New Mexico county's efforts to ban oil and natural gas development, commissioners in neighboring San Miguel County voted Wednesday in favor of imposing some of the strictest requirements on hydrocarbon exploration in the country.
U.S. wildlife authorities listed the Gunnison sage grouse as threatened on Wednesday, disappointing environmental activists who wanted the species given greater protection, and politicians who did not want the federal government involved.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
Fracking an oil well takes millions of dollars, thousands of pounds of horsepower and dozens of people, but the whole operation can be brought to a halt by a humble grain of sand. Without sand—a crucial ingredient in the hydraulic fracturing process—the U.S. drilling boom would stop. That is why Halliburton Co. set up a new "war room" to track sand shipments by trains and trucks.
(Minnesota Public Radio)
Environmental advocates are challenging a workaround by Enbridge Energy to transport additional Canadian crude oil into the United States while waiting for a federal permit.
(Los Angeles Times)
Two years ago, in a preemptive move, Shell sued a host of environmental and advocacy groups to prevent them from suing Shell over its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court called Shell's legal strategy "novel" and ruled it unconstitutional.
(itv news)
Hundreds of protesters have buried their heads in the sands of Australia's Bondi Beach in a mocking gesture against what they say is a refusal to act on climate change.
(The Globe and Mail)
U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have raised the stakes in the battle over global climate policy, and in doing so, are forcing the hand of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In a deal signed on Wednesday in Beijing, the two leaders agreed to make greater efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement is expected to generate momentum as nations prepare for the UN climate summit in Lima later this month with the goal of reaching an international agreement next year in Paris.
The U.S.-China deal on carbon emissions received a broadly positive response in China in the media and from experts. While the Chinese press mostly carried news stories about the deal and not much analysis in comparison to the western press, it was was welcoming of a deal some described as "historic."

November 12, 2014

Australia is under intense pressure to announce a target for post-2020 greenhouse gas reductions after the shock announcement from U.S. president Barack Obama and Chinese premier Xi Jinping of new national climate change goals.
China will overtake the U.S. as the world's biggest oil consumer within two decades, according to the International Energy Agency. "A landmark is reached in the early 2030s, when China becomes the largest oil-consuming country, crossing paths with the United States," the agency said in a summary of its World Energy Outlook, which forecasts long-term energy trends. The full findings of the report will be presented at a press conference in London today.
The Senate could vote this month on a measure to push through the Keystone XL pipeline—a move that would give Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu a valuable chit ahead of her Dec. 6 runoff in Louisiana.
(New York Times)
The new Republican Congress is headed for a clash with the White House over two ambitious Environmental Protection Agency regulations that are the heart of President Obama's climate change agenda.
(Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd))
A judge on Monday approved Anadarko Petroleum Corp.'s $5.15 billion settlement over its ill-fated acquisition of Tronox Inc., the final major hurdle in the federal government's largest environmental settlement ever. Judge Katherine B. Forrest of U.S. District Court in Manhattan said Tronox's bankruptcy judge was correct earlier this year when he signed off on the deal.
(Los Angeles Times)
Heat and extreme drought have worsened smog in California over the last year, stalling decades of progress toward cleaner air and increasing health risks.
(Yale 360)
In August, when former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney visited West Virginia to campaign for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Shelley Moore Capito, the Democrat in the race was quick to remind voters what Romney had said a decade earlier about the coal industry.