A new era of climate regulation began as the Environmental Protection Agency announced its first-ever effort to limit carbon emissions. “Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement, still referring to carbon emissions as “pollution.” The agency set a standard for power plant emissions that will be impossible for new coal plants to meet without installing carbon capture and storage – a technology that has not yet been proved feasible at a commercial level. Natural gas plants, however, will be able to meet the standard and the effort is expected to accelerate the transition to natural gas. Jackson essentially affirmed this, saying the regulations are “in line with investments already being made throughout the utility industry.” Coal supporters said it meant the end of “King Coal” but Greenpeace complained the EPA still hasn’t done enough.
The first returns are in on the public’s verdict about gas prices and President Obama has not fared well. Despite efforts by the Associated Press and other news outlets to deflect blame from the President, a full 68 percent of the public disapproves of his energy policies and holds him responsible for the price run-up. MSNBC speculates, however, that the GOP advantage may not last long,
A leak on a natural gas platform in the North Sea has led to an evacuation and fears of a major accident. Total, a French company, says the leak is on the surface instead of underwater and therefore not as serious as Deepwater Horizon’s blowout in in the Gulf of Mexico. The gas plume being flared but the company has not yet been able to determine its origin.
The Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul has agreed to step up nuclear security around the globe but concern about nuclear materials does not seem to be discouraging countries from undertaking nuclear programs. Kenya says it will try to build a reactor and Saudi Arabia has announced an ambitious program. In California, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it will not yet allow the restart of the San Onofre Reactor, which may leave Los Angeles short of electricity this summer. But in Japan, the shutdown of the country’s entire nuclear fleet has let to huge consumption of imported oil.
MIT has added a new wrinkle to solar energy by inventing a vertical design that produces a 3-D effect (above), capturing radiation from all directions. If the panels are built tall enough, they can reduce land requirements by a factor of 20. Virginia has begun an effort to capture offshore wind by giving approval to a 45-story wind turbine in the Chesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania is hosting the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Contest and AOL Energy reports that the military is becoming a hotbed for energy innovation. The International Atomic Energy Agency has put out a report suggesting nuclear energy can be used to power a hydrogen economy. And simulations from the Sandia National Laboratory suggest that the long-sought philosopher’s stone of nuclear fusion may still be feasible.