As we head into 2013, some of the old issues seem to be coming to a head. Is global warming real? Is the EPA’s “War on Coal” justified? Should the US build the Keystone Pipeline? Is nuclear energy poised for a comeback? Lots of fodder for end-of-the-year roundups and New Year’s predictions.
It appears now that the Obama Administration may seek to kick the Keystone can even further down the road with another round of studies and environmental impact statements. Opponents are now arguing that the EIS should include a whole section on global warming. The possibilities for delay seem endless.
Global warming continues to confound with conflicting studies pointing every which-way, although public opinion does seem to be coalescing around the idea that something is happening to the climate. One study says the Antarctic Ice Sheet is warming three times faster than the rest of the globe. Another says warming in Alaska has actually halted and the northernmost state is actually cooling. James Taylor, writing in Forbes, claims that the warming trend is actually benefitting Africa. And Harvard scientist David Keith has a proposal for using millions of reflective particles in the atmosphere to try to refreeze the Arctic (above).
The EPA’s “War on Coal” seems to be abating a bit as the Agency grants delays to cement plants and other boilers. Of course this has set off a reaction among environmental groups who claim the EPA is caving to opposition. Kentucky fears its coal operations are threatened and The Daily Times of the Four Corners claims that even home use of coal by the Navajo may be threatened. Altogether, 2013 promises to be an exciting year.
Is nuclear poised to make a comeback? It appears something may be afoot as Japan’s openly pro-nuclear new government gives indications it may want to restart the nation’s 52 reactors. If Japan can recover from Fukushima, the rest of the world may follow. Russia is scurrying around the world signing nuclear deals with India and the United Arab Emirates. Hitachi is discussing a reactor proposal with Lithuania. But in the US things are still at a standstill as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeks still more data on why the steam pipes showed early erosion at San Onofre.
Finally, some of the realities of biomass seem to be sinking in. It just involves burning things, which is what caused all the concern about air pollution and global warming in the first place. A report from Pennsylvania says schools that heat with wood are polluting the air for schoolchildren. Mary Booth, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, says that burning wood is only adding more carbon to the atmosphere. But West Virginia is exploring burning wood and South Carolina researchers are looking at a fast-growing variety of sugar cane. One thing certain about the New Year – the controversies over energy is likely to continue.