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Climate change appears to be headed for front-and-center in Washington as environmental groups seek to capitalize on President Obama’s emphasis on the issue in his Inaugural Address. But many are still skeptical there will be a follow-up (above). “How Serious is Obama About Climate Change?” asks Hilal Elver on Al Jazeera. “He mentioned it, now what?” seconds Shanta Covington on MSNBC. A widely reprinted editorial in the Kansas City Star says the US should take the lead in dealing with the issue. But Washington Post columnist George F. Will is still skeptical that change is even taking place.

The debate over whether to export natural gas will be an addendum to the climate issue but probably just as intense. Some are arguing that exports will help wean Asia and Europe off coal. Others see it as an indefinite extension of fossil fuels. But the crux of the debate is likely to be between the chemical and oil industries, which are often allied but find themselves opposed on this issue. Dow punctuated the antagonism by withdrawing from an LNG terminal project in Texas in which it had an interest. The controversy has made bedfellows out of Dow and Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey, who is predictably arguing for economic mercantilism. “Don’t Let Special Interests Block Natural Gas Exports” is the plea of Daniel Simmons at the Institute for Energy Research.

Things are heating up in the Middle East as the Kurds continue to try to export oil without going through Iraq or giving Baghdad its cut. Exxon is a principal player here, trying to decide whether to deal directly with the Kurds or honor Baghdad’s wishes. Meanwhile, Iraq is making good with Kuwait – which Saddam Hussein invaded 20 years ago – signing a deal to collaborate on development of a new field near Basra.

Finally, the DC Court of Appeals’ decision to void the EPA’s mandate that refineries buy non-existent cellulosic ethanol is causing a complete revaluation in the industry. The situation could hardly go on – the EPA fining companies on the grounds that it could still buy cellulosic sometime in the future. But other factors are hurting the industry as well. High corn prices have forced White Energy to shut an ethanol plant in Texas and Inside Climate speculates that the Energy Information Administration is no longer bullish on biofuels. On Energy Global, Nextant Consulting says the industry is at a crossroads.

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