After staying in town long enough for a cup of coffee, Congress has adjourned again. But not before making it clear that hopes for approval of a national renewable electricity standard this year are slip-slidin’ away. What happened, you ask?
I’ll be Grahamed: First, you have Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) who’s been pushing hard for an RES vote after the November elections, saying that if other senators try to add much to his proposal, there won’t be time for it to get through a lame-duck session. Then Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) points out that the Senate’s post-election calendar is already crowded with such sober matters as the START arms reduction treaty with Russia and tax cuts, and any other legislation that promises to stir controversy and debate is a longshot at best.
Finally, right on cue, comes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) riding in on his black horse to announce his own RES proposal, which would expand the definition of renewable energy to include nuclear and “clean” coal. Said Graham:
From my part of the country, that’s a bad proposal (Bingaman’s) because it doesn’t acknowledge nuclear power as being a low, carbon-free source of energy, and it disadvantages nuclear power.
Going, going …
And in other green news:
Drill, bebe, drill: A Spanish firm plans to start drilling for oil off the coast of Cuba next year — only 50 miles from the Florida Keys. And that’s raising anxiety among scientists who say Cuba is way less prepared to handle a well blowout than the U.S. was before the Deepwater Horizon explosion. [The New York Times]
The science of pork: The governors of the Gulf Coast states will decide how to divvy up the $500 million BP has promised for research. They’ve argued that scientists at their universities and research centers have a unique expertise in Gulf issues. But others worry this regional bias will open channels for science-flavored pork to flow to Gulf Coast universities. [Los Angeles Times]
They let 10-year-olds in the Senate? Another day, another display of pointless posturing by a Republican senator. Yesterday it was Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma, refusing to go along on a voice vote about routine legislation to protect sharks, cranes, and even cute little sea otters. Coburn objected, mainly because he could. He then offered the lame explanation that the measures were designed to protect “special interests” and besides, the Senate should be spending its time reducing the deficit. [The Hill]
Stop making sense: British foreign secretary William Hague, once head of the U.K.’s Conservative Party, warned in a speech to the United Nations that “you cannot have food, water, or energy security without climate security.” He added:
Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century’s biggest foreign policy challenge along with such challenges as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. A world which is failing to respond to climate change is one in which the values embodied in the U.N. will not be met. It is a world in which competition and conflict will win over collaboration.
A bridge too far? The German cabinet has voted to extend the life of its nuclear power plants as a “bridge” to the renewable energy future. But Germany’s green groups see that decision as gross hypocrisy coming from a country that’s been hyping itself as a leader in clean energy. [Time]
Fast forward: And in Italy, small towns otherwise frozen in time, are turning to wind turbines and solar panels. [The New York Times)
Come Shell in high water: There may be a moratorium in the Gulf now, but Shell is pushing ahead with plans to build a huge oil and gas production facility there. It’s expected to cost at least $1.5 billion. [Houston Chronicle]
Plants be gone: Almost 20 percent of the plant species on Earth are now facing extinction. [AFP]
Putting on miles: Is the EPA really going to raise fuel economy standards for cars to 60 miles per gallon by 2025? [Treehugger]
Thinking outside the Earth: Scientists at Washington State University say a massive solar sail more than 5,000 miles wide could harvest way more power in solar wind than the planet needs. [Discovery News]
What? There’s no corn syrup tree? Ben & Jerry’s has stopped referring to its ice cream as all-natural. [The Guardian]