It would take an estimated 11 years and $40 billion to excavate a proposed canal through 130 miles of Nicaragua to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, providing shippers with an alternative route to the Panama Canal. And the project would have a huge environmental impact on the country, slicing through rainforest and messing with waterways.
But enough already with boring facts and details. President Daniel Ortega is trying to ram the project through his country's congress faster than Dick Cheney rammed America's Patriot Act through after 9/11.
Hydrofluorocarbons, the climate-changing twins of ozone-ruining chlorofluorocarbons, had best watch out. The world's two most powerful countries have agreed to join forces to prevent the harmful chemicals from entering the atmosphere.
Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping spent Friday and Saturday talking in California. They couldn't find much middle ground on cyberespionage, or on a handful of other security issues. But they agreed that their two countries will work together to tackle one of the world's greatest climate threats.
But while the news might be good for Detroiters, it's not so good for Canadians -- or anyone who cares about a livable climate. A Nova Scotia power plant is now burning the cheap, filthy fuel to produce electricity.
The petcoke is a byproduct of refining tar-sands oil, which began recently at a Detroit refinery. The pile's growth over the past six months has disgusted residents and their elected leaders. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced legislation in Congress that would direct the federal government to investigate the health and environmental impacts of the uncovered waste. A state lawmaker introduced a bill that would require such waste to be stored inside enclosed structures. And the Detroit City Council is mulling options [PDF] for dealing with the blight.
It's difficult to legally burn petcoke for energy in the U.S. because of the pollution it creates, but power plants in other countries -- like Canada, apparently -- are happy to buy it up and burn it.
Property owners who watched with disgust and fear as TransCanada contractors ripped up their land to lay the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline are being treated to a repeat performance.
The pipeline isn't even in service yet, but already TransCanada is digging up stretches of faulty piping and replacing them, raising fresh safety fears. The pipeline is intended to link up with the Keystone XL northern leg -- which is still waiting for approval from the Obama administration -- and then carry tar-sands oil down to refineries in Texas.
Dozens of anomalies, including dents and welds, reportedly have been identified along a 60-mile stretch of the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, north of the Sabine River in Texas.
In the past two weeks, landowners have observed TransCanada and its vendor, Michels, digging up the buried southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline on their properties and those of neighbors in the vicinity of Winnsboro, Texas. Some of the new pipeline has been in the ground on some owners’ land for almost six months. It is believed that problems identified on this section of the Keystone XL route must have triggered the current digging, raising questions from landowners about the safety of the pipeline and the risk to personal property and water supplies.
France's energy minister looked at the destruction being wrought on America's environment by hydraulic fracturing and said "non, merci" to the latest push by her country's business lobby to make fracking legal.
Fracking was banned in France in 2011, and it looks like it's going to stay banned. From Bloomberg:
France’s ban on hydraulic fracturing should not be eased because the oil and gas drilling technique is causing “considerable” environmental damage in the U.S., according to a government minister.
We told you about billionaire Sean Parker's obnoxious wedding romp in a Big Sur redwood grove. The Napster cofounder and former Facebook president will pay $2.5 million to the California Coastal Commission to help heal damages caused when a temporary wonderland backdrop was illegally built in the forest for his nuptial vows.
Well, it turns out that two of California's most senior elected officials attended the wedding, living the kind of high life that only comes with an assault on threatened fish species and the trashing of a forest. Those officials were Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Newsom's attendance at the anti-eco bash was interesting, given that the former San Francisco mayor has spent his political career yapping about how much he loves the environment.
Harris' was interesting because she is the state's top law enforcer, and Parker's penalties stemmed from violations of state law.
Not only did Friday's tornado outburst in Oklahoma lead to at least 20 deaths, but analysis by NOAA has revealed that it included the widest tornado ever recorded in the U.S. and one twister that spun the wrong way.
The diameter of the El Reno tornado, which on Friday killed three famous weather chasers, reached a mind-boggling and record-breaking 2.6 miles. Both the El Reno cyclone and the Moore tornado, which struck nearby a week earlier, were rated EF5, the most damaging type of cyclone on the Enhanced Fujita scale. From LiveScience:
"To have two EF5s within less than two weeks in the same general area — that's highly unusual," [University Corporation for Atmospheric Research scientist Jeff] Weber told LiveScience. "Off the top of my head, I haven't heard of it happening before."
Oil has been gushing from a group of wells south of New Orleans since a platform at the site was wiped out by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and it appears that nothing is being done to staunch or control the leaking.
Even if the lower estimate were correct, it should be bad enough to set off alarm bells somewhere in the federal government. But this is the environmentally battered Gulf of Mexico, where petrochemical accidents are an everyday occurrence.
A week after word got out that unapproved GMO wheat was found growing on an Oregon farm, Monsanto has announced the results of an internal investigation into the mysterious outbreak. The results can be summarized thusly: “Nothing is wrong at our end and everybody's crops are safe. Maybe our opponents planted our freak wheat to try to hurt us.”
A genetically modified test strain of wheat that emerged to the surprise of an Oregon farmer last month was likely the result of an accident or deliberate mixing of seeds, the company that developed it said Wednesday.
Representatives for Monsanto Co. said during a conference call Wednesday that the emergence of the genetically modified strain was an isolated occurrence. It has tested the original wheat stock and found it clean, the company said.
Sabotage is a possibility, said Robb Fraley, Monsanto chief technology officer.
“We’re considering all options and that’s certainly one of the options,” Fraley said.
Everybody get ready to grab your swimsuit and head north. The latest melting projections by government scientists suggest that the Arctic could be nearly ice-free during summer in seven years -- or maybe even sooner.
But before you get all excited about the novelty of taking a dive into waters that once harbored year-round ice, we should warn you that the seven-year thing is a worst-case scenario. But even the best-case scenario published in a recent scientific paper projects that the summer ice will virtually disappear during the first half of this century.