After more than a year of deadlock, representatives of the European Commission, EU member states, and the European Parliament yesterday agreed on a deal that slashes €840 million (US$1.1 billion) from the €1.2-billion deficit in the 2012-2013 budget of ITER, the EU-led international effort to build a fusion-energy test reactor. The deficit arose from repeated cost overruns — in 2006, ITER was projected to cost €5 billion, but that sum has now grown to €15 billion. The new deal comes in the nick of time: had the deficit not been made up for by the end of the year, construction of the reactor site in Cadarache, France, would have faced significant delays — see my piece about this, “Outcry over EU budget plan“, which was published in Nature earlier this week.
When it rains it pours on the US Department of Energy. First Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry says he wants to dismantle it (though he couldn’t quite remember that at the crucial moment in a recent Republican debate). Then the department’s own inspector general releases a report recommending a large-scale restructuring of the agency (details below). And today, director Steven Chu found himself on Capitol Hill for more than three hours defending the agency’s investment in the failed solar concern, Solyndra Corporation. Read more
Steven Koonin, the Under Secretary for Science at the US Department of Energy (DOE), is leaving the agency after two and a half years. The announcement came in an e-mail to employees on 8 November from Secretary Steve Chu, who says that Koonin will leave on 18 November and take up a position at the Washington DC-based Institute for Defense Analyses Science and Technology Policy Institute. Read more
A UK energy company has admitted that their hydraulic fracturing project (commonly known as ‘fracking’) probably caused a few surprisingly large earthquakes in Lancashire this spring. But, their report into the events concludes, it should be safe to continue operations in the area. Protesters disagree. Read more
Maybe the trick is to get away from pollution and power plants and instead make global warming policy appear youthful and fun and exciting (right). Whatever the reason, at a time when the drive for climate regulation has not only stalled but is running in reverse in Washington, the state of California appears content to plow forward and blaze yet another new regulatory trail. Read more
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday Oct 20 that it plans to develop standards for disposing of waste water generated by hydraulic fracturing, a method used to extract natural gas from shale rock formations, often referred to as “fracking.” Later that day, the EPA provided expert testimony to a Senate panel that continues to look for ways to best regulate a field that could be an energy boon as well as a safety disaster.
In the current US political environment, even environmental regulation is about jobs. As House Republicans continued their attack on the US Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday, they put the spotlight squarely on the jobs that could be lost at various facilities if new air quality regulations on industrial boilers are allowed to move forward. Democrats, meanwhile, argued that cleaning up the environment is a net gain — and can even create more jobs than it destroys. Read more
It’s not as if President Barack Obama needed any more trouble with his beleaguered climate agenda, but so it goes. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog released a report Wednesday alleging that the agency cut some corners in producing its 2009 “”http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090417/full/news.2009.374.html”>endangerment finding”, which formally declares that global warming endangers human health and welfare (Bloomberg Businessweek). Read more
The US Department of Energy (DOE) released its inaugural Quadrennial Technology Review on Tuesday, laying out a longer-term strategic agenda to help integrate energy research and development programmes. Read more
Former US Vice President and global warming ambassador Al Gore wrapped up his 24 hours of reality in New York this evening. The final presentation, much like the 23 that preceded it, sought to reinforce the link between extreme weather and global warming in order to make the case that greenhouse gases are not a distant and amorphous threat to our grandchildren but a clear and present danger to pretty much everybody on the planet. Read more