In the Pipeline: 3/15/11

Great article that puts the nuclear situation in Japan in perspective New York Times (3/13/11) reports: The difference between a partial meltdown and a full meltdown at a nuclear plant is enormous, both in the degree of damage and in the potential release of radiation, experts in nuclear power said…A partial meltdown, like those suspected at two reactors in northeastern Japan over the weekend, may not necessarily mean that any of the uranium fuel in the core has melted, experts said. The fuel rods may be only damaged, a portion of them having been left uncovered by cooling water long enough to crack, allowing the release of some radioactive elements in the fuel…But in a full meltdown — which could occur within hours if all cooling water was lost and the rods became completely uncovered — melting is all but guaranteed, as thousands of fuel pellets fall to the bottom of the reactor and heat themselves into a molten pool at several thousand degrees Fahrenheit.

Natural disasters make for bad policy — the nuclear situation in Japan will have lasting consequences on energy policy Wall Street Journal (3/13/11) reports: After a once-in-300-years earthquake, the Japanese have  been keeping cool amid the chaos, organizing an enormous relief and rescue operation, and generally earning the world’s admiration. We wish we could say the same for the reaction in the U.S., where the troubles at Japan’s nuclear reactors have produced an overreaction about the risks of modern life and technology…Part of the problem is the lack of media proportion about the disaster itself. The quake and tsunami have killed hundreds, and probably thousands, with tens of billions of dollars in damage. The energy released by the quake off Sendei is equivalent to about 336 megatons of TNT, or 100 more megatons than last year’s quake in Chile and thousands of times the yield of the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima. The scale of the tragedy is epic…Yet the bulk of U.S. media coverage has focused on a nuclear accident whose damage has so far been limited and contained to the plant sites. In simple human terms, the natural destruction of Earth and sea have far surpassed any errors committed by man.

The one two punch — first he takes on ethanol and now President Clinton is saying we need to permit in the Gulf of Mexico Politico (3/14/11) reports: Former President Bill Clinton said Friday that delays in offshore oil and gas drilling permits are “ridiculous” at a time when the economy is still rebuilding, according to attendees at the IHS CERAWeek conference….Clinton spoke on a panel with former President George W. Bush that was closed to the media. Video of their moderated talk with IHS CERA Chairman Daniel Yergin was also prohibited…But according to multiple people in the room, Clinton, surprisingly, agreed with Bush on many oil and gas issues, including criticism of delays in permitting offshore since last year’s Gulf of Mexico spill…“Bush said all the things you’d expect him to say” on oil and gas issues, said Jim Noe, senior vice president at Hercules Offshore and executive director of the pro-drilling Shallow Water Energy Security Coalition. But Clinton added, “You’d be surprised to know that I agree with all that,” according to Noe and others in the room…Clinton said there are “ridiculous delays in permitting when our economy doesn’t need it,” according to Noe and others.

What do DC, LA, SF have in common? They are broke. Also, they rank as top green cities — coincidence? Greener Buildings (3/14/11) reports: More than 12,600 commercial properties in the United States now meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards as Energy Star buildings, and for a third consecutive year Los Angeles tops the agency’s list of cities with the most energy efficient buildings…For a second straight year, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco hold the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively…The EPA released its annual list today of the 25 cities with the most buildings that have earned Energy Star status in the past year. To qualify for the energy efficiency rating, buildings must perform in the top 25 percent of a nationwide comparison of similar properties, and performance must be independently verified by a registered architect or a licensed professional engineer.

Champion of affordable and reliable energy — Congressman John Peterson explains what’s happening in the Gulf and the bureaucratic mess Salazar oversees Centre Daily (3/15/11) reports: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar found himself between a rock and a hard place as he begged for bureaucratic bucks before the House and Senate energy committees last week…Though called to defend his department’s request for a 50 percent increase in budget funds over last year, Salazar was also grilled about why his agency prolonged its permitting freeze for deepwater drilling projects in the Gulf of Mexico amid $100-per-barrel oil and escalating tension in the Middle East. It’s hard to feel sorry for the secretary, given that his agency’s bureaucratic permitting delays have produced an energy freeze that’s kept thousands of Gulf workers unemployed and supporting businesses across the country sitting idle…Though the secretary tried to deflect criticism by citing his agency’s first deepwater permit grant since the BP spill, the fact is, this coordinated move for political cover is too little, too late. Though it’s a step in the right direction, our government still has a long way to go to get our country where we need to be…Continued inaction in the Gulf threatens to force the United States to import an extra 88 million barrels of oil a year by 2016, at a cost of $8 billion. Truckers who transport goods, farmers who use oil to raise and harvest crops and working families are now paying more at the pump as a result of this energy freeze

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