Before Congress headed home for spring recess, the Senate, with a rate vote of 100, approved President Obama's new round of sanctions designed to deter Iran's nuclear ambitions. The president's decision was based on an analysis of current oil supply and the likely effect of further sanctions on prices. The Senate also shot down the president's bid to reduce subsidies to oil producers.
Oil prices have climbed this year amid lingering tensions with Iran, with the price of gas now averaging around $3.92 a gallon -- and experts are warning more increases are on the way. The U.S., France and other nations are considering the release of some emergency oil supplies to stop further rises in prices. Experts are skeptical about the impact tapping the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve would have on prices. Reuters reports that with this decision, timing is everything.
Back home in their districts, legislators are using oil prices to fuel campaign rhetoric. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, is finding photo ops at the pump, pumping $100 into his Chevy Suburban. Meanwhile, La Tarndra Strong, who manages a trucking company in North Carolina, said high fuel prices are slicing her razor-thin margin.
Officials Eye Cap-and-Trade Revenues for Transit
In California, some officials are eyeing revenues from the state's cap-and-trade system to get drivers out of their cars. The cap is envisioned as a financial backstop to the state's high-speed rail plan. Gov. Jerry Brown's budget indicates that cap-and-trade could provide up to $1 billion in revenue. Building high-speed rail up and down the Golden State could be just one plan for cap-and-trade monies. Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez advocates using revenues to boost clean tech, while State Sen. Kevin de León wants to see at least 10 percent of the revenues be put toward greenhouse gas reduction projects in disadvantaged communities. Some farm groups, meanwhile, are vying for funds to go to supporting agricultural practices that cut greenhouse gases.
Further north, Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire signed legislation helping to shield drivers from liability who lend their cars as part of the nation's burgeoning car share movement. Whereas some companies such as Zipcar and Car2go provide fleets for sharing, person-to-person programs use software to link individuals who want to rent out their cars to people who need a short-term lift. But most automobile insurance companies currently cancel the policies of drivers who are part of this growing "collaborative consumption" movement.
Nuclear Worries Continue as Wind Farms Appear on Horizon
Federal investigators have kept a troubled Southern California nuclear reactor closed as they investigate why tubes carrying radioactive water are decaying rapidly. Concern is mounting in nearby coastal cities -- fueled by Fukushima fears -- prompting some to call for the plant's permanent closure. Germany accelerated its timetable for moving off nuclear in response to last year's tragedy in Japan. Two plants to be built in Britain are the latest to fizzle. But phasing out nuclear may not boost renewables.
The U.K.'s Shetland Island could be home to the world's most productive wind farm after receiving approval to move ahead with construction Wednesday. In the U.S., an offshore wind turbine in Virginia may be the first in the country. Five states have reached an agreement to speed the approval process for offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes.
Apple unveiled plans for the nation's largest private fuel cell energy project. The project will power a data center using hydrogen extracted from natural gas.
Scientists Dissect Causes of "Weather Weirding"
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that March's "meteorological madness" with record-setting highs was due mostly to freakishly random factors, with only a small assist from human-induced climate change. IPS calls this "extreme weather" the new normal, and there may be more crazy weather in our future. The changes are causing some scientists to look to the ice.
Stopping climate change would cost consumers pennies per day, a new U.K. study concludes.
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.