April 03, 2011

This Weekend’s News: The New Tempo of Energy Issues in the Media

Energy issues – from nuclear, coal to oil – were prominent
in the news this weekend. 

Japanese officials continued to struggle with the ongoing
crisis at the Fukushima nuclear reactor over the weekend. On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that highly
radioactive water continued to pool near an eight-inch crack in the concrete
wall of reactor 2
, leaking contaminated water into the ocean. While
authorities attempted to pour concrete over the crack in an effort to plug the
leak, ocean waves prevented the concrete from setting. Meanwhile, government
officials struggled to identify the source of the radiation that was leaking
into the ocean. “The setback undercut any momentum Prime Minister Naoto Kan had
hoped to build when he announced Friday that the government would turn its
attention to recovery and reconstruction,” The
Washington Post
reported. (Reuters published
on Japan’s disaster on Sunday
, including the death toll and impact on the

Meanwhile, the debate over nuclear power continues in the
United States. In an energy speech last week, President Obama announced that
the United States would evaluate the safety of existing nuclear facilities. But
because nuclear power offers an option to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and
combating climate change, he said, “we
can’t simply take it off the table.
In exploring the benefits afforded by nuclear energy, The Washington Post reported the findings of a recent study
evaluating coal and nuclear power, concluding that nuclear power eclipsed coal
as far as safety and health were concerned. “Making electricity from nuclear
power turns out to be far less damaging to human health than making it from
coal, oil or even clean-burning natural gas, according to numerous analyses
according to the Post. “That’s even
more true if the predicted effects of climate change are thrown in.” The study
concluded that the health effects of coal were even greater in other countries.
The Post reported that “It’s
especially high in China, where three-quarters of the electricity is made by
burning coal, mining accidents kill about 6,000 people a year, and hundreds of
millions of people are affected by air pollution.”

Meanwhile, just as President Obama said that the United
States must increase its domestic oil production, BP is requesting permission
from federal regulators to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, less than 12
months after the devastating oil spill the crippled the region. The New York Times reported on Sunday
that, “BP is seeking permission to continue drilling at 10 existing deepwater
production and development wells in the region in July in exchange for adhering
to stricter safety and supervisory rules
, said one of the officials. An
agreement covering existing wells could be reached within the next month but
would not include new drilling, the official said.”

“Allowing BP to resume operations in the gulf would send a
mixed message — that the administration was trying to increase the safety of offshore
drilling and punish bad actors, while at the same time answering critics in
Congress and the oil industry who say the administration is choking off
production and driving up energy prices,” The
New York Times

What is clear from the increasing coverage of energy-related news is that these issues continue to play a
prominent role in Washington. Indeed, as the presidential election draws near and the field
of candidates takes shape, all signs suggest that energy security could play a
significant role in the debate. We'll have to wait and see.

This Week’s Events

At 1:00 PM on Tuesday, the Environmental and Energy Studies
Institute will be hosting an event on “China’s
Energy and Climate Initiatives: Successes, Challenges, and Implications for
U.S. Policies
” in the Capitol Visitor Center.

At 9:00 AM on Wednesday, go to the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace for a panel on “Climate
Security and Green Technology: An EU-U.S. Perspective
.” Then at noon,
Carnegie will be hosting a panel on “Soaring
Food Prices: Causes, Consequences, and Remedies.”
At 1:00 PM there will be
a discussion on whether there is “A
Rare-Earth Crisis
” hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.

On Thursday at 12:15 PM, the University of Maryland will be
holding a CISSM Forum on “Climate
Monitoring: setting policy in the context of a presidential initiative