As Half the U.S. Contemplates Hydraulic Fracturing, First Liquefied Natural Gas Export Plant Approved

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday approved the first large-scale liquefied natural gas export terminal in the lower 48 states despite record falling gas prices. Shipping from the $10 billion Louisiana plant is projected to begin as early as 2015. The Cheniere plant is the third liquefied natural gas plant in the works in Louisiana. Others are planned elsewhere in the country.

The plants aren’t without criticism. Some say plants like Cheniere’s could raise natural gas prices in the country and have adverse environmental effects—due in part to the rise in the use of a controversial natural gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. As of March, 24 states in the U.S. have enacted or have pending legislature regulating drilling for natural gas by way of hydraulic fracturing.

While the government of Nova Scotia is delaying hydraulic fracturing pending further review, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first-ever rules to control pollution from “fracked” natural gas wells Wednesday. The agency indicated it would delay enforcing the rule until 2015, more than two years later than its initial proposal of July.

Fuel Fix

Oil prices fell following Iran nuclear talks and amid announcements oil supplies grew by more than 3.4 million barrels last week. Meanwhile, President Obama proposed tougher measures to fight the manipulation of oil markets. The move comes in response to claims investors—not supply and demand—are driving up oil prices.

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner made the first biofuel-powered flight over the Pacific Ocean this week, while others in Canada and Australia made similar flights using the alternative energy source. In the lab, NASA is exploring ways to use algae to make biofuel, while a new corn-based biofuel could be pack more energy than ethanol.

Though the thin-film solar market is declining, Bloomberg reports these panels may actually outperform crystalline products in warmer climates. The Los Angeles Times says solar panels are—along with hot sauce, self tanning products and 3D printers—the fastest-growing industries in the U.S.

The French company Total ramped up efforts this week to stem a nearly month-long leak of oil at its Elgin platform in the North Sea. Meanwhile, researchers are making strides in technology aimed at cleaning up future spills, including using sonar to test the effectiveness of deep-sea oil dispersants.

Melting Arctic Brings Threat of New Cold War

Militaries of the world are preparing for a new type of Cold War in divvying up the melting Arctic, which may hold 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the planet’s untapped natural gas. As the Arctic ice recedes, some rogue glaciers in the Himalayas actually are growing, defying predictions that the planet’s “third pole,” as the region is known, would be completely melted by 2035.

Many Americans attribute recent warming and some extreme weather events to climate change, according to a new poll. In fact, 69 percent polled agree global warming is affecting weather in the U.S., despite a new study that finds climate coverage is declining on some broadcast networks.

As California prepares to implement a cap on carbon emissions, its southern neighbor is following suit with a clean climate law. Mexico’s new climate law would lower emissions 30 percent by 2020 and cut them in half by 2050. The move comes as the EPA reports that greenhouse gas emissions, stalled by the recession, are on the rise with the U.S. recovery. Similarly, in the U.K. officials reported emissions rose 3.1 percent as the economy recovered.

As major U.S. newspapers continue to bleed off environmental reporters, the RAND Corporation says canceling the newspaper can save energy. A single print subscription emits 208 pounds of global warming gases per year, whereas the online version only emits 54 pounds per year. But cloud computing can be a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, NPR reports.

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.