Will the U.S. government take on BP at a trial next week?
A trial against BP over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that affected tens of thousands of businesses and individuals has been delayed until Monday as the parties continue to work on a settlement. A potential deal would be worth around $14 billion, according to a report from Bloomberg News. But if BP can’t reach an agreement to compensate the victims, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says federal prosecutors are prepared to battle the oil giant in court and promises developments in the ongoing criminal investigation.
In other environmental news this past week...
Keystone Pipeline’s southernmost route is proceeding
Republicans are still hitting President Obama hard after his administration denied a permit to allow TransCanada to build its Keystone Pipeline from Canadian oil sands down to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, which they say cost jobs. But TransCanada is reapplying for its permit, and perhaps more importantly, proceeding with construction of a 478-mile portion of Keystone XL’s southernmost route from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast. That part doesn’t need review from the State Department because it doesn’t cross international borders. Is this of concern? Kim Huynh at environmental group Friends of Earth thinks so, calling it “an alarming about-face” from the Obama Administration, and pledging grass-roots opposition.
Court ruling creates fracking chaos in New York
A ruling by the New York State Supreme Court this week says that New York municipalities can use zoning laws to ban oil and natural gas drilling, a decision that has officials at natural gas companies fretting will interfere with plans for hydraulic fracturing in the state. Landowners and others now have more powers to take action at the very local level and disrupt a practice that many people believe leads to environmental consequences, including contamination of ground water and risks to air quality. However, the decision could be appealed and is said to not effect an ongoing review by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Still, the drillers are concerned. Local bans could create “a potential checkerboard effect” that would bring chaos to drilling operations, says S. Dennis Holbrook at Norse Energy.
Occupy Shell Oil is success, says Greenpeace
Greenpeace is claiming victory after occupying the Noble Discoverer, a Shell-chartered ship headed for the Arctic to commence exploratory oil drilling. Among those on board was actress Lucy Lawless, who was one of the protesters arrested. The incident brought international attention and 140,000 messages of protest to Shell for its efforts in the Arctic. Shell is now suing Greenpeace for threatening its transportation contracts and endangering lives.
Imagine a battery this big
We spent a lot of time on energy issues this week, so we’ll leave off on a question posed by Davide Castelvecchi at Scientific American: “How big a battery would it take to power all of the U.S.?” To figure out the answer, he goes through some eye-opening math. The U.S. consumes 500 gigawatts of electrical power at any moment – the equivalent of 500 million toasters or hair-dryers plugged in, or as Doc Brown would say, “500 jiggawatts!??? Great Scott!” If 20 percent of that is renewable, it might require the equivalent of 80 nuclear power plants. The rest? Christopher Mims at Grist fills in the details, proposing a battery the size of 2,200 Walmart SuperCenters. Much bigger than the one in this picture.
(Photo: Getty Images)