As The Washington Post reported today, Obama's new budget will likely spell the end of the Energy Department's 20-plus-year effort to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. While some congressional supporters of the Yucca mountain repository aren't willing to throw in the towel just yet, Obama has proposed cutting the project's funding to skeletal levels, and with Senate Majority Leader (and Nevada Senator) Harry Reid very much on his side, he'll probably get his way.
As we noted last week, the new White House budget contains a proposal to end "direct payment" subsidies to commodity-crop farmers who have more than $500,000 per year in sales. As I noted in an earlier post, it’s a good proposal, but it only marks a small step in the right direction on farm subsidies.
In addition to sketching the course of future climate legislation, Obama's budget proposal today also dropped some hints about the direction he plans to take on farm policy. Most notably, the White House budget proposes the elimination of direct subsidy payments to farmers making more than $500,000 per year. This makes a lot of sense from the perspective of eliminating government waste, given that the government spends billions each year on “direct payment” subsidies to farmers growing commodity grains and pulses—and much of that money goes to large corporate farms.
The conventional wisdom on the electric cars that will soon hit the market is that they'll only make sense for people who don’t plan on driving very far. After all, most early electric models will have limited ranges–a few hundred miles at best–and, once the batteries are depleted, they take a long time to recharge.
To hear David Brooks tell it in his latest New York Times column, Americans simply aren’t buying the urban-planner propaganda that says that walkable cities with good public transit are attractive places to live. In fact, when a Pew survey asked people to name the U.S. cities in which they’d like to live, they showed a clear preference for the sprawling, car-centric cities that have grown up in the wide-open spaces of the West. You know, cities like San Francisco, or Portland. Wait a sec: Portland? Car-centric?
Adding to the growing list of Bush-era environmental policies that it has reversed, the Obama administration announced yesterday that it would support a treaty to limit global mercury emissions. This means that the U.S. will join 140 other nations as a party to upcoming negotiations on a treaty to control the pollutant, which can cause serious damage to the human nervous system, especially in fetuses and infants. But why didn’t the Bush administration support the treaty in the first place?
It happens every year in college towns across the Northeast: Students sign a lease in the spring or summer, only to find, when winter rolls around, that their rental house is essentially uninsulated, with a heating bill that runs to hundreds of dollars per person per month.
I’m a biased observer on this topic—having spent several weeks as a U.S. Antarctic Program metalworker, welding together parts for a West Antarctic field camp—but I think it’s fair to say that the most apocalyptic scenario for global-warming-induced sea-level rise involves the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet into the ocean.
Ken Salazar made his first big move as interior secretary on Wednesday, acting to cancel the Bush administration’s last-minute sale of 77 oil and gas leases near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah. This is really good news, because the areas that were slated to be drilled contained some of the most pristine wilderness that’s still open to oil and gas development. It’s also somewhat surprising news, because once federal oil and gas leases get sold, they’re usually nearly impossible to take back.
One worst-case scenario some people fear with the planned nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain is “autocatalytic criticality,” the possibility that some of the waste stored in the mountain might get jostled about and come into close enough contact with other waste to set off a spontaneous nuclear explosion. But, for the time being, an even more pressing question is whether the project will implode before the first shipment of nuclear waste ever arrives, as Judith Lews reports at High Country News.