State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Climate News Roundup: Week of 1/17

Rejecting Pipeline Proposal, Obama Blames Congress, New York Times
The big story for environmentalists this week was President Obama’s rejection of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would’ve transported oil from the tar sands in Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. In December of last year, Republicans in Congress added a provision in the temporary payroll tax cut bill giving the administration 60 days to decide whether it would approve the 1,700-mile pipeline. Both Mr. Obama and the State Department concluded that 60 days was not enough time to analyze the environmental consequences of constructing the pipeline, and therefore rejected the permit.

Five Myths About the Keystone Pipeline, Washington Post
Michael Levi, senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Council of Foreign Relations, writes a compelling piece on some of the “myths” surrounding the Keystone XL project.

GM microbe breakthrough paves way for large-scale seaweed farming for biofuels, The Guardian
Due to its incredibly fast growth rates and high sugar content, seaweed has always been an attractive feedstock for the production of biofuels. Historically, one of the biggest challenges in using seaweed for biofuels has been the low ethanol yields associated with the conversion of sugars to ethanol via traditional fermentation. Researchers in France and Berkeley have engineered a microbial platform that efficiently metabolizes alginate polysaccharides into ethanol, and are able to convert 28% of the dry weight of the seaweed into ethanol.

Clean Energy Investment Rises to $260 Billion, Boosted by Solar, Bloomberg News
Barack Obama’s solar energy policies are working, or so it seems. Solar energy investing in the United States increased by 30% in 2011, to $55.9 billion, beating China’s clean energy investing for the first time since 2008. Increases in demand are largely due to the rapid decline of the price of panels, which fell by more than 50% during this period.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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