All Terrain

"Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing," Obama declared when he first took office in 2009. "My administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use." By almost any measure, that has not happened.
If TransCanada felt it had weathered the worst of a five-year battle with environmentalists and other critics of the Keystone XL pipeline project, events of the last week or so will have curbed their enthusiasm.
Is Earth Hour, the annual ritual in which people the world over turn out their lights as a show of solidarity in the fight against climate change and other environmental issues, a waste of time and energy? Bjorn Lomborg certainly thinks so -- but what is accomplished by niggling over the metrics of a global awareness campaign?
Some say there is no riskier source of electricity than nuclear power. Others argue its minimal greenhouse gas footprint makes it a vital alternative to carbon-belching coal and natural gas in the pitched battle to curb climate change. To still others, nuclear power's advantages in the carbon war are eclipsed by the crippling economics of getting a nuclear power plant built. Everyone is right.
How many threatened birds and tortoises would you be willing to sacrifice to build a commercial wind farm, or a utility-scale solar array? It's an oversimplified way to frame things, of course, but it highlights the reality that renewable energy has environmental impacts, too.
Dire warnings that our localized environmental impacts could trigger global-scale "tipping points" and permanently break the planet have no scientific basis, authors of a new paper argue. Not everyone agrees.
For opponents, rejection of the pipeline would represent a vital and historic break with the era of fossil fuels. But for supporters of the pipeline, denying the permit would run counter to Obama's stated commitment to job creation and an "all of the above" energy policy that includes continued development of oil, gas and even coal resources.
If rhetorical flourishes are an indication of future action -- and that is a substantial "if" -- then President Barack Obama's comments on climate change suggest that the next four years may provide much of what climate activists have been hankering for. Just how much the president might do against the larger forces assembled before him, however, remains to be seen.
Much debate has centered on the potential climate impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline project, with competing studies delivering sometimes contradictory results. Today comes another analysis, and I asked TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, to respond.
I reached out to a representative of TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL project, for comment on the potential