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A roundup of news, views and ideas from the main stream press and the blogosphere.  Click on the headline link to see the full article.

U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Lawrence Hurley and Valerie Volcovici, Scientific American
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered a major blow to President Barack Obama by putting on hold federal regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions mainly from coal-fired power plants, the centerpiece of his administration’s strategy to combat climate change.

The court voted 5-4 along ideological lines to grant a request by 27 states and various companies and business groups to block the administration’s Clean Power Plan, which also mandates a shift to renewable energy from coal-fired electricity.

The highly unusual move by the justices means the regulations will not be in effect while a court battle continues over their legality….

Sea level research says only a ‘brief window’ to cut emissions

Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief
As global temperatures rise, scientists know that sea levels will follow suit. Today, global sea level is the topic of two new papers, both published in Nature Climate Change.

The first looks at Antarctica’s ice shelves – known as “gatekeepers of the ice” – and how much ice each one can afford to lose before opening the gates to more glacier flow into the oceans.

The second study focuses on how our greenhouse gas emissions today could lead to tens of metres of sea level rise that persist for hundreds of thousands of years…

Link to the report

Peak-Oil Predictions Didn’t Pan Out, But Concerns About Supply Persist As Conventional Crude Slides

Maria Galluci, IB Times
At the outset of the global economic meltdown in 2008, the world was already bracing for another crisis: peak oil. Predictions that oil production would soon top out flooded the airwaves, stoking fears of a global oil shortfall and fueling speculation of prices at hundreds of dollars a barrel…

How times have changed. Eight years on, oil output has risen dramatically. Large leaps in oil field technologies, like horizontal drilling, and the U.S. hydraulic fracturing boom have unleashed more crude supply than analysts and oil industry experts anticipated during the height of peak oil predictions.

Still, the peak oil naysayers hardly have reason to gloat. The supply of oil may be rising, but the nature of the fuel mix is changing quickly, adding greater uncertainty to the long-term outlook for the world’s largest energy source.

Pockets of cheap, easy-to-produce oil — called conventional crude — are gradually drying up after more than a century of exploration. Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company, said it expects output from developed conventional oil fields to decline through 2040. Conventional crude output actually peaked in 2006, at 70 million barrels a day, and has since plateaued, the International Energy Agency said in its 2010 World Energy Outlook report…

EPA Fracking Study Faulted by Science Panel Citing Failed Wells

Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Bloomberg
The Environmental Protection Agency spent 998 pages last June making the case that fracking isn’t a threat to water, but its assertions boil down to just two words.

There’s no evidence hydraulic fracturing has led to “widespread, systemic” impacts on drinking water, the EPA said in its landmark study on the technique used to extract oil and gas nationwide. The EPA’s finding was seen as a vindication of the technique that involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground to free oil and gas.

Science advisers reviewing the EPA study said Monday the agency’s description isn’t good enough. During a six-hour teleconference, the Science Advisory Board review panel parsed the language, zeroing in on the phrase as too vague and ambiguous to serve the public. A repudiation of the EPA’s conclusions could reignite debate over fracking and drive calls for more regulation…

Collapse Of Shale Gas Production Has Begun

Steve St. Angelo, Peak Oil Barrell
The U.S. Empire is in serious trouble as the collapse of its domestic shale gas production has begun. This is just another nail in a series of nails that have been driven into the U.S. Empire coffin.

Very few Americans noticed that the top four shale gas fields combined production peaked back in July 2015. Total shale gas production from the Barnett, Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Marcellus peaked at 27.9 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in July and fell to 26.7 Bcf/d by December 2015…

Phytoplankton rapidly disappearing from the Indian Ocean

Thomas Summer, Science News
A rapid loss of phytoplankton threatens to turn the western Indian Ocean into an “ecological desert,” a new study warns. The research reveals that phytoplankton populations in the region fell an alarming 30 percent over the last 16 years.

A decline in ocean mixing due to warming surface waters is to blame for that phytoplankton plummet, researchers propose online January 19 in Geophysical Research Letters. The mixing of the ocean’s layers ferries phytoplankton nutrients from the ocean’s dark depths up into the sunlit layers that the mini plants inhabit.

By fighting rooftop solar, utilities are setting themselves up for worse to come

David Roberts, Vox
Large incumbent industries threatened by new upstart technologies do not always respond to those threats wisely.

Shocking, I know. While this is usually obvious in retrospect, it can often be difficult to see in real time as the struggle is unfolding.

Take power utilities. (Please.)

Currently, utilities are threatened by distributed rooftop solar panels. They are pushing back against rooftop solar in states across the country.

It turns out, though, that by squashing or rolling back current support mechanisms for rooftop solar, utilities are only accelerating the development of a much more serious and enduring threat to their business model.

That threat is solar plus storage: an integrated combination of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, batteries to store their energy, and power electronics capable of managing the system and, in some cases, communicating with the larger power grid…

U.S. Economic Growth Decouples From Both Energy And Electricity Use

Joe Romm, Climate Progress
In a stunning trend with broad implications, the U.S. economy has grown significantly since 2007, while electricity consumption has been flat, and total energy demand actually dropped.

“The U.S. economy has now grown by 10% since 2007, while primary energy consumption has fallen by 2.4%,” reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) in its newly-released 2016 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. BNEF’s Factbook, which is chock full of excellent charts and data, cites studies attributing most of this change to improvements in energy efficiency…

Germany Launches Its National ‘Bike Autobahn’ Cycle Network

Feargus O’Sullivan, City Lab
Germany was the first nation in the world to create a high-speed highway network for cars. Now it’s joining the vanguard of countries doing the same for bikes.

Last month, Germany opened its first stretch of “bike autobahn,” a cycle route that will eventually cover 100 kilometers (62 miles) between the northwestern cities of Duisburg and Hamm. The autobahn moniker (the German term is actually radschnellweg) may sound over the top given that so far just five kilometers of the route have been launched. But the plan’s ultimate scale and ambition is not to be denied…

Those Days You Work From Home May End Up Wrecking the Planet

Jessica Shankleman, Bloomberg
Next time your boss tries to conv

ince you of the benefits of working from home, spare a thought for how that could contribute to wrecking the planet. More businesses than ever are asking employees to work remotely in a bid to cut rental costs for office space and take advantage of the growth of super-fast broadband, teleconferencing and smart phones.

But working from your kitchen can actually increase the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming, since those who stay home usually turn up the thermostat. Home energy consumption increases 20 percent when people work where they live, according to a study by BT Group Plc, the U.K.’s biggest broadband provider…

Sailing ships back in vogue as a green alternative to conventional shipping

Susie Mesure, The Independent
One of the world’s oldest methods of transporting goods is making an unlikely comeback. Sailing ships, which kept the British Empire in tea, sugar and tobacco, are back in vogue as a green alternative to conventional shipping.

Wine, coffee, cacao beans and rum are among the items filling holds on a growing number of ships that are reviving old trade routes more than a century after the advent of steam engines ended the golden age of sail.

Restaurants such as Noma in Denmark and eco chef Tom Hunt’s Poco, which has branches in Bristol and London, sell wine that arrived under sail. New Dawn Traders, an organisation set up by Jamie Pike, a Bristol-based environmentalist, to transport goods using wind power, imports rum, chocolate and coffee on a Dutch ship, Tres Hombres. “Our aspirations are beyond just trading. We want to inspire people; to reconnect consumers with producers,” said Mr Pike…

Spread of bee disease ‘largely manmade’

Helen Briggs, BBC
The global trade in bees is driving a pandemic that threatens hives and wild bees, UK scientists say.

A deadly bee disease has spread worldwide through imports of infected honeybees, according to genetic evidence.

Stricter controls are needed to protect bees from other emerging diseases, researchers report in Science journal.

The virus together with the Varroa mite can kill-off whole hives, putting bee populations at risk.

We Are the Storm

Orion Magazine
Around the world, people in grassroots resistance movements are defending communities on the frontlines of climate change and industrial fossil fuel production—the extraction, transportation, and burning of oil, coal, and natural gas. The prints in this project, a collaboration between CultureStrike (a migrant-led arts and social justice organization) and the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative (a network of environmentally minded, social justice artists), document and amplify the work of these communities, bringing new voices to bear on the environmental movement.

Recognizing that the fossil fuel industry’s impact on people and the planet is dire, and that communities of color most often bear the brunt of it, CultureStrike and Justseeds paired migrant, indigenous, and environmental artists with organizations from threatened regions around the United States—from First Nations defending their land from energy conglomerates to activists trying to prevent the construction of pipelines. The images created by these collaborative efforts tell the stories of communities facing industrial extractive industries, as well as the organizations building resilience to stand against these industries and to create alternative, sustainable futures…

New Law Could Change France’s Food System for the Better

Eva McNamara, Food Tank
The upper chamber of France’s parliament has passed a law requiring all of the nation’s “collective restaurants” (school cafeterias, hospital cafeterias, senior living communities, prisons and other state institutions) to source at least 40 percent of their food locally. The proposal will need to be approved by the French Senate before it becomes law.

In addition to being locally sourced, the food served must be in season, organically grown and certified ecologically sustainable. While the law does not have a set definition of “local”, different recommendations will be given depending on the product and the geographical area. Currently, those recommendations are estimated to be about a 30-kilometer radius (around 19 miles) for fruit and vegetables and a 100-kilometer radius (about 63 miles) for foods that need processing before consumption (i.e. meat, grains). Some cities, such as St. Etienne in central eastern France, are already serving 100 percent organic food in their institutions…

News clippings image via shutterstock. Reproduced at with permission.