Energy & Environment

Don't blame the Santa Ana Sucker

Thursday’s opinion piece by Douglas Headrick of the San Bernardino Valley Water District (“Poor Oversight Leaves California Dry”) simply doesn’t hold water.

Headrick claimed that California’s State Water Project is unable to provide enough water to agencies because of the Santa Ana sucker, a small fish protected under the Endangered Species Act.

In fact, the sucker is completely unrelated to the State Water Project. The real reason the author wants endangered species protections removed is to prevent releases from the local dam – which, not insignificantly, would also deprive many residents of Southern California of their primary water supply.

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US must dig on rare earth metals

Even as technology becomes increasingly critical to the way we live our lives, power our world and defend our shores, the United States has allowed the production of minerals crucial in the creation of these advanced products to slide. 

Critical to high-tech clean-energy and defense manufacturing, rare-earth elements (REEs) are minerals used in the production of cutting-edge technologies such as wind turbines, batteries for mobile phones, laptop computers, the planet’s most powerful magnets, military radar and sophisticated weapon systems  — just to name a few. 

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Poor oversight leaves California dry

California has just had one of its wettest winters in memory. But even with the Sierra Nevada snowpack at 165 percent of normal, California’s State Water Project can supply only 70 percent of what water agencies need.

Why?

Because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ordered cutbacks in water deliveries to protect the Delta smelt, an endangered fish that lives in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which supplies two-thirds of California’s population.

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Nuclear security after Fukushima

The devastating and immediate effects of the March 11 tsunami on the six reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station are now well known, though events are still playing out and even more dangerous radiation leakages may yet occur. The global panic resulting from this disaster is a stark reminder that nuclear power, as opposed to more conventional means of generating electricity, still confronts a range of thorny issues, including safety and security, that prevents more widespread adoption.

Though the specter of a global nuclear catastrophe will remain in the public consciousness for years to come, the more surprising reality is how few serious nuclear accidents have occurred relative to how widely nuclear reactors and nuclear warheads have been deployed worldwide.

In the case of Japan, casualties from the earthquake and tsunami will be exponentially greater than those caused by radiation exposure. But we have been lucky. There have been numerous near misses, ranging from a reactor criticality incident in Japan and radiation leaks in India to the U.S. B-52 bomber accident that resulted in the release — but thankfully not detonation — of four nuclear bombs over Palomares, Spain, in 1966.

Continued good fortune is not something policymakers should count on, and it is certainly no substitute for sound and forward-looking nuclear policy.

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America’s future depends on domestic energy

Today there are few issues more important than the debate about energy.

America faces national economic turmoil, instability in the Middle East, and the threat of a reduced ability to compete in a world economy. We must deal with these realities now. Our nation must increase our energy security, reduce our foreign oil dependency, and develop economically sustainable and cleaner domestic sources of energy. 

Domestically produced natural gas offers us the ability to do just that. President Obama’s most recent energy speech reinforced the truth that the abundance of energy wealth here in America can supply our nation’s energy needs for generations to come. These domestic supplies of safely recoverable natural gas offer a heretofore unimaginably vast supply of natural gas. 

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Moving the energy dialogue forward

Natural gas is on a roll. Last week President Obama delivered a speech at Georgetown University on U.S. energy security. He acknowledged the continued need for oil, but also emphasized the importance of transitioning to cleaner-burning, domestic alternative fuels. First on his list? Natural gas.
 
Then Time Magazine put shale gas on its April 11 cover, proclaiming “This Rock Could Power the World,” adding, “Why Shale Gas Can Solve the Energy Crisis.”
 
The recognition, from Washington and national media, is heartening. It’s encouraging to see our energy dialogue focus on natural gas as a foundational fuel. But we need to sustain the conversation beyond these benchmarks – and beyond the impetus of energy pricing and Mideast unrest.

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Solving the problem of nuclear waste

At a time when our nation is making tough choices about spending, I am amazed that Congressman John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and other House Republicans are demanding we dump $100 billion into Yucca Mountain. This shuttered boondoggle, located 90 minutes from Las Vegas, is nothing more than an empty hole in the Nevada desert.

While some are seeking to use the tragic events in Japan to once again push for moving nuclear waste to Nevada, they fail to mention that Yucca Mountain is located smack in the middle of an earthquake zone. 

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Weighing the future of our big outdoors

We westerners take great pride in and have great appreciation for a life that affords us access to the mountains, forests and deserts that make up our beautiful home states. True, most of us reside or work in towns and cities where we all embrace a way of life that benefits from the development of our natural resources. But many of us choose to live in these states largely because doing so enables us to easily enjoy the great outdoors – the wide open spaces and endless vistas we see beyond our towns or just past the edge of the interstate, as we rush through our daily lives.

Every westerner knows that the management of our federal lands -- the public lands quite literally owned by all Americans - can be quite contentious.  For example, years ago, some believed there was a case to be made for damming the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Others felt just the opposite, controversy flared, and ultimately, no dams were built. 

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US needs nuclear waste storage site

The March 11 earthquake in Japan led to a tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. While a similar situation is not likely at any U.S. nuclear plant, we must use this to look at our country’s lack of a central storage facility for nuclear waste.

The first commercial nuclear power plant began operating in the United States in 1960. In 1982 the Nuclear Waste Policy Act made the federal government responsible for collecting nuclear waste.

In 1987, Yucca Mountain was named the sole site for a permanent repository of nuclear waste. The Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed the scientific side of this decision in 1994. In 2002, Congress and the President approved Yucca Mountain again. In 2008, DOE filed a license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build Yucca Mountain.

Obviously, the decision to move forward with a national nuclear waste repository has been supported by Republican- and Democrat-controlled Congresses and Republican and Democrat presidents for all these years.

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Blocking EPA regs threat to security goals

The Senate recently rejected proposals — originating from both sides of the aisle — that sought to delay or even prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from setting clean air standards.

Some even went further, proposing to undercut proven aspects of the Clean Air Act which have dramatically improved our health and America’s air and water quality. As a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a national security strategist, I believe that both the Democratic and Republican-sponsored proposals that were considered yesterday would have set our nation on the wrong path.

My concern stems from a simple truth: Our dependence on fossil fuels generally—and oil specifically—is a serious threat to our national security.

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