Senate blocks move to open up offshore drilling
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate blocked a move by Republicans to speed domestic offshore oil and natural gas drilling on Wednesday, a fresh sign of congressional gridlock on energy issues even as drivers endure gasoline prices near $4 a gallon. Republicans only got 42 of the 60 votes needed to consider a bill, known as the Offshore Production and Safety Act, that would have directed the Interior Department to conduct previously scheduled offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, Virginia, and Alaska.
Farm states suffer expanded drought
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A dire drought that has plagued Texas and parts of Oklahoma expanded across the key farming state of Kansas over the last week, adding to struggles of wheat farmers already dealing with weather-ravaged fields. Harvest in Kansas, the top U.S. wheat-growing state, is set to begin within weeks. But a report issued Thursday by a consortium of climatologists said the three most severe levels of drought spread across the state over the last week, with the most dire conditions concentrated in the key wheat-growing south-central and southwest parts.
U.S. weather extremes show "new normal" climate
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a "new normal" of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said on Wednesday. "It's a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we're seeing," climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters.
Atlantic hurricane season "above normal": NOAA
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season will be "above normal", spawning six to 10 hurricanes of which around half could become major, the government's weather agency forecast on Thursday. However, as the 2010 season showed -- it was very active but the U.S. coastline escaped a hit -- a high frequency of storms does not always translate into more destructive landfalls.
U.S. panel to report on natgas drilling safety by mid-August
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new government panel looking into ways to improve the safety of a controversial natural gas drilling technique will issue its recommendations by mid-August, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Congress on Wednesday. Regulators are scrutinizing the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, after some studies showed it could contaminate drinking water and following the blowout of a natural gas well in Pennsylvania in April.
Indonesia finally signs forest clearing moratorium
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono inked into law on Thursday a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear primary forests, part of a $1 billion deal with Norway that could spur projects to cut emissions and slow expansion of plantations. The moratorium ordered a freeze on new permits to log or convert primary forests and peatlands -- worrying palm oil, timber and mining firms in Southeast Asia's biggest economy -- but not going far enough for environmentalists.
Norway could retire permits to meet CO2 goals: OECD
OSLO (Reuters) - Norway could buy and retire carbon permits from the European market to achieve promised deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Thursday. Norway is not an EU member but is linked to the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS), making it hard to implement a national goal of a cut in emissions of 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, tougher than the EU's 20 percent unilateral cut.
Deforestation surges as Brazil eyes new land law
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon surged in March and April, the government said on Wednesday, fueling criticism that a proposed law to ease land-use rules may be spurring illegal tree-felling. Brazil's Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira told reporters the government was creating a "crisis cabinet" to investigate the jump in destruction of the forest, which mostly occurred in the center-west farming state of Mato Grosso.
China acknowledges downside to Three Gorges Dam
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's landmark Three Gorges Dam project provides benefits to the Chinese people, but has created a myriad of urgent problems from the relocation of more than a million residents to risks of geological disasters, the Chinese government said on Thursday. The statement from China's State Council, or cabinet, marked a rare acknowledgment of the issues that have shadowed the world's largest dam, an engineering feat designed to tame the Yangtze River that snakes from the Tibetan plateau to Shanghai.
Plant, animal extinctions often exaggerated: study
OSLO (Reuters) - A projected spate of extinctions of animals and plants this century may be less drastic than feared because the most widely used scientific method can exaggerate losses by more than 160 percent, a study said on Wednesday. "Extinctions caused by habitat loss require greater loss of habitat than previously thought," two experts, based in China and the United States, wrote in the journal Nature.