The U.S. a 'New Middle East'?; Bees Are Big Business

The New York Times on the U.S.'s energy boom and the fate of nuclear energy, The Guardian on bees, AccuWeather on icebergs, and the Associated Press on seals

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The New York Times on the U.S.'s energy boom Once it was thought that North America was doomed to dependence on foreign oil. But from offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to oil sands in Canada and hydraulic fracking for natural gas everywhere, the United States may be on the verge of an energy boom with the potential of making America a "new Middle East," according to one analysts, as the New York Times' Jad Mouawad reports. The consequences, both economic and environmental, of an abundance of cheap, carbon-based energy are many. While more natural gas and oil mean less investment in much dirtier coal, environmentalists are worried that Gulf drilling can cause more Deepwater Horizon-like oil spills and hydraulic fracking will pollute drinking water -- not to mention, of course, the Earth-warming carbon dioxide the burning of any fossil fuel inevitably releases. Meanwhile, businesses are adapting by adopting the natural gas in shipping and manufacturing.

The Guardian on the business of bees The threat to the world's bee populations due to pesticides isn't strictly an ecological problem. It's also an economic one. "How valuable are bees?" asks Damian Carrington at The Guardian. "In the UK, about £1.8bn a year, according to new research on the cost of hand-pollinating the many crops bees service for free." Noting that already half of the United Kingdom's honey bees are managed by humans, Carrington identifies factors suppressing bee populations: fewer flowery meadows, outbreaks of parasites and disease, and most notably pesticides used on crops, which recent studies suggest act as nerve agents in bees. Carrington asks the British government to stop being stubborn and act to ban the pesticides, lest it hurt, rather than help, crop production.

The New York Times on the near-death of nuclear There is a silver lining for environmental types reading The Times today. The paper's Matthew L. Wald offers an assessment of the state of nuclear power and how it's trying to endure the PR hit it took in the U.S. from the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Reactors are still being built in South Carolina and Georgia, using safer technology called "AP1000 model," which would have likely prevented a meltdown at Fukushima after the earthquake and tsunami had it been in place. Also to the advantage of nuclear's image: it doesn't produce carbon emissions. Still, with stiff competition from the growing natural gas business, other plans to build nuclear facilities have been shelved.

AccuWeather on the icebergs still out there Given our current fit of Titanic nostalgia, it's important to remember something: there are still lot of icebergs out there in the Atlantic, posing threats to to oceangoing vessels. Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, writing for AccuWeather, runs down the science of icebergs for us laymen. In the Atlantic, they form from broken-off pieces of glaciers in Greenland and drift into open waters on a series of ocean currents. Warmer global temperatures and faster ocean currents are giving birth to more Greenland icebergs than since the 1930s, particularly smaller ones, less detectable and thus more dangerous to ships (and, today, oil platforms). "So while research, technology and patrols over the past 100 years have made the sea less perilous in terms of striking the big icebergs, significant risks continue for coming in contact with the smaller, yet potentially destructive growlers and bergy bits," Sosnowski writes.

The Associated Press on how to count seals In order to address any climate-change problem, there has to be some agreement on how large that problem is. That's what's prompting a team of researchers to log 30,000 nautical miles flying over the Alaskan and Russian coasts of the Bering Sea in order to count the populations of ringed and bearded seals. Activists and one government agency, the NOAA, want the two species listed as threatened, since climate change is melting the seasonal ice on which the seals reproduce. "Scientists hope to obtain significant results beginning this week by combining thermal imaging with high-resolution photography," writes the AP's Dan Joling -- thermal imaging to count the seals and photos to identify each seal's species.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.