In 1974, the mayor of Hammerfest, Norway declared that his small fishing community—the northernmost town in the world—would one day become the center of the oil and gas industry in the Barents Sea. At that time, the oil and gas executives laughed. Today, the town of 10,000 people is fulfilling the prophecy.
On Friday, Department of the Interior secretary, Sally Jewell, announced the Obama administration's plans for stopping all new leases on federal lands for coal mines. This down time will give the DOI the chance to review the government's coal program and better account for the environmental costs of burning coal with a programmatic environmental impact statement. The DOI says this review "will take a careful look at issues such as how, when, and where to lease; how to account for the environmental and public health impacts of federal coal production; and how to ensure American taxpayers are earning a fair return for the use of their public resources."
Plutonium-238 is the fuel that is driving the Mars rover Curiosity across the Martian landscape. It flew the New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto and beyond, and is still powering the Voyager probe into the depths of space 38 years after it was launched. It's a fuel that is in high demand and very short supply.
This weekend, it looked as if a Wizard of Oz-style tornado had blown through California's Orange County Great Park, dropping 15 newly built houses in its wake. In this ad-hoc neighborhood, where the streets had names like Edison International Way and Schneider Electric Street, each house's inhabitants wore matching shirts, smiled a lot, and handed out pamphlets. But this wasn't a creepy planned community. It was the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Solar Decathlon competition, where college teams design and construct full-size houses that run entirely on solar power.