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How the Government Is Lowballing Investments in Clean Energy

The government could shut down over $1.6 billion in cuts to clean energy, part of a broader reluctance to fund clean energy.


The federal government could shut down over $1.6 billion in cuts to clean-energy programs. Most of the proposed cuts come from a fuel efficiency program, but House Republicans also targeted the loan program that backed Solyndra, the dysfunction solar company that’s cast dispersion over the rest of the industry. Congress didn’t need Solyndra to give it an excuse to slash funding for the clean-energy industry, though. This latest hit only underlines the government’s lack of enthusiasm for any energy project involving the words “clean” or “renewable."

Take, for example, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Inspired by the innovation-driving, internet-creating Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, ARPA-E invests in game-changing energy technology, like electric-vehicle batteries that could lower the cost of driving from St. Louis to Chicago to less than $5. Independent organizations, both liberal and conservative, have recommended the agency receive funding on the order of $1 billion. Yet the Obama administration's funding proposals have come in far lower than that, and Congress has low-balled the agency further. In March, Arun Majumdar, who heads ARPA-E, requested $650 million for the 2012 fiscal year. The House's version of the energy appropriations bill allocated $180 million to the organization.

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Scenes from the Fukushima Exclusion Zone

Take a trip with photographer Donald Weber inside Fukushima's exclusion zone.

In the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, photographer Donald Weber set out for the "exclusion zone" around the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Residents of this buffer area were forced to evacuate immediately after the tsunami struck, leaving an eerie abandoned urban landscape. Besides the military, Weber and his partner were, he believes, "the only other people to go to the exclusion zone and actually see what the reality is there."

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Fukushima Now Level 7 Accident, But Is It Really As Bad As Chernobyl?

Fukushima has maxed out the nuclear rating scale, only the second accident to rate 7. So does that really mean that this event is as bad as Chernobyl?


Yesterday morning, Japanese officials announced that the Fukushima nuclear crisis had been upgraded to a Level 7 accident, the highest rating on the INES scale. This is only the second nuclear event to ever rank that high—Chernobyl, obviously, being the first. (This will please Greenpeace scientists, who have been saying that Fukushima equates "three INES level 7 events" since late last month.) So this begs a couple of questions: Why the sudden change in rating? And, more importantly: does this mean that Fukushima is now as bad as Chernobyl?

First, a quick explanation of the INES scale. Technically, it's the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, and was developed by a group of international nuclear experts who were convened by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) back in 1989. IAEA explains that it is meant as "a means for promptly communicating to the public in consistent terms the safety significance of events reported at nuclear installations."

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Interactive Map: The Real Seismic Threat to Our Nation's Nuclear Power Plants

This great interactive map from Climate Central lets you see the specific seismic threat to all 104 of the country's active nuclear reactors.

After we heard that local utilities in Virginia were shutting down the local nuclear power plant in the wake of the earthquake that shook the East Coast today, we pulled this map from our archives to see which other plants might be in harm's way. —The Editors, August 23, 2011

Last week, we posted a link to a map mashup of nuclear reactor sites and the USGS-described "seismic hazard zones" in the United States. Climate Central dug a little deeper into the data, and created a really interesting interactive map that further explores the earthquake risk to America's nuclear power plants.

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