The Planeteer: June 24, 2011
Whatever the pros and cons of nuclear energy may be, a new survey released this week has found that Californians are more likely to oppose building new nuclear power plants after this year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Paradoxically, most survey responders don’t see California’s existing nuclear plants as unsafe – and they don’t want them to be phased out.
Another survey published this week painted a clearer picture: This one was of the trash that ends up in the San Francisco Bay. The primary culprits, according to the national group Clean Water Action, ARE Fast food restaurants and retailers. (At the head of the lineup were McDonald’s, Burger King, and 7-Eleven.) The survey’s findings will help cities direct their efforts to eliminate all garbage from rolling into the Bay by 2022.
Waters seem healthier off the California coast than in the Bay, though. The Census of Marine Life found that 23 species of ocean predators thrive and congregate on the west coast of North America. These include sharks, tuna, seals, and whales, which all find that the “California Current” – a marine ecosystem that stretches from Canada to Mexico – is full of food sources like krill and sardines.
Record snow packs in the Sierras continue to threaten flooding in the Central Valley and Sierra-fed rivers everywhere, now that the state has finally seen some hot summer temperatures. Officials are constantly monitoring dams and waterways, and so far the worst case scenarios have been avoided. Still, California’s cool spring has kept the fifth-highest Sierra snow packs in 60 years from melting ... until now.
Californians seem to be keeping their cool about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibiting states from suing utilities companies over their greenhouse gas emissions. The court ruling means regulation will remain in the hands of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act. This may not be as bad as it sounds, since the case began in 2004 before the EPA had developed its own strict regulations on greenhouse gases. Are they strict enough, though? It depends on whom you ask.
Pixar’s new movie, Cars 2 in theaters today, will also address the emissions debate. (Some of the film’s characters convert to electric, for instance, while bad-guy characters are tied to Big Oil.) Pixar didn’t have to go far for inspiration: Its campus in Emeryville isn’t far from alternative fuel and electric car companies, such as biofuel company Amyris and electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors.
The fate of Tahoe’s trees is up for debate, too. The U.S. Forest Service plans to log a fire-prone area near Lake Tahoe’s south shore despite attacks from environmental groups that claim such logging will have a negative impact on the environment. The resulting lawsuit is unfolding in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.
Tree defenders are also up in arms in Piedmont, where the city’s last remaining 5.5 acres of green space – Blair Park – may soon be razed to make way for a recreational sports facility. Opponents don’t want to lose the park’s ancient oaks and wildlife, but the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization has been planning the project for the past six years.