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from The Great Debate:

Danger and delay on dirty bombs

When highly radioactive material that can be used in a “dirty bomb” is moved to or from a hospital in New York City, it is done in the dead of night on cordoned streets with high security.

In Mexico two weeks ago, a truck moving a large canister containing radioactive material was hijacked at a gas station -- where it had been parked with no security. The cobalt-60 that was stolen from the vehicle and then extracted from its protective lead shield is so potent that it is considered a significant national security threat under U.S. guidelines.

There are now no international mandatory requirements for how to control these dangerous materials -- including how they should be transported. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the international nuclear watchdog, has only issued recommendations, in the form of a voluntary Code of Conduct.This disconnect between how nations manage extremely dangerous nuclear materials sought by terrorists creates significant security vulnerabilities. If a dirty bomb is exploded anywhere in the world, it would cross the nuclear terrorism threshold and open the door to further attacks.

An IAEA meeting of 88 nations recently assessed the effectiveness of the Code of Conduct at its 10-year anniversary.  The participants acknowledged that the non-binding status quo is inadequate.

from The Great Debate:

The Case Against Natural Gas Exports

President Barack Obama has made middle-class jobs and natural gas two of his top second-term policy objectives. Both could be undermined if his Department of Energy (DOE) continues to approve gas industry applications for exporting American gas.

There is already a move in Congress to remove DOE’s authority, so approvals can move even faster, and the oil and gas industry has thrown all its lobbying muscle behind this effort to steamroll through the permission process.

from Reuters Money:

Should you pre-pay your winter heating bill?

USA-ENERGY/HEATINGOILIf you’ve been pulling out your sweaters lately, you know the first heating bill of winter isn’t far behind.

This year, the average household will pay $986 for heat, or 2.5 percent more than they did last year, according to predictions from the Department of Energy. It will be way worse for people in the northeast, who are expecting a colder winter than usual, and for people who use oil to heat their homes. They will pay an average of $2,125, according to the energy department outlook. Ouch! That might sting worse than the winter cold.

from Environment Forum:

Could “putting the cow inside the plant” make a new biofuel?

SWITZERLAND/The Next Big Thing in biofuel might involve genetically engineered plants that digest themselves, making it cheaper to turn them into fuel. That's one of the new ideas that Arun Majumdar finds fascinating. As the head of the U.S. Energy Department's ARPA-E -- the path-breaking agency that aims come up with efficient, green energy solutions -- Majumdar said this concept is one of a few dozen that are in the development stage now.

Majumdar let his enthusiasm show as he described this project at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit on Thursday. He was talking about a project in its early stages at Massachusetts-based Agrivida.

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