The slow meltback of all the snow we’ve had over the past couple of months is advancing day-by-day. No rain, not much wind, chilly temperatures, and yet the thick snow pulls back to reveal the ground beneath. The ground is no longer solid with winter ice; it’s softer, a bit muddied, undecided. This dry creek bed near our house will be a fat torrent in just a few weeks, but for now the water remains frozen in ponds, higher up in the mountains, on the pastures. We might even get a late snowfall. Ebb and flow. It wouldn’t be the first time, and ‘Spring’ is officially still almost three weeks away. We’ve had heavy snows as late as April, when the apple trees were in full blossom.
Last week, Shell suspended oil exploration activities in Alaska – after eight years and $5 billion in preparation, the 2012 season was a slow stream of mechanical failure and breakdowns in harsh weather. Ships became unmoored and drifted, oil containment facilities were crushed, an oil rig ran aground. Environmental groups praise Shell’s shut-down as a period during which the entire concept of Arctic drilling can be reassessed, a window for further discussion of alternatives. Shell remains firm in its commitment to continue exploration for Arctic oil.
Also last week, the U.S. State Department released the results of its analysis regarding the safety of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, an energy infrastructure project that would carry 830,000 barrels a day of tar sands fuel and oil from shale rock formations located in Alberta, Canada down across the U.S.-Canada border, across six Great Plains states and into refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma and, in later phases, in Texas. Those supporting the pipeline say it will add jobs, increase energy security and lower fuel prices. Opponents argue against the pipeline on a variety of fronts: environmental, political, financial, and cultural in that pipeline traverses areas important to no fewer that 150 Native American groups. The State Department’s report concludes that the pipeline project would be ‘environmentally sound’ and that its completion wouldn’t significantly alter climate change. President Obama’s administration has committed itself to a focus on confronting climate change by fostering sustainable energy sources, particularly following the impact of climate change forerunners like Hurricane Sandy. On the day of a major anti-pipeline rally in Washington DC, President Obama was golfing in Florida with oil executives from Texas and Oklahoma.
There are long-term commitments to reducing reliance on carbon-based fuel. There are long-term commitments to supporting a reliance on carbon-based fuel.
The ground feels muddy, like it could thaw and welcome spring, or freeze over again in a last gasp of winter.