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Obama forms panel to improve fracking safety

Steven ChuAfter a series of high-profile natural gas drilling spills, the Energy Department named a panel to recommend ways to improve the safety of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that has expanded the country's potential to extract the fuel.

President Barack Obama asked the DOE to form the panel of academic and environmental experts to identify any immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of fracking, the DOE said on Thursday.

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'Disturbing' revelations in probe of possible gas price manipulation

In Poplar Bluff, Mo., which has received some 15 inches of rain over the past four days, levees protecting the town from floods on the Black River have been breached or overtopped in several places, forcing the evacuation of some 1,000 people. According to the Associated Press, the privately maintained levees that protect homes and farms near Poplar Bluff failed an Army Corps of Engineers inspection in 2008.  In the meantime, federal hydrologists are keeping a close eye on two flood crests – one working its way down the Mississippi and one on the Ohio River, which empties into the Mississippi at Cairo, Ill.  The Mississippi's largely snow-melt driven crest is expected to pass Cairo first, followed closely by the crest from the Ohio. The two are expected to move south in tandem along the lower Mississippi.An investigation into possible manipulation of gasoline prices has uncovered "disturbing'' revelations, Attorney General Eric Holder said today. "There are a couple things that … are disturbing,'' Holder said, declining to elaborate.

He indicated the information would be reviewed by a fraud task force formed last week. For the week that ended Monday, the nationwide average cost of a gallon of gasoline rose 3.5 cents, to $3.879, the Energy Department reported.

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Fracking Well Shutdown Extended As Researchers Study Link To Earthquakes In Arkansas

Researchers Study Link To Earthquakes In ArkansasTwo natural gas exploration companies have agreed to extend the shutdowns of two injection wells in Arkansas as researchers study whether the operations are linked to more than 1,000 unexplained earthquakes in the region, a state commission said Wednesday.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Clarita Operating LLC asked to postpone a scheduled April 26 hearing on the shutdowns until the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission's next meeting on May 24, said Shane Khoury, deputy director and general counsel for the commission.

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Gas Drilling Emergency in Bradford County

Gas drilling emergency in PennsylvaniaOfficials said thousands of gallons of fluid leaked over farm land and into a creek from a natural gas well in Bradford County. Now there is a massive operation underway to contain the spill of drilling fluids.

The rupture near Canton happened late Tuesday night, contaminating nearby land and creeks. The blowout happened on the Morse family farm in LeRoy Township outside Canton, a farming community. Chesapeake Energy officials said a piece of equipment on the well failed. Now a major response is underway to stop the leak of frack fluid and get control of the well.

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U.S. nuclear regulator a policeman or salesman?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission exists to police, not promote, the domestic nuclear industry -- but diplomatic cables show that it is sometimes used as a sales tool to help push American technology to foreign governments.

The cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and provided to Reuters by a third party, shed light on the way in which U.S. embassies have pulled in the NRC when lobbying for the purchase of equipment made by Westinghouse and other domestic manufacturers.

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U.S. is increasing nuclear power through uprating

The U.S. nuclear industry is turning up the power on old reactors, spurring quiet debate over the safety of pushing aging equipment beyond its original specifications.

The little-publicized practice, known as uprating, has expanded the country's nuclear capacity without the financial risks, public anxiety and political obstacles that have halted the construction of new plants for the last 15 years.

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Solar power: breakthrough could herald big drop in costs

Solar power breakthroughScientists at the University of Michigan have discovered a new effect from an old property of light, which they say could lead to an "optical battery" that converts sunlight to electricity at a fraction of the cost of today's photovoltaic cells.

Light has electric and magnetic qualities. Scientists had long thought, however, that the effects of light's magnetic field were so weak as to be irrelevant.

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