Bison cluster on the native grassland at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, just one example of the Nebraska wildlife in the ecosystem at the center of a major energy battle this year—the fight over the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.
Pressure built against the project in part over concern for the unique 19,600-square-mile (51,000-square-kilometer) ecosystem in Nebraska called the Sandhills, and the Obama Administration blocked the proposed pipeline route. (See "Pictures: Animals That Blocked Keystone XL Pipeline Path.") TransCanada says it remains fully committed to the project to move crude from Canada's oil sands some 1,700 miles (2,740 kilometers) to refineries in Texas, and a decision on a revised plan is expected from Washington early in 2013.
Climate change activists are sure to continue their opposition, because of concern over carbon-intensive oil sands production. But the debate forced a rethinking of the project with renewed attention on the importance of protecting the Sandhills and the underlying Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to about two million people in Nebraska and seven other states.
On the other side of the globe, in Sabah, Malaysia, threats to the critically endangered Sumatran rhino and vibrant coral reefs derailed a planned coal-fired power plant in one of the region's top biological hot spots—an ecotourism destination to boot. While green advocates hope to see renewable energy thrive here, Sabah's short-term needs will be filled by a 300-megawatt natural gas plant, which is cleaner than the coal alternative. (See "Concern Over Rare Rhino Rouses Clean Energy Drive in Malaysia.")