The death in the U.S. Senate one week ago today of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act was a disappointment to many in the movement for clean energy. But the bill's consideration also marked important progress for that movement, with Sen. Joe Lieberman calling the debate a "giant step" for the United States Senate.

One happy surprise for clean energy advocates was the decision by Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina to support the bill. A conservative Republican, Dole said she is convinced global warming is a real problem and that "the costs of inaction are just too great." Dole is facing a challenge from Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan, who has offered an energy plan that calls for greater investment in renewable energy and the creation of clean-energy jobs.

Also advancing the cause of a clean energy for North Carolina is a new report from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Titled "Cornerstones: A Foundation for North Carolina's Energy Future," the report outlines how the state can cut its global warming pollution by 60 percent by promoting energy efficiency, developing clean energy sources, capturing pollution, and planning for the long term.

"Energy efficiency has the greatest potential to reduce our global warming pollution," says SACE Executive Director Stephen Smith. "Cutting energy use, recycling wasted energy and increasing fuel economy accounts for over half the pollution reductions we identified. These technologies are available today and are cost-effective."

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In other hopeful energy news from North Carolina, the N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network this week learned that Progress Energy has finally halted shipments of spent nuclear fuel rods from other facilities for storage in water-filled cooling pools at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant located in the state's fast-growing Research Triangle Park region. Instead, the company is now storing those rods on site at the Robinson plant near Florence, S.C. and the Brunswick plant near Wilmington, N.C.

Under pressure from the local government officials in nearby Orange, Chatham and Durham counties and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Progress in 2003 announced that it would halt the spent-fuel shipments to Harris by the end of 2005. In an e-mail sent to those officials this week, N.C. WARN Executive Director Jim Warren said the fact that it took two additional years is "unfortunately consistent with Progress Energy's pattern of prioritizing profits over regional safety, despite its public relations position."

Among the factors intensifying concerns about the shipments of spent fuel to Harris is the plant's history of serious security problems, which last year resulted in a $65,000 fine levied against the company. In addition, Harris is one of a number of nuclear power plants across the South and the nation that are failing to follow the letter of the law on fire prevention.

(Photo of Sen. Elizabeth Dole at the April 2008 Support Our Troops Parade in Raleigh, N.C. courtesy of the Senator's Web site)