+ “The fishing is fabulous,” writes Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas, and the gulf seems to be recovering ecologically. (However, it will be years before we know the fate of this year’s fish larvae, which spawn during the summer and float on the surface near the oil.)

+ The Unified Command hopes to have most of the buried oil dug out from under Florida’s beaches in time for the spring tourism season.

+ The report released this week by the federal oil spill commission has drawn criticism from local government officials, Congressman Ed Markey, and others. Other critics have been won over. The commission was more critical of BP and other companies involved in the accident during its second day of hearings. More after the jump.

+ Reports released this week drew attention to the pressure on oil supplies and the need for increased investment in alternative energy. More after the jump.

BusinessWeek calculated that claims administrator Kenneth Feinberg’s law firm has been paid $3.3. million so far (at a rate of $850,000 per month).

+ Complaints continue to pile up over the claims process.

+ Last-minute editing by the White House led to a false impression that its report on the deep-water drilling moratorium had been subjected  to peer review, according to a report by the Interior Department’s Inspector General first obtained by Politico.

+ The department quickly responded that “there was no intent to mislead the public.”

+ The use of dispersants caused a “toxic trade-off” by helping the oil break down, but also mixing it with the water, posing a greater danger to sea life.

Reports predict rising oil prices, lagging development of renewables
The International Energy Agency released its annual energy outlook this week. Foreign Policy offers a helpful reading guide.

The takeaway from this year’s report, which was leaked to the Financial Times last week, is that governments matter: What they do, or don’t do, about climate and energy policy in the next decade will determine what we pay for oil, and how much of it we have.

In the IEA authors’ words, “the age of cheap oil is over.” The question is how expensive it gets.

The implications are summed up by this lede from the Associated Press:

Governments need to do more to increase energy efficiency and boost green technologies to avoid a spike in oil prices as China drives a 36 percent spike in world energy demand through 2035, a global watchdog warned Tuesday.

Global subsidies for renewable energy are currently around $57 billion, and are projected to rise to more than $200 billion over the next 25 years, IEA chief economist Fatih Birol told Reuters.

But global fossil fuel subsidies, concentrated most heavily in the developing world, totaled $312 billion in 2009, according to the report.

“The gas glut will be with us ten more years,” he told Reuters. “Cheaper gas prices will put additional pressure on renewable energies especially in the U.S. and Europe. If natural gas is as plenty and cheap as we think, then life for renewables will be even more difficult.”

China would lead global uptake of all renewable energy technologies, helping to “bring the cost down compared to today by 20 percent between now and 2035,” Birol said.

Demand for oil is expected to soften in the industrialized world, but uncertainty about future supplies and rising demand in developing countries (led by China) are likely to push prices above $200 a barrel by 2035.

“The message is clear, the price will go up, especially if consuming countries do not make changes in the way they consume oil, especially in the transport sector,” Mr. Birol said.

The report also projected biofuels would rise from the current 3 percent of global fuel supplies to 8 percent in 2035.

Meanwhile, a separate forecast from researchers at the University of California, Davis indicates that oil supplies are projected to run out 90 years before adequate alternatives can be brought online.

Spill commission finds “culture of complacency,” calls for reform of offshore drilling regulations
The federal oil spill commission appeared to take a “more critical” line Tuesday than it did on Monday.

“BP, Halliburton and Transocean are major respected companies operating throughout the Gulf and the evidence is they are in need of top-to-bottom reform,” said Commission co-chair Bill Reilly, a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, at the start of the second session of commission’s two-day meeting on the root causes of the spill this week.

Reilly said the BP accident demonstrated the need for sweeping and systemic safety changes to the oil industry, and reiterated his call for the creation of a self-regulating entity that would set and enforce standards.

Both Reilly and his commission co-chair Bob Graham sought to clarify comments made Monday by the commission’s chief counsel that workers for the companies did not cut corners on safety to save money.

They said the panel’s investigators were not concluding that the companies involved placed enough emphasis on safety.

“The problem here is that there was a culture that did not promote safety…leaders did not take risks seriously enough,” said Graham, a former U.S. Senator from Florida.

Investigator Fred Bartlit again criticized the media for exaggerating his remarks.

“I said yesterday, at least eight times, we have seen no evidence of any decision in which a person or a group of people put safety on one side of the scale and money on the other side and consciously, in their head, chose money over safety,” said Bartlit, addressing the reporters in the back of the large room in the Grand Hyatt where the commission was meeting.

“This is a relatively modest observation,” he said. But, he complained, “a bunch of the newspapers said ‘commission says BP didn’t ever do anything for money.’ I didn’t … never said that, guys.”

A roundup of the first day’s hearings can be found here.

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