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Wattage

Two good posts on theWatt: One reveals which U.S. state uses the most wind energy; the other reveals how and what energy the U.S. is projected to use up until 2030. In other news, sorry for the relative blogging drought from yours truly. I've been busy with other Gristly duties, and also working on the index-card manifesto. I'll be back soon.

I Wish I Knew How to Quit Minin' You

Mountaintop-removal mining devastates Appalachia, but residents fight back

Most folks know coal mining is a dirty and dangerous business, triggering everything from miner’s lung to deadly accidents. But the mountaintop-removal mining increasingly common in Appalachia poses dangers not just to miners but to whole communities already struggling to get by. In recent years, this hugely destructive process — whereby the tops of mountains are sliced off to get at coal within, and the resulting rubble dumped in nearby streams and valleys — has triggered lethal flooding, spurred a rash of illnesses in school kids, and even unloosed a massive boulder that tumbled down a hillside into a home …

Do mess with taxes

Gas taxes are OK, but they aren’t a silver bullet

The basic point of this NYT piece is pretty good: The idea of coupling a gasoline-tax increase with a cut in payroll taxes deserves a much closer look. It makes sense as policy -- gas taxes should be higher, and a payroll tax cut could help soften the blow. Plus, pairing a tax increase with a tax cut seems to draw far broader political support than a straight-out hike in gas taxes: The gasoline tax-cum-rebate proposal enjoys extremely broad support. Liberals favor it. Environmentalists favor it. The conservative Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker has endorsed it, as has the antitax crusader Grover Norquist. President Bush's former chief economist, N. Gregory Mankiw, has advanced it repeatedly. OK, so it's a good idea. But I can't help myself -- I'm going to pick some nits.

Mercury

L.A. Weekly environment writer Judith Lewis has a good piece up regarding the recent Greenpeace-initiated mercury test. It begins like this: When Greenpeace USA released the interim results of its National Mercury Testing Project last week, two ironies jumped out: One is that the same administration that conferred legal rights on the unborn fetus has so far refused to regulate emissions of a toxin known to damage fetal brains in the womb. The other is that while California's clean-air laws keep coal-fired power plants outside the state's borders, its residents have not escaped coal's toxic effects, which drift to us all the way from China. You might say the tuna have come home to roost.

The Wheel Deal: Earth Day Challenge

Send your pic to the UCS HybridCenter!

I am an impostor. Here I am writing a weekly car column, and I don't even have a car. I don't really know anything about cars. I can't even be trusted on car color: I consistently refer to my parents' "green Honda" despite unanimous opinion from all other viewers that it is, in fact, gray. You will be getting no in-depth analysis of hybrid technology from me, no this-engine-will-kick-that-engine's-ass. Nope, this column will focus on, well, whatever car-related item tickles my fancy on Thursdays as I'm desperately throwing together putting the finishing touches on the Wheel Deal. Today's Wheel Deal is about community and love. Because even if you're ambivalent about cars, you gotta love love. HybridCenter.org, a project of the Union of Concerned Scientists, has launched the Earth Day Challenge -- because what the environmental community needs is more challenges. Just kidding. Anyway, as concerned scientist Scott Nathanson says, "Ford might have Kermit to plug its Escape Hybrid, but we've got Bill Nye the Science Guy!" And he ain't lyin'. Bill Nye is plugging the plug-ins like only an overdramatic science guy in a powder-blue coat can. By the way, my brother's friend's mom used to clean Bill Nye the Science Guy's house. True story. Would you like my autograph? Anyway, the Earth Day Challenge is cool. They're trying to get 1,000 hybrid owners to send pictures and/or testimonials to the site by Earth Day (April 22). Hybrid-less individuals can participate as "hybrid enthusiasts." Aww ... feel the love! Coming up next week: I don't know yet, but you know it'll be, um, super-duper awesome. If you've got a super-duper awesome idea, send me an email: emailE=('skraybill@' + 'grist.org') document.write('' + emailE + '') . I'll take "totally wicked" ideas too, but if your idea is merely "rad," perhaps you should keep it to yourself.

Oh My Gnarly Clemenceau

French prez orders asbestos-laden ship returned to France You thought disposing of your old computer was a hassle? Just wait ’til you try to get rid of your old warship. French President Jacques Chirac was lauded by green groups yesterday when he ordered the 50-year-old warship Clemenceau to return to France from India, where it had been sent to be dismantled. Having initially agreed to the transfer, an Indian court then banned the aircraft carrier from Indian waters upon hearing that it possibly contained up to 500 tons of asbestos. The fate of the Clemenceau remained in limbo until yesterday, …

Rocky Amountin’ High

Landowners awarded $554 million for nuke contamination from Rocky Flats Thousands of Colorado downwinders got some vindication on Tuesday, when a jury ordered Dow Chemical and the former Rockwell International to pay $554 million in damages for plutonium contamination from Rocky Flats, a former nuclear weapons plant. It’s the largest civil verdict ever awarded in Colorado — likely to be reduced to around $353 million, as the jury’s award exceeds legal limits. The trial pitted more than 10,000 Denver-area property owners against the corporations, which contracted with the U.S. Department of Energy for decades to make plutonium triggers for nuclear …

Timing is everything

The more compact your neighborhood, the less time you spend in a car

One benefit of living in a compact neighborhood rather than a sprawling suburb: You don't spend as much time in your car. The chart below, derived from a national transportation survey, makes the point pretty clearly:

Have Some Class: Three degrees of eco-preparation

A study on green degree programs

It's that time of year again ... time to write that college-application essay, sign that acceptance letter, and start packing boxes. Or is it? I'm not quite sure. I've been out of the college-application process for a while now ... what with having this real job now. But I'm sure somewhere out there you kids are looking all over the internets for some cool eco-programs to apply to, right? And what better way to start off this biweekly column on college-related eco-initiatives than a post about some of the various green degree programs out there. (And also? What better way to title it? "Have Some Class" ... ha ha! Ahem.) But seriously, there are some great new curriculums out there -- and we're not just talking your generic EnviroSci. Responding to popular demand and an ever-expanding field of applicants, these inter-disciplinary majors allow students to focus on green issues within their field of interest.