Amanda Little

Amanda Little, Grist's former Muckraker columnist, is author of Power Trip: The Story of America's Love Affair with Energy. She teaches investigative journalism at Vanderbilt University and her articles on energy and the environment have appeared in publications including Vanity Fair and The New York Times Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter: @littletrip.

From my roof to your fridge

Steve Howard on our energy-efficient future

Steve Howard, CEO of the non-partisan nonprofit organization The Climate Group, took some time away from his Copenhagen climate duties to share a tantalizing glimpse into our energy future: Q. How will our day-to-day lives change if we really do adopt more sustainable energy practices and products? A. You’ll walk out of a building and you’ll get into your electric vehicle. Your electric vehicle will have been charged, but it won’t have been charged from a coal plant power station. It will be sun from the southwest of the U.S., or it will be wind from the North Sea of …

Bottle that optimism!

Gregoire: ‘America is back in its rightful position’

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) is in Copenhagen for the last few days of the climate conference. I sat down with her for a brief interview. An edited transcript follows: Q. The spirit of optimism is higher in my conversations with governors than with any other officials at this conference. What drives your optimism and how do you see that playing out in your state? Gov. Chris Gregoire is talking up America’s climate leadership this week in Copenhagen.File photo / WSDOT via Flickr A. Let me take you back to about 2006. President Hu Jintao [of China] visited the U.S. …

sunny side up?

Schwarzenegger lowers expectations for Copenhagen

Looking tanned and coiffed, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stood in sharp contrast to the wan, glum denizens of Copenhagen’s Bella Center. According to one political insider, the typical morale trajectory for a conference of this scale is cautious optimism for the first few days, despair in the middle, a spurt of can-do spirit in the final days, and either total despair or euphoria in the final hours. We’re in the despair phase at the moment, with everyone fretting that details aren’t being hammered out fast enough for any meaningful agreement to be signed at week’s end. In an attempt to …

What do we want? Entrance! When do we want it? Now!

Chaos and grumbling outside Bella conference center in Copenhagen

Tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to get in.Photo: Australian Science Media CenterCOPENHAGEN–What requires more stamina? Childbirth or standing outside COP15’s Bella Center for five solid hours in sub-freezing weather in a line of hundreds trying to pick up badges to enter? They’re both ravaging, but at least childbirth has a payoff. On my first day in Copenhagen, after a sleepless red eye, I and thousands of others — including delegates, business leaders, and other accredited journalists — were prevented from entering the conference center because the event has been way overbooked. Word is that more than 45,000 people have registered …

War and grease

The U.S. military’s battle to wean itself off oil

Don’t ask what kind of mileage it gets.In the summer of 2006, Marine Corps Major General Richard Zilmer sent the Pentagon an unusual “Priority 1″ request for emergency battlefield supplies. Stationed at a temporary base in Fallujah, Zilmer was commanding a force of 30,000 troops responsible for protecting Al Anbar, the vast territory in western Iraq bordering Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. Heavily armed insurgents were hammering the region, and Al Qaeda was quickly gathering recruits. Zilmer’s beleaguered soldiers were running low on fuel for the diesel generators powering their barracks — fuel that cooled their tents in the 135-degree …

Short circuits

Our old electric grid is no match for our new green energy plans

The bowels of New York City’s electricity system.Often referred to as “the world’s biggest machine,” the North American electricity grid as a whole is an integrated network of generators and millions of miles of wires that crisscross the United States and Canada. It snakes across fields, over mountains, through tunnels, along highways, beneath sidewalks, under rivers and seas. If you live anywhere in Canada or the continental United States, this mega-machine “reaches into your home, your bedroom,” as one writer put it, “and climbs right up into the lamp next to your pillow.” The grid is designed as a hub-and-spoke …

Cooking oil

Can you taste the fuels in your food?

Amanda Little on the farm. If you pinned a map of the United States to a dartboard, Kansas would be the bull’s-eye. Smack dab in the center of the country, the Sunflower State is one of America’s most productive agricultural hotbeds — the fifth-biggest producer of crops and livestock in the country. More than 90 percent of the state consists of farmland endowed thousands of years ago with rich glacial loam. This fertile topsoil is no longer as robust as it once was, having offered up its nutrients season after season, decade after decade, century after century, to produce great …

Road hogs

NASCAR and the high-octane American dream

The action at the Talladega Superspeedway.At dawn on a hazy autumn morning, the rising sun spilled over the steel grandstands of the Talladega Superspeedway like foam from a cracked can of Bud. This image likely came to mind because I was lying beneath a tarp in a scrubby Alabama meadow carpeted with empty beer cans — an area known as Talladega’s Family Parking Field C. The 2.66-mile Talladega racetrack, located about 50 miles east of Birmingham, is the world’s second-largest car-racing venue, with a mile-long grandstand built to accommodate more than 140,000 fans. Around my L.L. Bean tent were some …

Over a barrel

Exploring the extreme frontiers of oil drilling

The “Cajun Express” oil rig, tapping the black gold deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico.The oil field known as “Jack” is located 175 miles off the coast of Louisiana, below 7,200 feet of water and another 30,000 feet of seabed, occupying a geological layer formed in the Cenozoic Era more than 60 million years ago. This layer — the “lower tertiary” — lies deeper under water than any other Gulf of Mexico oil discovery, which is one reason why many in the industry initially dismissed it as too remote to exploit. But in 2006, Chevron defied the odds when its …

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