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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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Most of the U.S. could be energy self-sufficient

With a little development elbow grease, we could be in pretty good shape for the day the energy apocalypse comes and states have to split into small self-reliant compounds. The majority of U.S. states -- 31 of the 50 -- could be completely self-sufficient with locally-produced renewable energy, according to a report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. In fact, most states could produce many times more energy than they need. They've got South Dakota down as having the potential to produce 32,431 percent of its energy usage! (There's also a bigger map and an interactive map that is actually not all …

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Jail time for gardening: Now officially a trend

Hey, remember the woman threatened with 93 days in jail for growing a garden in her front yard? She could have a cellmate! Dirk Becker of Lantzville, British Columbia turned his scraped-dry gravel pit of a property into a thriving organic farm, so of course he's facing six months of jail time. Why? Well, the thing is, this farm was full of DIRT. You can't have dirt in a yard! It's unsanitary.  The Beckers were cited under Lantzville's "unsightly premises" bylaw, for having piles of dirt and manure on the property. As the Beckers wryly point out, the letter came …

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Google science fair winner stands up for air quality

Naomi Shah, winner of the Google science fair in the 15-16 age group, isn't just a budding research scientist. She's also an environmentalist. And her project, which focuses on the effects of air quality triggers on asthma sufferers, highlights why other people should be environmentalists too. Shah noticed that medical practitioners immediately prescribe steroids and other inhalers, instead of addressing the quality of the air asthma sufferers are breathing. That's because nobody had quantified how much air pollution affects lung function. So she did. Turns out particulate matter and volatile organic compounds make lung function worse (but CO2 and carbon …

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Idaho highway is COVERED IN BEES

So that's what was happening with all the bees! It wasn't cell phones (okay, it really wasn't) or pesticide. They were just all inside a truck. And now that truck has crashed on an Idaho highway, releasing 14 million bees to go make a giant vat of potato honey or whatever bees do in Idaho.  It took cleanup workers all day to get the honey from 400 overturned hives off the roadway. As for the bee escapees, many are still at large, ready to make a go of living on the lam, perhaps bringing new blood hemolymph to some hives …

Read more: Animals

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JetBlue offers $4 L.A.-to-L.A. flights for Carmageddon

Los Angeles is quaking in fear of "Carmageddon" this weekend, when 10 miles of heavily-populated Route 405 will be shut down. But never fear, Angelenos ... you won't have to spend even a single weekend not pumping out tons of carbon! JetBlue will let you fly from Burbank (just north of L.A.) to Long Beach (just south of L.A.) for only $4. The 20-minute flight lets you safely bypass the closed-off part of 405. You may then be miles from your destination, since you're taking a 35-mile flight to avoid a 10-mile stretch of freeway ... but when have L.A. …

Read more: Cities, Transportation

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Cut trash with tiny trash cans

We tend to associate the "everything bigger" approach with wastefulness -- oversized cars guzzle gas, McMansions drive up electricity bills, 72-ounce challenge steaks never get fully eaten. So it makes sense to think that downsizing trash cans might help downsize trash. That's what they're finding at Dartmouth College, anyway, where trash cans as small as quart-size yogurt containers (that's my ineptly 'shopped comparison above) are cutting down on waste. Almost everything can be recycled at Dartmouth, and every faculty, staff, and administrator desk gets one large no-sort recycling bin. But for your non-recyclables -- mostly drink lids and certain packaging …

Read more: Living

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New solar cells can be printed on paper or fabric

Finally, your dream of solar pants (that don't look douchey) can come true! MIT researchers have devised solar panels that can be printed directly onto fabric, plastic, or paper, as easily as printing from an inkjet. The result is a flexible, malleable solar panel with enough juice to power ... well, okay, barely any juice at all right now. But it's still in the early stages of development! Besides, once you pair your solar pants with a solar shirt, tie, bag, fedora, and shoes, it'll start to add up, and you will also look very snappy. Scientists have been toying …

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Zero-energy lighting for poor communities requires only water and bleach

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSQ8LXXtv6w It can get pretty dark under the corrugated metal roofs of Manila's slums. Millions of families in the Philippines go without electric light, and those who have it can be at risk of fires from faulty wiring. But thanks to an innovation developed at MIT and distributed by the Liter of Light project, that problem can be solved with just a hole in the roof, a bottle of water, and some bleach. The bleach and water solution refracts sunlight, illuminating the insides of close-packed shanties in a way that windows can't. Installation takes less than an hour and costs …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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So much for GOP's lightbulb bill

Whether they decided they had more important things to worry about than saving the inefficient lightbulb, or whether they were scared of enraging the ghost of Thomas Edison, House members put the kibosh on a bill that would have repealed lightbulb efficiency standards. A majority of House members (including five Democrats) actually supported repeal, but sponsor Rep. Joe Barton was trying to get it passed under expedited rules, which require a two-thirds majority and no amendments. Hastiness, and lack of committee process, seems to have harmed the bill's support. Barton had said he was confident that he could get at …

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Coal company: 'Birth defects aren't from mining, they're because you're inbred hicks'

Babies born in areas with mountaintop-removal mining have higher rates of birth defects -- we know that from a study that came out last month. But, say coal companies, that doesn't mean the mining CAUSES the birth defects! They could easily be caused by something else -- like, say, rampant inbreeding. A letter from law firm Crowell & Moring, representing the National Mining Association, rebutted the study's findings by saying they failed to account for "consanquinity." That is not a thing, but "consanguinity" is inbreeding. And inbreeding is a nasty (and false) rumor about West Virginia, where a lot of …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Coal