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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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The U.S. gets more power from renewables than from nuclear

A new report from the Energy Information Administration shows that in 2011, renewable power in the U.S. surpassed nuclear for the first time. In the first three months of the year, renewable energy plants -- including geothermal, biomass, wind, water, and solar -- were responsible for about 12 percent of the country's energy production, while nuclear produced only 2 percent. Renewable energy -- especially biomass, which accounts for almost half of the country's renewable plants -- has been surging in the U.S., showing a 25 percent increase since 2009. Solar production alone, though it represents a small part of the …

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NASA's zero-power gadget turns urine into Capri Sun

Here's the big innovation that will be accompanying the space shuttle on its final launch this Friday: A zero-energy still that converts urine into a sweet, drinkable liquid. Still want to be an astronaut when you grow up? The shuttle already carries urine-recycling equipment, but it's heavy and a big drain on the craft's limited electricity. The new filtration kit is the size of a large book and relies on a process called forward osmosis, which doesn't require outside power. Instead, electrolytes pull fluid through a semi-permeable boundary, leaving contaminants behind. The resulting liquid supposedly tastes like Capri Sun, which …

Read more: Food

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Get yourself sterilized and win a free car

India has a massive and worsening overpopulation problem -- the country has added 181 million people in the last 10 years. So health officials in the state of Rajasthan are trying to lure people into voluntary sterilization by taking advantage of one of humankind's biggest weaknesses: expensive sh*t. In a three-month program that they hope will attract 30,000 eager non-breeders, officials are offering cars, motorcycles, televisions, cash, and other incentives for people to put their junk under the knife. This is not the first time India has instituted payoffs for getting sterilized -- before this it was bikes and transistor …

Read more: Living, Population

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Nuclear power is fine — it's corporate power that's dangerous

In the Guardian, George Monbiot argues that nuclear power was the least of Fukushima's problems. Sure, the nuclear industry is corrupt and regulation-resistant -- but name a power industry that isn't. When it comes to health threats, says Monbiot, the conscienceless scumbags in the nuclear industry are miles ahead of all the other conscienceless scumbags. For starters, nuclear plants aren't fundamentally unsafe, says Monbiot -- they're just old sometimes. The Fukushima Daini plant, right next door to Daiichi, is ten years younger and weathered the tsunami just fine, and newer plants are even safer. The problem isn't the plants, but …

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Stock up on wine and bacon before climate change gets worse

Hippies have been fighting for awareness and action on global warming for a long time, but now yuppies and hipsters will have to join in. In the last week we've gotten news that bacon prices will soar and California wines will suffer due to inhospitable crop-growing conditions. It's one thing to live in a slowly crumbling world, but to live in it without bacon or wine? Now it's SERIOUS. Bacon: CNBC reports that bacon prices are set to soar this summer, prompting suggestions of a Strategic Bacon Reserve. It's a cascade of problems -- warming conditions (among other factors) mean shabby …

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Believing in climate change gets you votes

Here's good news if the phrase "President Bachmann" sends you into a twitching, frothing fit: For candidates on both sides of the aisle, the best vote-getting strategy is to take climate change seriously.  Republican voters don't really care whether you believe in climate change -- they were more likely to vote for a hypothetical candidate who made a green statement on climate (warming exists, humans caused it, and we need to take steps to end it) or a non-green statement. They just didn't like the wishy-washers who didn't state a position at all. So to win Republican votes, it suffices …

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WWF leaflet campaign reaches 285,142 people with one piece of paper

As certified genius Mitch Hedberg once said, when someone hands you a flyer on the street, it's like they're saying "here, YOU throw this away." But the panda-suited chuggers in this World Wildlife Fund leaflet campaign are saying "here, YOU read this on your way up the escalator where it will be collected by another panda and distributed to the next person who will then bring it back down the escalator to be re-collected and re-distributed by the original panda." It's a little more complicated, but it involves a lot less waste.  Of course, WWF's claim of running the "greenest" …

Read more: Living

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Fox News takes credit for study that debunks climate skeptics

Fox News is patting itself on the back for "inspiring" a recent study showing that China's sulfur output has been masking the effects of global warming. It points to an interview that lead researcher Robert Kaufmann did with the BBC, where he said he looked into the issue because an old man told him Fox News said the planet was cooling. Hooray, Fox News got mentioned on a real news site! Break out the Confederate flag party hats! Too bad the rest of that article is about Kaufmann making that old man, and his Fox News overlords, look pretty silly indeed. …

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Warning: Climate change causes sun to jerk off

Have we considered the possibility that rising global temperatures are less about greenhouse gases, more about the sun really, REALLY enjoying heatin' stuff up? USA Today has! Forget solar storms, what we should really be worried about is solar onanism. UPDATE: USA Today is so proud of this image that they put a nice high-quality version on their site! Enjoy.

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Auto manufacturers don't trust people to buy efficient cars

The federal government is proposing a new fuel efficiency standard of 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025. This is fairly modest, on a global scale -- it would require a 5 percent increase every year from 2017 onwards, but Europe is on track to hit 60 MPG by 2020, so it can certainly be done. Car manufacturers aren't happy about the prospect, though, and are pushing for a lower standard. Their objections: It could add thousands to the cost of a new vehicle (whereas using less $4-a-gallon gas would probably only save hundreds per vehicle every year). And more to the …