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Jess Zimmerman's Posts

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How Americans defeated efficiency with consumerism

The Energy Information Administration's Residential Energy Consumption Survey, released yesterday, shows that average household energy usage has remained remarkably stable over the last 30 years -- even as appliances have gotten way more efficient. Why? Well, we just have a pantload more appliances. (Seriously, look in your pants RIGHT NOW. Do you have a gadget in them? Chances are you do. I've got a phone in my pocket as I write this.) Also, there are 34.5 million more households in the U.S. than there were in 1978, and we're leading increasingly white-collar lifestyles -- air conditioners, dishwashers, washing machines. If …

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Budget-strapped police forces going with green vehicles to save on fuel

Aspiring Blues Brothers may be able to get old Crown Vics cheap pretty soon -- but if you’re at all eco-minded, you may not want to drive them. The iconic and soon-to-be-retired police rides only got 14 m.p.g. in the city, but the Ford Interceptor -- set to be their primary replacement when they go out of production -- does 20 to 25 percent better. That’s good news for the planet, but even more compelling for most police departments, it’s also good news for local budgets. Detroit, for instance, could save $2 million a year on fuel costs with a …

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How coal could make your car more efficient

That’s right: You may soon be able to use coal to make your car more fuel-efficient. Not by running it on coal -- gross! -- but building it out of metal mixed with structures found in coal ash. Fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal, contains microscopic bubbles called cenospheres. They sound like Clive Barker creatures, but they’re actually really useful -- because when you mix them with metal, they make the metal lighter without compromising its strength. Even regular gas-powered cars could be at least 10 percent lighter, and thus more fuel-efficient, if they were made out of cenosphere-infused …

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Artificial solar leaf beats trees at their own game

What's better than trees? I'll tell you: ROBOT TREES. Scientists at MIT have developed "artificial leaves" -- small solar cells, about the size (though not the shape) of an oak leaf, that use a photosynthesis-like process to turn water into electricity. Only they do it ten times more efficiently than natural leaves, and the electricity they produce can be used to power homes in the developing world. Trees: spanked. The leaves are cheap to produce and can operate continuously for 45 hours, which gives them a lot of potential for powering homes in countries where energy infrastructure is prohibitively expensive. …

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Obama tells government to prepare for climate change, whether Congress likes it or not

Congress may dither and dig in their heels about whether global climate change is even a real thing, let alone an emergency that must be prepared for. But soon all Federal agencies -- not to mention a lot of private businesses that deal with the government -- will be implementing plans for adapting to climate change, due to Obama's executive order 13514. That order was signed in 2009, but you probably haven't heard anything about it. Since it was an executive order, there was no arguing or filibustering or petitions or whatever. It just quietly went into effect, and then …

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Fukushima may end up as a concrete-encased ghost plant, says expert

"My best guess [as to how this ends] is there is going to be a bigger breach than we've already seen -- and we suspect there's breaches in the number 2 and number 3 reactors -- there'll be a bigger breach, it'll force the evacuation, and we'll see, I think, at least two core meltdowns and possibly two, maybe more, pool fires, and it will end very very badly. That's what I actually think is going to happen. I hope I'm wrong. I hope they contain it. This will take weeks or months, in the best case, to contain it, …

Read more: Uncategorized

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Crowd-sourced radiation maps put the hivemind to work for public health

Map: RTDN.org and Google Maps What if Foursquare were good for something? It might look a little like this. Crowd-sourced maps of radiation in Japan allow anyone with a radiation detector to log their reading, resulting in real-time information with potentially as many data points as there are users. RTDN.org, put together by Portland's Uncorked Studios, took three days and zero dollars to get running, and in addition to telling users how to upload data it also provides info on buying a detection device. Map: Stubbytour.com and Google Maps Korean firm ISELSoft's Stubby map doesn't use Everyman Power -- its …

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Journalists eat sugar substitutes so you don’t have to

So maybe Tom Philpott convinced you to wean yourself off aspartame, or maybe you just think chemical-based sweeteners taste oogy. (Okay, ALL sweeteners are chemical-based, but you know what I mean.) Well, the folks at Salon have taken one for the team, eating a lot of gross cookies so you can know which sugar substitute is best. Agave syrup Stacks up to sugar: Barely any point to substituting. It has a low glycemic index -- meaning it won't give you a "sugar crash" -- but requires so much processing that some forms might as well be corn syrup. And it …

Read more: Food, Scary Food

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Wisconsin gov. Scott Walker ruins everything, including wind power

Can you get much more low-down than Scott Walker and his cronies? It's not enough that the Wisconsin governor stripped collective bargaining rights from unions in pretty much the slimiest way possible, or that important people who support him have been advocating both violence and fake violence as a way to silence opposition. No, he also had to go and kill wind power. Energy developer Invenergy has twigged to the fact that Walker is a scumbag in general and an anti-environment scumbag in particular, and has pulled out of its plan to build a new large-scale wind farm in Wisconsin. …

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Michele Bachmann wants to kick the planet in the nuts, and she’s running for president

Michele Bachmann, the lunatic Minnesota representative who's come out against everything from minimum wage to evolution, is apparently planning to throw her hat in the ring for 2012. OMG OMG OMG I can't wait! You thought Sarah Palin was a goldmine for snark enthusiasts? Palin is downright complex by comparison. This will be like shooting fish in a Finding Nemo fanfiction forum. To help you stretch your mockery muscles for the long campaign ahead, here are our favorite Bachmann quotes about the environment: On the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: "I came away with the idea that this would be the …

Read more: Election 2012