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Alaska’s heat wave breaking records, killing salmon

A grizzly bear lapping up Alaska's warm summer.
Douglas Brown
A grizzly bear basks in the Alaskan sun.

Something smells fishy about a record-breaking heat wave in Alaska.

It might be the piles of dead salmon.

The Land of the Midnight Sun has been sweating, relatively speaking, through a hot and sun-soaked summer. From the AP:

Anchorage has set a record for the most consecutive days over 70 degrees during this unusually warm summer, while Fairbanks is closing in on its own seasonal heat record.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Offshore auction signals start of wind bonanza

Offshore wind turbines
Shutterstock
Coming soon, to a coastline near you ...

Wind developers have accepted invitations to the government’s New England offshore wind energy party.

There are currently no offshore wind farms in U.S. waters, but the Obama administration intends to change that. On Wednesday, the government auctioned off the right to construct turbines in nearly 165,000 acres of federal waters south of Massachusetts and Rhode Island -- the first of many offshore auctions the Interior Department has planned.

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BMW’s i3 electric car earns gushing praise

The BMW i3 electric sedan, officially unveiled this week, is getting rave reviews.

The car sells for as little as $41,350 -- not bad for a Bimmer, and that's before the $7,500 federal EV rebate. Those with range anxiety can drop a few grand more for a small backup gas-burning engine (or just take advantage of BMW's nifty SUV-sharing offer).

BMW i3
BMW
BMW i3

Here's some of what Wired has to say about the car, which weighs in at 2,700 pounds:

The reason the i3 is so svelte compared to other EVs is two-fold. First, it was designed to be an electric car from the beginning. Unlike BMW’s previous EV efforts — the Mini E (3,300 pounds, the same as a Nissan Leaf) and the BMW ActiveE (4,000 pounds) — they shaped the chassis and body around the motor and batteries to create a compact package with a low center of gravity. And then they got serious about weight savings.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Company to start slaughtering horses next week, despite arson and lawsuit

Horse
Shutterstock
Hey, horse, did you try to burn down that New Mexico slaughterhouse?

A New Mexico slaughterhouse plans to begin killing horses for meat on Monday -- despite a looming lawsuit and an apparent arson attack.

Refrigeration units at the Valley Meat Co. in Roswell., N.M., lit up in flames on Tuesday. Firefighters extinguished the blaze, but not before five compressors were damaged beyond repair. The company pledged to replace them in time to begin slaughtering horses and chilling their meat on Monday. From Albuquerque's KOB Eyewitness News 4:

Chaves County Sheriff’s Department said substances that could have been used to start the fire were found on the units and there is reason to believe it was arson. The owners are sure of it.

We're not endorsing arson. But this was the same meatpacking company whose worker shot a horse in the head on camera and said, “All you animal activists, fuck you.”

Perhaps an animal activist out there reciprocated the "fuck you" sentiment.

Read more: Food

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You get my drift? Pesticides cause big problems when they go where they’re not wanted

Crop duster
Shutterstock
Please be careful where you dump that toxic load.

Too many crop dusters are accidentally missing their targets and spraying poisonous pesticides where they're not supposed to go, killing crops and sickening farmers' neighbors.

Indiana Public Media reports that three-quarters of farm pesticide violations in the state involve what is euphemistically called "drift." That is, the chemicals don't land where they're intended to. From the report, which is the first in a three-part series on the problem:

[Farmer Brett] Middlesworth grows about 300 acres of tomatoes each year, but last summer he saw about a tenth of his yield damaged by a single instance of pesticide drift.

It happened halfway through the growing season. His neighbor was spraying a soybean field with Roundup herbicide. The wind picked up and carried the spray across the property line and onto Middlesworth’s tomatoes.

As Roundup targets broadleaf weeds, and tomatoes are broadleaf plants, the area closest to his neighbor was a total loss. ...

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$100 million worth of natural gas goes up in flames every month in North Dakota

Gas flaring.
Tim Evanson
Gas flaring in North Dakota.

Amidst an oil and gas drilling boom in North Dakota, a new report suggests that nearly a third of the natural gas that's being sucked out of the ground is being wasted -- burned on site and flared away.

The practice of flaring -- burning off natural gas instead of capturing and selling it -- is so rampant in the state that it is clearly visible from space. Reuters reports:

Remote well locations, combined with historically low natural gas prices and the extensive time needed to develop pipeline networks, have fueled the controversial practice, commonly known as flaring. While oil can be stored in tanks indefinitely after drilling, natural gas must be immediately piped to a processing facility.

Flaring has tripled in the past three years, according to the report from Ceres, a nonprofit group that tracks environmental records of public companies.

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Thai tourist paradise wrecked by oil spill

Coconut Bay, Thailand
LisaRoxy
Coconut Bay before the oil spill.

What could be lovelier than a vacation at Thailand's Coconut Bay?

Right now, just about anything.

Thousands of gallons of crude gushed from a ruptured pipeline into the Gulf of Thailand over the weekend, blackening shorelines that had recently been bustling with tourists. Some beaches have been closed; others have simply been deserted.

Chemical dispersants have been dumped from airplanes over the slick, which should be helping to break up the oil but also potentially sickening workers, visitors, fish, and other wildlife.

The paradise-like island of Koh Samet, a tourist hub that's four hours by bus and boat from Bangkok, has been hit hard. An official told reporters that tourism there had been impacted in "an extreme way." Officials fear that the slick could reach central Thailand. From Reuters:

Worst hit was the beach at Ao Prao, or Coconut Bay, but tourists elsewhere on the island were getting out.

"We're staying on another beach but we're not taking any chances. We are checking out," Daria Volkov, a tourist from Moscow, told Reuters.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Pesticides are blowing into California’s mountains, poisoning frogs

Crop duster
Shutterstock
Not all of the pesticide stays where it is sprayed.

Pesticides sprayed over farms in California's Central Valley appear to be blowing up into the Sierra Nevada mountain range, where they've been found in the flesh of frogs in national parks.

Such farm chemicals are thought to be contributing to the ongoing decline of frogs and other amphibians in the Sierra. Mountain hikers used to need to take care to not step on frogs, but now the animals are difficult to find. Sierra amphibians help control insect numbers and provide food for birds and other wildlife, but their numbers are plummeting as they succumb to disease, habitat loss, and other environmental problems.

Researchers collected Pacific chorus frogs from Yosemite National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Giant Sequoia National Monument, Stanislaus National Forest, and Lake Tahoe in 2009 and 2010. They reported in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry that chemical cocktails of fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides were found accumulating in frogs from each of the sites. None of the pesticides found by the scientists were sprayed close to where the frogs were captured, but all of the pesticides were used in the Central Valley.

Read more: Food

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Gulf of Mexico dead zone is big, but not record-breaking big

Oh yay. Just 5,840 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico are virtually bereft of life this summer.

Click to embiggen
Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium
The deadest parts of the 2013 dead zone are shown in red. Click to embiggen.

This year's dead zone is much bigger than an official goal of 1,950 square miles, but not as bad as had been feared.

Heavy spring rains inundated Mississippi River tributaries with fertilizers and other nutrients, and once those pollutants flowed into the Gulf, they led to the growth of oxygen-starved areas where marine life can't survive.
Read more: Uncategorized

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Leak-prone oil tankers to remain on American train tracks for now

DOT-111
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Flickr account
A pile of DOT-111 oil tankers in Lac-Mégantic following the July 6 derailment and explosion.

Soda can–shaped rail cars like those that exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, earlier this month shouldn't be on America's train tracks. They are prone to rupture in accidents.

Yet these so-called DOT-111 railway cars will continue to haul most of the oil that's moved through the U.S. by rail at least into next year and likely beyond.

After an investigation into a deadly 2009 explosion of an ethanol-laden train in Illinois, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a redesign or replacement of DOT-111 cars, noting that their thin steel shells can easily puncture and that valves can break during rollovers.

The Obama administration has been working on rules to reduce the hazards of the dangerous railway cars, but those rules have been delayed by nearly a year, the AP reports. And it's unclear whether new regulations would apply to an estimated 40,000 older DOT-111's now in use or only to newer ones.