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Lisa Hymas' Posts

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If your pot isn’t organic, you’re probably inhaling pesticides

pot smoker
Shutterstock

Bummer news for pot smokers: Up to 70 percent of the pesticides found on a marijuana bud can end up in the smoke you're inhaling. That's according to recent research conducted by Jeffrey Raber, who holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of Southern California and operates a medical cannabis testing laboratory in L.A.

The Eureka Times-Standard reports:

"I think that what's so alarming to us is that such a huge amount of pesticide material could be transferred,” Raber said. “And, you have to consider that when you inhale (something), it's much like injecting it directly into your blood stream.” ...

Raber said it's important to remember that smoking a marijuana bud that's been sprayed with chemicals is far different than eating a non-organic tomato. First and foremost, he said, there are no controls over what's sprayed on marijuana crops. And, while most people would rinse off a tomato before eating it, they can't wash a bud before putting it in their pipe. The body also has filters in place for things that are ingested, he said, but not for what's inhaled.

"You don't have the first pass metabolism of the liver,” he said. “You don't have the lack of absorptivity going through the stomach or the gut lining. It's a very different equation when you're inhaling.”

Read more: Living

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The big election winner: Deep-pocketed Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer
Givesmart.org

Enviros appear to have won two key contests on Tuesday -- a high-profile governor's race in Virginia and a low-profile county council race in rural Washington -- and they did it by outspending their fossil-fuel opponents. Billionaire green activist Tom Steyer can claim much of the credit.

Through his NextGen Climate Action PAC, Steyer poured more than $2 million into electing Democrat Terry McAuliffe as governor of Virginia -- or, more to the point, defeating Republican climate denier Ken Cuccinelli. The Virginia League of Conservation Voters and the national League of Conservation Voters pitched in almost $2 million too, and the Sierra Club contributed nearly half a million. All in all, environmentalists donated more to the McAuliffe effort than any other interest group save for the Democratic Governors Association, reports The Huffington Post.

Virginia's lax campaign-finance rules worked to the benefit of Democrats and greens this time around, according to Politico:

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EPA chief tells Grist what coal will have to do to survive in a “carbon-constrained” future

Gina McCarthy
Reuters/Jason Roberts
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

It’s been a long time coming, but, finally, the EPA is going to begin tackling carbon pollution from the world's single greatest contributor to climate change -- the U.S. power sector.

Under draft rules being announced this morning, new coal power plants will have to be a whole lot cleaner than the ones we've got today. In fact, thanks also to market conditions, new coal plants might not get built at all. Perhaps most important, the draft rules lay the foundation for a bigger move to cut emissions from already-existing coal-fired power plants, a plan due to be unveiled in June 2014.

In an interview with Grist, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the proposed regulations for new plants are not intended to push coal out of the energy mix. Still, the standards are pretty strict. The EPA had released an earlier version of them in March of last year, then decided to rework them, but this new set of regs still takes a hard line with coal.

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Naomi Klein says big green groups are more trouble than climate deniers

Naomi Klein
Ed Kashi
Naomi Klein.

Progressive journalist and activist Naomi Klein made waves a couple of years ago with an article in The Nation arguing that climate activism and current-day capitalism are incompatible. An appropriate response to the massive threat of climate change "is going to require shredding the free-market ideology that has dominated the global economy for more than three decades," she argued.

Now, in a new interview with Jason Mark of Earth Island Journal, she lambastes major environmental groups for failing to understand this point, for being too tied to the neoliberal agenda and too cozy with corporations.

I think there is a very deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups. And to be very honest with you, I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost. Because it has steered us in directions that have yielded very poor results. I think if we look at the track record of Kyoto, of the UN Clean Development Mechanism, the European Union’s emissions trading scheme -- we now have close to a decade that we can measure these schemes against, and it’s disastrous. Not only are emissions up, but you have no end of scams to point to, which gives fodder to the right. The right took on cap-and-trade by saying it’s going to bankrupt us, it’s handouts to corporations, and, by the way, it’s not going to work. And they were right ... Not in the bankrupting part, but they were right that this was a massive corporate giveaway, and they were right that it wasn’t going to bring us anywhere near what scientists were saying we needed to do [to] lower emissions. So I think it’s a really important question why the green groups have been so unwilling to follow science to its logical conclusions. ...

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Can these three billionaire superfriends save the climate?

Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and Hank Paulson
Jim Gillooly/PEIHelloaloe, & Fortune Live Media
Bloomberg, Steyer, and Paulson are teaming up for the climate.

A trio of powerful billionaires is preparing to launch a big bipartisan climate initiative next month, Ryan Lizza reports in The New Yorker. The players: Michael Bloomberg, outgoing mayor of New York City; Tom Steyer, a former hedge-fund manager who's now devoting himself fulltime to the climate cause; and Hank Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs and former treasury secretary under George W. Bush.

Not enough influential rich guys for you? OK, here are two more: Robert Rubin, another former treasury secretary and Goldman Sachs alum, will serve as an adviser to the new initiative, as will George Shultz, former secretary of state under Ronald Reagan.

No details yet on what the presumably well-funded climate initiative will aim to achieve.

Steyer is also moving forward with climate projects of his own, including a new anti-Keystone ad campaign that launched on Sunday. The first ad features Steyer standing on a ship along the Gulf Coast, making the point that much of the oil piped through Keystone XL would be exported. "Here's the truth: Keystone oil will travel through America, not to America," he says. Watch the ad:

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Canadian PM to Obama: Let’s make a deal on Keystone!

Harper and Obama
Jason Ransom / US embassy - Canada
Harper says, "Let's make a deal, eh"? Obama laughs inscrutably.

Looks like Canada is getting desperate.

The country's leaders and its oil industry really, really want the Keystone XL pipeline built so they can ship tar-sands oil from Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast. But the Obama administration keeps postponing its decision on the pipeline.

In his big climate speech in June, President Obama said he would approve Keystone only "if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution." And in an interview with The New York Times in July, Obama said, "there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release."

So now Canada is trying a new approach, offering to make a deal with Obama on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. CBC broke the story:

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Cool news: Big fridges to get more efficient under new Obama rules

Ben & Jerry's in supermarket case
Michael Kappel
Soon Ben & Jerry's will get to live in more efficient freezers.

After sitting on two energy-efficiency rules for more than a year and a half, the Obama administration finally released them on Thursday. They won't be official until early next year, after the public has time to comment and regulators have time to consider those comments, but at least they're now moving forward.

The proposed rules would require commercial refrigeration equipment, like restaurant fridges and deli cases, to use less energy. OK, that might not sound like the sexiest initiative, but efficiency matters -- a lot. Plus this means you'll soon have one more reason to feel better about buying Ben & Jerry's.

As The Washington Post reports, "The proposals have a significant environmental impact because of the size of the appliances involved." The White House says the new rules "could cut energy bills by up to $28 billion and cut emissions by over 350 million metric tons of CO2 over 30 years."

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Democrats will soon have a big, fat fight over fracking

man and woman boxing
Shutterstock

Most Democratic politicians say nice things about renewable energy and less-nice things about coal and earnest things about the need for climate action. But when it comes to fracking for natural gas, Dems and enviros are increasingly at odds.

Exhibit A: President Obama. He's provided unprecedented support for clean energy. He's making moves to curb pollution from coal-fired power plants. He's saying climate change is a top priority for his second term. But he's just fine with fracking. His administration has yet to impose any regulations on the process; it's only offered weak draft rules so far. It recently approved plans for a third project to export fracked natural gas. Obama thinks natural gas is part of the climate solution, a bridge fuel that will help us make the transition from coal and oil to renewables, as he made clear in his big climate speech in June:

We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions. ...

The bottom line is natural gas is creating jobs. It's lowering many families' heat and power bills. And it's the transition fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of the future.

Even California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a long-time booster of clean energy and climate action, is open to fracking.

But as anti-fracking activism heats up around the country, pro-fracking Dems might find themselves increasingly at odds with their base. As we near 2016, any Democrat who wants to replace Obama might have to start singing a different tune.

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Climate scientists are 95 percent sure that humans are causing global warming

When it comes to climate change, the writing is on the wall.
Shutterstock
When it comes to climate science, the writing is on the wall.

Climate hawks are buzzing over leaks from the fifth big climate report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due to be officially released in September. Spoiler: Scientists are pretty damn confident that we're screwing up the climate.

An earlier draft was leaked in December by climate deniers trying to undermine the case for anthropogenic climate change. News of more recent leaked drafts comes to us from Reuters, which has no such agenda. Reuters sums up the report this way:

Climate scientists are surer than ever that human activity is causing global warming, according to leaked drafts of a major U.N. report, but they are finding it harder than expected to predict the impact in specific regions in coming decades. ...

Drafts seen by Reuters of the study by the U.N. panel of experts, due to be published next month, say it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities -- chiefly the burning of fossil fuels -- are the main cause of warming since the 1950s.

That is up from at least 90 percent in the last report in 2007, 66 percent in 2001, and just over 50 in 1995, steadily squeezing out the arguments by a small minority of scientists that natural variations in the climate might be to blame. ...

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Don’t expect that hybrid minivan any time soon

Toyota Estimate Hybrid
Toyota
The Toyota Estima Hybrid. The Japanese text translates to "Ha ha, you can't have one."

For years, Grist readers have yearned, ached, and virtually begged for a hybrid minivan. Sorry, folks. Keep dreaming.

Toyota has sold its Estima Hybrid minivan (44 mpg) in Japan since 2001, but it has no plans to sell a hybrid or plug-in minivan in the U.S., a spokesperson tells the Chicago Tribune.

Why not? Green-car expert Jim Motovalli explains:

I have brought up the concept of a plug-in hybrid minivan several times to automakers, and they always dismiss it. Their claim: Minivans are big and boxy, and the fuel economy wouldn’t improve that much with a hybrid drivetrain. Plus, they’d be expensive (the Estima is $50,000). Besides, that segment of the market is really not that big, they say.