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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Critical List: New rules for fracking’s air pollution; prehistoric microbes live

Natural gas companies have to work on sending less methane and other hazardous compounds into the air, according to new EPA rules.

The House passed that new Keystone XL provision.

Oregon towns on the coast are toying with the idea of becoming major coal export ports. But it's maaaaybe not the best idea.

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Cleantech spending drops 75 percent in five years

A new paper from Brookings, the World Resources Institute, and the Breakthrough Institute shows exactly how much trouble cleantech is in:

Depressing, no? Some of that rapid decline comes from the end of stimulus spending. But the researchers found that even discounting those funds, federal support for cleantech dropped 47 percent between 2011 and 2012.

Read more: Cleantech

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A tire fire so big it can be seen from space

Tire fires are a nasty business, and in Kuwait yesterday, a fire broke out at a dump that held more than 5 million tires. The fire was so big that the smoke plume was visible from space:


A tire fire this big is an environmental disaster. It won't just pollute the air with hazardous materials -- it will create a small oil spill as well. Burning just one passenger car tire can produce two gallons of oil, according to the EPA, and 5 million tires could spill about 275,000 gallons of oil on the ground.

Read more: Pollution

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Critical List: Americans link climate change to hot weather; yet another Keystone XL bill

The majority of Americans are convinced that climate change had something to do with the warm winter and last year's super hot summer. Good news: They believe climate change has consequences. Bad news: When it gets cold, they’ll be convinced we fixed it.

House Republicans are going to vote today on yet another bill that would require federal approval of Keystone XL. (The White House has said it will veto the bill.)

Apple and Amazon have the dirtiest data centers, Google has the most energy-efficient, according to a new Greenpeace report.

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Against all odds, Los Angeles is getting a bikeshare

Photo by Colin Gordon.

Los Angeles! Despite your reputation as the most car-dependent city west of, uh, anything, you're totally trying to get in on the green transportation revolution, and we love it!

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced over the weekend that the City of Cars will soon have a permanent bikeshare program. And if there were ever a city that should be bike-friendly, it's L.A. If people in Minneapolis can bike through the winter, the good people of Los Angeles can bike through their year-round climate of balmy beauty. (Seriously, you can do it, guys! We're rooting for you!)

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In Washington, prison inmates raise bees, frogs, and butterflies

When you think “prison,” you don’t usually think “idyllic bower of nature’s most rare and beautiful specimens.” But at the Washington State Department of Corrections, inmates can skip the license-plate making and spend their days cultivating endangered local animals, insects, and plants. Participants in the Sustainable Prisons Project raise Oregon spotted frogs, Taylor's checkerspot butterflies, native prairie plants, local birds, and bees. Its organizers are now looking to expand the project more widely.

The project, a partnership between the Department of Corrections and Evergreen State College, began in 2004, when inmates were recruited to help research moss farming -- they helped find an easily cultivated species that could serve as a replacement for moss unsustainably harvested from forests.

Read more: Animals

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Critical List: U.S. carbon emissions on the rise; Japan without nuclear power

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have started to rise again.

After May 5, Japan will be without nuclear power, at least until two idled reactors are started back up.

New forecasting technology means fewer people die in extreme weather.

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Oil execs get monster raises after a ‘very strong’ 2011

How big was my raise? Thiiiiiis big.

How big was your raise last year? John Watson, the CEO of Chevron, got a 52 percent bump in his compensation. That's a nice chunk of change for anyone, and in Watson's case, it brought his total yearly take up to about $25 million.

Which is nothing to complain about, unless Watson is comparing his raise to the raise of his rival giganto oil company. In that case, he might be feeling a little bit short-changed.

Read more: Oil

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Scientists build energy-efficient computer out of crabs

Here is an amazing example of humans piggybacking on a natural phenomenon to create an incredibly clever system: crab-based computing.

A crab-based computer starts with swarms of crabs. These swarms include hundreds of thousands of crabs that, individually, run every which way but that, as a group, progress in one direction. Even more incredible -- when two swarms collide, they merge and start moving along the vector of their combined velocity (hellloooo, high school physics!).

So what does this have to do with computing? A team of researchers set up a system where crab behavior would provide the basic logic on which computers work. For instance, a computer might need to take inputs X and Y, and output the result “X or Y” -- a 1 if either X or Y is 1, and a 0 otherwise. Crabs can do that:

Read more: Energy Efficiency

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Critical List: Emperor penguin population double previous estimates; a new fracking working group

A team using very high resolution satellite pictures counted twice as many emperor penguins in Antarctica than any previous study had.

President Obama formed a new working group in Washington to coordinate federal oversight of fracking.

Those earthquakes in Oklahoma and Arkansas could be caused not just by fracking wastewater disposal but by fracking itself.

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