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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Critical List: America has 3.1 million green jobs; a battery made of paper waste

The United States has 3.1 million green jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

High temperatures in the Midwest are as much as 40 degrees F above normals for this time of year.

Is the EPA ever going to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants?

Read more: Uncategorized

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The White House’s secret plan to make American households more energy-efficient

In the spirit of keeping a positive, bright outlook on life and politics (ha), we're going to ignore for the moment the Obama administration’s embrace of the Cushing-to-Texas branch of Keystone XL. Instead, let's talk about another announcement the White House made today, this one about how they're going to convince Americans to use less energy.

Back in January, the White House launched a program called Green Button. It's an "industry-led" program in which utilities make energy-use data available in standard formats. This means a couple of things: 1) It's easier for people to access information about their household's energy consumption and 2) it's easier for software developers to design applications that will help people understand energy use.

The big news the White House wants to share today is that the number of households that will have access to this sort of data will more than double, from 12 million to 27 million in total.

Read more: Energy Efficiency

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Critical List: Obama to expedite portion of Keystone XL; World Water Day

It's World Water Day: How much do you use? (The average American household uses 350 gallons. I KNOW.)

Obama is set to expedite the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Supreme Court decided that the couple who wants to fight the EPA over whether their property counts as a wetland can go ahead and fight the EPA.

Is that climate change in your Hunger Games?

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Robot jellyfish will use water for fuel, spy on you

A team working out of Virginia Tech and the University of Texas at Dallas is building a robotic jellyfish that mimics the real thing. Here it is in action:

The robot gets its power from hydrogen and oxygenate, which reacts with platinum to create heat, driving the jellyfish's "muscles." One day, the jellyfish won't even need to come with a separate fuel source, Discovery News reports:

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Behold H&M’s new green collection

H&M's business model -- selling cheap clothes that either disintegrate or fall out of fashion quickly -- doesn't exactly fit into the "buy less stuff" model of sustainability. But they're still trying to sell eco-consciousness, in the form of "bonded recycled polyester," which usually serves as jacket lining, apparently.


This one's probably the cutest of the bunch, but we are afraid of what "bonded recycled polyester" feels like up close.

Thanks to pressure from groups like Greenpeace, the company is working to pollute less and recycle more. Check out a few of the dresses from the 2012 H&M Conscious "Glamour" collection but before you click buy, ask yourself is "Would I buy this nonsense at all if it didn't have an eco-friendly halo around it?"

Read more: Living

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Critical List: Tariffs for imported Chinese solar panels; Obama to visit solar facility

The Department of Commerce announced that China was selling solar panels at unfairly low prices in the U.S. and that it would slap tariffs on them.

Obama's on an "all-of-the-above" energy tour today: He'll stop at a solar facility and at oil and gas fields.

The New York Times reported Sunday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would require environmental reviews of properties with oil and gas leases before issuing mortgages to them, but now the secretary of ag is saying that the department will do nothing of the sort.

The National Bike Summit is underway. Go with other bikers to harangue your congressperson about public transportation funding!

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Renewable hydropower could supply all of Africa’s electricity

In Africa, 587 million people go without electricity -- only about two-fifths of the continent's population has access to a regular supply. But according to a new United Nations report, hydropower -- a form of renewable energy -- could supply all of Africa's electricity needs.

Right now, only about 32 percent of the continent's energy comes from hydropower, but there's vast potential for growth. Africa is only using about 5 percent of its hydropower potential.

There are two main obstacles to tapping into this resource: money (not enough of it) and the need for cooperation. Rivers make great international borders, which is not exactly convenient for countries who want to build large dams. They have to come to an agreement with other governments in order to move forward.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Energy monitoring device lets dad bust up rager from 500 miles away

If this were a movie, hardware and software developer David Rowe would look like a sitting duck for teen shenanigans -- I mean, we don’t know the dude, but we’re pretty sure he’s a dweeby dad (or as close as you can get in Australia). The man describes himself as “kind of a power geek” -- and he is talking about home energy use, not imperialism. But in fact, Rowe’s power geekiness has now translated into powerful hardass parenting: He busted up his daughter's New Year's bash from 500 miles away, thanks to his home energy monitoring device.

Over New Year's, Rowe was traveling in the Melbourne area, an eight-and-a-half-hour drive from home. His 16-year-old daughter was staying with friends. The vacant house piqued Rowe's energy geek curiosity: How would it perform with no one in it? So he fired up his energy-monitoring device and took a look.

Read more: Green Home

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Critical List: Happy vernal equinox, Alec Baldwin calls Inhofe an ‘oil whore’

Happy spring! Check out the Google doodle celebrating the vernal equinox.

A new survey shows that fewer Americans consider alternative energy development a bigger priority than oil, coal, and gas production.

Air emissions from fracking contain pollutants that pose health risks to those living nearby, a new study confirms.

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Starbucks juice bar: Vegan nirvana or yuppie hellhole?

There are two ways to think about Starbucks' first juice bar, which opens Monday. Either this juice heralds the end of times, or it is a boon to vegans and vegetarians everywhere.

The basic background: Back in November, Starbucks bought Evolution Fresh, a company started by the guy behind Naked Juice. The coffee company is using that business to launch an entirely new chain. It will service fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, wraps, salads, and soups. The first store opens Monday in Bellevue, Wash., which Reuters describes as "an upscale city just east of Seattle."

Now, for those who believe -- no, are certain -- that Starbucks ruined coffee forever, this is terrible news. People swear by their juice bars: in the East Village, where I live, you're either a Liquiteria fan or a Juicy Lucy fan. We have regular jazz-ballet dance rumbles. For those whose No. 1 priority is having fresh juices and vegan wraps available two to a corner … well, it’s probably still terrible news. Can a giant corporation really get a wheatgrass-spiked kale-apple-carrot-banana smoothie right? It is not unreasonable to fear that the result will be gross and probably full of sugar.