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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Critical List: The gas boom scam; Bieber’s electric car

In Rolling Stone, Jeff Goodell looks at "the scam behind the gas boom.” What really makes money for a natural gas company? "Buying and flipping the land that contains the gas," Goodell reports.

A team of scientists has discovered how to use wastewater's bacteria to create electricity.

For his 18th birthday Justin Bieber received (among many other gifts, we're sure) an electric vehicle -- a $100,000 Fisker Karma.

The Senate transportation bill could include dedicated funding for walking and biking.

Nestlé's products no longer have artificial ingredients in them.

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Levitating houses stay safe during earthquakes

Image by Chris Van Allsburg from "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick."

A Japanese company called Air Danshin Systems can make houses fly. Not all the time, and not for particularly long. But when it counts -- during an earthquake -- the company's technology can levitate a house more than an inch off its foundation. That means that while the earth shakes, the house stays safe.

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Economist smacks down skeptics for misreading his research

William D. Nordhaus -- economist, Yale professor, serious person -- has taken to a serious publication, The New York Review of Books, to put the smackdown on climate skeptics.

The back story: Nordhaus has done working analysis of the economic impacts of implementing climate policies. In that awful Wall Street Journal op-ed we wrote about in January, a group of skeptics cited that work as proof that the country should do exactly nothing in the next 50 years to fight climate change. In his new article, Nordhaus approaches this and other claims with, as he says, "a cool head and a warm heart." But eventually he just has to tell them “you know nothing of my work.”

Read and learn from all his responses to skeptics' arguments, but for the juicy bits, skip to item six. Here is what Nordhaus has to say about skeptics' interpretation of his work:

Read more: Climate Skeptics

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Heartland ‘expert’ taught climate denialism at a Canadian university

Hey, remember yesterday, when we told you about a video that imagines a world in which climate skepticism is taught in schools? It turns out that that world is not imaginary -- not at all. It exists today, and it is named … Canada.

For two years, Tom Harris, a man who according to the Heartland Institute is an "expert" on climate change, taught a course on the subject at Ottawa's Carleton University. Harris' course was meant for non-science majors, so, as the Guardian notes, it "may for many students be the only academic exposure they have to climate change while earning their undergraduate degree." When a group of scientists reviewed Harris' taped lectures they found 142 "erroneous" claims.

Read more: Climate Skeptics

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Critical List: Olympia Snow retires; more people believe in global warming

Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican who believed in global warming and even tried to do something about it, is retiring from the Senate.

Since it's getting warmer, more Americans believe in global warming, because of "personal observations of the weather." Sigh. That's not the correct reason to believe global warming is happening, but we'll take it. At least until next winter.

New York could double the speeding fines for electric bike riders to $1,000.

Wind farms that fly or float can help maximize production.

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Terrifying video envisions a world where education is anti-science

Step for a moment into this chilling alternative reality, in which fine young men and women believe "gravity is just a theory" and "cigarettes aren't addictive":

The video is from the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore's current climate-change fighting outfit. What do y'all find the most terrifying moment? I lose it around "Scientists are, like, altering their data just to get paid." That girl is really convincing! But the clincher is when they say, "Of course it's true. I learned it in school."

Read more: Climate Skeptics

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All you need to know about TransCanada’s new plan for Keystone XL

Keystone XL lives! On Monday, TransCanada announced its next two moves in its fight to get the tar-sands pumping pipeline built, and its strategy now involves splitting the project into two parts. Because it stands to reason that if people object to one pipeline, they’ll have no problem with TWO pipelines!

Part No. 1: Cushing, Okla., to Texas refineries

Cushing, Okla., a small town smack dab in the middle of nowhere, plays an outsize role in global oil markets. There's a huge oil storage facility there, and oil sold in Cushing helps determine world oil prices. TransCanada wants to forge ahead with building the segment of Keystone XL that will bring oil from Cushing to Texas' hungry oil refineries, which process crude and ship it off. (That crude doesn’t necessarily help to meet U.S. oil demands: fuel was America's largest export last year.)

Because this segment of the pipeline doesn't cross any international borders, the State Department doesn't have a say in its construction. So Keystone Jr. could skip right over the approval bottleneck that sunk its big brother.

Read more: Oil

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Critical List: TransCanada reboots KeystoneXL; the most energy-dense battery ever

TransCanada is going to reapply for a Keystone XL permit and wants to start work on the Oklahoma-to-Texas portion of the pipeline.

Envia Systems has created the most energy-dense battery ever, which could bring down the price of electric vehicles and extend their range.

Rick Santorum thinks gas prices caused the recession. No, he really does. A direct quote: "The bubble burst in housing because people couldn't pay their mortgages because they were looking at $4 a gallon gasoline."

A New York court dismissed a case by organic farmers who hoped for protection against Monsanto should the agribusiness giant's genes get into their crops.

ARPA-E's energy innovation summit has kicked into gear.

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Alaska is about to get fracked up

Alaska's been coasting on its stores of easy-access oil, but a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that the state has a motherlode of shale oil and natural gas. You know what means -- here come the frackers.

The numbers are impressive: as much as 80 trillion cubic feet of frackable natural gas and up to 2 billion barrels of shale oil. To put that in perspective, the natural gas resources are smaller than the Marcellus Shale, which underlays Pennsylvania and New York, and smaller than Texas' Haynesville and Eagle Ford shale formations -- but it's still the fourth biggest parcel in the U.S. The oil shale is the second biggest deposit in the country; only North Dakota's Bakken Formation has more.

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Climate change could make Mt. Everest impossible to climb

If you’ve got “summit Everest” on your bucket list, better get started now. Apa Sherpa (aka "Super Sherpa"), who's summited Mt. Everest 21 times, tells Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the trip up the mountain is getting increasingly dangerous as climate change sets in. As Himalayan glaciers melt, bare rock -- slippery, treacherous, more prone to rockfalls — has replaced snow and ice.

Read more: Climate Change