Sarah Laskow

Sarah Laskow is a reporter based in New York City who covers environment, energy, and sustainability issues, among other things.

Cities

Singapore’s giant supertrees: The ultimate vertical gardens

Singapore is in the middle of a project that looks like a Miyazaki movie come to life. The city’s 18 “supertrees” do everything that normal trees do, only better. They will stretch up to 164 feet tall, grow 200 species of flowers, ferns, and epiphytes, collect solar energy, harvest rainwater, and work as a natural cooling system. Oh, and one of them has a bistro at its summit.

Energy Efficiency

In India, solar-powered ATMs use as much energy as a lightbulb

In urban America, getting money out of the bank means walking a block to the ATM. In rural India, the nearest bank branch might be a day’s journey away. But now a company called Vortex Engineering is using solar power to bring convenient banking to out-of-the-way villages. The key: The company’s ATMs are energy efficient. Vortex calls them the “world’s lowest power consuming ATMs,” and they use just 10 percent of the energy of other banking machines, according to Yale e360. It adds up to about the same amount of energy as a lightbulb. That low energy overheads means that …

Critical List: Snow comes in April this year; Obama campaign seeks environmentalists

New York and Pennsylvania are getting hit with an April blizzard. The United States and Britain are going to collaborate on offshore wind development. Lithium air batteries could extend an electric vehicle’s battery life by a factor of 10 … if anyone could figure out how to make one.

Infrastructure

287 coastal energy facilities at risk from sea-level rise

Sea levels are rising, which means that there’s a greater risk of floods that reach well over the high tide mark. By 2030, the risk that coastal floods will go four feet or more over high tide will have doubled, Climate Central reports. And in that zone lie 287 energy facilities — power plants, natural gas facilities, and oil and gas refineries — that now stand a greater chance of getting an unexpected bath. The state most likely to be screwed by this state of affairs is, of course, Louisiana. Not only is it full of oil and gas infrastructure, …

Critical List: Climate bill passes Mexico’s senate; Bill Clinton tells enviros to ‘chill out’

The Mexican Senate passed a climate change bill that’s all set to become law. Reuters reports it was “non-controversial.” No wonder Republicans are so set on keeping Mexican immigrants out of the country — they might bring in science. Bill Clinton has a message for sustainability advocates: “Chill out – sometimes this stuff takes years.” (Unless you’re in Mexico, apparently.) Two years after the BP oil spill, offshore drilling for oil is still a risky business. And BP is still fighting with the government over how much it will have to pay for damages.

Climate Change

People sitting in warm rooms are more likely to believe in global warming

All this time we’ve been trying to make the public understand climate change using science and logic, and it turns out we could have just made everyone wear sweaters. People’s beliefs about climate change are closely tied to the temperature they’ve recently experienced — so much so that, as Justin Gillis of the New York Times explains, people sitting in warmer rooms are more likely to say that global warming is a problem: Some people answered the questions in a cubicle at a normal room temperature, and some in a cubicle that had been heated up 10 degrees with a …

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.

Cleantech

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.

Pollution

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.

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