Sarah Laskow

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

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.

Cities

Against all odds, Los Angeles is getting a bikeshare

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!)

Animals

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 …

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.

Oil

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

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.

Energy Efficiency

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 …

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.

Green Living Tips

Government spends $40 million mowing lawns of empty homes

The U.S. government owns 200,000 foreclosed homes. And to keep those empty homes looking spiffy for would-be buyers, the government has to keep up appearances — including the appearance of the lawn. As a result, we taxpayers are forking over $40 million for lawn-mowing at these uninhabited houses.

Critical List: Meat consumption must drop 50 percent; Los Angeles the Energy Star of cities

We going to have to eat half as much meat as we do now in order to curb climate change. After Deepwater Horizon, throughout the Gulf “things are just a little bit out of kilter,” says the head of NOAA’s restoration team. With 659 certified Energy Star buildings, Los Angeles has the most of any city in the country. The House just won’t give up on trying to force Keystone XL approval through.

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