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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Critical List: $4 billion for energy efficiency; SUVs rise again

President Obama and former President Clinton are announcing $4 billion to make buildings more energy efficient over the next two years. A fierce wind storm hit the West yesterday, taking down trees and fanning fires. Coke ditched those white, pro-polar bear holiday cans preeetttty fast. Apparently they confused Coke drinkers, some of whom thought the soda “tasted different in the white cans.” The Department of Energy and the Department of State are teaming up to work on energy issues. Apparently Scandinavians don't care that much about trees. All we hear about is carbon, carbon, carbon. What if cutting back on …

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Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown more terrifying than we thought

In a new report, Tokyo Electric Power company has revealed that the Fukushima meltdown probably did more damage and was more dangerous than anyone realized at the time. The report's based on a simulation, but that simulation indicated that the entire ration of fuel inside one reactor could have turned into a pile of molten goo. Molten nuclear goo has only one thought -- DESTROY -- and could have pulverized two-thirds of its concrete containment base. The simulation indicated that the situation wasn't quite so bad in the other reactors. Only 60 percent of the fuel dropped through the concrete …

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Critical List: A small fracking victory; fracking still sucks

In New York, government officials are extending the public comment period on fracking rules. In Pennsylvania, a judge gave Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. permission to stop supplying fresh water to families whose well water was tainted by fracking operations. And the Chesapeake Bay Foundation used infrared video to document emissions pouring out of natural gas drilling sites all over the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Melting permafrost is going to dump carbon into the atmosphere faster than anyone expected. The clean energy standard is staging a comeback, thanks to Sen. Jeff Bingaman. Republicans are bringing unions and TransCanada execs to the …

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How transit and smart growth are saving Cleveland

Cleveland is one of those ailing American cities constantly held up as an example of the country's decline. But The New York Times has taken a look at a revitalization plan the city's been working on and found that, in one uptown area at least, the city is actually growing. And the drivers of that expansion are (drumroll, please) transit and smart growth. One of the first projects the city invested in when it was starting out was a bus rapid transit line from the city's downtown to the uptown University Circle. With 12 million riders in three years, the …

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Does your car really need that oil change? Probably not.

How often does a car need an oil change? Ask Jiffy Lube, and it's a flat 3,000 miles. According to car manufacturers, however, their products can go anywhere from a low of 5,000 miles to a high of 10,000 before an oil change is necessary. The Stranger crunched the numbers and found that if you listen to Jiffy Lube, you’re gonna waste a butt-ton of oil: The 67,380,000 gallons of motor oil Jiffy Lube customers don't need to buy each year are gleaned from more than one billion gallons of crude oil. The unnecessary oil consumption of Jiffy Lube customers …

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Critical List: Solar will go on military housing; U.S. net petroleum imports

Who needs government loan guarantees? SolarCity is going to put solar panels on 120,000 military houses with financing from Bank of America-owned Merrill Lynch. (Er, down with the banks?) Environmental regulations have "benefits and costs." They do kill jobs, but they also create new ones. The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. is close to being a net exporter of petroleum products. Mother Jones takes a closer look at the WSJ's own reporting and says, "Eh, not so much." Here, the U.S. climate change envoy points fingers at China and India for trashing the chance of a Durban deal. …

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Climate change gives creepy, bat-carried disease a boost

In Australia, a virus called Hendra, which has had a 60 percent mortality rate in humans, is on the rise. There were 18 outbreaks of the disease this year, more than in the 16 previous years combined, and scientists suspect that climate change had a hand in this year's surge. An animal-borne disease like West Nile or SARS, Hendra can be transmitted from fruit bats to horses to humans. Only seven humans have been infected with Hendra so far, but scientists believe that flooding in Australia is connected with the increase in Hendra outbreaks. In this type of ecological upheaval, …

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Government invests in robots that prevent oil spills

As oil and gas companies wander ever further offshore in search of fossil fuels, the government's putting some money into technology that safeguards against oil spills. The amount they’re spending -- $9.6 million -- is a paltry sum as federal investments go. But the important thing here is the result, which is robots. And not just robots, but cool underwater robots that have 3D laser vision more accurate than any diver's analysis. Ok, actually, that's just one project. The rest of the funding is going to technology like "reverse-circulation primary cementing," which reduces pressure in deepwater wells, and "coil tubing …

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Critical List: 2011 was pretty darn warm; dams could exacerbate climate change

2011 will be the tenth or eleventh warmest year on record, depending on who you ask. All but one of the nine or ten warmer years were in the last decade. (The only exception is 1998.) The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs is required to approve renewable energy projects on Native American-owned land, unless it has a “compelling” reason why it shouldn’t. Thanksgiving might be a good time for the Bureau to point out that this is ALL in some sense Native American-owned land, so we can be expecting a whole lot of renewables projects. Canada's threatening …

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India could boycott Olympics over Dow Chemical sponsorship

The Olympics is supposed to be all about fellowship and camaraderie, but the London Olympics Committee might have cozied up to the wrong crowd. Dow Chemicals is set to sponsor the wrap that will cover the Olympic Stadium, and as a result of the company's involvement, the Indian Olympic Association could boycott the Games altogether. At issue is Dow Chemical's responsibility for the 1984 Bhopal gas leak, one of the worst environmental disasters in history, in which gas leaked from a pesticide plant, killing thousands of people and exposing hundreds of thousands more. Dow Chemical later bought the company responsible …