Sarah Laskow

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

Critical List: Seattle bans plastic bags; at least 100 million trees died in Texas this year

Seattle is banning retail stores from giving out single-use plastic bags. Paper bags will cost a nickel. Google is investing $94 million in solar projects. As many as 500 million trees died in the Texas drought this year. India could join the U.S. in officially complaining that China's been selling solar panels at too low a price. In the Chinese province of Guangdong, protestors are pinning air pollution on a coal-fired power plant and want it moved.

Here’s a parking garage that doubles as an urban farm

Even the most utopian visions of a low-carbon world include cars, and even if they're fueled on electricity or ethanol, cars need places to park. But if parking structures have to exist, at least they can double as urban farms. In Vancouver, a company called Valcent Products is building a high-density "VertiCrop" farm on the roof of a parking garage. The farm will be super high-tech, with motorized conveyors moving layers of plants into position for optimum sun, watering, and easy harvesting. Valcent says the farm will produce as much as as a 16-acre field in California. Plus, nobody likes …

Russia spills as much oil as Deepwater Horizon every two months

Russian oil spills come in drips and trickles, instead of dramatic explosions. But the Associated Press reports that oil companies there spill at least 1 percent of all oil produced every year — "equivalent to one Deepwater Horizon-scale leak about every two months," the AP says. Why have you never heard about this? Well, for one, the Russian government has no data on oil spills and doesn't impose penalties unless an individual spill is over eight tons. But, as the AP explains, these slow-roll spills are rarely dramatic enough to cross that threshold, so the companies get off scot-free. Oil …

Critical List: Keystone XL decision should come in two months; NIH stops chimp research

The president will most likely have to make a final decision on Keystone XL within two months. Brace for the imminent lobbying fight. Democrats are already pointing out that issuing permits two months from now is impossible, because that timeline wouldn't leave room for required environmental reviews. Germany got a fifth of its power from renewables in 2011. The National Institutes of Health will soon face strict limits on chimpanzees as research subjects, which will rule out chimp research in the vast majority of studies. Half of the world's land will have a different mix of plants by 2100, after …

The return of the Keystone XL pipeline

Keystone XL is back from the dead. After President Obama announced a delay in a final decision on the tar-sands pipeline, House Republicans’ first gambit was to try to speed up that process. But now, they have a more sinister plan: They are trying to force through wholesale approval of the pipeline project. They're doing this by attaching pipeline approval to a bill that's near and dear to the president's heart — payroll tax breaks. Payroll tax breaks are pretty sweet! They make it easier for people to start businesses or hire new workers, because social security and Medicaid taxes …

Critical List: Congress does everything it can to screw the environment; fabric cleaned by sunlight

Congress voted to put sanctions on Iran, which would make it harder for Iran to sell oil, but potentially make oil sales more profitable for the regime overall. After all the work that the anti-Keystone coalition did, Republicans are trying to tack a measure to approve the pipeline onto a bill that extends the payroll tax cut. The White House is saying the president "would reject a proposal that tried to mandate approval of the Keystone project" but won't say the V-E-T-O word. Oh, ALSO. Congress could defund the program that would implement the phaseout of incandescent bulbs. AUGH, CONGRESS. …

IKEA to design an entire neighborhood

Exciting news for those whose entire house is populated by IKEA furniture (we know you're out there): the Swedish furniture company is going to be building an entire neighborhood in London. We know. It'll be like living in the IKEA store! With a Swedish meatball shop on every corner and 24/7 access to lingonberry jam. (There will also be a floating cocktail bar. That’s not an obscure IKEA store joke. There will just be a floating cocktail bar.) IKEA is planning some smart features for the 26-acre, 1,200-home neighborhood. It'll be mixed-use and feature underground parking. The company also says …

Critical List: Jaczko reportedly a jerk; Gore flogs ‘sustainable capitalism’

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's commissioners are calling out their boss, Gregory Jaczko, for being a jerk. It's not exactly reassuring when the body that oversees nuclear power can't even get its own house in order. Other countries are taking way better care of endangered species than the United States is. Uh oh, there was a human oil spill outside of John Boehner's Ohio office! Who's going to clean it up? Al Gore's newest thing is "sustainable capitalism." We hear the Chamber of Commerce is totally on board. Totally. The solar industry installed more capacity in the last quarter than in …

Oil companies have invested 50 times more in tar sands than in renewables

The oil industry talks a big game about looking toward the future and investing in renewable fuels. But a bit of number crunching from NRDC shows that oil's commitment to renewables isn't much more than talk. According to the enviro group's analysis, the oil industry has spent about 50 times more on tar-sands development alone than on renewable fuels. NRDC compared spending on renewable fuels to spending on producing oil, and reports that the oil industry spends less than half of one cent on renewables for every dollar it spends on oil. Lip service about renewables makes for way better …