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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Critical List: $6 billion ethanol subsidy to end; Wyoming wolves screwed by Senate politics

The Senate is ending a $6 billion subsidy program for ethanol; anti-ethanol food and environmental groups say it's "not a perfect comprise" but that they're "encouraged" by the step. Carbon captured from coal plants can feed biofuel-producing algae. Which is awesome because nobody else wants to eat it. Put that tuna burger down! Overfishing could extinguish five out of eight tuna species. Can renewable energy keep up with Japan's demand for fuel-suckers like heated toilets? Former New York Gov. George Pataki said he might run for president because he doesn't like the White House's energy policies. Um, okay. The Interior …

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Environmental education center built out of recycled materials

An LA-based design think tank called APHIDoIDEA has an idea about how to build an environmental education center that practices what it preaches. They imagined an Environmental Center of Regenerative Research & Education -- or eCORRE -- Complex that would teach visitors about green ideas like solar energy and passive cooling techniques. It would have classrooms, offices, an exhibition hall and a public plaza. Here's the cool part: the building would be made of 65 shipping containers. The idea is to begin with containers stacked in a rectangle. Next, the designers propose elevating some containers, leaving others down low, and …

Read more: Cities, Smart Cities

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Documents show Exxon downplayed time it took to seal Yellowstone spill

ExxonMobil told federal officials and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer that they had sealed the pipeline leaking oil into the Yellowstone River within 30 minutes. But federal documents show that sealing the pipe took 56 minutes -- almost twice as long as the company originally said. The company told the AP that the error came about because the Exxon representative who briefed officials was providing information without the benefit of notes. In other words, not really intended to be a factual statement. About 150 people, worried about health risks from the spill, came to an EPA meeting on the spill last …

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Critical List: Republicans plan to defund the environment; no one likes the EPA

House Republicans want to defund all kinds of environmental activity -- the EPA, the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service. You know, just anything having to do with the outside. And the USDA thinks that bioengineered bluegrass doesn't fall within its regulatory sphere, which means companies could grow the stuff without any regulation. Exposing mice to air pollution makes them dumber and more depressed. So it's probably good for everyone that the EPA is putting new regulations on coal-fired power plants that should reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide by 73 percent and nitrogen oxides by 54 percent from 2005 …

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Ranchers are clearing the Amazon rainforest with Agent Orange

In Brazil, ranchers are opting to use Agent Orange -- one of the most toxic herbicides ever concocted, infamous for its use as a defoliant and de facto weapon during the Vietnam War -- to clear acres of rainforest. It's illegal to clear the forest, but by spraying swaths of trees with Agent Orange, deployed by helicopter, ranchers stand less chance of detection than if they cleared the land by bulldozing or cutting down trees. Agent Orange is all sorts of bad news. It not only destroys the trees it hits but also kills (horribly) any wildlife that happens to …

Read more: Pollution

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ExxonMobil, historic flooding join forces to spread oil through Yellowstone River

The oil leaking from an ExxonMobil pipe into the Yellowstone River in Montana spread farther than the company said it anticipated. The reason, according to ExxonMobil’s spokespeople, is historic levels of flooding on the river. By Tuesday, Exxon had 280 people on the case, but still hadn’t managed to fight through floodwaters to reach the break in the pipeline. Exxon says the river is preventing its clean-up crews from going out on foot or in boats to look for oil on the river's banks. Exxon did shut down the busted pipeline, but not before spilling more than 40,000 gallons of …

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Critical List: Dust storm hits Phoenix; Electric Prius hits the roads

Phoenix was hit by a 5,000-foot-tall, 50-mile-wide wall of dust. What does Virgin Australia have in common with koala bears? They're both very interested in consuming eucalyptus leaves, which hopefully will not get the airplanes as stoned as they get the koala bears. Car companies don't trust drivers with 10-year-old cars to steer clear of 15% ethanol, which can damage older vehicles. So they think nobody should get it. Solar leasing companies want to bundle their solar panels into asset-backed securities. When future generations go into foreclosure, not only will they not know which banks own the house, they won't …

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The world’s first ass-powered outdoor concert

Here's an idea for a better way to harness the power of stationary bike workout: use the resultant energy to fuel the electricity-sucking equipment for a banging outdoor concert. Pedal Power NYC recruited 250 volunteers to pedal 16 bikes, which, hooked up to generators, provided the electricity for June's NYC Celebrates Water Festival. Pedal Power NYC's mission is "capturing and repurposing human power with bicycles" a.k.a “natural ass.” The group has a vague anti-natural gas platform, it seems: "We'd rather power our stage with natural ass than natural gas," its website declares. (Powering concerts with the third option, natural grass, …

Read more: Biking, Cities

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The world’s fastest all-electric plane

A French pilot flew a plane powered only by electricity at more than 175 miles per hour, the fastest an all-electric plane has ever gone. That's much, much faster than other all-electric planes, which tend to be the type available at toy stores, and about 15 mph faster than the previous record set by the pilot, Hugues Duval. The all-electric plane he used to set the record isn't that much bigger than a toy plane: at 200 pounds, it weighs less than some human beings. Its flights also last for about the same duration as those of some of the …

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Critical List: Oil spills into Yellowstone River; Americans are driving less

42,000 gallons of Exxon oil spilled into the Yellowstone River in Montana over the weekend. Regulators had warned the company that the pipe wasn't safe. The river's particularly high, which isn't helping clean-up. Atmospheric pollution from China's coal use temporarily masked global warming: sulfur particulates reflected more light back into space, keeping the planet’s temperature from rising too fast. But over time the carbon dioxide released from the coal will push temperatures upwards. Coney Island's existential crisis: New York City wants to replace the boardwalk's unsustainable rainforest wood boards with concrete. Opponents complain that “Under the Concretewalk” doesn’t have the …