Sarah Laskow

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

Koch Industries stands to profit off Keystone XL

Every step the Obama administration takes towards approving the Keystone XL pipeline means a step towards putting more money into the pockets of Koch Industries. Although the company has denied having an interest in the pipeline (it has "nothing to do with any of our businesses," company reps have told Rep. Henry Waxman's staff), Inside Climate News has uncovered documents proving that a Koch Industries subsidiary has a business interest in the approval of the pipeline.

Critical List: Enviro groups sue over Keystone XL; Energy Dept. considered second Solyndra loan

The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Inc., and Western Nebraska Resources Council sued the U.S. for starting work preemptively on the Keystone XL pipeline. The Department of Energy thought (but not that hard! Really!) about giving Solyndra an additional $469 million loan. The mystery of why the FBI kept British environmentalist John Stewart from entering the country: Explained. Apparently the bureau was concerned he would super-glue himself to Sarah Palin.

Australia is so, so screwed

It's possible that the 19th century British powers-that-be were just running a really, really long con when they sent their convicts to settle Australia, because anyone who lives there now is royally screwed. In Rolling Stone, Jeff Goodell chronicles exactly how screwed. (Answer: Royally.) In the few weeks he was there, Goodell encountered: a record heat wave, a crippling drought, bush fires, floods that swamped an area the size of France and Germany combined, even a plague of locusts. And in the longer term, What water is left is becoming increasingly salty and unusable, raising the question of whether Australia, long a major food exporter, will be able to feed itself in the coming dec­ades. The oceans are getting warmer and more acidic, leading to the all-but-certain death of the Great Barrier Reef within 40 years. Homes along the Gold Coast are being swept away, koala bears face extinction in the wild, and farmers, their crops shriveled by drought, are shooting themselves in despair.

Living off the grid: SUPER FUN

You know that fantasy you have where you move to Maine, go off the grid, and raise your children to know what nature and good old American values are like? Well, one family is living that fantasy, and writing about it for The New York Times. All summer, Craig and Susannah Hopkins Leisher have been living with their three sons in a cabin in the Maine woods.

Critical List: E.U. could ban tar-sands oil; solar industry ‘a real mess’

Yesterday, an E.U. commission got behind environmental standards that could keep tar-sands oil from being used in Europe. Another nuclear reactor in Japan shut down. Clean energy investments can only go so far in keeping China's emissions down. The country will meet its environmental goals in the short term, researchers say, but it’s growing too fast for its emissions to stay manageable for long.

World's second tallest structure will power 100,000 homes a day with hot air

If a clean energy project in the Arizona desert goes forward, the second tallest structure on Earth will be a 2,600-foot solar updraft tower, which could last 80 years and generate 200 MW of electricity each day -- using only hot air. (Insert your own joke about how we could power Cleveland with Bill O’Reilly.) The tower works on the principle that hot air rises. In this case, it rises through the tower, turning turbines as it goes. The tower uses no water, and it works pretty much all the time, unlike wind and solar projects. (At night, the ground is still letting off the heat it captured during the day, so there's still hot air available to float upward.)  

Take a video tour of UMD’s prize-winning Solar Decathlon house

The Chesapeake Bay's sad state has yielded on positive result: the bay ecosystem inspired the  University of Maryland's "WaterShed" house, which won the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon over the weekend. You can take a tour of the house above. WaterShed features solar panels, a green roof, a rain harvesting system, solar thermal water heating, sink and shower water filtration, "constructed wetlands" instead of gardens, and an indoor waterfall (!) that helps control humidity.

Critical List: Green jobs program flounders; India calls Monsanto out on biopiracy

Oof. Only 10 percent of people the Labor Department trained for green jobs have found work. Using solar energy to extract oil must be the ultimate example of greenwashing. In Afghanistan, networking generators together can relieve 7,900 fuel trucks of their duties and keep soldiers from risking their lives to bring oil into the country.

These hairy crazy ants are invading America and they do not screw around

Start playing the video above, and after you're suitably grossed out by the close-ups, skip to about 0:45. These are insects called hairy crazy ants -- that is what they’re really called -- and they are terrifying. How do they move that fast?  These guys are invading the American South. They are called hairy, because their bellies are hairy. They are called crazy, because they move crazy fast, and also they are crazy with nothing to lose. And they're hard to kill.