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Sarah Laskow's Posts

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Critical List: Fracking connected to flammable tap water; eco-friendly paintballs

Remember those people with flammable tap water? Yup, hydrofracking is responsible, according to Duke University scientists. Chile wants to dam two incredible rivers, despite opposition from both locals and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. A judge in Utah shut down Koch Industries' search for the clever people who sent out a fake press release claiming the company had embraced the idea of climate change. A quote from the Kochtopus’ inner monologue: “How dare you, Utah judge? Nobody says Koch Industries believes in science and gets away with it! Nobody!” Angela Merkel is kicking other world leaders' butts on clean energy policy. …

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Green buildings can now eat smog for breakfast

The aluminum giant Alcoa has designed a building panel that cleans both itself and the nearby air. The secret to this feat is titanium dioxide, the same compound that allows sunscreen to block the sun. In this application, when the sun hits a coat of titanium dioxide, the compound begins spewing electrons. According to Alcoa, those electrons join with oxygen and water molecules in the air. This results in highly reactive molecules, which glom onto organic materials stuck to the building surface or near it -- anything from bird droppings to smog particles -- and chew them up. These messes …

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New app lets you identify the few remaining trees

Wouldn’t it be nice to get to know trees while they’re still around? Leafsnap can help. The new app, developed by a team of researchers at Columbia, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, contains a database of beautiful photos of leaves, barks, flowers, and fruits. All the lazy naturalist has to do to identify a tree is take a picture of one little leaf. It turns out, however, that you can't just point your iPhone camera at a tree, snap a picture, and find out what in the world it is. After gathering a leaf, fruit, flower or other …

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Critical List: U.N. is optimistic about renewables, U.S. studies ‘safe hydrofracking’

The U.N.'s climate change panel reports that, by 2050, 80 percent of the world's energy could come from renewables. The panel also issued this reassuring news: As long as we fulfill the most ambitious of renewable build-out plans and cut one-third of greenhouse gas, it is possible to keep the planet from nosediving into life-altering, irreversible climate change. So, no pressure. For starters, you could seriously just turn the effing A/C down. America's working on that whole clean energy thing, President Obama said this weekend. But China's getting there faster, surprise surprise. Japan wants to shut down another vulnerable nuclear …

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Republican debate: Present Pawlenty vs. Past Pawlenty on cap-and-trade

Tim Pawlenty may have once promoted cap-and-trade as a response to climate change, but now he considers that choice a "battle scar.” Because nothing’s more traumatic than caving to peer pressure. "We all [have ‘clunkers’ on our records], and that's one of mine," he said last night at the first debate in the Republican primary. "I just admit it. I don't try to duck it, bob it, weave it, try to explain it away." He does, however, reverse course, backpedal, disown, and disinherit it. Pawlenty has been particularly vocal about disowning cap-and-trade in recent months, perhaps because he's a bit …

Read more: Politics

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Critical List: House Republicans demand offshore drilling; climate change eating away at food supply

The House voted yesterday to fast-track new offshore drilling lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia. Look for $0.99 gas within a few weeks. As a group, the drilling bill's primary sponsors raked in more than $8.8 million in donations from the oil and gas industry. Climate change is damaging the world's food supply, according to a new study by Stanford researchers. Over the past 30 years, they found, corn production dropped nearly 4 percent and wheat production dropped 5.5 percent. President Obama will tour an Indiana plant that makes hybrid vehicle technology this …

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Low-fat ice cream, celery more or less the same food

Yes, that Mexican-flavored shredded cheese mix, found right next to the Kraft singles, makes awesome quesadillas. But little strands of cheese curds are not meant to remain so sedately separate from each other, even as they are tossed into plastic bags and shipped across the country. So how do big food companies keep shredded cheese from clumping into a gooey mess? They add wood. Technically, the ingredient is powdered cellulose. Cellulose is the stuff that makes up the walls of plant cells, and it apparently has additional properties, like keeping cheese from clumping, thickening jam, and making low-fat ice cream …

Read more: Food, Scary Food

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House Dems to corner Republicans into admitting they love Big Oil

House Republicans are planning on voting this afternoon to rev up offshore oil drilling again, and Democrats are taking the opportunity to prove that Republican's hatred of national deficits cannot outweigh their love for oil companies. Right now, oil companies get billions of dollars in tax breaks under a domestic manufacturing provision in the tax code. But, Democrats are arguing, given the price of gas lately, oil companies don't really need any additional incentives to do business in the U.S. So why not repeal those subsides and get, oh, $12.8 billion in additional revenue? Oil companies can certainly afford it …

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Critical List: Teens throw a tantrum, Prince Charles puts his dukes up

Teenagers are suing the federal government for failing to protect the atmosphere. One plaintiff explains why. A recovery team went inside the Fukushima No. 1 reactor for the first time since the quake. The United Nation's climate change panel issued a preliminary report that says 12.9 percent of global energy came from renewables. Firewood in developing countries accounts for a big chunk of that, though. Farmers and ranchers can go ahead and shoot those pesky grey wolves now. While in Washington, D.C., Prince Charles visited an urban farm and took a few swings at the American agriculture system at a …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food