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Critical List: Vermont can’t shutter nuke plant; microbes turn seaweed into biofuel

The EPA will test water in Dimock, PA, and is delivering drinking water to four homes there.

Silly Vermont. You wanted to shut down a nuclear plant? Only the federal government can regulate nuclear power!

For biofuels, seaweed could be the new corn.


Critical List: Republicans still want Keystone XL; Obama ad focuses on energy

The State Department denied TransCanada's permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama agreed, saying that he was rejecting the permit because Republicans wouldn’t stop trying to force the pipeline forward.

Republicans are responding to this by looking into legislation that would force the pipeline forward. They’re also asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to come testify on yesterday’s decision next week.

House Republicans ALSO want to promote ethanol derived from … natural gas and coal. And they want to classify it as renewable fuel. What? It’s ethanol!


Critical List: Shale gas could squash renewables; scientists fiddle with photosynthesis

New York City promises to double the percentage of waste diverted from landfills within the next five years. Increasing shale gas production could squash renewable energy development. The Obama administration released a draft plan for protecting the country's oceans. Scientists are fiddling with photosynthesis in order to make biofuel. The Navy is trying to prevent the release of a report detailing toxic exposures at a Marine camp. To ameliorate climate change, cut methane and soot, not just carbon, a new study says.


The man whose algae could take over the world

If life is really a disaster movie in which humanity is wiped off the face of the earth, J. Craig Venter will probably be the hubristic genius who gets us there. The man sequenced the human genome in like three years, and now he's focused on the genetic possibilities of algae. The goal is to program those little cells to produce biofuels. Here's his pitch, as told to Scientific American: Everybody is looking for a naturally occurring alga that is going to be a miracle cell to save the world, and after a century of looking, people still haven’t found …


Cooking grease is now so valuable that people are stealing it

Who says that clean energy policies don't create jobs? The boom in biodiesel has created not only a new commodities market in cooking grease, but a new business opportunity for security professionals -- not to mention providing work for thieves and black-market fences, which is a kind of job? That’s because fryer oil is now such a valuable resource that people are straight-up stealing it.


Critical List: Ghost octopi in the Antarctic; without ethanol subsidies, gas prices rise

The creatures discovered living in thermal vents near Antarctica -- ghost octopi, limpets, yeti crabs -- are le awesome. Two major solar industry groups are merging in order to focus on state-level policies. With ethanol subsidies gone, gas will cost more. Try as it might, Chevron cannot squirm away from responsibility for $18 billion worth of oil pollution damage in Ecuador's rainforest. Green-roofed gas station: STILL A GAS STATION.


Critical List: Judge nixes California’s low-carbon fuel standard; mystery foam attacks England

A federal judge put the kibosh on California's low-carbon fuel standard, which favors fuels that create fewer emissions to make and which, according to the judge, discriminates against out-of-state fuel producers. On carbon credit markets, credits cost way less than they should. China is moving forward on a plan to build a gigantic dam on the Yangtze River. Mystery foam attacks a town in northern England. It's sort of like The Blob, only fluffy. How to take composting to the metaphysical plane.


Critical List: Iran could block oil shipping; presidential candidates can criticize ethanol in Iowa

If America and its allies put sanctions on Iran, the Iranian navy could block the Strait of Hormuz, an important channel for international oil shipments. Have Republicans ensured the death of Keystone XL by pushing Obama to decide one way or another about the pipeline? The EPA is scaling back requirements for cellulosic ethanol in the coming years. Presidential candidates are allowed to criticize ethanol now -- even in Iowa. These NASA photos document the growth of the Athabasca tar sands pits in Alberta.


E. coli can now make three kinds of fuel out of grass

Switchgrass, Dubya’s favorite biofuel feedstock, is back in the news. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute have engineered E. coli -- the same bug that is spoiling the lives of raw cookie dough eaters everywhere -- to transform switchgrass into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. The secret sauce of their solution is the malleability of E. coli genetics, which allowed researchers to add three new metabolic pathways to the bug. The engineered bugs can break down tough cellulose fibers and ferment the resulting sugars into fuels. Without the bacteria, this used to be an energy- and …


Airlines race to be first to fly with biofuel

One day, maybe, planes will be able fly on electricity alone, but until then, the best chance they have to get off gasoline is to switch over to biofuels. And that's actually happening! Over the summer, two biofueled flights made it across the Atlantic, and now Alaska Airlines is pushing an ambitious commercial biofuel flight program. Last week, the company flew across the country with a fuel that was 20 percent biofuel. The particular biofuel they used can come from algae, from chicken fat, or from a variety of other sources. There's also a growing amount of healthy competition among …