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Less Money, Mo’ Problems

Bush's 2007 budget slashes funding for energy conservation When President Bush said "America is addicted to oil," we thought he meant that was a bad thing. Apparently not: Bush's proposed 2007 budget increases funding for oil and gas drilling on public lands and slashes $100 million from some of the Energy Department's most effective conservation programs. That includes a 30 percent cut to a program that helps poorer Americans weatherize their homes and install efficient heating and air-conditioning systems, and a 9 percent cut to the Energy Star program, which promotes energy-efficient products. Some initiatives authorized by last year's energy …

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Coal companies sue feds for letting them slack on safety

After the Sago coal mine disaster killed 12 West Virginia miners last month, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) came under widespread criticism for failing to adequately regulate the coal industry and protect mine workers. Critics blamed the Bush administration for stocking the agency with coal industry cronies who wanted a more "cooperative" approach to safety regulations rather than serious enforcement. Now, one more group has joined the chorus of MSHA critics: the very coal companies that worked to gut the agency in the first place. Read the rest of this weird, wacky tale.

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As snowy peaks get warmer, ski industry tries to stave off extinction

With the Olympics starting this week, all eyes are on the slopes of Turin. But skiing and snowboarding could disappear from our collective culture in about 50 years, if global-warming forecasts ring true. In a lot of popular ski areas, there simply won't be any snow. It's all downhill from here. Photo: stock.xchng. It's already happening in parts of Europe: They're wrapping glaciers in Switzerland, and Scottish Highlands ski areas are being recast as mountain-biking destinations. In the U.S., resorts in the Pacific Northwest got a harbinger last season when a warm winter led to a 78 percent drop in …

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What’s the most energy-efficient crop source for ethanol?

Biofuel is the hot topic lately in the green blogosphere. There's legitimate dispute about the political and environmental wisdom of plant-based fuels, but at the very least everyone should be starting from a valid, shared set of numbers (oh, to dream). In an attempt to offer up such numbers, I'm going to ... rip off somebody smarter than me. Namely, Lester Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, and author of the recently released Plan B 2.0, which is the best big-picture summary of our environmental situation I've ever read (and I'm only 2/3 through …

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Money for Nothin’

Bush's 2007 budget includes Arctic Refuge drilling, cuts EPA funding Unsurprisingly, greens will find little to love in President Bush's proposed $2.77 trillion budget for fiscal year 2007. It calls for oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, estimating $7 billion in revenue by 2008 from leasing drilling rights -- nearly triple the $2.4 billion forecast in last year's budget (how'd that work out?). The U.S. EPA's allocation would decrease by 4 percent to about $7 billion, with cuts to many clean-water programs -- that would be the fourth annual decrease to EPA's budget in a row. $10.8 million …

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Meter Aid

New power meters help customers cool juice use Millions of California households will soon be able to see at a glance how much electricity and money is being gobbled up as they flip on their hairdryers and plasma TVs. California regulators and two of the state's biggest utilities are rolling out a $2 billion program to install "advanced" electricity meters in select homes. The devices display how much electricity a customer is using and how much it's costing in real time, encouraging folks to cut back during peak hours. The utilities will use the data provided by the meters to …

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The Revolution Will Be Prefaced With a White Paper

New Mexico senators lay groundwork for federal global-warming bill Could the somnolent federal Leviathan finally be waking to the danger heralded so long by state and local Lilliputians? Could that metaphor be more baroque? New Mexico's senators say they will introduce a bill this spring in the Senate that would mandate action on global warming. Sens. Pete Domenici (R) and Jeff Bingaman (D) -- the chair of and top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, respectively -- jointly issued a white paper yesterday listing the outstanding questions they want to answer before drafting their legislation. The bill …

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Al Gore and electric car star in films unveiled at Sundance

At 25 years of age, Sundance is the country's premier festival of independent film. But a lot has changed over that quarter century. Well, actually, one thing has changed: m-o-n-e-y. There's a ton of Hollywood cash spent at Sundance, and I could see it everywhere I looked last week. The "VIP" corporate parties on Main Street. The piles of free stuff for celebrities. The Moviefone flacks in their garish red suits. The furry boots worn by nearly every female in town. In the midst of the hype, plenty of not-so-glamorous films were being screened. In fact, some watchers called this …

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SOTU: Coal execs confused, but pleased

The lede for this Wall Street Journal story is hilarious: Power-industry executives reacted with mild puzzlement to President Bush's proclamation that the nation needs to "invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants" to wean itself off foreign oil. That's because oil isn't used much to make power and no one has yet developed a way to burn coal that produces no emissions. They go on to say, of course, that they're delighted to be the recipient of a whole new bundle of subsidies. And who wouldn't be?

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This Global Thing Is Everywhere!

Weird weather is messing with marine ecosystems along the West Coast Tens of thousands of starved seabirds washed up on West Coast beaches last spring, and researchers are blaming -- surprise! -- above-normal ocean temperatures and weird weather and wind patterns. Half of the auklets in California's Farallon Islands didn't even try to breed last spring, and those that tried started late. One colony of birds in Washington state fledged 88 chicks instead of the usual 8,000. And it's not just birds that have been suffering as ocean temperatures along the Pacific coast have risen the last three years. Populations …

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