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The Obama administration is undermining its own plans for carbon capture

oil rigs
Shutterstock

The Obama administration will soon require new coal-fired power plants to capture the carbon dioxide they produce and store it underground. Coal companies that had long touted "clean coal" turned on the idea, arguing that carbon sequestration isn't commercially viable.

But don't you worry about the poor coal industry. The fossil fuel guys have a trick up their sleeve. Here is the AP, reporting on an approach adopted at a new coal power plant in Mississippi:

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A Christmas greeting from the yelling goats

Hey, remember the goats who yell like humans? They have a message for you on this Christmas Eve Day Eve Day:

OK, only the first 13 seconds of that are worth watching, but they are SO WORTH WATCHING. In case you missed the yelly goats the first time around, please please fix that now so you can feel like you didn't waste 2013:

Read more: Uncategorized

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Russia begins offshore drilling in Arctic

Arctic drilling
Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

The Greenpeace activists who scaled Russia's first Arctic offshore oil rig during a September demonstration have been given amnesty, but Russia is extending no such courtesies to the Arctic environment or the climate.

The rig that the Arctic 30 helped bring to the world's attention has begun pumping oil. From Agence France-Presse:

The landmark announcement marked the formal start of Russia’s long-planned effort to turn the vast oil and natural gas riches believed to be buried in the frozen waters into profits for its ambitious government-run firms. But it also outraged campaigners who see the Arctic as one of the world’s last pristine reserves whose damage by oil spills and other disasters would be enormously difficult to contain. [State-owned oil company] Gazprom made its announcement in a statement that stressed the company also had rights to 29 other fields it planned to exploit in Russia’s section of the Arctic seabed. ...

[B]oth Gazprom and the Kremlin view [this drilling endeavor] as a stepping stone in a much broader effort to turn the Arctic into the focus of future exploration that makes up for Russia’s declining oil production at its Soviet-era Siberian fields.

Greenpeace reminds us that this is a dangerous gamble. From a press release:

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Scotland embarrasses U.S. by planning to use only clean energy by 2020

scotland-flickr-moyan-brenn
© Moyan Brenn

The countryside isn’t the only thing in Scotland that’s green. Now the home of bagpipes, kilts, and haggis will be completely fueled by clean energy by 2020.

The Arizona-sized country was using 24 percent renewable energy in 2010, which it upped to 40 percent last year. By 2015, that’ll be 50 percent, and then ideally 100 percent wind, solar, wave, and hydro by 2020. (Arizona, in contrast, only gets 9 percent of its power from renewables, despite abundant sun. Yeah yeah, sometimes America’s priorities are effed up.)

Wanna feel even worse about the U.S.? Scotland shuns fracking and nukes:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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We’d admire these dog-sized crabs for being good at recycling, if we weren’t so busy screaming

You'd think that coconut crabs would be our kind of terrestrial anthropods. After all, they know how to get the most out of the resources at their disposal. About a month after they're born, they find old snail shells lying around and, like your average hermit crab, crawl in and get cozy. See, they're kind of cute:

coconut crab little
Arthur Chapman
Cute.

But as they get bigger and bigger, coconut crabs move from reuse to recycling. Once they develop a hard shell, they no longer need the old snail shells. Instead, they can shed their exoskeletons and develop new ones. But to get the requisite materials, they eat their old shells.

Wired:

It is, in effect, recycling the materials, which are in short supply in its terrestrial environment. Coconut crabs that “are disturbed before they have consumed the entire shell often have soft exoskeletons until they have time to reaccumulate the necessary calcium and other minerals,” Drew said in an email to WIRED.

So yeah, we’d applaud this resource-smart crabs, except we’re paralyzed with terror. Because one side effect of this particular strategy is that coconut crabs can get GIGANTIC.

Read more: Living

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This woman is riding a tricycle to the South Pole

Untitled copy
Screenshot via ICE Trikes

At the end of 2012, Eric Larsen tried to bike 750 miles from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole. He would have been the first person ever to bike to the pole, but he didn't make it. This year, three other people are going to try. And one of them, Maria Leijerstam, is making the trek on the most hardcore recumbent tricycle we've ever seen.

Gizmag reports:

"Fat bikes fail because they get blown over in the high winds, or can’t ride fast enough through the snow to stay upright," Leijerstam explains. ... "I knew I needed something that would overcome these limitations."

Read more: Living

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Watch what happened when a mistletoe drone flew over San Francisco

George Zisiadis and Mustafa Khan stuck some mistletoe to a small drone and flew it around San Francisco's Union Square. Watch what happened next:

Kisses, burritos, AND Amazon packages? OK, drones, you’re starting to improve your reputation.

Read more: Cities, Living

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Fracking opponents win big in Pennsylvania

Fracking is rampant in Pennsylvania
William Avery Hudson

Robinson Township in western Pennsylvania is home to a couple thousand residents and about 20 fracked wells. In a resounding victory for common sense and for local governments throughout the state, residents there and in six other towns won an epic court battle last week that will give them back the right to regulate or even evict the fracking operations in their midst.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday struck down elements of a state law that had prevented local governments from regulating fracking activities. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

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Artificial sweeteners found in drinking water near Lake Erie

diet-coke-kt-flickr
Kevin Trotman

Nature is so sweet! No, literally: Diet drinks are turning rivers into something out of Candyland. This is bad news for most of us, but good news if you’ve ever wished fresh spring water was more like Sprite.

Scientists poked around the Grand River in Ontario, Canada, which feeds into Lake Erie (so pay attention, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York). They found “elevated concentrations” of sucralose, saccharin, and two other sweeteners less fun to say. Apparently the 30 water treatment plants that dump into the river aren’t filtering everything out. Writes the L.A. Times:

Antidepressants, antibiotics, steroids and fragrances are among the products that have been detected in surface waters. Some of the contaminants have been found in fish tissue. Some compounds not only get through sewage plants, they also survive purification of drinking supplies and have been measured in trace amounts in municipal tap water.

Read more: Food, Living

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Check out the Onion’s groundbreaking coverage of snowmen protesting climate change

sad-snowman-flickr
Edz’sta

Snowmen and -women might be the best climate activists (at least, until sweaty polar bears are commonplace). So thought the Onion in an oldie but goodie that just resurfaced on Reddit. The article includes these gems:

Joe Centigrade, president of the Advocates For Beings Of Frozen Precipitation, spoke at a mass rally Tuesday on Washington's National Mall.

"The unseasonably warm winters of the recent past are a clear indication of a real environmental threat to humans and their frozen simulacra," said Centigrade, his coals arranged in a frowning pattern. "As snowmen and snowwomen, we accept the inevitability of melting, but the actions of man are causing us to evaporate well before our time."

Speakers at the Washington rally included a Chicago snowwoman who had lost three snowchildren to warm temperatures, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Larry Chilly, formerly a 6-foot-tall, triple-segmented Muncie, IN snowman, who had been reduced to a slushy head.

Poor Larry! At least there was a good crowd of snowpeople at the rally (as well as stray snow abdomens rolling around). But of course there were skeptics too:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living