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Obama delayed regulations until after the election, but that’s just a symptom of the problem

White House

Did the Obama administration delay the process of issuing public health and safety regulations until after the president was reelected? That’s the attention-grabbing accusation reported Sunday in The Washington Post and in a new report from the Administrative Conference of the United States, a federal agency that advises on regulatory issues. Both the ACUS report and the Post article are based on anonymous interviews with current and former administration officials.

The allegations, if true, suggest that the Obama administration meddled in the bureaucratic rule-making process and allowed the public to be left in danger from unsafe pollutants out of fear that political blowback would damage Obama’s chances in 2012. On the record, environmentalists and even industry opponents of regulation say rule-making notably slowed down in 2012.

The Post reports:


Watch people try to walk in storm winds so powerful they’re almost blown off their feet

Storm Ivar left tens of thousands without power this weekend in Norway, but Norwegians are so hardy that they were out in the shopping district regardless. They are not, however, so hardy -- or so heavy -- that they were able to stroll around easily in winds so strong that one man was blown off the sidewalk and into the street.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Ozone layer will take five more decades to fully recover

The ozone layer protects us from the sun's ultraviolet rays

Remember when the world came together to save the ozone layer -- even Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher? The Montreal Protocol, a treaty that went into effect in 1989, curbed the use of CFCs and other chemicals that tear up the planet's UV-absorbing sheath of ozone. But that was nearly a generation ago -- and things still haven't been fully patched up in the lower stratosphere. The ongoing fragility of the ozone layer reminds us how long it can take for atmospheric conditions to stabilize after we have screwed them up. The L.A. Times reports: In 2006, the ozone hole grew larger …

Read more: Climate & Energy


Ski stunts in Detroit’s abandoned spaces will take your breath away


More than a million people have left Detroit since 1950, at least 237,000 of them since 2001. This leaves a lot of empty spaces -- and a lot of floors, ramps, stairs, and handrails just aching for the touch of a skateboard. Or in the case of Karl Fostvedt, Khai Krepela, and Max Morello, a pair of skis.

This is no ORDINARY skiing, mind you. No color-coordinated outfits, fluffy earmuffs, or yuppies. Poor Boyz Productions filmed the trio “street skiing,” which resembles badass winter skateboarding more than it does anything you’d expect on the slopes. Watch (the action starts about two minutes in):

Read more: Cities, Living


BP targets celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse over oil-spill claims

Emeril Lagasse
Innisfree Hotels

BP is angry that it's being forced to compensate Gulf Coast businesses for income they lost after its Deepwater Horizon blowout. It's so angry that it has taken the curious step of airing its vendettas in national advertisements.

The oil company took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times last week lambasting celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, complaining that his restaurant management company is undeserving of more than $8 million in spill-related claims awarded to it by a federal court. Lagasse is a star of food-themed TV shows, author of popular cookbooks, and owner of a national chain of restaurants. BP's advertisement didn't name Lagasse, but he was clearly the target. The New Orleans Times-Picayune explains:


Are hurricanes getting stronger?

Click to embiggen.
Climate Desk
Click to embiggen.

For more than a decade, the question of how global warming is affecting the scariest storms on the planet -- hurricanes -- has been shot through with uncertainty. The chief reason is technological: In many parts of the world, storm strengths are estimated solely based on satellite images. Technologies and techniques for doing this have improved over time, meaning that there is always a problem with claiming that today's storms are stronger than yesterday's. After all, they might just be better observed.

That's why, despite expectations that global warming will make hurricanes stronger -- as well as massive societal consequences if more powerful storms are slamming coastlines -- scientific authorities like the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have demurred on the hurricane/climate question. Most recently, the IPCC earlier this year said it had "low confidence" that global warming is worsening hurricanes.

Read more: Climate & Energy


China is using drones to spy on its yaks

Martha de Jong-Lantink

China isn't exactly known for respecting its citizens' privacy. So it's reasonable to wonder what the country is doing with a fleet of drones. But don’t worry! According to BBC, they're using the drones to take photos of yaks:

Scientists use the unmanned aircraft to calculate the number of yaks in the mountain wilderness of Xinjiang province, and to collect data about their habitat, reports official news agency Xinhua. In November, a drone performed four flights, taking photos of the yaks, the areas where they live and also collecting meteorological information, the agency says.

Mmhm. Yes, we are looking at the "yaks."

Read more: Living


40 percent of U.S. households could switch to a plug-in hybrid without changing their routine

gas opt
KQED Quest

One of the enduring myths about electric vehicles is that they're totally impractical for your average family. But the Union of Concerned Scientists did a little bit of figuring and found that, for a surprising number of households, that's just not true. A quarter of U.S. households would do just fine with a full-on battery-powered EV. And more than 40 percent could start driving a plug-in hybrid, like the Chevy Volt, without changing their routine at all.

UCS looked at three main criteria that could prevent people from using plug-in hybrids for practical reasons:

  • Does the household have access to charging?
  • Are there generally four or fewer passengers in the car?
  • Do they haul stuff?


Only one day left to support Grist

Chantal Andrea

Our winter fundraising drive is nearly over. With just one day and 1,239 donations left to go, your contribution is essential to reaching our goal of 2,500 donations by Dec. 17.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, Grist isn’t your typical nonprofit.

Our news, advice, and opinions provide info and lend strength to groups -- large and small -- that are tackling this big, nebulous problem called climate change. We’re helping people like you take action, too: Over 65 percent of readers say you’ve made a change for the greener because of something you read on Grist.

Our team raises the volume on issues the mainstream media misses. We’ve published nearly 4,000 stories in 2013 — and we need your help to keep ’em coming in the year ahead.

This fundraising drive ends tomorrow. Please support our talented pool of writers and editors with a gift today: Donate now.

Read more: Uncategorized


Your holiday wreath could be made of stolen branches

Mr Ducke

Courtney Hammond is a forest ranger in Maine, and in winter, she's on the lookout for thieves with hefty hauls of tree branches. And she finds a lot of them, she told NPR:

"Over 1,400 pounds in one seizure," Hammond says. "Many of our seizures run from 400 to 600 to 700 pounds, but at 40 or 45 cents a pound, people can make very good money at it."

Why would people steal tree branches? Possibly just to stick it to the Christmas ideals of love, kindness, and goodwill towards fellow people, but mostly to sell to wreath makers. Thieves sneak onto land and chop off tree branches -- or whole trees -- in order to get at the supple tips that wreath makers prize.

Read more: Living