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Thanks to the fracking boom, we’re wasting more money than ever on fossil fuel subsidies

burningmoney
Mike Poresky

You probably know that the U.S. government subsidizes fossil fuel production. But here’s something you probably don’t know: Those subsidies have recently increased dramatically. According to a report released last week by Oil Change International, “Federal fossil fuel production and exploration subsidies in the United States have risen by 45 percent since President Obama took office in 2009, from $12.7 billion to a current total of $18.5 billion.” We are, as the report observes, “essentially rewarding companies for accelerating climate change.”

At first glance, this seems strange. Why would there be such a big increase under a Democratic president who has committed his administration to combatting climate change, and who has even repeatedly called for eliminating exactly these kinds of dirty energy subsidies?

The short answer: fracking. The fracking boom has led to a surge in oil and natural gas production in recent years: Oil production is up by 35 percent since 2009, and natural gas production is up by 18 percent. With more revenues, expenditures, and profits in the oil and gas industries, the value of the various tax deductions for the oil industry has soared. So, for example, the deduction for “intangible drilling costs” cost taxpayers $1.6 billion in 2009, and $3.5 billion in 2013.

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Food fight

Eden Foods hit by backlash for fighting Obamacare’s contraception mandate

empty Eden cans

We told you recently that Eden Foods, a widely distributed organic brand, has sued the Obama administration over the requirement that companies cover contraception as part of employee health-care plans. As word has spread, outrage has spread.

More than 112,000 people have a signed a petition organized by progressive group CREDO Action:

Tell CEO of Eden Foods, Michael Potter:

"I won’t buy Eden products until you stop playing politics with women’s health and drop your attacks on birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act."

Some are tweeting out Eden-shaming selfies:

Read more: Food, Living, Politics

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Hackers hack monster burritos down to sensible size

BurritoGodzilla2
Tyler Parker | Justin Brown

“Burrito creep” is the sort of jargon you’re unlikely to hear unless you descend deep into a highly specialized world. In this case, that world is the food company Chipotle, and "burrito creep" is the term of art employees have come up with to describe a seemingly unstoppable phenomenon: No matter what they try, the burritos keep getting bigger. And the bigger they get, the larger the proportion that ends up in the trash.

Thanks to some creative thinking at the Food+Tech Connect Hack//Dining event in New York, there may be a solution to burrito creep -- one that gives eaters an incentive to control portions and cut back on the most carbon-intensive ingredients (like meat).

The point of these hackathons is to bring clever people together and set them loose on bite-sized food and sustainability problems. “The problems in the food industry are complex, and they aren’t going to be solved in a weekend,” said Danielle Gould, founder of Food+Tech Connect. “The point is to get new ideas into circulation, new people working on this, and to do rapid prototyping -- to actually make a real product in a weekend.”

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Ask Umbra: What’s a girl to do with soap that’s full of plastic microbeads?

UmbraSoap
iStock

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. Shortly before the reports that described the effect of microbeads on our waterways came out, I was at Costco and bought several bottles of facial scrub on sale. I stopped using it, but still have 2 or 3 bottles here in the house. What's the best way to dispose of it?

Dori G.
Cockeysville, Maryland

A. Dearest Dori,

What lamentable luck. Like anyone stuck with a pile of Brazil World Cup Champion T-shirts could tell you, sometimes it backfires to buy in bulk. You may have already purchased the plasticky potions, but I have good news: You can still keep their insidious microbeads out of our waterways.

But first, in case anyone here has missed the microbead brouhaha of late: Many personal-care products intended to exfoliate the skin, such as face scrubs and body washes, derive their abrasive powers from tiny bits of plastic (a bit nonsensical, really, but there you have it). But researchers have realized the tiny bits of plastic, a.k.a. microbeads, are showing up in our lakes, rivers, and oceans, where they’re attracting pollutants and getting eaten by fish and generally behaving badly. Turns out, water treatment plants can’t filter out these minuscule bits, so they go straight from our sinks and tubs to the sea. (Read more about the problem here.)

Knowing this, you’re right not to sigh and simply use up the rest of your supply, Dori.

Read more: Living

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With Dov Charney gone, these are the only clothes made by dangerous animals

lion_jeans
Zoo Jeans

When supporters of the Kamine Zoo in Hitachi, Japan, needed to raise money for renovations, they passed on the usual fundraising routes and instead took a leap into the world of high fashion. Rather than recruiting the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, they decided to go in-house with their design process. Specifically: the lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) department. Tires and rubber balls were wrapped in sheets of denim before being tossed them to the predators. The resulting Zoo Jeans are "the only jeans on earth designed by dangerous animals," the volunteer group claims. Zoo Jeans It sure looks like these animals don't mind adding their creative flair and masticatory …

Read more: Living

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Inside Yingli, the giant Chinese solar company sponsoring the World Cup

solar.jpg
Climate Desk

It takes about two hours by car from the Chinese capital Beijing to get to the smog-blanketed city of Baoding. I don't mean to be rude, but it's nothing much to speak of, typical of the Northeast's expanse of industrial wastelands, threaded together by super-highways.

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Primal Screen

“Snowpiercer” is cli-fi with no science in it. We need more films like it.

Tilda Swinton in 'Snowpiercer.'
Radius/The Weinstein Company

First of all, you’ll have to get past the title. Yes, Snowpiercer sounds like temperature-play porn or badly translated anime. Moving on.

The movie is actually a wildly bizarre sci-fi action flick from celebrated Korean director Bong Joon Ho (The Host), based on a French graphic novel. It enjoys an 83-percent rating on Metacritic. Not bad for a movie where all the action is confined to a single train, and soot-dusted extras from Oliver get into bloody axe battles with masked, bondagey bros with night vision. Also, Captain America has a beard in it and he never smiles. (It opened in a few select cities a few weeks ago and expands to 354 theaters  and video-on-demand today.)

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Is the carbon bubble about to bust? One unlikely pundit thinks so

bubble
Jeff Kubina

As Grist readers, I'm sure you've heard of the "carbon bubble" -- the idea that the oil, gas, and coal industries are overvalued in the market because that value is calculated using energy reserves that they won't be able to sell in any future that isn't a climate apocalypse.

I've read a lot of articles about the carbon bubble, but recently I ran across a particularly interesting one, written by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Daily Telegraph -- which, as Britain's Tory paper, isn't exactly a hotbed of anti-corporate sentiment.

Evans-Pritchard sees a lot of crazy things going on in the markets right now -- China's construction boom, in particular -- but he says that the most disconcerting is the amount of effort that oil and gas companies are spending looking for new resources in areas with such low profit margins. The gradual end of the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing policy in the U.S., and similar monetary tightening elsewhere, may also cause oil and gas prices to fall, turning the infrastructure that has been invested in finding oil and gas and getting it to market into an expensive liability.

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A gassy, icy concoction

New shipping channel will carry natural gas through the Arctic

sea ice
Shutterstock

Most people think the thinning of the sea ice at the top of the world is a bad thing. But not shipping and fossil fuel interests.

Shipping companies this week announced that they would use icebreakers to carve a new Arctic shipping route to help them deliver natural gas from a processing plant in western Siberia to customers in Japan and China. The Wall Street Journal reports:

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Drowning in dangers

Climate change is flooding out American coastlines

Storm surge flooding
U.S. Coast Guard
Flooding caused by Hurricane Arthur on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Hurricane Arthur is no more than a holiday-dampening memory in the minds of many East Coast residents and visitors. But the 4.5-foot storm surge it produced along parts of North Carolina's shoreline on July 4 was a reminder that such tempests don't need to tear houses apart to cause damage.

As seas rise, shoreline development continues, and shoreline ecosystems are destroyed, the hazards posed by storm surges from hurricanes are growing more severe along the Gulf Coast and East Coast.

Two soggy prognoses for storm-surge vulnerabilities were published on Thursday. A Reuters analysis of 25 million hourly tide-gauge readings highlighted soaring risks in recent decades as sea levels have risen. Meanwhile, a company that analyzes property values warned of the dizzying financial risks that such surges now pose.

Read more: Climate & Energy