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Is this man the greenest governor in America?

When Jay Inslee was elected governor of the state of Washington in November of 2012, climate campaigners rejoiced. As a congressman, Inslee had a top-tier environmental record, and not just that: He knew climate and clean energy issues inside-out. The coauthor of the 2007 book entitled Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy, he also worked closely on the 2009 passage of cap-and-trade legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and was a cofounder of the House's Sustainable Energy Caucus. No wonder that upon his election in Washington, the League of Conservation Voters declared that Inslee was poised to become "the greenest governor in the country."

Sure enough, Inslee's term got off to a great start: Last October, he joined the governors of Oregon and California and the premier of British Columbia in endorsing the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy which pledges that those states (or, in B.C.'s case, that province) will set a consistent price or cap on carbon dioxide emissions (something California and British Columbia have already done), adopt low-carbon fuel standards, and more.

But there's just one problem: Shortly after Inslee's election, two Democrats elected to caucus with the Republican minority in the Washington state Senate, thus thwarting what otherwise would have been a Democratic majority in both houses. Instead of holding a 26-23 majority in the Senate, Democrats instead became a de facto 25-24 minority. And that razor-thin edge in the Washington state Senate is currently blocking Inslee from achieving many of his objectives.


Californians to receive $30 to $40 climate credit this month

piggy bank

A year and a half after California started forcing some big polluters to pay for pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, households in the Golden State are about to start cashing in on the program.

The state's cap-and-trade program has raised nearly $1.7 billion so far. About 40 percent of proceeds are earmarked to be spent on clean energy initiatives, while the rest will be distributed to small utility customers through various programs, helping offset any increase in electricity prices. Residential customers of the state's investor-owned utilities, which together serve more than two-thirds of the state's electricity, will receive the first California Climate Credits on this month's electricity bills, reducing the amount due by roughly $30 to $40. The next residential credits will be paid out in October. Small business customers will receive them monthly.

California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey said the credits will give "millions of Californians a stake in the fight for clean air and a healthy environment." He suggested electricity customers reinvest the money in efficient lightbulbs, smart thermostats, and other energy-saving measures to further reduce costs and to join the fight against climate change.


Fish massages are the secret to sustainable caviar


The old way of getting caviar: Kill a fish and steal its eggs. The new way: Give a pregnant sturgeon a stress-relieving aromatherapy massage and, once she's completely relaxed, her eggs’ll just pop right out. Repeat massage every couple years.

There are no hot stones or bamboo flutes, but that’s the gist of a big breakthrough in caviar. This no-kill method is a huge improvement over waiting for a fish to turn 10 or so, then killing it as soon as it gets knocked up (RUDE). The deets from NPR:

The new method, being practiced at a small farm in Loxstedt, Germany, called Vivace GmbH, involves first viewing a sturgeon's eggs by ultrasound. If they are deemed ready, a signaling protein is administered to the sturgeon several days before the egg harvest.

This ... "induces labor" and releases the eggs from a membranous sack in the belly cavity. At that point, the eggs can be pumped from the belly with gentle massaging.

This ultra-fancy, no-kill caviar IS more expensive than normal -- up to $135 an ounce instead of about $105. But it’s a dumb luxury food based on exclusivity, so foodies probably won't mind ... and besides, SOMEbody’s gotta pay for the scented candles.

Read more: Food, Living


Hawaii might legalize hemp — for environmental reasons, of course

Jeremy Brooks

With 20-some states already on the legal-cannabis train, no wonder Hawaii wants to join in. Except that instead of its more popular cousin, marijuana, whom EVERYBODY wants to sit next to at lunch, Hawaii is in the process of legalizing hemp. (Unfortunately, if you put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, you’ll be sorely disappointed.)

But wait! Hemp has a great personality, honest! It may be low in THC, but the plants are great for sucking up metals, pesticides, and even crude oil, keeping them out of the soil -- and thus the food and water supply. So says a bill that just passed Hawaii’s House of Representatives and is on its way to the state Senate:

Read more: Living


Yes we cannibal

More Americans willing to try cannibalism than veganism, new study finds


Update: Put down that elbow pasta, hug a vegan, and check the date on this post. Happy April Fools' Day.

Celebrity endorsements aside, converting to veganism remains a hard sell to most Americans. How hard? New research hints that more of us would rather munch on our neighbor Larry than give up meat and dairy.

According to a new poll from The Society for Progressive Meat (SPM), 10 percent of Americans would consider trying man meat, while a measly 3 percent could bear to part with all animal products. A poll and questionnaire on its website surveyed 2,500 respondents over a two-week period.

Read more: Food, Living


Teaching butchers — and brewers, and picklers — to stay out of the red

Food Craft Institute
Food Craft Institute
Gavin Erezuma learning his cuts

About a dozen potential students sat in as many chairs, crowded into a narrow room behind a butcher shop in San Francisco. To the right and left were murals of cattle; ahead, a bovine skull with long horns; and, in front of that, people giving a pitch for a three-week intensive class on the business of butchery.

A man in a plaid shirt near the front raised his hand. “What kind of skills do you need going into this? Have most people had some kind of butchery experience?” People come in at all levels, reassured Marcy Coburn, executive director of the Food Craft Institute. “This isn’t a class for learning how to be a butcher. It’s a class for learning how to efficiently run a business.”


Obama endorses Senate climate hawk Brian Schatz in Hawaii race

Brian Schatz and Barack Obama
White House / Pete Souza
Brian Schatz gets a nod from POTUS.

There is no surplus of environmental leaders in Congress right now, especially with the impending retirements of Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rush Holt (D-N.J.). So it may alarm enviros to learn that the greenest new senator, Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), is facing a primary challenge. And in an especially strange twist of fate, the amiable young liberal -- in a solidly Democratic state -- is being primaried from his right. Craziest of all is the fact that he could lose.

Luckily for Schatz, though, he just got a boost from Hawaii’s most famous son, President Barack Obama.

Here’s the backstory: Schatz’s seat was held for over four decades by Daniel Inouye (D). When Inouye passed away in December 2012, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) got to appoint a replacement. Inouye requested that he be succeeded by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D). Abercrombie -- a longtime rival of Inouye’s -- instead appointed Schatz, his lieutenant governor. Now Hanabusa is running against Schatz for the Democratic nomination in this year's election, and a February poll showed them in a dead heat.

In just over a year in the Senate, Schatz has quickly emerged as a leader on climate change and sustainability. Earlier this month, he organized the Senate’s all-night talkathon about climate change. He told Grist it was just the beginning of the work that he and his colleagues will do to raise awareness about the issue. He's also working on a bill that would require major polluters like oil companies to pay a fee for each ton of carbon they emit. And he has sponsored a raft of small-bore bills to incentivize energy efficiency and green technology.


Sped-up video of ocean creatures is kind of terrifying

You know what? We take it back. Don't save the oceans. There's some really freaky stuff in there.

This video consists of 150,000 shots of corals and sponges, compressed into less than four minutes. A lot of the motion is intended for desedimentation, shaking off detritus like sand and fish excrement that threaten to bury them. At normal speed, it might take weeks for some of these changes to be obvious, but in the video the creatures judder alarmingly or throw tentacles at your face.

Read more: Living


It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a flying wind turbine!


Are we the only ones who can't think of blimps without thinking of Blimpie's sub sandwiches? (We also have a hard time thinking about submarines without getting hungry.) If so, we're sorry to make your mouth water, but Massachusetts company Altaeros has cooked up the Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT), a scrumptious, 60-foot blimp that can float 1,000 feet high. Instead of delicious smoked turkey and provolone, its tasty filling is a wind turbine.

Once airborne and tousled by the wind -- which blows two to three times stronger up there -- the BAT sends power down to earth through wires.


It’s ideal for remote areas that aren’t fit for solar or traditional wind turbines, like parts of Alaska with thinning permafrost. In fact, the BAT is planning to launch a pilot project in Alaska, powering about 12 homes. Fast Company adds pricing details:

Altaeros says the BAT will deliver power at about 18 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is more than most of the country, but still below what some Alaskan communities currently pay.

Now all we have to do is get the blimp to deliver lunch too.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Rich countries: Sure, climate change will screw poor countries, but what about us?

Citizens rescue a dog from the flood of November 2, 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights that we are already feeling the pain of global warming across the planet. Heat waves and drought are increasingly in rhythm in every major continent, including our own, while severe flooding is more frequently becoming the business in Africa. If you don’t want to read the IPCC’s 2,500-plus page report, here’s the shorter version: Climate fuckery is not futuristic; we have been fucking up the atmosphere; it is fucking us back.

But, as I wrote recently, there are certain people -- particularly those with large concentrations of melanin in their skin, and smaller concentrations of money in the bank -- who are suffering more of that fuckery than their less-melanated, more-resourced counterparts.

The IPCC’s latest makes note of this. Disturbingly, the report’s authors wanted to keep this critical information out of the much-shorter IPCC executive summary -- the part that’s supposed to be the most accessible to the public and lawmakers.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy