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Why Canada sucks on climate change

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If you were old enough to vote in 2004, then you probably remember the refrain “I’m moving to Canada!” It was every disenchanted liberal’s threat after George W. Bush’s reelection. Wags even made a “United States of Canada” map, attaching the Democratic states of the coasts and Upper Midwest to their friendly northern neighbor.

The sentiment was understandable. American liberals have longingly observed for decades that most industrialized nations are consistently ahead of the U.S. in adopting their preferred policies: universal health coverage, guaranteed paid sick leave, public child-care services, gun control, mass transit, and a price on pollution.

Saying we should be more like Europe may sound faintly un-American to some, and can prompt objections that our culture is nothing like that of, say, France or Sweden. But saying we should be more like Canada? Those affable, English-speaking folks right across the border? Like us, they are a nation of immigrants, a former British colony, and when they say “football” they don’t mean soccer.

And so Canada has become the American liberal’s lodestar. “Why can’t we have a rational policy, more like Canada’s?” goes the lament, which can be applied to almost any issue. But there is one glaring, and growing, exception: energy and climate change.

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Court battle could force New Jersey to resume carbon trading

Chris Christie
L.E.MORMILE / Shutterstock
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie doesn't want carbon trading in his state, but he might not have a choice.

Last year was a good one for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon-trading program in nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. And on Wednesday, environmentalists will push forward with a bid to make 2014 an even better year -- by dragging New Jersey back into the program.

RGGI, the first mandatory carbon-trading program in the U.S., caps the amount of CO2 that can be released by power plants and allows those facilities to buy and exchange the rights to release the pollution. RGGI revenue, which could hit $2 billion by 2020, is poured back into clean energy programs -- mostly into renewable energy and energy efficiency.

New Jersey was a participant in RGGI when it launched, but in 2011 Gov. Chris Christie (R) directed his administration to withdraw the state from the program -- and it did so without calling for any kind of public comment or debate. Christie and other conservatives at the time lamented the costs to electricity ratepayers and said RGGI wasn't performing as expected. "This program is not effective in reducing greenhouse gases and is unlikely to be in the future," Christie said. "It’s a failure." The majority of state lawmakers today want New Jersey to rejoin RGGI, but they don't have enough votes to overcome an inevitable Christie veto.

So attorneys with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment New Jersey are rolling up their lawyerly sleeves and heading into an appellate court on Wednesday to battle it out against the state's legal team. Here is NRDC's Dale Bryk with an explanation of the groups' lawsuit:

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This is the first public library without any books

bibliotech
Bexar BiblioTech

The end is near! Page-sniffers, mourn the loss of our dog-eared friends! I MEAN ... HURRAH for a library that saves trees! (Sob.)

BiblioTech is an all-digital public library on the south side of San Antonio that offers 10,000 titles on 600 e-readers, 25 iPads, and 25 laptops. The library also includes 50 desktop computers and 100 Nook tablets preloaded with children’s books -- just no physical books. (Patrons can read the library’s digital books on their own tablets as well.) Internet access and kids’ storytime are other, more familiar perks.

bibliotech-interior
Bexar BiblioTech

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Will the U.S. lift its 38-year ban on crude oil exports?

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The U.S. could start sharing the crude spoils of its environment-ravaging drilling boom with other nations.

The country banned crude exports after the oil shocks of the 1970s. But oil producers and oil-loving politicians alike are starting to push for that export ban to be lifted. Oil companies last year began preparing a legal challenge to the ban, which may argue that it violates international law. And last month, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz suggested that it may be time to consider lifting the ban. "Those restrictions on exports were born, as was the Department of Energy and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, on oil disruptions," he said at an energy forum.

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New York City is using its food waste to create heat

Garbage piles
Steven Vance

New York City eats a lot. And it's not always efficient -- we buy groceries we forget about, platters of food we can't finish, and restaurant food that shields us from seeing things like the pile of potato peelings that go into making mountains of fries. Plus, as a result of eating, we also create a lot of human waste. But in a pilot program, New York City is taking both kinds of waste and using it to heat 5,200 city homes, MNN writes.

This is a few steps more complicated than burning your trash pile.

Read more: Cities, Living

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This company is making vodka out of melted icebergs

vodka
Nico Nelson

At Modern Farmer, Rocky Casale and Reyhan Harmanci dig into the entrepreneurial opportunity of a lifetime: the rush to monetize icebergs as they melt. "Which will move faster," they write, "[t]he thaw or the opportunists moving in to capitalize on it?" Now, at Grist, we're generally looking for opportunities to stop icebergs from melting. But there's a whole different way to approach this problem -- it's happening, so why not make a buck? One company, for instance, is bottling water from melted icebergs and selling 50,000 bottles a year. It's called, prosaically, "Iceberg Water." One partner in this venture, the Canadian …

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60 Minutes’ ‘Cleantech Crash’ segment misses the point, critics charge

A recent 60 Minutes segment is drawing sharp criticism for its pessimistic take on the green technology sector, which questioned whether cleantech has become a "dirty word."

"The Cleantech Crash," which aired Jan. 5 and can be watched above, argues that renewable energy and other types of clean technology are a dying industry. Critics have called the segment a "hit job," a "debacle," an "about face" and even "Dumb & Dumber Part 3."

One of the biggest issues with the segment, critics charge, is that it conflated the Silicon Valley cleantech venture capital scene with the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program for renewable energy.

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California’s cap-and-trade program could fund high-speed rail

High-speed rail
California High-Speed Rail Authority

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) wants to take $250 million raised by the state's cap-and-trade program and put it toward high-speed rail. That plan is expected to be part of the budget he unveils on Friday, The Sacramento Bee reports.

The rail project would carry passengers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours by 2029, then be extended to reach San Diego and Sacramento. A $250 million infusion "could provide a significant lift to the project," the Bee reports -- a lift that's sorely needed. The project has been beset by problems, and finding tens of billions of dollars to pay for it has proven challenging.

From the L.A. Times:

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It’s too cold in Chicago for even polar bears to stay outside

anana
life is good (pete)

Anana, a polar bear, lives in Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. And for a polar bear, that's basically the equivalent to living in Costa Rica. It's fricking warm -- even when it gets cold, it's like, pleasant cold, you know? And so, like a super-tan American expat, Anana has adapted to her new home. She's still got her polar bear blubber -- she's not a native, after all -- but, compared to the juicy, five-inch thick layer of protective fat she'd have grown back home, it's pretty thin.

And so, when the temperature drops to 0 degrees F (-40 with wind chill!), Anana gets cold. DNAinfo:

Anana … is keeping warm in a "climate-controlled" area in the wake of the city's below-zero temperatures, according to zoo spokeswoman Sharon Dewar.

Read more: Cities, Living

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During a storm, this guy powered his TV with his Prius

prius-energy-consumption-flickr
Nicole Mays

Bob Osemlak is one resourceful guy. The Toronto-area retiree lost power for almost all of Dec. 21, but he just hooked up his Prius to his home appliances (easy peasy, right?!) and powered his furnace, lights, fridge -- even his TV. Sadly, this eliminates the beloved “Guess we better eat all the ice cream now” line, but other than that, cool!

Even though Osemlak used the Prius battery for nine hours, the hybrid’s power only went down by less than one bar (or about a gallon of gas). Osemlak conserved the battery by switching back and forth between the furnace and the other appliances. And it didn’t hurt that he prepared in advance:

Osemlak prepared for the outage by installing an outlet on his furnace. He then ran a cord through the basement to his hybrid electric car.

But maybe don’t imitate him:

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living