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25 years after Exxon Valdez, oil spills ain’t what they used to be

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Jim Brickett

As I'm sure you've noticed, if you are the sort of person who likes to relax on the weekend by reading about past environmental catastrophes, this Monday is the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Happy anniversary, Exxon Valdez oil spill! If we were married, we would give you silver. But we're not married, except in that way we all are inextricably bound together in a global web of shared ecology. In which case you probably wouldn't want silver anyway, because of the downstream effects, so let's just keep it at congratulations.

So: 25 years after Capt. Joseph J. Hazelwood downed several vodkas and left the Valdez poised to strike Prince William Sound's Bligh Reef at four minutes after midnight, what is the spill's environmental legacy?

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ExxonMobil agrees to report on its climate vulnerabilities. Here’s why that’s a good thing.

Exxon website
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Here’s a bit of confusing news: Environmentalists have successfully pressured ExxonMobil to publicly report on how much climate regulations might hurt its business. The New York Times reports:

Energy companies have been under increasing pressure from shareholder activists in recent years to warn investors of the risks that stricter limits on carbon emissions would place on their business.

On Thursday, a shareholder group said that it had won its biggest prize yet, when Exxon Mobil became the first oil and gas producer to agree to publish that information by the end of the month.

In return, the shareholders, led by the wealth management firm Arjuna Capital, which focuses on sustainability, and the advocacy group As You Sow, said they had agreed to withdraw a resolution on the issue at Exxon Mobil’s annual meeting.

It is easy to understand why shareholders would want to know how ExxonMobil is planning for a future in which demand for oil is stunted by global climate treaties and a hodgepodge of national and regional carbon caps and carbon taxes. But Arjuna and As You Sow are committed to sustainability, not just the financial interests of shareholders. So why is this good for the environment? You might imagine that if Exxon reports that it will suffer greatly from carbon pricing, that would hurt, not help, the campaign to pass climate legislation. After all, politicians cower in fear of harming their generous allies in the fossil fuel industry, especially politicians from dirty-energy-producing states.

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How to make alcoholic ginger beer from scratch

gingerbeerfeat.jpg
Catherine Lamb

This article originally appeared on Food52.com.

There are two types of people in this world: people who like their ginger beer sweet, subtle, and unassuming, and people who like their ginger beer to kick them hard in the back of the throat. (I guess there are also people out there who don't like ginger beer, but for now I'm going to pretend they don't exist.)

You know real ginger beer if you've tasted it. The second you take a sip, it stomps on your tongue with steel-toed boots, taking glee in reminding you how spicy raw ginger truly is.

My version of ginger beer is like the unfiltered, uncensored, hardcore stuff, but with a teensy little bonus: alcohol. While England has been sipping on alcoholic ginger beer for hundreds of years, America has just begun to discover this gem. Well, Brits, your secret's out.

Read more: Food, Living

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Bt resistance is futile

What’s all this about a GMO-eating bug?

Diabrotica_virgifera_LeConte,_1868
Udo Schmidt

If you've been on Twitter or Facebook this last week, you might have seen the headline: Worm beats GMOs! Shockingly, this was just one incremental development in a long-unfolding story. Here's what you should know to understand what's going on here.

Read more: Food

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The clean energy industry is turning Nevada green

Nevada
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Few things could be less sustainable than an entertainment mecca in the middle of a desert. But there's more to Nevada than the Vegas Strip, and investors in the Silver State are finding better ways of wagering their money than in slot machines.

On Thursday, leaders from both major parties joined forces to tout Nevada's clean technology sector. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) held a press conference to laud the $5.5 billion that has been invested in the industry in the state since 2010.

The figure was calculated by the Clean Energy Project, a Las Vegas-based advocacy group for the renewables sector. The group credits state tax breaks for growing clean energy investment. From its new report:

Due to Nevada’s vast solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass resources, the state has excelled at meeting demand in and out of its borders leading to significant clean energy capital investments. As of 2014, Nevada has 480 MW of clean energy developed or being developed to meet its energy demand and 985 MW of clean energy exported to other states.

The cumulative capital investments for both in-state and out-of-state clean energy projects, including transmission lines to move the clean electrons, total $5.5 billion since 2010. Nevada’s Investment of $500 million in tax abatements has attracted $5.5 billion of capital investment in clean energy projects to the state.

Read more: Food, Politics

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Watch kindly humans rescue a baby moose stuck in a fence

As our human habitations encroach more and more on animal habitats, interactions become inevitable -- whether that means bears eating from trash cans, seals sleeping on sofas, or baby moose caught in fences. Luckily this little buddy ran into kind-hearted humans when he got himself trapped in a wooden gate in a Canadian suburb.

Read more: Living

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Koch blocked

Dirty Kochs will dish out millions for polluting this Texas town

port-arthur-texas
Alan Cordova

The U.S. Department of Justice just slapped another polluter around. Yesterday, Justice officials ordered the Koch brothers-owned Flint Hills Resources company to pay $350,000 in Clean Air Act fines for spewing thousands of tons of hazardous air pollutants from one of its chemical plants in Port Arthur, Texas. The company must also spend upwards of $30 million on equipment upgrades to reduce its emissions for particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide -- agents of asthma, lung disease, and death, respectively.

This is no small matter for the Gulf Coast city, about 90 minutes east of Houston. This is the dirtiest of the dirtiest areas in America. It’s where where the Keystone XL pipeline is scheduled to dump tar-sands oil from Canada. The Koch bros’ plant is just one of a gaggle of petrochemical processing facilities, oil refineries, waste incinerators, and gas pipelines strangling Port Arthur, a city also beset by ghastly levels of lung disease and cancer. Then there’s the social asphyxiation of poverty and racism on the predominantly black and Latino city.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

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These frackers have the nerve to call L.A. leaders “appallingly irresponsible”

L.A.
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Nobody wants to be called "appallingly irresponsible," but it's especially galling when the insult comes from the fracking industry.

Members of Los Angeles City Council, which may soon impose a moratorium on fracking, this week proposed that the city work with the U.S. Geological Survey and other scientists to determine whether a 4.4-magnitude quake on Monday was linked to nearby hydraulic fracturing. Fracking practices have been linked to earthquakes in other parts of the country.

"It is crucial to the health and safety of the City's residents to understand the seismic impacts of oil and gas extraction activities in the City," three lawmakers wrote in a motion that they introduced on Tuesday.

Earthquakes happen all the time in California. Monday's temblor was deeper than most fracking industry–induced earthquakes, though it was attention-grabbing because it occurred in an area not normally known for quakes. And it struck mere days after a trio of nonprofits warned in a report that the fracking sector could trigger earthquakes in California.

So it seems reasonable that L.A. lawmakers would want scientists to look into the issue. But frackers are not known to be reasonable people. The Western States Petroleum Association reacted vehemently to the insinuations and to the proposed scientific research. Its president, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, denied any industry links to Monday's earthquake, and decried the council members as "appallingly irresponsible."

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The Brothers Koch quietly become largest tar-sands lease holders in Alberta (UPDATED)

tarsands_alberta
Shutterstock

UPDATE: It looks like Steve Mufson and Juliet Eilperin, the authors of the Washington Post article upon which this post was based, are backing down on their claims — sort of. The Koch brothers have leases on a confirmed 1.1 million acres of Alberta tar sands, and the article's authors cite unnamed "industry sources we consider highly authoritative" who estimate that amount of land to be closer to two million acres. Mufson and Eilperin claim that if the latter figure is accurate, the Koch brothers are indeed the largest lease-holders in the region. However, Jonathan Adler, a columnist for the Washington …

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Pretty much the worst solution for Greenland’s melting ice: Ship leftover ice cubes from L.A.

ice-cubes-flickr-kenn-wilson
Kenn Wilson

Greenland’s northern ice sheet is a mile thick and melting quickly, infinitesimally raising sea level and freaking everybody out. But we can say with 90 percent certainty that the solution is NOT to ship ice cubes to Greenland from L.A. And yet that’s exactly what Robert Welkie of Ice Cycle wants to do:

Ice Cycle technicians will collect donated ice cubes from restaurants and other food service facilities in Los Angeles in specially designed containers ... The ice cubes will be stored in liquid form --

So ... water.

-- until there are enough to fill a cargo shipping container that will be shipped from Los Angeles Harbor to the port of Ilulissat, Greenland.

Once the five-gallon ice cubes dock in Greenland, volunteers will transport them to a government-approved site and assemble them into a “symbolic glacier.” Welkie says in a video that metaphors and symbols inspire action more than facts do; the goal is to make people feel like we have more agency in the face of climate change.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living