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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Good news: Americans are using a lot less coal

Here is a bit of energy-use news to feel good about: Americans are using a lot less coal.

In the first quarter of this year, the portion of the country's electricity that came from coal was almost 20 percent less than in the same period last year. And overall, the Energy Information Administration predicts, coal consumption in the electric sector will decrease by 14 percent this year.

Of course, there's a reason for this, as Stephen Lacey explains at Climate Progress, and the reason is natural gas. Natural gas is cheap, cheap, cheap, so now we're burning that instead of coal.

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Mesmerizing data visualization shows a day in the life of a city’s bike usage

This video is probably what Ralph Steadman sees when he takes half a tab of acid and looks at a map of Budapest, but it's also a data visualization of the city's bike usage during a 24-hour period. The size, location, and direction of the bubbles reflect how many people are on bikes at a given time, and where they're going.

Read more: Biking, Cities

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Yet another ridiculous billboard campaign featuring psychos

Apparently the political discourse in this country is irrational enough that one anti-green billboard campaign featuring megalomaniacs will not satisfy our craving for crazy. No, there have to be two billboard campaigns in one month that cast aspersions on good ideas by associating them with crazy dudes that no one likes.

We present to you:

These guys hate "energy independence"! If you don't recognize him, the guy on the left is Ed Perlmutter, a representative from Colorado. Barack Obama, we assume you're good with. Oh, and that one’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that Iranian leader known for being crazy. He's crazy! Therefore, since he is on this very badly designed billboard with those two (shudder) Democrats, they must be crazy, too.

Read more: Energy Policy, Oil, Politics

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Critical List: Gas prices drop; Mount Fuji’s on top of an active fault

Gas prices are falling.

Americans are willing to deal with a 13 percent hike in electricity bills if it means more of their power will come from clean energy.

Twenty-six states are fighting for schools to teach evolution and climate change -- a welcome change from school reformers who want to tear down those ideas.

Right under Japan's Mount Fuji is a fault that could result in a magnitude-7 earthquake.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Please enjoy this disco lobster

Photo by the New England Aquarium.

The lobster is having its day in high fashion -- Anna Wintour wore one to the Met Ball -- and apparently the little sea bugs are letting it go to their heads (if that is strictly a "head"). This one was apprehended off the coast of Maine (where else?), just prancing around being all orange and Jackson Pollock-y and incredibly, incredibly rare.

Read more: Animals

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Monsanto WISHES it could make corn this cool

"Glass Gem" corn looks almost CGI, but it actually comes out of the ground that way. It's the product of a small farm and a retro, handcrafted approach to agriculture -- "genetic modification" from back when genetic modification meant painstaking generations of selective breeding.

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Psych! World won’t end this year after all

We're definitely hurtling towards doom, but take heart: At least the world isn't going to end for a stupid reason like "Mayan prophecy." It will end for a totally smart reason like "perfectly able-bodied people unwilling to quit driving two blocks to the gym."

For the past few years, there's been a persistent meme that 2012 is the last year ever, because it's the last year on the Mayan calendar. Of course, nobody seriously believed this except for people who panic every time their wall calendar runs out ("oh god, there are no more months past December!") -- at least, that's what I've been telling myself to avoid a despair spiral. But sheer idiocy has never been sufficient to keep an idea from getting all up in popular culture, so "2012 is the end of the world" joined things like "the government is hoarding secret aliens" in the pantheon of complete BS that still gets made into movies.

Except as it turns out, 2012 isn't the last year on the Mayan calendar at all -- it's just the last year on the calendar we happened to be looking at. Boston University archaeologist William Saturno and his team has found an amazing trove of millennium-old art in Guatemala, including tables showing at least 7,000 years of future astronomical calculations.

Read more: Living

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How to save wolves: Take photos where they look like crazy mutants

Photo by Katie Haase/USGS.

Those clever ecologists at the U.S. Geological Survey have found a way to obtain information about wolves that doesn't involve trapping them, collaring them, or shooting them with weird injections -- and bonus, it makes them look like X-MAN SUPERWOLVES. Instead of messing with the animals directly, researchers are just snapping pics with infrared cameras, leading to wicked shots like the one above.

As Wired reports, the sad side of this story is why they need the cameras: The wolves in Yellowstone National Park have caught a form of scabies that causes hair loss.

Read more: Animals

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Going solar doesn’t mean you’re some weird pickler guy, say new ads

Why do you support solar power? Is it because you love dolphin babies? It’s because you love dolphin babies, isn’t it?

SunRun, the company behind this ad and a couple of other equally funny ones, is a solar leasing company. They'll install panels on your house for no money; you just have to commit to buying your electricity from them for a few years. Customers save money (although ultimately not as much as they would if they bought their own solar panels) with no hassle -- and literally everybody likes saving money with no hassle.

That means that, as the ads point out, you don't have to be a treehugging weirdo hippie pickler guy or gal to want solar panels (although that's fine, too). You just have to be a cheap-ass, like the rest of us.

Read more: Uncategorized

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Critical List: Antarctic ice sheets’ soft underbellies; monkey sets traps

The undersides of Antarctic ice sheets, thought to be fairly safe for now, are melting.

Robert Abbey, the head of the Bureau of Land Management, is planning to retire at the end of the month.

Bill McKibben said yesterday that climate campaigners need to be "willfully naive and demand that our system work the way that it is supposed to work" instead of the way it does work, with big money driving decisions.

This new LED lightbulb has a cooling system that "breathes."

Read more: Uncategorized