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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Fossil fuels receive 250 different kinds of subsidies

Even though renewables get federal subsidies for research and development, they’re still at a disadvantage when competing with fossil fuels, because fossil fuels receive even more subsidies. We basically all knew that already, but few of us realized it was quite this bad. Turns out fossil fuels get 250 different kinds of subsidies, and they’re getting more all the time. According to research by GigaOm's Adam Lesser, buried in a 351 page report from the International Energy Agency is the fact that fossil fuels currently receive subsidies via "at least 250 mechanisms." And unlike federal subsidies for renewables, which are …

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Huge strides in fuel efficiency innovation canceled out by bigger cars

If, and this is true, automakers have made huge strides in fuel efficiency over the past 30 years, why aren't we all driving the 100-mpg ubercars we were promised at Epcot Center when we were but wee lads and lasses? The answer is that our cars, like our homes and just about everything else we consume, have been supersized, says MIT economist Christopher Knittel. Specifically, between 1980 and 2006, the average gas mileage of vehicles sold in the United States increased by slightly more than 15 percent — a relatively modest improvement. But during that time, Knittel has found, the …

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Photographer turns unrelenting boringness of suburbia into art

Jason Griffiths is an assistant professor of design at Arizona State, and apparently living in the middle of all that desert sprawl got to him after a while. In the early aughts he jumped into a car, drove all over the country, and made a discovery so banal it’s practically a tautology: Suburbia is the same everywhere. Except, because he's a photographer and he's been steeped in design thinking and this is what artists do, Griffiths managed to turn his sojourn into a book called Manifest Destiny: A Guide to the Essential Indifference of American Suburban Housing. It's a collection …

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Newt Gingrich, ‘amateur paleontologist,’ knows science better than you

Sure, there's overwhelming consensus among climate scientists (and scientists in a host of other fields) that climate change is for realsies. These are people with doctoral degrees, decades of experience, high-end instrumentation, and mountains of data -- but are any of them amateur paleontologists? Newt Gingrich is, and that means he knows they're wrong, and so there. At a town hall meeting here Saturday afternoon, Gingrich delivered his neatly segmented remarks on taxes, regulations and an overarching economy, but when asked to explain his position on global warming, he delivered a new line. “I’m an amateur paleontologist,” Gingrich said. “I …

Read more: Election 2012

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This guy owns only 15 things

Andrew Hyde owns only 15 things. And he knows what you're thinking right now: The first question is always "Do you do laundry? How many pairs of underwear?" I’ll never get a stranger's obsession with my knickers, but that is *always* question #1. Question #2 is the "What do you own?" countdown, which is both fun and annoying to answer. Here's the secret. He doesn't count underwear or socks, because he could "easily replace [them] and could not resell for any value." (Also, how much stuff do you own, buddy? Yeah, that's what I thought.) Hyde told author Scott Berkum …

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Screw China: American scientists are finding replacements for rare earth

Priuses, wind turbines, and other clean technologies require rare earth materials, which generally go into ultra-strong magnets that help power clean technology. But rare earth elements have a couple of problems: China controls most of the supply, they require less-than-environmentally-friendly mining to get at, and, uh, they’re rare. So there's a race on to create a replacement magnet component that doesn't require rare earth. CleanTechnica reports that a team at Boston's Northeastern University has taken one step in the right direction -- developing a material with similar magnetic properties to rare earth. (Now there's just the small challenge of creating …

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Mountain Dew can dissolve a mouse, says Pepsi

An Illinois man is suing Pepsi Co. because, he says, he found a mouse in his can of Mountain Dew. But Pepsi says the guy is pulling a Strange Brew, and here's how they know: If there really were a mouse in a Mountain Dew can, it would have dissolved into "a jelly-like substance" before the guy could find it. Seriously, this is their defense. The company argues it has scientific evidence that the mouse was not in the can when the case was sealed in August 2008 and that a veterinary pathologist examined the mouse, finding that it could …

Read more: Food, Scary Food

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Critical List: Ghost octopi in the Antarctic; without ethanol subsidies, gas prices rise

The creatures discovered living in thermal vents near Antarctica -- ghost octopi, limpets, yeti crabs -- are le awesome. Two major solar industry groups are merging in order to focus on state-level policies. With ethanol subsidies gone, gas will cost more. Try as it might, Chevron cannot squirm away from responsibility for $18 billion worth of oil pollution damage in Ecuador's rainforest. Green-roofed gas station: STILL A GAS STATION.

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Climate change got even less media coverage than last year

Wait a minute, aren't liberals supposed to control the media? Well they're not doing their jobs, then, because climate change has been sliding slowly off the radar at major newspapers and magazines. That graph above shows coverage on a steady down slope since 2007, with a bump in 2009 because it's hard to slaver about "Climategate" without mentioning climate change. Last year at least 7,140 journalists and opinion writers published some 19,000 stories on climate change, compared to more than 11,100 reporters who filed 32,400 stories in 2009, according to DailyClimate.org. The decline was seen across almost all benchmarks measured …

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Yeah, looks like fracking caused Ohio quakes

The Youngstown, Ohio area has had 11 minor earthquakes since last March, and according to seismologist John Armbruster of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, you can blame those rumbles on fracking. A fracking wastewater disposal well has been identified as the source of the quakes -- extraction companies inject the briny wastewater into the well, and the pressure from that injection ripples outwards, Armbruster says. The injection well that caused the Youngstown quakes has been shut down, but the area can still look forward to another year of uncharacteristic seismic activity. Brine wastewater dumped in wells comes from drilling operations, including …