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Grist List: Look what we found.


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2011 sets all-time record for tornadoes: 199 in one day

Extreme weather is like debt, obesity, and prescriptions for anti-depressants: Every year, there's more of it. 2011 was no exception, and scientists have just added another distinction to its record-breaking trophy case of awfulness: Nearly 200 tornadoes in a single day. The three-day storm that birthed that record killed 346 people. Whether or not this one event is directly attributable to climate change, which is always a challenge to establish, scientists at NASA say that climate change could lead to even more tornadoes. In other words, given the path we're on, the records of 2011 aren't likely to stand long.

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Don’t count on that shale gas revolution

Over at some raggedy-rag called Slate, energy futurist Chris Nelder takes a deep dive into the available data on how much natural gas we can get out of the rocks beneath the U.S. via fracking. His conclusion is that we could run out of natural gas in a decade, especially if we make a mass transition to it as a source of electricity and transportation fuel. (Our proven reserves, as opposed to our potential or likely ones, are only good for a decade’s worth of energy.) Or we could run out in 100 years, which is the supply all the …

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Nature is trying to reabsorb the exurbs

Great news for folks who have watched the value of their exurban McMansions circling the drain over the past few years: These fringe habitations can be returned to nature to find new life as wildlife habitats. It’s basically the real estate version of composting. Okay, so there's not really an official effort to make subdivisions into sanctuaries, but apparently nobody told bears that. In Hopatcong, N.J., a cable TV repairman recently descended into 85-year-old Frank Annacone's basement and found a 500-pound black bear slumbering there. The folks at Gothamist dubbed it the "Reverse Goldilocks Bear," and in a true case …

Read more: Animals, Cities, Sprawl

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Barbie gets a bike, and knees to ride it with

Barbie’s finally got an awesome set of wheels to go with that solar-powered dream house. The good folks at the One Speed Go blog in Phoenix recently tipped us off to the Barbie Glam Bike, a sparkly pink beach cruiser with matching fenders and chain guard. What’s more remarkable, though, is the accompanying doll, who sports flat human-style feet (guess those pointy toes caused problems with the pedals) and authentic leg movement. This may be the first time something about Barbie’s physical features has been called "authentic." Given that bike-functional Barbie is coming out just a few months after the new …

Read more: Biking, Cities

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How India is winning the future with solar energy

India set a goal to build 20 gigawatts of solar -- an enormous amount -- by 2020. The haters said at first that the country might not make it, but lately India's plan is seeming smarter than anyone imagined. Plus, it's creating jobs -- both in India and in America! What's leading to its success? Government subsidies that are aggressive … but not too aggressive. Subsides are creating both demand and enough competition to keep prices down. Private sector support. Indian banks are beginning to see solar as a desirable investment, since, like toll roads, they're infrastructure projects that offer …

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Critical List: Iran could block oil shipping; presidential candidates can criticize ethanol in Iowa

If America and its allies put sanctions on Iran, the Iranian navy could block the Strait of Hormuz, an important channel for international oil shipments. Have Republicans ensured the death of Keystone XL by pushing Obama to decide one way or another about the pipeline? The EPA is scaling back requirements for cellulosic ethanol in the coming years. Presidential candidates are allowed to criticize ethanol now -- even in Iowa. These NASA photos document the growth of the Athabasca tar sands pits in Alberta.

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Decor that helps you feel good about your power source

These adhesive decals stick to any flat surface and are even PVC-free! Why opt for green energy if you can't remind yourself and your guests about it every time you turn on the light? I'm serious. h/t CleanTechnica

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Map shows when rooftop solar will be cheaper than grid electricity

What happens if and when current subsidies for solar panels are phased out? Doesn't matter -- the cost of solar photovoltaics continues to fall even as the cost of grid electricity continues to rise, which means eventually the two trends will meet and it will make more sense to put panels on your roof than to continue sending a check to your utility company. In San Diego, this will happen sometime around 2013, according to a new animated map from John Farrell at Energy Self-Reliant States. The high cost of grid electricity and the fact that San Diego gets 367 …

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Fast food chains give up ‘pink slime’ meat product

McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Burger King just stopped using a product popularly known as "pink slime" in their burger meat. The "slime" comes from the tiny bits of beef in leftover fatty trimming. Those bits are doused with ammonia in order to kill E. coli and are then made into human food. Or “human” “food.” The resulting "meat" isn't necessarily unsafe -- in fact, industry people are bitching about how food activists are making them reduce food safety, to which we say if your meat needs to be doused with ammonia to make it safe to eat then maybe you …

Read more: Food, Food Safety

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Foot-long shrimp take over Gulf of Mexico

The Asian tiger prawn, a gigantic shrimp that can grow to more than a foot long, is invading the Gulf of Mexico. This year the species was found for the first time in Texas waters. This giganto breed of crustacean threatens the survival of crabs, oysters, and regular old normal-sized shrimp. It could disrupt the thriving Gulf ecosystem and also the incredible bounty of seafood that cities like New Orleans serve up. How'd these suckers get into the Gulf? One likely culprit is aquaculture: storm surges could have swept them from fish farms into the open water. As with any …

Read more: Animals