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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Government invests in robots that prevent oil spills

As oil and gas companies wander ever further offshore in search of fossil fuels, the government's putting some money into technology that safeguards against oil spills. The amount they’re spending -- $9.6 million -- is a paltry sum as federal investments go. But the important thing here is the result, which is robots. And not just robots, but cool underwater robots that have 3D laser vision more accurate than any diver's analysis. Ok, actually, that's just one project. The rest of the funding is going to technology like "reverse-circulation primary cementing," which reduces pressure in deepwater wells, and "coil tubing …

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Critical List: 2011 was pretty darn warm; dams could exacerbate climate change

2011 will be the tenth or eleventh warmest year on record, depending on who you ask. All but one of the nine or ten warmer years were in the last decade. (The only exception is 1998.) The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs is required to approve renewable energy projects on Native American-owned land, unless it has a “compelling” reason why it shouldn’t. Thanksgiving might be a good time for the Bureau to point out that this is ALL in some sense Native American-owned land, so we can be expecting a whole lot of renewables projects. Canada's threatening …

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Renewables trump fossil fuels for first time ever

Last year investors poured $187 billion into electricity from renewable sources (wind, sun, biomass, etc.), versus $157 billion for fossil fuels, calculates Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “The progress of renewables has been nothing short of remarkable,” United Nations Environment Program Executive Secretary Achim Steiner said in an interview. “You have record investment in the midst of an economic and financial crisis.” This boom was spurred by aggressive government action all over the planet, including $66 billion in subsidies. But will this boom continue? Looks like it. The European Environment Agency tallied up all the renewable projects that member countries are planning …

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Study: Climate skepticism leads directly to climate inaction

If you were wondering why industry heavies and their media housepets traffic in climate change skepticism, here’s why: It works. A study just published in the journal Nature Climate Change confirms that if you sow skepticism, you reap inaction. When Americans believe that there is widespread disagreement among climate scientists that climate change is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable, they don't support action to address it. For opponents of climate change action -- who are either sociopaths or genuinely self-deluded, since they live on this planet too -- it's support for the old Tobacco Institute strategy of avoiding consequences by …

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New use for green roof: grazing reindeer

"Santa Claus" (real name: Dave Kavanaugh, entomologist) has brought his reindeer to the green roof of the California Academy of Sciences. Between now and January 16, they'll be grazing its gentle slopes and fertilizing them with bon bons, because everyone knows that reindeer shit delicious Christmas treats.

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London fights air pollution with glue

If your house were infested with mosquitos, you might put up flypaper strips to trap them. London mayor Boris Johnson is taking roughly the same approach to air pollution -- he's having street sweepers spray a calcium-based adhesive onto the ground to trap particulate air pollution. It sounds like a stupid idea, and maybe it is. But it also seems to work. The pollution glue traps have reduced particulate levels by 14 percent in the air pollution hotspots that are being targeted. Of course, one of those hotspots is the official air monitoring station, whose data will be used to …

Read more: Cities, Pollution

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Lululemon goes from new-agey to Ayn Rand

Lululemon, which makes overpriced yoga clothes, used to give customers the option to purchase sustainable shopping bags printed with the company's "manifesto." (It's not the one above; that's a parody.) That meant they were covered in quotes that were a mix of faux-Buddhism, The Secret, Dove Promises wrappers, and complete nonsense ("children are the orgasm of life"?). Included among the dippy maxims: "What we do to the earth, we do to ourselves." Yeah, well, enough of that treehugger nonsense! Now Lululemon has gone full Randroid, emblazoning their reusable bags with Atlas Shrugged tagline "Who Is John Galt?" What the ... would …

Read more: Living

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India could boycott Olympics over Dow Chemical sponsorship

The Olympics is supposed to be all about fellowship and camaraderie, but the London Olympics Committee might have cozied up to the wrong crowd. Dow Chemicals is set to sponsor the wrap that will cover the Olympic Stadium, and as a result of the company's involvement, the Indian Olympic Association could boycott the Games altogether. At issue is Dow Chemical's responsibility for the 1984 Bhopal gas leak, one of the worst environmental disasters in history, in which gas leaked from a pesticide plant, killing thousands of people and exposing hundreds of thousands more. Dow Chemical later bought the company responsible …

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California’s high-speed rail gets $1 billion

California is going to have high-speed rail. Despite grumblings about the cost, Gov. Jerry Brown supports it, and now the project, which will link San Francisco and Los Angeles, is getting close to $1 billion from the Department of Transportation. The department came up with this chunk of change and more after other governors (Florida's Rick Scott, Ohio's John Kasich, and Wisconsin's Scott Walker) rejected the DOT's funds. Because in Republican World, nothing spurs the economy like not investing in large infrastructure projects.

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Critical List: Durban climate talks begin today; UK secretly supporting tar sands

This year's international climate negotiations begin today in Durban, South Africa. This round of talks is basically the opposite of Copenhagen: hopes for anything at all happening are very, very low. The British government has been supporting Canada's tar sands projects in secret. One new study found that the climate is less sensitive to carbon dioxide than some scientists had feared. That doesn't mean climate change won't happen, just that we have might have more time to deal with it. The U.S. investigated whether Chinese solar panel subsidies were violating international trade laws. Now China is investigating our renewable energy …