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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Critical List: Judge nixes California’s low-carbon fuel standard; mystery foam attacks England

A federal judge put the kibosh on California's low-carbon fuel standard, which favors fuels that create fewer emissions to make and which, according to the judge, discriminates against out-of-state fuel producers. On carbon credit markets, credits cost way less than they should. China is moving forward on a plan to build a gigantic dam on the Yangtze River. Mystery foam attacks a town in northern England. It's sort of like The Blob, only fluffy. How to take composting to the metaphysical plane.

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‘Micro-lofts’ are luxury shantytowns for hipsters

Vancouver has come up with a unique solution to the outrageous cost of housing in the city: Murphy everything. A local construction company is building a block of tiny apartments, each the size of a one-car garage, and making them livable by turning their walls into the domestic equivalents of pop-up books. The "micro-lofts" are located in the century-old Burns Block building in Vancouver's Gastown neighborhood, and they can be had for $850 a month, a price I would have killed for when I was living in one of the many neighborhoods in New York that included the word "murder" …

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Slum residents get a giant escalator for Christmas

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSYAOr0xUUo&feature=player_embedded If you had $7 million to use on behalf of the residents of your poorest slums, how would you distribute it? For Medellin, Colombia, that's a no-brainer: Blow the whole wad on a MONSTER ESCALATOR. Wait, wait! It’s actually a good idea. The giant escalator helps slum residents get to their hillside homes from the city center -- a nonsensically steep climb of more than 1,200 vertical feet. To fully appreciate how radically this thing changes the landscape of the slums, you need to watch the video above -- the BBC reports that the moving stairway turned a more-than-30-minute …

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Panda caught eating meat on camera for first time ever

Pandas: Not vegetarians after all. Sure, they subsist mostly on bamboo, but these are BEARS, people. They may seem cuddly in the zoo, but in the wild, when they don't think anyone is looking, super-secret cameras caught one feasting on the dead carcass of a gnu. Watch this video for the grisly evidence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6ctjcN33Gw Next time you curl up with your stuffed Tian Tian, think about how tasty he would find your insides in real life.

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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.