Grist List

Here are the potential Solyndras of 2012

Hey makers of right-wing talking points! Pay attention to these solar companies. They might fail this year, and as we all know, when a solar company fails you can repurpose its hide into a political hobby-horse and ride it forever.

Sunflowers show how to capture solar energy more efficiently

In design, biomimicry -- the idea that nature does design best -- is all the rage. So it must have been a head-slapping "duh" moment when solar-power designers sought inspiration from sunflowers -- a plant that has "sun" in its name, for goodness' sake! It turns out that sunflowers are really good at using the sun (NO WAY), and mimicking their structure can allow designers to seriously reduce the size of concentrating solar power farms.

Critical List: ‘Super fracking’; pollution threatens Lake Titicaca

Natural gas companies are looking into "super fracking," which uses larger, deeper cracks and draws power from our planet’s yellow sun. West Virginians, Pennsylvanians, and Ohioans are all hoping that Shell will choose to build a petrochemical refinery in their state, because the plant promises jobs. Maybe it's time to abandon Ulysses S. Grant's laws for federal land, which dictate that hard-rock mining is the best use for any plot.

One day you will play a video game with a pig

As any Portlandia fan knows, ethical meat-eaters don't just want their food to be humanely raised and humanely slaughtered. They also want it to have had a happy life. And it turns out that what makes pigs have a happy life is video games. Seriously -- pigs like to snuffle at flashing lights, which is basically Galaga. Accordingly, ethical farming researchers at Wageningen University are working with designers from the Utrecht School of the Arts to develop a human/pig interactive gaming app. The game, called Pig Chase, is designed to relieve some of the tedium of being a pig on a farm -- bored pigs aren't just a bummer for Portlandia food snobs, they're also more cranky and aggressive.

Oil industry gives $12 million to pro-Keystone legislators

An independent research group has analyzed oil industry contributions to Congress, and figures that President Obama is staring down a $12 million barrel of political opposition on Keystone XL. Some of that is going out in huge chunks -- 16 Republican House members and one Democrat have received $100,000 or more in contributions from the oil lobby, and lo and behold, the representatives are all voting just the way their evil overlords would like them to. But the industry is also spreading the wealth around. A total of 118 House members list the oil and gas industry among their top 10 contributors, and most of them are toeing the line as well. Update: An earlier version of this post had "anti-Keystone" in the headline because, I don't know, I'm an idiot? Anyway, PRO.

EPA maps the worst greenhouse gas offenders

The EPA has organized its data on major greenhouse gas emitters into a handy interactive map. You can zoom in on your area to see where the emissions come from near you, or scan around for the worst offenders. 

Dubai complements world’s tallest building with ginormous solar farm

The largest solar farm in the Middle East will be financed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai. He was also a big promoter of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa (the one Tom Cruise is climbing on in the video), so the man clearly has a taste for large projects. If you know what I mean.

‘Passive House’ documentary is the last word on zero-energy buildings

Passive Houses are homes so well insulated that they require no heating at all, even in winter. They're super popular in Europe, because it’s a magical land where everything is made out of chocolate and any sexual encounter that ends in fewer than three orgasms is immediately reported to the happiness police. Journalist Charlie Hoxie realized that most people in America have never heard of the Passive House (or Passivhaus in the original, economical German) building movement, so he embarked on a documentary to spread the word. What follows are a series of excerpts from that film.

Baby sloths in a bath, just sayin’

A friend of mine just spent some time helping out at the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica, and I am OVERWHELMINGLY jealous. And you will be too, after watching this video that is going around today for some reason even though it is only one of many cute baby sloth videos on YouTube. Seriously, this is NSFW, in the sense that you may fall down a rabbit hole of baby sloth videos that will wreck your productivity.

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