Grist List

Critical List: Keystone XL decision should come in two months; NIH stops chimp research

The president will most likely have to make a final decision on Keystone XL within two months. Brace for the imminent lobbying fight. Democrats are already pointing out that issuing permits two months from now is impossible, because that timeline wouldn't leave room for required environmental reviews. Germany got a fifth of its power from renewables in 2011. The National Institutes of Health will soon face strict limits on chimpanzees as research subjects, which will rule out chimp research in the vast majority of studies. Half of the world's land will have a different mix of plants by 2100, after …

Endangered lemurs becoming ‘bar snacks’

For who knows how many generations, the natives of Madagascar did not eat lemurs because they thought their ancestors forbade it. Now, and I am not making this up, they are praying to their ancestors to lift the ban, reports Sara Reardon at Science Now. Mostly because their kids, who are not big on ancestor worship, have already started munching on the tasty primates in the form of "bar snacks." The thing is, lemurs aren't just squirrels with hands. They're prosimians, which means they're descendants of the last of our ancestors who weren't primates. They live in matriarchies, making them …

Death of ‘lightbulb ban’ greatly exaggerated

Congresscritters who love inefficiency, waste, and air pollution — or at least the money that comes from industries that do — attached a rider to the spending bill yesterday evening that will reverse an earlier law to phase out crappy old-style lightbulbs. The crazy thing is that the ban is still in effect, and the new legislation just means it can't be enforced in 2012. For "give me incandescents or give me death" types to win, Congress will have to either reverse the law entirely or keep passing resolutions to stop enforcing it, year after year. Sounds like a great …

Fundamental breakthrough could double electricity from solar panels

It is a truth often repeated that fundamental physical limits mean solar panels can never capture and transform more than about 31 percent of the sun's energy. But Xiaoyang Zhu at the University of Texas apparently just did the impossible, and in a most spectacular fashion: He found a way to increase the efficiency of solar cells to 66 percent. Zhu announced a similar result in 2010, but he was only able to achieve theoretical efficiencies that high using concentrated sunlight. His new work outlines a practical way to use panels in a conventional layout to capture the "hot" electrons …

The return of the Keystone XL pipeline

Keystone XL is back from the dead. After President Obama announced a delay in a final decision on the tar-sands pipeline, House Republicans’ first gambit was to try to speed up that process. But now, they have a more sinister plan: They are trying to force through wholesale approval of the pipeline project. They're doing this by attaching pipeline approval to a bill that's near and dear to the president's heart — payroll tax breaks. Payroll tax breaks are pretty sweet! They make it easier for people to start businesses or hire new workers, because social security and Medicaid taxes …

Critical List: Congress does everything it can to screw the environment; fabric cleaned by sunlight

Congress voted to put sanctions on Iran, which would make it harder for Iran to sell oil, but potentially make oil sales more profitable for the regime overall. After all the work that the anti-Keystone coalition did, Republicans are trying to tack a measure to approve the pipeline onto a bill that extends the payroll tax cut. The White House is saying the president "would reject a proposal that tried to mandate approval of the Keystone project" but won't say the V-E-T-O word. Oh, ALSO. Congress could defund the program that would implement the phaseout of incandescent bulbs. AUGH, CONGRESS. …

Infographic: Fracking violations in Pennsylvania

The orange dots here are natural gas extraction operations with one or more environmental violations. But, you know, deer and rainbows! Click through to NPR's interactive graphic to find out more about each operation and how many laws they're flouting. (You can also get more detailed maps and information by county.)

Congress passes the wrong pipeline bill

It turns out Republicans and Democrats truly can work together to craft a bipartisan pipeline safety bill that satisfies both parties! And then they can accidentally pass the old version instead. The bill, which laid out new penalties for pipeline safety violations following a deadly explosion last year, was laboriously hashed out in a bipartisan committee. Then the House went ahead and passed the old version anyway. Due to human error, the House on Monday and Senate on Tuesday both passed a pipeline safety bill all right, but an earlier version of the bill — not the final bipartisan, bicameral …

Police seize computers in connection with Climategate hacking

When the University of East Anglia's servers were hacked and emails stolen, the victims — the climate scientists whose largely innocuous messages got misrepresented all over the blogosphere — were subjected to multiple independent investigations (and cleared). The hackers? Not so much. Nobody really knew who did it or apparently cared. But evidently they're cracking down now, because police in England just seized the computers of Roger Tattersall, a denialist blogger connected with the second hacked email release. Nobody's been arrested, and it doesn't look like the cops think Tattersall is responsible. Rather, he's one of at least five bloggers …

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