Grist List

Critical List: Fracking ‘almost certainly’ caused earthquakes; wolves save trees

The disposal of fracking wastewater "almost certainly" was the cause of all those earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio. Oil is washing up on the shores of Nigeria; Shell denies it's from the massive oil spill that occurred last month. BP wants Halliburton to cover the $20 billion it paid to clean up and otherwise deal with the Deepwater Horizon spill. Wolves save trees. (Related: Deer are sort of like giant squirrels.)

Politics

Gingrich scraps planned book chapter on climate change

If Newt Gingrich were backpedaling any faster on climate change, he might actually come full circle and turn into Al Gore. But what can the man do? He’s totally damaged his right-wing reputation by believing in science and giving a crap about the future survival of anything. What Republican can run with the hideous heart of environmentalism beating under his floorboards? That scene on the love seat with Nancy Pelosi was bad enough. Now it turns out Gingrich — or at least his co-editor — was planning to include a whole chapter on climate change in a new book about …

Times Square ball-drop switches to LEDs

Despite Republicans' efforts to equate efficient lighting with tyranny, the age of incandescent bulbs will be officially over as of Jan. 1. The best indication of this switch-over is not any one piece of legislation coming out of Washington, but a totally symbolic move:  When the Times Square balls drops at midnight on New Year's Eve, its shining light will be emanating from 32,256 LED bulbs. With LEDs, the energy-sucking ball of light will use 88 percent less energy than in the past and cut carbon emissions by 573 tons. Also, LEDs are awesome and can produce more special effects …

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.

‘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” …

Slum residents get a giant escalator for Christmas

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 hike …

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. Next time you curl up with your stuffed Tian Tian, think about how tasty he would find your insides in real life.

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.

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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