Grist List

Critical List: Texas’ neverending wildfire season; clean energy investments could double

Texas' wildfire "season" has lasted for more than a year and won't end anytime soon. Obama: "Over the long term, [reducing carbon emissions] is good for our economies." By 2020, investors could be pouring $395 billion a year, double the current total, into clean energy. Only about half of the Department of Energy's spending for running its 16 laboratories goes to actual research. The rest goes to overhead and capital spending. Finally, the department is realizing that this means it should have fewer labs. PETA's going after Thanksgiving turkey AND Super Mario Brothers. If they start picking on sports teams …

High-speed rail that never was: 1910 proposal for S.F. to L.A. in four hours

If you think high-speed rail is some kind of newfangled obsession of liberal elites who would rather not sit in traffic behind SUVs covered in bumper stickers announcing loyalty to their ideological foes, you're only partly right. As early as 1910, inventor Fletcher E. Felts proposed an elevated, high speed railway system to connect Oakland to San Francisco and beyond, all the way to Los Angeles, notes Matt Novak at Paleofuture. The bullet-shaped cars on this suspended railway would have traveled at up to 150 miles per hour, making the trip to L.A. an easy four-hour jaunt. Fletcher's plan never …

Tidal power is now a legit source of renewable energy

Tidal power, produced from the force of our planet's oceans sloshing to and fro, has always seemed like a neat idea. But the challenges of making it work — imagine giant underwater propellers having to withstand strong currents and the unending assault of the sea — made it seem less than realistic. But now manufacturing giant Siemens is throwing its weight behind tidal power startup Marine Current Turbines, which has had a 1.2 megawatt demonstration turbine operating beneath the waves of Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough since 2008. Siemens' interest is simple: Tidal power is super predictable. (Predictable as the tides, …

‘Waterless fracking’ is a new way to make fracking less nasty

The "natural gas revolution" has been kind of a disappointment. Yes, natural gas could help get us off of coal, and fast. But it has its own substantial environmental impacts, most of them stemming from the process of extracting it from the ground. Now, though, a new "waterless" fracking method holds out the promise of natural gas without all the groundwater contamination and toxic wastewater. (It won't get rid of the noise or siting issues, however, which seem to be unavoidable when it comes to fracking.) Here's how it works: A substance called Liquefied Petroleum Gas — basically, propane in …

Bill McKibben talks Keystone XL on Colbert

Stephen Colbert can't decide what Bill McKibben's car runs on — broken dreams or hypocrisy — but he's trying hard to get McKibben to abandon it in favor of the Keystone XL bandwagon. No such luck — McKibben sets him straight on how many net jobs the project would create, and how much damage it would do to the planet.

Thailand’s DIY climate adaptation solutions

It's more likely than not at this point that climate change will substantially alter the world we live in, and humans will have to adapt. Climate adaption plans usually invoke big ideas, like sea walls and dykes and drought-resistant crops. But the response to the floods (likely due to climate change) that have devastated Thailand shows how varied and inventive local-level adaptation to adverse climate conditions can be. There are the swimming vests for cats and dogs that depend on water bottles for buoyancy, the flood bicycles that ride above the water, and the boats made entirely of water bottles. …

This is the funniest video about repurposing you’ll ever see

What if you have metal can, and you don't want to make a throw away of it and then everyone is sad because you make a litterbug? Flula has ideas! He also has ideas for repurposing shirts, pants, monkeys, milk jugs, and branches. (You cannot make a car from branches, but you can make a tiny boat from milk jugs and float around like Huckleberries and Finn.)

Tattoos are decidedly NOT vegan

There are two important principles of veganism that most people don't understand. More food is vegan than is immediately obvious. But more seemingly innocuous products have animals parts in them than the average meat-eater imagines. Case in point: tattoos. As Tim Donnelly writes at The Atlantic, "The ink and processes at your average shop contain a veritable buffet of animal detritus: charred bones of dead animals in the ink, fat from once-living things in the glycerin that serves as a carrying agent, enzymes taken from caged sheep that go into making the care products." And you're putting that in your …

‘Solar forests’ charge your car while looking awesome

If electric cars are really going to compete with the gas-guzzling kind, we're going to need new infrastructure — mainly charging stations so people can juice up when they're on a road trip. And if you have to dot the country with new charging structures, doesn't it make sense to make them awesome-looking? The "solar forest," a concept from designer Neville Mars, does that while also being extra-efficient. The solar "trees" don't just look great — they also move around to maximize sun exposure, plus they keep the cars below shaded and cool.

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