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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Limitless supply of rare earth elements found in ocean — if we can get them

The seabed of the Pacific ocean contains 1,000 times as much tonnage of rare earth elements as all the deposits on land, says a new paper published in Nature Geoscience. The elements, which are key to cleantech innovations like solar panels, batteries and electric motors, have been in short supply lately as China, pretty much the world's sole supplier, clamps down on exports. The bad news is that getting at these deposits could involve destroying delicate ecosystems that until now have been protected from our depredations by 2-3 miles of water. It's also not clear that we're desperate enough (yet) …

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Ranchers are clearing the Amazon rainforest with Agent Orange

In Brazil, ranchers are opting to use Agent Orange -- one of the most toxic herbicides ever concocted, infamous for its use as a defoliant and de facto weapon during the Vietnam War -- to clear acres of rainforest. It's illegal to clear the forest, but by spraying swaths of trees with Agent Orange, deployed by helicopter, ranchers stand less chance of detection than if they cleared the land by bulldozing or cutting down trees. Agent Orange is all sorts of bad news. It not only destroys the trees it hits but also kills (horribly) any wildlife that happens to …

Read more: Pollution

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Stock up on wine and bacon before climate change gets worse

Hippies have been fighting for awareness and action on global warming for a long time, but now yuppies and hipsters will have to join in. In the last week we've gotten news that bacon prices will soar and California wines will suffer due to inhospitable crop-growing conditions. It's one thing to live in a slowly crumbling world, but to live in it without bacon or wine? Now it's SERIOUS. Bacon: CNBC reports that bacon prices are set to soar this summer, prompting suggestions of a Strategic Bacon Reserve. It's a cascade of problems -- warming conditions (among other factors) mean shabby …

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ExxonMobil, historic flooding join forces to spread oil through Yellowstone River

The oil leaking from an ExxonMobil pipe into the Yellowstone River in Montana spread farther than the company said it anticipated. The reason, according to ExxonMobil’s spokespeople, is historic levels of flooding on the river. By Tuesday, Exxon had 280 people on the case, but still hadn’t managed to fight through floodwaters to reach the break in the pipeline. Exxon says the river is preventing its clean-up crews from going out on foot or in boats to look for oil on the river's banks. Exxon did shut down the busted pipeline, but not before spilling more than 40,000 gallons of …

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Believing in climate change gets you votes

Here's good news if the phrase "President Bachmann" sends you into a twitching, frothing fit: For candidates on both sides of the aisle, the best vote-getting strategy is to take climate change seriously.  Republican voters don't really care whether you believe in climate change -- they were more likely to vote for a hypothetical candidate who made a green statement on climate (warming exists, humans caused it, and we need to take steps to end it) or a non-green statement. They just didn't like the wishy-washers who didn't state a position at all. So to win Republican votes, it suffices …

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WWF leaflet campaign reaches 285,142 people with one piece of paper

As certified genius Mitch Hedberg once said, when someone hands you a flyer on the street, it's like they're saying "here, YOU throw this away." But the panda-suited chuggers in this World Wildlife Fund leaflet campaign are saying "here, YOU read this on your way up the escalator where it will be collected by another panda and distributed to the next person who will then bring it back down the escalator to be re-collected and re-distributed by the original panda." It's a little more complicated, but it involves a lot less waste.  Of course, WWF's claim of running the "greenest" …

Read more: Living

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Critical List: Dust storm hits Phoenix; Electric Prius hits the roads

Phoenix was hit by a 5,000-foot-tall, 50-mile-wide wall of dust. What does Virgin Australia have in common with koala bears? They're both very interested in consuming eucalyptus leaves, which hopefully will not get the airplanes as stoned as they get the koala bears. Car companies don't trust drivers with 10-year-old cars to steer clear of 15% ethanol, which can damage older vehicles. So they think nobody should get it. Solar leasing companies want to bundle their solar panels into asset-backed securities. When future generations go into foreclosure, not only will they not know which banks own the house, they won't …

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Fox News takes credit for study that debunks climate skeptics

Fox News is patting itself on the back for "inspiring" a recent study showing that China's sulfur output has been masking the effects of global warming. It points to an interview that lead researcher Robert Kaufmann did with the BBC, where he said he looked into the issue because an old man told him Fox News said the planet was cooling. Hooray, Fox News got mentioned on a real news site! Break out the Confederate flag party hats! Too bad the rest of that article is about Kaufmann making that old man, and his Fox News overlords, look pretty silly indeed. …

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Warning: Climate change causes sun to jerk off

Have we considered the possibility that rising global temperatures are less about greenhouse gases, more about the sun really, REALLY enjoying heatin' stuff up? USA Today has! Forget solar storms, what we should really be worried about is solar onanism. UPDATE: USA Today is so proud of this image that they put a nice high-quality version on their site! Enjoy.

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Auto manufacturers don't trust people to buy efficient cars

The federal government is proposing a new fuel efficiency standard of 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025. This is fairly modest, on a global scale -- it would require a 5 percent increase every year from 2017 onwards, but Europe is on track to hit 60 MPG by 2020, so it can certainly be done. Car manufacturers aren't happy about the prospect, though, and are pushing for a lower standard. Their objections: It could add thousands to the cost of a new vehicle (whereas using less $4-a-gallon gas would probably only save hundreds per vehicle every year). And more to the …