Grist List

Fox News viewers 'confused' by Bill Nye, science in general

Watch the latest video at video.foxbusiness.com You'd think Fox News would already be mildly embarrassed by the fact that their outside consultant on science is the host of a children's program. ("And now, to discuss transportation infrastructure, Mr. Rogers!") But what's even more embarrassing is the fact that they can't understand a word he's saying, and they readily admit it.

Wind power breakthrough: Carbon nanotubes make strongest, lightest blades ever

Bigger wind turbines can harvest more wind energy, but they're also heavier, which makes them less efficient. But a scientist at Case Western Reserve University figures he can solve this fundamental dilemma by throwing carbon nanotubes at it.  

Stranded penguin is going home

Here's your awesome for the day. A penguin named Happy Feet washed up on a New Zealand beach in June, and promptly made himself sick by eating a bunch of sand that he mistook for snow. It's not clear how he wound up 2,000 miles from his Antarctic habitat, but Happy Feet is now well and is getting a lift back home. 

In battle between fuel and food, food is losing worse than ever

Despite the backlash against ethanol in the U.S. and biodiesel in the E.U., global production of biofuels was up 17 percent in 2010. That's 27.7 billion gallons of liquid fuel for the year. (For reference, the U.S. uses 137 billion gallons of gasoline per year, though that's not directly equivalent because biofuels include biodiesel, and ethanol contains slightly less energy than regular gasoline.)

Ice-cream-selling bike vendors run wild in Portland

Visit a park in Portland, and you could find a nice vendor biking around, hauling a cooler of ice cream. But this isn't any ice cream. It's illegal ice cream, and the people who are selling it are thumbing their nose at the law that is the Portland Parks Bureau.  You’re supposed to pay $120 each month for a permit to sell ice cream in the parks, and these lawless vendors just aren't buying them. It annoys the people who sell legal ice cream, and the parks people. But are they going to crack down? 

Despite everything, natural gas is still cleaner than coal

Back in April, the EPA officially recognized that drilling for natural gas releases more methane than the agency had thought and offered a new methodology for estimating methane emissions connected to natural gas. The Worldwatch Institute, which does sustainability research, and the Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors, who do pretty much what their name says they do, crunched the numbers and found that, despite this, natural gas still releases less atmosphere-clogging gas than coal.

Critical List: Earthquake shook nuclear plant too hard; new Energy Star labels for more efficiency

Last week's earthquake may have shaken a Virginia nuclear plant more than the plant was designed to withstand. There wasn’t much damage, but, uh, maybe it’s time to retrofit these older East Coast plants, just in case. Since Energy Star labels have come to mean next to nothing, there are new ones. Look for "most efficient" Energy Star labels to find appliances that meet the highest standards for energy saving. Japan passed a bill promising incentives for renewable energy, but companies are waiting for the government to hash out the details before they jump in.

James Hansen arrested at tar-sands protest

Prominent NASA climate scientist James Hansen, a vocal proponent of climate change action who has long warned about the greenhouse gas effects of tar-sands development, has been arrested while protesting outside the White House. Hansen went down there intending to be arrested, and it worked! So good job, Jim. Hopefully your message gets through.

Panda poop could revolutionize biofuels

One down side of biofuels like ethanol is that they rely on easily processed crops that are also staple foods. The more farm space is given over to raising corn, soybeans, and sugar for fuels, the less is available for raising those crops to feed humans. Luckily, scientists have just discovered microbes that could help turn waste plant matter like corn stalks and wood chips into fuel. All they needed was a little bit of panda poo.

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