Grist List

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.

Here's a quick roundup of the insane ways the right is reacting to Irene

If you thought Katrina represented the pinnacle of storm-related fail for right-wing politicians ... well, you're right. But that doesn't mean they don't really reach for the crazy when a lesser storm hits the East Coast. Current and former Republican presidential candidates and their little dog Fox were all whipped to great heights of lunacy by Irene's winds, and they busted out some grade-A artisanal tomfoolery over the weekend.

Monsanto fail: GMO crops are losing their pest control powers

Monsanto crops bred to thwart western corn rootworms, which love eating corn roots, are no longer are doing their job. The rootworms developed a resistance to the natural pesticide the crops produced and are chowing down. The alternatives for farmers: buy other genetically modified seeds (which will totally work forever!); spray nastier insecticides; abandon the economic model of monoculture and GMO crops. Guess which one's going to happen. Maybe which two out of three.

How the smart grid of the future will prevent power outages for millions

Right now there are millions of people without power thanks to the wind and heavy rainfall that accompanied hurricane Irene, and I'm one of them. It sucks. Having to call the utility company just to let them know that they've failed me once again is a symptom of our antediluvian electricity distribution system.  Commonwealth Edison of Northern Illinois thinks so, too. Recently, they explained to the Daily Herald how a smart grid would have prevented outages for hundreds of thousands of their customers in the wake of recent July storms.

American solar exports increased 83 percent in 2010

Who says America doesn't make things? Last year, we exported $5.63 billion worth of solar products: photovoltaic cells, modules, investors, capital equipment, polysilicon, and more, according to a new report from GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association. That's an 83 percent increase over the previous year

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