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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Toyota to make all Prius hybrids plug-in by 2014

This is how the century-long dominance of gas-powered vehicles ends: not with a bang, but with a widget. By 2014, the world's best-selling hybrid vehicle will have plug-in capability, standard, which means every trip up to 14 miles will be all-electric, all the time. This move to plug-in-standard vehicles is a harbinger of a future in which the automotive fleet doesn't switch over to electric all at once, but piecemeal, as manufacturers learn to harness new tech and economies of scale, and batteries drop in price as a result. Important to this transition is Toyota's switch to the more energy-dense …

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Climate change isn’t visible in North America — yet — say scientists

While the rest of the world is seeing its agricultural productivity decimated by climate change, the U.S. and Canada are continuing to experience weather that's within the range of "natural variability." So says a new study in Science from researchers at Stanford and Columbia. If true, this has a couple of kind of crazy-making implications: 1. It's difficult or impossible to attribute recent extreme weather events in North America to climate change. Tornadoes, floods, drought -- pretty much all we can conclude from them, say scientists, is that sh*t happens. 2. We know that humans' belief in climate change is …

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Critical List: U.N. is optimistic about renewables, U.S. studies ‘safe hydrofracking’

The U.N.'s climate change panel reports that, by 2050, 80 percent of the world's energy could come from renewables. The panel also issued this reassuring news: As long as we fulfill the most ambitious of renewable build-out plans and cut one-third of greenhouse gas, it is possible to keep the planet from nosediving into life-altering, irreversible climate change. So, no pressure. For starters, you could seriously just turn the effing A/C down. America's working on that whole clean energy thing, President Obama said this weekend. But China's getting there faster, surprise surprise. Japan wants to shut down another vulnerable nuclear …

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Real-life Farmville kills the same amount of time, actually does some good

We knew things were going to get weird once we found out there was a real-world Angry Bird. Now a farm in England is turning itself into live-action Farmville. For a £30 ($49) annual fee, members of MyFarm will get to weigh in on every decision made at Wimpole Estate Farm in Cambridgeshire. They'll vote on what to plant, when to harvest, what livestock to purchase, how to allocate the farm's land, which pig is the best singer, whether Brad should marry barley or amaranth, and every other choice that's critical to an agriculture/reality show hybrid. MyFarm is a project …

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Daylight-mimicking LEDs save power, might reduce symptoms of Alzheimer’s

All the cool kids know that CFLs are merely a bridge technology -- and now students at Drexel University have a grant to enhance their successor, which are household lights comprised of light emitting diodes. LEDs aren’t new tech -- they’re already used in your monitor, television, Christmas tree, throwies, etc. They're super efficient, plus they come in fun colors, so they’re all set to inherit the household-lighting throne. More importantly, the ability to both dim LEDs and combine different colored bulbs to produce any color in the visible spectrum should allow the Drexel researchers to create indoor lights that …

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Baddest-ass hybrid in the world to become a reality

Jaguar has announced plans to build a hybrid-electric supercar that goes from 0 to 60 in three seconds -- proving once again that green cars aren't just better for the environment; they're also substantially more bad-ass than the belching, muck-fueled dinosaurs they replace. The C-X75 will have an ultralight carbon-fiber chassis and an all-electric range of 30 miles, which the car would blow through in less than 9 minutes at its top speed of 205 mph. Two electric motors, one for each axle, give the car all-wheel drive. As the CEO of Tata (which owns Jaguar) puts it: "[This points …

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Nixing pollutants could save $76.6 billion in health care costs

Between medical costs and lost productivity for parents, environmental illnesses in children cost $76.6 billion annually, says a new study in Health Affairs. That’s the cost of all illnesses that are correlated with exposure to pollutants and toxins. (Some of the associations are better-documented than others, but many -- like lead poisoning, which costs $50.9 billion annually -- are well-established.) What could we get if we weren’t spending that money? Well, you could buy a private island in the Florida keys ($18 million) and sit on it in your diamond-encrusted bra ($3 million), reading your Gutenberg Bible ($35 million) and …

Read more: Pollution

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Republican debate: Present Pawlenty vs. Past Pawlenty on cap-and-trade

Tim Pawlenty may have once promoted cap-and-trade as a response to climate change, but now he considers that choice a "battle scar.” Because nothing’s more traumatic than caving to peer pressure. "We all [have ‘clunkers’ on our records], and that's one of mine," he said last night at the first debate in the Republican primary. "I just admit it. I don't try to duck it, bob it, weave it, try to explain it away." He does, however, reverse course, backpedal, disown, and disinherit it. Pawlenty has been particularly vocal about disowning cap-and-trade in recent months, perhaps because he's a bit …

Read more: Politics

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Critical List: House Republicans demand offshore drilling; climate change eating away at food supply

The House voted yesterday to fast-track new offshore drilling lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia. Look for $0.99 gas within a few weeks. As a group, the drilling bill's primary sponsors raked in more than $8.8 million in donations from the oil and gas industry. Climate change is damaging the world's food supply, according to a new study by Stanford researchers. Over the past 30 years, they found, corn production dropped nearly 4 percent and wheat production dropped 5.5 percent. President Obama will tour an Indiana plant that makes hybrid vehicle technology this …

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Rwanda to power itself with plentiful, domestic geothermal energy

If the first thing you think of when I say "Rwanda" is "Don Cheadle looking worried while a radio booms 'Hutu Power!' in a basso profundo," it's time you updated your thinking. The country is currently looking into meeting its need for electricity by tapping into the hot rocks that underlie much of the country, which is in Africa's geologically active Rift Valley. While countries like India try to fuel their growth with the kind of fossil fuels that destroy air quality and are going to run out anyway, Rwanda is taking a cue from its neighbor, Kenya, which estimates …