Grist List

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

Global warming will make future hurricanes worse, full stop

Ignore the members of the peanut gallery bleating about whether or not we can blame hurricane Irene on global warming. What matters is that in the future, warmer temperatures will mean more moisture in the air, so more flooding. And higher sea levels will make cities, especially New York, substantially more vulnerable to storm surges. Elizabeth Kolbert, in The New Yorker: Are more events like Irene what you would expect in a warming world? Here the answer is a straightforward “yes."

Brit gives NIMBYists the tongue-lashing they deserve

Writing in the Times (of New York, not London), Roger Cohen points out that even though 82 percent of Brits are in favor of wind power, only one in three on-shore projects is ever built, owing to "Not in My Back Yard" attitudes. Apparently Her Majesty’s citizens are all for wind power as long as it happens in one of the colonies. (“We still have colonies, right?”)

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