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Critical List: Shale gas could squash renewables; scientists fiddle with photosynthesis

New York City promises to double the percentage of waste diverted from landfills within the next five years. Increasing shale gas production could squash renewable energy development. The Obama administration released a draft plan for protecting the country's oceans. Scientists are fiddling with photosynthesis in order to make biofuel. The Navy is trying to prevent the release of a report detailing toxic exposures at a Marine camp. To ameliorate climate change, cut methane and soot, not just carbon, a new study says.

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Critical List: ‘Super fracking’; pollution threatens Lake Titicaca

Natural gas companies are looking into "super fracking," which uses larger, deeper cracks and draws power from our planet’s yellow sun. West Virginians, Pennsylvanians, and Ohioans are all hoping that Shell will choose to build a petrochemical refinery in their state, because the plant promises jobs. Maybe it's time to abandon Ulysses S. Grant's laws for federal land, which dictate that hard-rock mining is the best use for any plot. We could be losing Lake Titicaca to urban waste. Cool it, you pervs, this is is serious! Green gadget designers are still obsessed with bamboo.

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New York State legislators get $1.3 million from gas industry

New York State is considering whether and how to move forward with hydrofracking in the state, and by TOTAL COINCIDENCE the natural gas industry has spent $1.3 million -- a fortune in state-level campaign finance -- in donations to the New York legislators who will decide its fate. According to an analysis by Common Cause New York, most of the money went to candidates for state legislature. Republicans received more than twice as much as Democrats; Gov. Andrew Cuomo's campaign committee received more than $150,000. That doesn't put the gas industry that high up among sectors donating to Cuomo. But …

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Critical List: No Grand Canyon uranium mining; Supreme Court case on wetlands

The Obama administration will announce today that it's limiting uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. And the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a major environmental case in which the Sacketts, a couple backed by the conservative property rights group Pacific Legal Foundation, claim the EPA unfairly restricted their use of the property by determining that it was a wetland. A Japanese whaling ship is holding three activists who boarded it to protest its activities. Is there a bubble in shale gas stakes? Walrus and seals have been showing up dead in the Arctic, with strange sores and hairless patches …

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Critical List: Patagonia becomes a Benefit Corporation; oil industry threatens Obama

Patagonia has become a Benefit Corporation, which means it can prioritize goals other than profit. The oil industry is sending a message to Obama: Approve the Keystone XL pipeline, or face the political music in 2012. It is possible to avoid earthquakes when disposing of fracking wastewater. It's just really, really expensive. The U.S. isn't the only country leery of the E.U.'s carbon trading airline scheme: China's protesting, too. The U.S. and Europe are threatening to embargo Iranian oil. Iran's threatening to cut off the Straight of Hormuz, an important oil shipping route. The upshot of this situation, if it …

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Fossil fuels receive 250 different kinds of subsidies

Even though renewables get federal subsidies for research and development, they’re still at a disadvantage when competing with fossil fuels, because fossil fuels receive even more subsidies. We basically all knew that already, but few of us realized it was quite this bad. Turns out fossil fuels get 250 different kinds of subsidies, and they’re getting more all the time. According to research by GigaOm's Adam Lesser, buried in a 351 page report from the International Energy Agency is the fact that fossil fuels currently receive subsidies via "at least 250 mechanisms." And unlike federal subsidies for renewables, which are …

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Santorum vs. Romney: The climate is screwed either way

Romney and SantorumRomney & Santorum, both bad news for the environment.Photos: WEBN TV's Political Pulse & IowaPolitics.comRick Santorum, who surged at the last minute to give Mitt Romney a real run for his money in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, is less green than his rival, and decidedly nuttier when it comes to climate change. But let's not split hairs here. Both men will staunchly defend fossil fuels, and neither is likely to do much of anything to fight global warming.

Mitt Romney has expressed qualified concern about climate change over the years, and then vacillated about how much of it is human-caused and whether we should try to do anything about it.

No wobbling of that sort from Santorum -- he's an out-and-out denier. "There is no such thing as global warming," he told a smiling Glenn Beck on Fox News in June 2011. That same month, he told Rush Limbaugh that climate change is a liberal conspiracy: "It's just an excuse for more government control of your life and I've never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative."

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Yeah, looks like fracking caused Ohio quakes

The Youngstown, Ohio area has had 11 minor earthquakes since last March, and according to seismologist John Armbruster of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, you can blame those rumbles on fracking. A fracking wastewater disposal well has been identified as the source of the quakes -- extraction companies inject the briny wastewater into the well, and the pressure from that injection ripples outwards, Armbruster says. The injection well that caused the Youngstown quakes has been shut down, but the area can still look forward to another year of uncharacteristic seismic activity. Brine wastewater dumped in wells comes from drilling operations, including …

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Critical List: Fracking ‘almost certainly’ caused earthquakes; wolves save trees

The disposal of fracking wastewater "almost certainly" was the cause of all those earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio. Oil is washing up on the shores of Nigeria; Shell denies it's from the massive oil spill that occurred last month. BP wants Halliburton to cover the $20 billion it paid to clean up and otherwise deal with the Deepwater Horizon spill. Wolves save trees. (Related: Deer are sort of like giant squirrels.) We love a good mass die-off mystery story. It just came out that those dead blackbirds last year in Beebe, Ark., were likely killed by fireworks. Now we can start …

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Don’t count on that shale gas revolution

Over at some raggedy-rag called Slate, energy futurist Chris Nelder takes a deep dive into the available data on how much natural gas we can get out of the rocks beneath the U.S. via fracking. His conclusion is that we could run out of natural gas in a decade, especially if we make a mass transition to it as a source of electricity and transportation fuel. (Our proven reserves, as opposed to our potential or likely ones, are only good for a decade’s worth of energy.) Or we could run out in 100 years, which is the supply all the …