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Senator feels bad for BP, wants it to bid on new Gulf drilling leases

Sen. Landrieu in 2011, championing the RESTORE Act, which will direct 80 percent of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill fines to Gulf Coast states and restoration projects
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Sen. Mary Landrieu wants to set BP free.

Pity poor BP.

That's the message from Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La). She is among the lawmakers who say the federal government needs to cut the company some slack and allow it to bid on Gulf Coast drilling leases when they're auctioned off by the Department of Interior later this month. The company was temporarily banned by the EPA in November from bidding on new leases because of the "lack of business integrity" it demonstrated "with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill, and response."

That ban has now dragged into its fourth hellish month and has so far prevented the company from bidding at one entire auction. Enough is enough, as far as Landrieu is concerned.

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Domesticated and wild bees are both in trouble

It's tough times for bees. Over the past few years, colony collapse disorder has wiped out some entire beekeeping operations, and scientists don't understand or agree on the cause. In Europe, respected scientists and agencies are declaring some popular pesticides too dangerous for bees. Stateside, it's another story.

On Tuesday, the U.S. EPA hosted a bee summit to talk about the problem. "The EPA has been working aggressively to protect honey bees and other pollinators," the agency says. "The 2013 Pollinator Summit is part of the agency’s ongoing collaboration with beekeepers, growers, pesticide manufacturers and federal and state agencies to manage potential pesticide risks to bees."

The summit highlighted some sobering details on the scope of the problem, but it also gave a platform to Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont, and Monsanto -- companies that make the very kinds of pesticides that have been linked to bee deaths. This week, Bayer also announced a "bee care tour" and new efforts to "minimize the impact" of neonicotinoid pesticides that mess with bee brains.

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Pink-slime maker’s lawsuit against ABC grows slimier

pink-slime-ground-beef-carousel
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I would probably be bitter, too, if I were Beef Products, Inc. Those are the folks behind uber-gross "lean finely textured beef," aka "pink slime," the ammonia-soaked cow trimmings added as filler to ground beef. During pink slime's heyday, it ended up in more than two-thirds of American hamburgers, at a ratio of up to 15 percent slime to 85 percent burger. That slime was cheap, and so chemical-packed that it sterilized the rest of the meat. Mmm, food!

Fast-forward to today: The origins and grossness of "pink slime" are well-known, fast food restaurants have given up the stuff, and BPI is as pissed as a parent whose kid was unknowingly served pink slime in her USDA-approved school lunches.

According to TIME, only about 5 percent of ground beef contains the "lean finely textured" stuff now. Following an 11-part ABC News series that ran last March and April, BPI says its revenues have dropped from more than $650 million a year to $130 million. The company filed a lawsuit last September against ABC, anchor Diane Sawyer, and other named defendants seeking $1.2 billion in damages. ABC didn't coin "pink slime" -- a USDA scientist named Gerald Zirnstein did, in 2002 -- but ABC and its parent company Disney sure do have deep pockets.

BPI has hired "a high-powered Chicago trial lawyer," according to Reuters, which reports the case "is shaping up to be one of the most high-stakes defamation court battles in U.S. history." The company's founders say they plan to fight 'til the bitter, slimy end, regardless of the cost. "We have to do this," one told Reuters. "We have no other choice."

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Carbon dioxide levels made a big, scary jump in 2012

NOAA's carbon dioxide measurements are taken at Mauna Loa, Hawaii
Shutterstock / Galyna Andrushko
NOAA's carbon dioxide measurements are taken at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose to just under 395 parts per million last year, according to new figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Compare that to the 350 ppm target that many climate scientists and activists say we need to get down to -- activists like those at, yes, 350.org.

Global CO2 levels last year jumped by 2.67 parts per million, which might not sound like a dramatic leap, but it's the second highest one-year increase since record-keeping began in 1959, surpassed only by the 1998 spike of 2.93 ppm.

From the Associated Press:

Read more: Climate & Energy

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New Volvo tech aims to keep drivers from hitting cyclists

Those outside-the-car airbags are pretty sweet, but what if we could make cars automatically stop before they, you know, hit people?

That's what Volvo's up to, with a newly updated auto-brake system that recognizes slow-moving pedestrians and now also fast-swerving bicyclists. "When bicyclists swerve in front of an automobile heading in the same direction, the setup immediately alerts the driver and applies full brake power -- a world's first Volvo says," reports Engadget.

13-03-06Volvobikedetection
Volvo

Volvo's promotional video of the technology in action presents the cyclist as a kind of clueless headphone-wearing dolt, while the car driver appears empathetic. Still, you can at least see how it works:

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Faux meats get a boost from horsemeat scandal

Thanks, horsemeat! Faux meats in the U.K. are seeing a big uptick in popularity after the recent spate of Euro meat contamination.

The Guardian reports:

Quorn, the UK's biggest vegetarian ready meal brand, said it had seen sales growth more than double in the second half of February as shoppers snapped up its burgers, mince and sausages made from a form of fungus. The company is having to increase the number of shifts at its fermenting plant to cope with demand.

Other specialist brands have also enjoyed a surge in sales since January when regulators found horsemeat in ready-made burgers sold in supermarkets. [British supermarket chain] Asda said sales of meat-free foods had been booming in recent weeks as the scandal has widened to include well known brands including Findus and Birds Eye.

Fry's, a South African brand which sells frozen vegetarian sausages and pies mainly to health foods shops such as Holland & Barrett, said sales had risen 30% since the beginning of February, three times the pace of its growth over the last few years.

Quorn's burgers are entirely horse-free.
cizuskas
The ingredients of Quorn burgers don't include horse.

At the same time, sales of frozen meat burgers tumbled. From The Huffington Post:

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LEDs will soon light your home

Looks like a regular old lightbulb
Cree
Looks like a regular old lightbulb, but doesn't suck energy like one.

Forget mercury-laden compact fluorescents. The efficient homes of tomorrow will be lit with LEDs.

Or so say executives at Cree, a lighting company that has started selling affordable LED lightbulbs that outwardly resemble the traditional, energy-hogging incandescent bulbs of old. The company claims that its new 60 watt-equivalent LED bulb, which costs $13 or $14 depending on which variety you buy, lasts 25 times longer and uses 84 percent less juice than does a traditional lightbulb.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Fort Collins, Colo., passes fracking ban; state and gas industry threaten to sue

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says mining companies have every right to frack in this city, despite a ban adopted Tuesday by Fort Collins City Council
Shutterstock / Barbara Tripp
Lovely Fort Collins, where frackers are not welcome.

The city council of Fort Collins, Colo., voted Tuesday to ban fracking within city limits. The move has strong support from residents, but it makes the city the target of lawsuits from the state government and the oil and gas industry.

The new regulations [PDF] will block gas and oil exploration and ban the storage of hazardous fracking chemicals within the city, which is 65 miles north of Denver and home to 150,000 people.

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WA state legislator doesn’t understand CO2, transportation, science

Ed Orcutt
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Ed Orcutt is confused.

Ed Orcutt is a Republican state representative in Washington, and he appears to be confused. As a member of the House Transportation Committee, Orcutt had a somewhat testy email exchange recently with a bike shop owner about a proposed bike fee. Reuters reports:

"You claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride a bike," Orcutt wrote to Dale Carlson, the owner of three bicycle shops in the Tacoma and Olympia areas who voiced concern that a proposed $25 fee on bicycle sales of $500 or more could hurt his business.

"But if I am not mistaken, a cyclists has an increased heart rate and respiration ... Since CO2 is deemed a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclist [sic] are actually polluting when they ride," Orcutt wrote late last month.

Carlson thought Orcutt "was being sarcastic or something." That wasn't the case, but Orcutt soon felt compelled to apologize.

Read more: Cities, Politics

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Proposed CA law: Bike at your own risk

urban-cyclist-carouselBusted streets + incompetent city employees + you + bike = potential lawsuit! At least for now.

In most cities, if you injure yourself because of a neglected or damaged sidewalk or street, you can file a "trip and fall" lawsuit and claim damages. But California may soon change that for bicycle riders.

Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, (R-Dana Point) has proposed a law that would provide total immunity for governments and their employees in the event of a bike accident caused by faulty city infrastructure. Public agencies already have "design immunity" under state law (i.e. you can't sue because of the poor layout of a road or bike lane), but this bill would broadly extend that immunity:

Read more: Cities