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Obama to create largest marine protected area ever, because bigger is better

ocean
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Say what you will about the U.S., when we do something, we do it supersized.

So when Obama decides to make a marine reserve, he doesn't just put your average patch of ocean off-limits to commercial fishing, energy exploration, and other shenanigans. No. It's a massive portion of the Pacific that more than doubles the total amount of protected ocean. In the world. From The Washington Post:

[T]he Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument would be expanded from almost 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles — all of it adjacent to seven islands and atolls controlled by the United States. The designation would include waters up to 200 nautical miles offshore from the territories.

“It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to the pristine ocean,” said Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence who has researched the area’s reefs and atolls since 2005.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Hillary Clinton won’t discuss Keystone XL

Hillary Clinton
JStone / Shutterstock.com

Hillary Clinton is talking up a storm as she promotes her new book on TV shows and at readings across the country, but there's one subject she doesn't feel like chatting about: the Keystone XL pipeline.

As secretary of state, Clinton oversaw some of the protracted decision making over whether to approve the pipeline to carry Canadian tar-sands oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast. So she understands the environmental issues involved. And she also appears to be highly sensitive to the political issues involved.

The Toronto Globe and Mail published a Q&A with Clinton that included an oddly framed question about Keystone and her waffling answer:

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Kochs in the kitchen again

The Kochs are cooking up a new dirty-energy political scheme

The Greenpeace Airship A.E. Bates flies over the location of oil billionaires David and Charles Koch's latest secret political strategy meeting, with a banner reading "Koch Brothers: Dirty Money."
Gus Ruelas / Greenpeace

The Koch brothers have seen Tom Steyer's $100 million bet and they're raising it by almost $200 million more.

Steyer, billionaire hedge-fund manager turned climate activist, set a goal earlier this year of spending $100 million in the 2014 midterm elections to support candidates who care about climate change. So far fundraising for his super PAC has been weak, but the Kochs aren't taking any chances.

The Daily Beast reports that "the billionaire Koch brothers and scores of wealthy allies have set an initial 2014 fundraising target of $290 million which should boost GOP candidates and support dozens of conservative groups -- including a new energy initiative with what looks like a deregulatory, pro-consumer spin." Here's more:

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We’re massively underestimating climate costs, experts warn

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Crank up global temperatures by 30-odd degrees and humans could plummet toward extinction. Yet one of the world's most cited economic models on climate-change effects projects just a 50 percent reduction in global economic output if temperatures rise that much.

That's an example of how substantially we've been underestimating the costs of climate change. So argues a new peer-reviewed paper in The Economic Journal written by Nicholas Stern, author the famed 2006 Stern report on the economics of climate change, and Simon Dietz, both of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

And, in part because we're relying on an outdated economic model, carbon-trading programs are woefully undercharging polluters for their climate-wrecking emissions.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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HBO shocks us again: Did Gina McCarthy just declare war on coal?

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HBO

This weekend, HBO aired something fairly astounding.

“I know!” you’re thinking. “A dwarf murdered his father on the toilet with a crossbow! Siblings had sex with each other! A paraplegic used psychic powers to fight off inexplicably enraged skeleton snow zombies!” (Spoiler alerts, whatever.)

To which I say: SNOOZEFEST! Unlike everyone else writing on the Internet today, I’m actually not talking about Game of Thrones. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy went ahead and all but declared the Obama administration’s war on coal on Real Time with Bill Maher. Admittedly, that declaration came with some prompting, and with a fuzzy pronoun reference that makes it possible for her to say she did nothing of the sort. See for yourself:

Maher: Last week Obama announced the Clean Power [Plan]. Some people called it "The War on Coal." I hope it is a war on coal -- is it?

McCarthy: Actually, EPA is all about fighting against pollution and fighting for public health. That's exactly what this is. Exactly.

[Raucous audience applause, smiles all around.]

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India blames environmental activists for its economic problems

Greenpeace in India
Salvatore Barbera

India's economy is growing, but not as quickly as some pundits had forecast. You might guess that rampant corruption was curbing the country's economic potential. Or maybe you would put some blame on worsening heat waves, which have been knocking out electrical grids. Or perhaps the crippling health effects of pollution from coal power plants?

Well, we've got some surprising news for you from India's intelligence agency: Environmental activists like you must shoulder some of the blame. Your peeps in India have been accused of reducing the nation's GDP by 2 to 3 percent every year. Reuters reports:

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don't frack me, bro

Yes, frackers can forcibly drill your land, even if you don’t want them to

filthy pool
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Jump in. You have no choice.

Forced pooling isn't some kind of college pool party that jocks compel nerds to attend, resulting in wacky hijinks. It's a grim legal tool, dating back nearly a century in some states, that allows drillers to tap the fossil fuels beneath a reluctant landowner's property -- if enough of their neighbors sell their drilling rights. The philosophy of such laws is that subterranean pools of oil and natural gas pay no heed to property lines.

As hydraulic fracturing takes grip across the nation, frackers are taking advantage of state laws that were drafted to allow forced pooling for conventional gas and oil drilling.

Newsweek took a trip to Marcellus Shale country and interviewed Suzanne Matteo and Bob Svetlak, two of the residents who've been stymieing drilling plans by refusing to sign agreements that would allow Hilcorp to frack their land in Pulaski Township, Penn., in exchange for per-acre payments and royalties:

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Genetically engineered lawsuit

Big Food is already suing Vermont over its GMO labeling law

food law
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A Vermont law that will require manufacturers to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients won't take effect for another two years, but industry groups are already attacking it in court.

Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed the bill on May 8, and a lawsuit against it landed on Thursday of this week, just 35 days later.

The suit was filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and National Association of Manufacturers. It argues that the labeling law exceeds Vermont's authority under the U.S. Constitution, and that it would be "difficult, if not impossible," for the groups' members to comply with the requirements by the mid-2016 deadline.

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It's open season

Tesla abandons its patents, aims to spur electric-car revolution

tesla car
Tesla

Tesla, maker of the most critically acclaimed car ever, is going open source.

Every patent that the Silicon Valley electric-car pioneer has ever secured will now be available for any company in the world to use, free of charge.

"Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology," Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote in a blog post published Thursday. "Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day."

"Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. ... We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform," he wrote.

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All wet

Your clothes dryer is a huge energy waster

dryers
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Buy a new major appliance today and it'll be a lot more energy efficient than what was on the market 20 or 30 years ago. Unless, that is, you're buying a dryer.

The Natural Resources Defense Council on Thursday put out an issue brief and call to action regarding money- and energy-wasting clothes dryers. While manufacturers have boosted the efficiency of washing machines, refrigerators, and other appliances in recent decades, their enthusiasm for doing the same thing for dryers has been damp at best. Dryers remain so energy hungry that even a new one can consume as much electricity as an efficient new clothes washer, refrigerator, and dishwasher combined.