While we were celebrating Thanksgiving, Monsanto had much to be thankful for, too. Last month, the Department of Justice quietly scrapped an investigation begun in January 2010 into anticompetitive practices in the American seed market that Monsanto dominates like an extra-mean, extra-genetically-modified Hulk. Today, Hulk "pleased."
The DOJ didn't even see fit to mark the investigation's end with a press release. News of it emerged from a brief item Monsanto itself issued the Friday before Thanksgiving, declaring it had "received written notification" from the DOJ antitrust division that it had ended its investigation "without taking any enforcement action."
Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm is one of the best there is at breaking down climate science, which is to say that he is one of the best there is at dropping reams of data in your lap that he can demonstrate add up to the apocalypse. Yesterday, when you weren't looking, he dropped a ton of data in your lap in a post whose title ends in an exclamation point. So, you know. It's serious.
For a long time, climate scientists have been concerned about the effects of melting permafrost. By way of quick refresher, permafrost is the layer of frozen ground that is a hallmark of the Arctic. Since the region is usually below freezing, the soil stays frozen to varying depth, which has been a boon for development. Rock-solid soil makes it simple to build towns and roads. Until the permafrost starts to melt -- which it is -- causing some serious problems for those towns and roads.
That's actually the least troubling problem. Of far more concern is methane release. As layers of soil and vegetation that have been frozen solid for centuries thaw, they start to release methane that's been trapped. And, worse, that vegetation starts to decompose, releasing newly created methane. Methane, as we've noted, is far more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, creating a massive negative loop of warming and permafrost thaw and more warming and so on.
What's the U.N. going to do about the problem? Nothing. As Romm notes, a key U.N. report won't even acknowledge it exists.
It's not all about the painted lanes, folks. In an effort to make streets more bike-friendly, more than 16 U.S. cities have embraced traffic signals just for bike-riders.
The lights are standard in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, and over the last couple years have started gaining traction in America, according to a study commissioned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.
Bicyclists can be at risk when entering an intersection on a yellow light that allows enough time for cars to clear the intersection, but not for bikes, the study found. Even traditional green lights may not allow enough time for a bicyclist starting from a stopped position to make it across. Bicycle signals can also help prevent collisions when a motorist is turning right and a cyclist is going straight, by allowing the cyclist a few seconds head start.
And tomorrow the court will hear a case on Los Angeles' filthy storm water, which contains "high levels of aluminum, copper, cyanide, fecal coliform bacteria and zinc," the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said last year. That water flows into the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers and ultimately pollutes the area's beaches.
The fight over L.A.’s dirty water began back in 2008, when the Natural Resources Defense Council brought suit against the county flood control district, hoping to force stricter measures to prevent water pollution. But the county doesn’t acknowledge that the water is its responsibility. From the Los Angeles Times:
As of last year, Texas has a law that requires fracking companies to reveal the chemicals used in their fracking fluids. Unless that fracking fluid is considered a "trade secret" by the fracking company, which, surprise surprise, companies have claimed 19,000 times in the first eight months of this year.
A subsidiary of Nabors Industries Ltd. (NBR) pumped a mixture of chemicals identified only as “EXP- F0173-11” into a half-dozen oil wells in rural Karnes County, Texas, in July.
Few people outside Nabors, the largest onshore drilling contractor by revenue, know exactly what’s in that blend. This much is clear: One ingredient, an unidentified solvent, can cause damage to the kidney and liver, according to safety information about the product that Michigan state regulators have on file.
A year-old Texas law that requires drillers to disclose chemicals they pump underground during hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” was powerless to compel transparency for EXP- F0173-11. The solvent and several other ingredients in the product are considered a trade secret by Superior Well Services, the Nabors subsidiary.
While the ability of fracking companies to hide their ingredients is not a new problem, the Texas law demonstrates its extent. The specific makeup of fracking fluid is one of the innovations that led to the current shale gas boom; it's justifiable -- in the respect that fracking can be justified -- to claim that the combination of chemicals is proprietary information. The question that arises is how to balance that secrecy with public health. (A possible solution: Ban all fracking everywhere! This solution is unlikely to be adopted.)
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has what seems, at first blush, like bad news. Renewable energy consumption in the U.S. is expected to drop 2.6 percent this year. Here's a graph of the dip. (Note: Both the 2012 and 2013 values are estimates.)
But buried in the data is the explanation: The drop is only due to hydropower "[beginning] to return to its long-term average." Take out hydropower, and you have a 4.2 percent increase.
But there's another caveat. The estimates are based on two assumptions.
Well, it is December, everyone. It's the time of year when you just want to stay huddled up cozily inside, maybe with a roaring fire to provide comfort given the … unseasonably warm temperatures outside.
The projected high-temperature map for today looks like this:
Again, it is Dec. 3. Here in New York City, it is expected to reach 64 degrees today, 70 tomorrow. Normal high temperature for Dec. 4 in New York is 49.
We have a correction to make. In an article last month we provided some erroneous information that may have painted an inaccurate picture of the state of the atmosphere. We stated that carbon dioxide emissions rose 2.5 percent in 2011. That figure appears to be incorrect.
Emissions continue to grow so rapidly that an international goal of limiting the ultimate warming of the planet to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, established three years ago, is on the verge of becoming unattainable, said researchers affiliated with the Global Carbon Project. …
[T]he decline of emissions in the developed countries is more than matched by continued growth in developing countries like China and India, the new figures show. Coal, the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, is growing fastest, with coal-related emissions leaping more than 5 percent in 2011, compared with the previous year. …
Over all, global emissions jumped 3 percent in 2011 and are expected to jump 2.6 percent in 2012, researchers reported in two papers released by scientific journals on Sunday. It has become routine to set new emissions records each year, although the global economic crisis led to a brief decline in 2009.
Organic gardens! Canning! Sewing clothes! All the chickens! The modern rise of homesteading (of the hipster variety) has gripped the nation's urban centers. It's been kind of like this:
Self-sufficiency can't be bad, though, right? At least when we're aware of our motivations. Today at Bitch (based in Portland! hm!), Marianne Kirby takes a long look at modern homesteading through the lens of class. She pulls together the history of the 1862 Homestead Act, slave and victory gardens, and '70s recession efforts at surviving tough times, providing context for how the lifestyle has been newly embraced by the petit bourgeoisie.
"For large portions of the poor and immigrant classes, homesteading skills are still survival skills," she writes. "Can you really have a rebirth of something that never actually died out in the first place?"
Kirby calls out "capitalistic homesteading" and product branding. But this isn't just about shopping and culture.
[I]t’s also about policy. My central Florida town recently implemented an urban-chicken pilot program due to a clamor of interest from young, middle-class community members. The program allows people to keep hens, but no roosters. Participants are allowed to raise chickens for eggs, but not for meat. This means urban homesteaders who want to raise eggs in fancy coops have won out — but anyone who needs to raise chickens for subsistence reasons suffers, and is subject to fines and seizure if they get caught.
Governmental limitation of the “wrong” kind of homesteading can be seen elsewhere. In 2011, Denise Morrison’s garden was chopped down by Tulsa, Oklahoma, officials who claimed it violated city ordinances. Morrison grew more than 100 edible and medicinal plants in her yard. Subsistence gardens are more about function than design; they aren’t always pretty, and Morrison wasn’t raising organic fruit and vegetables in neat rows of raised beds. Despite a stay issued by local courts, officials removed every last one of her plants. Unemployed and without health insurance, Morrison had relied on her garden for food and medicine. “They basically took away my livelihood,” she told Tulsa’s KOTV.
AAA released a statement today calling for federal regulators to stop the sale of fuel that contains more than 10 percent ethanol. EPA-approved E15 -- a mix of 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent ethanol -- is supposed to only be used in vehicles made after 2000, but AAA says that it might still cause damage that warranties won't cover, and that 95 percent of people don't even know what E15 is.