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David Lynch would like you to stop littering OR ELSE

Perhaps to make up for the bad rap he gave to woods, owls, sycamore trees, and the little pine weasel in Twin Peaks, David Lynch apparently also directed a 1991 PSA about littering. It's almost exactly what you would expect from a David Lynch PSA about littering -- there's even weird jerky dancing AND coffee! -- except there should probably be scarier lighting and at least one torch song.

Read more: Cities, Pollution

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Does cap-and-trade produce technological innovation?

Cap-and-trade is dead, but some folks never tire of kicking the corpse. Corpse kickers received a boost last week from a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which purported to show that cap-and-trade programs "do not provide sufficient incentives for energy technology innovation."

This strikes me as a classic example of a press release overhyping and oversimplifying a paper to get attention. Consequently, I bet a lot of people are going to misread it, and discussion of cap-and-trade, to the extent it still exists, will get even more caricatured and divorced from reality. Too bad -- the paper is actually pretty interesting. It's worth teasing out what it does and doesn't show.

Scientist Margaret Taylor of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analyzed two existing cap-and-trade programs: the national U.S. market for sulfur dioxide (SO2) and the nitrogen-oxides (NOx) trading program in Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. (Right off the bat, we need to be careful. The SO2 and NOx programs can be instructive, but a robust carbon trading system would be very, very different, incomparably larger and more complex.)

In particular, Taylor looked at the relationship between those two cap-and-trade programs and the rate of technological innovation. Here's the story she tells:

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Get the lead out: Have we already forgotten this lesson?

house with "lead keep out" signPhoto by Steven Depolo.

This post last week on The New York Times' Motherlode blog should have gotten more attention. In the federal fiscal 2013 budget, lead poisoning and prevention programs are taking a huge cut -- for all intents and purposes, they're destroyed. This is the kind of discretionary spending cut that the Obama administration had to offer up to D.C.'s austerity caucus to get a budget at all. To understand how dumb it is, you have to know something about the history of lead.

The elimination of lead from gasoline is a paradigmatic triumph of American environmentalism. A danger to health was discovered by scientists. Public-health advocates and greens pushed and pushed for decades, often futilely, to get the government to take action. When EPA finally cranked up efforts to do something about it, the agency was viciously attacked. Industry shills said it was an agenda to control Americans' lives, driven by scientists who wanted research money and a cabal of extreme environmentalists. They said there were no viable alternatives to lead and the regulations would raise gas prices and destroy the economy. They paid their own scientists to produce counter-evidence. They flooded politicians with money. Over time, EPA weathered the assault and put standards into place -- a "phasedown" program in 1973, followed by stronger standards in 1982, 1985, and 1995.

Read more: Politics, Pollution

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Why less arctic ice means more mercury in your babies

Here is a thing I definitely would not have understood without this animation.

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Mexico City’s urbanization threatens ancient ‘floating gardens’

A man works his plot in the chinampas of Mexico City. (Photo by Eneas De Troya.)

Chinampas, or floating gardens -- small artificial islands full of crops, built up on shallow lake beds -- once sustained the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, producing multiple harvests every year. They still exist in Mexico City, feeding its rural citizens -- for now.

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New revelations about how Fukushima almost forced the evacuation of Tokyo

During the most dire period in the Fukushima meltdown, the president of Japanese utility company Tepco tried to evacuate all workers at the stricken reactor. If that order went through, it would have precipitated a worst-case scenario and ultimately the evacuation of Tokyo.

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Rick Santorum rewrites the history of clean air in America

Here is a video of Rick Santorum lying about the history of clean air in America and specifically Pittsburgh.

The entire clip is full of howlers, including an applause line in which Santorum, who denies the science of climate change, says that environmentalism is "anti-science." But here's the one that grabbed me:

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The Economist uses stale right-wing ideas to attack government regulation

Regulations kill jobs? Yeah, we've heard that one before.

Cross-posted from the Center for Progressive Reform.

The Economist’s Feb. 18 edition offers a cover package of five articles on “Over-regulated America” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Our British friends want you to know there’s a problem here in the States that needs fixing:

A study for the Small Business Administration [SBA], a government body, found that regulations in general add $10,585 in costs per employee. It’s a wonder the jobless rate isn’t even higher than it is.

You can almost feel The Economist’s pain: The jobless rate should be a lot higher than it is, if the premise about the costs of regulations is correct. Surely if the regulatory burden were actually 12 percent of GDP -- that’s what the SBA numbers say, if you draw them out -- things would be far worse than they are. Ideologically unable to consider the obvious alternative -- that regulations don’t add $10,585 in costs per employee -- The Economist just, well, “wonders” aloud.

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Swamp Thing yells at kids about littering

You gotta admit, Swamp Thing is basically the perfect anti-littering spokesman (especially now that Captain Planet has gone off the rails). I mean, he's essentially made out of the environment. In this so-bad-it's-awesome 1989 PSA, he lectures children about throwing plastic cups in the water.

Read more: Pollution

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Industry mocks college students for fighting bottled water

College campuses across the country have been fighting to ban bottled water from campuses, and the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is fighting back. The trade group put together this pretty inane video, which we recommend you watch for the giggles. (We particularly like the soundtrack’s switch to new age-y happy music the first time a bottled water vending machine makes an appearance.)

The IBWA has two main arguments, laid out with all the intellectual grace of a freshman composition class paper dashed off an hour before it's due.

Read more: Pollution