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Critical List: Ghost octopi in the Antarctic; without ethanol subsidies, gas prices rise

The creatures discovered living in thermal vents near Antarctica -- ghost octopi, limpets, yeti crabs -- are le awesome. Two major solar industry groups are merging in order to focus on state-level policies. With ethanol subsidies gone, gas will cost more. Try as it might, Chevron cannot squirm away from responsibility for $18 billion worth of oil pollution damage in Ecuador's rainforest. Green-roofed gas station: STILL A GAS STATION.

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Confused with a chance of flip-flop: Mitt Romney’s views on climate and energy

Mitt RomneyMitt Romney.Photo: Gage SkidmoreWhere does Mitt Romney stand on climate change and energy issues? Brace yourself: He doesn't have that flip-flopper reputation for nothing.

Then

Romney used to be one of the more sane Republicans when it comes to climate change. He would play up uncertainty and use weasel words, but he still acknowledged global warming as a problem.

In his 2010 book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Romney wrote:

I believe that climate change is occurring -- the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to factors out of our control.

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How India is winning the future with solar energy

India set a goal to build 20 gigawatts of solar -- an enormous amount -- by 2020. The haters said at first that the country might not make it, but lately India's plan is seeming smarter than anyone imagined. Plus, it's creating jobs -- both in India and in America! What's leading to its success? Government subsidies that are aggressive … but not too aggressive. Subsides are creating both demand and enough competition to keep prices down. Private sector support. Indian banks are beginning to see solar as a desirable investment, since, like toll roads, they're infrastructure projects that offer …

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Map shows when rooftop solar will be cheaper than grid electricity

What happens if and when current subsidies for solar panels are phased out? Doesn't matter -- the cost of solar photovoltaics continues to fall even as the cost of grid electricity continues to rise, which means eventually the two trends will meet and it will make more sense to put panels on your roof than to continue sending a check to your utility company. In San Diego, this will happen sometime around 2013, according to a new animated map from John Farrell at Energy Self-Reliant States. The high cost of grid electricity and the fact that San Diego gets 367 …

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Critical List: Deaths rise in Philippines flooding; how to recycle your Christmas tree

The death toll for flooding in the Philippines is over 2,500. For the first time in six decades, harbor porpoises are hanging out in the San Francisco Bay. First Solar, a company that makes thin-film solar panels, has spent $2.2 million on D.C. lobbying in the past four years. That’s a pittance by Washington standards. But in California the company spent triple the amount BP did on lobbying. Sick of your Christmas tree yet? Here's how to get rid of it responsibly. And here's how to prepare your house or apartment for the less-fun part of winter.

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Critical List: Oil spill off Nigerian coast contained; demand for solar could flatline

Shell managed to contain the large oil spill in the Atlantic Ocean before it reached the Nigerian coast. In America, thousands of times each year, sewer systems overflow and contaminate the country's waterways. But nope, fixing up aging infrastructure during an economic downturn is a terrible idea, according to House Republicans. Not only are solar panels getting cheaper, they're getting waaaay more efficient. Too bad demand for solar projects could "flatline" next year. Finding Nemo lied to us all: Tropical fish stuck in small tanks aren't friendly and helpful. They turn mean.

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Critical List: Funding for climate research drops; USDA approves drought-resistant corn

The federal budget crisis is turning climate denialism into a vicious cycle: Skepticism contributes to lower funding, which means less research, which means less information, which means more skepticism. The USDA approved a drought-resistant corn, developed by Monsanto. Congress is cutting a federal program that helps low-income people with heating costs by about 25 percent. One more piece of evidence that Alberta is entirely in thrall to oil sands: the Canadian province's premier thinks personal vehicular emissions are a bigger problem than the oil industry. The new federal solar project in Arizona will have one-hundredth of the water usage projected …

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BP spends $20 billion on oil but can’t afford solar

BP gave being green a try, guys, really! They had a solar panel business going, but they had to kick it to the curb, because they just couldn't afford it. Times are tough, you know? Heck, the company only has $20 billion to spend on oil and gas every year. They have to pinch ... well, not pennies, exactly, but $10,000 bills.* Mike Petrucci, chief executive of BP Solar, wrote to his remaining 100 staff last week, saying "the continuing global economic challenges have significantly impacted the solar industry, making it difficult to sustain long-term returns for the company." A …

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Critical List: Seattle bans plastic bags; at least 100 million trees died in Texas this year

Seattle is banning retail stores from giving out single-use plastic bags. Paper bags will cost a nickel. Google is investing $94 million in solar projects. As many as 500 million trees died in the Texas drought this year. India could join the U.S. in officially complaining that China's been selling solar panels at too low a price. In the Chinese province of Guangdong, protestors are pinning air pollution on a coal-fired power plant and want it moved.

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Harnessing the sun’s energy for water and space heating

Rooftop solar systems provide a simple, low-cost way to heat water and space.Photo: London PermacultureCross-posted from Earth Policy Institute. The pace of solar energy development is accelerating as the installation of rooftop solar water heaters takes off. Unlike solar photovoltaic panels that convert solar radiation into electricity, these "solar thermal collectors" use the sun's energy to heat water, space, or both. China had an estimated 168 million square meters (1.8 billion square feet) of rooftop solar thermal collectors installed by the end of 2010 -- nearly two-thirds of the world total. This is equivalent to 118,000 thermal megawatts of capacity, …