Brian Merchant

Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Incoming? House Passes Bill Mandating Decision Within 4 Months

The Keystone XL pipeline is unique in that it poses both a supreme environmental threat and is gravely symbolic; a harbinger of a certain fossil fuel-dependent doom, if you will. If constructed, the pipeline would carry tar sands crude all the way from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In all, the pipeline would span over 1,600 miles. And tar sands crude, being literally the dirtiest fuel source we know of, is nastier stuff than regular oil, and has been found to be more likely to cause leaks and spills. And since we already see plenty of those with the regular pipelines (the Yellowstone pipeline rupture just weeks ago), there's plenty of reason to be concerned.

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What Crucial Environment and Health Programs Were Sacrificed in the Budget?

Late last Friday, with just an hour and a half or so left on the clock, Democrats and the GOP struck a budget compromise that prevented a shutdown of the federal government. The 'debate', if you want to call it that -- though I suppose it was more civil than, say, the 'debate' over health care reform -- focused around two things: How much was to be cut from the federal budget, and which 'riders' would the GOP be allowed to attach to it? The spending cuts were mostly political theater -- the debate over cutting either $40 or $60 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget isn't exactly a substantive one. No, the fight was really over riders -- which would do things like de-fund Planned Parenthood or roll back our nation's environmental protections, specifically. So now that we have a 6-month budget eked out, what kept and lost its funding?

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Obama to Let 13 Oil Companies Drill Offshore With No Environmental Review

If there was anything that Obama impressed upon the American public in the wake of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, it was that if offshore drilling was to continue, it must be safer and better scrutinized. A few months ago, the administration said that it would require every oil company seeking to drill to pass a strict environmental review before getting the go-ahead from the feds. But it appears that this isn't quite the case for every drilling project -- news just broke that 13 companies will be allowed to drill under the same environmental review standards that stood before the BP Gulf spill.

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The Political Impact of the BP Gulf Spill So Far

In the wake of just about any major disaster, there are bound to be a bevy of pronouncements from politicians -- condemning it, exploiting it, explaining it, and so on and so forth. And in a major ongoing disaster, where, say, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil are pouring into a fragile ecosystem every day, those statements and reactions are even more complicated and harder to pin down. But the germ of genuine policy and action can also be planted during the course of such a disaster -- so in an attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff, let's look at the political impact of the gulf spill so far.

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The 7 Stupidest Statements Made About the BP Gulf Oil Spill

The BP oil spill is on par to outpace the Exxon Valdez oil spill in terms of size, impact, and devastation, which is no small feat. The Valdez spill cost billions of dollars to clean up, killed hundreds of thousands of animals, and registered a debilitating effect to the coastal ecosystem. And yet, we see, once again, that there's no shortage of people who seem to forget easily, or are downright ignorant of the catastrophe an oil spill of this magnitude presents. To illustrate, I bring you the 7 stupidest things said about the BP oil spill so far . . .

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US Approves First Offshore Wind Farm

After nine agonizing years of intense debate and political battles, the first offshore wind farm to be built in the United States has finally been approved. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar traveled to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to announce that, despite some fierce opposition (from the likes of the Kennedys and Mitt Romney, no less), the 450 megawatt, 130 turbine, $900 million Cape Wind project is becoming a reality.

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The Five Grossest American Fast Food Ideas

Today is the day. Call it the heart attack heard 'round the world. Yes, today KFC's already-infamous Double Down--the bacon and cheese "sandwich" where the bun is comprised of two chunks of fried chicken--hits fast food chains and mall food courts across the nation. I already tipped my hat/suppressed a gag reflex at KFC's nauseatingly audacious ad campaign to push a product they know is sort of gross. So today, in order to celebrate the Double Down's official inauguration into the fast food hall of fame as sarcastically as possible, I present to you five disgusting ideas the fast food industry sold America--and the often hilarious videos that take them on.

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Obama Expands Offshore Drilling Far Beyond Bush

Well, we knew the announcement was coming, and sure enough, here it is: Obama has unveiled his offshore drilling plans, and to the eyes of the environmentally conscious, it ain't pretty. Most of the provisions were revealed last night in a leak to reporters. But in case you missed it, the new plan opens up vast swaths of American coastline: some on the east coast and some around Alaska for drilling--a more expansive offering to oil companies than even Bush ever authorized.

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Mountaintop Removal Mining Has Obliterated 700 Miles of US Streams

700 miles. That's a long ways--nearly a quarter of the entire length of the United States. And that's the length of the nation's streams that have been filled in with debris--utterly ruined by the devastating practice known as mountaintop removal mining.

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48 Percent of Fast Food Soda Fountains Contain Bacteria That Grew in Feces

Seems like the reasons to not eat at fast food restaurants just keep on piling up. We've heard all about the unseemly practices that go into obtaining their meats and innumerable other horrors. But now, let's look at the quality of the soda fountains--another staple of the fast food experience. A recent study has revealed that a full 48% of soda fountains at fast food restaurants contain coliform bacteria--a bacteria that grows in feces. Oh, and 11% contained E. Coli, too.

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