Friday Finds: Follow the Money
Climate change skeptic awash in oily money
A Greenpeace investigation has found that climate change denier Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, has received more than $1 million in payment from major U.S. oil and coal companies over the past decade, reports the Guardian. Though Dr. Soon denies that any group influenced his studies, the fact that every new grant he has received since 2002 has been from oil or coal interests has raised more than a few eyebrows. Kert Davies, a research director at Greenpeace, summed it up well by saying, "A campaign of climate change denial has been waged for over 20 years by big oil and big coal. Scientists like Dr. Soon, who take fossil fuel money and pretend to be independent scientists, are pawns."
So who are some of the benefactors shoving money into the good doctor's coffer? None other than ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and the Koch brothers. That's right. In addition to doing some behind-the-scenes fundraising for a number of Republicans who sit on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, many of whom have vowed to restrict the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Charles G Koch Foundation gave Soon two grants that ran about $175,000 in 2005/2006 and again in 2010, according to the Guardian. Apparently when it comes to pushing an anti-environmental agenda, the Koch brothers are going all in.
It’s no doubt that 2011 has been a year of extreme weather (and the year’s barely half over). All of those tornadoes, floods and droughts have taken an emotional toll on all Americans, especially those hardest hit by these events. Not surprisingly, this flood of record bad weather has also take a significant economic toll, reports Time. According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, extreme weather costs the U.S. about $485 billion per year, which adds up to almost 4 percent of the country’s GDP. And, as we continue to release more carbon emissions into the atmosphere, the weather will only get worse and the cost to repair more steep. As the author notes, “If a broken planet isn't enough to mobilize us, a flat-broke country ought to be.” Find out how Earthjustice is encouraging the use of the cleanest, cheapest and most available source of energy to help weather this inevitable storm.
Plastic additive feminizes mice
Bisphenol A, that plasticizing additive ubiquitous in baby bottles, plastic containers and dental sealants, among other things, is getting quite the rap these days. So far, researchers have linked BPA to a plethora of health effects in rodents like obesity and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The latest research shows that in addition to causing genital defects in males, BPA exposure can also cause male mice to be more anxious and less able to properly navigate a maze—two traits that are high on a female mouse’s list of top 10 qualities in a man, reports PBS. According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, female mice rejected the BPA-exposed males at a rate of 2-to-1. That’s worse odds than most online dating sites. Rats!
Despite the dull economy, wind turbine sales for homes are really taking off, reports USA Today. In 2001, a paltry 2,100 units were sold, but in 2009 that number ratcheted up to nearly 10,000 units. Solar power also recently had its day in the sun with a new report that found that solar power's benefits to society far exceed its cost (and this doesn’t even include its value in curbing greenhouse gas emissions). According to researchers, solar power’s ability to reduce peak demand on the energy grid, hedge against fuel price increases and enhance grid security enhances solar power’s monetary value by a factor of 10, reports Grist. Solar also has a societal value by cutting the economic losses during blackouts. With these latest numbers, it’s no surprise that a new Google analysis has found that the cost of delaying the clean energy economy could cost the U.S. trillions of dollars. The sooner the U.S. starts harnessing the sun, the less likely we’ll all be left in the dark.
At least a third of your pillow could be weighed down by bugs, dead skin and dust mites, according to new research. After testing hundreds of pillows in London hospitals, Dr. Authur Tucker found “high levels of ‘living’ contamination on the outside of pillows, reports the Daily Mail. But this isn’t a problem only limited to hospitals As the nightly resting place for warm bodies, pillows serve as germ incubators in many households, especially on those fluffy featherweights that rarely get washed (Hello, dorm pillows!). To sleep sound at night, experts recommend washing synthetic and down pillows every couple of months. Or, if that’s not an option, people can always stick their pillows in the freezer. Sweet dreams!