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Friday Finds: Bankers to Blame for Boost in Gas Bills

Wall Street speculation increases gas prices
Subscribers to the “drill, baby, drill” mantra may want to set their sights on bankers rather than environmentalists as the culprits driving up gas prices, reports Mother Jones. According to confidential regulatory data first leaked to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Wall Street speculators that hold investments in millions of barrels of oil helped artificially raise the price of gas to $4 per gallon in 2008. To put a stop to that practice, Sanders recently introduced legislation that would “set firm speculation rules for crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and heating oil” designed to “diminish, eliminate or prevent excessive speculation,” reports Mother Jones. Of course, if passed the legislation will do nothing to stem the tide of all of the external costs of gas consumption—like increased asthma attacks and carbon pollution—but at the very least it will put a bee in the bankers’ bonnet of dubious business practices.

Coral could be key to sunscreen pill
In just a few years, sun worshippers tired of slathering sunscreen all over their pasty bodies before heading to the beach may be able instead to pop a pill that comes straight from the ocean, reports Mother Nature Network. Scientists have long known that coral reefs, which need sun for photosynthesis, make their own sunscreen to protect themselves against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Better yet, the fish that feed on the coral also get the sunscreen benefits. Recently, researchers at King’s College London cracked the code on the amazing genetic and biochemical processes behind this sunscreen compound and eventually hope to create a synthetic version of this compound for humans. Says project leader Dr. Paul Long, “We are very close to being able to reproduce this compound in the lab, and if all goes well we would expect to test it within the next two years.” Surf’s up! 

Children’s lice-filled heads doused with banned agriculture pesticide
As if being sent home for having bugs in your hair wasn’t bad enough, children infested with head lice are treated with pesticide-based shampoos that may be harmful to their health, reports iWatch News. One common prescription treatment for head lice and scabies is lindane, a pesticide banned by the EPA for use on crops and cattle that’s been linked to cancer, seizures and death. Two other pesticides commonly found in lice treatments are permethrin and malathion, which have been linked to neurotoxic problems like seizures. According to iWatch, in a 2009 memo the EPA classified permethrin as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” in some conditions. Yet many parents who use these treatments on their kids are unaware of the health effects, or even that these treatments contain pesticides. In addition, many kids are treated for lice when they don’t actually have any, which suggests that when it comes to deciding whether to use toxic chemicals on their children, many parents may be in over their heads.

Dalai Lama disses dirty tar sands
Recently, the Dalai Lama joined ranks with high profile figures like NASA climate scientist James Hansen and actress Daryl Hannah in speaking out against a controversial tar sands pipeline, reports ThinkProgress. Like many others, his holiness the 14th opposes the construction of the new Keystone XL tar sands pipeline because it will radically worsen global warming. Together with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and seven other Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the Dalai Lama wrote President Obama, who won the Nobel prize in 2009, challenging him to keep his promises to prevent increased climate pollution. They wrote, “The night you were nominated for president, you told the world that under your leadership—and working together—the rise of the oceans will begin to slow and the planet will begin to heal. You spoke of creating a clean energy economy.”

In addition to locking the U.S. into decades of reliance on dirty tar sands oil, the recent White House approval of the pipeline could signal the go-ahead to other fossil fuel industries that the U.S. isn’t stepping up regulations on dirty fossil fuels anytime soon, reports iWatch News. The decision has angered environmentalists, who argue that tar sands oil is extremely resource and energy intensive, and releases approximately three times more carbon dioxide than conventional crude, according to research from the University of Ottawa. In addition, a pipeline spill threatens the Ogallala aquifer, a giant underground water formation that stretches across eight Midwestern states and provides drinking water to 2.9 million American. According to iWatch, so far one section of the pipeline that’s already built has leaked 12 times, a performance rating that suggests that industry declarations of stellar pipeline safety practices are full of holes.

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