December 16, 2011
Keystone XL pipeline protest

Keystone XL pipeline protest     Photo: tarsandsaction/Flickr

Keystone XL Given Second Life

Congress wants decision on pipeline soon

Plans for the contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which were put on hold by President Obama in November, may have gained a second chance this week from Republican lawmakers in Nebraska and Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a payroll-tax bill, which is widely supported by Democrats, that included a provision to accelerate a decision on the pipeline. The move followed statements last week from Nebraska Republicans supporting Keystone XL under a revised route. President Obama has said that he will veto any move to accelerate the approval process. A version of the House legislation is now under consideration in the Senate.

Read more at the Washington Post


Dasani water bottle

Dasani water bottle     Photo: Kain Road Cul de Sac/Flickr

Grand Canyon to Ban Plastic Bottles

In wake of leaked emails, NPS relents

The National Park Service announced on Thursday that it will ban the sale of plastic bottles in the Grand Canyon, reversing a 2010 decision made under pressure from Coca Cola. Vending machines and hotels at the park will stop carrying bottled water next year, and other national parks could soon follow suit. In November, the New York Times reported that plans to ban the bottles were reversed at the last minute after NPS head Jon Jarvis met with executives from Coca Cola. The company which sells Dasani water bottles in national parks and is a major donor to the National Parks Foundation.

Read more at The New York Times


Aksel Lund Svindal

Aksel Lund Svindal     Photo: Kevin Pedraja/Flickr

FIS Testing Ski Racing Air Bag System

Svindal, Guay, collecting data

An Italian manufacturer is collecting data for an air bag system that could help protect ski racers in high-speed crashes. The company, Dainese, has installed chips to track speed, acceleration, angular rotation, and other data in the back protectors of World Cup racers including Aksel Lund Svindal and Erik Guay, who will wear them in a race at Saslong this weekend. While Dainese already manufactures a version of the airbag for motorcycle racing, they say developing a similar system for skiers will be more complicated because of difficulties in modeling the precise moment of a fall. Still, the company believes it can develop a working unit in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Read more at Deseret News


Texas Longhorn

Texas Longhorn     Photo: Ed Schipul/Flickr

Texas Cow Population in Decline

600,000 head lost in drought since 2010

The number of cows in Texas, the United State's largest cattle producer, has decreased by 600,000 since January 1. The Texas AgriLife Extension Service attributes the fall to this year’s drought, the worst in Texas history, and says it is the largest drop in cattle numbers on record in any state. The decline represents 12 percent in an original population of 5 million and is a function of increased slaughter and the export of cattle to states with more grass. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that the price of beef will increase by 5.5 percent in 2012.

Read more at The Washington Post


Mt. Hunter, Alaska

Mt. Hunter, Alaska     Photo: Mark F. Levisay/flickr

Climber Makes 6th Attempt on Mt. Hunter

Japanese man aims for first winter solo

Japanese mountaineer Masatoshi Kuriaki is back in Alaska to make his sixth attempt at a solo, wintertime first ascent of Mt. Hunter. Kuriaki hopes to realize a decade-long goal of completing the Denali "family"—Denali, Mt. Foraker, and Mt. Hunter—in winter and without support. Rarely climbed, even in the summer, Mt. Hunter and Mt. Foraker are known for being technically demanding, remote, and brutally cold. After summiting Denali in 1998, Masatoshi spent four winter seasons attempting to climb Mt. Foraker before succeeding in 2007. His five previous attempts on Mt. Hunter were thwarted by bad weather, avalanches and hanging glaciers. This season, Masatoshi will trek in enough supplies to allow him 100 days on the mountain, 17 longer than his previous attempt. 

Read more at KTNA