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A Challenger to Solar; Drought in Colorado

The New York Times on combined heat and power, The Denver Post on a looming drought, The Associated Press on floating architecture, The Guardian on the complexities of carbon footprints, and Fast Company on saving ocean wildlife

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The New York Times on a clean competitor to solar "Combined heat and power," or CHP, is the clunky name for an alternative energy that's emerging as a competitor to solar in home energy production. Kate Galbraith runs down the technology, which improves the efficiency of existing electric systems. "These systems use the heat left over from generating electricity to produce either hot water, which circulates through pipes to nearby buildings to provide heat, or steam, which can be used for industrial purposes," she writes. While CHP systems have taken off in a big way in post-tsunami Japan, manufactures are struggling to sell the technology in the U.S. even though it pairs well with natural gas, abundant with the fracking boom, and is often less costly than installing solar panels. "In the United States, a basic obstacle is lack of knowledge."

The Denver Post on a drought brewing in another state Last year, Texas received national attention for its devastating drought; this year the same might happen with Colorado. Colorado State Univerisity scientists confirm this week what residents suspected, that the vast majority (98 percent, it turns out) of Colorado is in drought, with the two water basins supplying Denver at half their usual levels. "Conditions have changed drastically since October, when 60 percent of the state didn't have any drought categories," reports The Denver Post. That has officials worried about a terrifying repeat of the 2002 drought in 2012 or if conditions persist in 2013, which "saw the most devastating wildfire season in state history."

The Associated Press on floating architecture Traditionally, architecture (like dams) has been employed to keep water away from dwellings, but with the growing threat of rising sea levels architects are designing structures that go more with water's flow. The AP explains new, amphibious designs being drawn up for low-lying cities, which run the gamut from the pragmatic (floating homes in the Netherlands and hospitals on steel stilts in Thailand) to the eccentric (floating golf courses in the Maldives and a buoyant mosque in Dubai). "An increasing number are coming on stream, and while earlier blueprints appeared to be the stuff of science fiction, advocates say leaps of imagination are still needed given the magnitude of the danger."

The Guardian on the contours of your carbon footprint Measuring one's carbon footprint, the catchall term for the impact of someone's or something's gas emissions on heating the Earth, is not as easy as just counting carbon dioxide. As well as including methane, nitrous oxide, and even hot water vapor being included in heating the atmosphere, nearly everything leading up to a certain activity needs to be taken into account. "Even for simple activities such as burning a litre of petrol, which releases a known amount of CO2, there are still uncertainties about the emissions caused by extracting and refining the petrol before it was burned." The backlog of carbon-producing activities, as The Guardian explains, gets even longer with the example of producing a plastic toy.

Fast Company on untethering wildlife preserves There's something jarring, almost oxymoronic, about a "mobile wildlife preserve," which is perhaps why the idea is so intriguing. "The stationary reserves do little to protect highly mobile animals, like most of the fish, turtles, sharks, and seabirds," argues Stanford University's Larry Crowder. Instead of only static sections of the ocean being designated protected parks. What's needed, he argues, is for governments to begin moving protected areas along with migrating population. His first proposal is to protect plankton, small fish, turtles, and major predators in a part of the north Pacific in this way.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.