Discovered: Energy self-sufficiency could be just 18 years away; mutant amphibians spotted in Oregon; cow pee linked to antibiotic resistance; more plants won't curb carbon emissions.
U.S. energy independence comes into view. Presidents have been talking about how to sever our ties to insidious foreign oil for decades with no real feasible plan for making promises of energy independence a reality. But now that pipe-dream might actually be attainable, and as soon as 2030, according to the latest report from the International Energy Agency. Right now, the U.S. gets about 60 percent of its crude oil through imports, which is actually the lowest figure since 1995. Much of this rise in domestic oil comes from tapping shale reserves. And natural gas nets are up due to hydraulic fracturing. "The foundations of the global energy systems are shifting," says the IEA's chief economist Faith Bitol. Still, none of this addresses the question of what we'll do when the oil wells and natural gas reserves run dry. [Scientific American]
There are eight—count 'em, eight—legs on this frog. In a discovery that's somehow even more freakish than Blinky the three-eyed fish from The Simpsons, University of Colorado-Boulder ecologist Pieter Johnson found an eight-legged frog in an Oregon pond. Johnson has been studying amphibian malformations since 1996, discovering mutant creatures in 17 states so far. Environmental changes in frog habitats have been making them more vulnerable to infection, which means we're likely to see more of these octo-limbed freaks. The Ribeiroia ondatrae flatworm causes the extra legs, making cysts break out in young tadpoles that result in development problems. These multi-limbed creatures have trouble fending off predators and finding food for themselves, which worries Johnson because amphibians are, he says, "the most threatened group of vertebrates on the planet." [High Country News]