The Science of Sustainability

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Server Farms

Server Farms

Server farms – those huge collections of computers that run the networks of Google, Yahoo, and other companies – are enormous users of energy. QUEST looks at efforts to make the information superhighway more efficient.

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Bike to Work

Bike to Work

With gas prices rising, parking a headache, and a desire to reduce their carbon footprint, more and more San Franciscans are cycling. What are cities like San Francisco doing to help people who want to pedal rather than drive?

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Mercury Poisoning: Interview with Dr. Jane Hightower (web only)

Mercury Poisoning: Interview with Dr. Jane Hightower (web only)

Dr Jane Hightower was one of the first Bay Area doctors to start diagnosing mercury poisoning in her patients. In this audio clip, she explains how to know if you might be getting too much mercury from the fish you eat. And, she tells us what she feeds her 10-year old twin boys. (Hint: No tuna fish sandwiches in the Hightower home.)

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Mercury in the Bay – Part 2

Mercury in the Bay – Part 2

Last week, we took a look at how mercury enters the San Francisco Bay. This week: Now that it's here, how is it affecting us? Quest talks to local fisherman, a physician, and a Bay ecologist to find out how we're contending with the Bay's worst toxin.

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Doggie DNA: Human Genetics through Dogs

Doggie DNA: Human Genetics through Dogs

It's often said dogs and their owners resemble each other. Now, researchers at UC-San Francisco are looking for those connections on a whole new level. They're searching for the genes that cause common psychiatric problems in humans – by looking at the DNA of dogs.

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Cement – A Dirty Business

Cement – A Dirty Business

California has 11 coal-fired power plants, all used to heat limestone into cement — making us one of the biggest cement-producing states in the country. These kilns produce 95% of the state's airborne mercury pollution and 2% of its greenhouse gas emissions. Mostly, they've slipped under the radar of regulators, but that is changing fast.

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Urban Heat Islands

Urban Heat Islands

Buildings, concrete, asphalt, tar roof tops and industry have caused cities to reach higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas. Now, green-minded architects are taking cooler approaches to their designs.

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Wild Prices for Wild Salmon

Wild Prices for Wild Salmon

Consumer appetite for salmon is booming at a time when the supply is about to dry up. With an impending year-long fishing ban in place, prices for wild salmon — that is, salmon caught in the ocean off California and Oregon — are expected to skyrocket. What are the alternatives for shoppers?

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Chevron's Plans

Chevron's Plans

Richmond city officials are expected to approve a controversial upgrade to the Chevron refinery plant. Quest reports on the decision and explores the debate around Chevron's billion dollar proposal.

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It's Not Easy Going Green

It's Not Easy Going Green

Many Bay Area cities are trying to clean up their acts by putting in place new green initiatives. But from San Jose to Berkeley, some city leaders are finding out it's not always so easy to turn over a new leaf.

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Stamping out the Apple Moth

Stamping out the Apple Moth

The Light Brown Apple Moth is seen as a threat to California crops. Now the State Department of Food and Agriculture is planning to spray a synthetic hormone over Bay Area neighborhoods this summer to stop the moth from reproducing, but some angry residents are worried it would be unsafe.

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The Toxic Business of Dry Cleaning

The Toxic Business of Dry Cleaning

A new law is forcing California's dry cleaners to switch to eco-friendlier cleaning technologies. But what will the cost of environmental progress be for these small family businesses? And will customers put up with the changes?

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Sewage Happens

Sewage Happens

Last month, a Mill Valley wastewater treatment plant dumped five million gallons of sewage into the San Francisco Bay. The real shocker: Sewage spills happen all the time, even in the eco-conscious Bay Area.

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The Right to Sunlight:  Solar vs. Redwood Trees

The Right to Sunlight: Solar vs. Redwood Trees

In Silicon Valley, a battle between neighbors has turned into a different kind of face off: solar energy versus trees. It turns out that growing redwood trees can actually be a crime in California, if they block solar panels… as one couple in Sunnyvale found out the hard way. David Gorn reports.

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Cashing in on Carbon

Cashing in on Carbon

This month, the Federal Trade Commission is looking at carbon offsets. Demand is booming for these green credits, where customers cancel out their greenhouse gases emissions by paying companies to preserve forests or subsidize renewable energy. Critics wonder, however, if consumers are really getting what they are paying for.

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An Asteroid's Close Call

An Asteroid's Close Call

This has been a month of dashed hopes for astronomers around the world. Last month it seemed possible that an asteroid the size of a Boeing 737 jet was due to collide with Mars on January 30. Today that seems far less likely, but, as Amy Standen reports, astronomers consider it a wake up call.

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Super Laser

Super Laser

QUEST visits the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, where scientists will soon aim the world's largest laser at a target the size of a pencil eraser. The goal? Nuclear fusion — and, they say, the answer to the world's clean energy needs.

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The New Clean Tech

The New Clean Tech

If investment is any guide, California's renewable energy companies are leaping into the new year. Investors poured billions of dollars into clean tech firms in 2007 to catapult green technologies to market. Lauren Sommer followed the trail to several Bay Area companies to see what breakthroughs lie ahead.

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Cutting Tailpipe Emissions: What Next?

Cutting Tailpipe Emissions: What Next?

California is making headlines around the world this week after federal environmental officials denied the state's request to slash greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. Amy Standen went looking for answers about what other options the state can pursue.

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Paper or Plastic?

Paper or Plastic?

Last November, San Francisco became the first city in the country to outlaw plastic check out bags at large supermarkets, arguing that the bags are dangerous to marine life and hard to recycle. But some studies say paper bags can be just as harmful for the environment. So why target plastic?

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