NUKE REBUKE: Nuclear power is often heralded as the pollution-free answer to global warming. While it does dodge the carbon problem, as well as virtually all other emissions issues, it adds a twist of its own: nuclear waste. The New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor look this morning at President Obama's decision to abandon Yucca Mountain, a volcanic ridge 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas that Congress picked in 1987 to house the nuclear industry's spent fuel, much of which will remain radioactive for up to a million years. Yucca wasn't chosen scientifically in the first place — legislators picked it from a list — and later realizations that the waste could one day contaminate water flowing through the mountain injected some uncertainty into the plan. On top of that, enough waste has already built up to fill Yucca, meaning another solution would soon be needed anyway. Sen. John McCain grilled Energy Secretary Steven Chu about it at a recent Senate committee hearing, characterizing the turn away from Yucca as a reflection of the administration's opposition to nuclear energy. Chu and Obama have said they plan to find a better option for dealing with the waste, but the added delay does hamstring the growth of new nuclear power plants, which had been gaining momentum under President Bush. (Sources: NY Times, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, Associated Press)

CAR CLASH: The Los Angeles Times reports this morning on Thursday's EPA hearing over the regulation of auto emissions, a debate that pits automakers and car dealers against environmentalists and several states, led by California. Even though bailout-silenced companies such as GM and Chrysler skipped the hearing, there was plenty of remaining acrimony to go around, with car-state lawmakers and industry advocates complaining about economic effects. (Source: LA Times)

VISITING LECTURERS: While American interest in capping and trading carbon emissions is a relatively new, and sudden, turn of events, the process has been going on in Europe for years. That was the impetus for a gaggle of European leaders to condescend on Washington this week, offering tips and encouragement to Obama administration officials, but especially to congressional leaders. "There is a recognition that your Congress, your elected people, will have to buy into whatever solution will be found," said Denmark's climate and energy secretary, Connie Hedegaard. "That's why we're all here, to try to make it as ambitious as possible." World officials are taking an especially close interest in how the United States handles the issue this year, since that will inform talks at this December's U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, which is designed to produce a replacement treaty for the Kyoto Protocol. (Source: Washington Post)

TRIMMING BUSH'S LEGACY: USA Today examines this morning how, and how quickly, Obama has been dismantling Bush's environmental record. On issues such as Yucca Mountain, mercury pollution, endangered species, and oil and gas drilling, the administration has won lots of green stars. But that's the easy work; Obama still must deal with many concurrent issues while maintaining enough political capital to push through his heaviest environmental and energy goals, including cap-and-trade legislation. USA Today's Traci Watson follows her feature with a helpful quick-reference chart outlining what Obama's done so far on his green agenda, and what still looms ahead. (Source: USA Today)

CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT: "Macho B," the rare North American jaguar that scientists radio-collared last month after finding it snared in a trap meant for bears and mountain lions, has been killed. Scientists tracking the tagged cat noticed it wasn't moving as much as it should, and when they finally caught up with it and tranquilized it, they discovered it was suffering from extreme kidney failure, possibly aggravated by the stress of its recent ordeals with humans. Deciding there was little hope for its long-term survival, they euthanized it. At 15 or 16 years old, Macho B was thought to be the oldest known jaguar in the wild; North American jaguars once roamed from the Appalachians to the San Francisco Bay, but hunting and habitat loss have shrunk their range in the United States down to just New Mexico and Arizona. (Source: AP

PORK SPENDING: It's like shooting fish in a pork barrel — earmark-mocking GOP lawmakers are having a field day with some of the pet projects fattening up the $410 billion spending bill now winding through Congress. But the silliest-sounding projects aren't always wastes of money, and scientific research sometimes gets panned the most. One project that's been particularly targeted is a $1.7 million earmark for studying pig odor in Iowa, which, despite its irony as "pork," isn't frivolous. The state's $12-billion-a-year pig-farming industry is made up of many concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, which are notorious for sending noxious smells in all directions. The AP talks to some Iowans who have gagged over porcine stenches for years, including Sen. Tom Harkin, who introduced the earmark and invites skeptics to come to Iowa and smell for themselves. (Sources: Arizona RepublicAP

MICROBE-MANAGEMENT: A Purdue University researcher has developed a device that can kill harmful bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella in packaged foods by generating a room-temperature plasma field, ionizing the gases inside. Two high-voltage, low-watt coils are placed outside a sealed food package, forming a charged cloud of gas that ionizes oxygen and turns it into ozone. In about 30 seconds to five minutes, the ozone kills the bacteria and then returns to its original state. The whole process uses less electricity than most incandescent light bulbs, and doesn't cook or alter the outside of the container. A patent is pending as the researcher next works to develop a commercial prototype that could work on large quantities of food. (Source: ScienceDaily)

  

Russell McLendon

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