DARK ENERGY: The fossil fuel industry is preparing to step up its fight against what it deems an existential threat: the U.S. government. The Houston Chronicle reports on the battle plans of oil and gas executives, who had been planning for months to fight environmental and regulatory measures under the new administration, but are now scrambling to adjust their game plan under President Obama's budget, which abolishes many of their tax breaks and adds an array of new fees. "We won't have to worry about regulatory burden if you can't make a profit doing what we do," one pessimistic energy executive tells the Chronicle. Despite souring public opinion and growing evidence of climate change, the industry plans to launch an intense lobbying and advertising campaign to convince even historic foes that it's an economic necessity. The Associated Press reports on a similar fight from "King Coal" against its detractors, who have helped choke the flow of new coal-fired power plants in the country down to a trickle in recent years. And the New York Times examines the practicality of "clean coal," finding that while the technology may be feasible, the costs aren't. (Sources: Houston Chronicle, Associated Press, NY Times

DOUBT: The New York Times reports today from the International Conference on Climate Change, a gathering of several hundred global warming skeptics in a Times Square hotel this week, sponsored by the Heartland Institute. The conference has attracted a diverse smattering of like-minded thinkers, such as Czech President Vaclav Klaus and MIT professor Richard Lindzen. Despite the fossil fuel industry's defensive maneuvering mentioned above, companies such as Exxon Mobil — which donated more than $600,000 to Heartland between 1998 and 2006 — have withdrawn their support, both financially and idealistically. "Major corporations are painting themselves green around global warming," says Joseph Blast, president of the Heartland Institute, to the NYT, adding that contributions overall have kept rising. For more on Klaus' take on climate change and a look into this type of reasoning, see MNN blogger Karl Burkhart's coverage of the ECO:nomics summit. (Source: NY Times)

SURF WARS: Florida's fragile beaches, buckling under the weight of towering hotels and a thousand overburdened flip-flops, are practically begging to erode, and the ocean is happy to oblige. People normally combat this with dredging — scooping up sand from elsewhere, mixing it into a slurry and pumping it back to shore. A coalition of surfers, however, has won a rare victory against beach dredging in Palm Beach, arguing that it not only would destroy their prized breaks and sand bars, but that it has drastic environmental consequences, covering many crucial creatures with an unnatural coating of sand. A variety of environmentalists and beach advocates are rallying behind the surfers' cause, hoping it's a sign of shifting sands in the way people manage beaches. (Source: NY Times)

IN TRANSIT: More American rode public transit in 2008 than in the past 52 years, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Last year's 10.7 billion trips on mass transit represented a 4 percent increase from 2007 and was the highest since 1956. APTA says the growth indicates increasing demand for public transportation, and is pushing Congress to double the amount it currently spends on such projects. (Source: Bloomberg News)

GIBBON TAKE: The AP reports this morning about a Connecticut man who has been charged with illegal possession of a siamang, an endangered type of gibbon native to Malaysian and Indonesian rain forests. Pierce Onthank, who heads an oil and gas drilling company based in Texas and Pakistan, has a history of alleged mistreatment of exotic animals, including a river otter, two-toed sloth monkeys, lemurs, and iguanas. (Source: AP)

INSECTS ON THE BRAIN: A colony of ants isn't all that unlike a human brain, writes Alok Jha in the Guardian today. They can make individual decisions, but their pheromone-fired groupthink enables some of their most awe-inspiring feats, such as developing architecture and agriculture millions of years before human ancestors were walking upright. Similarly, each one of our brains' neurons is like an ant — individually competent, but not very impressive. Put them together, though, and they're capable of inventing the Internet and going to the moon. (Source: Guardian)

Russell McLendon

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