POWER STRUGGLE: Climate legislation has been simmering on the Senate's back burner for months, but despite repeated delays and an ongoing national focus on health-care reform, that low boil has begun revealing some cracks in the bill's opposition. The energy industry, for example — once a unified group opposed to virtually any caps on carbon emissions — is fracturing, with many natural gas producers turning against their former oil-industry allies. Natural gas emits less carbon than either oil or coal, giving that sub-industry an upper hand in what many increasingly see as an inevitable cap-and-trade regime. Some utilities now also support the idea of regulating CO2 emissions, pitting nuclear-heavy companies like Exelon against others that remain reliant on coal. Exelon is one of several companies that has recently quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the pro-business group's negative stance on climate legislation. And even the hunting and fishing industries — longtime Republican stalwarts not often aligned with environmental causes — are beginning to jump onto the carbon-capping bandwagon, Reuters reports, in an effort to conserve the wilderness where they hunt and fish. "If you go out and hunt at the same time in the same season and the same place every year, then you understand the changes that are happening," says an official with the National Wildlife Federation, which claims 420,000 sportsmen as members in 46 states. (Sources: New York Times, Reuters)
MAKING A SPLASH: Government officials in the Maldives gave the world a preview of their country's not-too-distant future on Saturday, donning scuba gear and holding a Cabinet meeting 20 feet underwater. President Mohammed Nasheed used hand signals to communicate with 13 Cabinet members as they met on the seafloor of a lagoon off the island of Girifishu. The stunt was an attempt to draw public attention to the plight of the 1,200-island archipelago — which is the world's lowest-lying country, averaging only 7 feet above sea level — as climate change pushes up sea levels around the planet. The Maldives has been lobbying more urgently for global action on climate change in recent months, as December's U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen looms closer. "What we are trying to make people realize is that the Maldives is a frontline state," Nasheed said Saturday. "This is not merely an issue for the Maldives but for the world." (Sources: Huffington Post, Guardian)
COW POWER: The "balloon boy" saga isn't the only B.S. to come out of Colorado lately — in fact, the state produces tons of it, most of which is useful to more than just FOX News and CNN. The city of Greeley, Colo., has been awarded $82,000 from the governor's office to create a clean-energy park that produces power from the area's ample cow manure. Thousands of cattle raised around Greeley's outskirts generate tons of manure, which emits methane, the main ingredient in natural gas. By heating the manure, the new energy park would provide power for a cheese factory and other businesses, some of which organizers are hoping to attract to the area with the promise of cheap "renewable natural gas." If it proves successful, it could become a model for how rural, agricultural states could generate power to help offset spikes in energy prices caused by regulations on carbon emissions from cheap fossil fuels, namely coal. (Source: AP)
MOON WATER: Scientists recently found water on the moon, but how did it get there? It's the product of a bizarre chemical reaction that astronomers say they didn't expect — electrically charged particles flying out of the sun collide with oxygen that's present in dust grains on the lunar surface, fusing into water molecules. Most of these hydrogen nuclei produced by the sun are caught up in the moon's oxygenated dust — known as regolith — to form a sparse scattering of water on the moon's surface. While this water is too spread out for us to see directly, NASA scientists have speculated that it could one day be used to sustain a lunar colony of humans, perhaps as a staging area for a future mission to Mars. (Source: ScienceDaily)
NEW PLANETS: Astronomers have discovered 32 new planets outside our solar system, bumping the number of known "exoplanets," or extrasolar planets, beyond 400. While none seem habitable or even remotely similar to Earth — most are many times larger, dwarfing even Jupiter — the flood of new planets only improves our chances of finding ones with aliens living on them. "I'm pretty confident that there are Earth-like planets everywhere," one University of Geneva astronomer tells the AP. "Nature doesn't like a vacuum. If there is space to put a planet there, there will be a planet there." (Source: AP)
LITTLE UNGREEN MEN: Humans' search for alien life has often involved listening for extraterrestrial radio signals, but that may be an outdated technique, according to a study recently published in the journal Astrobiology. Now that humans have largely switched to cable and satellite communications, it seems unlikely that aliens would find us by hearing our radio signals, so why should we expect to find them that way? Thankfully there's a less dated, more universal way to check for E.T. — pollution. CFCs or other artificial compounds in a distant planet's atmosphere would suggest alien life was fouling it up much like we do here on Earth, the researchers say, and light pollution might even be detectable from some of the denser alien metropolises. (Source: New Scientist)
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Photo (natural gas drill): Argonne National Laboratory
Photo (President Mohammed Nasheed): ZUMA Press
Photo (cow): U.S. Department of Agriculture
Photo (moon): NASA
Photo (Voyager I): NASA
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