INSIGHT FOR SORE EYES: The 2010 Honda Insight will cost $19,800 when it goes on sale March 24. That's 10 percent cheaper than the '09 Toyota Prius, and makes the new Insight the first hybrid to sell in the United States for less than $20,000. With the 2010 Prius expected to raise the bar on hybrids' fuel efficiency, Honda is positioning the Insight as the more affordable alternative. In addition to courting younger drivers, this seems to be a response to inescapable news that not many people are buying cars right now. The Detroit and Washington auto shows earlier this year were hybrid hit parades, but they were plagued by recession-fueled speculation over whether anyone would buy all these fuel-efficient cars automakers are suddenly churning out. By designating the Insight as a compact — the Prius is a midsize hatchback — and undercutting it by $2,200, Honda's aiming for customers who are at least as concerned about economy as ecology. (Sources: Los Angeles TimesReutersNew York TimesBloomberg News)

EYE ON THE SKY: The EPA may soon require a swath of industries to tally and report their greenhouse gas emissions, the agency announced Tuesday, part of a foundation it's building for federal regulation of the gases that fuel global warming. The proposal would mean about 13,000 power plants, factories and other industrial facilities — which account for up to 90 percent of the country's emissions — would have to report their releases of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other climate-changing culprits. The vast majority of small businesses would be exempt from the new rule because their emissions are well below the threshold, the EPA says. (Sources: NY TimesDow Jones)

SWEET DEAL TURNS SOUR: Dropping tax revenues could hamstring Florida's ability to buy 180,000 acres of Everglades, the Miami Herald reports. Gov. Charlie Crist has won widespread support from conservationists for his plan to buy the land from U.S. Sugar for $1.34 billion, but with property values expected to drop across Florida by 12 percent during the 2009-10 budget year — and 14 percent in South Florida — the once-sweet deal is starting to turn sour. "I'm deeply concerned," a top South Florida water manager tells the Herald. "There is just an irony about this. It's the best land to buy at the worst possible time." (Source: Miami Herald)

ASH FRAY: Fly ash just can't stay put lately. Another lagoon brimming with the coal byproduct sprung a leak Sunday night, this time near the Potomac River in West Virginia. The spill was only 4,000 gallons — paltry compared with December's 1.1 billion-gallon spill in East Tennessee — and while the Potomac was mostly spared the toxic effects of lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic, some of the toxin-laden sludge did fall into the river's North Branch. Also this week, the EPA announced plans to begin reviewing the hundreds of unregulated coal-ash ponds around the country, saying it will introduce regulations by the end of the year. (Sources: Baltimore Sun, Associated Press)

DRIVING A HARD BARGAIN: It turns out you actually can be both a beggar and a chooser. Despite having received billions in bailout money, GM and Chrysler spent a combined $7.3 million on lobbying during the last three months of 2008. The problem, argue many consumer and taxpayer advocates, is the difficulty in making sure the companies aren't using taxpayer money to lobby the public servants who've bailed them out. "There's not enough transparency in the bailout program to know what they're using the money for," a consumer advocate tells the Washington Post. "Using government money to lobby against consumer and environmental protections is wrong." In the last three months of 2008, GM spend $3.9 million Chrysler another $3.4 million on lobbying for the bailouts they eventually received, as well as on regulatory issues such as tailpipe emissions. Ford, which didn't ask for a bailout, dropped about $2.3 million during the same period, while Toyota spent $1.3 million and Honda $945,000. (Source: Washington Post)

BEACH SLAP: Volunteers collected nearly 7 million pounds of trash from the world's beaches and waterways during a single day last year, according to a report the Ocean Conservancy released Tuesday. Among their pickups: 3.2 million cigarette butts, 1.4 million plastic bags, 942,000 food wrappers and containers, and 937,000 caps and lids. In addition to injuring or killing thousands of marine animals every year, such a deluge of debris helps contribute to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The group's next cleanup effort is scheduled for Sept. 19. (Sources: AP, HowStuffWorks)

Russell McLendon

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