BACK ON TRACKS: President Obama will fly to Tampa, Fla., after tonight's State of the Union address, aiming to show his dedication to getting the economy back on track by getting Americans back on tracks. In his first post-speech appearance, Obama will award $8 billion in federal stimulus grants to 13 major high-speed rail corridors, touting the plan as a way to create jobs in fields like manufacturing, planning and engineering, while also reducing auto emissions that contribute to climate change. The 13 chosen corridors haven't been announced, but the setting of Obama's visit means the proposed high-speed link between Orlando and Tampa is most likely one of the winners. Another 800-mile-long rail line from Sacramento to San Diego and a nine-state line in the Midwest are also seen as likely candidates. Overall, the Obama administration says the plan will benefit 31 states, and Florida officials say it could create some 23,000 jobs in their state alone. "Really what it does is connects regions together," a Florida Chamber of Commerce official tells the WSJ. "Just to think about a day when getting to and from those three places is as easy as hopping on a train, and the businesses that come into a place around that, that will attract business long-term." (Sources: Associated Press, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal)
BUSTING A CAP: Congress' attempts to pass a cap-and-trade climate bill are on ice, and many lawmakers on Capitol Hill even consider the idea dead, the [skipwords]New York[/skipwords] Times reports. Watching President Obama's health-care plan disintegrate over many long months, backers of a federal climate bill are now lowering their sights, shooting for more modest ways to forestall climate change such as boosting energy efficiency and supporting nuclear power. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has been the only Republican to work with Democrats on the matter, and he tells the Times that economic realities and inherent faults killed cap-and-trade. "Realistically, the cap-and-trade bills in the House and the Senate are going nowhere," he says. "They're not business-friendly enough, and they don't lead to meaningful energy independence." Graham is working with Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., on a new bipartisan set of climate and energy measures, but in the absence of a climate bill in the near future, the EPA appears likely to push onward with plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the existing Clean Air Act. (Source: NY Times)
CLIMATE COURT: If the halls of Congress aren't the arena where climate change will be fought, maybe it's in the courts. The NY Times also reports today about the growing number of small-scale lawsuits piling up against utilities and fuel companies from people and communities affected by climate change. From an eroding barrier island in Alaska to storm-stricken property owners along Mississippi's Gulf Coast, more and more plaintiffs are seeking compensation for a nebulous problem they say has been willingly unleashed by energy producers and providers. Although some of the cases are thrown out as frivolous, a University of Houston climate-law specialist says the issues are alive in three circuits of the federal court system, meaning "the game pieces are being set for eventual Supreme Court review." (Source: NY Times)
KING-SIZED WINGS: Monarch butterflies endure the longest known two-way migration of any insect on Earth, traveling nearly 5,000 miles between northern North America and Mexico in pursuit of warm weather. Some monarchs, however, have settled in tropical places warm enough to keep them there all year long, and scientists at the University of Georgia have discovered a surprising result of this divergence — migrating monarchs have wings that are up to 20 percent larger than their sedentary cousins. Previous studies have shown that birds and insects that make long migrations often evolve longer wings, but this is the first proof of different populations of the same species evolving varied wing shapes based on their lifestyle. "We were surprised that average wing size differences between migratory and non-migratory monarchs were so striking and consistent," says one of the researchers. "Our findings indicate that large, elongated wings are better for monarchs that undertake long distance flights." (Source: BBC News)
ANTI-ANTIOXIDANTS: Grocery stores and Internet banner ads have become crammed with products touting their antioxidant qualities in recent years, creating an entire industry around "superfoods" like açai berries, walnuts and pomegranate juice (pictured). While foods containing antioxidants have been shown to fight cancer and slow down aging in cells, it's not as simple as just shoveling as many antioxidants into your mouth as you can fit, warn a team of researchers from Kansas State University. Studying ways to boost oxygen delivery to skeletal muscle during exercise, the researchers were toying with ways to use antioxidants for this purpose when they began noticing that a flood of the plant-based chemicals can actually impair muscle function. "I think what a lot of people don't realize is that the antioxidant and pro-oxidant balance is really delicate," says one of the study's authors. "One of the things we've seen in our research is that you can't just give a larger dose of antioxidants and presume that there will be some sort of beneficial effect. In fact, you can actually make a problem worse." (Source: e! Science News)
Want to receive the day's eco-news in your inbox? Click here to sign up for the Daily Briefing newsletter.
Photo (Acela Express train in Queens, NY): Bizuayehu Tesfaye/AP
Photo (U.S. Capitol): Globe Photos
Photo (U.S. Supreme Court): Evan Vucci/AP
Photo (monarch butterfly): U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo (POM pomegranate juice): ZUMA Press
The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.