BIOFOOL'S GOLD: The EPA on Tuesday released its long-awaited proposal for evaluating biofuels like ethanol as a substitute for fossil fuels like gasoline — with $3 billion in yearly federal tax breaks at stake. The result is a balancing act clearly aimed at pleasing everyone, but it also makes clear that ethanol is not the maize-based messiah it once seemed. While ethanol emits fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline when it burns, it also requires large expanses of farmland for its base crops. Clearing and farming that land results in additional emissions, which ethanol proponents had lobbied the EPA to ignore. To the relief of many environmentalists, however, the EPA didn't ignore "indirect emissions," but it did manage to keep ethanolics happy by looking at two scenarios: a 30-year and a 100-year time frame. Ethanol is actually 5 percent worse than gasoline over 30 years, but 16 percent better over 100 years, the agency found. Some environmentalists criticized the 100-year span as an "accounting trick to make corn ethanol look better," but groups on both sides of the issue largely welcomed the report and seemed anxious to influence the final review. The EPA will now seek public comment on the proposal before moving forward. (Sources: Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, GuardianMSNBC)

SWINE FLU: Schools are reopening early, warnings are being softened, and Mexicans who had been quarantined in China despite showing no flu symptoms are returning home to a gradually less apocalyptic Mexico City. The swine flu scare seems to be fading, but the threat still hasn't, officials warn. It could still spread to the Southern Hemisphere, which is entering its winter, and could still return to the North in a second wave. A second person in the United States has died from the virus, although the woman — a U.S. citizen in her early 30s — had "chronic underlying health conditions," according to Texas officials. USA Today's Dan Vergano examines the spread of the H1N1 virus, while the NY Times examines the spread of Smithfield Foods' hog farms around the world, one of which in Mexico is widely suspected of sparking the recent swine flu outbreak. (Sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times)

CASH FOR CLUNKERS: While Congress fights and stumbles over most other climate-related issues so far this session, it is making progress in the so-called "cash for clunkers" program. The idea is to convince consumers to trade in their "clunker" cars for more fuel-efficient ones by offering vouchers; lawmakers hope this will boost new car sales, resuscitate the American auto industry and cut back on U.S. passenger vehicles' contribution to global warming. There's stimulus money set aside for it, and House Democrats have drafted a tentative version they may include in the broader upcoming energy bill. (Source: NY Times)

A LA DERECHO: Violent storms have pummeled much of the American South in recent weeks — there have been more than 30 tornadoes reported since Friday, and a microburst flattened a Dallas Cowboys practice facility on Saturday. But one weather phenomenon responsible for some of the recent destruction has flown largely under the public radar, if not the Doppler ones. In this video, ABC News examines the rare weather event called a "derecho," which is essentially a fast-moving wall of devastating thunderstorms. (Sources: Dallas Morning NewsABC News)

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN: A 400-acre inferno burning in the foothills above Santa Barbara foreshadows an early start to drought-plagued California's wildfire season, the AP reports today. About 1,200 homes have already been evacuated, and hundreds more are threatened. (Source: Associated Press)

TAKE THIS JOB AND LOVE IT: A British man has won Australia's "best job in the world," a six-month gig taking care of a tropical island paradise and blogging to promote the area. Ben Southall, a 34-year-old charity worker with an unnerving grin, will live on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef with his Canadian girlfriend, making $111,000 to lounge around his three-bedroom oceanfront villa and blog about his experiences. He beat out 15 other finalists who have spent the past four days enduring an intensive interviewing process. (Source: AP)

GHOST FISHING: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime — and may keep fishing even longer, whether he knows it or not. Lost or abandoned fishing nets can continue catching fish for years and have become a growing threat to Earth's oceans, a new U.N. report warns. Such "ghost fishing" equipment makes up about 10 percent of all marine litter, the report says, and is getting worse as fishermen begin using more durable materials in their nets and other gear. (Source: Agence France-Presse

Russell McLendon

(Photo: ZUMA Press)

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