COMMUTER STIMULATION? As Congress prepares to convene Tuesday, Grist's Kate Sheppard looks ahead to the looming economic stimulus plan and wonders how green it'll really be. Although Obama seems keen on mass transit, and has raised optimism among its supporters, he didn't mention it during his Saturday radio/YouTube address, which focused heavily on the stimulus. The growing emphasis on quick, "bipartisan" economic relief may translate to prioritizing existing infrastructure over new commuter-rail or trolley projects. (Sources: Grist, The Atlantic, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The New York Times)
ENFORCEMENT RECKONED WITH: Following a recent report detailing decades of mismanagement, a conservation group is now suing to make the EPA enforce the Clean Water Act and restore Chesapeake Bay, the nation's largest estuary. The president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says enforcement could clean up the bay within five years. (Sources: The Washington Post, The Associated Press)
LIKE A SPONGE: It won't be long now until dolphins evolve opposable thumbs and invade land. First it was their unprovoked mobilization of troops at the border. Now they're developing tools: Georgetown scientists have found a group of bottlenoses that use sponges while hunting in sea-floor sand, allowing them to scare up more hiding fish without rubbing their noses raw. The researchers believe a single dolphin discovered the technique and passed it on to her young, beginning a cultural tradition in the group. While the dolphins apparently teach the sponge method to all their young, it was mostly female offspring who actually used it. The males using the technique did so "discreetly" and avoided other males. (Source: The Times of London)
POWER PLANTS: Optimism about Obama's energy plans combined with rising oil prices bumped up alternative energy stocks today, the Associated Press reports. While the incoming administration is partial to ethanol, that technology's pitfalls have kept many clean-fuel proponents looking for alternatives with less baggage. One possible solution is cultivating marine algae, which are the planet's most efficient organisms for absorbing light energy and converting it to biomass oil. And Yale's Environment 360 blog features an article today about genome-sequencin' Craig Ventner and his new venture: "synthetic biology." By tinkering with microbes' genes, scientists can engineer new species that eat sugarcane and produce biodiesel. While such bacterial fuel still emits CO2, one synthetic biology company says its biodiesel will produce 80 percent less of the greenhouse gas than regular diesel does. (Sources: AP, ScienceDaily, Yale Environment 360)
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