A MAN ON EMISSION: President Obama got the nation's attention today with two major vehicular announcements. At a morning press conference, Obama ordered the EPA to reconsider letting states set their own stricter auto-emissions standards — an idea shot down by President Bush in 2007 — and ordered the DOT to enact tougher nationwide fuel-efficiency rules for the 2011 model year, as part of GM's and Chrysler's bailouts. The EPA order was expected, since both Obama and John McCain promised it during the '08 campaign, but signing it on just the sixth full day of his presidency added extra symbolism; Obama called it a "down payment" on weaning America off foreign oil. Click here to read the full transcript of today's press conference. (Sources: The Los Angeles TimesThe Boston GlobeThe Detroit News, The Washington Post)

THEM'S THE BRAKES: Automakers and industry advocates have long fought letting states set emissions standards — arguing they'll have to make two sets of cars to accommodate such "patchwork" legislation — and old doubts resurfaced after today's announcement. "The federal government should not be piling on an industry already hurting in a time like this," said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio. Automakers indicated they'll do as they're told, but rapid changes could force them to slow down on larger, more profitable vehicles, like SUVs and pickup trucks. The moves will likely cost consumers and taxpayers more in the short term, but Obama pointed out they're part of a long-term strategy to reduce dependence on foreign oil. (Sources: The New York TimesThe Detroit News, The Christian Science Monitor, Reuters)

STERN MESSAGE: Also today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named Washington lawyer Todd Stern as special envoy for climate change. Stern worked in Bill Clinton's administration and was key in setting up the Kyoto Protocol, which Bush famously scuttled in 2001. He will be the chief U.S. negotiator at U.N. climate-change talks, including the one in Copenhagen this December. "The time for denial, delay and dispute is over," Stern said today. "The time for the United States to take up its rightful place at the negotiating table is here." (Sources: The Washington Post, The Associated Press)

AN INCANDESCENT TRUTH: The incandescent light bulb, mostly unchanged for more than a century, will be phased out in the United States beginning in three years, but 80 percent of the public still doesn't know it, according to an industry survey. LEDs and CFLs will gradually replace the much less efficient incandescents, which will be "virtually obsolete" by 2014. Click here for more enlightenment on CFLs. (Source: AP)

SWAP MEAT: British hospitals could soon be going meatless under a new proposal from the U.K.'s National Health Service. In addition to saving money, the plan is part of an overall objective of cutting the NHS's carbon emissions, which were measured in 2004 at 20.5 million tons and rising. (Source: The Guardian)

PHARM IRRIGATION: While trace amounts of pharmaceuticals have been found in some U.S. cities' drinking water, it's nothing compared with a new report on treated wastewater in India. Researchers found drugs in Indian streams at levels 150 times higher than the highest levels detected in the United States, and one stream was being pumped daily with enough of a single powerful antibiotic to treat every person in a city of 90,000. In addition to uncertain ecological effects, bacteria exposed to the antibiotics in streams will mutate resistance to them, making the drugs less effective in treating human ailments. (Source: AP)


Russell McLendon

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