I'M SORRY MS. JACKSON: The EPA will have to wait for the reform Lisa Jackson promised last week, as a Wyoming senator is holding up her confirmation hearing to become the agency's administrator. Sen. John Barrasso's main sticking point is reportedly the ambiguity about the new chain of command President Obama has set up. Since Obama appointed former EPA administrator Carol Browner as "climate czar" — which doesn't require an election or congressional confirmation — Barrasso wants to know what the line of authority will be. He actually asked Jackson about that at last week's hearing; she said she would seek Browner's "advice and counsel," but that "the final EPA decisions will be made by the EPA administrator." As MNN's Shea Gunther reports today, Barrasso is also blocking the confirmation of Nancy Sutley, tapped to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. For more background on the nominees, see MNN's green-team guide. (Sources: Congressional Quarterly, The Associated Press, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times)
NO DOI: The Department of the Interior has been a hotbed of corruption in recent years, and became one of the more devastated battlefields in the Bush administration's infamous "war on science." New Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pledged to change that today in his first address to department workers, using much of the same language that has made scientists around the world giddy the last three days. (Sources: AP, New Scientist, SEED, NY Times)
MORE GORE: The Nobel prize winner, Oscar winner and former vice president will appear before the U.S. Senate next week simply as climate expert Al Gore, making a case to the Foreign Relations Committee about the science of global warming and the need for U.S. leadership. Sen. John Kerry announced today that Gore will appear before the committee on Jan. 28, Gore's first major public appearance since his former rival, George W. Bush, left Washington Tuesday. (Sources: NY Times, The Boston Globe, Agence France-Presse)
TREES LEAVE: Trees in the American West are dying at twice the rate they were just a few decades ago, and the most likely culprit is global warming, according to a new study. Since large forests slow global warming by absorbing CO2, this is kind of like a family of mice eating your house cat. Rising temperatures have reduced winter snowpack, caused early snowmelt and prolonged summer droughts, possibly stressing forests to the breaking point. To make matters worse, Western forests are already plagued by bark beetles — a tiny insect blamed for wiping out millions of acres of pines, and whose meteoric rise in recent years is also blamed on global warming. (Sources: TIME, CNN, LiveScience)
VITAMIN CO2: Pepsi has decided to take the initiative and find out how green its oranges are, the NY Times reports today. Anticipating a public interest in companies' carbon footprints, the parent of Tropicana hired experts to calculate orange juice's carbon footprint. It's 3.75 pounds of CO2 for each half gallon, but now Pepsi is trying to figure out what to do with that information, besides pitch it to newspapers, presumably. Surprisingly, Tropicana's biggest single emissions source was growing the oranges themselves, as nitrogen fertilizer requires natural gas to make and can produce its own greenhouse gases once it's spread on fields. (Source: NY Times)
KILLER CATERPILLARS: Northern Liberia is being invaded by tens of millions of inch-long caterpillars, the country's worst plague in 30 years, a U.N. agency said today. The swarm is damaging crops and contaminating water supplies in the already-impoverished country, and some villagers reportedly can't reach their farms before being engulfed by the pests, described as "black, creeping and hairy." A representative from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organizations called the plague a "national emergency," and warned it could grow into a regional crisis if not quickly contained. (Sources: AP, AFP)
ONE FISH, TWO FISH ... Smithsonian scientists have discovered a new species of fish, sort of. It turns out what was previously thought to be three separate species are actually the male, female and juvenile of the same species — but they look nothing alike. The offspring, formerly known as tapetails, live near the surface and grow long streamers that scientists say probably have a purpose, although they don't know what it is. Adults live in the ocean depths — females develop a mysterious tissue separate from the skin, and adult males don't even eat. They gorge themselves as larvae, and in adulthood their jaws fuse shut, making them "basically a set of testes looking for the female," one of the researchers said. (Source: AP)
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