EXHAUSTED: President Obama's order yesterday for the EPA to reconsider letting states up the emissions-regulating ante still has some folks fuming today. Many in the auto and manufacturing industries are worried it'll force them to make cars so expensive that sales will sag even more — an economic fragility underscored by news that GM will lay off 2,000 workers. Texas Gov. Rick Perry today blasted the "increasingly activist EPA," apparently just for receiving the executive order. But the Natural Resources Defense Council points out that if the Big Three stick to the restructuring plans they gave Congress in December, they'd meet California's emissions standards anyway. The automakers themselves, meanwhile, have been mostly compliant or quiet. (Sources: The Detroit News, The New York Times, Forbes, Agence France-Presse)
BALLAST FROM THE PAST: Ballast water has long coasted by below the public radar, hidden in ships' hulls and too boring and utilitarian to be worth our awareness. Used to weigh down ships' underbellies and keep them balanced, ballast didn't receive much attention until it infamously smuggled zebra mussels into the Great Lakes years ago, wreaking ecological havoc. Ships now must exchange their ballast 200 miles from U.S. shores, but since small or clingy animals can still sneak through — and ships traveling along U.S. coasts aren't affected by the law — environmental groups sued the EPA earlier this month in an effort to force tougher regulation. Meanwhile, scientists are rushing to find ways to sterilize ballast, such as blasting it with ultraviolet light. And the problem is worsening, The Boston Globe reports, as oceans are warming. (Sources: The Boston Globe, USDA, EPA, The Great Lakes Commission, The Associated Press)
PIER PRESSURE: A tiny, wood-eating crustacean called a gribble could help solve the world's energy problems if researchers can channel its appetite for wooden pier posts toward spent grain and straw, which its specialized enzymes can convert to biodiesel. That puts the gribble in the class of "second-generation" biofuels — as opposed to "first-generation" ones like ethanol — since its energy-yielding feasts don't lead to a net release of CO2, and cultivating it doesn't take land and resources from food crops. (Source: The Guardian)
MARSH OF THE PENGUINS: Now that we know global warming is also affecting Antarctica, add emperor penguins to the list of animals like polar bears whose habitats could melt out from under them. If southern sea ice continues to melt, a large colony in Terre Adelie, Antarctica, will dwindle from 4,000 to 300 breeding pairs, scientists warn. And as warming spreads throughout the continent, other penguins will likely also be threatened. (Source: The Times of London)
GORILLA WARFARE: Mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo are growing in numbers despite being surrounded by protracted armed conflict, according to a new census of the great apes released today. Rangers were expelled from the region 16 months ago by rebel forces, and obviously feared for the gorillas' safety, but have now returned to find the group's population has risen from 72 to 81. In Uganda, however, another new survey finds the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park's gorilla populations have dropped 10 percent, from 336 to 302, suggesting that area isn't seeing the rebound scientists had hoped. (Source: AFP)
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