CATCH A TIGER BY THE TAILPIPE: President Obama will direct the EPA today to reconsider granting California and 13 other states the right to impose stricter limitations on auto emissions, many papers are reporting. In late 2007 President Bush denied the states' efforts to break from federal regulations, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent letter to Obama showed how differently the new president was expected to view the situation. Obama has called for increasing average fuel-economy standards to 40 mpg; emissions from personal vehicles make up about 25 percent of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. (Sources: The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Detroit Free PressReuters)

OUTSIDE THE BIG BOX: Wal-Mart, once seen as an embodiment of capitalism at its worst, has weathered a public-relations storm since 2005 and emerged leaner and smarter. And, as the NY Times reports, the big-box retailer is now democratizing (i.e., cheapening) environmental sustainability just as it made its fortune democratizing unsustainable consumption. One of just two companies in the Dow Jones industrial average whose share price rose last year, Wal-Mart's massive size has forced major suppliers like G.E. and Procter & Gamble to follow its green lead. (Source: NY Times)

HOME IMPROVEMENT: The industry that spent the last decade gorging on McMansions is now training itself to eat from the real-estate Dollar Menu, as a new class of first-time home buyers is fueling demand for smaller, energy-efficient houses, The Washington Post reports. Just between July and September 2008, the average size of a home under construction fell 7.3 percent, and giants such as Beazer Homes have shrunk the size of homes they're building. (Sources: The Christian Science MonitorWaPo)

ZONE DEFENSE: Once global warming heats seas near the tipping point of the depleted oxygen that leads to "dead zones," the downward spiral would take millennia to reverse, scientists warn in a new study published Sunday. Such a process won't fully begin for a few more generations, but once it does — even if we stop all carbon dioxide emissions — it would take several hundred years for the oceans to begin cooling down again. Meanwhile, vast swaths of sea would be devoid of fish and other marine life. In the worst-case scenario, the devastation from dead zones would peak in about 2,000 years. (Source: Agence France-Presse)

UNDERGROUND ECONOMY: The NY Times' Green Inc. blog reports this morning about the growing trend of growing your own food, a hobby fertilized by rising food prices and increased awareness that food shipped long distances is bad for the climate and the wallet. A practice often mocked or seen as eccentric just a couple decades ago has wedged its way into the mainstream in the U.K. as well as the U.S. For tips from MNN's Vanessa Vadim on making a profit from produce, click here. (Source: NY Times)

Russell McLendon

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