GROUNDHOGWASH? Despite the heroics last night by his home-state Steelers, Punxsutawney Phil had gloomy news this morning, seeing his shadow and predicting six more weeks of winter. Of course, Phil almost always sees his shadow; since 1887 he has predicted that six-week extension 90 percent of the time, albeit with only 39 percent accuracy. But he may be on to something this year, possibly using his shadow to foreshadow the La Niña conditions that scientists expect to continue "at least through March." This is the second straight winter plagued by La Niña, which is essentially a reverse El Niño and helped make 2008 the coldest year this decade. And despite contradictory predictions from rival groundhogs such as Staten Island Chuck and Gen. Beauregard Lee, cold weather and storms are expected for much of the East Coast today, with New York City possibly getting 4 inches of snow tonight. (Sources: The Pittsburgh Post-GazetteThe Associated Press, Slate, Science, The Guardian, The Staten Island Advance, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, USA Today, NY Daily News)

PRAIRIE REQUEST: Their Eastern cousins the groundhogs are in the spotlight today, but prairie dogs have a more urgent message: They're fading fast, having lost 90 percent of their historical range in the West due to dwindling habitat, shooting and poisoning. WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group, graded each state where prairie dogs live on its conservation efforts; none received an A, and most grades dropped from the previous year. (Source: AP)

JOB ONE: Following President Obama's announcement Friday of the Middle Class Task Force headed by Vice President Joe Biden, even more attention has turned to what kind of jobs the economic stimulus plan will create. From building a nationwide smart energy grid to bridges and train stations, optimism abounds that green jobs could jump-start the economic engines again. Advocates say spending $6 billion on weatherization would create 465,000 jobs and insulate 2 million homes. The Los Angeles Times reports today on calls to launch a conservation-minded program similar to FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps, which helped bolster America's national parks system and connect a generation of young men with nature. Fortune even reported last week that the wind-power industry now employs more people than coal. But before we pop the champagne, The Christian Science Monitor points out that's a misleading comparison. (Sources:, MSNBC, LA TimesFortuneCS Monitor)

COMPETITION: That time-honored American incentive may be the best way to encourage energy efficiency, The New York Times reports. A California utility's experiment in comparing customers' energy consumption with their neighbors proved so successful that other electricity providers around the country are trying it, and a social psychologist who has studied the best ways to promote energy efficiency agrees that spurring competition works better than any other motivation. (Source: NY Times

Russell McLendon

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