DRY, DRY AGAIN: While temperatures in Minnesota have delved below -40 in recent days, California thermometers are registering 130 degrees higher, breaking into the 90s this week. That, combined with little rain and two-thirds the normal Sierra Nevada snowfall, has climatologists worried the state is headed for a third straight year of drought; it's already on track for one of the driest Januarys ever. That's a grim forecast considering California is already reeling from the recession, and may face a $42 billion deficit by June 2010. (Sources: USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press)

AG MAN: USDA secretary-designate Tom Vilsack's confirmation hearing went smoothly on Wednesday, with senators apparently pleased by his willingness to think outside the Corn Belt while still advocating for research into ethanol and other biofuels. Critics have worried the Iowa governor's ties to corn could blind him to needs beyond the Midwest, but Vilsack seems to have allayed those fears, at least in the Senate. (Source: The New York Times)

CZARINA FOOTBALL: The Washington Post features a Q&A with the new energy "czarina" Carol Browner this morning, in which she explains what she'll be doing in the Obama administration — and undoing from the Bush administration. (Source: WaPo)

SURF WARFARE: The U.S. Navy will soon begin bombing in Hawaiian waters near marine mammals' habitats, probably in response to dolphins' recent mobilization of troops near the border and their development of advanced weaponry. Or it could be because the National Marine Fisheries Service has granted the Navy a yearlong permit to train with sonar and bombs there. Under the agreement, the Navy must agree to "try" to protect whales and dolphins from harm. (Source: AP)

GREASING THE WHEELS: It's been a major, if not the major, question so far at the Detroit auto show: Will people really buy all these hybrid cars with gas less than $2 a gallon? Dot Earth's Andy Revkin looks into how the federal government and states could sweeten the pot for would-be buyers with tax credits, "feebates" and other incentives. (Sources: WaPoNY Times)

OIL'S SLIPPERY SLOPE: The NY Times examines the recent oil roller coaster — the price of a barrel went from $100 to $150 to $35 in 2008, and recently dropped 12 percent in one day alone — and what to expect in '09 from the increasingly fickle fossil fuel. Many companies are betting it's due for a rebound, and some even have stockpiled supertankers circling offshore, waiting to swoop in and sell when prices go up. Onshore oil storage tanks are also becoming scarce as prospectors gamble on a price spike. (Source: NY Times

Russell McLendon

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