THIRD DEGREE: Four top appointees in Obama's green team face Senate confirmation hearings today. Lisa Jackson, tapped to head the EPA, will be grilled at 10 a.m., as will Nancy Sutley, picked as chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Tom Vilsack, secretary-designate of the USDA. Transportation secretary-designate Ray LaHood will face questioning at 2:30 this afternoon. (Source: The Associated Press)

ABALONE SANDWICHED: The U.S. government will protect the black abalone as an endangered species, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced Tuesday. The Pacific Coast mollusk, once one of the most common invertebrates along the Southern California coast, is being driven to extinction by the unpleasant-sounding "withering syndrome," which worsens as ocean temperatures rise. (Source: AP)

TWO HEADS NOT BETTER THAN ONE: Thousands of Australian bass larvae that spawned with two heads were likely contaminated with toxins, scientists say. The fish died en masse within 48 hours from the mutations, and chickens, horses and sheep at the fish hatchery were also suffering unusually high rates of birth defects. The suspected chemicals, carbendazim and endosulfan, have been banned in some countries but not in Australia. (Source: Agence France-Presse)

TURBINE PLANNING: Massachusetts will generate 10 percent of its energy from wind by 2020 if a new goal of Gov. Deval Patrick's is met. Patrick announced this week a target of 2,000-megawatt wind-power capacity in 12 years, up from the 6.6 megawatts the state's nine turbines currently generate. The contentious Cape Wind offshore wind farm planned for Nantucket Sound, with 130 turbines, would have a maximum expected capacity of about 454 megawatts. (Source: The Boston Globe)

DARK SIDE OF THE SUN: Solar power isn't necessarily as easy on the environment and climate as advertised, The Los Angeles Times reports. Producing and transporting solar panels requires burning fossil fuels, the cells contain toxic chemicals, and some components can't be recycled. A California environmental group says the solar industry must find substitutes for toxic substances before it can expand, and champions companies such as Arizona-based First Solar, which guarantees it will take back old solar panels from commercial customers and recycle them. (Source: LA Times

BATTERIES INCLUDED: General Motors announced at the Detroit auto show this week that it will manufacture batteries for electric cars in the United States, at a new battery lab in Warren, Mich. The announcement was met with applause, as was talk of avoiding a switch from dependence on foreign oil to dependence on foreign batteries. As EcoGeek's Hank Green points out, though, batteries are only what stores the energy; we'll still be generating our own electricity here regardless of where we get our batteries, and battery-exporting countries are often more stable than oil-exporting ones, anyway. (Sources: AP, EcoGeek)

LAND GRAB: A group of environmentalists, scientists and actors that includes two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson has bought an acre of land in the midst of the development area for a new runway at London's Heathrow Airport. They plan to prevent the runway's construction by subdividing the property into hundreds, possibly thousands, of smaller parcels and selling them off to environmental activists around the world. This is the latest in a series of recent protests of British runways, the most notorious led by Plane Stupid. (Sources: LA TimesThe Guardian)

LIKE A SPONGE: "Voracious" sponges in coral-reef caves filter huge amounts of dissolved organic material in the water, processing it and spewing out particles that the coral eat. The sponges don't have room to grow in the tight coral caves, so despite also eating huge amounts of the dissolved material themselves — so much it would normally double their biomass every two to three days — they have the highest rate of cell regeneration seen in multicellular animals. The Dutch researchers behind the study say it highlights the delicate ecological balance in the world's coral reefs, which are currently buckling under pressure from hotter, more acidic oceans. (Sources: ScienceDaily, The Christian Science Monitor)

Russell McLendon

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