CRUDE AWAKENING: Gas prices have risen faster this year than ever before, the LA Times reports today, and it's not coming at the best time for the economy. The past year has already been a long, strange trip for the price of gasoline, which ballooned past $4 a gallon last summer only to suddenly fall back below $2, softening the blow of a festering recession. But even as economic hope glimmers on the horizon, few American consumers were ready for gas prices to soar 56 percent since January, including a 17-cent jump in the last two weeks that's pushed the national average up to $2.66. Prices are rising even as demand dwindles, which many experts say is a result of speculators investing in oil to hedge against the weak U.S. dollar. While it's short-term bad news for the economy, it may ultimately help the climate by encouraging more people to take mass transit or buy more fuel-efficient cars. (Sources: Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, CNN)

GREATER GOOD: Greenwashing has been a scourge of the environmental movement for years, as companies try to sugarcoat their eco-records with vague boasts and promises, marketing slogans and feel-good advertisements. All this duplicity seems to erode public trust in the movement's earnestness, but one UC-Berkeley scientist is on a mission to change that. With his new website and iPhone app called "GoodGuide," Dara O'Rourke is capitalizing on his years of researching supply-chain management to help consumers peel away layers of marketing to find out a product's environmental, health and social impacts. (Source: New York Times)

LONG ARM OF THE LAWMAKER: Democrats in the House and Senate are running into more and more roadblocks as they coax their respective climate and energy bills through Congress. But it's not just Republicans stirring up trouble — it's also fellow Democrats. Competing regional interests are increasingly undermining efforts to build a broad eco-coalition at the Capitol, highlighted late Thursday afternoon when House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., left a meeting with top climate-bill supporters having failed to reach a deal. Peterson wants a bill he can sell to his farming and agribusiness constituency, just as lawmakers in other regions are worried about local effects of offshore oil drilling, energy price increases, reduced coal development or other possible side effects from these bills. (Source: Washington Post)

E-BIKES: You may have recently heard that bicycle sales are beating car sales in the United States this year — an amazing stat on its own — but that's still dwarfed by what's happening in China. After decades of supplanting their traditional bicycles with cars clogging smoggy highways, Chinese commuters are going back to two wheels — just not the same two wheels as before. China has gone wild for electric bikes, aka "e-bikes," buying 21 million of them last year compared with 9.4 million automobiles. With government support and a receptive public, the country now has four times more e-bikes than cars. (Source: TIME)

ON THICK ICE: Most of Earth's glaciers are slowly melting as temperatures rise around the world, but not all are succumbing to climate change. Not only is Argentina's Perito Moreno glacier one of just a few around the planet that's holding its own, it's actually growing. Fed by snowmelt from the Andes, the glacier is advancing even as it regularly pops out glaciers into an adjacent lake. "We're not sure why this happens," a glacialist tells the AP. "But not all glaciers respond equally to climate change." (Source: AP)

SCI-NONFI: Hollywood is slowly getting better at doing its research — whereas movies once often took cavalier or indifferent attitudes toward their real-life inspirations, producers are increasingly getting input from military officials, police officers, athletes and other experts to make suspension of disbelief a little easier. Perhaps nowhere is this more welcome than in science, whose earliest forays into film were cartoonish exaggerations with little basis in actual scientific knowledge. USA Today's Dan Vergano interviews a former scientist who has helped pioneer the quest for entertainment that doesn't sacrifice accuracy — Randy Olson was a tenured evolutionary biologist at the University of New Hampshire until 1994, when he bolted at age 37 to launch a new career in film. He's directed several documentaries since, but is also known for championing the fantastical but fair treatment of science on screen. (Source: USA Today)

SEA LIONS: Twice as many sick and malnourished sea lions are pouring into a California marine mammal center than normal, leading scientists there to worry about the health of nearby coastal populations. While they still haven't pinpointed the cause, experts suspect the problem is with the food web, possibly thanks to a decline in smaller fish stocks that young seals and sea lions eat while they're growing up. The good news is the animals picked a good time to get sick, since the Sausalito, Calif., center opens a new $32 million building today that will expand its capacity and technical abilities. (Source: AP)

Russell McLendon

(Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.

Daily Briefing: Mon. 6/15/2009
Gas prices soar, climate bill idles, glacier grows, sea lions starve, and more.