UNCLEAN COAL: As health warnings continue trickling in about last week's fly-ash flood in East Tennessee — I'd avoid Kingston's well water if possible — the Tennessee Valley Authority's inspector general announced today he'll review the circumstances leading up to and following the massive flood. The disaster may even change the way the TVA stores fly ash, which is a byproduct of coal-fired power plants. (Sources: The Chattanooga Times Free Press,The New York TimesThe Associated PressCTFPAP)

BALANCE OF POWER: The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday on the West's renewable-energy dilemma: There's a wealth of potential, like solar in the deserts and wind in the prairies, but a dearth of ways to get that energy to where people live. The Christian Science Monitor zooms in a bit today, focusing on Montana specifically. The state's governor has high ambitions of exporting its ample wind power as far as New York, but the transmission grid doesn't yet exist. Building such a grid seems obvious — until you consider that Montana's rich in coal, too. Since the lines need to stay full and coal's famously cheap, environmentalists worry about a bait-and-switch. (Sources: SF Chronicle, CS Monitor)

BURNING BLUBBER: The CS Monitor's Eoin O'Carroll takes a scientific look at "lipodiesel," or human body fat converted to car fuel. Despite the doubtful claims of a California radiologist, lipodiesel actually does work, but is far from a practical U.S. fuel source — every overweight American would need to give seven gallons of fat daily to meet demand. Still, it's worth at least noting the energy source we're literally sitting on, since, as O'Carroll pithily points out, "if paunch were petroleum, the US would be Saudi Arabia." (Source: CS Monitor)

"RAIL VS. JAIL": An Albany, N.Y., lawyer and politician makes a compelling, and often overlooked, case for mass transit in a column on OpEdNews.com. The United States' dual penchants for sprawling and boozing has created a DUI tinderbox, since the easiest way to get home from parties and bars is often to risk jail/death by driving. If we had the light-rail, trolley or even bus system befitting a country of our stature, we wouldn't be in this mess, Warren Redlich writes. Plus, we could safely indulge in transit-themed brews like this. (Sources: OpEdNews.com, The Phoenix New Times)

TRAINS OF THOUGHT: The Baltimore Sun's Michael Dresser writes today about President-elect Obama's bipartisan transit plans, highlighting Republican congressmen John Mica and Ray LaHood — Obama's pick for transportation secretary — as evidence the country may finally be on the right track (as long as it's not a road). But there are still those who doubt the wisdom of January's $800 billion stimulus package, in which transportation projects are expected to play a major role. (Sources: The Baltimore Sun, CNN)

A HELPING FARMHAND: Growing and eating your own produce can be empowering, not to mention healthy and cheap, but many would-be amateur farmers never marshal the initial gumption. Slate's on point as usual, offering a guide to finding a guide to help you get your garden off the ground. From landscapers to garden coaches to companies that do all the work for you, there's no excuse to keep buying food from strangers in 2009. (Source: Slate)

Russell McLendon

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

Last Call: 12/29
Fighting Tennessee's ash flood, doubting Montana's power brokers, pondering transit fat, railing against drunk driving, Republicans follow Obama's train of thou