THE SOLAR EXPRESS: In an effort to revive its weak business in a flatlining industry, Toyota is secretly developing a car to be fueled entirely by solar power, but is still years away from production. The company plans to first introduce a car powered partly by solar energy and partly by plug-in electricity, but eventually the idea is a car that needs nothing more than its own rooftop solar panels. (Sources: The New York TimesThe Associated Press)

LAME SITTING DUCK: The Los Angeles Times speculates how President Bush's 11th-hour environmental regulations might affect President-elect Obama's approach to carbon emissions and other climate-change issues. Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles has this to say about how Bush is handling climate change in his final days, and recently made this observation on what's at stake with the new stimulus plan expected to be one of Obama's first orders of business. (Sources: LA Times, U.S News & World ReportWaPo)

INTERIOR DECORATING: The Interior Department, the object of environmentalists' scorn in recent years, has released a self-congratulatory list of its own accomplishments under the Bush administration, to the further consternation of its critics. The department has been demoralized and embarrassed by scandal during the last eight years, and The New York Times editorial board worries this morning whether Ken Salazar, Obama's pick to head the DOI, will be tough enough to provide the much-needed makeover. (Sources: The Washington Post, NY Times)

HEAVY METAL BLUNDER: As a coating of fly ash dries and hardens on Roane County, Tenn., and cleanup efforts drag on, an environmental groups finds that contamination is worse than authorities had reported. While the TVA and EPA have said residents will be fine as long as they don't disturb or eat the ash, Appalachian Voices has reported levels of arsenic, lead, chromium and other metals two to 300 times higher than drinking water standards. (Sources: LA Times, NY Times)

WEB 2.0: Recently discovered fossils cast new light on spider evolution, as scientists now realize many remains once thought to be other insects were actually ancient "pre-spiders" that had tails and sprayed silk from primitive "spigots" rather than spinning webs as their modern progenies do. (Source: ScienceDaily)

THE HEAT IS ON: Despite currently low prices for fossil fuels, it's a bad economy for anyone to be wasting money on home heating bills. For those of us not yet living in a passive house, The Washington Post offers nine tips for spending less to stay warm this winter. (Sources: NY TimesWaPo)

Russell McLendon

The Morning Briefing: 01/02
Toyota's moment in the sun, Bush rides into the sunset, the DOI beams with pride, the poisoning of East Tennessee, grabbing a spider by its tail, and how to be