THE CZAR AND SALAZAR: Obama introduced his energy and environment team in Chicago Monday evening, headed by climate czar Carol Browner. Environmentalists and scientists are largely pleased with Obama's selections, especially with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, but the team's tasks won't be easy with the nation wallowing in economic recession. Shortly after the press conference, transition officials confirmed that first-term Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar will be named secretary of the interior. Salazar is a former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, state attorney general, farmer and rancher known for his conservationist credentials. (Sources: Reuters, The Los Angeles TimesThe New York Times, The Denver Post)

INTERIORITY COMPLEX: Several former high-ranking Department of Interior officials were named in a report released Monday by federal inspectors as having pushed personal agendas on the job, mistreated staff and risked endangered species' well-being. (Source: NYT)

SOMETHING'S FISHERY: European fish stocks are at risk of collapsing, warns a leading British marine scientist. European Union ministers have regularly ignored scientists' calls for limits on overfishing, resulting in quotas 140 percent higher than sustainable levels. (Source: The Guardian)

SHIFTING GEARS: Despite gas prices having dropped to early 2004 levels, Americans are still driving less, a phenomenon the Brookings Institution calls a "permanent shift from reliance on the car to other modes of transportation," citing factors such as decreased vehicle ownership, increased mass-transit ridership, development of commercial centers near workers' homes and migrations of baby boomers from suburbs to cities. (Sources: L.A. TimesThe Philadelphia Inquirer)

INDEPENDENCE STREAK: The Chicago Tribune reports today that conditions are right for an energy-independence revolution in America. Unlike in the 1970s, '80s and '90s when drop-offs in gas prices softened consumer demand for alternative fuels, experts say this time — from two foreign wars to climate change to hurricanes disrupting fuel supplies — Americans aren't as quick to forget how fickle fossil fuels can be. (Source: The Chicago Tribune)

BLACK GOLD, WITH CREAM: Coffee grounds offer a cheap, plentiful and sustainable source of biodiesel for fueling cars and trucks, according to Nevada researchers. Spent grounds contain between 11 and 20 percent oil by weight, about the same as traditional biodiesel feedstocks such as palm and soybean oil. (Source: Science Daily)

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

The Morning Briefing: 12/16
The czar and Salazar; no doi, DOI; Europe can't find the fish; "permanent shift" from cars; energy independence gains ground; biodiesel from coffee.