AUTO BAILOUT REACHED: President Bush announced this morning that the United States will lend $13.4 billion to General Motors and Chrysler to prevent them from collapsing. The bailout is designed to make sure the companies stay afloat through March, and includes provisions requiring them to adhere to fuel-efficiency and emissions standards. The money will come from the $700 billion bailout intended for financial institutions, and another $4 billion may be available in February. (Source: CNN)

SCI OF RELIEF: In further unraveling of this century's anti-science sentiment in the United States, President-elect Obama has named actual scientists to two top science posts — Harvard physicist John Holdren as presidential science adviser and Oregon State marine biologist Jane Lubchenco as head of NOAA. While one global warming skeptic called Holdren "a ranter" who will pursue "an anti-energy agenda," James Fallows in The Atlantic writes today that Holdren is "is a figure of unquestioned eminence in his field, with significant experience not just in hard science but also in the application of science to public policy." (Sources: The Washington Post, Scientific American, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic Monthly)

LUMP OF COAL: When officials are deciding whether to grant an application for a new coal-fired power plant to be built, they can't legally consider greenhouse-gas emissions, thanks to a ruling last night from EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the EPA could regulate CO2 under current law, Johnson made it clear Thursday that, at least for another month, the agency won't. An electric industry spokesman called Johnson "brave." (Sources: The New York Times, The Salt Lake Tribune

FORK IN THE ROAD: The looming economic stimulus plan that Congress and the new administration will launch early next year will likely set the course for transportation policy under Obama, The Boston Globe reports this morning. He's being pulled in different directions, having pledged to take America in a more sustainable direction but also facing the task of propping up a crumbling economy. While $50 billion of the possibly $600 billion stimulus is set aside for transportation, lawmakers are saying that, given the crisis, the top priority will be investing in existing infrastructure. Still, many are hoping Obama will seize this chance to re-energize the American rail and mass transit systems. (Source: The Boston Globe)

BATTERIES NOT SECLUDED: Fourteen U.S. battery companies announced yesterday they're banding together to promote domestic production of lithium-ion batteries, which will be crucial in developing of next-generation hybrid cars. With GM having announced it may go overseas for the Chevy Volt's batteries, the U.S. companies are trying to ward off foreign dominance of the hybrid battery market. (Source: WaPo)

SHIP SHAPE: Japan is launching the world's first solar-powered cargo ship, which will transport Toyotas overseas. The 328 solar panels currently power just 0.2 percent of the ship's propulsion, but shipping company Nippon Yusen K.K. says it hopes to raise that ratio. (Source: Agence France-Presse)

DON'T BRING THE NOISE: While a constant drone of noise has been shown to stunt children's cognitive development, and is also just annoying, the advent of alternative fuels may strike a blow to noise pollution, says a Vermont environmental psychologist. Electric cars and other energy-saving technologies are generally quieter than the rumble of devices powered by fossil fuels. (Source: U.S. News & World Report

— Russell McLendon

The Morning Briefing: 12/19
It's a good morning to be a U.S. automaker or electric utility, but science fans have reason to celebrate, too. Also, the future of U.S. transportation approach