CORN IN THE USA: With a Corn Belt president and USDA secretary set to take office soon, prospects are bright for the sweet, husky supergrain. Ethanol, and biofuels in general, are the talk of Washington at a time of unprecedented hipness for alternative fuels. But in addition to traditional concerns about what sharing food with our cars will do to water supplies and food prices in general, a recent Michigan State study points out a new side effect to ramping up corn production: aphids. The researchers found that increasing corn density around soybeans reduces the predatory insects that control aphids. Thus, more corn equals more aphids equals more expensive soy products. (Sources: The San Francisco Chronicle, The Associated PressThe Wall Street JournalThe Huffington Post, Worldchanging, The New York Times)

DRILL BABY DRILL: After 10 years of preparation, a team of American and German scientists will soon begin a harsh sojourn through Siberia, carting heavy drilling equipment on 224 miles of ice road to a frozen lake 62 miles north of the Arctic circle. Once there they'll begin drilling out sediment cores as part of a project to collect the longest-ever continuous Arctic climate record. They chose Lake El'gygytgyn because, since it's never been covered with ice sheets or glaciers, it has about a quarter mile of drift sediment, going back 3.6 million years. (Source: Science Daily)

CASH IN FUSION: Ford's 2010 Fusion Hybrid, the unbailed-out American automaker's answer to the specter of imminent collapse, gets 41 miles per gallon in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway, the EPA announced Monday. That beats the Toyota Camry hybrid, Ford points out, and the Fusion will produce 20 percent more power than the Ford Escape hybrid. Toyota, meanwhile, isn't having a good year. (Sources: AP, NYT)

THE AIR DOWN THERE: Perhaps the most common knock against alternative fuel sources like wind and solar is that they're "intermittent," with their output dependent on moody weather. Kate Galbraith writes in NYT's Green Inc. today about one potential solution: compressed-air storage energy. CAES invovles pumping compressed air underground at night, when energy demand is low, then releasing, burning and thus expanding it, driving turbines and generating electricity during the day, when power demand is high. (Source: NYT)

REFLECTED GLORY: Many scientists have become pessimistic that we can still do enough to abate global warming, and the battle over regulating carbon dioxide has dragged on for years. So Japanese and British engineers have devised a workaround: Rather than fighting against carbon, why not just beat the heat? They've proposed spreading out reflective sheeting over the world's deserts, sending sunshine back where it came from. (Source: Science Daily)

Russell McLendon

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

The Morning Briefing: 12/23
Obama's energy policy will be pretty corny, which could be bad for soybeans. Could we turn to air force for power? And should we take time to reflect on global