FULL CIRCLE: The Arctic Circle holds a treasure trove of fossil fuels — 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil, according to researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey, who say most of the oil and gas is in underwater continental shelves. This is bigger news than it would've been 10 years ago because melting sea ice is making the Arctic more accessible than ever. Russia will probably see the greatest benefits, since it owns the majority of territory where natural gas is believed to be buried, but the most likely place for Arctic oil is in the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska's coast. Gov. Sarah Palin supports offshore oil drilling, but conservationists say the chance of oil spills in the ecologically sensitive region isn't worth the risk. (Sources: Science, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press)

ROAD RULES: The Obama administration has called a one-year timeout on new logging and development in pristine parts of U.S. national forests, mostly in the West. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack's directive reinstates a Clinton-era ban on new industrial activity in more than 58 million acres of remote forest, which the Bush administration overturned in 2005. Federal district courts have issued contradictory rulings on the issue since then, and the USDA says its move will bring "consistency and clarity" for the Forest Service in managing the land. Vilsack can still approve certain projects if he deems them appropriate. (Sources: New York Times, LA Times, AP

CLIMATE REFUGEES: Polar bears and glaciers aren't the only victims suffering from climate change: Residents of low-lying islands are anxiously aware that they will soon have to evacuate if sea levels rise much more, and some have already left. In the South Pacific's Carteret Islands, locals tie up their belongings in palm trees during high tide and say their home could be uninhabitable by 2015. The president of the Maldives has made headlines by actively trying to relocate his 300,000 constituents before the island chain is submerged. The oncoming flood of sea water could soon create a flood of climate refugees — a new study predicts that 200 million people could be homeless thanks to climate change by 2050. In related news, a think tank led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan released a report Friday warning that climate change is causing 300,000 deaths and $125 billion in financial losses every year, although one political scientist who studies disaster trends calls the report "a methodological embarrassment." (Sources: NY Times, Guardian, CNN)

STAR POWER: The United States will take a first step today toward creating unlimited clean power — if that's even possible on Earth — as it opens the $3.5 billion National Ignition Facility. The NIF aims to create energy with nuclear fusion, the way the sun and other stars do, by bombarding hydrogen atoms with lasers, hoping they'll fuse into helium. See Tuesday's Daily Briefing for more. (Source: Guardian

THE RACE IS ON: EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson tells the AP it's time for the United States to complete its makeover into a less extreme consumer of energy, leading the world's race for clean power rather than defying it. After years of being marginalized, the EPA is "back on the job," she says, and will take the lead in improving the country's energy-wasting image, despite the economy. "We have to get in the race now — and win it," she says. "I don't expect a moving backwards because of recession." (Source: AP)

EASTERN PROMISES: A U.S. congressional delegation has spent the last five days meeting with top Chinese officials to coordinate the two countries' battles against climate change, but the trip's success varies widely depending who's describing it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she was "hopeful" after the meetings and Sen. John Kerry applauded China for its efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner was less enthusiastic, calling it "business as usual for China." Rep. Edward Markey, chair of the House global warming committee, said he thinks China's actions will be largely influenced by what the United States does between now and December's U.N. climate conference in Denmark. (Sources: NY Times, Boston Globe)

BUYING THE FARM: While wildlife farms are supposed to be conservation havens, offering a sustainable alternative to hunting animals in the wild, some in Vietnam are doing the exact opposite. So says a new study from the Wildlife Conservation Society, whose undercover investigators found that half of 78 farms they visited in Vietnam had taken wild monkeys, turtles, crocodiles and other animals from wild populations for breeding stock, and 42 percent were still doing so. (Source: New Scientist)

BUTT-LOAD OF LITTER: While few people feel comfortable blatantly tossing garbage onto the ground, smokers often make an exception for themselves when finishing a cigarette. The NY Times reports on the often-overlooked problem of cigarette litter, which accounts for up to 33 percent of all American litter (measured by number, not volume) and 28 percent of litter that washes onto beaches around the world. The plastics in cigarette filters don't biodegrade, and while tobacco companies are experimenting with ones that do, they say tests show that so far, customers don't like them. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is trying to add a 33-cent tax per pack of smokes to cover the $11 million his city spends annually cleaning up cigarette butts. (Source: NY Times)

ELECTRIC SLIDE: Tesla Motors is recalling all 345 of its electric Tesla Roadsters made before April 22 for safety reasons, after it determined that certain rear bolts were improperly torqued during assembly — a manufacturing flaw that's unrelated to the car's all-electric powertrain. The company will make house calls to inspect the problem bolts, which came to its attention after one owner reported unusual handling. No accidents have been reported. (Source: CNET News

KIND OF BLUE: A blue whale has been detected about 70 miles off the coast of Long Island, and another one farther away, scientists with Cornell University announced Thursday. Blue whales, the largest animals to ever inhabit Earth, traverse all of the planet's oceans, but typically don't come that close to shore, staying hundreds of miles at sea. The whales' calls were the first ever recorded in the area, and researchers say the finding will help with such conservation measures as preventing whale-ship collisions and reducing sonar and other noises that interfere with their communication. (Source: AP

Russell McLendon 

(Photo: NASA)

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