Jan. 2, 1974: With the U.S. still reeling from the 1973 oil embargo, President Richard M. Nixon signs a law lowering the national speed limit to 55 miles per hour. Although the law demonstrably cuts both traffic deaths and gasoline consumption, it is repealed in 1995.
Jan. 2, 1996: Former U.S. Interior Secretary James Watt pleads guilty to one count of withholding information from a federal grand jury. He had been indicted on multiple counts of perjury and obstruction in a wide-ranging investigation of influence-peddling at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where Watt lobbied after leaving office. Watt is fined, given five years’ probation, and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service.
Jan. 2, 2009: A poll of climate scientists indicates strong support for a "Plan B" to address climate change. The poll, conducted by London’s Independent newspaper, shows the scientists losing faith in finding political solutions for the warming climate and increasing support for "geo-engineering." Schemes like fertilizing the oceans to increase carbon dioxide-eating algae — once ridiculed by many scientists — are increasingly being taken seriously.