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Top 10 prices we want Newt to lower with his magic wand

Newt Gingrich with magic wandNewt Gingrich promises he'll lower gas prices to $2.50 a gallon once he gets to the White House. Now that we know he's in possession of a magic wand that can override global market forces, there are a few other items we'd like to see priced lower.

Space travel
Come on, Newt, you're supposed to be a big-idea man (and a giant Star Wars geek)! Why just lower the cost of car travel when you could lower the cost of space travel?

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Batteries could make power grid unnecessary in some countries

One and a half billion citizens of planet Earth aren't connected to the power grid, and if Aquion Energy has its way, they will remain so forever. But not because they will be turned into Soylent Green! If that's what you were thinking.

Aquion specializes in making large batteries, cheaply. They don’t look like much -- they live in a former TV factory outside Pittsburgh, and you'll probably never buy any of their products. To the world's poor, however, they're working on something that could make a profound difference to their quality of life, reports Kevin Bullis at Technology Review.

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Obama calls to end subsidies for oil and gas

Obama in Nashua in 2007.

With prospective GOP challengers hawking guarantees of Seinfeld-era gas prices, President Obama simultaneously called their bluff on what he called "phony election-year promises" and urged Congress to end $4 billion in subsidies for oil and gas companies. Sure, he's said it before (most recently in his State of the Union address), but at a stop in Nashua Community College in New Hampshire, Obama put some muscle behind it:

“You can either stand up for the oil companies, or you can stand up for the American people,” Mr. Obama said. “You can keep subsidizing a fossil fuel that’s been getting taxpayer dollars for a century, or you can place your bets on a clean-energy future.”

It took GOP bigwigs approximately four nanoseconds to respond that the president's move could make oil costs go even higher, while John Boehner needled him over what he perceived to be a reluctance to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (which also might not lower costs or stop our Bubbles-esque problems with oil). White House Press Secretary Jay Carney didn't address whether Obama would tap into the reserve, but affirmed the president was "very concerned" about the pump-fatigued American family.

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Mean right hook: Conservative judge deals blow to polluters in climate trial

Chief Judge David Sentelle.

Cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green.

In 2009, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called for the “Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” to question the scientific fact of human-made climate change.

Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia began consideration of a landmark case that consolidates a series of challenges to Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2009 finding that greenhouse gases are a threat to public health and welfare and its related rule-makings. The cases, brought by energy companies, industry front groups, Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), and others, seek to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse pollution. Their legal argument is that climate science is a hoax.

But the three-judge panel’s questions and comments during the first day of oral arguments showed enormous skepticism of the industry arguments. Acknowledging that by law, the panel must show deference to the EPA’s finding, the chief judge told one of the challenger’s lawyers: “You seem to be asking us to determine that the EPA is incorrect, but that is not the standard,” and even that “would not be enough to win the case for you.” Other arguments were similarly pooh-poohed by the panel.

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Alaska is about to get fracked up

Alaska's been coasting on its stores of easy-access oil, but a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that the state has a motherlode of shale oil and natural gas. You know what means -- here come the frackers.

The numbers are impressive: as much as 80 trillion cubic feet of frackable natural gas and up to 2 billion barrels of shale oil. To put that in perspective, the natural gas resources are smaller than the Marcellus Shale, which underlays Pennsylvania and New York, and smaller than Texas' Haynesville and Eagle Ford shale formations -- but it's still the fourth biggest parcel in the U.S. The oil shale is the second biggest deposit in the country; only North Dakota's Bakken Formation has more.

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Stearns accidentally exposes GOP energy agenda

Cliff StearnsCliff Stearns in the seamy spotlight.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) was a moderate back when GOP moderates were allowed in the House of Representatives. Those days are past, however, and Stearns has had to scramble to adapt to the new atmosphere of Tea Party fruitcakery. He was trounced in the race for chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2010, largely because his colleagues viewed him as a squish. Earlier this month, he announced he's leaving his district to escape a Tea Party primary challenge, jumping to a newly drawn district nearby. Now he's desperately trying to bank enough money and credibility with conservatives to survive beyond 2012.

The process has not been kind to his dignity or his integrity. Instead, Stearns has wormed his way into one of the seamier niches in the Republican ecosystem: circus ringmaster for show-trial investigations designed to create headlines, the niche Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had hoped to dominate. The investigation into Planned Parenthood and the investigation into Solyndra are both Stearns' babies; both have dragged on forever and both have uncovered zero wrongdoing. That hasn't stopped Stearns from playing partisan warrior with a crude zeal that frequently crosses the line into cringe-worthy absurdity (like when he said Energy Secretary Steven Chu should be fired over Solyndra).

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GOP to Navy: Use more oil, demand more money

An energy-efficient Navy? Tanks, but no tanks.

What is the Republican take on global military strategy? A recent hearing offers a glimpse -- a hilarious, horrifying glimpse.

On Feb. 16, the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee held a hearing on the U.S. Navy's budget request for fiscal year 2013. I confess I did not have the fortitude to watch the entire two-and-a-half-hour affair, but CQ wrote up a summary that covers some of the lowlights.

The GOP's main objection, expressed by chairman J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), is that the Navy is accepting budget cuts in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan winding down. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus should be out in public, contradicting his commander in chief and objecting to the cuts, the Republicans believe.

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Adorable video will make you feel bad for power plants

This video of collapsing power plant cooling towers is supposed to make you want to celebrate the victory of renewable energy over large power companies that run on fossil fuels. And it does! Sort of. But the cooling towers are so adorable that you feel kind of bad for rooting against them. Couldn't they have put some cute moustaches on the turbines, too? 

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Time for an oil change: Americans strongly oppose fossil fuel subsidies

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

As part of the fiscal year 2013 budget [PDF] released on Feb. 13, President Obama proposed to eliminate $40 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas producers over the next 10 years. Yesterday, the Yale Project on Climate Change reiterated its recent finding that Americans of all political stripes oppose subsidies for “coal, oil, and natural gas companies.” They oppose these subsidies by 70 percent to 30 percent -- better than two to one. Republicans oppose these subsidies by 67 percent to 34 percent (reflects rounding of percentages).

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Crazy talk: Rick Santorum out-denies the climate deniers and spins eco-conspiracy theories

Rick SantorumRick Santorum, even nuttier than you think. (Photo by Dave Maass.)

Rick Santorum is way crazy when it comes to environmental issues. How crazy? He makes Newt Gingrich's moon-colony plans sound plausible and Mitt Romney's climate flip-floppery look presidential.

On climate change

While Mitt and Newt have both felt compelled to repudiate their former concern for climate change, Santorum can boast that he's a denier of long standing.

“There is no such thing as global warming,” he told Glenn Beck on Fox News in June 2011.

“It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life and I’ve never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative,” he told Rush Limbaugh that some month.

He went further at an event in Colorado on Feb. 6: