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Quick Hits: Endless Gore Speculation Edition

* For the millionth time, Al Gore says he's not taking a job in the Obama administration—instead he'll continue to advocate for action on climate change from the outside. (Today he met with Obama in Chicago to talk about energy policy, though it was unfortunately overshadowed by Blagopalooza.)

* A USA Today investigation finds 435 schools across the country sited near dirty refineries and chemical plants, where kids are breathing in air vastly more toxic than what the EPA deems acceptable. (To make matters worse, researchers are finding an "association" between childhood cancer rates and proximity to some of these sites.)

* Azadeh Ensha reports that the Army has released its first annual Sustainability Report, and dedicated $1.5 billion to environmental programs in 2007. On the downside, the Army generated 45 million pounds of hazardous waste in 2006, up 35 percent from 2003, and fell just shy of the requirement in the 2005 energy bill to get 3 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Still, there are a lot of advantages to getting off oil, as a growing number of military officials are pointing out.

* Matt Richtel and Kate Galbraith have a fascinating story on how the market for recycled materials has completely crashed during the recession, potentially threatening some business and municipal recycling plans, which no longer seem quite as profitable as they did a few years ago. One major factor: the downturn in China, which has become the world's biggest market for recycled goods. Andrew Leonard notes the irony in the fact that America's recycling habits can only be sustained on the backs of "out-of-control ecologically destructive economic growth in China."

* I haven't finished it yet, but the Minnesota Star Tribune has a mammoth series on the global food chain, with an eye toward the dramatic run-up in food prices over the past year. Among other things, it reports that, no, it's not your imagination, food companies really have been trying to shrink their packages, a way to sneak in price increases without upsetting consumers.

--Bradford Plumer