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Quick Hits: My Burger Can Beat Up Your Burger

* As a rule, fast-food companies don't divulge where their ingredients come from. But that didn't faze Hope Kahren and Rebecca Kraft, two researchers who analyzed the isotopes various fast-food staples and tracked down their origins for the scientific journal PNAS. Emmett Duffy has a handy summary of the results: No shock, 100 percent of the chicken and 93 percent of the cows that eventually turn into McNuggets and Whoppers are corn-fed (with heavily fertilized corn at that) and crammed into industrial feedlots, with all the attendant ecological devastation that entails.

* While we're talking greasy burgers, read this old and absolutely riveting Portfolio profile of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee's and Carl's Jr. While other fast-food chains are trying to ride the new wave of consumer health-consciousness by offering salads and other "light" fare, CKE is doubling down on artery-clogging, by pimping, for starters, Hardee's Monster Thickburger, "a messy two-thirds of a pound of charbroiled Angus beef containing more than 1,400 calories and 107 grams of fat." And guess what? Business has been booming. The secret: Convince customers that they need not feel guilty for craving a Philly Cheese Steak Thickburger (er, that's a Thickburger topped with sliced steak and cheese). Convince them that plowing through a burger like that is the very essence of manliness. Food porn, indeed.

* Julia Whitty notes that the EPA has released its annual list of "environmental fugitives." Read, for instance, the lurid tale of Denis Feron, who was accused of illegally pumping hazardous waste into a tributary of the Mississippi and then fled the country before trial, probably to Belgium. Whitty wonders why the agency even bothers publishing this list anymore, given that, under the Bush administration, the EPA's been pursuing fewer and fewer violators and slashing resouces for its own enforcement arm. Good question.

* Most utilities earn a profit based on how much electricity they actually sell, giving them little incentive to promote efficiency measures. But under regulatory "decoupling" schemes, utilities earn a profit no matter how much energy their customers use, giving them plenty of incentive to conserve. It's a neat idea that can save a state a whole lot of energy over the long run (California has had great success with this approach since 1982), but only a few states have actually switched to a decoupling arrangement. Now Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon wants all states to implement decoupling as a condition of getting federal energy-efficiency grants.

* Do read Elizabeth Rosenthal's dispatch in The New York Times on the Poznan climate talks in Poland. Right now, many countries are still unsure about Obama's commitment toward reducing U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, an uncertainty that's throwing a wrench in the talks, although expectations were always low for these interim discussions. (Another smokestack of contention: The EU is having difficulty agreeing to more dramatic reductions in carbon emissions, not least because Poland, which gets 93 percent of its electricity from coal, is objecting to a provision that would require all carbon permits under the cap-and-trade system to be auctioned off, rather than handed out for free.)

* Lastly, this isn't strictly environmental, but holy crap, Dante himself would have trouble devising an appropriate payback for Robert Mugabe, who continues to inflict horror after horror Zimbabwe. After the cholera death toll in the country rose to 783 (and could still soar as high as 60,000) and the South African government declared a state of emergency on its border, the dictator convened a press conference and serenely declared that there was "no cholera."

--Bradford Plumer