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Quick Hits: Crank That Rusty Soviet Reactor Edition

* Now that the natural gas isn't flowing quite so freely out of Russia, Bulgaria is looking to fire back up two aging Soviet-era nuclear reactors that were mothballed years ago. Is it safe? The plants certainly don't meet EU standards, and European regulators are furious, but with families freezing in their apartments, Bulgaria's ready to risk an incident.

* This could be hugely significant from geopolitical standpoint: Noble Energy just found about three trillion feet of natural gas off the coast of Israel. Not Qatar-hefty, but hefty all the same. Previously, Israel had been trying to string a gas pipeline through Egypt to meet its growing energy needs, which, as you might guess, was easier said than done.

* Could California air regulations throttle the plug-in hybrid in its electrified cradle? The East Bay Express investigates.

* But don't hate on all mandates: Andrew Leonard notes that jacked-up fuel-economy standards in Europe are driving innovation, including the development of "micro-hybrids" that let gas-powered cars easily conserve fuel while idle.

* The Bush administration waited until the last second, when all eyes were focused on inauguration weekend, to allow the release of four new scientific reports on the human impacts of climate change. None, sad to say, bear good tidings. One, from the EPA, warns: "Most coastal wetlands in the mid-Atlantic would be lost if sea level rises one meter in the next century." Another on the Arctic: "The past tells us that when thresholds in the climate system are crossed, climate change can be very large and very fast."

* Geochemist Eric Steig has an accessible discussion at RealClimate of a significant new paper he co-wrote showing that Antarctica, especially West Antarctica, has been warming for the past 50 years, a trend that has largely been overlooked to date.

* Geo-engineering we can believe in: The University of Bristol's Andy Ridgwell and calculate that "by planting crop varieties that reflect sunlight, summertime cooling of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit could be obtained across central North America and a wide band of Europe and Asia."

* Avalanches, explained. Sort of.

--Bradford Plumer