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Quick Hits: Nudged By An Ambient Orb Edition

The Internet's laying it all down faster than I can pick it up.

* New regulatory czar Cass Sunstein riffs on "Nudge"-esque solutions for reining in energy consumption in the Chicago Tribune: "Early attempts to notify people of their energy use with e-mails and text messages did no good. What worked was to give people something called an Ambient Orb, a little ball that glows red when people are using lots of energy, but green when their use is modest. In a period of weeks, users of the orb reduced their energy consumption during peak times by 40 percent!"

* New York Representative Jerrold Nadler just tacked on $3 billion in transit spending to the House stimulus package. A wad of that will help plug the holes in leaky metro systems in New York and California.

* The Wall Street Journal reports that Americans are bidding adieu to McMansions and downsizing their homes (slightly), though do note that the average U.S. home is still 17 percent girthier than it was back in 1990.

* Tom Lawasky surveys Tom Vilsack's first week as head of USDA and deems it... not as bad as expected. 

* Earth2Tech is my favorite new enviro-blog, reporting on the vast universe of energy startup firms and other clean-tech gadgetry. Today, Kate Fehrenbacher has a great FAQ on the "smart grid," which will be a major part of Obama's short-term energy plans.

* Terrific piece by Judith Lewis in High Country News on Yucca Mountain. This deserves fuller discussion later.

* More reason why pollution permits under a cap-and-trade system shouldn't be handed out for free: "Britain's biggest polluting companies are abusing a European emissions trading scheme (ETS) designed to tackle global warming by cashing in their carbon credits in order to bolster ailing balance sheets."

* Big Beef has thwarted Big Milk's attempts to include a big ol' cow slaughter in the stimulus package. Greg Sargent reports.

* "Scientists Not So Sure 'Doomsday Machine' Won't Destroy World." Yup, the story's about the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, and it now seems there's an minuscule (but nonzero) chance it could spawn a few mini black holes that grow faster than they decay when it gets fully powered up this June.

--Bradford Plumer