Clean Start: February 15, 2012

Welcome to Clean Start, ThinkProgress Green’s morning round-up of the latest in climate and clean energy. Here is what we’re reading. What are you?

A combination of drought, a build-up of combustible fuels and increased tree mortality is the recipe for a “perfect storm” of wildfire conditions, the researchers warned in a Feb. 14 paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Summit County Voice]

Zurich Financial Services AG, Switzerland’s biggest insurer, may say fourth-quarter profit fell 31 percent after increased climate and earthquake catastrophe losses. [Businessweek]

The electric battery company A123 recently cut its revenue forecast for 2011 by about 20 percent and laid off a few hundred employees at its Michigan factory after one of its biggest customers, electric-car maker Fisker Automotive, unexpectedly reduced the number of batteries it had ordered from the company. [Boston Globe]


American attempts to get major Asian importers of Iranian oil to rein in their purchases are faltering as allies South Korea and Japan give U.S. officials a polite brushoff. [Courier Journal]

Mississippi is rushing toward drilling in state waters without having “done its homework” or addressed concerns about tourism, the environment or economics, opponents say. [Sun Herald]

The shakeout in the solar power industry claimed another victim Tuesday as Auburn Hills-based Energy Conversion Devices filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced plans to sell its assets, including its main subsidiary, United Solar Ovonic. [Detroit Free Press]

Installation of solar panels in the U.S. surged as much as 67 percent in the fourth quarter as developers raced to qualify for an expiring federal incentive program and panel prices fell 16 percent, a trade group said. [Bloomberg]

The licensing of the nation’s first new nuclear-power reactors in decades, Insiders said, will serve as a signal for the industry that the seemingly convoluted regulatory process actually works. [National Journal]


Kloza believes much of the increase in gas prices is due to speculative money that’s flowed into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly from hedge funds and large money managers. [Businessweek]

A variety of forces is pushing coal back to the brink. [Politico]

President Obama’s new budget lays down a clear and much-needed challenge to the Republican House’s large number of climate-change deniers and all of the Republican Party’s many panderers to Big Oil. [NYT]

The Obama administration blasted the House’s five-year transportation proposal Tuesday and issued the White House’s first veto threat of the year. [Politico]

Heart attacks more common at high levels of every main air pollutant except ozone, researchers find. [Guardian]