Woodland Near Bramshill in Hampshire

An ancient fern whose growth was influential in cooling the planet after an earlier runaway warming period is being studied around the world for everything from a food source to a filter to a possible climate change mitigation agent. Scientists believe a fern called Azolla sucked up about half the available CO2 in the atmosphere over the course of a million years. The plant still lives today and numerous potential applications are being studied. “‘Alternative’ means instead of industrial, expensive technology that can only be available where you have maintenance staff, you employ simpler, locally available means to do the same job,” Marshall said. “‘Appropriate’ takes into account what the local people will accept in terms of their needs, traditional and religious views, technical prowess, etc.” [Scientific American]

NPR’s Jeff Brady toured Shell’s shiny new Olympus drilling rig and platform in the Gulf of Mexico, finding the 192-person crew eats a lot of food and the water is blue. Joking aside, there’s a lot of information in this Tumblr-styled report and it’s always interesting to see candid photos of giant energy projects and details regarding the day-today life of the people staffing them. [NPR on the road]

Norman Bay will succeed Cheryl LaFleur as FERC Chairman after 9 months serving as Commissioner. “The vote settles more than a year of uncertainty about leadership at the FERC, which oversees the reliability of the nation’s electric grid and polices energy markets against manipulation. A previous Obama chairman nominee, former Colorado utility regulator Ron Binz, withdrew in September after failing to win enough support in the Senate.” [Bloomberg]