ETHANOL: A bipartisan group of eight senators introduce a bill to repeal the federal ethanol mandate. (The Hill)

EPA: Will courts side with the EPA in challenges to two key pollution rules? Longtime environmental lawyer Howard Learner gives us a prediction. (Midwest Energy News)

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FRAC SAND: Minnesota is expected to release model standards today to help communities regulate frac sand mining. (Associated Press)

FRACKING: An analysis finds drilling activity is having a significant impact on home values. (Reuters)

ALSO: A Michigan official says he’ll amend leases near a pristine stretch of river to prevent surface drilling for oil and gas nearby, drilling permits top 1,000 in Ohio, and drilling activity is expected to remain strong in North Dakota. (Associated Press, Columbus Business First, Bismarck Tribune)

OIL: North Dakota’s top regulator says as much as 90 percent of the state’s crude oil will be shipped by rail next year. (Associated Press)

TRANSPORTATION: U.S. cars and trucks set a record for fuel economy in 2012, and Ford and GM will get $50 million in tax credits to help develop cleaner cars. (Associated Press, Detroit News)

UTILITIES: Xcel Energy says a “period of peak investment,” including upgrades to its two nuclear plants, necessitates its sixth rate increase in eight years; ratepayer advocates are skeptical. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

NUCLEAR: The Energy Department is awarding $452 million to develop small nuclear reactors. (New York Times)

• A North Dakota manufacturer of wind turbine blades is hiring 170 workers with the help of a $700,000 federal tax credit. (Grand Forks Herald)
• A Kansas county imposes a short-term moratorium on wind farms to give it time to draft regulations. (Lawrence Journal World)
• An Iowa town rejects a plan to build two wind turbines within its city limits. (Marshalltown Times-Republican)
• An Ohio wind project could be further delayed amid legal challenges. (Springfield News-Sun)
• A Minnesota county clarifies it is not a party to a $75,000 lawsuit against a wind developer over a project that was never built. (Winona Daily News)

WASTE-TO-ENERGY: Construction on an Iowa waste-to-energy plant is expected to begin next spring. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

COMMENTARY: Coal is a dead end for Illinois, and why GOP climate denial matters less and less. (Illinois Times, Washington Post)

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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