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Why your hybrid doesn’t get that promised mileage

Ford C-Max
Ford Motor Company
The C-Max had a mileage fail.

Are you a hybrid owner who's never managed to get the high gas mileage advertised on the car window? You're not alone.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Bowing to criticism that its C-Max hybrid didn't get the fuel economy claimed on its window sticker, Ford Motor Co. has restated the compact car's mileage ratings and said it will ... make a "goodwill" payment of $550 to people who purchased the C-Max and $325 to those who leased the vehicle.

Ford had previously claimed the 2013 C-Max hybrid got 47 mpg for combined city and highway driving. Now it's saying 43 mpg. That's still higher than the 37 mpg that Consumer Reports got when it tested the model.

And it's not just Ford. More from the L.A. Times:

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Sometimes a hybrid is greener than an electric car

green-colored car
Shutterstock
Which car is greenest in your state? Find out.

If you live in California, the most climate-friendly car you can drive is a Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid. If you live in Ohio, you could go easier on the climate by driving a regular ol' non-plug-in Prius. And in Vermont, the best pick would be an all-electric Honda Fit.

That's according to a new report from Climate Central: "A Roadmap to Climate-Friendly Cars." Here's how the researchers explain the state-by-state differences:

An electric car is only as good for the climate as the electricity used to power it. And in states that rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas for their electricity there are many conventional and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are better for the climate than all-electric cars.

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Can a giant ice wall stop Fukushima radiation from leaking into the sea?

ice wall
Shutterstock
The Fukushima ice wall would not look anything like this.

It's been almost two and a half years since the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant and the place is still a huge, scary mess.

Here's how The New York Times introduced this week's grim news from the plant:

First, a rat gnawed through exposed wiring, setting off a scramble to end yet another blackout of vital cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Then, hastily built pits for a flood of contaminated water sprang leaks themselves. Now, a new rush of radioactive water has breached a barrier built to stop it, allowing heavily contaminated water to spill daily into the Pacific.

It turns out that radioactive water has been spilling into the sea almost since the initial disaster, at a rate of 75,000 gallons, or 300 tons, a day.

So now Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, which owns the plant, has a plan to build an underground wall of frozen earth to stop the radioactive water leakage. NPR explains:

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The craziest political race of the year is putting climate in the spotlight

There aren't many hot races in this off-off election year, but the Virginia governor's race is packed full of enough drama and weirdness for a dozen contests. Here's just a sampling of the crazy: An obsessive vendetta against a prominent climate scientist. A fledgling cleantech company under federal investigation. A $1,500 turkey dinner (let's hope it was organic and heritage breed). Dueling high-profile billionaire donors. And as a bonus, the Clintons are mixed up in it too  -- Bill, Hillary, and even Hillary's brother.

Some recent polls have shown Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a small lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli, but the race is widely considered a tossup. Virginia voters seem equally disgusted by both candidates. The sniping between the two sides has become so intense that Time called the race "the dirtiest, nastiest, low-down campaign in America."

Here's how the contest is shaking out in terms of climate and energy issues:

Ken Cuccinelli
Gage Skidmore
The Cooch.

The Republican

Ken "The Cooch" Cuccinelli is no ordinary GOP climate denier. As Virginia's attorney general, he waged a two-year campaign to discredit one of the world's top climate scientists, Michael Mann. Mann was a professor at the University of Virginia when his research led to publication of the iconic hockey-stick graph, which shows how average northern hemisphere temperatures have soared since the late 20th century. (The hockey stick has been reaffirmed by multiple subsequent studies.) In 2010 and 2011, Cuccinelli accused Mann of fraud and repeatedly tried to obtain papers and emails from his time at UVA, a failed attempt to discredit Mann's climate research that proved costly for Mann, UVA, and Virginia taxpayers.

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Is Keystone XL a distraction from more important climate fights?

Keystone protest sign in front of White House
Emma Cassidy
Say what you will about the anti-Keystone movement, but it's gotten a lot of activists enraged and engaged.

A new article in Nature highlights a supposed rift among some scientists over Keystone XL: Is it a smart focus for climate activists or a distracting sideshow?

There doesn't seem to be nearly as much of a rift as author Jeff Tollefson suggests, but he does talk to some scientists who are conflicted over the Keystone focus:

The issue has ... divided the scientific community. Many climate and energy researchers have lined up with environmentalists to oppose what is by all accounts a dirty source of petroleum: emissions from extracting and burning tar-sands oil in the United States are 14–20% higher than the country's average oil emissions. But other researchers say that the Keystone controversy is diverting attention from issues that would have much greater impact on greenhouse-gas emissions, such as the use of coal.

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Steve King insults climate scientists and religious Americans simultaneously

Steve King
Gage Skidmore
Steve King knows that cantaloupes don't grow in seawater.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has, shall we say, a vivid oratorical style.

Last month, he noted that not all of the young immigrants who would benefit from the DREAM Act are star students. “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” he said.

This week, he turned his eloquence to the topic of climate change. Here's what he said on Tuesday at an event sponsored by the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity, as reported by The Messenger of Fort Dodge, Iowa:

King said efforts to fight global warming are both economically harmful and unnecessary.

"It is not proven, it's not science. It's more of a religion than a science," he said.

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Seven ways the drought in the West really sucks

animal skeleton in the desert
Johnida Dockens

Almost 87 percent of the Western U.S. is in a drought, the Los Angeles Times reports today in a big, gloomy article with big, gloomy pictures. New Mexico is 100 percent droughty. Here are just a few of the ways that sucks.

1. The Rio Grande is so dry that it's been dubbed the Rio Sand. Satellite photos show reservoirs drying up too.

2. People in parts of New Mexico are having to take drastic measures to get water. "Residents of some towns subsist on trucked-in water," the L.A. Times reports, "and others are drilling deep wells costing $100,000 or more to sink and still more to operate."

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Time magazine catches on to the childfree movement, misses the green angle

Time cover: The Childfree LifeThe childfree trend is experiencing its biggest mainstream-media moment ever thanks to Time's new cover story: "The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children."

(And the magazine gets kudos for using the word childfree, preferred by those who don't want children, as opposed to childless, which is more appropriate for people who want kids but don't have them.)

Writer Lauren Sandler notes that an increasing percentage of Americans are bypassing parenting:

The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history, which includes the fertility crash of the Great Depression. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there's data, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s. Even before the recession hit, in 2008, the proportion of women ages 40 to 44 who had never given birth had grown by 80%, from 10% to 18%, since 1976, when a new vanguard began to question the reproductive imperative. These statistics may not have the heft of childlessness in some European countries — like Italy, where nearly one-quarter of women never give birth — but the rise is both dramatic and, in the scope of our history, quite sudden.

Read more: Living

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Obama points out economic downsides of Keystone XL

President Obama doesn't seem sold on the economic benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry carbon-intensive tar-sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast for export.

President Barack Obama
The White House

In his most extensive public comments to date on Keystone, made during an interview with The New York Times, he stressed the neutral or negative economic aspects of the proposed project.

First, he pointed out that Keystone would create few permanent jobs:

Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that’s true. And my hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline -- which might take a year or two -- and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in a economy of 150 million working people. ... that is a blip relative to the need.

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Seattle mayor wants to block Whole Foods because of its low wages

Mike McGinn
Dave Lichterman
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says Whole Foods should pay more or get lost.

The Washington, D.C., city council made national news earlier this month with its effort to force Walmart to pay higher wages at six new stores the company hopes to build in the city.

A similar fight is afoot in Seattle -- but over Whole Foods. Mayor Mike McGinn, who's up for reelection this year, is leading the charge against a proposed new store in the West Seattle neighborhood. Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat reports:

“I’m setting a new standard here, that we are going to look at the wages they pay, and benefits, when a company wants to develop with land that involves public property,” McGinn told me in an interview. ...

McGinn contended in a letter that the nonunion Whole Foods pays “significantly lower” wages and benefits than other grocery stores, including some already in West Seattle. So the idea of allowing Whole Foods to go in there violates the city’s social and economic justice goals.