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Feds set fuel-economy benchmarks for automakers

Federal regulators will propose benchmarks Tuesday for automakers to hit on their way to reaching a fuel-economy requirement of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Auto fleets will have to average 27.8 mpg by 2011 and 31.6 mpg by 2015 -- a more aggressive timetable than was required by Congress. That's 35.7 mpg for passenger cars in 2015 (new cars averaged 31.3 mpg last year) and 28.6 mpg for light trucks (new trucks averaged 23.1 mpg last year). The proposal manages to gain acceptance from both automakers and enviros. Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers spokesfolks said the numbers will "stretch the …

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All-electric car coming to the U.S. next year

Reasonably priced, all-electric cars are coming soon to a California near you. (And then to the rest of the U.S. before too long.) Think Global, which was sold by Ford Motor Co. to Norwegian investors in 2003, will partner with two venture capital firms to mass-produce the battery-powered Think City in the U.S., starting next year. About the size of a Mini Cooper, the Think City is a two-seater but has room for two more seats for children. It can drive up to 110 miles on a single charge and has a top speed of around 65 miles per hour. …

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Google: energy glutton?

New server farm projected to use 103 MW of power

Interesting feature in the March issue of Harper's if you missed it: Google's server farms use a heckuva lot of energy. A planned server farm in The Dalles, Ore. will probably use 103 megawatts of mega-hydro electrons, enough to power 82,000 homes, according to the author, Ginger Strand. Server farms used more power than TVs in the U.S. in 2006, and this may increase as other search firms gear up to battle Google. Of course, the proliferation of flat-screen energy hogs since then may level that playing field ... But the point here is that internet search isn't impact-free, and …

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Betting on the future

Private equity firm buys rights to rainforest reserve’s environmental services

Photo: Smccann via Flickr This picture of what appears to be an insect with rainbows flying out its butt was taken in Guyana. There are untold, untapped, unknown chemistries created by millions of years of evolution harbored in what remains of the planet's biodiversity. This is a vast storehouse of information, which would provide humanity with centuries of medicines and other benefits if we can just find ways to preserve it. We can't let our biodiversity disappear -- one interesting (and gross) example of its importance is in this video I found on YouTube, documenting one of the unending evolutionary …

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Fortune Brainstorm Green

A discussion of climate policy downplays cap-and-trade

Now we're getting into the nuts and bolts climate policy, with the following folks: The Hon. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, Jr. Attorney General State of California John E. Bryson Chairman and CEO Edison International Alexander "Andy" Karsner Assistant Secretary, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy Jonathan Lash President World Resources Institute Dan Reicher Director, Climate Change and Energy Initiatives Google.org No sense going over the details of this panel -- probably familiar to most Grist readers -- but there was one theme that came up again and again, worth calling out. The consensus, across parties, …

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Fortune Brainstorm Green: breaking news

Think all-electric vehicles coming to the U.S.

Ray Lane, the managing partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is about to announce some news. (He's up on stage with Jan-Olaf Willums, CEO of Think Global AS, and Wilber James, managing general partner of RockPort Capital Partners.) Ah. He's launching Think North America -- bringing Think vehicles to the U.S. Hundreds of the cars will reach the states this year, mainly for use in fleets. After that they'll be offered to consumers, first in California. (They're in talks with utilities, too -- they're cagey about the details, but it sounds quite intriguing.) The car game is changing.

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Fortune Brainstorm Green

Shai Agassi talks electric cars in Israel

I'm watching Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Project Better Place, talk about the scheme he put together to fill Israel with electrical cars and recharging stations, with the ultimate goal of eliminating oil as a transportation fuel in the country. (He's going to do it in Denmark as well.) (A side note: this meeting room is filled with Herman Miller Aeron chairs. Sweet!) I'm a little behind on the details (dude talks fast), but it's a torrent of goodness. We're talking about full-size, five-seat, highway-speed vehicles, thousands of charging stations all over the country (where a depleted battery is …

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California utilities scuffle over cap-and-trade

California is well aware that reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is easier said than done. The state's attempts to craft an effective cap-and-trade system are causing infighting among public utilities and their privately owned counterparts. Public utilities, which source more of their power from coal, protest that they're going to end up paying out the nose to the state and seeing the money redirected into private utilities' coffers. That means public utilities will be lining private utilities' pockets instead of having money available to, say, boost renewable-energy capacity, they argue. But regulators say they don't intend to create a scheme that allows …

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Fortune Brainstorm Green

I flew down to Pasadena today for the Fortune Brainstorm: Green conference. There's tons of interesting stuff on the agenda -- a mix of corporate types and NGO types, technology and policy topics. I'm moderating a panel on Monday night called "Meet the Rabble Rousers," an informal discussion wherein activists answer questions about the rabble they've roused. It stars Mike Brune of the Rainforest Action Network, Sister Patricia A. Daly of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, John Passacantando of Greenpeace USA, and musician/activist/author Chuck Leavell. The panel starts at 9:30pm, after an entire day of presentations, a performance from …

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Nalgene, Wal-Mart back away from BPA

Bottle manufacturer Nalgene will stop using plastic containing bisphenol A in response to concerns from the National Toxicology Program and the Canadian health department that the chemical probably shouldn't be sucked on by kids. Nalgene says it still believes its clear, hard plastic bottles "are safe for their intended use" but says it's responding to customers who "indicated they preferred BPA-free alternatives." Wal-Mart also announced it would pull all baby bottles made with BPA from its shelves by early next year.