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Iditarod sled dog race forced to change starting point

The famous Iditarod sled dog race is undergoing permanent changes as organizers cope with urban sprawl and a warming climate. For the ceremonial start to the competition on Mar. 1, racers will travel 11 miles instead of the traditional 18 miles. The race itself will kick off Mar. 2 from Willow, Alaska, 30 miles north of the traditional starting town of Wasilla. Says Stan Hooley of the Iditarod Trail Committee, "A lot of development in the area makes [Wasilla] less desirable, and there have been less-than-winter conditions." And that's no way to race a sled, dawg.

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Tata Motors unveils world’s cheapest car in India

Photo: TaTa Motors The world's cheapest car was unveiled in India today by Tata Motors, which hopes that its new $2,500 subcompact will help make car ownership a reality for tens of millions of people. The Tata Nano gets respectable gas mileage, up to 58.8 miles per gallon, and meets India's emissions standards, but its introduction was met by protests from greens fearful that more-accessible autos will have a negative effect on the country's pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions. The auto industry, however, lauds the small five-seater -- which has one windshield wiper and no radio, passenger-side mirror, central locking, power …

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General Motors unveils hydrogen-powered concept Cadillac

Trading in your Chevy for a Cadillac-ac-ac-ac-ac-ac? You oughta know by now: at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, General Motors unveiled a concept Caddy powered by a combination of hydrogen fuel cells and battery power. Following the rule that all green car technology must have an insipid name, the new Cadillac Provoq (sigh) is designed to travel some 300 miles before refueling, zoom up to 100 miles per hour, and emit only water vapor. GM hopes to begin selling the Provoq in three or four years, and it's sure to be a hit with people who have …

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Connecticut will require expensive structures to be built green

Connecticut has introduced new green-building regulations -- that apply to public and private construction projects costing $5 million or more. And that, children, is what we call "playing to stereotype."

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Analysts predict slow auto sales in 2008

The U.S. saw a December slump in vehicle sales, and analysts predict that 2008 may be the weakest year for auto sales in the U.S. in at least a decade. (Will it correspond with a boost in public-transportation ridership? Probably not, but we can dream.) Sales of pickups, generally a sure bet in the U.S. market, hit the wall last year; the pickup slump helped bump Ford Motors down to the No. 3 highest-selling automaker in the U.S., while Toyota moved up into No. 2.

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Cures for congestion can come cheap

When I was a little kid, I remember being stuck in gridlock on I-5. (Seattle had congested freeways even back in the 1970s, shocking as that sounds.) And I remember being perplexed that all the cars would slow down in heavy traffic. Instead of spacing out so far, I wondered, why couldn't they all just maintain 55 miles per hour and drive inches apart. As long as everyone agreed to drive the same speed and not hit the brakes, heavy traffic wouldn't require us to slow down. Right? My parents didn't get it. Typical parents. I changed my mind sometime …

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World’s largest building approved in Moscow

Catching up on some late-December news (how dare the world keep spinning during vacation?): The city of Moscow approved plans for Crystal Island, a 27-million-square-foot complex designed by the fellow behind London's notorious Gherkin. Set to include 3,000 hotel rooms, 900 apartments, an international school for 500 students, theaters, offices, and stores, the gargantuan development is, said architect Norman Foster in a company press release, "a paradigm of compact, mixed-use, sustainable city planning, with an innovative energy strategy and 'smart' skin which buffers against climate extremes."

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Milan, Italy, institutes congestion charge

In Milan, congestion pricing is the new black. (Oh, like you have a better fashion pun?) Under Milan's new plan, which kicks off as a one-year trial, vehicles driving into the urban center on weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. must pay up to $14 per day; low-polluting cars are exempt from the charge. Milan has the third-highest number of cars per capita in Europe, and some 89,000 cars enter the city center every day. The money raised will be put toward public transportation and bicycle paths, and Mayor Letizia Moratti hopes pollution will be reduced by 30 percent …

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Rising hopes for 2008

Remember how, way back in 2007, green was the new black? Watch for a new new black in 2008: green building. The press is gushing with green-building news: According to a report from the American Institute of Architects, the number of cities with green-building programs has increased 418 percent since 2003, and AIA -- which has issued a list of 50 strategies for reducing buildings' fossil-fuel consumption 50 percent by 2010 -- says more cities are on track to start programs this year. The American Society of Landscape Architects says clients both residential and commercial are keening for green, SelfBuild …

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As personal transportation becomes cheaper, the poor benefit and the climate suffers

In an interesting bit of synchronicity, the Times ran two nearly identical articles on the rocketing popularity of motor scooters in the developing world, one focusing on Iraq, the other on Laos. Although neither article mentions global warming, the pieces do neatly wind together some of the threads that will continue to pressure our climate system well into this century. The first thread is the rise of China as the world's factory floor. In this case, cheap Chinese bikes are flooding foreign markets. Available for as little as $440, these scooters are within reach of the very poor. Of course, …

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