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The Mile-High Clubbed

Prince Charles gets environmental award, pisses off environmentalists When is a green not a green? Some say it's when he jets across the Atlantic to accept an award for ... being green. Prince Charles raised eyebrows this weekend as he made a quick trip to the U.S. to receive the Global Environmental Citizen Award from Harvard's Center for Health and the Global Environment. Although Chuck and the missus crammed their schedule with visits to urban neighborhoods in Philadelphia and New York, taking an electric train between the cities instead of flying, it wasn't enough to quell cranky critics. "It is …

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Baoxing Match

Fast-developing China to push for $200 billion energy-efficiency investment China will try to nudge its burgeoning economy in a green direction by prompting building owners to spend some $200 billion by 2020 on energy efficiency for apartments and office buildings, Vice Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing announced yesterday. Construction makes up 27 percent (and rising) of China's total energy consumption, and inefficient buildings have helped make the country the least energy-efficient major economy; the country's resource-sucking structures have "become an obstacle to national development," says Qiu. The newly tightened standards slice allowable energy consumption of heating, lighting, and air conditioning …

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An urban denizen beseeches nature writers to focus on cities for a change

A plea to nature writers: Come write about Los Angeles. To all the young aspiring Thoreaus out there: Head to this megalopolis in droves, as if to Mecca. Chicago is also good. New York. Pittsburgh. Atlanta. Reno. Providence. Houston. Indianapolis. Who needs the woods? Photo: iStockphoto Why does the venerable American literary genre of nature writing continue to ignore cities? Sure, a few wonderful writers are traveling the mean streets: very recently, Michael Pollan has rooted urgently through our supermarkets and kitchens. But when I browse the state-of-the-genre bible, the 2002 Norton anthology of nature writing, I can find only …

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Happy Feat

GM unveils plug-in hybrid at Detroit car show, sticks out tongue at greens The media got a peek at Detroit's North American International Auto Show yesterday, and manufacturers had a surprise in store: cars so green they could play hide-and-seek in a cornfield. The biggest buzz surrounded the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid from General Motors, long vilified for yanking its original electric car in the 1990s. Bob Lutz, GM's vice chair of global product development, took the opportunity to bridge the chasm between the company and its eco-critics. "Well, here it is ... an [electric] car from General Motors. …

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Ready Orleans Not

Big Easy residents move back into homes that remain in danger's path While officials continue to debate the best way to rebuild New Orleans, those who lived there just want to go home. But as residents slowly but surely return, many are reinhabiting houses that may not stand up to severe weather and returning to areas planners think should be abandoned, some of which were submerged in 20 feet of water when Hurricane Katrina hit a year and a half ago. New federal flood guidelines say "substantially damaged" homes must be raised on foundations up to three feet off the …

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Move Thyself: A roundup of pedal-powered news in the new year

A pedal-tastic roundup

On a personal new year's note, I can't help but mention the only-months-old but hopelessly addictive new habit I know I'll be nursing throughout the year: mountain biking at night. No idea why I only started doing this recently, and in the winter no less, but there you go. And since I splurged on a set of burly studded mountain-bike tires that should be arriving any day now, snow and ice riding on both trail and street at all hours are up next. That, and on snowmobile trails. Any others out there who want to join the ranks of proud …

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There’s Always the Phone

Norway launches carbon-offset program for officials flying abroad World leaders like to kick off the year with stirring energy-related pronouncements (see: "addicted to oil"). But this New Year's Day, in a speech peppered with grand statements, Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made a concrete pledge: the country will begin buying credits to offset the greenhouse-gas emissions of all public employees who fly abroad. Motivated in part by warming trends and the fact that "children are no longer able to make snowmen," Stoltenberg said the program, which a national news agency estimated would cost about $400,000 a year, could set an …

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Taking the long way home: What's wrong with the hydrogen path

Warning: techno-engineering speak ahead

Amory Lovins is rightfully admired by environmentalists. But nobody is right all the time, and the hydrogen path is one of his few mistakes. He summarizes his argument for hydrogen in Twenty Hydrogen Myths (PDF). More extensive discussion is embedded in his book Winning the Oil Endgame (book-length PDF). His basic proposal: Since most gas stations already have access to natural gas, put natural gas reformers in enough stations to make sure everyone has access to hydrogen within 25 miles. For stations without natural gas, they can reform hydrogen from LPG or ethanol -- or use off peak electricity. Build …

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This Rocks Our Sox Off

Boston will require new large buildings to meet green building standards Hooray, Boston: The city is soon expected to require that all new construction projects of 50,000 square feet or more meet green building standards. Projects will be required to follow at least 26 of about 70 suggestions for green design and construction, similar to the U.S. Green Building Council's minimum LEED standards. Buildings will not be required to be LEED-certified -- "The LEED process can be lengthy, onerous in documentation, and costly," says James W. Hunt III, Boston's chief of environmental and energy services -- but the city will …

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How a grassroots biodiesel group can show the way for others

The way that Rob Del Bueno backed into the world of biofuel almost by accident, as told in the article "Small Potatoes," is emblematic of the way most folks get engaged in grassroots biofuel development. It starts with a desire to use a renewable fuel to power your life long before a GMO-happy megacorporation was going to start reliably supplying you with it, and then it turns into an obsession that alters your whole outlook. Erik Hoffner. At about the same time that Rob was getting started, friends of mine were interested in creating a biodiesel-buying co-op together. Discovering how …

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