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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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Mileage in Mirror Is Smaller Than It Appears

U.S. EPA revises vehicle mileage formula for 2008 and beyond Wondering why your Escalade gets eight miles to the gallon, not the 11 that was advertised? U.S. EPA to the rescue! In a move reflecting "real-world numbers," the agency has revised the way it crunches mileage numbers for the first time since 1984. The new formula -- ordered by Congress last year and debuting with 2008 models -- considers formerly ignored factors like weather, air conditioning, super-speedy acceleration (yeah, we're looking at you), and stop-and-go traffic. It's likely to cut current city-mile estimates by 12 percent and highway-mile numbers by …

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An interview with Seattle biodiesel distributor Dan Freeman

Dan Freeman. As a kid, Dan Freeman experimented with using alcohol to run lawnmowers and minibikes. (Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for that parent-son conversation.) These days, he runs Dr. Dan's Alternative Fuel Werks, a Seattle-based biodiesel retail and distribution company with customers ranging from school districts to organic farmers to concerned individuals who want to drive greener. Grist recently spoke to the good doctor -- who got his nickname years ago from his father, an underemployed Ph.D. at the time -- about waste reduction, the power of local energy sources, and why biofuels are like …

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Using grease and other goodies, small biodiesel producers are making a big difference

If you live in a city of any size, you've likely seen them out there: boxy little '80s-era foreign cars, bumpers adorned with pro-ecology and anti-war slogans, and references to "grease." Even the fumes they emit may smell different: literally like French fries, in some cases; like generic used vegetable oil in others. Foh sizzle my fuel-izzle. Photo: iStockphoto Welcome to the small-scale biodiesel movement, a grassroots challenge to Big Oil and Big Ag. While corporate giants create fuel by refining crude oil and fermenting corn, these more modest initiatives focus on a feedstock no one else wants: waste cooking …

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Umbra on the promise of ethanol

Dear Umbra, Lately I've been struggling with the idea of ethanol as a green fuel. It seems to be getting a lot of attention in the government and media, and it is being touted as the answer to this country's petroleum woes (see GM's "Live Green, Go Yellow" campaign). But from what I've read, ethanol production has and will likely continue to have a negative energy balance and its carbon dioxide emissions are comparable to gasoline's. Can ethanol really be the answer to our problems? Ben Van Lear Merritt Island, Fla. Dearest Ben, Probably not. It's unlikely that an automotive …

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Folks, We’re Encountering Some Turbulence

E.U. and U.S. at odds over emissions cap for intercontinental flights In two weeks, E.U. environment commissioner Stavros Dimas will unveil draft rules for capping airline emissions, and we'll give you one guess who's blocking the runway. At issue is whether to regulate intercontinental flights that use European airports for takeoff or landing, or to just regulate domestic flights; E.U. states want the broader cap, but the U.S. -- fearing increased fares and any chance to look good globally -- says non. "We think this will violate trade rules," said James Connaughton, chair of the White House Council on Environmental …

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Kick It into Underdrive

Americans driving less, SUV fervor cooling Who woulda thunk it: For the first time in 25 years, Americans are driving less. A study by Cambridge Energy Research Associates finds that the average American drove 13,657 miles in 2005, down from 13,711 in 2004. So that's, let's see ... um, carry the one ... a whopping 54 miles. We'll take it! Last year also saw SUVs comprise a smaller chunk of new-vehicle sales; even though gas-guzzlers still account for more than half of such sales, "the passion has cooled," says the report. Data on the actual gas being guzzled was good …

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A Grist special series on biofuels

These days, ethanol is praised as the whiz-bang cure-all for our energy ills. And maybe all the sweet talk will cause this "new" fuel to forget that America dumped her for oil in the early 20th century. Oil's just so ... ew all of a sudden. We may finally be ready to return to our first love, an energy source that's been by our side in some form or another since Neolithic times. Oil was too high-maintenance and demanding, anyway. And ethanol's a much better match ... right? Or maybe biodiesel is the one? Or vegetable oil? Hemp? Turkey guts? …

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Top Goes the Diesel

L.A. auto show sees Germans, GM committing to clean-tech cars This week's Los Angeles Auto Show has set the car world abuzz. General Motors, plagued by its gas-guzzling reputation and notorious electric-car bungle, announced its commitment to creating a rechargeable plug-in hybrid, becoming the first automaker to do so. "The technological hurdles are real, but we believe they are also surmountable," said CEO Rick Wagoner, bursting with can-do spirit. And German manufacturers Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler are promoting Bluetec, clean diesel technology that meets even California's tough air-quality standards. Diesels are 30 percent more fuel-efficient than gasoline engines, and Bluetec addresses …

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