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Ford’s green guru discusses cars, climate, and time-warp activism

Last month, Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford laid out a new vision to turn his company into a leader in technological innovation and, just perhaps, an environmental performance champion as well. His announcement, including the promise to produce 250,000 hybrids annually by 2010, comes during a time of trouble for the industry, and we watched it with keen interest. You say more hybrids, I say more hijinks. Photo: Wieck Media. First, our own "full disclosure": We work for SustainAbility, a think tank and consulting agency headquartered in London, and Ford Motor has been a client since the late 1990s. …

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No Word on the Mansions

Governors abandon gas-guzzling SUVs as they ask others to use less fuel As post-hurricane gas prices in the U.S. hover around $3 a gallon, several governors have dumped their state-funded, gas-hogging SUVs for more energy-conscious vehicles. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) will be sidelining his Lincoln Navigator for a Ford Escape hybrid, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has been Escape-ing on official business since Katrina hit. Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D) has ditched his Chevy Suburban for unmarked sedans. Midwest Govs. Tim Pawlenty (R) of Minnesota and Tom Vilsack (D) of Iowa are switching to SUVs that burn …

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School choice could be an answer to sprawl

Imagine a country -- we'll call it Hobsonia -- that requires all its residents to shop at officially assigned supermarkets based on where they live. Now, Hobsonians care passionately about food, and since the law allows them to move if they wish, citizens decide where to live based largely on where they can buy groceries. Those with money move to the best supermarket districts, which tend to be in affluent areas where store managers know that unhappy customers have the scratch to move elsewhere. Hobsonia thus sorts itself into good supermarket districts and bad. While people talk passionately about improving …

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Sport Futility Vehicles

SUV sales take a dive as gas prices ascend It seems America is suffering from some shrinkage. SUV sales plummeted in September, compared to the same period last year. Ford Motor Co. reported a 55 percent-plus freefall in sales of mega-SUVs like the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator; sales of its F-series pickup trucks also dove about 30 percent. Other major automakers had similar reports, while sales of Japanese passenger cars and smaller trucks rose a bit. A number of factors are involved, including the end of "employee pricing" discount promotions, but the skyrocketing price of gasoline is considered the major …

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How to put the brakes on employee driving

Even before last month's Gulf Coast catastrophes sent the nation's oil companies scurrying to hike gas prices, the cost of driving to work was nearing the pain point. And not just the price of filling up: as average commute times have grown over the past five years, even in green-minded cities like Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo., the economic, environmental, and psychic costs of commuting by car have been anything from a mere headache to a major migraine. It just makes cents. As a result, teleworking, carpooling, and other commuting alternatives are undergoing a revival, much as they have during …

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We Like Bike

Gas prices push U.S. bike sales to near-historic peak Glory be: More bicycles than cars have been sold in the U.S. in the past 12 months. That's about 19 million bicycles -- nearing the 20 million sales peak during the early 1970s oil embargo -- and roughly $5 billion to $6 billion in business, according to the trade organization Bikes Belong. Though concern for the environment may factor into the two-wheeler surge, one bike-shop owner pins the new jones for cycling primarily on spiking gas prices. Sales of some auto brands, however, are holding high despite rising fuel costs: Hummers …

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Umbra on used cars

Dear Umbra, With rising -- OK, skyrocketing -- gas prices, I would like to invest in a car that gets good mileage and is reliable. However, I can't afford a new Toyota Prius. Do you have any suggestions for environmentally friendly used cars that those of us on a budget might be able to invest in? Living in Wyoming, I have to travel long distances on a frequent basis, and public transportation is a joke here, so any suggestions would be appreciated! Lindy JohnsonSheridan, Wyo. Dearest Lindy, Until today, I thought general guidelines were all the car-purchase advice I was …

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Umbra on bicycle commuting

Dear Umbra, My question regards my daily half-hour (each way) bicycle commute through fairly heavy city traffic. I've been wondering if the benefits (exercise, sunshine, free and fast transport) are outweighed by the negatives (primarily breathing in diesel and other exhaust, but I'd also throw in the risk of almost getting run over, despite the cheap thrills). I am fortunate enough that my alternative would be to take the subway, not drive. Perhaps you could comment on the personal and environmental health effects of different types of commutes. IndieWashington, D.C. Dearest Indie, Spoke truth to power. Biking, biking, we love …

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Sacrificial Sham

Bush asks Americans to avoid unnecessary car trips and save energy President Bush yesterday called on Americans to drive less and conserve gas. "We can all pitch in," he said. Of course, "all" is relative: Though the president directed federal agencies to reduce energy use, Republican congressional leaders were meeting even as he spoke to push for more energy-industry subsidies and weaker environmental laws governing fuel production and distribution. This has activists gearing up for a fight. Republican leaders are "racing faster than a hurricane to smash through alleged environmental barriers before anyone realizes what they are up to," said …

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Martin Melaver, eco-friendly real-estate entrepreneur, answers questions

Martin Melaver. What work do you do? I'm CEO of Melaver, Inc., which is a third-generation, family-owned real-estate company based in Savannah, Ga. What does your organization do? We really do a bit of everything in real estate, which I guess is typical for a business with roots in a smallish town. We develop, acquire, renovate, manage, broker, and own commercial and residential properties. And we're trying to do it all sustainably, which is a mouthful. What, in a perfect world, would constitute "mission accomplished"? It's easy enough to develop, manage, acquire, and rehab sustainably (if you're committed to the …

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