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These Aren’t the Hybrids You’re Looking for

Newer hybrids emphasize engine muscle instead of fuel efficiency Some of the newest hybrid car models are not notably more fuel-efficient than their conventional brethren, but still qualify buyers for a "clean fuels" tax credit, causing greens no end of mixed feelings. In the case of the Honda Accord, the 2005 hybrid model uses electric-motor technology to boost the car's power rather than significantly reduce fuel consumption and save gasoline -- testing by Consumer Reports indicates that it gets about the same miles per gallon as the conventional Accord. Oil-phobic activists are guarded in dissing the power-happy hybrids, since their …

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Lend Me Your Gears

Car sharing slowly but surely taking off in cities worldwide Car sharing is gradually gaining ground around the globe, and the future looks bright for a concept once derided as a green fever dream. About 300,000 people worldwide now participate in car sharing; it's taken off especially well in European nations like Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, where the largest company has 2,400 cars and 60,000 members (compared to a total of roughly 1,000 shared cars in the U.S.). New technologies like online car booking are making it easier for companies to manage larger numbers of vehicles and for customers …

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One Tree Shill

Sierra Club touts new Ford hybrid SUV The Sierra Club has long criticized Ford Motor Co. for its environmental offenses, primarily the industry-worst average fuel economy of its fleet. So members may be surprised when Ford's hybrid Mercury Mariner SUV is prominently featured in an upcoming club newsletter and on SierraClub.org. When the green group first offered to promote a Ford hybrid SUV last year, the company turned it away, but now -- thanks to intervention from CEO Bill Ford -- it is welcoming the opportunity to buff its battered green image. Ford, claims the club, deserves credit for becoming …

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Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Obrador’s Heaven

Ambitious new bus rapid-transit system hits the road in Mexico City Mexico City mayor and popular presidential hopeful Andrés Manuel López Obrador hopes to clear some of his city's legendary smog and gridlock with an ambitious pilot transport project -- a bus system with a hint o' subway. Eighty new low-emission Volvo jumbo buses have replaced about 350 older, smaller buses along a portion of Insurgentes, Mexico City's main north-south drag, running in dedicated lanes free of other vehicles. Passengers prepay for tickets and board from one of 36 modern new stations along the route. While critics contend that everything …

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Al Norman, anti-Wal-Mart activist, answers questions

Al Norman. With what environmental organization are you affiliated? I'm founder of Sprawl-Busters. What does your organization do? We help community groups fight off big-box sprawl -- strategize their battles, understand key objectives, and develop a game plan. What, in a perfect world, would constitute "mission accomplished"? Getting people to stop shopping at these giant stores and invest their money in local businesses. How does it relate to the environment? We would end the practice of building shopping plazas consisting of 20 or more acres of concrete and asphalt. What do you really do, on a day-to-day basis? I hear …

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Heck, I’d cycle nude even if it wasn’t for a good cause

Speaking of naked protests: This weekend, hundreds of cyclists across the world rode in what is by far my favorite protest -- the World Naked Bike Ride. Riding against oil dependence, for cyclists' rights, or just to feel the breeze on all their parts while surrounded by a bunch of naked friends and/or strangers, protestors bared all in some 50 cities in 17 countries, including London, Chicago, Seattle, and Madrid. And what could be better? Naked cycling protests combine the energy and exhilaration of three already pretty exhilarating activities: public nudity, protesting in the streets, and cycling. Seriously, if you've …

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Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

San Francisco named most sustainable city; Houston least San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Berkeley, Calif., and Seattle took the top four spots in a new ranking of 25 U.S. cities based on sustainability practices. Bay Area green group SustainLane created the list after scrutinizing the metropolises based on 12 criteria, including air quality, transportation, green building, and land use. Detroit was second to last and Houston the big loser -- "The city was built on oil and it shows," said the report. "Portland and San Francisco and other cities are really achieving things that are incredible," said SustainLane's Warren Karlenzig, pointing …

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Do they ever really work?

This Treehugger post on a Toronto bikeshare service reminded me of my hazy days in Missoula, MT. (The weather was plenty clear, mind you ...) While I was there, a bikeshare service called Freecycles was launched with great fanfare, flooding the streets with clunky green refurbished bikes -- free to use for anyone! For a while they were an iconic sight around town. Of course, I never rode one, and didn't know anybody who did, except as a novelty. Then there were fewer, and fewer, and then the program disappeared with a whimper. And it's not a surprise, I guess. …

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Ask Not for Whom the Toll Jells

U.K. transport secretary wants new tax on motorists U.K. Transport Secretary Alistair Darling wants to prevent "L.A.-style gridlock" on England's major motorways. (With the U.K.'s tough gun-control laws, that shouldn't be a problem, right?) He's trying to drum up public support for "road pricing," a tax of up to $2 per mile on drivers who frequent the country's busiest roads, to be assessed by way of an ambitious high-tech satellite and GPS surveillance system. Transport experts agree it may be the best way to ease congestion; the political feasibility of such taxes is less clear, though the experience of Old …

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Eric Britton, sustainable-development booster, answers questions

Eric Britton. What work do you do? I earn my living and pay the rent as an international adviser, consultant, and team builder for public- and private-sector organizations that have accepted that they need new thinking in the face of this uncomfortable concept that some call "sustainable development." That takes about half my time. For the rest, I have since the mid-'70s been involved in creating and maintaining a number of continuing public dialogues about various aspects of sustainable development, starting with The Commons: Open Society Sustainability Initiative. I try to reconcile my NGO work with my advisory relationship with …

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