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Pedi Cure

Pedicabs catching on in Germany Bicycle taxis, or pedicabs, have been thriving in Germany recently thanks to changes in national law, concerns about pollution and global warming, and a souped-up model dreamed up by former DaimlerChrysler project manager Ludger Matuszewski. The $9,000 German pedicabs -- rented to operators for about $8 a day -- are decked out with disc brakes, 21 gears, and an auxiliary rechargeable electric engine for use when operators need that extra boost. Because the posh modern pedicabs are relatively small and principally human-powered, they can transport their fares not only on city streets but on bike …

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Talkin’ Bout Microgeneration

Microgeneration may energize future With an energy crisis looming and national governments slow to adopt clean, renewable sources, some small communities are creating their own solutions -- and their own energy. Case in point: Beddington Zero Energy Development in South London (BedZED for short), a carbon-neutral sustainable-housing estate employing "microgeneration," or small-scale, local, renewable power production. BedZED's eco-village uses green roofs and well-insulated walls and windows; all the lighting is low-energy, and water-saving washing machines and low-flush toilets reduce the need for H2O. Energy needs are met by solar panels and the community's 130-kilowatt generator, which is fueled by landscaping …

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They Did It Norway

Norway's high gas and auto taxes lead to lower gas consumption Americans, who view cheap oil as a divine birthright and throw a tantrum when gas prices exceed $2, would surely view Norway as a strange and alien land if they, ahem, knew anything about it. Despite the Scandinavian country's huge oil reserves -- it is the world's third-largest exporter of black gold -- gas prices hover around $6.66 (Satan's price!), roughly two-thirds of which is gas tax. Benighted Norwegians also pay up to $395 a year per vehicle in auto taxes, and import duties substantially jack up the prices …

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Stats on how far we’ve come (or haven’t) since the first Earth Day

3.7 billion -- world population in 19701 6.4 billion -- world population in 20051 1,535 billion -- kilowatt-hours of electricity used in the U.S. in 19702 3,837 billion -- kilowatt-hours of electricity expected to be used in the U.S. in 20053 6.0 -- percentage of electricity in U.S. consumed in 1970 produced from renewable sources4 6.7 -- percentage of electricity in U.S. expected to be consumed in 2005 produced from renewable sources3 14.7 million -- barrels of petroleum consumed per day in the U.S. in 19705 20.9 million -- barrels of petroleum expected to be consumed per day in the …

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A Prius With Mayo, Hold the Mayo

Fledgling California bill calls for new sales outlets for hybrids Ever wished you could get a five-pound jar of mayonnaise and a Toyota Prius at the same convenient location? Uh, let us explain. California drivers are crazy for hybrids; dealerships in the state have months-long waiting lists, presumably because demand is greater than supply. But California Assembly member Mark Leno (D) thinks the problem is the dealerships themselves acting as bottlenecks and raising prices. So he's proposed a bill that would break their monopoly on new car sales, allowing hybrids to be sold through retail outlets like Costco or online …

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Quibbles and Bits

New strategies aim to limit drilling impact in Western U.S. As pressure mounts from greens and the hook-and-bullet crowd to slow the pace of energy development in the American West, some companies are moving to support conservation research and employ strategies to lessen their impact. One such method, called "directional drilling," involves the use of high-tech equipment to operate up to 32 wells from one entry point above ground. Another being tested is "adaptive management," whereby regulatory and industry officials alter plans if drilling activities have harmful impacts on wildlife and habitat areas. Along with a proliferation of new drilling …

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The Kids on the Bus Go Cough, Cough, Cough

Kids on school buses breathe more dangerous air than pedestrians Kids who ride the bus to school may be exposed to higher levels of pollutants than those outside on the street, a new study suggests. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley measured the air inside six school buses on a route through Los Angeles and found that exhaust was leaking inside the passenger space. According to Julian Marshall, the lead researcher, a child on a school bus may inhale some seven to 70 times more harmful fumes from that one bus than a typical L.A. pedestrian takes from …

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Canadian Breakin’

Automakers sign emissions deal with Canada, say nyah-nyah to Cali Major automakers signed a deal with the Canadian government yesterday that will have them voluntarily reduce their fleets' greenhouse-gas emissions by roughly 25 percent by 2010. Though it takes the heat off them in Canada, where mandatory federal regulations had been threatened, it puts automakers in a tricky public-relations position in the U.S., where they are suing California over the state's recent adoption of greenhouse-gas standards for vehicles. There are important differences between the Canada and California situations. While California's limits basically demand improved fuel economy from autos, Canada's deal …

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Better Dead Than Sissy

Declining fuel efficiency of military vehicles puts troops in harm's way In decades past, fuel comprised about 30 percent of the total supply tonnage moved to and fro on the battlefield. Today, according to a 2001 Defense Science Board study, that number may have risen as high as an astonishing 70 percent. America's 150,000 soldiers in Iraq now consume roughly nine gallons of fuel apiece every day. Unfortunately, says study chair Richard Truly, the prevailing wisdom at the Pentagon is that "fuel efficiency is for sissies." Tell that to the troops, who are stuck in a vicious cycle. The more …

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Today a Report, Tomorrow … Well, We’ll See

Ford acknowledges global warming, but makes no big promises Pressure from shareholder activists is producing effects at large companies -- if not yet concrete proposals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, at least notable signals that they're starting to take global warming seriously. The latest to hop on the bandwagon is Ford Motor Co., expected to announce today that it will produce a report analyzing the range of effects climate change -- and the government regulations and incentives that may be enacted to address it -- could have on its operations. It follows ChevronTexaco and other, smaller U.S. oil companies in pledging …