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Beep Beep, Beep Beep, Yeah!

Car mileage testing will catch up with reality, EPA declares After years of criticism from greens and independent testing groups, the U.S. EPA announced on Friday that its rules for testing automobile fuel economy will finally be updated and revised. New standards should be in place for testing 2008 model year cars. It's a move long opposed by the automobile industry, since the revisions could decrease mile-per-gallon estimates for new vehicles by as much as 10 percent. EPA chief Stephen Johnson says the new standards will reflect the realities of driving conditions and auto technology in 2005 -- rather than, …

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A Bottle of Red, a Gas Tank of White

France's wine glut turned into biofuel It was the best of times for French drivers; it was the worst of times for French oenophiles. Beset by fierce international competition and flattened domestic sales, France's vintners this year will distill about 133 million bottles' worth of surplus wine into ethanol, which will be added to gasoline -- part of an overall European effort to increase use of biofuels. "If my grandfather could taste what I'm turning into alcohol, he'd turn over in his grave," said winemaker Olivier Gibelin. But faced with a massive oversupply that could only be sold at rock-bottom …

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The End of the End of the Affair

SUV sales regaining strength in the U.S. Showing characteristic signs of short-term memory loss, the American public is apparently renewing its love affair with the SUV. When gas prices spiked to over $3 a gallon following Hurricane Katrina, demand for hybrids was in the headlines and chatter about fuel-efficiency standards was all the rage. Now gas prices in the U.S. have fallen to an average of $2.38 a gallon, and Americans on a cheap-gas buzz are making booty calls to SUVs. Prices for used SUVs have started to rise in recent weeks, after plummeting for most of the year. And …

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Start Spreading the Dues

Charging cars to enter city could loosen New York's traffic jams Charging drivers a fee to enter the city center succeeded in ameliorating traffic woes in London -- but can the concept make it on the mean streets of New York, N.Y.? 'Cause if you can make it there ... oh, never mind. The Partnership for New York City, an influential business association, thinks "congestion pricing" for Gotham is just the ticket, and it's been working quietly for months to sell Mayor Mike Bloomberg (R) on the idea. A new report from the group suggests charging $7 per car during …

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Arup and at ‘Em

China hires British engineers to create self-sufficient urban centers Remember Logan's Run, the futuristic 1970s sci-fi flick where sex-crazed twentysomethings lived in a self-contained city sealed off from the ravages of a devastated environment? Seems reality might be catching up with fiction: China's hiring British firm Arup to design and build up to five "eco-cities" that will be self-sufficient in water, energy, and much of their food supplies, with climate-neutral transportation systems. They're envisioned as prototypes for eco-correct urban living in overpopulated and polluted environments -- and also as catnip to attract more investment in China's booming economy. The first …

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Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na — Batwing!

Radical design might help curb greenhouse-gas emissions from aircraft Under pressure to reduce fuel use and greenhouse-gas emissions, the airline industry may turn to a futuristic airplane design sketched by Sir Frederick Handley Page in the 1960s. The delightfully dubbed "batwing" would be built of plastic rather than today's heavy aluminum, and would be covered in tiny, laser-drilled holes to reduce fuel-consuming drag. Industry group Greener by Design is using the batwing design in its plans for jets that would consume two-thirds less fuel than current aircraft, which combined with other changes in flying practices could bring total aircraft emissions …

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Umbra on diesel vs. standard gasoline cars

Dear Umbra, I've always heard bad things about diesel fuel. However, I know someone who has a diesel VW that gets 50 miles to the gallon. I'm wondering if you could do a cost-benefit analysis for me. I know I can't afford a hybrid anytime soon, and was wondering if it would be better to buy a used diesel car that gets excellent gas mileage or a regular used car that gets in the 30 to 40 mpg range. AnneNelson, N.H. Dearest Anne, Unless you can get alternative diesel fuel, stick with a standard gasoline car. Is it worth it? …

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Umbra on bicycle commuting, again

Dear Umbra, So what about bike commuting? Is it safe? Is it good? Is it encouraged? P.K. BorzoSt. Paul, Minn. Dearest P.K., Yes, yes, yes. Lungwise, biking is at least as safe as driving, if not more so. It's true, as many readers pointed out after my previous column, that we breathe more heavily when bicycling than driving. But the scientists thought of that. In general, we are not worse off biking in regular old city traffic, especially if we are able to stay to the side of the pollutant slipstream. Of course, there are a lot of variables -- …

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Put a Turkey in Your Tank

Biofuels from odd sources gain new fans Just about anything organic, from turkey entrails to cow dung, can be used to make biofuel, and with oil over $60 a barrel, just about everything is. Changing World Technologies' refinery uses the feathers, bones, fat, and other bits from a nearby turkey-processing plant to make up to 500 barrels daily of bird diesel, which it sells to a nearby industrial facility. CEO Brian Appel says turkey oil is competitive with petroleum, thanks to recent U.S. tax incentives for renewables. U.K.-based Green Fuels makes machines that turn used restaurant fryer oil into biodiesel, …

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Top green-building system is in desperate need of repair

This piece is excerpted from the essay "LEED Is Broken; Let's Fix It." The full essay can be found here. Pan of green gables. Once the narrow province of hippies in beads and Birkenstocks, the green-building world has in the last five years blossomed and taken on a professional sheen. That's thanks in large part to the U.S. Green Building Council and its flagship program for rating commercial buildings' environmental performance -- LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. "Green building" was once all in the eye of the claimant, but LEED changed that, creating a national standard for …

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