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The Traffic is Murder Out There

Traffic causes heart attacks Being stuck in traffic could substantially raise your chances of having a heart attack -- and it's not just the stress. The particulate pollution that hovers over traffic is the likely culprit, says a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, though "we can't exclude that there is an interaction between stress and pollution," says lead author Annette Peters. And before you greenies start feeling smug, note that it doesn't matter whether you're in a car, aboard public transportation, or riding a bike; as long as you're breathing the stuff, you're at risk. So, …

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So whatcha whatcha whatcha want?

In the U.S., as with many other places, the industrial era saw a massive exodus from rural areas into cities.  The "information era" (or whatever buzzword you like) has seen a massive exodus from cities to suburbs and exurbs, with long commutes to work, sprawling colonies of large homes, strip malls, and cars, cars, cars.  Now, the mere fact of such a large exodus would seem to indicate that Americans prefer such a lifestyle (despite the fact that it may be killing them.) But according to a new survey conducted by Smart Growth America in conjunction with the National Association …

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They’ve Been Working on the Railroad

Recycled plastic railroad ties making inroads There are nearly a billion wooden railroad ties holding together the railroads and subways of the U.S. That's a lot of wood, and thus a lot of trees. It's also a lot of creosote, a preservative chemical used on wood and deemed by the U.S. EPA "probably a human carcinogen." The cost of wood coupled with insurance against creosote-related litigation is inspiring some rail operators to switch to ties made from recycled plastics and rubber -- milk jugs, plastic bags, Styrofoam cups, and so forth. Manufacturers claim that plastic ties are environmentally friendly, and …

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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Airlines start cutting emissions and raising efficiency Once considered burdensome headaches, techniques to cut pollution and increase efficiency are now being embraced by many large airlines. Why? "It turns out that good environmental behavior is also cost-effective," said Bengt-Olov Nas of Norway's Scandinavian Airlines System. The principal driver is rising fuel costs: The price of refined jet kerosene has risen by about 60 percent since January, eroding airlines' already-slim profit margins. In response, airlines are pushing to increase fuel efficiency and taking a number of steps to decrease waste: polishing planes to reduce scratches that increase drag, painting planes lighter …

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Like a Camel Through the Eye of the Tax Code

Congress moves to close SUV-friendly tax loophole It looks like Congress may soon close one of the U.S. tax code's most egregious provisions (and that's quite a distinction!). In 2003, lawmakers raised the business-equipment tax deduction to $100,000, clearing the way for a massive luxury SUV to be written off as a business expense -- if it was used "primarily" for business purposes, of course, wink, wink. The American International Automobile Dealers, an industry group, claimed the tax break stimulated the economy, citing, uh, a 6 percent rise in SUV sales. Automakers, deeply aware of the injustice of it all, …

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FUV

European SUV backlash spreads Beads of sweat are gathering on the foreheads of European automakers, as a backlash against sport utility vehicles spreads across the continent. Several countries have passed or are weighing measures that could hurt SUV sales. London Mayor Ken Livingstone displayed his usual delicacy when he referred to SUV drivers as "complete idiots" and proposed doubling the city's $9 congestion fee for them. Paris' city council wants to ban the big vehicles entirely from the city center, and the French government is considering raising taxes on them. The issue is as much cultural as environmental -- while …

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Air Force Une

New car powered by compressed air to hit France There are some nifty-sounding cars in the making these days. The latest -- to be introduced in France, where production will begin next year -- is the Air Car, a car that runs on, uh, air. Well, and electricity too. You plug it in at home, where an electric pump compresses air into the tank; the compressed air then powers the engine during driving. A full charge will enable you to travel about 50 miles at top speed (70 mph) and farther at lower speeds, more than enough, says manufacturer Moteur …

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Cheese-Eating Efficiency Monkeys

France has made big strides in energy efficiency After the global oil crises of the 1970s, both the U.S. and France took steps to increase energy efficiency and reduce their vulnerability to oil price fluctuations. Unlike the U.S., however, France stuck with them. Since 1973, U.S. oil use has risen by 16 percent, while France's has fallen by 10 percent. France imposed a stiff gasoline tax (its citizens pay more than $5 a gallon for gas, $3.75 of it taxes), subsidized a massive shift to more fuel-efficient diesel-powered automobiles, and aggressively developed its nuclear power industry. These demand-oriented strategies stand …

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Ford Focus

Ford develops ambitious, private plan to reduce emissions Top executives at Ford Motor Co. have set an aggressive goal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions -- a goal that would require a roughly 80 percent improvement in the fuel economy of the company's cars and trucks by 2030. The motives behind the goal, which the company has not announced publicly, are complex. It's a business opportunity: Toyota, which has moved aggressively into the hybrid market, is seeing profits that put American car companies to shame. It's a matter of strategy: According to Merrill Lynch analyst John Casesa, "we are entering a world …

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Take Two Tickets to the City and Call Me in the Morning

Suburban sprawl is bad for your health Not only is suburban sprawl bad for the environment -- encouraging car use and overly large, energy-inefficient homes, paving paradise to put up a parking lot, etc. -- but it's bad for the folks who live there as well, according to a new study to be published in the journal Public Health. Based on data from more than 8,600 Americans in 38 metropolitan areas, researchers found that the higher the level of sprawl, the more likely residents were to report ailments from arthritis to asthma to heart disease, even when factors like age …

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