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Fallen Idles

Electrified truck stops let tired drivers turn off their diesel engines Long-haul trucking, however much our economy depends on it, is an environmental nightmare. For one thing, there's all the gasoline burned. For another, as a recent episode of The Daily Show revealed, there are the sealed bottles of pee truckers throw out their windows on the fly. As much as we'd like to write about that, in fact it's a third eco-sin -- long periods that diesel trucks spend idling, spewing particulate pollution into the air -- that's increasingly being addressed. In the Northeast, a growing network of electrified …

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Let My People Slow

Katrina revealed longstanding "automobile apartheid" One of Hurricane Katrina's many lessons is that those who walk, cycle, or ride public transit instead of owning a car get treated like second-class citizens. Getting stranded during a natural disaster is an extreme example, but it's of a piece with public-policy decisions across the country that prioritize the safety and convenience of car owners over that of nondrivers. Joel S. Hirschhorn calls for an end to the discrimination.

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Brian Hayes’ Infrastructure offers a tour of the “unnatural” side of America

Transmission accomplished. The unprecedented hurricane season that flooded New Orleans and flattened much of the Gulf Coast this summer brought both catastrophe and an historic opportunity: building more-sustainable cities and infrastructure has suddenly become a hot topic. New Orleans doesn't need only restored wetlands and stronger levees to offer protection from future hurricanes and rising sea levels. Homes and streets, highway overpasses and water pipes and power lines -- all must be rebuilt. The city is fast becoming a radical experiment in redesigning infrastructure on a landscape-wide scale. In other words, the timing for Infrastructure couldn't be better. Brian Hayes, …

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In which we ask a mess of smart people what should happen in New Orleans

Unless you've been living under a rock -- and these days, we can't say we'd blame you -- you've probably put at least a smidgen of thought toward the fate of New Orleans. It's a rare thing to reconstruct an American city from scratch (though we can think of a few more cities we'd put on the list). There are some who advocate letting bygones be bygones, allowing the name and character of The Big Easy to fade into days of yore, but most people support the eventual rebuilding of the city. The question is, how should it be done, …

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Exhaust in Translation

Green cars all the rage at Tokyo Motor Show The most buzzworthy attractions this week at the 39th Tokyo Motor Show weren't the biggest or the most powerful but the most eco-friendly. Hoping to dazzle drivers battered by high gas prices, automakers debuted a dizzying array of low-pollution, high fuel-efficiency vehicles -- some electric, some powered by hydrogen fuel cells, some with hybrid gas-electric motors, and a few with combinations thereof. The big story behind the scenes, of course, is the hefty can of whoop-ass opened by Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda on their American counterparts over the last few …

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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 …