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Umbra on biodiesel vs. straight veggie oil

Dear Umbra, I have the opportunity to convert a 1979 non-turbo Mercedes into a non-diesel. The question I have is: to which should I switch, biodiesel or vegetable oil? I can't seem to find out which one is best, just that these two are better than any petroleum-based fuels, which we already know (thanks for your earlier column on hybrids vs. veggie oil). Also, is it possible to switch from biodiesel to veggie oil, or vice versa, once a conversion is made? MargaretCincinnati, Ohio Dearest Margaret, I've noticed a lot of confusion about the distinction between straight veggie oil (SVO) …

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For This Relief Much Tanks

Big SUVs likely to keep guzzling gas under forthcoming fuel-economy plan The Bush administration is said to be abandoning efforts to set fuel-economy standards for huge SUVs like the Hummer H2 and Ford Excursion, which fall outside the weight classes covered by current standards. Those concerned about the warming globe, skyrocketing gas prices, and foreign-oil dependence have long chafed at the loophole, but, well, Big Auto has more lobbyists than they do. American automakers say such standards would damage their shaky bottom lines. The administration is poised to release its new plan for auto fuel-economy standards later this month; it …

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Rob Elam, biodiesel buff, answers questions

Rob Elam. What work do you do? I'm a cofounder of Propel Fuels, a biodiesel services and distribution firm. Biodiesel is a vegetable-oil based fuel for diesel engines. Using it significantly reduces greenhouse-gas and particulate-matter emissions. What does your organization do? Our mission is simple: fill tanks with biodiesel. We're approaching this in three ways: 1) helping retail station owners get biodiesel pumps up and running, 2) providing consulting services for businesses to help ease them into biodiesel use, and 3) offering design/build services on the production side. There's a lot of confusion and bad information when it comes to …

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Umbra on true hybrids

Dear Umbra, I read the New York Times article that reported auto manufacturers are using hybrid technology to boost power rather than improve mileage. It specifically mentioned the Honda Accord, claiming that the mileage difference between the six-cylinder and the hybrid is minimal. What are the facts here? Is there a hybrid that really, actually, no-foolin'-around, gives really good mileage, represents a significant improvement over the regular version, is reasonably safe, and still drives well enough that one may venture onto the interstate without undue fear? JimKalamazoo, Mich. Dearest Jim, I'm glad you wrote. That article stirred some people up, …

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Dense and Densibility

Densest U.S. cities aren't the ones you think Advocates of energy-saving urban density usually laud the towering buildings and subways of Manhattan, as contrasted with the car-heavy suburban sprawl of, say, Los Angeles. But the most dense city in the U.S., measured by people per square mile, is ... Los Angeles. In fact, despite its reputation for sprawl, the West contains 10 of the country's 15 most densely populated urban areas, among them San Francisco, Las Vegas, and San Jose. At work is not a miracle of urban planning but physical limitations: a pervasive lack of water, large mountain ranges, …

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Prius-toric

Team achieves 110 mpg in Toyota Prius If you thought fuel efficiency was cool, wait 'til you meet ... Xtreme fuel efficiency! Rawk! Ahem. A team of five oddly obsessive middle-aged American men, seeking to break the unofficial mileage record set in Japan, recently drove a factory Toyota Prius 1,397 miles on one tank of gas, spending two days circling around one 15-mile stretch of highway near Pittsburgh, Penn. By the end they were tired and sweaty but exultant at achieving a mind-boggling 110 miles per gallon. The key was expert application of the "pulse and glide" hybrid-driving technique -- …

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Hybrid Fidelity

Toyota plans 10 new hybrids, invites automakers to eco-summit Toyota is developing 10 new hybrid models and aims within the next few years to be selling 1 million of the gas-electric vehicles annually worldwide. That, says the company's U.S. head, Jim Press, will mean about 600,000 new Toyota hybrids each year on American roads, including hybrid versions of nearly every model it offers. The auto honcho pooh-poohed recent complaints that hybrid tech is being used to increase engine power instead of fuel economy, blaming that fact on automotive software and consumer driving habits. He predicts drivers will someday be able …

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Meet the world’s first hybrid-cab driver

Like any self-respecting cabbie, Andrew Grant has a talent for small talk. But when the conversation turns to his prized 2004 Toyota Prius, things get a bit more animated. Andrew Grant. "Gave Cameron Diaz a lift once," he says matter-of-factly, leading me toward the Vancouver curb where the curvaceous car is parked. "Oh, yeah? What did she say?" "She said, 'This is nothing, I've got two.'" "What -- two hybrids?" He pauses just long enough to keep things respectable: "Yeah." Fame, as Andy Warhol once so eloquently opined, is a universal phenomenon, and Grant boasts his own rather lofty claim …

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Milenko Matanovic, community-based planner, answers questions

Milenko Matanovic. What work do you do? I run a nonprofit organization called Pomegranate Center. We specialize in involving people in creating gathering places, thereby integrating art into the fabric of the community. We help develop plans for neighborhoods that are safe, humane, environmentally excellent, and filled with character. I founded Pomegranate Center in 1986 to connect community participation with art, education, and the environment because I felt that separating them into exclusive compartments was no longer productive. What does your organization do? Pomegranate Center has two major programs: Gathering Places aims to reinvent the commons. Our model is to …

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Gas-Muzzler

EPA holds back negative report on U.S. auto fuel efficiency According to a report not released Wednesday by the U.S. EPA, loopholes in U.S. fuel-economy standards let automakers produce cars and trucks much less fuel-efficient than models 20 years ago. On Tuesday, the same day the long-debated energy bill emerged from congressional negotiations, EPA opted to keep the report to itself for another week. An agency spokesflack says it's being reviewed for clarity and thoroughness, but some think the delay has a peculiar smell. Says the Sierra Club's Daniel Becker, "Something's fishy when the Bush administration delays a report showing …

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