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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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Umbra on car disposal

Dear Umbra, My wife and I are making plans to purchase our first hybrid vehicle and need to properly dispose of our current car -- a 1989 Buick LeSabre. My question is, what is the best way to get rid of it? It is old and has a lot of miles on it. I suppose the dealer may take it off our hands for a very small trade-in amount -- at which point, they will probably just send it to the scrap yard. What are the odds of it getting properly recycled at that point? Should I first see if …

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Hail the Cabs!

Hybrid taxis to hit the streets of New York City this fall Six different hybrid models will debut in New York City's taxi fleet this fall, thanks to a recent vote by the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission. Some commissioners had previously expressed reservations about the leg room (or lack thereof) in hybrids, but after test drives, one termed Toyota's Prius and Highlander "surprisingly roomy." The commission didn't have much of a choice -- Mayor Mike Bloomberg forced its hand by signing a bill last week that gave it 90 days to approve hybrids -- but commission chair Matthew Daus …

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Green architect Raphael Sperry answers questions

Raphael Sperry. With what environmental organization are you affiliated? I'm the president of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, which is a small nonprofit with a national membership and active local chapters in Northern California, Seattle, and New York City. What does your organization do? ADPSR has a broad mission of advancing peace, environmental sustainability, and social justice. We organize design professionals to advocate for these values, through government and more often through our daily work. We were founded as an anti-nuclear organization in the '80s, and we became strong proponents of healthy building, natural building, solar power, and other aspects of …

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A bridge just far enough

Vancouver city politicians take risky moves to fight climate change.

If you want an example of what sets greater Vancouver, B.C., apart from cities south of the U.S.-Canadian border, look no farther than this Vancouver Sun headline: Council votes to turn two of six lanes on Burrard Bridge into dedicated bike lanes. Just for context -- the Burrard Bridge is one of just a few main access points into downtown Vancouver, and carries a significant amount of car traffic into downtown from some of the western neighborhoods. Vancouver tried a similar experiment in the mid-1990s, but it ended after just a week or so because of a public outcry over …

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A visit to Iceland spurs dreams of a hydrogen future

The loneliness of the long-distance rider. I have seen the future, and it works. The 111 bus rolls quietly up to the Mjodd terminal in eastern Reykjavik at 11:19 a.m., and I climb aboard. For 45 minutes, we cruise through the suburbs and then to the central square downtown, picking up and discharging eight passengers along the way. Fuel cells that would have filled the space of several passenger seats five years ago are now small enough to fit in the roof panels. And out the exhaust pipe: a trickle of water. This is one of three hydrogen buses added …

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These Aren’t the Hybrids You’re Looking for

Newer hybrids emphasize engine muscle instead of fuel efficiency Some of the newest hybrid car models are not notably more fuel-efficient than their conventional brethren, but still qualify buyers for a "clean fuels" tax credit, causing greens no end of mixed feelings. In the case of the Honda Accord, the 2005 hybrid model uses electric-motor technology to boost the car's power rather than significantly reduce fuel consumption and save gasoline -- testing by Consumer Reports indicates that it gets about the same miles per gallon as the conventional Accord. Oil-phobic activists are guarded in dissing the power-happy hybrids, since their …

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Lend Me Your Gears

Car sharing slowly but surely taking off in cities worldwide Car sharing is gradually gaining ground around the globe, and the future looks bright for a concept once derided as a green fever dream. About 300,000 people worldwide now participate in car sharing; it's taken off especially well in European nations like Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, where the largest company has 2,400 cars and 60,000 members (compared to a total of roughly 1,000 shared cars in the U.S.). New technologies like online car booking are making it easier for companies to manage larger numbers of vehicles and for customers …

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One Tree Shill

Sierra Club touts new Ford hybrid SUV The Sierra Club has long criticized Ford Motor Co. for its environmental offenses, primarily the industry-worst average fuel economy of its fleet. So members may be surprised when Ford's hybrid Mercury Mariner SUV is prominently featured in an upcoming club newsletter and on SierraClub.org. When the green group first offered to promote a Ford hybrid SUV last year, the company turned it away, but now -- thanks to intervention from CEO Bill Ford -- it is welcoming the opportunity to buff its battered green image. Ford, claims the club, deserves credit for becoming …