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Highway Just Met a Girl Named Maria

Provision in highway bill would require gas-mileage reality check The U.S. EPA would have to use more realistic conditions when testing new vehicle models for gas-mileage figures under an amendment offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), backed by green and consumer groups, and successfully attached to the Senate highway bill. Currently, the agency's methods include evaluating vehicles at an average of 48 miles per hour, and do not account for variables like air-conditioner use, extra cargo, or stop-and-go traffic. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, those unrealistic methods could be costing consumers $20 billion a year for unexpected gas …

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Oh What a Feeling!

Toyota to build Camry hybrids at U.S. plant Toyota announced plans yesterday to begin production of a new hybrid Camry model at a Kentucky plant, marking the Japanese automaker's first foray into hybrid production in North America. With Camry sales tops in the U.S. last year and the company's hybrid Prius selling used for higher than sticker price, Toyota sales exec Jim Press thinks combining the Camry with hybrid technology will be "like magic." The cars should start rolling off assembly lines late in 2006, with initial output expected to be about 48,000 vehicles a year. Toyota will be investing …

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Umbra on whether to visit national parks

Dear Umbra, We are considering a driving vacation this summer with the intent of visiting as many of America's wonderful national parks as we can -- both to enjoy them and to add some money to their coffers, which have been depleted in recent years. But as we all know, burning up lots of gasoline is bad for the environment. My question is: would it be a better environmental choice to drive around and support the national parks, or stay home and not spew all those hydrocarbons into the atmosphere? Jan McCrearySilver City, N.M. Dearest Jan, Our parks are indeed …

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Sick Transit Gloria

Public transit in major cities on collision course with tight budgets Flat or declining revenue and ridership, coupled with increased fuel costs, have left public transit systems in many major cities across the U.S. in financial trouble. Commuters in New York, D.C., Pittsburgh, and Boston have already seen boosted fares over the past few years. Philadelphia and San Francisco are considering similar measures, and Chicago has proposed reducing service, eliminating routes, and hiking fares to account for a $55 million budget hole. Though the cuts are meant to ease financial problems, higher fares and reduced service often lead to a …

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The World Less Traveled

Greens shun cheap air travel, point to impacts of industry A small but growing number of eco-conscious Brits are turning away from cheap airfares and looking to other means of transport or forgoing planned vacations altogether in hopes of reducing their personal environmental footprints. Overall, aircraft-related carbon-dioxide emissions make up some 5 percent of Britain's total, according to Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, and airline-industry emissions could double in the next 15 to 17 years as the industry grows. Says transport specialist Meyer Hillman, "We are going to have to face the fact that we …

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Pedi Cure

Pedicabs catching on in Germany Bicycle taxis, or pedicabs, have been thriving in Germany recently thanks to changes in national law, concerns about pollution and global warming, and a souped-up model dreamed up by former DaimlerChrysler project manager Ludger Matuszewski. The $9,000 German pedicabs -- rented to operators for about $8 a day -- are decked out with disc brakes, 21 gears, and an auxiliary rechargeable electric engine for use when operators need that extra boost. Because the posh modern pedicabs are relatively small and principally human-powered, they can transport their fares not only on city streets but on bike …

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Talkin’ Bout Microgeneration

Microgeneration may energize future With an energy crisis looming and national governments slow to adopt clean, renewable sources, some small communities are creating their own solutions -- and their own energy. Case in point: Beddington Zero Energy Development in South London (BedZED for short), a carbon-neutral sustainable-housing estate employing "microgeneration," or small-scale, local, renewable power production. BedZED's eco-village uses green roofs and well-insulated walls and windows; all the lighting is low-energy, and water-saving washing machines and low-flush toilets reduce the need for H2O. Energy needs are met by solar panels and the community's 130-kilowatt generator, which is fueled by landscaping …

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They Did It Norway

Norway's high gas and auto taxes lead to lower gas consumption Americans, who view cheap oil as a divine birthright and throw a tantrum when gas prices exceed $2, would surely view Norway as a strange and alien land if they, ahem, knew anything about it. Despite the Scandinavian country's huge oil reserves -- it is the world's third-largest exporter of black gold -- gas prices hover around $6.66 (Satan's price!), roughly two-thirds of which is gas tax. Benighted Norwegians also pay up to $395 a year per vehicle in auto taxes, and import duties substantially jack up the prices …

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Stats on how far we’ve come (or haven’t) since the first Earth Day

3.7 billion -- world population in 19701 6.4 billion -- world population in 20051 1,535 billion -- kilowatt-hours of electricity used in the U.S. in 19702 3,837 billion -- kilowatt-hours of electricity expected to be used in the U.S. in 20053 6.0 -- percentage of electricity in U.S. consumed in 1970 produced from renewable sources4 6.7 -- percentage of electricity in U.S. expected to be consumed in 2005 produced from renewable sources3 14.7 million -- barrels of petroleum consumed per day in the U.S. in 19705 20.9 million -- barrels of petroleum expected to be consumed per day in the …

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A Prius With Mayo, Hold the Mayo

Fledgling California bill calls for new sales outlets for hybrids Ever wished you could get a five-pound jar of mayonnaise and a Toyota Prius at the same convenient location? Uh, let us explain. California drivers are crazy for hybrids; dealerships in the state have months-long waiting lists, presumably because demand is greater than supply. But California Assembly member Mark Leno (D) thinks the problem is the dealerships themselves acting as bottlenecks and raising prices. So he's proposed a bill that would break their monopoly on new car sales, allowing hybrids to be sold through retail outlets like Costco or online …

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