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Today a Report, Tomorrow … Well, We’ll See

Ford acknowledges global warming, but makes no big promises Pressure from shareholder activists is producing effects at large companies -- if not yet concrete proposals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, at least notable signals that they're starting to take global warming seriously. The latest to hop on the bandwagon is Ford Motor Co., expected to announce today that it will produce a report analyzing the range of effects climate change -- and the government regulations and incentives that may be enacted to address it -- could have on its operations. It follows ChevronTexaco and other, smaller U.S. oil companies in pledging …

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I Coulda Had a V-12

Automakers make SUV engines bigger, less efficient Under heated criticism for making SUVs that are unsafe and grossly fuel-inefficient, American automakers are responding the way any responsible industry would: making their SUVs even less safe and less fuel-efficient. General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, and Ford are all cranking up horsepower in their SUV engines, in some cases to the point that behemoths like the Jeep Grand Cherokee will go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds, rivaling most sports cars. Though concerns about high gas prices, dependence on foreign oil, and global warming -- did we miss any? …

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Maybe There’s Something to This “Polite” Business

Auto industry agrees to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in Canada After years of halting negotiations, the auto industry has reached a deal with the Canadian government to voluntarily reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by some 5.8 million tons by 2010. Canadian Environment Minister Stephane Dion had previously threatened to impose strict fuel-economy standards if the automakers didn't agree to voluntary cuts. According to government sources, the automakers insisted the deal be made in terms of total emission reductions rather than fuel economy (though the end result will be the same); they feared that explicitly agreeing to fuel-economy standards would imperil their pending …

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Virtually Reality

Automakers launch ad campaign claiming cars are squeaky clean Fed up with negative publicity, automakers are making their vehicles virtually emission-free. Oh, wait, did we say "making"? We meant "calling." The "virtually emission-free" claim is at the heart of a new print ad campaign targeted at federal legislators by a coalition of automakers including Ford, Toyota, and General Motors. There's a grain of truth behind the campaign: Some car models generate roughly 99 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than their counterparts in the pre-regulation 1960s. But critics, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, point out several problems. For one, most automakers …

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O Brother, Where Wal-Mart Thou?

Environmental lawsuits stymie Wal-Mart's attempts to colonize California Retail Brobdingnagian and perpetual defendant Wal-Mart, having carpeted much of the U.S. in Supercenters, has its sights set on one of its last potential growth markets in the country: California. But the Golden State has proved a stormy climate for the hungry giant; dozens of lawsuits have been filed against cities across the state, charging that Supercenters violate the comparatively strict California Environmental Quality Act, signed in 1970 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. The suits claim that the cities, in approving the ginormous stores, underestimate traffic congestion, air pollution, and -- in a …

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Californication

Washington state House OKs bill adopting California auto-emissions rule The Washington state House this week passed a bill calling for adoption of California's strict auto-emissions rules. If the Senate follows suit and the governor signs off, Washington would follow in the footsteps of six other states that have opted to follow California rules instead of the looser national ones. The debate over the bill was long and, er, colorful. The pro-standards crowd, largely representing urban areas, had the typical arguments: State residents would save on gas and health-care costs and, oh yeah, be stricken less often with cancer, pneumonia, and …

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SUV-Loving Public Deems Itself Unpatriotic

Americans think fuel efficiency is patriotic, poll finds According to a new poll released yesterday, fuel efficiency ranks up there with apple pie, baseball, and hating liberals as emblematic of American patriotism. Some 66 percent of Americans believe it's "patriotic" to purchase a fuel-efficient vehicle, as it would aid the U.S. in kicking its addiction to Middle East oil. Even a majority of self-described conservatives agreed, as did two-thirds of NASCAR fans. (One wonders, then, why these folks aren't actually buying fuel-efficient cars. But who are we to niggle?) Also, the poll found, 89 percent of Americans concur that government …

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Umbra on converting your car to straight veggie oil

Dear Umbra, A few years ago, I bought a Prius because it was (and still is, unfortunately) the best car that's offered in our messed-up world. I'm now going to buy an old diesel Mercedes and convert it to run on used vegetable oil. I think this might be the best way to go. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks! JilliTarzana, Calif. Dearest Jilli, I answered the main part of your question in my last column, and in so doing, I promised readers that a fuller exploration would be forthcoming -- so if you don't mind, I'm going to …

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They’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

Hybrid railcar goes into use in California With U.S. imports on the rise, ports are under growing scrutiny from air-quality regulators. Part of that concern focuses on the rail system that chugs goods out of ports and away to various Wal-Marts around the country. Yesterday, as part of its attempts to address such concerns, Union Pacific Railroad put into use one of the first locomotives using diesel-electric hybrid technology. The $800,000 "switch engine" -- a railcar that hooks freight cars to locomotives -- is expected to emit 80 to 90 percent less smog-forming nitrous oxide and use 40 to 70 …

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Umbra on hybrids vs. veggie-oil cars

Dear Umbra, I currently drive a 2002 Toyota Prius that gets about 40 to 42 miles per gallon on the highway, which is where most of my driving takes place. However, I've recently become enamored with biodiesel vehicles, and specifically with straight vegetable oil (SVO) vehicles. I'm interested in investing in an SVO system fueled by, hopefully, recycled oil from local restaurants. I've looked into your column archives, and in covering the question of biodiesel versus gasoline, you sided with gasoline. However, you've never grappled with the interesting question of an SVO vehicle versus a hybrid. (As there are no …

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