Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Cities

Comments

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 …

Read more: Cities, Politics

Comments

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 …

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

Comments

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 …

Read more: Cities

Comments

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 …

Read more: Cities

Comments

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 …

Read more: Cities

Comments

You Are Now Free to Emit About the Country

U.K. plans to offset CO2 emissions from officials' airline flights As part of its sustainable-development strategy announced today, the U.K. is unveiling an innovative program to offset the carbon-dioxide emissions generated by the air travel of its ministers and civil servants. Starting next month in at least three government departments, each time an official flies overseas on official business, an independent assessor will determine how much CO2 will result and how much money is needed to offset it. That amount of money will then be paid into a fund devoted to sustainability projects in developing countries: solar cookers in India, …

Read more: Cities

Comments

AAA for Effort

Legislation would force EPA to get realistic about fuel-efficiency stats A bill debuting in Congress today would require the U.S. EPA to revamp its gas-mileage tests to more accurately reflect real-world driving conditions. Currently the EPA determines mileage ratings for vehicles by using 30-year-old tests that allow vehicle engines to get warm, never push the speed above 60 mph, never run the air conditioning, and never accelerate quickly. Enviro groups have long argued for reform of the tests, but now the bill has garnered the support of behemoth auto club AAA, which has conducted its own tests and found that …

Read more: Cities

Comments

The Twilight of Zoning

New Oregon law takes aim at smart-growth rules, excites developers Oregon's recently passed Measure 37 is threatening to sprawlify the state, even as it acts as a model for property-firsters across the nation who want to ease development restrictions. The measure mandates that the government compensate private landowners if zoning or land-use restrictions reduce the value of their property. Or, if cash-strapped governments can't afford to pay up, as is often the case, then they just can't restrict zoning. Smart-growth laws in communities across the country (including Oregon, for now) try to direct development to areas with existing roads and …

Read more: Cities

Comments

Umbra on trains vs. cars

Dear Umbra, My girlfriend recently made a trip by train (about 600 kilometers, I'd guess), and it made me wonder just how much more ecological it is to travel by train instead of by car. What's your take on this? MichaelOttawa, Ontario, Canada Dearest Canadian Michael, The train, it is better. The car, it is the worst. That is my take, and I found a legitimate source that agrees -- namely, my favorite book. Let's all recite together: The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, from the Union of Concerned Scientists. All aboard. Photo: Gareth Hill. The UCS compiled its …

Read more: Cities

Comments

Exhausted

Old diesel engines kill more than 20,000 Americans a year Particulate pollution generated by old diesel engines is killing more people per year than drunk driving, said a report released yesterday. Using data and methodologies from the U.S. EPA, the Clean Air Task Force and a coalition of public health groups found that more than 20,000 Americans -- particularly those in urban areas near bus stops, highways, truck stops, or construction sites -- die, and more than 400,000 visit the emergency room, each year after breathing in tiny particles of diesel exhaust. While the EPA has mandated the phase-in of …

Read more: Cities