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Adding Fuel Cells to the Fire

The Bush administration has been busily touting fuel-cell cars as a critical component of its energy plan and the solution to many an environmental woe. But what if the solution turns out to cause its own problems? According to new research published in this week's issue of Science, the technology used in hydrogen fuel cells could contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from excessive doses of ultraviolet light. If fuel cells were used to power everything from cars to utilities, the researchers found, large amounts of hydrogen would drift into the stratosphere and increase …

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Reader responses on family cars, the internal combustion engine, and more

Dearest Readers, How I enjoy your letters! I'm sorry I'm unable to answer them all; lest you fear that they vanish into the void, I assure you they do not. I read each and every one of them down here in Stacklandia. I must in particular thank those of you who write in to correct, amend, or expand on issues I address in my columns. Almost without exception, those perspicacious readers who venture to mention my errors (linguistic, scientific, or moral) do so in the most delicate and sensitive manner, doing Ms. Manners proud and leaving her fellow advice columnist …

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Invasion of the Habitat Snatchers

Roads have long been considered the enemy of the environment, creating (literal) avenues for deforestation and development. Now, it seems, they are also to blame for another major environmental woe: invasive species. According to a pair of recent studies conducted at the University of California at Davis, new roads are one of the quickest ways to introduce nonnative species to an area, at a tremendous cost to local flora and fauna. The studies found that invasive species are more likely to be found near roads, and that they spread further with every improvement to roadways, such as grading or paving. …

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Toyota Story

Toyota is racing to make its cars at least as recyclable as those of its European rivals, Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler. The Japanese automaker announced yesterday that the vehicles it produces in Japan and Europe should be at least 85 percent recyclable by 2006 and 95 percent recyclable by 2016, up from 83 percent today. The move will help Toyota expand its market share in Europe, where tough recycling rules are on the books. It will also help the company reduce harmful waste and cut costs by reusing parts from old vehicles. Toyota reused 23,000 components from old cars in 2002 …

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Light on Their Fleet

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a case about whether the Los Angeles area can go beyond the federal Clean Air Act to impose strict anti-pollution rules on buses, taxis, garbage trucks, airport shuttles, and other vehicle fleets. Oil companies and engine manufacturers challenged a rule issued in 2000 by the South Coast Air Quality Management District that requires owners of public and private fleets with at least 15 vehicles to buy low-emission or alternative-fuel vehicles when replacing or expanding their fleets. Old, diesel-burning fleet vehicles have been a significant contributor to Southern California's infamous air pollution problems; one …

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Green Collar Jobs

In an unusually strong gesture of blue-green solidarity, 10 major labor unions called on presidential candidates yesterday to back a decade-long, $300 billion research plan to boost energy efficiency, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and preserve jobs. Known as the Apollo Project, the plan calls for the promotion of hybrid and hydrogen cars, energy-efficient factories and appliances; more financing of high-speed rail projects; expanded use of solar and wind power; and the creation of manufacturing jobs to replace some of the 2 million lost in recent years. Proponents of the plan hope it will forge better ties between the …

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Tunnel at the End of the Tunnel

A coalition that includes the Sierra Club, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and the Abyssinian Baptist Church is backing a project to build a new tunnel under New York Harbor to reduce truck traffic in the city. The proposed rail freight tunnel would divert almost a million truck-trips per year away from the George Washington Bridge; it is supported by business, labor, environmental, and civic leaders, who say it will ease traffic snarls, reduce pollution in neighborhoods suffering from high asthma rates, generate jobs, save money on road maintenance, and even curtail terrorism by limiting the threat of truck bombs. …

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Ford Gored

The Sierra Club hopes to embarrass Ford Motor Co. with ads slated to run in the New York Times and BusinessWeek pointing out that the company's vehicles are less fuel-efficient now than when Ford got its start 100 years ago. The Model T got 25 miles to the gallon; Ford's fleet now averages 22.6 miles per gallon, and its popular Ford Explorer gets just 16 mpg. Global Exchange and the Rainforest Action Network are also aiming their firepower at Ford, organizing protests around the U.S. to criticize the company for reneging on a pledge to boost the fuel economy of …

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Can We Get There From Here?

The U.S. transportation sector generates more carbon dioxide emissions than the entire economy of any other country in the world with the exception of China, according to a study released yesterday by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The study, "Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Transportation," also found that transportation accounts for almost one-third of all U.S. CO2 emissions and seven in every 10 barrels of oil consumed by the country. As Pew Center President Eileen Claussen noted, that means "reducing emissions from this system is critical to an effective GHG [greenhouse gas] reduction strategy." Using existing technology …

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Take This Job and SUV It

Golden State senators will no longer be allowed to use SUVs to tool around their districts, if the president pro tem of the California senate gets his way. Most lawmakers in California lease their vehicles at the state's expense; now, Sen. John Burton (D) wants to ban the lease of SUVs to protect the environment and save the state money on fuel. The rule would apply only to senators, and only to those about to acquire a vehicle, not to those who are already driving SUVs. Since December, when the new legislature took office, more than half of the 95 …

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