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That Smarts

Cute, Tiny Smart Cars to Come to U.S. and Get Big The tiny, fuel-efficient, two-seater Smart cars (named after their manufacturer) that are so popular in Europe are coming to the U.S. Sort of. Convinced that a tiny car -- even one that gets 60 miles per gallon and has been repeatedly proven safe for drivers -- will offend Americans' sense that bigger means better and safer, Smart U.S.A. will be introducing a Smart SUV to U.S. streets in 2006. If you think that introducing another SUV to a crowded American market would be not only financially silly, but a …

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Smears of a Clown

Auto Industry-Backed PR Firm Claims California Emissions Regs Will Kill A new ad campaign by the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America uses "Squeezy the Clown" to warn that proposed carbon-dioxide emissions regulations in California would force automakers to (gasp!) build smaller cars, which in turn will lead to increased traffic fatalities. (You see, they argue, the regs would force people to squeeze into smaller cars. Like clowns. Funny!) Though the group's name implies a grassroots citizens' effort, in fact SUVOA was bought two years ago by Strat@comm, a Washington, D.C., PR firm with extensive ties to big automakers. Critics …

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Sunflower Power

Scientists Create Hydrogen Fuel from Sunflower Oil British scientists have discovered a way to power cars with sunflower oil. While biodiesel cars that directly burn cooking oil are fairly common, researcher Valerie Dupont and her colleagues have something else in mind, as they reported this week at an American Chemical Society conference. They've figured out a way to use catalysts to extract pure hydrogen from a combination of air, water vapor, and sunflower oil. Hydrogen is frequently hailed as the clean fuel of the future, but most current methods of creating hydrogen burn the very fossil fuels responsible for pollution …

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Whining Is Job One

Ford Battles Hybrid-Friendly Legislation, Destroys Electric Cars Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford's vocal attempts to position his company as eco-friendly are sounding a little hollow this week. As the California legislative session nears its end, Ford has ramped up lobbying efforts to kill a bill that would allow drivers of fuel-efficient hybrids to drive solo in the state's carpool lanes. Ford said the measure -- sponsored by Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D) and backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) -- is a "buy Japanese" bill "intended for almost exclusive use by Toyota Prius drivers." Ford took issue with the bill's …

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The Problem, My Friend, Is Blowin’ in the Wind

Blowing Desert Dust Is Growing Environmental Problem Dust blowing up from the Sahara Desert has increased tenfold in the last 50 years and represents a growing environmental threat, warned Oxford geography professor Andrew Goudie today. And SUVs are at least partly to blame. The replacement of camels with four-wheel-drive vehicles such as Toyota Land Cruisers in the Sahara, as well as the "Toyota-ization" of other deserts in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, has led to an increase in dust storms and a rise in the total amount of dust in the global atmosphere, to some 2 billion to 3 …

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Mort Utility Vehicles

SUV Occupants More Likely to Die in Accidents You surely already know that SUVs pollute the air, contribute to global warming, boost demand for oil, and shackle our security and economic fate to volatile, politically regressive Middle Eastern states. You might even know that SUVs raise the total number of traffic fatalities and squash drivers of smaller vehicles in crashes. But did you know that SUVs are more likely to kill their own occupants? According to new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an SUV occupant in 2003 was nearly 11 percent more likely to die in a …

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New Jersey’s Democratic governor takes tricks from Bush’s book

Gov. James McGreevey (left) and DEP chief Bradley Campbell. In the run-up to the 2004 election, those who have high hopes that a change in administration will automatically mean the curbing of environmental abuses by government should look to recent events in New Jersey for a cautionary tale. In the Garden State, Democratic Gov. James McGreevey, who has historically been a friend to the environment, has perplexed and outraged environmentalists by taking several pages from the Bush administration playbook. McGreevey last month signed sweeping legislation giving developers fast-track access to 1.5 million acres of the state. The act radically streamlines …

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An abandoned Brooklyn warehouse heralds the onset of hipster environmentalism

Thinking outside the loft. Catch the aboveground S train in Brooklyn and you'll whiz through the neighborhood of Crown Heights, an industrial pocket of warehouses and factories that once stored and manufactured everything from artillery to pickle jars. These days, the buildings you pass appear to be abandoned relics in a bleak concrete landscape. But then, just as T.S. Eliot is coming to mind -- "What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow / Out of this stony rubbish?" -- you hurtle by a bright green oasis of richly vegetated roofs and a glossy black array of solar panels …

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A rabble-rousing conservationist answers questions

With what environmental organization are you affiliated? I currently spend 30 hours a week directing the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign (NPLGC), 5 hours a week advising Alternatives to Growth Oregon (AGO), and 15 hours as senior counselor for the Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC). I fill the remaining 10 hours of my 60-hour workweek (I'm a well-adjusted workaholic) with freelance environmental agitation through The Larch Company (TLC). The Larch Company has two profit centers: an electrical power division and a political power division. What does your organization do? What, in a perfect world, would constitute "mission accomplished"? The NPLGC …

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A gas tax might make good sense, but Dems don’t want to touch it

Who would have thought the day would come when environmentalists would want to high-five Gregg Easterbrook? Yes, the same Gregg Easterbrook who memorably dismissed widespread criticisms of the Bush administration's environmental record as "baloney -- baloney being rolled and deep-fried with cheese for purposes of partisan political bashing and fund-raising" in a Los Angeles Times op-ed in October 2003. [Read a past Muckraker column on this.] Easterbrook has finally made a cogent -- and possibly pivotal -- environmental argument. On Tuesday, he published an op-ed in The New York Times entitled "The 50-Cent-a-Gallon Solution" arguing that despite the current American …