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Air Force Une

New car powered by compressed air to hit France There are some nifty-sounding cars in the making these days. The latest -- to be introduced in France, where production will begin next year -- is the Air Car, a car that runs on, uh, air. Well, and electricity too. You plug it in at home, where an electric pump compresses air into the tank; the compressed air then powers the engine during driving. A full charge will enable you to travel about 50 miles at top speed (70 mph) and farther at lower speeds, more than enough, says manufacturer Moteur …

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Cheese-Eating Efficiency Monkeys

France has made big strides in energy efficiency After the global oil crises of the 1970s, both the U.S. and France took steps to increase energy efficiency and reduce their vulnerability to oil price fluctuations. Unlike the U.S., however, France stuck with them. Since 1973, U.S. oil use has risen by 16 percent, while France's has fallen by 10 percent. France imposed a stiff gasoline tax (its citizens pay more than $5 a gallon for gas, $3.75 of it taxes), subsidized a massive shift to more fuel-efficient diesel-powered automobiles, and aggressively developed its nuclear power industry. These demand-oriented strategies stand …

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Ford Focus

Ford develops ambitious, private plan to reduce emissions Top executives at Ford Motor Co. have set an aggressive goal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions -- a goal that would require a roughly 80 percent improvement in the fuel economy of the company's cars and trucks by 2030. The motives behind the goal, which the company has not announced publicly, are complex. It's a business opportunity: Toyota, which has moved aggressively into the hybrid market, is seeing profits that put American car companies to shame. It's a matter of strategy: According to Merrill Lynch analyst John Casesa, "we are entering a world …

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Take Two Tickets to the City and Call Me in the Morning

Suburban sprawl is bad for your health Not only is suburban sprawl bad for the environment -- encouraging car use and overly large, energy-inefficient homes, paving paradise to put up a parking lot, etc. -- but it's bad for the folks who live there as well, according to a new study to be published in the journal Public Health. Based on data from more than 8,600 Americans in 38 metropolitan areas, researchers found that the higher the level of sprawl, the more likely residents were to report ailments from arthritis to asthma to heart disease, even when factors like age …

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If I Were Dictator … Oh, Wait, I Am!

China establishes its first-ever fuel-efficiency standards for cars Attempting to combat its growing dependence on oil imports, China is set to establish fuel-efficiency standards for cars, SUVs, and vans for the first time. The standards are identical to those in a draft circulated last November, about which the auto industry strenuously complained, claiming they were too strict. One thing about a communist dictatorship, though -- it's not particularly responsive to criticism. So the industry is more or less resigned to meeting the standards; Volkswagen, which dominates the Chinese car market, even went so far as to say that it "views …

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When You Wish Upon a Car

Car-Free Day: A good idea, but not without its difficulties Yesterday was Car-Free Day. Couldn't you tell? Some 1,500 municipalities, the vast majority in Europe, participated, but the idea hasn't really caught on in the U.S., outside of a few scattered cities. Reading the European news does not give one great hope that it ever will. Hundreds of cities blocked off streets or entire districts to non-essential traffic. However, the bicyclists and pedestrians that descended on said districts complained that too many commercial and residential vehicles were allowed in, while streets outside the car-free areas were, ironically, clogged with traffic …

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Umbra on whether to leave the engine running

Dear Umbra, I have a question that has been nagging me for a while, and I would really like to have it answered once and for all. You see, I deliver pizzas for a living right now, and so I make many frequent stops and starts at people's houses during a shift. I always turn off my engine whenever I make a delivery or am waiting at the store for the next order to come up, because I believe in doing my part to keep our air clean and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. But I keep hearing the argument that turning …

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Umbra on choosing the least evil gasoline company

Dear Umbra, Every week I scan the gasoline signs looking for the cheapest deal, while knowing that what I pay in rock-bottom prices may come at the expense of environmental integrity and social justice. I'd like to choose my brand of gas with more conscience. Would you help? I'd love to see a ranking or rating system of the major gasoline brands. It could let us know which ones are meaningfully pursuing renewable energy sources, protecting indigenous political and property rights at the source, and making efforts to minimize the environmental impact of their oil extraction and refinement. Are any …

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Coming Soon to a Rap Video Near You

Navistar Introduces the Commercial Extreme Truck For the driver who enjoys his or her Hummer H2 pickup but just wishes it were a little bigger, a little less fuel-efficient, and a little more obnoxious, the answer has arrived: This week Navistar International introduces the CXT, short for commercial extreme truck. The CXT is 21.5 feet long (4.5 feet longer than the Hummer!) and nine feet tall (more than two feet taller than the Hummer!). It weighs seven tons empty, gets six to 10 miles per gallon of diesel gas, and will cost between $93,000 and $115,000. "We can see it …

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The Wicked Switch

Automakers Rapped for Pollution From Mercury Switches With recent revelations that just about all freshwater fish in the U.S. are contaminated with mercury, concern over the heavy-metal pollutant has regulators carefully examining every source. The fourth largest, as it happens, is automobiles, specifically the mercury switches in auto lights and brakes. Last year a record 18,000 pounds of mercury pollution were traceable to scrapped cars, according to the Clean Car Campaign. Since the beginning of 2003, automakers no longer use mercury to make the switches, but controversy remains over who should be responsible for proper disposal of existing switches. A …

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