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It’s a Sprawl World After All

Two Anti-Sprawl Initiatives Fail in California In other, less eco-friendly initiative news, two separate measures intended to limit sprawl were defeated in California yesterday. In San Diego County, voters bucked statewide trends by rejecting the Rural Lands Initiative, which would have put a 20-year ban on development in 1,000 acres of the county's "backcountry." And in Contra Costa County, voters rejected Measure L, which would have prohibited the building of large discount/grocery outlets (read: Wal-Mart Supercenters) on unincorporated land. The hotly contested election saw Wal-Mart -- widely criticized for, among many other things, encouraging sprawl -- pour $1 million into …

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Missouri Loves Company

New Missouri River Management Plan Sparks Protest A massive new plan to manage the Missouri River, released by the Army Corps of Engineers on Friday, managed to please exactly nobody, in keeping with the tenor of 15 years of debate over the future of the "Big Muddy." Conservation groups immediately protested and filed lawsuits, saying the plan ignores broad scientific consensus -- captured in a 2002 National Academy of Sciences report -- that the only way to restore the sandbars and wetlands needed to nurture the river's endangered and threatened species is to reestablish its natural ebb and flow, letting …

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Umbra on SUVs

Dear Umbra, Please help; my friend Kathryn Schulz, Grist's managing editor, is sick of hearing about my guilt. I own an SUV. In my defense, I got it almost six years ago, when I was moving to the mountains and needed a big car with four-wheel drive to support my rugged, transient lifestyle, and it's a littler model, not a Navigator. Life is funny, though, because now I live in New York, and the only thing I use my SUV for is commuting from my home in northern Manhattan to my job in Westchester. (My job, not just the commute, …

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Bush plan to overhaul CAFE standards is a mixed bag

Clean up the bus, gus. Photo: NREL. The Bush administration has taken to singing the clean-car gospel lately, but it's not quite hitting all the notes. Last month, U.S. EPA chief Mike Leavitt joined Detroit kingpins in a splashy D.C. conference to trumpet the arrival of new vehicles and fuels that reduce sulfur emissions -- a notable achievement, but what Leavitt was passing off as a Bush administration success was in fact an initiative launched under President Clinton. Days later, Leavitt announced additional funding for the Clean School Bus USA program -- some $60 million to replace pre-1991 school buses …

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A More Perfect Union

Sierra Club and Auto Workers Unite Against Bush Fuel-Economy Plan Bush's new fuel-economy plan is even ticking off the United Auto Workers union. The UAW has often been at odds with enviros over auto efficiency standards, but now it's teaming up with the Sierra Club to fight the administration's proposal. In a joint op-ed published in The New York Times this week, the heads of both groups make the case that the plan would threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Americans working in plants that manufacture small cars and would increase pollution and worsen the nation's dependence on foreign oil. …

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Ethanol and Mirrors

Bush Administration Extends Contentious "Dual-Fuel" Rules In a move that will make it easier for automakers to meet fuel-efficiency standards without actually improving the fuel efficiency of their vehicles, the Bush administration announced yesterday that it will extend for four years a system that gives auto manufacturers credits for producing "dual-fuel" vehicles that can run on either gasoline or an ethanol blend. Environmentalists criticized the move, pointing out that only 1 percent of dual-fuel vehicles actually do run on an ethanol blend, in part because fewer than 200 of the 176,000 gas stations in the country offer it. Enviros also …

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The Yellowstone snowmobile controversy gets more convoluted by the minute

The past few days have brought two more odd legal twists and turns to the Yellowstone snowmobile saga, which is becoming more litigiously complex and far-flung than a John Grisham novel. She's got a ticket to ride. Photo: NPS. The story is essentially a protracted game of legal Ping-Pong: The Clinton administration served the ball when it ordered a phaseout of snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks back in January 2001, just before Clinton left office. The Bush administration returned the serve in the early days of its term by freezing that decision, then reversing it in March …

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Jesus Christ’s Supercar?

Hybrid SUVs to Hit U.S. Market This Year While a "green SUV" may sound like an oxymoron, Toyota and Ford plan to roll out new gas-electric hybrid SUVs later this year that warrant the label "greener" -- or, at least, less egregiously wasteful. Ford's hybrid Escape will hit U.S. showrooms this summer, while Toyota will start selling a hybrid version of its luxury Lexus RX330 in November or December. These newfangled hybrid SUVs are expected to get 27 to 40 miles per gallon -- comparable to standard cars. Enviros don't love 'em, but say they're a definite improvement over current …

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Wheeze and No Thank You

Pollution a Likely Contributor to Rising Asthma Rates Asthma rates are climbing around the world, and though scientists can't say precisely what's causing the increase, pollution is thought to be a serious contributor. The respiratory disease has become a particular problem in Asia, where terrible air quality, rapid urbanization, and poor medical treatment have contributed to a troublingly high asthma death rate. Wealthier countries are afflicted too: More than 18 percent of the population of Scotland suffers from asthma, making it the nation with the highest asthma rate in the world. In the U.S., the number of asthma sufferers grew …

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