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Yukon Take Your SUV and Shove It

Despite increasing awareness of alternative-fuel technologies and growing concern over U.S. dependence on foreign oil, the fuel economy of American cars is only getting worse. Statistics released today by the U.S. EPA show that the average fuel economy of the new fleet of cars for 2003 is 6 percent lower than it was 15 years ago. In 1987 and 1988, back before the SUV craze set in, new cars averaged 22.1 miles per gallon, compared to 20.8 for the 2003 model cars. Only 4 percent of the new crop of cars get more than 30 miles per gallon, compared with …

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Tripping Out

A government-supported pilot project in Alberta, Canada, is offering companies greenhouse-gas credits for every employee who works from home, in order to reduce emissions associated with commuting. The plan is the first step in an effort to produce a Canadian carbon-credits market, whereby firms that cut greenhouse-gas emissions will be able to sell credits to others that are unable to meet reductions targets. The project is being organized by Teletrips, a firm that has already launched similar pilot projects in five U.S. cities. Teletrips has developed software that tracks the number of trips employees save by working at home and …

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Fly the Unfriendly Skies

One-fourth of all North American bird species are at risk, according to a new study released by the National Audubon Society. The report blames increased urbanization and the resulting loss of open spaces for the decline; as cities grow, farmlands are converted to urban areas and grasslands are converted to farmlands, leaving birds with insufficient habitat. The Audubon Society now has more than 200 birds on its "watch" list and says 21 are endangered -- meaning that overall, nearly twice as many bird species are in trouble as were five years ago, the last time the report was issued. Frank …

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That’s Sprawl, Folks

Communities in California, Georgia, and North Carolina are the worst offenders when it comes to suburban sprawl in the United States, according to a three-year study released yesterday by the Washington, D.C.-based coalition Smart Growth America. The study, based on the work of researchers at Rutgers University and Cornell University, measured sprawl by evaluating the density of development, the blend of homes, jobs, and services, the accessibility of streets, and the strength of downtown areas. California's Riverside-San Bernardino region came in at rock bottom, scoring a dismal 14.2 points on a "sprawlometer" where 100 is average, and higher is better. …

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Boston Z-E-V Party

Massachusetts is preparing to adopt California's ambitious zero-emission vehicle legislation, which would require 10 percent of cars and trucks sold within the state to produce no pollution. For the moment, though, the U.S. government is still bickering internally over whether California's legislation is legal. Earlier this month, the Bush administration said California had overstepped its authority by trying to regulate not only emissions but also fuel efficiency, and as a result the Justice Department put the new standards on hold until 2005. The U.S. EPA, however, has proposed supporting a similar program in Massachusetts that calls for low (rather than …

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Advice on converting to biodiesel

Umbra, I own a diesel VW Golf, which I bought thinking it was a better choice for the environment than a gasoline engine. Therefore, I was disappointed to read your message that diesel is probably a worse choice. However, you didn't talk at all about biodiesel. Can you give us a rundown on this fuel -- how to get it, how it may be beneficial, and what you might have to do to ensure your car can run on it safely? Thank you. Sputtering in VermontBurlington, Vt. Dearest Sputtering, Here at Grist Command Central, we received an overwhelming number of …

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Zero Down

Breaking with the federal government's long history of supporting California's clean-air efforts, the Bush administration is saying the Golden State went too far by revising its zero-emission-vehicle rule last year. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Justice Department, the White House sided with DaimlerChrysler and General Motors, which have taken California to court over the law. A Department of Transportation spokesperson called the zero-emission-vehicle legislation an "impermissible intrusion" into federal jurisdiction. California is the only state allowed to set its own air-quality standards and has the nation's most rigorous air-pollution laws. The White House is objecting to the inclusion …

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I Want to Ride My Bicycle

You don't need rock-hard calves, shaved legs, or a dresser full of unitards to love cycling: According to the U.S. bicycle industry, bikes designed for commuters rather than racers are the next big thing. Of the estimated 17 million bikes sold in the nation last year, over 20 percent were "comfort bikes" -- up from 13.6 percent in 2000. These affordable cruisers generally come equipped with fenders, a rack, lights, and chain guards. Some call it a temporary trend and attribute it to the tight economy; some say fears about air travel are keeping people closer to home. But one …

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City of Angels

The famously smog-choked city of Los Angeles will be home to the first zero-emission fuel-cell cars in the U.S., according to an announcement made yesterday by Mayor James Hahn (D). By the end of 2002, Honda Motor Company will lease five FCX hydrogen-powered cars to L.A., which will loan them to city employees for commuting. The car seats four people, has a range of 220 miles, and has been certified by the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. EPA as a zero-emission vehicle. Most major car companies have similar cars in the works; Toyota and DaimlerChrysler plan to have …

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Nether Netherland

For those in the know, the Netherlands are all but synonymous with responsible urban planning. From mass transit to mass cycling, from sustainable building to species protections, the country has raised the bar for the rest of the world. Now, though, politics in the Netherlands is shifting precipitously to the right -- and many fear that progressive urban planning could fall by the wayside. Low-income, state-subsidized housing once accommodated 70 percent of the populace; it currently houses a mere 30 percent. Meanwhile, increased road development is leading to urban sprawl, shopping centers are springing up along freeways like mushrooms, and …

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