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A Ticket to Not Ride

Tree-huggers, time-wasters, socialists, elitists, leftists, losers, homosexuals, Democrats -- those are just a few of the more printable epithets that have been directed at the members of Earth on Empty, an environmental organization dedicated to improving air quality and reversing global warming. What has Earth on Empty done to earn such malice? It has launched a campaign to "ticket" SUV owners for violating the environment. Volunteers with the organization distribute faux traffic tickets to parked SUVs; the text on the tickets describes the environmental consequences of owning the gas-guzzling, oversized vehicles. Earth on Empty's campaign is just one part of …

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Is biodiesel the fuel of the future?

The Granola Ayatollah of Canola, aka Charris Ford, slides behind the wheel of his 1980 International Scout truck and turns the key. The truck burbles to life and off we go, cruising down the gravel roads that divide the aspen groves of southwestern Colorado's Horsefly Mesa. It would be just a standard evening joyride, except that Ford's truck doesn't run on gasoline. Or diesel. Or electricity, or even the sun. This truck is powered by grease, all of it drained from restaurant deep-fryers in the nearby resort town of Telluride. The Granola Ayatollah of Canola. Photo: Eric Limon. The truck's …

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Billy Clubbed

Speaking of the whims of a chief executive: Ford Motor Company is currently struggling to strike a balance between the company's financial woes and the eco-friendly inclinations of CEO and Chair William Clay Ford, Jr. So far, the former seem to be winning out: In its latest corporate citizenship report, released this week, the company says it is having trouble meeting its environmental goals and won't launch many new programs to clean up its cars and trucks in the next few years. Ford says it does intend to keep its promises to improve the fuel economy of its sports utility …

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Building a green community in the Green Mountain State

At 9:30 at night the phone rings. It is my neighbor Lorie, who asks me if I'd mind stepping out onto my porch for a minute. I think I know what this is about. Up the hill on Tom and Lorie's porch there are candles burning on tables covered with the scattered remains of dinner. Children are lounging in laps. Someone is strumming a guitar. I don't know if they can see me, so I call out to them. The guitar gets louder. People begin to sing. It is my birthday, and my neighbors are serenading me. A Cobb-hilled together …

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Putting the Golf Cart Before the Horsepower

Seeking to comply with California regulations requiring automakers to reduce their emissions, General Motors has announced plans to give away thousands of electric vehicles over the next three years. The vehicles in question are literally modified golf carts (they have had seat belts, windshield wipers, and other parts added), and are only for use in low-traffic areas; the electric carts will be donated to businesses and charitable organizations, and will help GM earn low-emissions-vehicles credits under the California law. While most of the vehicles will go to California, some are destined for New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, which have traditionally …

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Umbra on diesel engines

Dear Umbra, Longtime reader; first-time writer. Love the column. My partner and I recently bought a small station wagon to replace our 4WD pick-up and '83 sedan. After some debate, we chose a turbo-diesel engine that boasts about 45 miles per gallon instead of a gas engine, which gets about 30 MPG. Our thinking led us to choose the higher fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions of the diesel engine, although the gas engine produces fewer particulate emissions, sulfur, and other nasties. Would you please comment on our decision, and also help us understand the other pollution and energy costs …

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Umbra on picking the right car

Dear Umbra, In 1981, I bought my first car, a Honda Civic. It was a great car, and despite what certain congressional leaders say about car size and safety, an excellent vehicle for handling winter snow and ice in mountain driving in Steamboat Springs, Colo. The problem is that now, living in Pennsylvania, my husband and I and our three children are looking for a car that will be able to carry the five of us for the next 10 years without destroying the planet. We had to buy a used van when the kids were younger because, try as …

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Umbra on cooling your car

Dear Umbra, Is it more efficient to drive down the highway with my windows down or the air conditioner on? I know the air conditioner decreases gas mileage, but I bet having my windows down at 75 miles per hour produces pretty good drag. Thanks,Sara Dearest Sara, This is July's Question of the Month for Grist readers, apparently. I received a passel of virtually identical queries with minute variations. ("How much drag do you get from a drooling dog?", etc.) Car air conditioning has obvious benefits, especially if you have a long commute in a sprawling all-road-all-the-time Southern city. With …

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No Room at the Inn

Banff National Park is the jewel of the Canadian Rockies -- and its most sparkly facet is Lake Louise, famous for emerald waters, dense forests, and glittering reflections of Victoria Glacier. But the peaceful-looking spot is actually a battleground between a large Canadian hotel chain and environmentalists who want to put a stop to a proposed $45 million, six-story addition to the already-giant Chateau Lake Louise hotel. The battle has raged for nearly a decade, with developers arguing that parks must provide the kind of services that will keep tourism a vital part of the national economy, and environmentalists countering …

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