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Spokes Person

Meanwhile, good news for those who entirely eschew the internal combustion engine: If a representative from Oregon gets his way, people who commute to work by bike will soon get a tax break. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), founder and chair of the bipartisan Congressional Bike Caucus, has biked to his Capitol Hill office for years; he is now pushing for cyclists to get the same benefits as those who drive or use mass transit to get to work. Under current law, employers can offer a commuter tax-exemption benefit of $180 for qualified parking plans or $100 for public transit and …

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Down on the Farm

California's budget crisis could wind up spurring sprawl. With the state tens of billions of dollars in the red, Gov. Gray Davis (D) is hoping to cut the $39 million per year that the state spends on the Williamson Act, which lets farmers pay lower taxes as long as they pledge to keep their land out of the hands of developers. More than 15 million prime agricultural acres are currently covered by the act, which many land-use experts say has been key to curbing sprawl in farming regions. "The concern is, without the Williamson Act, you'll see more sprawling suburban …

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Wish Granite

Communities across New Hampshire are invoking the state's Land and Community Heritage Investment Act to preserve open spaces, even though state funding for land conservation and historic preservation faces extreme pressure from a ballooning budget crisis. Under the terms of the act, New Hampshire matches local conservation funding efforts with state money -- an offer more than 100 communities have whole-heartedly supported at town meetings during this month alone. This surge of support for local conservation measures has given rise to hopes that the state will maintain its current funding level of $6 million per year for land-protection efforts. "We're …

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Niceland

The world's first commercial hydrogen filling station will make its debut next month in Iceland, the country where the hydrogen revolution is expected to first take root. Other hydrogen filling stations scattered around the globe are private or restricted, but starting April 24, the new Reykjavik station will open its doors to the public -- not that many average Janes and Joes have hydrogen-powered cars yet, even in Iceland. And maybe there need be no hurry to acquire them. A study released last week by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that the environmental benefits of gas-electric hybrid vehicles, which …

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Umbra on wood floors and solid waste

Oh Wise Umbra, We'll be replacing our carpeting with wood flooring, probably from one of the major home stores (Home Depot or Lowe's). Are wood floors a really bad environmental choice if they are made from unsustainably harvested wood? Would I be better off going with a (probably petroleum-based) fake wood floor? Also, is there any environmentally responsible way to dispose of my old carpet? If the nice garbage collectors pick it up, I'm sure it will sit in a landfill till long after I've made it to the spirit world. Also, I've got loads of things in the house …

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Umbra on eco-friendly roofs

Dear Umbra, Our roof is getting pretty old and starting to fall apart. It's one of those asphalt-shingle roofs that most houses have these days. Before we call the roofing company, I'd like to know what's the greenest kind of roofing material to use. Metal? Cedar? More asphalt? I'm sure lots of other readers would like to know, too! Thanks, Wally Bubelis Seattle, Wash. Dearest Wally, Like other readers, you may need a drink or two to wade through the perplexing nexus of budgetary, aesthetic, and environmental concerns involved in making sustainable-building decisions. It sounds to me like you're looking …

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What can we learn from Bush’s FreedomCar Plan?

Following the State of the Union address in which President Bush laid out his new FreedomCAR and Fuel Initiative, which was cheered by automakers and jeered by environmentalists, hydrogen fever swept from the Beltway into the printing presses and airwaves of mainstream media. CNN, Business Week, the New York Times, and U.S. News and World Report, among others, ran stories that, although sometimes skeptical of the Bush plan, trumpeted the promise of a hydrogen economy, calling it the antidote to both our dependence on foreign oil and the mounting threat of global warming. Bush delivering the State of the Union. …

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Oinks Per Gallon

The waste from hundreds of thousands of hogs will soon be powering vehicle diesel engines if Smithfield Farms follows through on a plan announced Friday. Smithfield, the world's largest hog producer, intends to build a $20 million waste-to-energy facility in southwestern Utah that will convert swine manure into biodiesel fuel, which burns more cleanly than standard diesel. Smithfield currently runs a huge hog farming operation in Utah, where 1 million hogs are raised and slaughtered each year and 500,000 pounds of solid hog doo-doo are produced each day (yes, we said each day -- egads!). Currently the hog waste is …

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Nobody Expected This Spanish Inquisition

Hundreds of thousands of Spanish citizens hit the streets of Madrid on Sunday to protest the national government's poor handling of the Prestige oil tanker spill, which has been labeled the worst environmental disaster in the country's history. Hundreds of chartered buses brought in protesters from Galicia, the region whose environment and economy have been devastated by the November spill off the country's northwestern coast. Protesters, many with black tears painted on their faces and mock oil stains on their clothes, demanded the resignation of government officials whom they accused of failing to coordinate effective cleanup efforts and misleading the …

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Elizabeth Grossman reviews High and Mighty by Keith Bradsher

You see them poised astride rocky crevasses, fording forest streams, or rising huge and solitary in the shadow of a mountain peak. No, we're not talking about grizzly bears; we're talking about sport utility vehicles. Spoiling the view. "Jawbone Chatters. Spine Shivers. Engine Roars. Everest at -11 degrees," proclaims one ad for the Toyota 4Runner. "If you really want to put your life on the line, the new V8-powered GX is more than capable of taking you to the kinds of places where danger lurks at every corner," promises an ad for a new Lexus SUV. SUVs are sold on …

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