Cities

Sixty-Two and You

U.S. EPA places limits on carcinogenic benzene in gasoline Late last week, the U.S. EPA announced a new rule that will affect most Americans’ gas tanks. The Mobile Source Air Toxics rule — or as we like to call it, the Your Car is Full of Crap rule — limits benzene, a carcinogen that makes up about 1 percent of current gasoline mixes but poses a whopping health threat. Beginning in 2011, refiners will have to work together to meet a national average of 0.62 percent benzene in their product, a $400 million tweak that — together with new guidelines …

Hybrid Lowdown

Toyota will introduce new advertising, incentives for Prius To many, the Toyota Prius is synonymous with months-long waiting lists. But just as the automaker has stepped up production on its hybrid darling, sales have plateaued. Fearing that the car lacks mainstream appeal, Toyota is training dealers in Prius sweet talk, hyping incentives like low- and no-interest financing, and kick-starting its very first Prius ad campaign. Priuses (Prii?) made up half of U.S. hybrid sales last year. While there are murmurings that competition from other hybrids is hurting sales, Toyota spokesperson Bill Kwong disagrees: “The Prius is like the icon for …

Green Manhattan redux

Is it greener after all?

Tyler Cowen disputes the frequent assertion that Manhattanites have the smallest environmental footprints around. He says: Praising Manhattan is a bit like looking only at the roof of a car and concluding it doesn’t burn much gas. Manhattan supports its density only by being surrounded by a broader load of crud. … If you think the big problem is humans grabbing more and more space, you might prefer to tax suburbs and subsidize cities. If you think the big problem is humans using more and more energy, the opposite conclusion might follow. Suburbs are bad for burning gas, but they …

Try, Try Again

European Commission proposes revised vehicle emissions limits Last week, bullying from automakers and their allies led the European Commission to yank proposed rules regulating new-vehicle emissions. Now the commission has revised its proposal, and car czars are still in a swivet. Under the new rules, carbon dioxide emissions from new cars would be cut to 130 grams a kilometer by 2012. Which probably means something to those who use the metric system, but let’s just say it’s 18 percent lower than the current average. The first plan had called for a 120 gram per kilometer standard, and a voluntary program …

Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park: a preview

The park marries art and nature amidst an urban backdrop

On Monday I had the opportunity to get a personalized tour of Seattle’s new Olympic Sculpture Park. Grist kahuna-at-large Chip Giller and I walked the grounds of the 9-acre green space, located at the north end of the city’s downtown waterfront, with Martha Wyckoff and Chris Rogers, two key players in bringing the park to life — Wyckoff as an environmental consultant for the Seattle Art Museum and Rogers as project manager for the whole shebang. In addition to the sculptures (a few of them ginormous), the free-and-open-to-the-public park features vast expanses of native-plant-covered green space, a “living” greenhouse with …

Heart Trouble

High levels of pollution lead to increased heart disease in women, study finds News flash: pollution is bad. And women living in highly polluted areas are 76 percent more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke, according to a rigorous study published in the New England Journal of Medicine yesterday. “The magnitude of the findings are substantially higher than what’s been seen in prior research on long-term effects of air pollution,” says report director Joel Kaufman. Researchers monitored the health of 65,893 post-menopausal women for up to nine years, as well as the soot levels near their homes …

IPCC got you down? Here are 11 things you can do

You, yes you, can act to fight climate change

If the wacky weather we’ve been having, the suffering of endearing creatures, the possible cancellation of this year’s Polar Bear Club swims, or the catastrophic melting of Arctic ice has you hot and bothered, you’re not alone. Though it’s easy to cower in your basement wearing your duct tape bodysuit and motorcycle helmet feel defeated, here are 10 small things, and one really big thing, you can do to change the changin’ climate for the better: Sharing is caring. Sharing your bed home with others cuts back on energy use, as does living in a multi-unit dwelling, choosing a house …

Merkel, May I?

E.U., Germany duke it out over auto emissions standards Once upon a time, the European Union proposed a carbon-dioxide emissions limit on all vehicles made or imported there. But Germany — home of Volkswagen, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, and Porsche — has yanked on the e-brake. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country would not support a blanket emissions rule, though it would support case-by-case standards. So the E.U. is backing down — but not without Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, who authored the failed plan, shaking his tiny fist and threatening to replace his Mercedes with a Prius. Sock it to ‘em, …

The Airspeed Velocity of an Uneaten Swallow

Food imported by air may lose organic certification in Britain Foods imported into Britain by airplane may not qualify as organic if the country’s main certification body has its druthers. On Friday, the Soil Association announced it will spend a year considering a proposal to factor flight distance into its organic standards. While it will ponder different labeling options, fair-trade schemes, and carbon offsets, Director Patrick Holden says there is “a pretty strong chance” that the association will end up giving the boot to flown-in foods. The Soil Association certifies more than 70 percent of organic produce sold in Britain; …

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