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You’re in the Army Now

Environmentalists and the Pentagon have never been the best of friends -- in fact, the folks at the Department of Defense are currently trying to wiggle out of complying with as many environmental regulations as possible in the name of national security -- but it would seem that military leaders can think green when it suits them. The U.S. Army and General Motors have rolled out a new, highly efficient hybrid-engine truck, designed for soldiers doing stealth work in the field. The truck, a militarized version of the Chevrolet Silverado, has a V8 engine coupled with a gas-electric system and …

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Dolorous Haze

Emissions that contribute to smog in the Los Angeles area are drastically worse than previously estimated, air-quality officials admitted yesterday. The announcement marked a reversal of the usual optimistic rhetoric about California air quality, which has been steadily improving since the late 1980s. Now it seems that progress in eliminating the two most common pollutants that lead to smog is not as advanced as previously thought. The miscalculation is due to underestimated emissions from cars, trucks, and consumer products ranging from deodorant and hairspray to household cleaners. California is under federal mandate to improve air quality by 2010; failure to …

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Great Build

It's not clear if the problem is one of economics or one of spin, but either way, environmentally conscious building design is a concept that hasn't quite caught on. The technology and expertise to build "green" structures have been around for decades; now, a movement is underway to sell developers on the economic benefits of green building. In an effort to create brand-recognition among building styles, the U.S. Green Building Council, a private group, is certifying structures as sustainable if they meet a number of energy-efficient and eco-friendly criteria. Simultaneously, governments are beginning to encourage green building: In 2000, New …

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Mexico City’s mayor plans to reduce pollution by building more roads

Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has come a long way in the last decade -- too far, some environmentalists would argue. O, brador. Photo: Gobierno del Distrito Federal. In February 1996, AMLO (as the Mexican press calls him) was arguably the country's most prominent environmentalist, organizing a string of high-profile protests in his native Tabasco, in southeastern Mexico. The protests were aimed at forcing Pemex, the country's state-owned oil monopoly, to clean up its act and prevent crude oil spills from wells in Tabasco's lush, tropical plains and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, where most of the …

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Texas, With Mess

The Texas legislature is under pressure to find a way to fund a plan to cut smog in the state's major urban areas. If the lawmakers can't come up with the money soon, the U.S. EPA has threatened to reject the plan and take over the state's pollution-control efforts. That would jeopardize federal highway money, which is contingent on meeting clean air standards. Under the Texas Emissions Reductions Plan, passed by the legislature in 2001, the state is supposed to collect taxes and fees to help offset the cost to businesses of voluntarily replacing old, smog-producing diesel equipment, as well …

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Less Than Zero

Under California's zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) regulation, 2003 was supposed to be the year that thousands of nonpolluting cars hit the road -- but on Friday, the state's air quality officials proposed amending the regulation to postpone the deadline by a decade. The proposal seemed to be an acknowledgement by the California Air Resources Board that the technology does not yet exist to make the cars attractive and affordable. Although cars are getting cleaner, especially in California, there are still no competitively priced, emissions-free models on the market. The proposed changes would allow automakers to put off ZEV requirements until 2012, …

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Sea-cow Tipping

Manatees were killed in record numbers by collisions with watercraft in Florida in 2002, according to the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The commission found that 95 manatees were killed by watercraft last year, or 14 more than in 2001. By contrast, overall manatee deaths in the state fell, from 325 in 2001 to 305 in 2002. The findings are likely to add fuel to an already fiery debate in Florida about whether the manatee's status should be changed from endangered to threatened on state listings, a matter that will be considered by the commission on Jan. 23. Advocates …

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Silverado — Why Don’t We Come to Our Senses

General Motors, the largest automaker in the world, announced today that it will sell a variety of gas-electric vehicles over the next four years, a move that could help push hybrids into the mainstream. The company will sell hybrid versions of cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs, thereby creating some competition for Honda and Toyota, currently the only automakers that sell hybrids in the U.S. GM plans to unveil two hybrid pickups, the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado, for use in commercial fleets later this year; the trucks will be 10 to 12 percent more fuel-efficient than their conventional counterparts. In …

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Things That Make You Go Hum-vee

Tax deductions granted by the federal government to small-business owners and the self-employed provide an incentive to purchase oversize, gas-guzzling vehicles like a General Motors Hummer, rather than small, more fuel-efficient cars like the hybrid Toyota Prius. An eligible buyer of a 2003 Hummer H2 could deduct $34,912 of the base price of the vehicle, for a tax savings of up to $13,500 for those in the highest tax bracket. Because part of the tax code governing the deductions was written in the 1980s, when deductions for car purchases were capped at no more than $7,660, buyers of cars get …

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There Goes the Neighborhood

Despite pressure from the glitterati in Los Angeles, the Ahmanson Ranch, a proposed 3,050-home development project in Southern California, received a crucial vote of confidence from Ventura County supervisors yesterday, when they agreed in a 4-1 vote that the project would effectively balance the region's housing needs with its environmental concerns. The Ahmanson Ranch project has been in the works for a decade, but Washington Mutual Bank, which owns and wants to develop the property, has faced resistance at nearly every turn. Indeed, no sooner did the supervisors cast their votes than opponents promised to file legal challenges to overturn …

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