Cities

Detroit Should Get an Award for Ending Every List

New report ranks U.S. cities on environmental and social realities A new report ranks 72 U.S. cities on their greenness — but we’re not talking just parks and bike paths. The Urban Environment Report, put out by the Washington, D.C.-based Earth Day Network, includes a “vulnerable population index” that takes into account the segment of a city’s population that is most susceptible to environmental changes, including those who are unemployed and uninsured. “This study is the first of its kind, not only because of the sheer quantity of environmental data analyzed, but also because it redefines the term ‘environmental’ to …

The Land of Electric Enchantment

Tesla Motors to build electric-car plant in New Mexico In April, electric-car start-up Tesla Motors will break ground on a manufacturing plant in Albuquerque, which beat out Flagstaff, Ariz., and Pittsburg, Calif., for the honor. The plant will churn out 10,000 WhiteStar sedans a year starting in 2009 — “zero-emission” cars that will go 250 miles on a full charge and start at $50,000. The 150,000-square-foot plant, which will provide 400 jobs, has officials singing the company’s praises. “Tesla is committed to clean energy and so is New Mexico,” sang Gov. Bill Richardson (D), while Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) warbled …

Cabin Pressure

What should greens do about air travel? Is it a sin to fly to your vacation spot? The Bishop of London recently proclaimed it so. Plenty of others are increasingly critical of excessive air travel too, though not all are as strident as the Right Reverend. The trick is figuring out what’s excessive. Is it OK to fly to developing countries for on-the-ground environmental and anti-poverty work? What about travel to important international negotiations and conferences? How does one decide which meetings are “important”? And then there’s the question of occasional visits to far-flung family members and loved ones. Peter …

The Prius snob strikes back

Prius consumes more energy in lifetime than Cherokee

I thought this article hit a little too close for comfort. If you really want to call yourself an environmentalist, do what my sister-in-law did: Buy a small Toyota hatchback and put 5,000 miles a year on it for two decades. Then there was this interesting article in the Economist discussing the future of diesel cars in America: The dirty little secret about hybrids is that their batteries and extensive use of aluminium parts make them costly to build in energy terms as well as financial terms. One life-cycle assessment claims that, from factory floor to scrap heap, a Prius consumes more energy even than a Hummer III. Diesels are unlikely to consume anything like as much over their lifetime. That could change, of course, if some bright spark decides to replace a hybrid's petrol engine with a diesel--to launch a family car capable of 100mpg. Now there's a thought. Actually not, Economist staff writer person. That assessment you refer to says that the diesel Jetta wagon will also use as much energy in its lifetime as the H3. And guess what? In all likelihood that diesel hybrid you cite will too, for the same reasons as the Prius and Jetta. But you would have known that had you bothered to actually read that lifecycle assessment. I don't blame you, actually. The damn thing is over 400 pages long. I know because I did read it. In fact, I built a spreadsheet with the data I gleaned from it to answer some burning questions I had.

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 …