Cities

Plugs and Kisses

Toyota considering plug-in hybrids and flex-fuel vehicles for U.S. Toyota plans to develop a plug-in hybrid vehicle, the company announced this week. Rechargeable via any typical electrical outlet, a plug-in would be able to “travel greater distances without using its gas engine, … conserve more oil, and slice smog and greenhouse gases to nearly imperceptible levels,” said Jim Press, president of Toyota’s North American subsidiary. The technology is far from ready, and the automaker has no timeline for offering the cars for sale, but hey — we’ll give it points for pressing forward with the R&D while other companies dawdle. …

Act Normal

Illinois mom blogs about her car-free month In some ways, Christine Gardner lives a normal life — she’s a mom, a writer, and, after all, she lives in Normal, Ill. But for July she’s doing something decidedly out of the norm — going car-free in a suburb without amenities right around the corner. Halfway through the month, she reports on bus adventures with toddlers, declares that it’s possible to hand-tote an economy pack of diapers, and reflects on how cars are ruining community.

Unimpressive at Any Speed

Average fuel economy of U.S. vehicles no better than last year The average fuel economy of 2006 model-year vehicles in the U.S. is a guzzle-rific 21 miles per gallon, the U.S. EPA announced yesterday — the same as in 2005. (And 1994. And 1982.) SUV fuel economy rose from 18.3 to 18.5 mpg from model year 2005 to 2006, a benefit canceled out by a passenger-car fuel-economy decline from 25 to 24.6 mpg. Honda had the highest average fuel-economy rating of automakers at 24.2 mpg; the American Big Three had some of the worst ratings, with General Motors at 20.5 …

Blake Mycoskie, founder of eco-friendly driving school, answers questions

Blake Mycoskie. What’s your job title? I’m cofounder and chair of Drivers Ed Direct. How does your work relate to the environment? Photo: Drivers Ed Direct. We teach kids to drive in hybrids, which makes them more comfortable with the technology and educates them about environmental responsibility. We believe this makes them more likely to buy a hybrid vehicle and have a heightened awareness of environmental issues. Also, we have loaded our online course with numerous green tips and statistics. Here’s an example: “The California Department of Transportation’s annual litter cleanup costs run over $40 million. Some practical tips on …

An interview with smart-growth expert and author Anthony Flint

Few debates in the U.S. are more emotionally charged than the one over sprawl — the exodus, since World War II, of America’s middle class from cities to far-flung residential areas. Environmentalists, small farmers, and social-justice activists deplore sprawl for its unhealthy effects on land and communities. Suburbanites bristle at the attacks on their personal choices — the desire for safety, good schools, and a piece of land. Anthony Flint. Into this contentious debate steps unusually cool-headed Anthony Flint, whose book This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America is a chronicle of the fledgling smart-growth movement …

What’s Your Price for Flight?

European Parliament calls for jet-fuel tax to curb enviro impact of flying The European Parliament has voted in favor of a jet-fuel tax to help offset the environmental impact of air travel. The consumer cost of the fuel tax would be up to about $75 per roundtrip flight within Europe. Also, as the European Union considers making airlines join the Union-wide cap-and-trade scheme for greenhouse-gas emissions, Parliament suggested that the industry enter a separate, aviation-only emissions-trading system so carriers could not simply buy up rights from other sorts of companies while continuing to pollute. The parliamentary vote has no legal …

Two Steps Back

Ford backs out on hybrid pledge, plans more alt-fuel vehicles Remember Ford’s much-hyped commitment to produce 250,000 hybrid vehicles by 2010? Er, about that: CEO Bill Ford Jr. backpedaled on the promise Wednesday. While not abandoning hybrids altogether, he said Ford’s focus (ha) is shifting (ha ha) to cars that can run on alternative fuels like ethanol, clean diesel, and biodiesel. In an email to employees, the CEO said the quarter-million-hybrids objective was “too narrow to achieve our larger goals of substantially improving fuel economy and CO2 performance.” (Of course, ethanol substantially improves neither, so, uh, WTF?) Also on Wednesday, …

Green Building 101

Yesterday, Inhabitat started a weekly series for the summer called Green Building 101. The series is focused mainly on LEED-H, the (developing) green standards for homes. It also mentions LEED-ND, the (developing) green standards for neighborhoods, which I'm super jazzed about. The series will walk through the basics of building or renovating a home for maximum eco-friendliness. Should be cool. Check out the first installment, about choosing an eco-friendly site.

With Our Tailpipe Between Our Legs

U.S. cars are tops in CO2 emissions The U.S. boasts 30 percent of the world’s cars and is responsible for almost half of global car-caused greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a new report by Environmental Defense. American-driven cars emit 15 percent more carbon dioxide per mile than the global average (meaning, in essence, they get worse gas mileage). Plus, Americans just drive more: 29 percent above the global average. In 2004, U.S. cars and light trucks drove the equivalent of the distance to and from Pluto … more than 470 times. Small cars in toto emit more CO2 than SUVs because …

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