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Dozing Off

More than 8,500 premature deaths are caused every year by pollution from off-road diesel-fueled equipment not regulated by the federal government, according to a new study by state air pollution control officials. Earthmovers, bulldozers, agricultural equipment, and other such vehicles emit extraordinarily high levels of pollution that have been linked to heart illnesses, asthma attacks, and other respiratory illnesses. Last week, the Bush administration announced an unusual collaboration between the U.S. EPA and the Office of Management and Budget to regulate off-road diesel emissions. That announcement came after a federal appeals court upheld a Clinton-era rule requiring a rapid reduction …

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Dropping the Bali

Negotiations at a two-week meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to establish the agenda for the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development ended in stalemate on Friday. Delegates could not agree on several key issues and were ultimately forced to admit defeat; former Indonesian Environment Minister Emil Salim, who chaired the meeting, blamed the failure on a lack of good faith among the negotiators. The contentious issues included a demand by the U.S. that development aid be contingent on efforts to fight corruption, as well as developing countries' call for richer nations to commit to widening their markets to trade and the …

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Auto-ah!

The Canadian government has proposed levying a tax on motorists to help pay for implementing the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The Canadian Automobile Association, which represents some 4 million vehicle owners, calculated that the tax would be roughly $1,200 per year, based on 15 cents per mile of urban driving and three cents per mile of out-of-city driving. The CAA excoriated the proposed fee, as well as other possibilities on the table that would directly affect drivers, including higher parking fees and levies on less-efficient vehicles. CAA Vice President Elly Meister said the $1,200 fee was "aimed at reducing …

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Barefoot but Not in Park

With gasoline selling for less than the price of a bottle of Evian and SUVs all the rage, fuel economy seems to have fallen off most Americans' radar screens. But this is the U.S. of A., land of a million subcultures, and one of them is obsessed with the quest for ultra-fuel efficiency. While most of us would be psyched about the hybrid Honda Insight's 64 miles per gallon, members of the fuel-economy elite scoff at such small potatoes. They talk about much higher figures -- try 103 mpg -- and swap insider secrets for achieving them: feather the gas …

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Umbra on hybrid cars

Umbra, hi, With Honda having just released its gas-electric hybrid Civic in the U.S., many enviros are scrambling to buy one. But one question that hasn't been answered to my knowledge is whether the total amount of energy, pollution, mining, etc. involved in making a new car -- even a hybrid -- constitutes a greater overall environmental impact than the added emissions and fossil-fuel consumption of a huge old second-hand clunker that would cost less and, with one of those hoods that extends for approximately 1/4 mile, probably be just as safe. Thompson Smith Dearest Thompson, Hi. No. The manufacture …

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Napa Time

An excerpt from The New Economy of Nature by Gretchen C. Daily and Katherine Ellison

This essay is excerpted from The New Economy of Nature: The Quest to Make Conservation Profitable. In a cattle pasture south of downtown Napa, Calif., a clarinet, flute, and bass guitar strike up a jazzy version of "Up a Lazy River." About sixty people, if you count the rubberneckers wandering over from a nearby retirement house, gather in the midsummer sun. Two young women in flowing dresses open paper boxes to release orange clouds of monarch butterflies. A few dogs wander through the crowd. The Napa River. Photo: City of Napa. It's a markedly mellower scene than your average U.S. …

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Get the Bali Rolling

The fate of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August, could rest on a meeting that opened yesterday on the Indonesian island of Bali. The U.N.-sponsored meeting, which runs for two weeks, aims to smooth out differences among nations on how to achieve the twin and rather daunting goals of protecting the environment and eliminating poverty. The U.S. decided against sending any high-ranking officials to the talks, a move environmentalists say demonstrates a lack of commitment to sustainable development. In part because of U.S. obstructionism, environmentalists fear the Bali talks will not …

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Snoop Dog

Almost everyone's been embarrassed at one time or another by an over-eager dog sniffing in the wrong places. Now car owners have to worry about the "smog dog," designed to "sniff" tailpipes to detect air pollution. Formally called the AccuScan Remote Vehicle Emissions Testing System, the smog dog analyzes exhaust from cars as they pass roadside monitors. A camera adjacent to the smog sensors takes pictures of the cars' license plates, and the owners are notified of the results. Polluters are hauled in for an official emissions inspection, while in some states, owners of very clean cars get a letter …

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The Early Bird Gets the River

Michelle Nijhuis reviews Water Wars by Vandana Shiva

I can see the source of the world's water problems from my office window. It's called the Fire Mountain Canal, and it winds its way past peach and apple orchards, through green horse pastures, and around the edge of the dry, juniper-covered mesa where I live. This fat, smooth snake of water seems like a generous thing; after all, it supports the work of local Colorado farmers, who stuff us with cherries, chilies, meat, and other goodies each year. But the canal cheats the river itself, sucking out so much water that the local swimming season ends in June. Thousands …

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The Shipping News

Salmon and other imperiled species would not be damaged by a proposed deepening of the Columbia River channel, federal scientists announced yesterday. Those findings -- biological opinions required under the Endangered Species Act -- will enable the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the next steps in a $196 million project to deepen by about three feet 100 miles of shipping channel on the river between Vancouver, Wash., and Astoria, Ore. The National Marine Fisheries Service looked at the effects of deepening on Stellar sea lion and 12 salmon runs, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gauged …

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