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Feeling Gassy

Negotiators for the U.S. House and Senate have reached an agreement on new fuel-economy rules that would expand rather than decrease the country's oil consumption. Under the agreement, automakers would continue to receive credits through the model year 2008 for manufacturing vehicles that can run on both ethanol and gasoline. These credits are used to offset the production of SUVs and other low-gas-mileage vehicles. Environmentalists criticize the credits as a giveaway, because those who drive the flexible-fuel vehicles seldom make use of the ethanol option. A recent government report found that extending the credit program through 2008 would increase petroleum …

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Elizabeth Grossman reviews The Hydrogen Economy by Jeremy Rifkin A review of The Hydrogen

In his new book, The Hydrogen Economy, Jeremy Rifkin argues that throughout history, the use of energy has determined the rise and fall of civilizations. In this analysis, a civilization is successful until it begins spending more of its energy supply to maintain its infrastructure than to enhance the lives of its citizens. For example, ancient Rome began to falter when it expanded its domain at the expense of the health and welfare of its people, exploiting slaves, practicing unsustainable agriculture, and exhaustively felling forests for firewood. The Hydrogen Economy By Jeremy Rifkin Tarcher/Putnam, 336 pages, 2002 Later, the burning …

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London Flog

Meanwhile, a very different report from the old country: Flooding caused by global warming could threaten $340 billion worth of homes and businesses in the U.K., according to the government's Energy Saving Trust. The report says that one out of every 13 homes in the country would be hit hard by rising seas and increased rainfall, while three-fifths of the country's best farmland could be rendered unusable. Just as ominous, the report says, London's place "as an international center for trade and commerce" could be at risk and some 750,000 residents in the capital city could be out of a …

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Clothes Call

In yet another trend-setting environmental move by California, Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed into law this week a bill requiring old, inefficient washing machines to be replaced with water-efficient ones by 2007. New washers must now meet a standard of using 9.5 gallons of water to wash one cubic foot of laundry -- well below the 13.3 gallons averaged by washers sold in 1994. The measure comes as the Golden State heads into its fourth straight year of drought, and as neighboring states, also hit by a lack of rainfall, clamor for a bigger share of the Colorado River water …

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I’d Like My C, Under the Sea

A six-year experiment in burying carbon dioxide under the ocean has been highly successful, according to the scientists behind the project. Since 1996, CO2 emitted during methane gas exploration in the North Sea has been pumped back into the ground, where it has been trapped in a giant bubble almost a third of a mile under the floor of the ocean. The CO2 would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. The storage technique, known as carbon sequestration, has been proposed as a way to allow humans to continue to burn fossil fuels without contributing to …

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Advice on eco-friendly grilling

Dear Umbra, What sort of grill (charcoal or gas) is the fairest of them all -- speaking from an environmentalist's viewpoint, of course! R. Widiss Dearest R., Gas. I gather that lively debate exists in the barbecue set over which yields better flavor: the briquettes, with their flavorful smoke and irregular heat, or boring old gas, which cooks evenly and imparts fewer smoky (aka burnt) flavors to the object de grill. Not much debate over the environmental results, though: Burning charcoal gives off more nasty particulates and chemicals. And if you're carnivorous, you're doubly culpable: cooking beef can be worse …

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Mr. Green Jean

One North American leader attending the summit in Johannesburg -- Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien -- took significant steps toward establishing his green legacy at home yesterday by unveiling a major expansion of the national parks system and promising to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by the end of the year. His plan to create 10 new parks and five marine conservation areas drew near-universal praise, but the oil-rich province of Alberta remained a vocal opponent to any effort to bring Canada onboard with Kyoto. Chretien said the majority of Canadians wanted to fight global warming, and he cited a current …

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Sweet!

Along with emissions from power plants, pollution from vehicles is the major air-pollution culprit. But that could change if cars ran on sugar, as a team of scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has proposed. In a paper published in yesterday's edition of the journal Nature, the scientists detailed a technique for breaking down a glucose solution into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen would then be pumped into a fuel cell that would power a car or truck, and the carbon dioxide would be released into the atmosphere. That might sound like a recipe for more global …

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Sprawl Together Now

A new culprit has been named in the drought that has plagued more than a third of the U.S. this summer: urban sprawl. A report released yesterday by American Rivers, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Smart Growth America found that the rapid expansion of pavement and developed land in metropolitan areas amounts to a one-two punch for the environment. The concrete eliminates fields and grasslands, which would have absorbed water and replenished underground aquifers; instead, water rushes off roads, roofs, driveways, and parking lots, picking up pollutants before flushing into rivers and streams. In Atlanta, Ga., just one of …

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Think of New England

While tens of thousands of people from all over the world gather in South Africa to wrangle over global environmental issues, a far smaller coalition is meeting quietly this week to ensure that New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers follow through on their promise to combat climate change. The Connecticut Climate Action Group, a member of the New England Climate Action Project, is calling on the regional leaders to take concrete steps toward meeting the goals they set last year, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and eventually cutting such …

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