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Umbra on car heaters

Dear Umbra, My friend and I have a bet going that I hope you can settle. She thinks that running the heat in a car in the winter is "free" -- that is, it doesn't use additional gas. As a conservationist, this pleases her greatly. However, I think that turning on the heat does use additional gas if you are using the defroster. Can you settle this for us? Thanks! SamaDenver, Colo. Dearest Sama, You win. But I fear this is a wager with no practical application: The defroster is not a luxury feature. Seeing the road is a vital …

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A Turkey of a Project

Big Pipeline Project Threatens Environment in Azerbaijan, Turkey BP and 10 other companies are plotting to build a 1,000-mile pipeline to carry oil from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan, Turkey, at a cost of up to $4 billion. The project is enthusiastically backed by the U.S. government, which is on the lookout for new sources of crude outside the Middle East. Environmentalists and human-rights campaigners are warning that the pipeline, which would traverse unstable and conflict-ridden regions, would cause a raft of environmental and social problems, threatening old-growth forests, the Caspian Sea, and wildlife and plants in a number of different …

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Spammed If You Do, Spammed If You Don’t

Breadfruit Trees Endangered by Climate Change and Western-Style Diet The breadfruit tree, which has long provided a dietary staple to residents of South Pacific islands, is in severe decline, experts say, threatened by climate change and, of all things, Spam. Breadfruit trees, with their shallow roots, are particularly vulnerable to storms and cyclones, which have been on the rise in recent years, a trend many attribute to global warming; the trees are also susceptible to rising sea levels and the infiltration of salt water into the soil and water table. At the same time, Pacific islanders, who have cultivated breadfruit …

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Coal-hearted

New Stats On Energy Use in China Alarm Environmentalists The most populous country on the planet may also pose the biggest threat to the global climate, according to recently released statistics about coal production and consumption in China. Until a few months ago, many energy experts hoped that the nation would have a relatively limited impact on climate change, because its state-owned companies were thought to be increasingly efficient and coal use appeared to be declining steeply. But with the release of the official government figures, cause for optimism has disappeared: Coal use in China is growing faster than almost …

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Rumble in the Jungle

ChevronTexaco Faces Oil Pollution Trial in Ecuador One of the biggest oil pollution trials in history will get underway tomorrow in Ecuador, pitting oil giant ChevronTexaco against 30,000 residents of the Amazon rainforest who charge that a Texaco subsidiary dumped huge amounts of oily waste in their homeland from 1971 to 1992. The Ecuadorians say the company's pollution caused cancer, skin diseases, and other ailments and contributed to destruction of a biologically diverse area that's home to indigenous communities and peasant settlers. Texaco dumped oil wastes into hundreds of unlined pits in the region during the '70s and '80s and …

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Smelter Skelter

Enviros Protest Massive Dam in Iceland Extreme weather and remote locations can't stop the forward march of, uh, progress, as Iceland's Karahnjukar dam shows. The dam, which will be Europe's highest, is being built in a huge wilderness area, much to the dismay of environmentalists. They fear it will drown highland vegetation, change the groundwater balance, and create so much mud that in the dry season the dust blowing from the region will choke a nearby town. Moreover, they say, it will disturb the area's reindeer, freshwater fish, and harbor seals, and destroy some 500 nesting spots of the pink-footed …

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No More Sulfuring in Silence

China Bans Coal Plants in Big Cities In a much-needed and long-awaited gambit to improve air quality and reduce acid rain, China has banned coal-fired power plants in major cities across the nation. The ban applies to Beijing, Shanghai, and 21 provincial capitals, which together produce approximately 60 percent of China's sulfur dioxide emissions. Sulfur dioxide is the leading cause of acid rain, which plagues a third of the massive country. Strict new environmental laws will also require thermoelectric energy projects in big and medium-sized cities to meet federal environmental protection standards.

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Will a softer McCain-Lieberman bill prove to be harder-hitting?

Even though Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) decided to soften the terms of their climate bill last week, the document may go down in history as one of the hardest-hitting gambits in the U.S. fight against global warming. In fact, easing the demands of the bill -- which proposes a mandatory cap on greenhouse-gas emissions from the energy, industrial, commercial, and transportation sectors -- may mean it will pack more of a punch in the long run. Why? Because all of the senators who vote against it (likely to be a majority, unfortunately) will seem that much …

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Working to develop the Volkswagen of solar homes

Just off I-75 in Tennessee, halfway between Knoxville and Chattanooga, past a Home Depot, a Ford dealership, a Krispy Kreme, and a Piggly Wiggly supermarket, there is a newly developed tract of low-income homes built by volunteers of Habitat for Humanity. A bright idea: the Indrajaya-Kinandjar solar house. At first glance, nothing about the development seems out of the ordinary. The houses are pleasant one-story colonials with porches, shutters, and carefully trimmed lawns strewn with tricycles and kick balls. But upon closer inspection, the development turns out to be more than just another housing project in sprawling Middle America; it …

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Salmon Chanted Evening

Historic Deal Will Help Atlantic Salmon in Maine In an unprecedented move intended to save plummeting populations of threatened Atlantic salmon, a coalition of environmental groups, government agencies, a Native American tribe, and a power company yesterday announced a plan to take down dams along the Penobscot River, Maine's longest waterway. The project calls for raising $25 million from private and public sources over the next five years to purchase three dams from the utility PPL Corp. Two of the dams on the eastern section on the river will be taken down, and a bypass will be built at a …

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