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Pump it up

Thomas Friedman is back at The New York Times after a two-month hiatus. I don't always agree with his stands (and enjoyed the alternative voices that appeared in The Times during his absence), but find it heartening that his second op-ed upon returning has an environmental bent: Of all the shortsighted policies of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, none have [Editor's Note:  Grist editors would not have let slip this misuse of have] been worse than their opposition to energy conservation and a gasoline tax. If we had imposed a new gasoline tax after 9/11, demand would have …

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Like a Camel Through the Eye of the Tax Code

Congress moves to close SUV-friendly tax loophole It looks like Congress may soon close one of the U.S. tax code's most egregious provisions (and that's quite a distinction!). In 2003, lawmakers raised the business-equipment tax deduction to $100,000, clearing the way for a massive luxury SUV to be written off as a business expense -- if it was used "primarily" for business purposes, of course, wink, wink. The American International Automobile Dealers, an industry group, claimed the tax break stimulated the economy, citing, uh, a 6 percent rise in SUV sales. Automakers, deeply aware of the injustice of it all, …

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Bush admin tries to take the whistle away from potential blowers at the EPA

Last week, when a House of Representatives committee approved new whistle-blower protection legislation, the Bush administration flew into a tizzy, saying such protections would open the door to gratuitous complaints against its officials and create needless headaches. But the House committee held strong, citing more than a dozen plights like that of Teresa Chambers as evidence that one too many federal employees have had their whistles -- and their jobs -- confiscated. Chambers got the boot from her post as chief of the U.S. Park Police after she told the press that her agency didn't have adequate funding or personnel …

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Kyoto will shake things up in the U.S., whether Americans like it or not

Last Thursday, when the Russian cabinet moved to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, international leaders called it the dawn of a new era. Putin (left) and Bush take opposing views on Kyoto. Photo: Eric Draper, WhiteHouse.gov Top officials from Canada, Japan, the European Union, and other Kyoto-supporting countries applauded Russia's progress toward ratification, which will be final once the nation's parliament gives it the green light (a mere formality at this point). Then it's just 90 days more until the treaty's implementation. "Russian ratification would ensure that the protocol enters into force and launch an exciting new phase in the global …

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FUV

European SUV backlash spreads Beads of sweat are gathering on the foreheads of European automakers, as a backlash against sport utility vehicles spreads across the continent. Several countries have passed or are weighing measures that could hurt SUV sales. London Mayor Ken Livingstone displayed his usual delicacy when he referred to SUV drivers as "complete idiots" and proposed doubling the city's $9 congestion fee for them. Paris' city council wants to ban the big vehicles entirely from the city center, and the French government is considering raising taxes on them. The issue is as much cultural as environmental -- while …

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All Quiet on the Rocky Mountain Front

Bush administration cancels plans to drill in Rocky Mountain Front The Bush administration announced yesterday that it will suspend plans to drill for oil and gas in Montana's beloved Rocky Mountain Front pending a comprehensive study of the area -- a study that will not begin until 2007 and will last at least two years, taking the ultimate decision out of Bush's hands, even if he's reelected. For months, the administration has been under fire from the hook and bullet crowd, traditionally conservative members of hunting, fishing, and wildlife-conservation groups, many of whom -- tres coincident! -- live in Western …

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It’s Worse Than You Think

Energy bill a prime example of legislative process run amok The Boston Globe is running a three-part series on how the Republicans now in control of Congress are reshaping the legislative process. It ain't pretty. Part two follows the path of the massive (and currently stalled) energy bill, which began with closed-door meetings of the Cheney energy task force, thought to be influenced largely by energy-industry folks, without significant input from environmental or consumer advocates, and then wound its way to congressional conference committee meetings, from which Democrats were almost completely excluded. In the process, parties with vested interests in …

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Terry Tempest Williams sends dispatches from an election-season tour

Acclaimed author Terry Tempest Williams is currently on the road for a cross-country "Open Space of Democracy Tour" sponsored by Orion Magazine and Orion Books, publisher of her most recent book, The Open Space of Democracy. Photo: Mark Babushkin. Wednesday, 6 Oct 2004 SALT LAKE CITY, Utah When two young Canadians embarked on an extraordinary journey to follow the caribou migration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Being Caribou, a film by the National Film Board of Canada), they first sought the counsel of a Gwich'in elder in the village of Old Crow. He said, "Plan for the unexpected and …

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Who You Gonna Believe, Us or Some “Inspector”?

EPA inspector general blasts Bush admin's power-plant rules The U.S. EPA came under harsh criticism yesterday from environmental fringe extremists ... oh, wait, no ... actually, from its own top investigative official. The agency's inspector general issued a scathing report saying that enforcement of clean-air laws has been crippled by the Bush administration's decision to substantially revise the new-source review rule, which requires that power plants upgrading their equipment install the latest pollution-control technologies. The Bush EPA proposed changing the rule to say that the new upgrades must cost at least 20 percent of the value of the generating unit …

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