FRANCISCO — The State of Hawaii and the Hawaiian Electric Company on Tuesday
endorsed an effort to build an alternative transportation system based on
electric vehicles with swappable batteries and an “intelligent” battery
The plan, the brainchild of the former Silicon Valley software executive Shai
Agassi, is an effort to overcome the major hurdles to electric cars — slow
battery recharging and limited availability.
By using existing electric car technologies, coupled with an Internet-connected
web of tens of thousands of recharging stations, he thinks his company, Better
Place L.L.C. of Palo Alto, Calif., will make all-electric vehicles feasible.
Mr. Agassi has succeeded in assembling a growing consortium of national
governments, regional planning organizations and one major car company.
Tuesday’s announcement follows earlier endorsements from Israel, Denmark,
Australia, Renault-Nissan and a coalition of Northern California localities
supporting the idea leading to the deployment of an electric vehicle with a
range of greater than 100 miles, beginning at the end of 2010 in Israel. The
company plans test deployments of vehicles in 2009 and broad commercial sales in
Mr. Agassi has raised $200 million in private financing for his idea. In
October, he obtained a commitment from the Macquarie Capital Group to raise an
additional $1 billion for an Australian project.
On Tuesday, he said that he was optimistic about his project despite the dismal
investment and credit markets because his network could provide investors with
an annuity. Users of his recharging network would subscribe to the service,
paying for access and for the miles they drive.
Given the downturn in the mortgage market, he said that investors are looking
for new classes of assets that will provide dependable revenue streams over many
years. “I believe the new asset class is batteries,” he said. “When you have a
driver in a car using a battery, nobody is going to cut their subscription and
Mr. Agassi has argued that even if oil prices continued to decline, his electric
recharging network — which ideally would use renewable energy sources like solar
and wind — could provide competitively priced energy for a new class of
He supposes that his network idea will be appropriate first for “island”
economies that typically have significantly higher energy costs, and then will
become more cost-competitive as it is scaled up.
“We always knew Hawaii would be the perfect model,” he said in a telephone
interview. “The typical driving plan is low and leisurely, and people are
Hawaii is a relatively small market with high energy costs. The state has about
1.2 million cars and replaces 70,000 to 120,000 vehicles annually.
Drivers on the islands also rarely make trips of more than 100 miles, meaning
there will be less need for his proposed battery recharging stations. Part of
Mr. Agassi’s model depends on quick-change service stations to swap batteries
for drivers who need to use their cars before they have completely recharged
Peter Rosegg, a spokesman for the Hawaiian Electric Company, said that Better
Place would become a major customer for electricity and was also planning to
invest in renewable energy sources that would be connected to the electric grid.
“It’s going to be a nonexclusive agreement, but so far they’re the only one that
has shown up,” Mr. Rosegg said.
In late November, the mayors of San Francisco and other major Bay Area cities
endorsed the Better Place network to help create an electric recharging network
by 2012. The company estimates that it will cost $1 billion to build a charging
network in the Bay Area that may create as many as half a million charging
Despite challenges, the Better Place model is promising, said Daniel M. Kammen,
a professor in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California,
Berkeley. It could appeal to owners of fleets of vehicles and to early adopter
customers who are willing to work through the difficulties that will inevitably
accompany a new transportation system. “It has a lot of promising features,” he
So you want to buy a Prius. I do, too -- and both of us will have to get in
When gasoline prices hit $4 a gallon a couple of months ago, demand for smaller
cars -- hybrids and Priuses in particular -- soared. At many Toyota dealers, the
wait for the popular hybrid has grown to roughly three months since May, and
prices have climbed steeply, too.
On the face of it, that would indicate the dealers hold all the cards. But in
the wacky and weird world of new-car buying, that extraordinary demand could
turn out to be a good thing for patient buyers. Because the lead time is so
long, picky but determined buyers have the unusual luxury of almost
custom-ordering their cars. That can be cheaper than negotiating for whatever
cars happen to be on a dealer's lot, especially if those have expensive options
you don't want.
First, though, you should figure out if a Prius -- or any hybrid -- will
provide the savings you expect. The Prius's gas mileage averages in the
45-miles-per-gallon range; that's impressive, but the base price, following a
$400 increase in May and a $500 jump that goes into effect Friday, is fairly
steep for a car of its size, especially if your main goal is to save money by
buying less gasoline. Next month, the basic Prius will start at $22,720, while
the sportier Touring version will have a base price just under $25,000,
including destination charges.
That's more than the roughly $21,000 for a basic Camry, which is larger, and
more than other reasonably fuel-efficient sedans, like the Honda Civic, Toyota
Corolla, Nissan Altima or Ford Focus. It's worth calculating your fuel savings
to see how long it will take to make up the price difference.
The price has shot up, too. Kelley Blue Book, which tracks the actual prices
paid, says the average Prius now sells for $1,000 to $2,000 above the
manufacturer's suggested retail price. Toyota of Richardson, in the Dallas area,
is charging $2,500 above MSRP, for example. Earlier this year, you could
negotiate a price a few hundred dollars below MSRP.
But you don't have to pay a premium if you can shop around. Toyota frowns on
prices above the sticker because it angers consumers, and several dealers
contacted around the country said they were selling the cars at the sticker
If you're committed for environmental reasons or want to make a political
statement with that pointy Prius nose, you'll have to wait. Toyota Motor Corp.
supplied about 175,000 of the cars to the U.S. last year, when there was no
waiting, and expects to offer about the same number this year, largely because
it can't get enough batteries and other components to boost production.
May and June were particularly tight, with Prius sales down 36% from a year
earlier, when dealers had more inventory. Currently, Toyota says its dealers
have a one- to two-day supply, meaning that virtually every car is spoken for
before it reaches the lot.
Dealers get Prius allocations from Toyota roughly every two weeks, and because
they know exactly what their buyers want, they can request cars that fit
customers' orders. With supply so tight, the results don't always match up, says
Ray Murphy, new-car manager at Toyota of Des Moines, Iowa, where about 100
people are on a Prius waiting list. Those deliveries go to buyers who are less
particular and more willing to pay for color and options they didn't necessarily
want. In other words, the more flexible you are, the more quickly you'll get a
The best strategy for buyers is to email multiple dealers within an hour's drive
to see what they're charging and how willing they are to help you find the exact
car you want. Many dealers require a $500 refundable deposit to get on their
Prius waiting lists.
When I first shopped for a Prius in February, a dealer in the Dallas area had a
car in the color I wanted, but it included a $2,580 option package with a six-CD
changer and Bluetooth, as well as $350 of extras like "lusterizing sealant."
With $900 off the MSRP, the price was still $25,400. Even if I had negotiated
brilliantly and brought the price down a bit further, I would have paid for
options I didn't want.
When I finally joined a waiting list, Toyota had raised the base price. But I
was able to specify a $575 basic-option package and a couple of extras that
could be easily added. Though paying MSRP felt almost immoral, my car would cost
about $750 less than the one I found back in February.
June 24, 2008
The New York Times
By MICHAEL COOPER
FRESNO, Calif. — In the 18th century the British offered a £20,000 prize to
anyone who figured out how to calculate longitude. More recently, Netflix
offered a million dollars for improving movie recommendations on its Web site.
Now Senator John McCain is suggesting a new national prize: He said here Monday
that if elected president he would offer $300 million to anyone who could build
a better car battery.
The high cost of gasoline — a gallon of regular was selling for $4.65 at a gas
station near California State University, Fresno, where Mr. McCain spoke — has
made energy policy a big issue in this year’s presidential campaign, and barely
a day has passed recently without one of the candidates weighing in with new
energy policies, proposals and attacks on opponents.
Mr. McCain, of Arizona, alienated some environmentalists last week during a
speech in Houston when he dropped his opposition to allowing offshore drilling
for oil; this week, in a swing through California, he spoke about trying to wean
the nation from its dependence on oil. He called for improving the enforcement
of fuel economy standards, building more cars that could run on alternative
fuels, dropping the tariff on imports of sugar-based ethanol from Brazil and
offering big tax credits for nonpolluting cars.
“I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people,”
Mr. McCain said, “by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a
battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the
commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.”
He said the winner should deliver power at 30 percent of current costs. “That’s
one dollar, one dollar, for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — a small
price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency,” he said.
The Obama campaign countered by noting that Mr. McCain had voted against
improving fuel efficiency standards in the Senate. Jason Furman, the Obama
campaign’s economic policy director, said in a conference call that Mr. McCain
had been focused on “meaningful relief for oil companies that are struggling
with record profits.”
In his speech in Fresno, Mr. McCain called for automakers to act more quickly to
build so-called flex-fuel vehicles than can run on alternative fuel. He
approvingly cited the example of Brazil, which he said had moved to building 70
percent of all new vehicles that way in just three years, and he issued a
not-so-veiled threat to automakers.
“Whether it takes a meeting with automakers during my first month in office, or
my signature on an act of Congress,” he said, “we will meet the goal of a swift
conversion of American vehicles away from oil.”
And Mr. McCain emphasized one of his differences with Mr. Obama, without
mentioning him by name, by restating his opposition to subsidies for corn-based
ethanol, which Mr. Obama supports.
“As taxpayers, we foot the bill for the enormous subsidies paid to corn
producers,” he said. “And as consumers, we pay extra at the pump because of
government barriers to cheaper products from abroad.”
Mr. McCain, who spoke against corn-based ethanol when he ran for president in
2000, said this time around that he became a supporter of it when oil grew too
expensive, but he has said he still opposes subsidies for ethanol.
While the McCain and Obama campaigns were sparring over energy, Mr. Obama was in
Albuquerque, where he focused on the economy and working women, a critical
constituency. He journeyed deep into the prosaic land of gut-level economics at
the Flying Star Café Commissary, where talk of globalization and vertical
economies yields to “how can I afford to make it through this week and the one
Speaking to a group of women, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, was offered a glimpse into
one of the realities of the American economy: that wages for the working-class
have lagged far behind those of upper-income Americans. Some of the women at the
commissary, like Carrie Hummel, 28, told of holding down multiple jobs and still
barely being able to find the money to pay for gas, much less for her health
insurance. “You know, this life is pretty hard,” she said.
Ms. Hummel was followed by a woman who asked Mr. Obama if he would consider
waiving taxes on tips, and another who asked about the cost of college tuition,
which has risen at a rate far outstripping inflation.
Mr. Obama offered a variety of proposals, including requiring employers t0
provide seven paid sick days for all employees (he has not specified the size of
the employer) and extending the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover any
company with 25 or more employees (the act now applies to those with 50 or more
He also criticized Mr. McCain over his opposition to legislative action to help
bring wages of women up to those of men. The McCain campaign fired back, saying
the legislation to do so would have been a boon to trial lawyers, who have
supported Mr. Obama’s campaign.
Michael Powell contributed reporting from Albuquerque,
May 10, 2008
The New York Times
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
DENVER — With the price of gas approaching $4 a gallon, more commuters are
abandoning their cars and taking the train or bus instead.
Mass transit systems around the country are seeing standing-room-only crowds on
bus lines where seats were once easy to come by. Parking lots at many bus and
light rail stations are suddenly overflowing, with commuters in some towns
risking a ticket or tow by parking on nearby grassy areas and in vacant lots.
“In almost every transit system I talk to, we’re seeing very high rates of
growth the last few months,” said William W. Millar, president of the American
Public Transportation Association.
“It’s very clear that a significant portion of the increase in transit use is
directly caused by people who are looking for alternatives to paying $3.50 a
gallon for gas.”
Some cities with long-established public transit systems, like New York and
Boston, have seen increases in ridership of 5 percent or more so far this year.
But the biggest surges — of 10 to 15 percent or more over last year — are
occurring in many metropolitan areas in the South and West where the driving
culture is strongest and bus and rail lines are more limited.
Here in Denver, for example, ridership was up 8 percent in the first three
months of the year compared with last year, despite a fare increase in January
and a slowing economy, which usually means fewer commuters. Several routes on
the system have reached capacity, particularly at rush hour, for the first time.
“We are at a tipping point,” said Clarence W. Marsella, chief executive of the
Denver Regional Transportation District, referring to gasoline prices.
Transit systems in metropolitan areas like Minneapolis, Seattle, Dallas-Fort
Worth and San Francisco reported similar jumps. In cities like Houston,
Nashville, Salt Lake City, and Charlotte, N.C., commuters in growing numbers are
taking advantage of new bus and train lines built or expanded in the last few
years. The American Public Transportation Association reports that localities
with fewer than 100,000 people have also experienced large increases in bus
In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reports that ridership
was up the first three months of the year by more than 5 percent on the Long
Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad, while M.T.A. bus ridership was up
10.9 percent. New York City subway use was up 6.8 percent for January and
February. Ridership on New Jersey Transit trains was up more than 5 percent for
the first three months of the year.
The increase in transit use coincides with other signs that American motorists
are beginning to change their driving habits, including buying smaller vehicles.
The Energy Department recently predicted that Americans would consume slightly
less gasoline this year than last — for the first yearly decline since 1991.
Oil prices broke yet another record on Friday, climbing $2.27, to $125.96 a
barrel. The national average for regular unleaded gasoline reached $3.67 a
gallon, up from $3.04 a year ago, according to AAA.
But meeting the greater demand for mass transit is proving difficult. The cost
of fuel and power for public transportation is about three times that of four
years ago, and the slowing economy means local sales tax receipts are down, so
there is less money available for transit services. Higher steel prices are
making planned expansions more expensive.
Typically, mass transit systems rely on fares to cover about a third of their
costs, so they depend on sales taxes and other government funding. Few states
use gas tax revenue for mass transit.
In Denver, transportation officials expected to pay $2.62 a gallon for diesel
this year, but they are now paying $3.20. Every penny increase costs the Denver
Regional Transportation District an extra $100,000 a year. And it is bracing for
a $19 million shortfall in sales taxes this year from original projections.
“I’d like to put more buses on the street,” Mr. Marsella said. “I can’t expand
service as much as I’d like to.”
Average annual growth from sales tax revenue for the Bay Area Rapid Transit
District, a rail service that connects San Francisco with Oakland, has been 4.5
percent over the last 15 years. It expects that to fall to 2 percent this year,
and electricity costs are rising.
“This is a year of abundant caution and concern,” said Dorothy W. Dugger, BART’s
general manager, even though ridership on the line was up nearly 5 percent in
the first quarter of the year.
Nevertheless, Ms. Dugger is happy that mass transit is winning over converts.
“The future of mass transit in this country has never been brighter,” she said.
Other factors may be driving people to mass transit, too. Wireless computers
turn travel time into productive work time, and more companies are offering
workers subsidies to take buses or trains. Traffic congestion is getting worse
in many cities, and parking more expensive.
Michael Brewer, an accountant who had always driven the 36-mile trip to downtown
Houston from the suburb of West Belford, said he had been thinking about
switching to the bus for the last two years. The final straw came when he put
$100 of gas into his Pontiac over four days a couple of weeks ago.
“Finally I was ready to trade my independence for the savings,” he said while
waiting for a bus.
Brayden Portillo, a freshman at the University of Colorado Denver, drove from
his home in the northern suburbs to the downtown campus in his Jeep Cherokee the
entire first semester of the school year, enjoying the rap and disco music
blasting from his CD player.
He switched to the bus this semester because he was spending $40 a week on gas —
half his salary as a part-time store clerk. “Finally, I thought this is stupid,”
he said, and he is using the savings to pay down a credit card debt.
The sudden jump in ridership comes after several years of steady, gradual
growth. Americans took 10.3 billion trips on public transportation last year, up
2.1 percent from 2006. Transit managers are predicting growth of 5 percent or
more this year, the largest increase in at least a decade.
“If we are in a recession or economic downturn, we should be seeing a stagnation
or decrease in ridership, but we are not,” said Daniel Grabauskas, general
manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which serves the
Boston area. “Fuel prices are without question the single most important factor
that is driving people to public transportation.”
Some cities are seeing spectacular gains. The Charlotte Area Transit System,
which has a new light rail line, reported that it logged more than two million
trips in February, up more than 34 percent from February 2007.
Caltrain, the commuter rail line that serves the San Francisco Peninsula and the
Santa Clara Valley, set a record for average weekday ridership in February of
36,993, a 9.3 increase from 2007, according to its most recent public
The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which operates a commuter
rail system from Miami to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, posted a rise of
more than 20 percent in rider numbers this March and April as monthly ridership
climbed to 350,000.
“Nobody believed that people would actually give up their cars to ride public
transportation,” said Joseph J. Giulietti, executive director of the authority.
“But in the last year, and last several months in particular, we have seen
Record high gas prices are prompting Americans to drive less for the first time
in nearly three decades, squeezing family budgets and causing major shifts in
driving habits, federal data and a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll show.
As prices near — or in some places top — $4 a gallon, most Americans say they
are cutting back on other household spending, seriously considering buying more
fuel-efficient cars and consolidating their daily errands to save fuel.
Americans worry that steep gas costs are here to stay: eight in 10 say they
doubt today's high prices are temporary, the poll finds. It's the first time
such a large majority sees pricey gas as a long-term problem.
The $4 mark, compounded by a sagging economy, could be a tipping point that
spurs people to make permanent lifestyle changes to reduce dependence on foreign
oil and help the environment, says Steve Reich, a program director at the Center
for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida.
"This is a more significant shift in behavior than I've seen through other
fluctuations in gasoline prices," he says. "People are starting to understand
that this resource … is not something to be taken for granted or wasted."
The average price of a gallon of gas nationwide is $3.65 — the highest ever,
adjusted for inflation. California's average: $3.90 a gallon. The federal Energy
Information Administration (EIA) expects a $3.66 per-gallon average this summer.
The pinch is reshaping the way Americans use their cars:
• February was the fourth consecutive month in which miles driven in the USA
fell, an analysis of Federal Highway Administration data show.
There hasn't been a similar decline since 1979, when shortages created long
lines at pumps. In the 12 months ending in February, the latest month for which
data are available, miles driven fell 0.4% from a year earlier. The last drop of
that scale was in 1980-81.
The decline, while small, is significant because the U.S. population and number
of households, drivers and vehicles grow by 1% to 2% a year. A gallon of gas has
gone up 59 cents since February, suggesting the trend seems likely to continue.
The EIA expects demand for gas to shrink 0.4% this summer from 2007 and fall
0.3% for the year. It would be the first dip in annual consumption since 1991.
• In 2004 and 2005, about one-third of Americans said they cut spending because
of rising gas prices. In the new poll, 60% say they are trimming other expenses.
Half of households with incomes below $20,000 say they face severe hardships
because of soaring gas prices. Three-fourths of households making $75,000 or
more also are changing how they use their cars.
Dawn Morris, a consultant in Dover, Del., is blunt about how gas prices are
affecting her family.
"It's killing us," she says. She and her husband often stay home on weekends,
and when she balances her checkbook, "every third line it says gas: $20, $30,
• Americans' efforts to conserve gas are evident across the USA. At Don Jacobs
Used Cars in Lexington, Ky., salesman Tony Morphis says customers are dumping
gas guzzlers and ask first about gas mileage when they shop for replacements.
Sonya Jensen, owner of Cat's Paw Marina in St. Augustine, Fla., says some boat
owners are considering selling their watercraft. At Cycle Cave in Albuquerque,
Hervey Hawk says customers are "dragging 30- to 40-year-old bikes out of the
garage" and having them fixed so they can pedal to work.
• In the poll, eight in 10 Americans say they use the most fuel-efficient car
they own whenever possible. Three-fourths hunt for the cheapest gas available.
Six in 10 share rides with friends or neighbors.
Three-fourths say they are getting tuneups, turning off the air-conditioning or
driving slower to improve mileage.
Slower speeds might help save lives, says Dennis Hughes, safety chief for the
Wisconsin Transportation Department. There have been fewer driving deaths each
month since October compared with a year earlier. A harsh winter and record gas
prices "conspired to keep a lot of people off the road, or at least to slow
down," he says.
Most of those polled expect things to get worse: 54% say they expect gas prices
to reach $6 a gallon in the next five years.
For now, they are rethinking the ways they get around, where they buy a home and
what they do for fun.
FREWSBURG, N.Y. — There was a faraway look in Lloyd Moore’s eyes as he recalled
racing against a Nascar legend.
“That Petty was a tough driver, good guy,” he said. “We became good friends, but
it almost didn’t happen. Once, in Detroit, he booted me, hit my car in the rear.
He teed me off. Afterward, I asked him what his idea was. He said, ‘It was just
an accident on purpose.’ We both laughed and we shook hands. He was always
smiling. All the Pettys smile.”
This Petty was not Kyle, who is 47 and close to retiring as a driver. It was not
Richard, Kyle’s father, who is 70 and still the icon of the sport. This was Lee
Petty, Richard’s father, who died in 2000 at 86.
Moore, his contemporary, will turn 96 next month. Nascar says he is its oldest
living driver. In an interview last week at his home here, he gave evidence that
he may be its best storyteller, too.
He lives 80 miles south of Buffalo in the farmhouse where he was born. His
village, in the foothills of the Alleghenies, has two service stations, one
full-time police officer, no stoplights and road forks that do not show on maps.
Moore drove from 1949 to 1955 in the Grand National series, a predecessor of the
Sprint Cup. In his 49 races, he won once, finished in the top five 13 times and
in the top 10 23 times. Most of his career earnings of $10,493 went to the car
owner. He often paid for his meals on the road.
That was Nascar in its infancy, when many stock car racers made a living as
moonshiners delivering illegal booze.
“They were Southern boys,” Moore said. “No one would admit it, but the woods
were full of stills. They would deliver a batch, and the cops would chase them.
They’d outrun the cops because they had bigger engines in their cars.”
After races in the South, Moore and Petty often drove to the Petty home in
Randleman, N.C., and sunned themselves on the lawn. Young Richard would join
them. One day there, Moore learned about moonshine life.
“I told Lee we had a guy in our garage who loves to taste that medicine,” Moore
said. “Lee drove me to an open well where there were ropes. He pulled the ropes
and pulled up a basket with a lot of bottles with corks. He gave me one bottle
and said to give it to my friend. I did, and my friend said, ‘Take off the
cork.’ He smelled it and said, ‘That’s it, all right.’ ”
Moore’s first Nascar race was in Heidelberg, Pa., outside Pittsburgh. Lee Petty
won. Moore was sixth and earned $150, which he split with the car owner.
The fifth-place finisher was Sara Christian.
“I got raspberries from the guys at the track,” Moore said, “and when I got home
it was just as bad. Beaten by a woman? Hah, hah.”
His one victory in Nascar came in 1950 at Winchester Speedway in Indiana over a
half-mile dirt track. He finished the season fourth in points. His teammate,
Bill Rexford, won the title. Among Moore’s celebrated rivals were Buck Baker,
Fireball Roberts, Curtis Turner, and the brothers Tim and Fonty Flock.
Moore’s car owner was Julian Buesink, a car dealer.
“We took cars off the showroom floor and drove them to the next race,” Moore
said. “Then we reinforced the wheels and maybe got away with doing something
with the shocks and steering. We all did it. We never got caught. After the
race, we’d drive the car back to Julie’s used-car lot.
“One day, we took Julie’s wife’s car, a Mercury, and it rolled over in practice.
I hurt my neck. He got her a new car fast.”
The fast driving was not confined to the racetrack.
“After one race, we were driving home on the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” Moore said.
“Bill Rexford was in front of us and Julie was sitting with me. Julie said,
‘Will this thing go any faster?’ So Bill and I started racing side by side on
the Pennsylvania Turnpike at 100 miles an hour.”
In Moore’s early years, he struggled to find racing time. He was the only boy
among five children, and when his father lost a leg in a farm accident when
Lloyd was 5, he had to take much of the workload. He quit high school after a
year and a half to maintain the farm. He began racing at 18.
“I would run a tractor around the farm at maybe 12 or 13 miles an hour,” he
said. “Then we raced cars on the roads. There were no speed limits then, so the
cops couldn’t get us for speeding. They called it reckless driving.”
He raced Model A Fords in the mid-1930s in a little gravel pit, now a reservoir,
in Onoville and at a half-mile horse racing track in Leon, N.Y.
“There were 12 or 15 of us,” Moore said. “We paid a $1.50 entry fee and put the
money in a hat. That was the prize money. We also raced at Satan’s Bowl of Death
in Sugar Grove, Pa. That was an obstacle course: uphill, downhill, through a
stream, through the woods. I never dreamed auto racing would go this far.”
He also worked at a Studebaker garage. One day, Rexford asked to borrow his
helmet because he was going to a race in Nascar. Moore said he would not mind
doing that, either. Rexford told Buesink, the car owner, and soon Rexford had a
In 1945, Moore bought a plane. He never took a flying lesson, but he said he
learned from a handbook. On his first flight, he took off and rose to 100 feet
when the engine quit. He crashed in the woods, but escaped serious injury.
“I forgot to turn on the gas,” he said.
Moore, who owned a school bus business until he retired in 1974, now finds
adventure watching Nascar races on television. He does not seem thrilled.
“We drove maybe 110 to 120 miles an hour at Daytona and far less on smaller
tracks,” he said. “Now they might hit 220. I never thought they would go that
fast. That’s O.K., but I don’t like all the talk on TV before the races. It
never ends. It’s Hollywood: too much show, not enough racing.
“Those ads on cars and uniforms are ridiculous. I wore a helmet, T-shirt and
chopped-off pants. These guys look like a Christmas tree. And at a time when
some people don’t have money to buy food, these guys spend so much on gas and
tires. But I watch the races on Sundays, although my eyes get kind of dreary
because the races are so long.”
His wife of 61 years, Virginia, amended that.
“He watches the beginning of races,” she said, “and I wake him up for the end.”
Moore raised 6 daughters and has 14 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren.
All live within 25 miles. He stopped driving three years ago because of double
“I don’t like to go too many places,” he said. “I figure I’ve traveled enough.”
In March, Moore slipped in mud and broke his right ankle, so he uses a
wheelchair or a walker.
“I drive him to the doctor and church,” Virginia, 84, said. “Except for that, we
don’t go out a lot because he’s not up to it.”
One frequent visitor is Reggie Holland, 53, who lives nearby.
“He grew up with my uncle and I’ve known him my whole life,” Holland said of
Moore. “He’s a sweet old man, like your grandpa. He’s pretty darn sharp. Give
him a refresher, and everything comes out.”
Moore seems happy, if ambivalent.
“My driving career ended because I realized I should be doing more work on the
farm,” he said. “I had a lot of kids to feed and my mother and father to take
care of. I had been on the road long enough. It was the right decision. I never
wanted to go back to racing. I haven’t been to a track since. It seems like when
you give it up, you give it up.
“But if I didn’t have such a big family, I would have raced probably another 10
years. There’s nothing like sliding into a car and competing. I like speed. I
like the competition. I miss it.”
March 4, 2008
Filed at 9:34 a.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors Corp. says it expects to bring its first
lithium-ion battery powered hybrid engine system to market in North America in
The world's largest automaker by sales was to announce the hybrid system Tuesday
at the Geneva International Motor Show, saying the new battery will deliver
three times the power of GM's current nickel-metal-hydride batteries.
Automakers and battery companies across the globe have been racing to develop
lithium-ion technology, seen by many as the key to mass producing hybrid
vehicles powered by conventional and electric motors. The batteries also are
essential in producing the next generation of electric cars.
Daimler AG plans to introduce a gasoline-electric hybrid version of its
Mercedes-Benz flagship S-Class luxury sedan that also uses a lithium-ion battery
starting next year.
Lithium-ion technology already is widely used in consumer electronics, but now
is being adapted to meet demanding automotive requirements. The batteries are
lighter than other batteries, but cost and concerns about overheating have
delayed their use.
Lithium-ion batteries common in laptops are smaller, yet more powerful than the
nickel-metal hydride batteries used in gas-electric hybrids like Toyota Motor
The GM and Daimler announcements in Geneva indicate increasing confidence about
In addition, Toyota said in December it was preparing to start mass producing
lithium-ion batteries for low-emission vehicles.
GM said the new hybrid system eventually will spread worldwide, and it expects
sales volumes to exceed 100,000 vehicles per year. The system would build on
GM's current hybrids, reducing engineering costs and the cost to consumers, the
The battery system would be paired with a wide range of GM engines, including
turbocharged gasoline, diesel and biofuel power plants. It would be used in
multiple GM models across all brands, but the company would not say which models
would get the new system.
The new system will produce a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in fuel economy
over what a nonhybrid vehicle would get in 2010, GM spokesman Brian Corbett
The company said the hybrid system would debut in North America before the
Chevrolet Volt, which is an electric car with a small conventional motor used to
recharge the batteries. The company hopes to bring the Volt to market in 2010 as
GM said in a statement that the new hybrid system would save fuel by turning the
engine off at idle and cutting off fuel during deceleration. It would offer
brief electric-only power, the company said in a statement.
February 7, 200
The New York Times
By FELICITY BARRINGER
ARLINGTON, Va. — This urban suburb of Washington seems well-prepared for a
leading role in the green revolution embraced by hundreds of the nation’s
cities, counties and towns.
For decades, Arlington County’s development has been consciously clustered
around its subway line. There is abundant open space to plant thousands of
trees. Residents also seem eager to cut back on their own energy use.
Jose R. Fernandez, who moved here last year and works at the nearby national
headquarters of the National Guard, chose to settle in Arlington because he does
not need a car. “I can go anywhere on the bus,” Mr. Fernandez said, “or I can
ride my bike anywhere.”
But even in Arlington, county officials are reckoning with the fact that though
green is the dream, the shade of civic achievement is closer to olive drab.
Constraints on budgets, legal restrictions by states, and people’s unwillingness
to change sometimes put brakes on ambitious plans to cut carbon dioxide
Emissions are stubborn things. In Arlington, emissions per capita are now 15
tons annually and rising. In Sonoma County, Calif., the figure is close to nine
tons. Arlington is not alone in bumping up against obstacles.
“We have been doing things like filling potholes and reducing crime since cities
began,” said David N. Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, R.I., but energy
efficiency requires “a whole new infrastructure to evaluate and measure.”
When Providence officials pushed for new police cars with four cylinders instead
of six, to save gasoline, there was pushback — unsuccessful — from police
officers who preferred more powerful engines to pursue speeders or criminals.
Cleveland’s plans to retrofit a local hot-water plant, produce new electricity
and save tons of greenhouse gas emissions, molder in a file. It would cost $200
million, and there is no money — the tax base, left ragged by the loss of
population and industry over the last two decades, has been hit hard again by
the subprime mortgage crisis.
Nearly 1,200 miles away, in Austin, Tex., — a city that ranks high on any list
of green strivers — some residents want to help but do not feel they can afford
it. DeVonna Garcia’s family won an award for its beautiful outdoor display of
Christmas lights — but she stayed with her old-fashioned incandescent bulbs,
hearing that a friend paid $600 for energy-efficient lights.
Ann Hancock, the executive director of the Climate Protection Campaign, a
nonprofit based in Sonoma County, a wine-growing area north of San Francisco,
said that the county and its nine municipalities signed climate-protection
agreements with enthusiasm more than five years ago, committing to bringing down
greenhouse-gas emissions. Then they tried to figure out how.
“It’s really hard,” Ms. Hancock said. “It’s like the dark night of the soul.”
All the big items in the inventory of emissions — from tailpipes, from the
energy needed to supply drinking water and treat waste water, from heating and
cooling buildings — are the product of residents’ and businesses’ individual
decisions about how and where to live and drive and shop.
“They’ve seen the Al Gore movie, but they still have their lifestyle to contend
with,” she said.
“We need to get people out of their cars, and we can’t under the present
circumstances,” because of the limited alternative in public transportation, Ms.
Hancock said. And the county’s many older homes are not very good at keeping in
the cool air in the summer or the warm air in winter. “How do you go back and
retrofit all of those?” she asked.
County governments are also finding that homeowners’ associations can be
troublesome. Carbondale, Colo., would welcome people like Adam and Rachel
Connor, who bought a lot in a subdivision outside town and made plans for a
house with solar panels. But the homeowners’ association vetoed the proposal on
aesthetic grounds. Such associations have rejected solar projects from Southern
California to the Chicago suburbs to Phoenix, prompting at least two states to
pass laws prohibiting such vetoes.
“Unrealistic and unreasonable expectations,” Ms. Connor said, “should not stand
in the way of us taking climate change seriously and taking control of energy
security with our own hands.”
Arlington, Providence and more than 300 other communities in the United States
are members of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives,
which has developed software to help them determine the quantity of greenhouse
gases their municipalities emit. They are still trying to figure it all out.
Reductions and remedies are harder still.
Regional politics render ideas that are embraced in some cities unthinkable in
others. In Burlington, Vt., and Berkeley, Calif., there are local laws requiring
that people who are selling their homes upgrade the energy efficiency to meet
current standards, whether by adding thicker insulation to the pipes, replacing
the windows or putting in an energy-saving water heater. (The maximum amount to
be spent is determined by the selling price of the house.)
Would the idea fly in, say, Cleveland? On a statewide level, “politically, it
would be a non-starter,” said Andrew Watterson, the program director of
Cleveland’s office of sustainability. “Legally, I’m not sure if we could do it”
because of state limits on local taxing powers, Mr. Watterson said.
But Cleveland’s mayor, Frank G. Jackson, has backed the redevelopment of three
old city neighborhoods in accordance with blueprints established by the U.S.
Green Building Council’s LEED program (for Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design.) Mr. Watterson said he hoped this sort of project would
encourage a reverse migration of families who seek livable, walkable
Arlington County is not having a problem attracting residents who are partial to
the idea of a green revolution. But in the outer sections of Arlington, the
problem is aging houses with inadequate insulation and inefficient appliances.
“We have an old house,” said Kevin Clark, who is 41 and a professor of
instructional technology at George Mason University. “We got double-paned glass.
We could feel the air coming in through those nice wood frames.”
Between the $13,000 cost of that repair and the money for a new refrigerator and
other appliances, energy efficiencies have cost Mr. Clark and his family about
$18,000. Though they have cut monthly electric bills, he is not sure how much he
Among the county’s biggest roadblocks in its effort to reduce emissions are the
strict legal limits on Arlington officials. The state government in Richmond has
the final authority in setting building codes, for instance. Like Cleveland,
Arlington cannot require a house’s energy systems be upgraded when the house is
sold. And Arlington cannot require commercial builders to install more
insulation and more efficient heating, cooling and lighting systems than the
As J. Walter Tejada, the chairman of Arlington County’s governing board, said,
“Sometimes I think that even when you’re sneezing you need to ask the
Legislature for permission.”
Laura Fiffick, the director of the office of environmental quality in Dallas —
one vehicle in four is a pickup truck in Texas — said, “How do you reach an
individual citizen and tell them: Everybody makes a difference.”
She added: “A lot of cities have said, ‘We’re going to be carbon-neutral by
2020.’ To me, the idea is to figure out what emissions we are going to go after
and what we can do and then set the goal. When you set the bar too high, it
December 2, 2007
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ST. PAUL, Dec. 1 (AP) — The 16 big flasks of bubbling bright green liquids in
Roger Ruan’s laboratory at the University of Minnesota are part of a new boom in
renewable energy research.
Driven by renewed investment as oil prices push $100 a barrel, Dr. Ruan and
scores of scientists around the world are racing to turn algae into a
commercially viable energy source.
Some algae is as much as 50 percent oil that can be converted into biodiesel or
jet fuel. The biggest challenge is cutting the cost of production, which by one
Defense Department estimate is running more than $20 a gallon.
“If you can get algae oils down below $2 a gallon, then you’ll be where you need
to be,” said Jennifer Holmgren, director of the renewable fuels unit of UOP, an
energy subsidiary of Honeywell International. “And there’s a lot of people who
think you can.”
Researchers are trying to figure out how to grow enough of the right strains of
algae and how to extract the oil most efficiently. Over the past two years they
have received more money from governments, the Pentagon, big oil companies,
utilities and venture capital firms.
The federal government halted its main algae research program nearly a decade
ago, but technology has advanced and oil prices have climbed since then, and an
Energy Department laboratory announced in late October that it was partnering
with Chevron, the second-largest American oil company, in the hunt for better
strains of algae.
“It’s not backyard inventors at this point at all,” said George Douglas, a
spokesman for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an arm of the Energy
Department. “It’s folks with experience to move it forward.”
A New Zealand company demonstrated a Range Rover powered by an algae biodiesel
blend last year, but experts say algae will not be commercially viable for many
years. Dr. Ruan said demonstration plants could be built within a few years.
Converting algae oil into biodiesel uses the same process that turns vegetable
oils into biodiesel. But the cost of producing algae oil is hard to pin down
because nobody is running the process start to finish other than in a
laboratory, Mr. Douglas said.
If the price of production can be reduced, the advantages of algae include the
fact that it grows much faster and in less space than conventional energy crops.
An acre of corn can produce about 20 gallons of oil per year, Dr. Ruan said,
compared with a possible 15,000 gallons of oil per acre of algae.
An algae farm could be located almost anywhere. It would not require converting
cropland from food production to energy production. It could use sea water and
could consume pollutants from sewage and power plants.
The Pentagon’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is
financing research into producing jet fuel from plants, including algae. The
agency is already working with the Honeywell subsidiary, General Electric and
the University of North Dakota. In November, it requested additional research
December 2, 2007
The New York Times
By CAROLYN MARSHALL
SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 30 — Claiming it now has the largest green fleet in the
nation, the city of San Francisco this week completed a yearlong project to
convert its entire array of diesel vehicles — from ambulances to street sweepers
— to biodiesel, a clean-burning and renewable fuel that holds promise for
helping to reduce greenhouse gases.
Using virgin soy oil bought from producers in the Midwest, officials said that
as of Friday, all of the city’s 1,500 diesel vehicles were powered with the
environmentally friendlier fuel, intended to sharply reduce toxic diesel exhaust
linked to a higher risk of asthma and premature death.
“Just like secondhand smoke, diesel is one of the worst things we can breathe,”
said the city’s clean vehicle manager, Vandana Bali of the Department of the
The announcement came without fanfare from Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office late
Thursday, even as Congressional lawmakers dickered over the particulars of an
energy bill that would give automakers incentives to produce cars that burn
Ms. Bali said the city’s diesel vehicles now all used a fuel known as B20, a mix
of 20 percent soy-based biofuel and 80 percent petroleum diesel fuel, which
reduces toxic emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and other pollutants
that lead to global warming.
A spokesman for the mayor, Nathan Ballard, said the goal was to cut such
emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
In November, Mr. Newsom announced a new project called SFGreasecycle, a program
to collect fats and cooking oils from restaurants, at no charge.
“We are collecting grease,” Mr. Ballard said. “Waste fats and oils are a major
source of backup in our sewage system. But we’re taking the grease that would
have gone down the drain and turning it into biodiesel.”
November 9, 2007
The New York Times
By MATTHEW L. WALD
DENVER — Mitch Mandich proudly showed off his baby, a 150-foot contraption of
tanks, valves, hoppers, augers and fans. It hissed. It gurgled. An incongruous
smell wafted through the air, the scent of turpentine.
Mr. Mandich’s machine devours pine chips from Georgia and turns them into an
energy-rich gas, a step toward making liquid fuels. His company, Range Fuels, is
near the front of the pack in a technology race that could have an impact on the
way America powers its automotive fleet, and help ameliorate global warming.
“Somebody’s going to hit a home run here,” Mr. Mandich said. “We want to be
For years, scientists have known that the building blocks in plant matter — not
just corn kernels, but also corn stalks, wood chips, straw and even some
household garbage — constituted an immense potential resource that could, in
theory, help fill the gasoline tanks of America’s cars and trucks.
Mostly, they have focused on biology as a way to do it, tinkering with bacteria
or fungi that could digest the plant material, known as biomass, and extract
sugar that could be fermented into ethanol. But now, nipping at the heels of
various companies using biological methods, is a new group of entrepreneurs,
including Mr. Mandich, who favor chemistry.
They believe techniques borrowed from oil refining and other chemical industries
will allow them to crack open big biological molecules, transforming them into
ethanol or, even more interesting, into diesel and gasoline. Those latter fuels
could be transported in existing pipelines and burned in existing engines
without fuss. Advocates of the chemical methods say they may be flexible enough
to go beyond traditional biomass, converting old tires or even human waste into
clean transport fuel.
In Madison, Wis., a company called Virent Energy Systems is turning sugar into
gasoline, diesel, kerosene and jet fuel, with the long-range plan of obtaining
the sugars from biomass. In Ontario, Dynamotive Energy Systems is turning
biomass into a form of oil, and in Chicago, a Honeywell subsidiary called UOP is
doing something similar. In Irvine, Calif., BlueFire Ethanol is using acid to
break down organic material for conversion to fuel.
Possibilities like these are coming to the fore at a time when rising oil prices
have created an incentive to develop substitute fuels. Making them from biomass
would be environmentally friendly in that, unlike standard gasoline or diesel,
the fuels would not take long-stored carbon from underground and dump it into
the air as carbon dioxide.
And unlike making ethanol from corn kernels, these techniques do not require
significant amounts of natural gas or coal. Carbon dioxide, emitted in large
volume when people burn fossil fuels, is the primary culprit in global warming.
Lately, these factors have resulted in a flood of investment capital into both
biological and chemical techniques for using biomass. Experts consider both
approaches promising, and they say it is too early to tell which will win.
“It’s not obvious, and I don’t think it will be obvious for a very long time,”
Andrew Karsner, the assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and
renewable energy, said in Washington. His department is awarding grants to
support both approaches.
Experts say it is possible that more than one type of plant will reach
commercial success, with the ideal technique for a given locale depending on
what material is available to convert to fuel.
Range Fuels favors pine chips and other waste from softwood logging operations,
largely because there is so much of it. Logging in Georgia, for instance, leaves
behind about a quarter of the tree. “Bark, needles, cones, we use all of it,”
said Mr. Mandich, chief executive of Range.
Range is a privately held company whose chief scientist, Bud Klepper, has been
working on the two problems, creating gas from biomass and then converting it to
liquid fuel, since the 1980s. The company is heavily backed by Vinod Khosla, a
Silicon Valley venture capitalist who has turned his focus to energy
Range broke ground this week on the first full-scale biomass-to-fuel plant in
the United States, in Soperton, Ga. “Today marks the beginning of a new phase of
our effort to make America more energy secure,” the secretary of energy, Samuel
Bodman, said at the event. The plant, its cost not publicly disclosed, is
expected to produce 20 million gallons of ethanol a year, with more capacity to
be added later.
In Georgia alone, enough waste wood is available to make two billion gallons of
ethanol a year, Mr. Mandich said. If all that material could be captured and
converted to fuel, it could replace about 1 percent of the nation’s gasoline
Biomass of various types is abundant in every state, some of it gathered daily
by garbage trucks. A study two years ago by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory
found that enough biomass is available in the United States to replace more than
a third of the nation’s gasoline consumption, assuming the economics can be made
The Bush administration is counting on biofuels to help limit the growth of
petroleum demand, and environmentalists routinely include such fuels in their
forecasts as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But to date, no one has
shown that fuels from biomass can be made profitably, even when competing with
gasoline at $3 a gallon.
Daniel M. Kammen, director for the renewable and appropriate energy laboratory
at the University of California, Berkeley, said, “I suspect we will have a
trickle” of fuels from biomass in the next few years. But it will be only a
trickle unless the government adopts quotas or offers additional support, he
Companies like Range that are trying to convert biomass by chemical methods
follow one of two broad approaches. The first is to mix the material with steam
to produce a gas known as synthesis gas, consisting of hydrogen and carbon
monoxide. With additional processing, that gas can be converted to liquid fuels.
The second technique does not break the material down as far, creating a product
that resembles oil that can then be refined into liquid fuel.
Research papers and patents are flying these days as scientists struggle to
improve these methods. As with oil refineries, the final stages typically
produce a variety of chemicals, of varying value, and the trick is to maximize
production of the desirable chemicals. “Everybody is dealing with a byproduct
they don’t want,” said Arnold Klann, the chief executive of BlueFire.
Range Fuels is one of the companies that turn biomass into a gas before
converting it to liquid fuel. The company wants to make ethanol, a form of
alcohol, but its technique produces less valuable varieties of alcohol as well.
Company scientists are tweaking their approach to maximize the ethanol yield.
The other day, laboratory technicians grabbed samples of a yellow liquid
emerging from the machinery and swirled it like a suspect vintage of chenin
blanc. An expensive chemical analyzer called a gas chromatography machine stood
in the corner. By using it, engineers can calculate what changes in temperature,
pressure and flow rates would work best to produce ethanol in a full-scale
Overseeing the operation, Mr. Mandich radiated confidence. “You can’t have so
many people at bat without hitting something,” he said.
As the nation seeks to develop new types of fuel, Congress has leaned heavily
toward ethanol made from corn kernels, and it is the only alternative fuel
available today in large volume. Ethanol benefits from a tax break and a mandate
that a significant amount of it be blended into gasoline.
Turning biomass into gasoline would be simpler, requiring no changes in the
nation’s cars or pipelines, but federal policy is tilting many research programs
Range, for instance, could make any of several types of fuel from its pine
chips. Asked whether the company chose ethanol for the 51-cent-a-gallon tax
break, Mr. Klepper declared: “It’s the American way.”
A green transport policy?
New figures show how 30 years of failure
has put Britain on the road to gridlock
Published: 18 July 2007
By Ben Russell, Nigel Morris and James Macintyre
Dramatic new evidence that car travel has become far cheaper while buses and
trains have soared in cost led to renewed attacks on Labour's transport policy
last night, as MPs said the Government was undermining its own battle against
According to newly disclosed statistics, the cost of car travel has fallen by 10
per cent over the past 30 years, while the price of bus and train tickets has
risen by more than 50 per cent. The respective trends have continued throughout
Labour's period in office.
Campaigners warned that the figures, revealed by the Department of Transport in
a parliamentary answer yesterday, laid bare the huge disincentive for Britons to
choose environmentally friendly forms of travel.
The statistics show that Labour has failed to reverse the long-term trend. Since
1997 when the party came to power, the cost of running a car has fallen by 10
per cent, but the price of bus travel has increased by 13 per cent and train
travel has become 6 per cent more expensive. British trains are already among
the most expensive in the world, with further above-inflation rises certain in
Over the same period, greenhouse gas emissions have risen in five out of 10
years despite government promises to tackle global warming. Unsurprisingly, over
the past 10 years the inexorable rise in car travel has continued, with
motorists clocking up almost 400 billion kilometres (270 billion miles) a year.
The statistics, disclosed by the Transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick, provoked
uproar among politicians of all parties and from environmental groups.
News of the huge rises in public transport costs came amid growing concern that
the cost of rail travel is due to increase still further by the end of the year
following a series of deals between the Government and train companies.
Stagecoach and Arriva are planning fare rises in the East Midlands and Cross
Country franchises of 3.4 per cent a year in real terms. Go-Ahead plans to raise
fares by 3 per cent a year on the London to Northampton route.
Susan Kramer, the Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman, who obtained the
figures, said: "When we're all concerned about climate change, government
strategy that increases the cost of public transport while motoring costs fall
Colin Challen, Labour chairman of the parliamentary all-party group on climate
change, accused the Government of being timid in its efforts to cut the rise in
car usage. He said the increasing cost of public transport " sends all the wrong
signals" to travellers. "We should be prepared to bite the bullet with putting
up the costs of driving," he said. "The Government could have done a great deal
more. Since the fuel protests in 2000 we have run rather scared of certain
lobbies. We really have to face them down."
Peter Ainsworth, the shadow Environment Secretary, said: "This demonstrates how
far off-beam the Government's policies are in delivering a low-carbon economy.
They give serious cause for concern."
Theresa Villiers, the shadow Transport Secretary, added: "There's a good
environmental case for encouraging people out of their cars and on to public
transport. The increasing divergence in the cost between the two is not the way
to achieve that."
Environmentalists echoed their concern, warning that ministers needed to take
tough decisions to turn their rhetoric into results. Green campaigners have long
argued that only aggressive policies, including road tolls and higher fuel
prices, will encourage motorists to leave their car behind and use public
transport. The pressure-group Transport 2000 has argued that a 10 per cent
reduction in car use could be achieved by 2050, by measures including the
introduction of more flexible and varied bus and train services.
Tony Bosworth, of Friends of the Earth, said: "These figures show one of the
reasons why the Government is finding it so difficult to get people out of their
cars and on to public transport." A Greenpeace spokesman said: "It appears
Gordon Brown has been in hock to the motorist for too long. If he's serious
about climate change he will face down opposition from the motoring lobby and
promote green, low-carbon alternatives."
Sian Berry, the Green Party principal speaker, said: "If we're serious about
tackling climate change we need to make public transport cheaper, easier and
A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said that spending on public
transport had increased by more than 50 per cent in the past 10 years. She said:
We are starting to see the results - public transport journeys have increased by
7 per cent since 2000.
"Government is also working to reduce the environmental impact of transport in
other ways, for example by encouraging the use of biofuels and investing in new,
Why driving is cheaper
* Successive governments have shied away from taking on motorists and the
motoring industry, while rail privatisation under the Conservatives and its
continuation under Labour has resulted in repeated increases in fares.
* Governments since the 1970s have taxed fuel, and in 1993 the Conservatives
introduced the Fuel Price Escalator, resulting in an increase in the price of
fuel above VAT year on year. Gordon Brown abolished the scheme in 2000.
* Tax subsidies on company cars and continued road expansions, at the same time
as rail companies are having to maintain their own tracks, has meant the trend
away from public transport and on to the roads is continuing and may even
NEW YORK (AP) -- A sad-looking little girl squeezes an asthma inhaler, with a
message imploring lawmakers to approve Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to reduce
traffic and pollution by charging motorists who drive into Manhattan.
The tag line: ''She cannot hold her breath waiting for Albany to act.''
The flier is being mailed this week to 350,000 households throughout the city,
urging residents to call lawmakers in Albany. The state Legislature would have
to come back for a special session to approve the plan before a July 16
application deadline for federal funding.
The campaign was paid for by the Partnership for New York City, a business group
that is a chief supporter of the mayor's plan.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, an outspoken critic of the congestion pricing plan,
said the image of the asthmatic girl is more of a political tactic than anything
based on substance.
''The mayor's car tax is not a cure for asthma -- what it is is a giant
bureaucracy funded by a regressive tax,'' said Weiner, D-N.Y.
Bloomberg's plan calls for a three-year pilot program that would charge drivers
a fee -- $8 for cars and $21 for trucks -- in the city's most heavily congested
zone. His administration says it would force more people onto mass transit,
thereby reducing traffic and improving air quality, particularly for children
who suffer from asthma.
''Does anybody want to look a parent in the eye and say, 'Well, we can wait for
your child, we'll do it down the road, just let your child continue to breathe
worse air than we could have had if we had the courage to stand up?' I don't
think anybody wants to make that call,'' Bloomberg said Thursday at a rally in
support of his proposal.
Medical studies, including one published in the Lancet earlier this year, have
found links between air pollution and respiratory ailments. But it is unclear
how much the traffic fee would change the city's asthma problem.
The Bloomberg administration predicts that traffic would decrease by 6 percent
inside the zone -- the business district on the lower half of Manhattan. The
city's asthma rates are highest in poor neighborhoods outside that area.
Backers of the traffic proposal, who include environmentalists and a number of
elected officials, say that those outer communities would also benefit from the
reduction in traffic, since many of the thruways leading into Manhattan snake
through those neighborhoods.
City officials project that traffic would decrease by 1.8 percent in the Bronx,
1.5 percent in Brooklyn and 1.2 percent in Queens. The decline may seem small,
city officials said, but it is significant because much of the relief would be
concentrated on major arteries.
In London, where drivers have been charged traffic fees since 2003, residents
complain about the ''parking lots'' that have formed outside the zone. Within
it, traffic thinned by 20 percent and carbon emissions similarly decreased,
Mayor Ken Livingstone said at a May environmental summit of mayors in New York.
The city health department says the number of New Yorkers with asthma has
increased in the past two decades, although hospitalizations have declined.
Among children, the hospitalization rate was 43 percent lower in 2005 than in
1997, with fewer than 9,000 compared with nearly 15,000. While it declined, the
child hospitalization rate is still three times higher than the national rate,
the health department said.