New York’s Yellow Cabs Must All Be Green by 2012

NEW YORK – New York City’s famous yellow taxicabs will soon be greener under the hood.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently said that as part of PLANYC, first announced on Earth Day, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), will implement new emissions and mileage standards for yellow cabs that will lead to a fully gas-electric hybrid fleet by 2012.

The new standards will be phased in over a four-year period and are expected to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of New York City’s taxicab and for-hire vehicle fleet by half during the next decade.

Individual operators will have to purchase the new hybrids out of their own pockets, but this cost will be offset by an estimated saving of an average of $10,000 a year in fuel costs by increasing fuel efficiency from 14 to 30 miles per gallon.

The mayor was joined at the announcement by TLC Commissioner Matthew Daus, Councilmember David Yassky, Yahoo! Network Division Vice President of Marketing Patrick Crane, American Lung Association President Louise Vetter, and other industry and regulatory leaders.

"In PLANYC, we set aggressive goals for the taxicab industry and today we’re going to begin meeting those goals," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Implementing tougher standards for the more than 13,000 taxis in this city will provide the same clean air benefits as removing 32,000 privately owned cars from our streets, which will significantly reduce the air pollution that causes childhood asthma."

"We expect these new standards will save 22 million gallons of fuel in the first year, and that is only the beginning of what we will be able to accomplish," said TLC Commissioner Daus. "The New York City taxi fleet’s carbon footprint will be lighter than at any point in its 100-year history."

Currently there are only 375 hybrid vehicles in the city’s taxi fleet. By October 2008, the number of hybrids in the fleet will triple. – Environmental News Service [ww.ens-newswire.com]

Avoid the "dirty dozen" fruits, vegetables

According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) analysis of data from more than 43,000 tests on pesticides in conventional produce, more than 90 percent of ingestion of pesticides in foods can be eliminated by avoiding the most contaminated foods.

The "Dirty Dozen" most contaminated foods are peaches (97 percent tested positive for residue), apples (92 percent tested positive), sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes. The "Consistently Clean" are onions (90 percent tested negative), avocados (90 percent), sweet corn (90 percent), pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli and papaya.

"Federal produce tests tell us that some fruits and vegetables are so likely to be contaminated with pesticides that you should always buy them organic. Others are so consistently clean that you can eat them with less concern," says EWG Senior Vice President Richard Wiles. Download your wallet-sized shopper’s guide at www.foodnews.org – Organic Consumers Association [www.organicconsumers.org]

Design leaders collaborate on carbon-neutral buildings

ATLANTA – The American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Architecture 2030, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, and the U.S. Green Building Council, supported by representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy, recently finalized a memorandum of understanding this week, establishing a common starting point and goal of net zero energy buildings.

"This memorandum allows the building design sector to move forward with designing buildings that use substantially less energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create spaces that are healthy and comfortable," according to the groups.

While focused on designing net zero energy buildings, the ultimate goal of the memorandum is carbon-neutral buildings by 2030. Carbon neutral buildings use no energy from external power grids and can be built and operated at fair market values.

The building sector accounts for almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. annually and carbon neutral buildings reduce carbon emissions to help mitigate climate change; reduce dependence on oil power, fuel imports, and the use of fossil fuels in general; and provide a measure of energy security. – U.S. Green Building Council

Radiation-Eating Fungi Found

BRONX, New York – Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have discovered that fungi that have the ability to use radioactivity as an energy source for making food and spurring their growth.

The finding could trigger recalculation of Earth’s energy balance and the scientists say the ability of fungi to live off radiation could prove useful to venturing into outer space.

"Since ionizing radiation is prevalent in outer space, astronauts might be able to rely on fungi as an inexhaustible food source on long missions or for colonizing other planets," says Dr. Ekaterina Dadachova, associate professor of nuclear medicine and microbiology and immunology at Einstein and lead author of the study.

The research began five years ago when Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chair of microbiology and immunology at Einstein, read on the Internet that a robot sent into the still highly radioactive damaged reactor at Chernobyl had returned with samples of black, fungi rich in melanin that were growing on the reactor’s walls.

Those fungi that are able to "eat" radiation must possess melanin, the pigment found in many if not most fungal species. But up until now, melanin’s biological role in fungi, if any, has been a mystery. – Environmental News Service [ww.ens-newswire.com]

One in Six European Mammals at Risk of Extinction

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Nearly one in every six species of European mammals is now threatened with extinction, finds the first assessment of all European mammals, requested by the European Commission and carried out by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The findings were released in conjunction with International Biodiversity Day.

The IUCN assessment shows that 27 percent of all European mammals have declining populations, and trends for a further 33 percent are unknown. Only 8 percent of mammal species were identified as increasing.

IUCN Director-General Julia Marton-Lefèvre said, "This new assessment proves that many European mammals are declining at an alarming rate. However, we still have the power to reverse that trend, as the case of the European bison, which was brought back from extinction, clearly shows."

The European bison was nearly extinct during the early 20th century when the last individuals were saved in zoos. As a result of reintroductions and introductions, there are now some 1,800 bison occurring in free-ranging and semi-free herds in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Russian Federation, Ukraine and Slovakia.

Europe is rich in mammal diversity on land, including elk and lynx, bear, wolf and wild boar, red deer and roe deer, beaver and otter, mink, fox, ermine and wild horse. There are hedgehogs, porcupines, hares, lemmings, weasels, bats, moles and shrews, squirrels, mice, mongoose, and raccoons.

But while some 15 percent, or almost one sixth, of mammals are threatened in Europe, the situation of marine mammals is even grimmer – 22 percent are classified as "Threatened" with extinction. – Environmental News Service [ww.ens-newswire.com]

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