Southern California environment news and trends

Survey says mileage is king for new car buyers

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According to a new Consumer Reports survey, when it’s time to buy a new car, shoppers are placing more of a premium on higher gas mileage than on a vehicle’s overall quality.

As reported by the Huffington Post, the survey, which is the latest from Consumer Reports National Research Center of car owners, found that more than one-third (37 percent) of those polled said that fuel efficiency is the most important factor when buying a new vehicle. The second most popular choice, vehicle quality, lagged behind at only 17 percent, with safety just behind quality at third, scoring 16 percent of the vote.

Still, it’s mostly about gas mileage for new car buyers. Two-thirds of those surveyed expect their next car to have at least the same if not better fuel efficiency than their current mode of transportation. 60 percent of the respondents were willing to give up some size and vehicle capacity in exchange for that higher fuel efficiency rating.


Ford Motor Co. works on recycling cash into car parts

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Due in large part to skyrocketing petroleum prices, Ford Motor Co. has made finding sustainable materials to replace plastic a priority. As we reported earlier this year, Ford (in partnership with REPREVE) collected bottles at both the 2012 North American Auto Show in Detroit and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to convert them into car interiors for the new Focus Electric vehicles.

This year also saw Ford turn up their sustainable and recycling efforts with other unorthodox materials, such as denim and soy-based products, being reconstituted into various car parts. Now, according to Inhabitat, Ford is looking to convert piles of old, shredded cash money bills into components for new cars.

“Ford has a long history of developing green technologies because it’s the right thing to do from an environmental perspective,” said John Viera, Ford’s global director of Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters to inhabitat. “The potential to reuse some of the country’s paper currency once it has been taken out of circulation is a great example of the kind of research we are doing,”


Younger Americans are driving less

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According to a new study, teens and young adults across the country are choosing alternative means of transportation over hopping behind the wheel of an automobile.

The report, “Transportation and the New Generation,” found that younger Americans are driving “substantially fewer” miles than previous generations, often not even bothering with acquiring a driver’s license, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Released by the CalPIRG Education Fund, the study says that mass transit, biking and walking are the preferred methods of getting around.

In hard numbers, the report details how from the year 2001 through 2009, the average number of miles driven by people aged 16 to 34 fell by 23 percent. Also during that time, the same demographic of people increased their public transit mileage by an impressive 40 percent.


Google designs self-driving cars for California

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It’s not exactly public transportation, but developers at Google, Inc. are designing technology that allows cars to drive themselves. Democratic State Senator Alex Padilla is so enamored with the plans that he let a Google-designed self-driving Toyota Prius give him a lift to Sacramento to hold a news conference about it.

As reported by the Environment News Service, the reason for the occasion was Padilla’s announcement of his legislation, Senate Bill 1298, which would instruct the California Highway Patrol to start “developing guidelines” around testing and ultimately unleashing self-driving vehicles on California roads.

The Google system utilizes a “laser range finder” on the car's roof, and no less than four radars mounted on the front and back bumpers. A camera keeps an eye on traffic lights.


Paradox of the gas pump: as cars get lighter, drivers get heavier


The second day of the year is probably not the best time to talk about weight gain. It’s not like so many of us aren’t sprawled out on a couch today, watching even more football and consuming the last of those delicious holiday calories.

But it’s more than just holiday weight afflicting your fellow Americans. Thanks to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we learn that the average American male weighs almost 30 pounds more than in 1960. Women have packed on close to an additional 25 pounds in the same timeframe.

OK, fine, you say. It’s a sign of prosperity and not working in movies or TV. It’s our American right to haul around those a few extra inches of craft beer and gourmet burgers. Which is true, until the more environmentally conscious among us realize those prosperity pounds are directly causing us to eliminate any strides in automakers like Ford, Hyundai and Chevrolet have made in creating lighter, less fuel efficient vehicles (Ford was able to dump 30 pounds in their automatic transmission system alone). Simply put, we’re gaining the weight our cars are losing.