Bucks for Gas Guzzlers
The land yacht parked in your garage soon may be worth more at the junkyard than you guessed because of a new bill with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. Its aim is to get the most inefficient vehicles off U.S. roads as quickly as possible. To qualify, cars, SUVs, and trucks must be registered, be drivable, and have been rated at 18 miles per gallon or less when new. Drive over to an authorized junkyard or auto dealer, and they'll hand you a voucher worth up to $4,500 and then have your guzzler crushed for scrap. The coupon could be redeemed for a new or used vehicle with fuel economy at least 25% better than today's CAFE target for the same vehicle category. The credits also could be used for transit fares.
The bill is similar to "cash for clunkers," the catchphrase for laws passed in California, Texas, and Canada that paid drivers to junk smoky older vehicles. By its fourth year, the cash-for-guzzlers plan would save up to 80,000 barrels of gas per day, estimates Therese Langer, transportation program director at the nonpartisan American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Automakers largely support the bill, formally the Accelerated Retirement of Inefficient Vehicles Act, which may be folded into the stimulus bill. The bill does have its critics: mostly collectors of classic cars who fear shortages of spare parts.
Dumpster Diving for Fuel
There's gold in those giant trash bins behind sports stadiums and office buildings. In January, IST Energy of Waltham, Mass., rolled out a mobile system that turns regular trash into energy. Each $850,000 Dumpster-sized unit will pay for itself in as little as three years, says IST, thanks to energy generated from the garbage and reduced waste-disposal fees.
Claims of this sort have been made before, but analysts say IST has brought some unique features to bear—most of all, mobility. It delivers its rigs right to the lot or loading bay near the trash source. Bags of garbage are fed into a hopper at one end. Inside, the rubbish is squeezed into pellets, which are converted to flammable gas that can run an on-site generator. The machine ingests up to three tons of trash daily, unleashing enough power and heat to run a 200,000-square-foot building for a day. The process isn't waste-free: A ton of trash yields about 100 pounds of ash. Burning the gas releases carbon dioxide, too. On the other hand, there's no need to burn fuel schlepping garbage to the dump.
Roads: A Part-Concrete Solution
Humble asphalt keeps the U.S. economy rolling—but not when it sinks into disrepair. In recent years state deficits have squeezed transportation department budgets just as costly oil caused asphalt prices to more than double. As a result, thousands of miles of asphalt roads in the U.S. are disintegrating. PolyCon Manufacturing in Madison, Miss., says it has a less costly but durable road-resurfacing material that is also gentle on the environment. It's a hybrid called E-Krete that's part concrete and part flexible polymer. It can be applied as a thin liquid coating on top of aging blacktop. Experts who assessed E-Krete at the National Center for Asphalt Technology at Auburn University say the smooth surface left behind when the material flows over asphalt, filling in cracks and holes, can extend the life of a road or runway by 10 years or more. The covering appeals to green-building gurus, too, because it comes in pale hues that reflect sunlight rather than absorb its heat. No more "heat islands" in outdoor parking lots, which get so hot they drive up air-conditioning bills in nearby buildings.