US vehicles at bottom of the list of fuel economy standards of industrialized countries

Cars sure do drive better and look a lot nicer than this 1985 model, but overall, they have the same fuel economy standards. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

The US ranks at the bottom of the list for fuel economy standards, according to this story.

U.S. fuel-efficiency requirements for passenger cars have been stuck at 27.5 miles per gallon since 1985, while the standard for pickups, minivans and other light trucks will increase from 20.7 mpg in 2004 to 24 mpg in 2011.

That puts the United States behind Canada, South Korea, Australia, China, members of the European Union and Japan in vehicle fuel economy, according to the report from the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Gasoline demand makes up 45 percent of daily US oil consumption, according to the article.

I am curious about what the article didn’t say.

Does anyone out there have any figures about the actual overall average fuel economy of today’s automotive fleet versus the average economy from 1985? Surely the average has to be higher than back then, even if the economy standards are the same. Am I wrong?

University of Delaware led consortium breaks new record in solar efficiency

A consortium led by the University of Delaware has created a device that has broken a new record for efficiency in converting sunlight into electricity. The device turns 42.8 percent of light that hits it into electricity. The previous record was 40.7 percent, from December 2006.

Read more at the news blog, and at the Delaware Business Ledger.

Modern solar cell systems rely on the concentration of the sun’s rays, a concept similar to youngsters using magnifying glasses to set scraps of paper on fire. Honsberg said the previous best of 40.7 percent efficiency was achieved with a high concentration device that requires sophisticated tracking optics and features a concentrating lens the size of a table and more than 30 centimeters, or about 1 foot, thick.

The UD consortium’s devices are potentially far thinner at less than 1 centimeter. “This is a major step toward our goal of 50 percent efficiency,” Barnett said. “The percentage is a record under any circumstance, but it’s particularly noteworthy because it’s at low concentration, approximately 20 times magnification. The low profile and lack of moving parts translates into portability, which means these devices easily could go on a laptop computer or a rooftop.”

Honsberg said the advance of 2 percentage points is noteworthy in a field where gains of 0.2 percent are the norm and gains of 1 percent are seen as significant breakthroughs.

Top Cities for Protected Lands

A recent article about a study by the Trust for Public Land reveals the cities that have the most land protected for parks and open space. The study looked at which large cities in the U.S. devote the most land area by percentage to parks and preserves. Albuquerque, New Mexico came in first in land area by percentage. Here’s info on the remaining results:

Jacksonville, Fla., ranks first in total acreage and on an acres-per-capita basis, with 131.4 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents. However, when parkland is measured as a percent of the total size of the city, the leader is Albuquerque, with more than one-quarter of its land protected as public open space. (In both cities, however, not all acquired parkland is yet open to the public.)

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit that works to protect parks and open space.

The results were based on an eight-month study by the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence, the nation’s leading source of data about urban park systems. The most recent year for available data is 2005.

The center releases new numbers annually and posts them on the Web at

Read more about cities and protected lands here.

Quick tip correction: install an attic vent

roof vent sm

From flickr.

Yesterday I shared a tip from a homeowner who suggested reducing attic temperature by opening the home’s garage attic door and the garage door itself.  The idea is that you create an upward draw of air that lowers the attic’s temperature.

While this works, an expert suggested to me today that doing such could affect the quality of air in the home, if garage fumes were to escape through leaks down into the house.  Bad move.

I thought I would post a correction and suggest a slightly more difficult alternative — installing soffit attic vents.  Placed under the eaves of a roof on the edge of a home, these allow fresh cooler air to pass up into the attic and out of the vent up on top of the home.  Check out this article on for details on how it works and how to do it.

Ground level air pollution troubling to outdoor exercisers


Smog, from .

The New York Times published a popular story this week about the growing number of problems outdoor exercisers are experiencing due to air pollution. 

Kenneth Rundell, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., said, “Athletes typically take in 10 to 20 times as much air,” and thus pollutants, with every breath as sedentary people do. He was the chairman, in May, of a scientific session on air pollution and athletes at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.

The trend is getting worse and can lead to problems from asthma to heart attacks.  Experts in the story advise against quitting outdoor exercise, but suggest instead keeping a greater distance from cars spewing exhaust.