EarthTalk: What are the most environmentally
friendly and highest mileage cars on the market today? Also,
are the batteries in hybrid cars recyclable?
-- Shiela Gosselin, via e-mail
to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s
(ACEEE) Green Book, an annual environmental rating of the
best and worst cars, Honda and Toyota models led the pack
as the world’s “greenest” automobiles for
2006. Not surprisingly, top honors went to a hybrid gasoline-electric
vehicle, Honda’s Insight, which pairs an efficient electric
motor with a gasoline engine to save gas and minimize emissions.
Unfortunately, the Insight, launched in 1999, will soon be
discontinued due to declining sales.
determine a car’s rankings, in addition to fuel efficiency
ACEEE factors in the pollution generated by a given vehicle
based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions
ratings. While the Insight does not have as clean an exhaust
rating as Toyota’s hybrid Prius, it has slightly better
highway mileage (56 versus 51 miles per gallon), making it
the overall winner. Other top green models on ACEEE’s
list include various versions of Honda’s Civic (particularly
its natural gas version) and Toyota’s Corolla and Matrix.
The Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Mazda 3, Chevrolet Cobalt and
Saturn Ion also placed well.
batteries, hybrid advocates insist that the nickel-metal hydride
batteries found in the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and other
hybrids contain far fewer pollutants than the lead-acid types
present in traditional gas-powered cars. Furthermore, carmakers
are keen to keep such batteries out of landfills, with Toyota
even offering to buy back spent hybrid batteries for $200
so it can recycle them.
to Toyota: “Every part of the battery, from the precious
metals to the plastic, plates, steel case and the wiring,
is recycled.” Meanwhile, Bradley Berman of the website,
HybridCars.com, reports that, “Honda collects the battery
and transfers it to a preferred recycler to follow their prescribed
process: disassembling and sorting the materials; shredding
the plastics; recovering and processing the metal; and neutralizing
the alkaline material before sending it to a landfill.”
Automakers are scrambling to create smaller, more efficient
and less toxic batteries for hybrids and other vehicles, Berman
option for green consumers is a diesel car that runs on biodiesel,
a fuel derived from renewable crops (and which works seamlessly
in most diesel engines). AutoWeek magazine reports that a
biodiesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDI has the best overall
fuel economy of any new car on the road today under “real-world
driving conditions” (which include, among other things,
traffic congestion, use of air conditioning and high speeds).
In AutoWeek’s test-drive comparison, the Jetta TDI achieved
nearly 50 miles per gallon using B20 biodiesel (two parts
vegetable oil, eight parts regular diesel), edging out even
Toyota’s Prius, which only scored 42 mpg using gasoline.
EPA is revising its own testing procedures for the 2007 model
year to try to get more in line with real world driving conditions.
As a result, fuel economies displayed on window stickers will
change. Some cars, especially smaller vehicles and hybrids,
will lose as much as 12 percent in their ratings.
Book Online; AutoWeek
Magazine’s “Are We There Yet?”; hybridCars.com.
COURTESY OF TOYOTA
and Toyota models led the pack as the world’s “greenest”
automobiles for 2006. Pictured here is the Toyota hybrid Prius.
What is the status of horse slaughter in the U.S., which
is done primarily to export the meat to Europe?
-- J. Worden, Monroe, CT
Much to the delight
of horse lovers everywhere, the U.S. House of Representatives
passed a bill (H.R. 503) in September 2006 outlawing the sale
and transport of horses for slaughter for human consumption.
A related bill, S. 1915, is currently under review by the
Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee,
which will recommend whether or not to send it up for debate
and a vote. Animal advocates are optimistic that the Senate
will follow the House’s lead and make the bill the law
of the land in 2007.
Long a revered
symbol of the American West, horses have enjoyed special status
among domestic animals for many decades. The horse in North
America was once considered just a form of livestock to be
utilized for farm work or transportation, but today it stands
as a status symbol for those wealthy enough to own and board
one. And TV and movie Westerns, along with the popularity
of modern horseracing, have changed their image from faceless
beasts to individual pets with unique physical and personality
According to the
International Fund for Horses, about 65,000 horses--racehorses,
workhorses, wild stags and family steeds--are slaughtered
each year in the U.S. The Humane Society of the United States
(HSUS) pegs the number closer to 100,000. Meanwhile, Agriculture
Canada reports that about 62,000 horses are slaughtered annually
in Canada, 40 percent of which are sent across the border
from the U.S. Most of the meat processed is sold in Europe
and Asia, while a small amount is used to feed zoo animals
HSUS says that
conditions in the slaughterhouse are stressful and frightening
for the horses, and that the slaughtering process itself,
which is similar to that for cows and pigs, causes unnecessary
duress for the animals. Also at issue is the way horses are
transported prior to slaughter. The Equine Protection Network
is seeking to ban the use of double-deck trailers to transport
live horses. The trailers are designed to move pigs and cattle,
and don’t provide horses with the headroom to stand
comfortably. The U.S. Department of Agriculture created rules
governing horse transport in 2002, but animal advocates say
they failed to outlaw the trailers outright and still allow
horses to be transported for up to 28 hours with no food,
water or rest.
The National Horse
Protection Coalition promotes a number of alternatives to
slaughtering horses, including establishing retirement farms
and developing programs to donate, sell or lease unwanted
animals for therapeutic riding. Horses could also be sold
privately, they say, under binding legal agreements that they
not be sold for slaughter. The organization says that even
humane euthanasia performed by a veterinarian is preferable
to subjecting horses to the cruelties of transport and slaughter.
A few U.S. states--California,
Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia--have
taken it upon themselves to outlaw or regulate horse transport
and slaughter, though limited enforcement budgets have hampered
the effectiveness of most efforts. Meanwhile, animal advocates
are hopeful that the U.S. Senate will come to the rescue with
an outright ban and that Canada will eventually follow.
Equine Protection Program; International
Fund for Horses; National
Horse Protection Coalition.
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