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2 posts from April 2006

April 24, 2006

Pulling The Plug

Who Killed the Electric Car? The sporty two-seater looked (and performed) like something out of the Jetsons. Speedy and practically silent, it used no gas or oil and required hardly any maintenance. General Motors invented it--and then almost immediately tried to conceal or destroy any evidence that the EV-1, the first modern battery-electric vehicle, ever existed.

GM wasn't the only culprit in the death of the EV-1. Director Chris Paine examines the roles of various "suspects"--including oil companies, consumers, and the federal government--in his new film, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" I got a peek at the documentary, which will be in wider release in late June, at a sold-out screening this weekend with the San Francisco International Film Festival. To my taste, the movie relied a bit too much on talking heads to be a great piece of cinema, but Paine tries to keep things lively with his "murder mystery" structure, and the rarely-told story of the EV-1's short life is certainly compelling.

Especially (and surprisingly) touching is the passion of former drivers interviewed for the film--a "funeral" staged for the car seems hokey until you realize the depths of their love for the EV-1 and the real senselessness of its demise. One of the most revealing stories, however, wasn’t even in the film: In a post-screening Q & A with members of the crew, we learned that the arrest of a couple of activists (while trying to stop GM from destroying the decommissioned cars) so incensed the judge handling their case that he sentenced them to community service--promoting electric vehicles.

April 13, 2006

A WEEE Problem With E-Waste

Belated kudos to Washington state for sticking electronics manufacturers with the cost of recycling their obsolete (and often toxic) products. The new law, which Gov. Christine Gregoire signed late last month, is the toughest e-waste legislation in the country. But don't start hauling out your old TVs, computers, and monitors just yet--it doesn't take effect until January 2009.

Washington isn't the only state following in the footsteps of the European Union, where the three-year-old Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive requires retailers and manufacturers to recycle their products. Maryland, Maine, and California have similar laws, though the latter two require consumers to pay small disposal fees. According to the Associated Press, 19 other states and New York City have electronic recycling bills pending this year.

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