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Air Quality

Auto Worship Still a Sign of the Times

3:48 PM EDT on April 4, 2007

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When the Supreme Court held this week that the Environmental Protection Agency does, in fact, possess the latitude to protect the environment, the New York Times called it "a victory for a world whose environment seems increasingly threatened by climate change."

"It is a vindication for states like California that chose not to wait for the federal government and acted to limit emissions that contribute to global warming," read a Tuesday Times editorial. "And it should feed the growing momentum on Capitol Hill for mandatory limits on carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas."

The Times' editorial position on the landmark high court ruling is consistent with the paper's voluminous coverage of global climate change -- which, its reporters tell us, isn't going to happen, but is happening. Barely a day passes when the Times doesn't publish a story detailing a new angle of the crisis.

All of which makes its indulgent coverage of the New York International Auto Show more than a little perplexing. As usual, the Times has deployed an army of contributors to unleash a barrage of articles and special features hyping the New York event -- as it did the Detroit show in January, debuting a special car blog to mark the occasion.

In a story containing barely a passing reference to nuisance issues like heavy traffic and congestion pricing, the celebration kicked off with this paean:

New York motorists must be the nation's most ardent car lovers, considering the hardships they accept -- the scarce and exorbitant parking, the gridlock, the inevitable tickets and some of the nation's highest insurance rates -- for the pleasure of driving a car and the freedom to escape the city on a whim.

Such myopia might be excused in another time, back when serious discussion of global warming was still the province of junk scientists and Chicken Little fringe-dwellers. But now?

Granted, the Times hasn't always been consistent in its reportage (left hand, meet right hand), but the same editorial board that seemed to applaud this week's Supreme Court decision also recently came out in favor of a new DOT Commissioner "who promotes use of public transit, walking and cycling as not just a way to a destination, but as a way of life."

If only our paper of record would set the tone, rather than alternately condemning and glorifying the one consumer product most responsible for the environmental damage accounted in its pages on a daily basis.

Stay tuned for Streetsblog's own first-hand auto show coverage from Sarah Goodyear.

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