For educational purposes only.
For educational purposes only.
I want a Chevy Volt. For my next car.
The Economist took the Volt for a spin, and the review sounds promising:
So how does the Volt/Ampera drive? Overall, pretty impressively. As a well-used pre-production car, the one we road-tested still had a few rough edges. The basic architecture of the surprisingly spacious cabin was in place, but the high-quality soft mouldings that will grace the car when it goes on sale had not yet been fitted. There was also a slightly disconcerting whistle from the exhaust when the range extender engine was working hard, though this can be easily fixed. The suspension settings need a bit of fine-tuning, particularly for ragged British blacktop. But otherwise, the car was extraordinarily refined. It is whisper silent in most conditions—it is mostly hard to tell when the range extender engine is running—and unfussed even at high motorway speeds. Acceleration is strong (0-60mph takes about nine seconds) thanks to the instant torque served up by the electric motor, while the car’s handling is neat and precise thanks partly to the low centre of gravity that is created by installing the T-shaped battery pack along what would be the transmission tunnel in a conventional car.
The Ampera has a range of 350 miles before it needs refuelling and a notional thirst of 175mpg on a long journey which translates to carbon dioxide emissions of about 40g/km. Most of the time, however, the car will run without any need for the petrol engine, the batteries needing only three hours’ charging from a domestic socket to deliver 40 miles of electric-only running. GM reckons that the cost of an electrically driven Ampera mile is a fifth of a petrol-driven mile in an ordinary car. Used daily for a 40-mile commute, the Ampera could save its owner more than £2,000 a year given European petrol prices. As for reliability, the battery is guaranteed against any failure for 10 years. Some of the strain is taken off it by software that stops it being depleted to less that 30% of its capacity before the generator starts working, and prevents it ever being charged to more than 80%. Apart from the battery, there’s nothing much to go wrong, and servicing will be at intervals of around 20,000 miles.
The state of Louisiana is in a bad marriage that can only end badly.
No state in the union has been more firmly wedded to the oil and gas industry than Louisiana. No more zealous preachers of the clean oil gospel can be found than the state’s politicians, who were elected by oil money (at the high end of industry campaign funding) and have defended the industry from regulation (including wetland protections), reduced its royalties with tax breaks and "royalty holidays" (thereby depriving the US Treasury of some $53 billion in revenues from existing offshore leases) and beaten the drums for opening the Atlantic Coast and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development… because Louisiana’s experience showed oil and the environment to be so compatible. State brochures feature pelicans and oil platforms against the setting sun. The largest exhibit in New Orleans’s Audubon Aquarium of the Americas contains the base of an oil rig, around which swim contented fish, framed by the logos of Shell, Chevron and BP. We have improved on Eden.
The real story was always otherwise; it was just rarely told. Oil was first found in Louisiana a hundred years ago, and the finds swiftly moved south to the coastal zone. Oil companies appropriated the coastal parishes, most notoriously Plaquemines, ground zero for the BP slick; Texaco’s leases in Plaquemines were arranged by the parish district attorney, who conveniently reported only part of the proceeds to the parish police jury and kept the rest (a fact that is emerging only after his death, in a family feud). Local politicians in their pockets, Texaco et al. had one remaining problem: getting men and equipment to the drill sites and laying pipelines to carry off the gold. In the companies’ way were some 5 million acres of coastal marsh, one of the most biologically productive zones in North America.
The solution was soon to come: floating dredges, which would dig canals to the wellheads and more canals for the pipelines. These dredges have worked nonstop ever since. They have ripped through the wetlands of southern Louisiana like bulldozers, severing bayous, drowning adjacent marshes, draining others and introducing salt water from the Gulf of Mexico that sears the plant roots, at which point they disintegrate and the coastal marsh system, made up of billions of stems and roots of living things, falls apart like wet cardboard. There were alternative means of access, but industry rejected them. It could also have backfilled the canals when the job was done, but this too was rejected. The reasons were remarkably like BP’s: those approaches would take time, cost money.
The dredging was not occasional, or here or there. It was pandemic. The industry has laced 8,000 miles of canals and pipelines through the Louisiana wetlands, each one eroding laterally over time, less an assault at this point than a cancer. They are supported by larger navigation canals, requested by the industry and built by the ever-willing Army Corps of Engineers. One such canal, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, after killing off 39,000 acres of forest and wetlands between New Orleans and the gulf, ushered Hurricane Katrina right into the city. If you drive down any bayou road in southern Louisiana, you will see marsh grasses out the window. If you fly over them in a plane and look down, you see something that looks like northern New Jersey: water roads and open water through isolated patches of green. The next time you fly over, there will be even less green. We have been losing twenty-five square miles of coastal Louisiana every year, in major part to these canals, to serve the oil and gas industry, which has made tidy sums in the bargain. When I last looked, six oil and energy corporations were listed in the world’s top ten.
And there’s more. Consider this:
Louisiana, the state most vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise, leads the charge against EPA regulation of carbon dioxide (letters of opposition from no fewer than four state agencies and the governor, which must be a record) and the president’s climate change bill.
Now the oil comes home.
Found this hiding on Science Magazine’s Web site from 2007:
Stopping the runaway train of world carbon emissions is getting harder by the day, a new global analysis suggests. The culprit is a voracious global appetite for carbon-heavy fossil fuels. In 2003 and 2004, the amount of carbon released for every joule of energy used increased, reversing a long-standing trend, the study reports. That means greenhouse gas levels are rising even faster than previously feared, the authors say, although others aren’t so sure.
As countries develop, they typically generate less carbon dioxide for every unit of energy used. That’s because they typically move away from coal toward more carbon-efficient fuels such as natural gas, and economies evolve away from heavy manufacturing toward less energy-intensive service industries. But that trend of less carbon dioxide per unit of energy seems to be reversing globally.
Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution in Palo Alto, California, and co-authors analyzed the relations between energy use, carbon emissions, and economics using public data through 2004. The bottom line: From 2000 to 2004, emissions levels have increased 3% per year–three times the rate of increase from 1990 to 1999.
In case any of our critics from the right are reading, Christopher Field is not Al Gore.
News from Science Magazine of the imminent release of a new study:
The jury is still out on whether humans wiped out the mammoths. But researchers have found evidence that the disappearance of the woolly giants probably helped to change the climate. If the beasts were indeed hunted to extinction, that means human-driven climate change could have started long ago, the researchers say.
Like modern-day elephants, mammoths were nature’s tree pruners. Their diet included large amounts of leaves and branches from young trees, and they kept the temperate northern lands of North America, Europe, and Asia well trimmed and mostly free of forests. In particular, mammoths feasted in the grasslands that had sprung up in Beringia, the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska that now sits at the bottom of the Bering Sea. But then, starting around 15,000 years ago, mammoth populations in the region plummeted. At about the same time, a genus of birch trees called Betula, native to the northern grasslands, underwent a population explosion.
And the results suggest the expansion of Betula trees actually warmed the earth a bit:
The results, the researchers report in a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letters, suggest that when the mammoths disappeared, the Betula trees expanded across Beringia, forming forests that replaced as much as one-quarter of the grassland. The trees’ leaves, which are darker than grasses, absorbed more solar radiation, and their trunks and branches, which jutted above the snowpack, continued the effect even in winter. The researchers calculated that the mammoths’ disappearance contributed at least 0.1?C to the average warming of the world around 15,000 years ago. Within Beringia, the warming due to the loss of the mammoths was probably closer to 0.2?C, the team concluded.
An American scientist accused of manipulating research findings on climate science was cleared of that charge by his university on Thursday, the latest in a string of reports to find little substance in the allegations known as Climategate.
An investigative panel at Pennsylvania State University, weighing the question of whether the scientist, Michael E. Mann, had “seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities,” declared that he had not.
Dr. Mann said he was gratified by the findings, the second report from Penn State to clear him. An earlier report had exonerated him of related charges that he suppressed or falsified data, destroyed e-mail and misused confidential information.
The new report did criticize him on a minor point, saying that he had occasionally forwarded to colleagues copies of unpublished manuscripts without the explicit permission of their authors.
The allegations arose after private e-mail messages between Dr. Mann and other scientists were purloined from a computer at the University of East Anglia, in Britain, and posted on the Internet. In one, a British researcher called a data-adjustment procedure Dr. Mann used a “trick.”
The e-mail messages led climate-change skeptics to accuse mainstream researchers, including Dr. Mann, of deliberately manipulating the findings of climate science in order to strengthen their case that human activity is causing the earth to warm up.
There is no doubt in the scientific community that global warming is real, it is happening, human beings are the cause, and we must do everything now to cease destruction of the environment before we make the planet uninhabitable for human beings and so many other forms of life. And science does not happen via email. Scientific studies are published in journals which most lay people in society – non-scientists- can neither read or comprehend.
Try reading a technical article from Science Magazine.
My point is not to affirm how little most of us know about real science – although that is pitifully true. The point is, no science happened in these emails with respect to the climate or anything else. Studies are published for the scientific community then critiqued by members of the scientific community.
I’m not defending Dr. Mann. But the far right must stop throwing mud at the scientific community because attention to climate change will require a rethinking of our economy, and much of that new economy will not include fossil fuels.
From the live feed courteously provided by BP, May 31, 2010, ca. 10:45 CST.
We need to face it: “They” have no idea what they’re doing.
“They.” You know who “they” are. “They” are the ones who are supposed to know these things. “They” are the ones who say all those neat thing, you know, as in, “They say.”
In this case, “they” are BP, British Petroleum, those responsible for what is now the greatest ecological disaster the United States has ever known.
And, yes, we can blame the government of the good ol’ US of A.
First, allow me to add my voice to the chorus of voices thanking President George W. Bush for working so hard to create such an affable relationship between the oil industry execs and those in our government responsible for regulating them. Thanks so much to President George W. Bush putting the oil industry first, over and above the health and welfare of the citizens of the United States. Thanks so much to President George W. Bush for trusting the oil industry to essentially police itself.
That is well-deserved, my friends.
I don’t know yet if President Barack Obama should have reacted more quickly, if President Obama dropped the ball in working to regulate the oil industry.
I do know that if President Obama had reacted more quickly, perhaps sent the U.S. Navy to the Gulf of Mexico to plug the leak, I doubt we would be any better off. Please, no offense at all to our men and women who serve, but the United States Armed Forces don’t train for oil recovery or oil well disaster management.
That’s supposed to be what British Petroleum and all those other wonderful oil companies do.
And get this, British Petroleum is using dispersants that are banned in the United Kingdom, and using them in quantities greater than dispersants have ever been used in the history of U.S. oil spills.
This time, the great “They” are British Petroleum, the great BP, and they haven’t got a clue what to do about this oil leak.
If successful — and after the string of failures so far, there is no guarantee it will be — the containment dome may be able to capture most of the oil, but it would not plug the leak. Its failure would mean continued environmental and economic damage to the gulf region, as well as greater public pressure on BP and the Obama administration, with few options remaining for trying to contain the spill any time soon.
If unsuccessful, that will leave the Gulf with gushing oil at least through August, which is the earliest engineers will be able to engineers “complete the drilling of a relief well, which would allow them to plug the leaking well with cement,” the NYTimes reports.
They haven’t got a clue.
Nuclear bombs dropped on cities and industrial areas in a fight between India and Pakistan would start firestorms that would put massive amounts of smoke into the upper atmosphere.
The particles would remain there for years, blocking the sun, making the earth’s surface cold, dark and dry. Agricultural collapse and mass starvation could follow. Hence, global cooling could result from a regional war, not just a conflict between the U.S. and Russia.
Cooling scenarios are based on computer models. But observations of volcanic eruptions, forest fire smoke and other phenomena provide confidence that the models are correct.
Subscription required to view the rest of the article, but the science is rather sobering.
Washington, D.C.–January 30, 2010.
At this time last year, amidst headlines about banks on the verge of collapse and job losses of 700,000 a month, we received another troubling piece of news about our economy. Our economy was shrinking at an alarming rate – the largest six-month decline in 50 years. Our factories and farms were producing less; our businesses were selling less; and more job losses were on the horizon.
One year later, according to numbers released this past week, this trend has reversed itself. For the past six months, our economy has been growing again. And last quarter, it grew more quickly than at any time in the past six years.
This is a sign of progress. And it’s an affirmation of the difficult decisions we made last year to pull our financial system back from the brink and get our economy moving again.
But when so many people are still struggling – when one in ten Americans still can’t find work, and millions more are working harder and longer for less – our mission isn’t just to grow the economy. It’s to grow jobs for folks who want them, and ensure wages are rising for those who have them. It’s not just about improvements we see in quarterly statistics, but ones people feel in their daily lives – a bigger paycheck; more security; the ability to give your kids a decent shot in life and still have enough to retire one day yourself.
That’s why job creation will be our number one focus in 2010. We’ll put more Americans back to work rebuilding our infrastructure all across the country. And since the true engines of job creation are America’s businesses, I’ve proposed tax credits to help them hire new workers, raise wages, and invest in new plants and equipment. I also want to eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and help small businesses get the loans they need to open their doors and expand their operations.
But as we work to create jobs, it is critical that we rein in the budget deficits we’ve been accumulating for far too long – deficits that won’t just burden our children and grandchildren, but could damage our markets, drive up our interest rates, and jeopardize our recovery right now.
There are certain core principles our families and businesses follow when they sit down to do their own budgets. They accept that they can’t get everything they want and focus on what they really need. They make tough decisions and sacrifice for their kids. They don’t spend what they don’t have, and they make do with what they’ve got.
It’s time their government did the same. That’s why I’m pleased that the Senate has just restored the pay-as-you-go law that was in place back in the 1990s. It’s no coincidence that we ended that decade with a $236 billion surplus. But then we did away with PAYGO – and we ended the next decade with a $1.3 trillion deficit. Reinstating this law will help get us back on track, ensuring that every time we spend, we find somewhere else to cut.
I’ve also proposed a spending freeze, so that as we increase investments in things we need, like job creation and middle class tax cuts – we cut spending on those we don’t, like tax cuts for oil companies and investment fund managers, and programs that are redundant, obsolete, or simply ineffective. Spending related to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected – and neither will national security – but all other discretionary government programs will.
Finally, I’ve called for a bi-partisan Fiscal Commission – a panel of Democrats and Republicans who would sit down and hammer out concrete deficit-reduction proposals by a certain deadline. Because we’ve heard plenty of talk and a lot of yelling on TV about deficits, and it’s now time to come together and make the painful choices we need to eliminate those deficits.
This past week, 53 Democrats and Republicans voted for this commission in the Senate. But it failed when seven Republicans who had co-sponsored this idea in the first place suddenly decided to vote against it.
Now, it’s one thing to have an honest difference of opinion about something. I will always respect those who take a principled stand for what they believe, even if I disagree with them.
But what I won’t accept is changing positions because it’s good politics. What I won’t accept is opposition for opposition’s sake. We cannot have a serious discussion and take meaningful action to create jobs and control our deficits if politicians just do what’s necessary to win the next election instead of what’s best for the next generation.
I’m ready and eager to work with anyone who’s serious about solving the real problems facing our people and our country. I welcome anyone who comes to the table in good faith to help get our economy moving again and fulfill this country’s promise. That’s why we were elected in the first place. That’s what the American people expect and deserve. And that’s what we must deliver.
Declaring “I don’t quit,”‘ an embattled President Barack Obama vowed in his first State of the Union address Wednesday night to make job growth his topmost priority and urged a divided Congress to boost the still-ailing economy with fresh stimulus spending. Defiant despite stinging setbacks, he said he would not abandon ambitious plans for longer-term fixes to health care, energy, education and more.
“Change has not come fast enough,” Obama said before a politician-packed House chamber and a TV audience of millions. “As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may be, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.”
Obama looked to change the conversation from how his presidency is stalling — over the messy health care debate, a limping economy and the missteps that led to Christmas Day’s barely averted terrorist disaster — to how he is seizing the reins.
A chief demand was for lawmakers to press forward with his prized health care overhaul, which is in severe danger in Congress, and to resist the temptation to substitute a smaller-bore solution for the far-reaching changes he wants.
“Do not walk away from reform,” he implored. “Not now. Not when we are so close.”
Republicans applauded the president when he entered the chamber, and even craned their necks and welcomed Michelle Obama when she took her seat. But the warm feelings of bipartisanship disappeared early.
I don’t know how “embattled” President Obama is right now. Every president is “embattled.” I found the tone of the SOTU remarkable. But Congress needs to remember how to be a parliament, and they’re not there yet. Republicans say, “NO!” Democrats let the tail wag the dog and give up the fight. The intelligence factor in Congress is rather low right now, I fear, on both sides of the aisle. Republicans are too dumb to realize that there is more to life than cheap politics, and Democrats are too dumb to know how to make Congress work.
I’m glad this president does not “give up.” We still have work to do.