Saturday, June 28, 2008

Moving Forward with America’s Fastest Eco-friendly Train

Gas prices are pushing $5.00 and it is showing a rippling effect in our economy. Could the newly proposed Maglev be the train of America's future?

A distance of approximately 267 miles and at a speed up to 300mph, this would be the fastest moving train in America and could very easily compete with local airlines. This eco-friendly system is propelled and guided by electromagnetic forces.

The Benefits

Can you imagine an extremely environmentally friendly method of taking you between Southern California and Las Vegas?

  • The Maglev does not contribute pollution to our air
  • There will be fewer cars on the road. A car is not necessary in Vegas
  • Their local transportation system is quite adequate, plus you could always walk the short distances
  • No more waiting in those long airport security lines
  • No more sitting on congested freeways
If you rode the train, you can take credit for one less car on the road. You will not be sitting in traffic going through LA , Riverside, or San Bernardino Counties. Instead, spend more time with your family and oved ones. The estimated price per person would be a fraction of the cost to fly.
Enjoy the extra time in Las Vegas. Leave your car at home, and ride the Maglev/train when it is operational.

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"Flooded London" & James Hansen’s Prophetic Warning

By MattLast Friday the Medcalf Gallery in London debuted “Flooded London”, a photographic depiction of the future of London as it is overtaken by the rising sea. On Monday, exactly 20 years after warning us about global warming, NASA scientist James Hansen told congress that time’s up and he warned of such apocalyptic consequences.

Part of the London Architecture Festival, the “Flooded London” exhibition by the Squint/Opera media house is a prophetic rendering of London in the year 2090 and the effects of global climate change, an issue that has permeated the public’s consciousness over the last 20 years. That awareness is in large part thanks to Hansen, who is trumpeted by many as the “Global Warming Prophet” for his 1988 testimony before congress where he warned that global warming is real, it is here and it is manmade.

“Flooded London” depicts what life would be like in London years after the catastrophic rising sea ravaged the landscape. The stunning images actually show an almost utopian world where these people peacefully go about their daily lives in their new watery home. One picture shows two people fishing out of the side of a high rise building at Canary Wharf (above). Another shows a man about to dive off the ledge of the whispering gallery in St. Paul’s Cathedral, into the dimly lit pool. Yet another shows two men in a work shop fashioning together old bike and engine parts to make an electrical generator. The series seems to be as much about mankind’s resilience as it is about impending consequences yet when you listen to Hansen’s warnings it is hard to imagine bouncing back from the global cataclysm that Hansen predicts if we don’t act now. He cautions, “We’re toast if we don’t get on a very different path.”

20 years ago his warning was met with a wave of skepticism and started a debate that has raged on ever since. Today there is a consensus in the scientific community about the reality of global warming but some still try to spread doubt about it which Hansen likens to the Tobacco companies trying to deny the link between smoking and cancer.

Along with several of the world’s leading climate experts, Hansen has concluded that maximum amount of carbon dioxide the atmosphere can safely handle is 350 ppm (and it may be less) yet we are currently at 385 ppm and rising. Over the years we have felt the gradual effects of global warming, however we are now at a tipping point where if nothing is done to combat them, these effects are going to compound, accelerate and spin out of our control.

“Flooded London” is poignant yet beautiful visual display of a potential future that will not be so beautiful. As we are coming to realize now, we should have listened to Hansen 20 years ago, so maybe it would be wise to learn from our mistakes and heed his warning this time with urgency.

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Alberta's mission: convert oil sands skeptics

Toxic tailings ponds, such as this one at Syncrude's Mildred Lake mine site, are an environmental challenge left behind after extraction of bitumen from the oilsands.Chris Schwarz/Canwest News ServiceToxic tailings ponds, such as this one at Syncrude's Mildred Lake mine site, are an environmental challenge left behind after extraction of bitumen from the oilsands.

WASHINGTON -- Two years ago, the Alberta government parked a huge dump truck on the National Mall in Washington, announcing to U.S. lawmakers Canada was about to become the next big thing in global energy.

It was an ostentatious display -- the yellow behemoth used in oilsands extraction stood five metres tall, with four-metre-high tires -- that helped put Alberta's oilsands on the map for a Congress deeply worried after 9/11 about the security of the U.S. energy supply.

But the higher profile has come with a cost. Now, Canadian oil is sparking fear and loathing on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

After playing defence for the past year against a focused U.S. environmental lobby, federal and provincial officials were blindsided this week when big-city U.S. mayors and Barack Obama's campaign announced their own distaste for "dirty" Alberta oil.

With record-high gas prices dominating U.S. election-year politics and fuelling public anger, Canadian officials are girding for an intense and protracted fight to change the oilsands' image and protect one of Canada's richest exports to the U.S.

"Our big, big job is not so much lobbying. It's educating," said Allan Gotlieb, Canada's ambassador to the U.S. in 1981-89.

"It's to make people understand that a lot of the criticism about the oilsands is unfair and unwise, and potentially damaging to U.S. interests."

The plan? Convert oilsands' skeptics, one member of Congress at a time. Alberta is taking two influential Democratic lawmakers - including the chairman of the House committee on energy and air quality - on a tour of the Athabasca oilsands next week. A similar trip is planned for congressional staffers later this summer, part of Canada's campaign showcasing its efforts to reduce the industry's carbon footprint.

"With U.S. lawmakers, we are letting them know that we don't view it to be a showdown between the economy and the environment," said Gary Mar, Alberta's representative in Washington.

"We know we have to show leadership on both."

He cites industry statistics about environmental advances in oilsands production: Greenhouse gas emissions per barrel of oil have dropped 45% in the past decade, and where five barrels of fresh water were needed to produce one barrel of oil, some companies now use less than a barrel of water.

But that message has been lost in the push by U.S. lawmakers - including Mr. Obama and Republican candidate John McCain - to break U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Until recently, Americans considered foreign oil principally the product of Saudi sheiks, or politically unstable Nigeria and politically unfriendly Venezuela.

What frustrates Canadians in Washington is that Hugo Chavez's heavy oil - some of it brilliantly marketed as cheap heating fuel to residents in the Bronx and other poor U.S. communities - has become less offensive to environmentalists than petroleum from the U.S.'s northern neighbour.

"The environmental movement is interested in stigmatizing oil, and it suits their purpose to focus on oilsands oil, because that seems to be where the growth is," said a senior Canadian government official.

"They would have liked the United States to have moved off of oil yesterday."

The reality is far more complicated. Last year, Canadian oil supplied 18% of U.S. needs. At least 50% of the oil refined in Illinois, Mr. Obama's state, comes from Canada, and half of that from Alberta's oilsands. Demand is only expected to grow, with long-term plans for 90% of oil refined in the U.S. Midwest to come from Canada.

"In the end, Senator Obama has to get real," said Dave Sykuta, executive director of the Illinois Petroleum Council.

"Canadian oil is in the bull's eye right now because environmental groups have decided to make it their cause. But without it, the Midwest would be screwed."

Gordon Giffin, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada during the Clinton administration, said U.S. policy-makers have "a very big void in understanding" the extent of Canadian oil resources and the industry's increasing environmental sensitivity.

He said he was "frankly stunned" by the mayors' approval of an anti-oilsands resolution at their conference this week, and "the industry in Canada was caught off guard and similarly surprised."

"[T]here hasn't been an adequate recognition of the intensity of the argument on the [environmental] side," he added.

"If you cede the podium to the other side, then negative impressions get created."

With the next president and Congress expected to accelerate efforts to develop alternative energy sources - and potentially pass new global warming legislation - Canada wants to ensure the U.S. pursues a continental energy and climate strategy. Ottawa would like nothing more, for example, than to be included in any future cap-and-trade plan for greenhouse gas emissions.

Canadian officials believe most U.S. lawmakers, even Democrats who tout themselves as environmentalists first, are ultimately pragmatists. Notwithstanding tough campaign talk, Ottawa thinks U.S. national interests will eventually trump the "special" interests that demand attention during the presidential campaign.

Mr. Mar argues it's simply not logical for U.S. lawmakers or environmentalists to make his province's oilsands their energy enemy.

"If you stop oilsands from coming into the United States, you will increase the reliance of the U.S. on other sources of oil -– perhaps Venezuela, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia," he said.

"Alberta oil will go somewhere else, perhaps China, perhaps India. The ability of environmentalists to influence how that oil is used in those jurisdictions is very limited."

Canwest News Service

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Exclusive: No ice at the North Pole

Polar scientists reveal dramatic new evidence of climate change

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic – and worrying – examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.

"From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water," said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.

If it happens, it raises the prospect of the Arctic nations being able to exploit the valuable oil and mineral deposits below these a bed which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above.

Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally ice-free North Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by huge swathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.

This one-year ice is highly vulnerable to melting during the summer months and satellite data coming in over recent weeks shows that the rate of melting is faster than last year, when there was an all-time record loss of summer sea ice at the Arctic.

"The issue is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the North Pole is covered with extensive first-year ice – ice that formed last autumn and winter. I'd say it's even-odds whether the North Pole melts out," said Dr Serreze.

Each summer the sea ice melts before reforming again during the long Arctic winter but the loss of sea ice last year was so extensive that much of the Arctic Ocean became open water, with the water-ice boundary coming just 700 miles away from the North Pole.

The diminishing polar ice

Courtesy of NOAA / NESDIS Center for Satellite Applications and Research

This meant that about 70 per cent of the sea ice present this spring was single-year ice formed over last winter. Scientists predict that at least 70 per cent of this single-year ice – and perhaps all of it – will melt completely this summer, Dr Serreze said.

"Indeed, for the Arctic as a whole, the melt season started with even more thin ice than in 2007, hence concerns that we may even beat last year's sea-ice minimum. We'll see what happens, a great deal depends on the weather patterns in July and August," he said.

Ron Lindsay, a polar scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, agreed that much now depends on what happens to the Arctic weather in terms of wind patterns and hours of sunshine. "There's a good chance that it will all melt away at the North Pole, it's certainly feasible, but it's not guaranteed," Dr Lindsay said.

The polar regions are experiencing the most dramatic increase in average temperatures due to global warming and scientists fear that as more sea ice is lost, the darker, open ocean will absorb more heat and raise local temperatures even further. Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, who was one of the first civilian scientists to sail underneath the Arctic sea ice in a Royal Navy submarine, said that the conditions are ripe for an unprecedented melting of the ice at the North Pole.

"Last year we saw huge areas of the ocean open up, which has never been experienced before. People are expecting this to continue this year and it is likely to extend over the North Pole. It is quite likely that the North Pole will be exposed this summer – it's not happened before," Professor Wadhams said.

There are other indications that the Arctic sea ice is showing signs of breaking up. Scientists at the Nasa Goddard Space Flight Centre said that the North Water 'polynya' – an expanse of open water surrounded on all sides by ice – that normally forms near Alaska and Banks Island off the Canadian coast, is much larger than normal. Polynyas absorb heat from the sun and eat away at the edge of the sea ice.

Inuit natives living near Baffin Bay between Canada and Greenland are also reporting that the sea ice there is starting to break up much earlier than normal and that they have seen wide cracks appearing in the ice where it normally remains stable. Satellite measurements collected over nearly 30 years show a significant decline in the extent of the Arctic sea ice, which has become more rapid in recent years.

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