Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

Time for a Freeway Truth Movement!

Posted by Richard on May 2, 2007

I've been thinking about the fiery crash on I-80/I-880 Sunday near Oakland, California. According to news reports, a tanker truck carrying thousands of gallons of gasoline overturned and burst into flames, causing two sections of freeway overpass to collapse within minutes:

Two connector ramps of the Bay Bridge MacArthur Maze (map), located near Emeryville, collapsed Sunday morning after an explosion and fire.

Heat from the fire, which reached temperatures estimated at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, caused the metal bolts and girders on the highway connector ramp above to melt. The overpass then gave way and collapsed.

NBC 7/39's sister station in San Jose talked to a witness of the fire. Paul Kochli said he was driving from San Francisco to Napa at around 4 a.m. when he noticed a huge plume of smoke and a mushroom cloud. Kochli said he recorded 59 seconds of the fire. He said the overpass had already collapsed by 4:05 a.m.

Other witnesses reported flames from the blaze reached up to 200 feet high.

The tanker was under the overpass.

Aerial views showed at least two sections of the maze totaling about 250 yards in length had collapsed.

(Note: The video below isn't the Kochli video mentioned in the story. This one's from a fellow called baconmonkey, and it's shot on a Canon high-definition camcorder — not that YouTube even vaguely approximates high-def, but it's well worth watching.)

Well, the official story says heat from the fire collapsed the overpasses. But of course, we know from concerned scientists and engineers who studied the World Trade Center collapses that fires can't melt steel — that a chemical explosion is required. Ask Rosie! Or check out the experiment by a member of the reality-based community that I wrote about last summer: 

fire burning in rabbit fence "building"

 

I think that the freeway overpass was just as likely to have been brought down by controlled demolition as the World Trade Center buildings. The Governor of California, the President of the United States, and Karl Rove are all Republicans — coincidence? Do we know what ties exist between Dick Cheney, Halliburton, and the California highway construction industry? Why did Caltrans rush its "demolition contractor" onto the site within hours to remove the evidence? Doesn't it strain credulity to believe that the driver walked away from the inferno and caught a cab to the hospital?

These and other questions demand answers! We need a Freeway Truth Movement, with Californians for Freeway Truth, Scholars for Freeway Truth, Press for Freeway Truth, Truck Drivers for Freeway Truth, Freeway Truth Radio, and a whole host of other like-minded organizations committed to uncovering the real truth behind the so-called tanker truck accident. 

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The health hazards of burning ethanol

Posted by Richard on April 20, 2007

It seems that there's another downside to the latest fad for saving the planet, ethanol-powered vehicles:

Ethanol advocates say that it's a clean-burning fuel that is friendly to the environment. But a study by Stanford University atmospheric scientist Mark Z. Jacobson found that if all U.S. vehicles ran on ethanol, the number of respiratory-related deaths and hospitalizations would likely increase.

Jacobson's work, reported in Environmental Science & Technology, involved the simulation of atmospheric conditions throughout the United States in 2020, with a special focus on Los Angeles. According to Jacobson:

  • Research found that E85 vehicles reduce atmospheric levels of two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, but increase two others — formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
  • As a result, cancer rates for E85 are likely to be similar to those for gasoline; However, E85 significantly increased ozone, a prime ingredient of smog.
  • The simulations revealed that E85 would increase ozone-related mortalities by about 4 percent in the United States and 9 percent in Los Angeles.
  • In addition, the deleterious health effects of E85 will be the same, whether the ethanol is made from corn, switchgrass or other plant products.

''Today, there is a lot of investment in ethanol,'' Jacobson said.  ''But we found that using E85 will cause at least as much health damage as gasoline, which already causes about 10,000 U.S. premature deaths annually from ozone and particulate matter."

 More smog and respiratory illness aren't the only problems with ethanol fuel. As subsidies and mandates divert more and more corn into ethanol production, and more and more acres into corn, we'll see much higher food prices, with more hunger and famine in some parts of the world. And don't forget that planting more and more acres of corn leads to cutting — or not replanting — more and more acres of trees.

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Satellite on the road

Posted by Richard on April 18, 2007

Live TV on your cell phone is so last month. How about live TV in your SUV or minivan? Via satellite? Yes, I'm Sirius. It's coming to a Chrysler dealer near you, it provides high quality of service (QOS) while you're zipping down the highway (unlike other wireless TV solutions), and it's practically guaranteed to keep your rug rats mesmerized until you reach grandma's house. It's called Mobile Digital Television (MDT), and it's even reasonably priced:

Sirius successfully demonstrated satellite mobile television at the 2004 CES, but it lacked one major component – a partner with equal vision to make delivery of the service to the customer a viable commercial reality. Chrysler had that vision. Chrysler realized the most important customers for MDT are not the drivers, nor the front seat passengers, but kids in the backseat. With an increasing number of automobile purchase decisions being made by women (approximately 45% – up from 25% just 15 years ago) and with those decision focusing on family travel, safety and convenience, accommodation the kids becomes a major selling point. Further, today's family structure is increasingly mobile with both parents working, a greater variety of children's activities, and widely separated family members (not to mention the worsening hassle or air travel) driving the desire and demand for high-quality, in-car multi-media entertainment.

In response, Chrysler and Sirius will start augmenting this demand by offering MDT in selected 2008 model year Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, followed by the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Dodge Magnum, Jeep Commander and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The MDT hardware price premium will be $470 above a required Chrysler entertainment center that includes dual DVD players and a front seat screen (not to mention several cup holders). The Sirius MDT service will cost $7/month when bundled with the standard $12.95 Sirius Service. However, the first year of service will be free.

The initial programming package will consist of Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon, so there's no question who the target audience is. If you're going to have a DVD player in your minivan anyway, the extra $7 a month over the satellite radio subscription is less than the cost of keeping a fresh supply of DVDs on hand for the kids. I'm sure there are lots of people who'd like to have satellite radio, but can't quite justify the cost to themselves. If they're parents, this relatively inexpensive add-on may be just what it takes to get them to sign up.

I hope MDT is a big hit for Sirius, which so far hasn't been one of my better stock picks. It's currently worth less than half what I paid for it in 2005. C'mon, parents! Hurry down to your Chrysler dealer and order one now!

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