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Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) — Harvard University Professor John P. Holdren will be named Barack Obama’s top science adviser in the White House, the school said.
Holdren, 64, a professor of environmental policy, will be named to the post in a radio address by Obama tomorrow, Harvard, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a statement today. His appointment to Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, as the position is formally known, depends on confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Obama assumes office on Jan. 20.
Holdren is a specialist in energy technology and policy, and global climate change. As president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an advocacy group in Washington, in 2007, Holdren called on politicians to show stronger leadership on climate change, which the group called a “growing threat to society.”
“None of the great interlinked challenges of our time — the economy, energy, environment, health, security, and the particular vulnerabilities of the poor to shortfalls in all of these — can be solved without insights and advances from the physical sciences, the life sciences, and engineering,” Holdren said in today’s statement.
Car execs grilled by Congress on transport to hearing
GM Volt technology allows a car to drive for 40 miles before switching over to gas/petrol – but we already have electric cars like the Tesla that can go 240 miles without recharging – plenty enough for everyday driving – at about 2 cents/mile to run.
It seems that the auto makers are stalling ~
US Auto makers roll out fuel efficient cars
Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) — President-elect Barack Obama said Bill Richardson will be an “economic diplomat” for the U.S. as commerce secretary and a key member of a team that lays the groundwork for renewed growth.
Warning that a recovery from the recession that began last year “won’t happen overnight,” Obama said Richardson has a unique combination of national and international experience to be an “unyielding advocate” for American companies and workers at home and abroad.
“Bill has seen from just about every angle what makes our economy work and what keeps it from working better,” Obama said at a news conference today in Chicago at which he formally announced the New Mexico governor as his choice to lead the Commerce Department.
Richardson, 61, is one of the highest-profile Latinos to hold elective office in the U.S. Before winning his race for governor of New Mexico in 2002 and gaining a second term in 2006, he served in two Cabinet positions in President Bill Clinton’s administration and eight terms in the U.S. House.
He ended his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in January and later endorsed Obama, calling him a “once-in-a-lifetime leader” who can unite the country. That move was a rebuke to Hillary Clinton, who Obama has picked for secretary of state, and her husband publicly lashed out at Richardson at the time.
Richardson downplayed any suggestions that hard feelings lingered from the campaign.
“There are some who speak of a team of rivals,” he said. “But I’ve never seen it that way. Past competitors, yes.”
Richardson said that he would use his position to promote trade. “Boosting commerce between states and nations is not just a path to solvency and growth; it’s the only path,” he said.
He vowed to make the Commerce Department an integral part of Obama’s financial recovery plan. The “catchphrases of your economic plan” Richardson told Obama, are “investment, public/private partnerships, green jobs, technology, broadband, climate change and research.”
“That is the Department of Commerce,” he said.
Richardson would head a Cabinet agency with responsibilities that include compiling economic data, monitoring the weather and adjudicating trade complaints.
Companies such as General Electric Co., the world’s biggest maker of power-generation equipment, said they will be looking to Richardson for help reducing hurdles and tariffs to selling their goods overseas.
Richardson is “very smart on things like free-trade agreements,” said Peter O’Toole, a GE spokesman and former speechwriter for Richardson. “Hopefully we can work with Governor and future Secretary Richardson on making sure that free and fair trade is a two-way street.” …
- What: eRuf Model A
- Where: Pfaffenhausen, Germany
- Price: £150,000+ / $225,000+
- Available: 2009 – 2010
- Key rivals: Tesla Roadster, G-Whiz
Caring about the environment has never been so easy now Ruf has ripped the combustion engine out of a Porsche 911 and slotted in a motor.
- Likes: it’s green, fast and comfy, too
- Dislikes: lardy handling, no luggage space, rough edges inside and understanding new technology
Alois Ruf’s calling card is a firebreathing 911 that eats ozone like a small child chews through chocolate, so the car rolling silently out of the company’s skunkworks, just a mile from the main factory, is what’s technically known as a turn up for the books. It’s the start of a whole new chapter for Ruf Automobile: the eRuf Model A, Germany’s first electric sportscar.
Ruf knows there’s only so much fuel left to be wrung from the earth. And while the tuning community on the whole is happy to bury its head in the oil rich sand, he is already looking to the future with the eRuf brand that will provide environmentally friendly sportscars for petrolheads with a conscience.
This is the first step, essentially a Carrera S with the internal combustion engine ripped out and replaced with an electric motor and batteries.
With no major cooling requirements, or exhaust, Ruf could smooth out the styling, but this is just the first step on a journey long into the future. By the time Model A hits the open market it will have evolved into a whole new animal: lighter, sleeker and much, much faster.
Tesla proved that electric cars could be sexy, but with a real, working electric 911, Ruf has produced a fast and comfortable car that simply plugs in at the end of the day.
And for the sake of convenience we’ll ignore the fact that electricity currently comes from smoke belching power stations.
Even the most efficient combustion engine loses 75% of its output to internal friction and the ancillary systems. An electric motor is a much simpler system and 80% of the output goes straight to the wheels, with all the monumental 480 lb/ft of torque coming direct from the off, from 0rpm, which renders the traditional six-speed manual in this car almost redundant.
It’s there, for now, but the car takes off in sixth and eventually the ‘box will make way for a more conventional automatic set-up with forward, reverse and park. And with all that torque it doesn’t really matter that the actual power output is 150kW, the electrical equivalent of 204bhp. That’s warm hatch territory at best.
But still the eRuf can break through the 60mph mark in seven seconds, in sixth gear, with the whirs and clicks of the gearbox and external hydraulic pumps giving way to the dull roar of tyre meeting road and the electric three-phase brushless motor winding up to 5,000rpm. And that whirring, dull noise will keep on rising until the 140mph limit – not bad for a green machine.
As for the brakes, right here, right now, they’re standard. But that will change as the nature of the motor means it can be turned into a generator at the flick of a switch, or the press of a pedal. So, in the end, hitting the brake will engage generator mode and the car will slow in just the same way while regenerating the batteries. But the traditional disc brake will all but disappear, remaining only as an emergency brake.
Ride and Handling
Ruf worked hard to keep the same basic front/rear weight balance and retain the basic handling characteristics of the 911 Carrera S, kind of.
But there’s one critical problem, the car weighs slightly less than a moon thanks to 96 of the 5.6kg iron phosphate/lithium ion batteries that replace the conventional tank of fuel. They’re rammed everywhere, in the storage space, throughout the back end and anywhere else they could think of to achieve the 200km range that was deemed an essential part of the equation for a usable commuter car rather than a near-pointless technical demonstration.
And that leaves this less powerful car with 1,910kg of kerbweight to contend with, which is a lot. That extra mass drags on its hips through the bends and, while it’s still basically a 911, it feels slow to react, ponderous and less like the surgical weapon we have all come to expect from cars this shape.
But Ruf has made no rampant claims about this being the ultimate electric sportscar, not yet. They have billed this as a commuter that can get to the office, cover 130 miles on a seven-hour charge and ease the conscience of the owner who probably has a gas guzzling monster at home for the weekends. Next generation batteries and a simpler gearbox will cut 300kg from the kerbweight and send the performance skyward, though.
As for the ride, it’s a Porsche 911 with sports seats, so it’s magic carpet smooth. And the eery silence of the electric motor means it’s as quiet as a Mercedes S-Class.
Someone had been hard at work with the label maker on this prototype and the dashboard is a rough concoction of switches, buttons and hastily connected lights right now. Aside from that there is a race-style digital readout that contains a whole new world of information, like the kW/hour, remaining battery life and the current efficiency of the brushless three-phase motor.
But the final version will feature a 911 interior so expertly modified that you’ll swear it left the Zuffenhausen production line and only the important information, like how much juice is left in the batteries and how much you’re using, will be on show. And, hopefully, there’ll be some luggage space once the next gen batteries are fitted as even the rear seats have been ripped out.
The MSN Cars verdict: 3/5
The real genius in this is that every other electric car requires some form of sacrifice: either looking like a berk in a G-Whiz or folding creaking joints over the sill of a Tesla, which is basically a Lotus Elise when all is said and done. Model A combines green, electric power with Porsche 911 style, comfort and practicality.
It’s rough around the edges, but this is just the first step and with the finest tuner in the Porsche business putting his full weight behind the project it will go forth in leaps and bounds.
We cannot wait for Model B.
Super Laser at the National Ignition Facility – KQED QUEST 10 mins
It’s the largest laser beam in the world and it’s being built in the Bay Area. The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will shoot tremendous bursts of energy at an area the size of a pencil eraser. The goal? To recreate fusion — which powers the sun and some nuclear bombs — perhaps harnessing a new source of clean energy for the 21st century.
Watch: The National Ignition Facility; Making Star Power on Earth 59 mins
The Vatican has fired a warning shot over the bows of Barack Obama in response to the President-elect’s intention to lift the US ban on embryonic stem cell research.
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, who acts as the Vatican health minister, said that stem cells taken from human embryos and involving the destruction of the embryos “serve no purpose”.
Asked whether the Vatican was concerned about reports that Mr Obama might reverse the Bush Administration’s ban, the cardinal said that embryonic stem cell research had not resulted in any significant health cure so far and was “good for nothing”.
Research on adult stem cells and umbliical cords had been shown to have “positive value”, by contrast, although even that was not “a panacea for everything.”
He said the Vatican would seek clarification of the new administration’s position on stem cells, and he himself was not “fully aware” what it was.
Aides to Mr Obama indicated this week that he will reverse Mr Bush’s stand on stem cell research. The US Senate voted in July to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, but the President vetoed the legislation the following day.
Mr Obama has supported stem cell research to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. His views are supported by Joe Biden, the Vice-President-elect, who is a Roman Catholic.
John Podesta, who is handling the President-elect’s preparations to take over in the White House on January 20, said Mr Obama wanted “all the Bush executive orders reviewed”.
He added: “I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country.”
Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen, a leading American Vatican watcher, said the Vatican would have “deep differences” with the Obama administration over abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
These, however, must not be allowed to impede US-Vatican co-operation in promoting “religious freedom and human dignity worldwide” or on issues such as immigration, economic justice, peace, and environmental protection, he said.
Carinal Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, made the remarks at a press conference on childhood disease and illness and infant mortality.
He called for an intensive effort to improve “both medical and pastoral” aid to children, saying that four million babies in the world died each year in their first 26 days of life.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama could reverse some of President Bush’s most controversial executive orders, including restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, shortly after taking office in January.
Two other executive orders from Bush — one dealing with a so-called “gag” order on international aid organizations regarding abortion, the other with oil and gas drilling on federal lands — also are receiving increased scrutiny.
Obama’s transition team is reviewing hundreds of Bush’s executive orders, according to John Podesta, Obama’s transition co-chair.
New presidents often use executive orders to put their stamp on Washington quickly. Unlike laws, which require months to complete and the consent of Congress, presidents can use their executive authority to order federal agencies to implement current policies.
“Much of what a president does, he really has to do with the Congress — for example, budgeting, legislation on policy — but executive actions are ones where the president can act alone,” said Martha Kumar of the White House Transition Project, a nonpartisan group established to help new presidential administrations.
While Americans eagerly vote for the next president, here’s a sobering reminder: As of Tuesday, George W. Bush still has 77 days left in the White House — and he’s not wasting a minute.
President Bush’s aides have been scrambling to change rules and regulations on the environment, civil liberties and abortion rights, among others — few for the good. Most presidents put on a last-minute policy stamp, but in Mr. Bush’s case it is more like a wrecking ball. We fear it could take months, or years, for the next president to identify and then undo all of the damage.
Here is a look — by no means comprehensive — at some of Mr. Bush’s recent parting gifts and those we fear are yet to come.
CIVIL LIBERTIES We don’t know all of the ways that the administration has violated Americans’ rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Last month, Attorney General Michael Mukasey rushed out new guidelines for the F.B.I. that permit agents to use chillingly intrusive techniques to collect information on Americans even where there is no evidence of wrongdoing.
Agents will be allowed to use informants to infiltrate lawful groups, engage in prolonged physical surveillance and lie about their identity while questioning a subject’s neighbors, relatives, co-workers and friends. The changes also give the F.B.I. — which has a long history of spying on civil rights groups and others — expanded latitude to use these techniques on people identified by racial, ethnic and religious background.
The administration showed further disdain for Americans’ privacy rights and for Congress’s power by making clear that it will ignore a provision in the legislation that established the Department of Homeland Security. The law requires the department’s privacy officer to account annually for any activity that could affect Americans’ privacy — and clearly stipulates that the report cannot be edited by any other officials at the department or the White House.
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has now released a memo asserting that the law “does not prohibit” officials from homeland security or the White House from reviewing the report. The memo then argues that since the law allows the officials to review the report, it would be unconstitutional to stop them from changing it. George Orwell couldn’t have done better.
THE ENVIRONMENT The administration has been especially busy weakening regulations that promote clean air and clean water and protect endangered species.
Mr. Bush, or more to the point, Vice President Dick Cheney, came to office determined to dismantle Bill Clinton’s environmental legacy, undo decades of environmental law and keep their friends in industry happy. They have had less success than we feared, but only because of the determined opposition of environmental groups, courageous members of Congress and protests from citizens. But the White House keeps trying.
Mr. Bush’s secretary of the interior, Dirk Kempthorne, has recently carved out significant exceptions to regulations requiring expert scientific review of any federal project that might harm endangered or threatened species (one consequence will be to relieve the agency of the need to assess the impact of global warming on at-risk species). The department also is rushing to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list — again. The wolves were re-listed after a federal judge ruled the government had not lived up to its own recovery plan.
In coming weeks, we expect the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a final rule that would weaken a program created by the Clean Air Act, which requires utilities to install modern pollution controls when they upgrade their plants to produce more power. The agency is also expected to issue a final rule that would make it easier for coal-fired power plants to locate near national parks in defiance of longstanding Congressional mandates to protect air quality in areas of special natural or recreational value.
Interior also is awaiting E.P.A.’s concurrence on a proposal that would make it easier for mining companies to dump toxic mine wastes in valleys and streams.
And while no rules changes are at issue, the interior department also has been rushing to open up millions of acres of pristine federal land to oil and gas exploration. We fear that, in coming weeks, Mr. Kempthorne will open up even more acreage to the commercial development of oil shale, a hugely expensive and environmentally risky process that even the oil companies seem in no hurry to begin. He should not.
Soon after the election, Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, is expected to issue new regulations aimed at further limiting women’s access to abortion, contraceptives and information about their reproductive health care options.
Existing law allows doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in an abortion. These changes would extend the so-called right to refuse to a wide range of health care workers and activities including abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and provision of birth control pills or emergency contraception, even for rape victims.
The administration has taken other disturbing steps in recent weeks. In late September, the I.R.S. restored tax breaks for banks that take big losses on bad loans inherited through acquisitions. Now we learn that JPMorgan Chase and others are planning to use their bailout funds for mergers and acquisitions, transactions that will be greatly enhanced by the new tax subsidy.
One last-minute change Mr. Bush won’t be making: He apparently has decided not to shut down the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — the most shameful symbol of his administration’s disdain for the rule of law.
Mr. Bush has said it should be closed, and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and his secretary of defense, Robert Gates, pushed for it. Proposals were prepared, including a plan for sending the real bad guys to other countries for trial. But Mr. Cheney objected, and the president has refused even to review the memos. He will hand this mess off to his successor.
We suppose there is some good news in all of this. While Mr. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, 2009, he has only until Nov. 20 to issue “economically significant” rule changes and until Dec. 20 to issue other changes. Anything after that is merely a draft and can be easily withdrawn by the next president.
Unfortunately, the White House is well aware of those deadlines.
Here a pro-future energy plan – quickly constructed.
In the future we are going to drive vehicles with mechanics which don’t use oil and gas.
Our factories will be powered by an energy source which cost little or nothing – lowering the cost of production.
The amount spent on energy could be shifted to research and development – we could create more if we don’t have to factor in the energy cost.
Once the cost of energy is out of the equation — as with most things there is an energy cost to manufacture it, and another energy cost to deliver it – to the wholesaler – then another energy cost to either deliver it to the consumer or the retail outlet, each time a product has to be moved or made or cooked, then the energy cost is added on to it like a tax.
Once you take that expense out of the system – then you are instantly looking a system where there is more money.
In your own home – if we don’t have to pay for electricity or heating, or gas to power our cars – or if we can significantly reduce these costs in the short term – and say wages stay the same – then you could instantly see how you could have more money in your own household. But if we could take the cost of energy out of the whole system, or significantly reduce it, then we could see how there would be more money for everyone – as sales or demand may go up and prices go down. We become the limiting factor and not energy availability or its cost. How we want to use and recycle materials for use again, becomes the limiting factors, on what we produce.
TOLEDO, Ohio – No blaring country songs. No pink handmade signs. No rousing chants of “Drill, baby, drill.”
Gov. Sarah Palin abandoned the usual flash of her campaign rallies on Wednesday to deliver her second policy speech as the Republican vice-presidential nominee, an address focused on energy security.
Standing on a riser above a concrete floor, under the glare of fluorescent lighting, Ms. Palin addressed fewer than 200 people, mostly employees of Xunlight Corporation, a spin-off from the University of Toledo that manufactures solar energy implements.
She called for greater energy independence, blaming decades of presidents and legislators for failing to achieve it.
“It’s been 30 years’ worth of failed energy policies in Washington, 30 years where we’ve had opportunities to become less reliant on foreign sources, and 30 years of failure in that area,” Ms. Palin said. “We must steer far clear of the errors and false assumptions that have marked the energy policies of nearly 20 Congresses and seven presidents.”
Ms. Palin also laid the blame at the feet of her Democratic counterpart, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has opposed offshore drilling. Mr. Biden was overheard telling a supporter on the campaign trail that he did not support clean-coal technology in the United States.
“He says that clean coal is O.K. for China, but sorry, Ohio, Joe Biden says it’s not for you,” she said. “And that is just nonsense.”
If Senator John McCain is elected, she added, $2 billion a year would be devoted to clean-coal research and development.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland released a response on behalf of the Obama campaign:
“In a bit of rare straight talk, Sarah Palin attacked her own running mate’s record today by blaming our oil addiction on ‘thirty years of failure’ in Washington,” said Governor Ted Strickland. “John McCain was there for twenty-six of those years, during which he voted against alternative sources of energy and stood with oil industry lobbyists instead. Now he wants to give those oil companies an additional $4 billion in tax breaks, even as he proposes pennies for the kind of renewable energy that can end our dependence on Mideast oil and create new jobs. After decades of John McCain’s failed leadership on energy, we can’t afford four more.”
As a vice-presidential candidate, Ms. Palin has leaned heavily on her record in Alaska challenging the power of oil companies, and as governor, she negotiated a $40 billion pipeline that would deliver natural gas from the North Slope of Alaska to the lower 48 states. But that project, which she described in her speech on Wednesday, is years away from federal approval and will not be built for at least a decade.
Someone else said that with the money we are spending in Iraq – we could put solar panels on every roof that feed into the grid (those who have had panels hooked up in this way report bills as low as $5/month). It would take a lot of convincing to tell people that the war in Iraq is not for oil – one, there’s a horrible human tragedy just down the road in Darfur – and no one is rushing to restore order in that region. So what we are doing / allowing the few to decide that we are going to go to war for oil (read democracy), so that a few oil companies can continue to make money from a global economy that runs on oil – something that we no longer need to do.
I was very interested in what Barack Obama said about, the inventions sitting in people garages. People are driving around now with prototype magnetic/electric hybrid motors. (If we are not careful Japan is going to so whop our asses on this one!) But we also have these inventors who have working magnetic motors in the States. We now have electric cars which are more powerful than gas guzzlers – accelerating from 0 -112 mph in 11 secs, beating out any Porsche. These ‘top guys’ have made their money of the war and the oil, but let them have it – because the real currency – the currency of the future is in technological advancements – and this is where we are just beginning. Imaging 100 years from now still driving around in one of these inefficient gas guzzling cars – because some one in the oil industry ‘needed’ to continue to make money – their profits would have ‘gone down’ if we were to change technology. It’s the case for the oil lamp vs. the light bulb.
See magnetic and electric cars and bikes here.
McCain and Palin are motioning for a war in Georgia (near Russia ~ that one!), but that’s all about a oil/ gas pipeline. Palin has stated that if they are elected McCain would place her in charge of energy, and she has stated that ‘we can drill our way out of our difficulties’. This is like the brain dead plan for the future – a future without vision. And what’s worst the experts are saying that they have sunk test wells around ANWR – and through technology they are able to check the area within its perimeter – and the findings are not all that were hoped. The oil leaving Alaska through the pipeline has halved in so many years. If elected it is likely that Palin would create an energy policy based on unsubstantiated facts. She would lead us on a wild moose chase.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When the Sunday morning political pundits began talking last year about the tab for the war in Iraq hitting $1 trillion, Rob Simpson sprang from his sofa in indignation.
“Why aren’t people outraged about this? Why aren’t we hearing about it?” Simpson said. And then it came to him: “Nobody knows what a trillion dollars is.”
The amount _ $1,000,000,000,000 _ was just too big to comprehend.
So Simpson, 51, decided to embark “on an unusual but intriguing research project” to put the dollars and cents of the war into perspective. He hired some assistants and spent 12 months immersed in economic data and crunching numbers.
The result: a slim but heavily annotated paperback released, “What We Could Have Done With the Money: 50 Ways to Spend the Trillion Dollars We’ve Spent on Iraq.”
Simpson is no geopolitical, macro-economic, inside-the-Beltway expert. He’s an armchair analyst and creative director for an advertising agency, a former radio announcer and music critic in Ontario and a one-time voiceover actor.
His alternative spending choices reflect his curiosity and wit.
He calculates $1 trillion could pave the entire U.S. interstate highway system with gold _ 23.5-karat gold leaf. It could buy every person on the planet an iPod. It could give every high school student in the United States a free college education. It could pay off every American’s credit card. It could buy a Buick for every senior citizen still driving in the United States.
“As I started exploring, I was really taken aback by some of the things that can be done, both the absurd and the practical,” Simpson said.
America could the double the 663,000 cops on the beat for 32 years. It could buy 16.6 million Habitat for Humanity houses, enough for 43 million Americans.
Now imagine investing that $1 trillion in the stock market _ perhaps a riskier proposition today than when Simpson finished the book _ to make it grow and last longer. He used an accepted long-term return on investment of 9 percent annually, with compounding interest.
The investment approach could pay for 1.9 million additional teachers for America’s classrooms, retrain 4 million workers a year or lay a foundation for paying Social Security benefits in 65 years to every child born in the United States, beginning today.
It’s too recent to make Simpson’s list, but that $1 trillion could also have paid for the Bush administration’s financial bailout plan, with $300 billion to spare. It might not be enough, however, to pay for the war in Iraq. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has recently upped his estimate of the war’s cost to $3 trillion.
Simpson created a Web site companion to his book that lets you go virtual shopping with a $1 trillion credit card. Choices range from buying sports franchises to theme parks, from helping disabled veterans to polar bears.
Click on Air Force One, the president’s $325 million airplane. The program asks: “Quantity?”
“At one point we couldn’t find anybody who actually stuck with it long enough to spend $1 trillion,” Simpson said. “It will wear you out.”