Where are you going, little one?

Rocket Launch at Cape CanaveralLast week, an unmanned spaceship named New Horizons, nine months after departing Earth, zipped within 8,000 miles of our last planet, and continued on toward … well, we’re really not sure what it will find. But that’s the point of such trips, isn’t it.

In the same week, while peering through a telescope we’ve stationed about 93 million miles from the site of a certain well-known terran battlefield, we found, a mere 1,400 light-years from the same battlefield, a planet that might support life as we know it. Imagine a civilization out there staring back at this blue marble we are riding, wondering whether anyone lives here.

Continue reading Where are you going, little one?

No speed record – yet

Solar Impulse 2 over Abu DhabiThe aircraft took off from Nagoya, Japan, Sunday on a planned 120-hour flight to Hawaii. Clearly, it is not out for a speed record; it was cruising at a ground speed of about 10 miles an hour when I watched it online.

In 2010, the craft flew a then-record breaking 26 consecutive hours. When it landed, it reportedly had enough battery left for another six hours in the air. Only five years later, the flight from Japan to Hawaii is scheduled for nearly five times as long. The goal is a 13-segment flight around the world – a seemingly easy feat for nearly any four-motored aircraft – except this one is powered by the sun.

Solar panels on the wings and fuselage charge the batteries during the day, while the airplane climbs as high as 30,000 feet. Then during the night, it runs the battery-powered motors in a long, slow, descent. Along the way, pilot and CEO André Borschberg snatches 20-minute naps.

Continue reading No speed record – yet

First stop light in (that part of) the county

Future intersection to Iron Springs PlazaGettysburg, in west-central Adams County, Pa. takes pride in being “the most famous small town in the world.” It is slightly more than one and-a-half square miles, and has 16 traffic lights within its boundary.[pullquote]“Then she looked up.
At the green light.”[/pullquote]

There are a few more traffic lights in the county, most to the east of the borough, a couple to the north – but none to the west (not counting the light on U.S.30 northwest of the borough. That is about to change. A traffic light is planned for installation in Hamiltonban Township, barely across the town line at the west edge of the tiny borough of Fairfield.

Continue reading First stop light in (that part of) the county

First driver’s license

1954 Ford Ranch WagonGranddaughter Kass has a school project involving me supplying pictures from experiences of my younger self. One image she chose was my first wife and a 1954 Ford Ranch Wagon.

[pullquote]His test, his rules. My second try was a success.[/pullquote]That station wagon was pretty terrific. It had a three-on-the-tree shifter, and ran fine if one didn’t count that it burned more oil than gasoline. We and that car went places, many of which were night runs to the Ponte Vedra dunes south of Jacksonville Beach – before people with money bought up the land and erected Don’t Even Think About Walking On Our Sand signs.

Continue reading First driver’s license

That’s a mid-size car??

My wife-slash-Resident Travel Agent and I went to Florida recently. We left my Jeep in Long Term Parking and flew to Fort Lauderdale, where I signed for a rental car to use for the week.

Renting a car for a trip actually is a good way to go. You get a fairly new vehicle, and all you need do is drive – and turn it in when you are done for someone else to clean out any dog hairs or French fries you might have dropped between the seats.

Continue reading That’s a mid-size car??

Is this really the lesson we intend?

Ice cream cone labeled Tantrum Averted (Published in the Gettysburg Times, 12/6/2013)

Out on the westbound Pennsylvania Turnpike, there is a billboard announcing the upcoming New Stanton service area.

“Tantrum Averted,” it proclaims, the words above a picture of a young boy eating an ice cream cone and grinning. The lesson, for child and parent alike, is either the kids gets an ice cream cone or the parent gets to listen to screaming and pounding.

Continue reading Is this really the lesson we intend?

Electric buses, u-rent bicycles, and fish at the brink of extinction

Fellow SEJer and NPR reporter Karen Schaefer contemplates renting a bike to explore Chattanooga.I am returned home from a six-day conference, counting travel, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during which I saw little of the city whilst I mingled with fellow recorders of “environmental” tales and observations. It was an informative sojourn, full of camaraderie and information, at least some of which we members of the Society of Environmental Journalists each hope will add value and color to our future musings.

But I was impressed, in what limited exposure I had, with the uncity-ness of the historic burg.

Continue reading Electric buses, u-rent bicycles, and fish at the brink of extinction

Happy Birthday to the Mighty Lincoln Highway

New Oxford train station just west of the square on U.S. 30“It was 3,000 miles of rockin’ rollin’ highway, a million memories long and two lanes wide” – From the lyrics of “Old 30,” by C.W. McCall.

The Lincoln Highway turns 100 this year. Actually, it is about 3,400 miles, New York to San Francisco, and 28 of those miles are in Adams County, Pa., passing through Gettysburg, less than a mile from my home.

Former Adams County Commissioner Harry Stokes once told me the name reflected Gettysburg, and its downtown Wills House, in which the 16th president spent the night before delivering those few words the “world shall little note nor long remember.” Continue reading Happy Birthday to the Mighty Lincoln Highway

Future holds promise for electric commuter cars

Electric vehicles can fill commuting niche.A recent story in Reuters posited electric cars are “headed toward another dead end.” The outcome was illustrated at the Pennsylvania Auto Show last month in Harrisburg, where there was plenty of emphasis on gasoline and precious little on electric – though hybrids were well represented.

But while Reuters was pronouncing Last Rites for all-electric automobiles, other’s were painting a slightly rosier picture. I submit the demise of the electric car is greatly exaggerated in a storyline carefully engineered by the oil industry.

 Continue reading on Rock The Capital …

“Poverty-stricken” Shell Oil offered $2B taxpayer handout to set up in Pa.

Shell oil stands to gain two billion in tax incentives to build a 400-job plant near Pittsburgh

Shell Oil Co., a child of Royal Dutch Shell – the latter reportedly the largest oil company in Europe and second largest company in the world – is thinking about building an ethane cracker plant in Monaca Borough, Beaver County, 30-some miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Pa.

The proposed plant would be used to “crack” ethane from natural gas derived from wells drilled into the Marcellus Shale in the southwestern region of the state. The cracking process results in ethylene, used mostly in making plastics.

The plant will benefit from Act 16 of 2012,  a bill the Pa. General Assembly adopted to exempt the giant firm from paying state income and property taxes for 15 years. Continue reading “Poverty-stricken” Shell Oil offered $2B taxpayer handout to set up in Pa.

While we continue to subsidize fossil fuels, at least one American industrial giant invests in green technology in, of all places …

Masdar, a city in the middle of a desert with zero carbon emissions
While some of our politicians and fossil fuel barons try, with varying success, to convince us we’re not digging up enough coal, oil or natural gas, the folks who we are told are selling us our oil are busy building a city that doesn’t need it.

For the first time in more than a half-century, the U.S. exports more fuel than it imports. We still are the world’s largest importer of crude oil, but a huge portion of the imported crude becomes exported product, including fuels. Continue reading While we continue to subsidize fossil fuels, at least one American industrial giant invests in green technology in, of all places …

EPA regs not to blame for refinery shutdowns

One of the real reasons East Coast refineries are shutting downAccording to several sources, including the refinery owners, the U.S. EPA is not the source of their woes – unless we count a planned 25 percent increase in U.S. vehicle gas mileage scheduled by 2015. … Continue reading …

Clean the air, subsidize a business or two, and all with free money

Look, Ma. No fumes, no spills.California has a suggestion for Pennsylvania: use some money won from companies which have harmed Pennsylvanians’ health – tobacco money comes quickest to mind – to improve the health of the aforementioned residents.

Help support electric cars, for instance, in a public-private partnership that offers something more than tax breaks to petroleum fuel producers.

The Golden State has won $120 million from resolution of a power crisis a decade ago, in which companies such as Enron shut down power plants to create electricity pseudo-shortages and drive up consumer prices.

Now California intends to use $100 million of the money to help a company build electric car charging networks in densely populated areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Joaquin Valley – areas that could benefit from a reduction in gasoline-powered vehicles that daily are stuck in barely rolling traffic jams, replenishing any smog the sea winds might have blown away.

The remaining $20 million reportedly will benefit programs to lower consumer electricity costs.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett wants to place money from the state’s tobacco settlement into the General Fund, where it can be spent on … lots of things his constituents want, or think they want, especially if what they want involves burning fossil fuels. … Continue reading …

Riding the Metro – a lesson in efficient cooling

Commuters wait to board the arriving light rail in the Washington Metro stationI don’t know whether it’s global warming, climate change or as my spouse chooses to believe, the snow thrower we bought last year, when we thought more snowy winters to be in the offing.

I pulled the machine out of the shed in October, when we had a pretty serious snow – for South-Central Pennsylvania. About eight inches of the white stuff blanketed the ground. I cleared the driveway and the extra parking space – and have not used the machine since.

I suggested maybe we spent the money unnecessarily. Wife suggested it was money well spent.

On the other hand, Continue reading …