Web Posted August 09, 2004
Updated August 09, 2004
No editorial this issue!
WORLD'S MOST ADVANCED GAS STATION OPENS
Associated Press Writer
Sunday, August 31, 2003
Last updated 7:56 a.m. PT
SAN DIEGO -- At a just-opened San Diego fuel station, attendants in white, 1950s-style uniforms clean customers' windshields and offer to fill their tanks with biodiesel made from fish fry grease.
Or, at the ethanol pump, fuel made from waste scraped off the floor of a cheese plant.
Electric cars can charge their batteries for free. There's also natural gas and liquefied propane gas or LPG, both popular, less-polluting gasoline alternatives.
"No one has ever put all of these in one place," said Mike Lewis, the 37-year-old West Virginian who manages the Regional Transportation Center, which offers gas, diesel and six alternative fuels.
But so far, the station, which opened in early August, isn't seeing a steady flow of customers for the exotic combustibles. The No. 1 fuel at the station of the future is plain old gas.
Still, gasoline and diesel sales pay the bills and leave the center well-positioned for California's clean vehicle movement aimed at fighting the nation's worst air pollution while cutting dependence on oil. California has set a goal of having one of every 10 new vehicles sold in the state be nonpolluting by 2018. The RTC aims to solve one of the challenges posed by the mandate: Where do you fill 'er up?
"You want these products to be marketed and sold just like gasoline," said Dan Fong, a transportation technology specialist with the California Energy Commission. "You don't want to go to a dark corner in a barren location and get fuel for your vehicle."
The $15 million RTC was conceived more than five years ago by a Ford dealership marketing executive. Today, it includes a garage with mechanics specializing in alternative fuel vehicles and an education center. Pearson Ford, the dealership that bankrolled the center, sells Ford Motor Co.'s line of alternative fuel vehicles beneath an adjacent structure.
The project helps solve what Lewis calls the chicken-and-egg problem for alternative vehicles -- should alternative fuel stations spur sales of the vehicles or vehicles sales lead to more alternative fuel pumps?
With the RTC, he said, "we built the chicken and the egg. In this area, we're taking away the excuses."
Alternative fuel stations are hard to come by. LPG, the most common gas alternative in California, is often found at welding supply stores, propane supply houses, U-Haul depots and a handful of gas stations. When it comes to natural gas, there are 110 stations open to the public in California, and only three in San Diego County, according to Mike Eaves of the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition.
"We're fighting the 900-pound gorilla that's on all the street corners," he said.
Consumers are creatures of habit, and it's difficult to beat the ease or convenience of the nation's vast network of gas stations. Last year, Californians used about 15 billion gallons of gasoline, more than a tenth of total U.S. demand. While drivers grumble about prices, a gallon of gas in 2002 cost less on average than it did 20 years earlier, when adjusted for inflation.
Low gas prices have discouraged the market for alternative vehicles, experts say.
Only about 67,500 out of 25 million registered vehicles in California used alternative fuels at the beginning of the decade, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Most are service vehicles used around airports, in local bus fleets or business, such as LPG-powered vehicles that deliver the Los Angeles Times.
Also confusing the issue are the variety of alternative fuel choices. California's Air Resources Board, which imposed the zero-emissions mandate in 1990, is debating what should power the nonpolluting cars of tomorrow. The board initially favored battery-powered cars but now likes the future of hydrogen fuel cells. But hurdles remain, namely high costs and concerns about distribution.
Rather than try to pick the fuel of the future, the Regional Transportation Center decided to offer as many as possible until a clear winner emerges.
One customer, Derek Applebaum, pulled into the center recently in his old gas-powered Dodge pickup.
"It's incredible that somebody's even doing it," Applebaum said. "Everybody's so afraid to take a chance like this, especially when you've got the influence of oil companies."
A week later, he returned to buy a Ford Explorer that runs on ethanol or gasoline.
"I want to do my part for clean air and get off the Middle East oil dependence," said Applebaum, a 41-year-old bar owner who lives nearby. "The best thing I can do in my circle is buy an alternative fuel vehicle."
"I guess I am their dream customer," he said.
On the Net:
Regional Transportation Center: www.rtc4afv.com
U.S. Alternative Fuels Data Center: www.afdc.doe.gov
GAS TANKER EXPLOSION BRINGS I-5 TO A STANDSTILL
Jonathan Martin, Chris Maag and Pamela Sitt
Seattle Times staff reporters
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Pyrotechnics worthy of a Hollywood action movie turned the Puget Sound area's transportation backbone into a parking lot yesterday afternoon.
A tanker truck carrying 11,300 gallons of gasoline exploded on an overpass on northbound Interstate 5 near Alderwood Mall about 12:45 p.m., setting off a superheated fire that broiled concrete and took an hour to douse.
The fire produced a roiling plume of black smoke that could be seen in South Seattle and Bellevue.
The accident closed I-5 for hours in both directions, pushing traffic back at least two miles north and south and clogging Highway 99 and arterials. No one was seriously hurt, including the truck driver.
The cause of the accident is under investigation.
There was no immediate end to the massive traffic jam it caused. While southbound traffic reopened at a crawl within two hours, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) kept the northbound lanes closed into the early morning.
The northbound HOV lane and the third lane -- the one closest to the HOV lane -- were expected to open by 3 a.m. today. The street that runs under the freeway, 44th Avenue West, also was scheduled to open then.
DOT workers didn't know when the other two lanes would open, said department spokeswoman Jamie Holter. Department surveyors still were checking to ensure the overpass was structurally sound.
"They have absolutely no idea what they'll find," Holter said. "There is so much heat in an accident like this that it can destroy the bond between the rebar and the concrete. If it destroys the bond, then it's not safe to drive on."
Yesterday's tanker fire happened almost exactly a year after a similar incident on Interstate 90 snarled traffic for miles near Issaquah.
In that July 16, 2002, incident, a gasoline truck-tanker rig overturned in rush-hour traffic and burst into flames on eastbound I-90.
For more than three hours yesterday, firefighters from Everett's Boeing operations helped local firefighters douse the ruined tanker shell in water and retardant foam, concerned about residual pockets of gas.
An undetermined amount of gasoline leaked into Scriber Creek beneath the interstate, according to Andy Smith, on-scene coordinator with the Environmental Protection Agency. The creek is an estuary of Swamp Creek, which runs into Lake Washington.
Foss Environmental Services, which has expertise in cleaning up gasoline spills, was assisting.
According to the State Patrol, a truck driven by Gary Brammer, 32, was heading to a Wal-Mart gas station in Marysville when it drifted into an abutment on the overpass. The fully loaded tanker crushed the barrier and lost a wheel axle, which shot across four lanes of traffic.
The gas ignited in what bystanders described as a firecracker string of explosions.
The truck "is just charbroiled," said Patrol Trooper Lance Ramsay. "This is quite a scene. I haven't seen anything like this in the past 12 years" he has served with the Patrol.
Brammer, a four-year employee of Harris Transportation of Portland, suffered a minor foot injury. He underwent X-rays at Providence Everett Medical Center before being discharged about 6 p.m.
Brammer was questioned by the State Patrol before he left the hospital but was allowed to go before the inquiry was finished. After interviewing eyewitnesses, the Patrol still was unsure yesterday why Brammer swerved to the right into the concrete barrier, Ramsay said.
"(Brammer) wanted to leave, and we're not going to hold him," Ramsay said. "We still have a lot of questions about this; the biggest question is why did it happen."
"He's a been a good driver," said Mike Dailey, Harris' safety manager. "I couldn't give you Gary's complete record, but I see and review every problem that comes through, and I don't recognize Gary to be a problem."
Dailey said the accident was unusual for the company, whose insurance policy is expected to pay for at least part of the damage.
"I have not heard of anything like this particular one ever taking place. Never," he said.
Harris Transportation, which has been operating since 1991, employs 155 drivers and has 85 trucks and trailers in terminals throughout Washington and Oregon. A driver based at the company's Tukwila branch, like Brammer, would travel on I-5 regularly, Dailey said.
With 11,300 gallons, Brammer's truck was carrying a standard full load of gasoline, Dailey said. About 2,000 gallons remained in the rig's battered shell last night.
Brammer called his mother, Sue Brammer, en route to the hospital to assure her he was fine.
"It's a miracle he's alive," she told Northwest Cable News. "I just had open-heart surgery a month ago, and it just about put me back in the hospital."
Employees at a restaurant nearby said the air was enveloped in oily, black smoke, and a lunch crowd heard small explosions for about an hour.
"It just got really dark in here. I thought it was the lights or something," said Reana Painter, 17, a busser at Stuart Anderson's Black Angus restaurant in Lynnwood. "Then someone ran in from the kitchen and said, 'You've gotta come out and see this.' "
Four miles from the accident site, frustrated drivers trickled into the Canyons Restaurant in Mountlake Terrace, just off I-5, to swap stories.
"What you have out there is a total New York traffic jam," said restaurant co-owner Phil Warchol.
Kathy Byrd of Lake Forest Park was on her way to get a haircut in Mill Creek when she got stuck for two hours on northbound I-5, missing her appointment.
"I know next to nothing except I've been parked on this freeway since quarter to one," said Byrd.
The accident occurred amidst a five-year, $80 million project to ease traffic on the South Snohomish County portion of I-5. At the time of the accident, crews were building an overpass for car pools and buses to funnel traffic to a park-and-ride lot at 44th Avenue West.
No one on the crew was hurt, according to the State Patrol.
The accident couldn't have happened in a worse location, according to Jean Hales, president of the South Snohomish County Chamber of Commerce. The roadway is near the convergence of I-5 and I-405 and is already a steady rush-hour headache.
Seattle Times reporter Janet I. Tu contributed to this report.
Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or firstname.lastname@example.org
DRIVER OF THE TANKER THAT EXPLODED ON I-5 HAS BEEN FIRED
Times Snohomish County bureau
The Seattle Times
Thursday, July 24, 2003
Page updated at 10:58 A.M.
LYNNWOOD -- The driver of the gasoline tanker that crashed and exploded
on Interstate 5 here July 12 has been terminated by his employer,
Harris Transportation of Portland.
The driver, Gary Brammer of Puyallup, told the State Patrol that he fell asleep at the wheel before the crash. Brammer also failed to report to his company that he'd received a citation for falling asleep while driving his own vehicle in June, said Harris spokesman Mike Dailey. Company policy requires that drivers report any moving violation within one month, Dailey said.
The state Department of Transportation estimates that the explosion,
in which no one was seriously injured, caused at least $1 million in damage
to the northbound freeway bridge above 44th Avenue West in Lynnwood. The
DOT has not yet determined whether spot repairs
or a complete repair of the bridge deck will be needed. Work will likely begin in early September and require some off-peak lane closures, said DOT spokeswoman Jamie Holter.
REPORT FINDS NATION'S INFRASTRUCTURE CONTINUES TO DETERIORATE
By Jennifer C. Kerr
The Associated Press
The Seattle Times
Friday, September 05, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
WASHINGTON -- The nation's infrastructure is full of cracks, leaks and holes and is getting worse, according to an analysis by civil engineers that concludes the nation's transportation, water and energy systems have shown little improvement since they were given an overall grade of D-plus in 2001.
A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers released yesterday assessed trends in the past two years in the condition of 12 categories of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, drinking water and energy.
The report blamed the deteriorating infrastructure on a weak economy, limited federal programs, population growth and the threat of terrorism, which diverted money to security.
"Americans' concerns about security threats are real, but so are the threats posed by crumbling infrastructure," Thomas Jackson, the group's president, said in a statement.
"It doesn't matter if the dam fails because cracks have never been repaired or if it fails at the hands of a terrorist. The towns below the dam will still be devastated."
The report said that there was no progress for schools, which received the worst grade -- D-minus -- from the engineers in 2001. Three of four school buildings were found to be inadequate. The engineers said it will cost more than $127 billion to build classrooms and modernize schools.
Energy transmission earned a D-plus two years ago, and the engineers said the trend is getting worse. Investment in transmission fell by $115 million annually, to $2 billion a year in 2000 from $5 billion in 1975. Actual capacity increased by 7,000 megawatts a year, 30 percent less than needed to keep up with power demand.
The report gave roads a D-plus. "The nation is failing to even maintain the substandard conditions we currently have," the report said, adding that the average rush hour grew by more than 18 minutes between 1997 and 2000.
In Washington state, money for improving roads and bridges is not keeping pace with demand, says the Washington state Department of Transportation (DOT). In 1980, one-quarter of the improvements and preservation budget went to preservation. But in 2000, 40 percent of the money was spent on preserving infrastructure.
As the highway system ages, more dollars will be used to preserve roads and fewer dollars will go to improvements, the DOT said. In 1980, the state's investment in transportation was $342 million.
The engineers' report also saw no improvement on bridges, noting that 27.5 percent of U.S. bridges were structurally deficient or obsolete in 2000.
Overall, the engineers recommended an investment of $1.6 trillion over five years. The group wants Congress to increase the user fee on gasoline by 6 cents a gallon to help pay for infrastructure projects. It also called for the formation of a presidential commission to develop and organize a national approach for infrastructure needs.
Congressional members on both sides of the aisle saw the report as a call to action. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., said two cities in his home state -- Minneapolis and St. Paul -- have water and sewer lines that are on average 80 years old. "They need to be replaced. The capacity is inadequate," said Oberstar, ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Dwayne Kalynchuk, president of the American Public Works Association, said investing in the nation's infrastructure needs to be a priority. "I think here we have an emergency that is going to catch up to us in the next few years if we don't deal with it today."
The report's other assessments of currents trends included:
• No improvement for aviation, which received a D in 2001. "Little is being done to capitalize on the low growth period after 9-11 to address the nation's aviation infrastructure needs."
• Signs of decline for drinking water and wastewater. The nation's 54,000 drinking-water systems are aging rapidly and some sewer systems are 100 years old, while federal funding remains flat.
• Declining progress for dams, with the number of unsafe dams rising to nearly 2,600 and 21 dam failures in the past two years.
Seattle Times staff writer Susan Gilmore contributed to this report.
U.S. FORCES PUT SEIZED IRAQI AK-47S TO GOOD USE
Andrew England, The Associated Press
The Seattle Times
Monday, August 25, 2003
Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
BAQOUBA, Iraq -- U.S. troops in Iraq may not have found weapons of mass
destruction, but they're certainly getting their hands on the
country's stock of AK-47s -- and, they say, they need them.
The Army soldiers based around Baqouba are from an armor battalion, which means they have tanks, Humvees and armored personnel carriers. But they are short on rifles.
Each four-man tank crew is issued two M-4 assault rifles and four 9-mm pistols, relying mostly on the tank's firepower for protection. But now they are engaged in guerrilla warfare, patrolling narrow roads and goat trails where tanks are less effective. Troops often find themselves dismounting to patrol in smaller vehicles, making rifles essential.
"We just do not have enough rifles to equip all of our soldiers. So
in certain circumstances, we allow soldiers to have an AK-47. They have
to demonstrate some proficiency with the weapon . . . demonstrate an ability
to use it," said Lt. Col. Mark Young, commander of the 3rd Battalion,
67th Armor Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
"Normally an armor battalion is fighting from its tanks. Well, we are not fighting from our tanks right now," Young said. "We are certainly capable of performing the missions that we have been assigned, there's no issue with that, but we do find ourselves somewhat challenged."
In Humvees, on tanks -- but never openly on base -- U.S. soldiers are carrying the Cold War-era Kalashnikovs, first developed in the Soviet Union but now mass-produced around the world.
The AK-47 is favored by many of the world's fighters, from child soldiers in Africa to rebel movements around the world, because it is light, durable and known to jam less frequently.
Now U.S. troops who have picked up AK-47s on raids or confiscated them at checkpoints are putting the rifles to use -- and they like what they see.
Some complain that standard U.S. military M-16 and M-4 rifles jam too easily in Iraq's dusty environment. Many say the AK-47 has better "knockdown" power and can kill with fewer shots.
"The kind of war we are in now . . . you want to be able to stop the enemy quick," said Sgt. 1st Class Tracy McCarson, an Army scout, who carries an AK-47 in his Humvee.
Some troops say the AK-47 is easier to maintain and a better close-quarters weapon. Also, it has "some psychological effect on the enemy when you fire back on them with their own weapons," McCarson said.
Most U.S. soldiers agree the M-16 and the M-4 -- a newer, shorter version of the M-16 that has been used by American troops since the 1960s -- is better for long distance, precision shooting.
But around Baqouba, troops are finding themselves attacked by assailants hidden deep in date-palm groves. Or they are raiding houses, taking on enemies at close-quarters.
Two weeks ago, Sgt. Sam Bailey was in a Humvee when a patrol came under rocket-propelled grenade and heavy machine gunfire. It was dark, the road narrow. On one side, there was a mud wall and palms trees, on the other a canal surrounded by tall grass.
Bailey, who couldn't see who was firing, had an AK-47 on his lap and his M-4 up front. The choice was simple.
"I put the AK on auto and started spraying," he said.
Some soldiers also say it's easier to get ammo for the AK-47 -- they can pick it up on any raid or from any confiscated weapon.
"It's plentiful," said tank crewman Sgt. Eric Harmon, who has a full 75-round drum, five 30-round magazines, plus 200-300 rounds in boxes for his AK-47. He has about 120 rounds for his M-16.
Staff Sgt. Michael Perez said he would take anything over his standard issue 9-mm pistol when he's out of his tank.
And the AK-47's durability has impressed him. "They say you can probably drop this in the water and leave it overnight, pull it out in the morning, put in a magazine and it will work," he said.
Young, the battalion commander, doesn't carry an AK-47 but has fired
one. He's considered banning his troops from carrying the Kalashnikovs,
but hasn't yet because "if I take the AK away from some of the soldiers,
then they will not have a rifle to carry with them."
IS AMMO EXTRA?
The Daily Illuminator
August 28, 2003
Car Wars fans, take note: a seller on eBay is offering a 1986 Trans Am done up by California custom car king George Barris for a never-aired 1986 television show called Force III.
The premise of Force III had three government agents fighting the forces of evil behind the wheels of their custom combat vehicles. The Trans Am belonged to the character known as "the Wizard," and comes with (non-functional) machine guns, rockets, and a trunk-mounted Vulcan, among other things.
The eBay auction ends Aug. 30, so check it out while you can!
-- Scott Haring
CAR WARS: ARENA ASSAULT
Vaporsoft's latest project is Car Wars: Arena Assault. This is a first/third person car combat game based on the Steve Jackson ruleset with the same name. We are using the world famous rendering middleware API, RenderWare along with Quazal's Net-Z networking API.
After 2 months of hard work, we at VaporSoft have something finalized.
This build has just about everything working except for multiplayer. Please
drop us a line if you find any bugs or want to just chat!