MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS
MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924
Polluting The Friendly Skies
By Edward W. Miller, MD
Americans are too busy to pay attention to that jet passing overhead. They may see the cloud trail, or at night, hear the distant roar, but the effects of that diesel-guzzling steel and plastic monster loaded with passengers and freight and passing by at 500 or more miles per hour, no longer piques our curiosity. Only a NASA scientist, or concerned environmentalist recognize that jet exhausts, loaded with water vapor, nitrous oxides, carbon dioxide and other aerosols, are changing atmospheric properties and photo-chemistry and affecting the health and living conditions at our planet's surface.
Scientists say water vapor is the most interactive effluent exerting a strong impact on atmospheric temperatures. Most jet exhaust is produced at subsonic cruise altitudes in the upper troposphere and mostly in the northern hemisphere-especially over the US, Western Europe and Japan. A 1998 NASA study of jet contrails suggested maximal depolarization ratios were produced by ice crystals with radii as small as several tenths of a µm, explaining why they disappear in less than 20 seconds and so have different radioactive properties than cirrus clouds. In addition to producing vapor trails stretching thousands of miles across the sky, jet exhaust also seeds the atmosphere with cloud-forming aerosols - droplets of sulfuric acid and particles of soot. NASA's tests revealed that, at jet cruising altitudes, acid droplets account for at least 10 percent of the sulfur emissions.
The NOx ejected by jet engines contributes to global warming by creating ozone clouds that trap heat in the troposphere. In a 1996 study, aircraft generated nearly half the NOx found in the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere between 26,000 and 40,000 feet. (Ulrich Schumann - German DLR Institute)
In 1996, NASA, using GOES-8 satellite measurements reported that "in certain heavy air traffic corridors, cloud cover had increased by as much as 20 percent and subsonic flights, added to atmospheric soot by 10 percent, sulfur oxides (SOx) by nearly 10 percent and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from 10 to 100 percent.
Transatlantic jets burn between 2.5 and 3 tons of fuel per hour. In 1988, before the Iraqi war, commercial aircraft consumed an estimated 70 percent of all jet fuel (with military and business craft accounting for another 24 percent). The world's aircraft currently produce about 3 percent the carbon dioxide (CO2) gases attributed to human activity. During takeoff, a jumbo jet can devour 2 million liters (528,344 gallons) of air per second. In the first five minutes of flight, a commercial airliner burns as much oxygen as 49,000 acres of forest produce in a day.
According to Department of Transportation, flying a Boeing 747-400 from Washington, DC to San Francisco burns 17,232 gallons of jet fuel. A Boeing 747 averages 32 minutes taxiing, taking off and landing. During this time, it can generate 190 pounds of NOx - equal to the amount produced by driving a car 53,500 miles. In total, U.S. passenger and cargo airline operations required 19.6 billion gallons of jet fuel in 2007. Just from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area, there are 397 fights/week. The FAA now projects that the number of U.S. airline passengers will nearly double from 739 million last year to 1.4 billion in 2025. Air traffic controllers are expected to handle 95 million flights by all types of aircraft in 2025.
Environmental scientists are now suggesting that, except over our planet's oceans, other means of transportation besides jets would keep our planet healthier. Considering these jet-produced chemical assaults on our planet, as we enter the 21st Century, Americans should consider other forms of
mass transit, such as rail, and as for the automobile, modify our frustrating system, wherein our tax dollars are paving over more of our countryside, while adding lane after lane to our already crowded highways.
Is anyone truly in charge, locked for hours behind the wheel of a gas-guzzling machine, breathing poison in that stop and crawl we call commuting? Does anyone ask WHY, in all those TV auto ads, the car is always alone on the road or in the country? In many Euro countries as well as Japan, rail service occupies a much greater share of the transportation burden then in the US.
The commuting Frenchman sips his aperitif in the air-conditioned comfort of le Train a Grande Vitesse, reading the afternoon edition as the countryside whizzes past at over 285 Kilo/Meters an hour, while his Japanese counterpart, homeward-bound from Osaka to Tokyo, naps in the comfort of the Shinkansen, where its 185 Kilo/M per hour barely ripples the sake at this side, both fast trains powered by atomic-produced electricity.
France's Train a grande vitesse (TGV) smashed the world rail speed record this month. An experimental version, equipped with two supercharged locomotives and extra-large wheels, hit 574.8 kilometers per hour (357.2 mph) on a specially prepared stretch of track east of Paris, while Germany's bullet train, the MAGLEV, supported by its magnetic field, can cruise above its track at speeds of over 220 miles/hour.
In December 2002 German Chancellor Schroeder and Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, road a German-built MAGLEV from Shanghai to its airport, a distance of 30 miles in only 8 minutes.
Though opponents of rail travel warn of the instillation costs, Japan's Shinkansen has survived 40 years in excellent financial shape while France's TGV paid for itself within a few years. In fact, their new Paris to Lyon TGV has almost put Air France out of business over that route. Here in the US, our Amtrak's express ACELA Service between Boston, New York City and Washington, DC, updated by a French firm, has captured much of both auto and air commuter traffic between these cities. In Taiqan, starting in January 2007 their High Speed Rail (the THSR), adopting Japan's Shinkansen technology, is capale capable of traveling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph)with a seated passenger capacity of 989.
Here in the US, a group of Californians who have been on top of the transportation problem, created the California High-Speed Rail Authority, a state entity responsible for planning, constructing, and operating a high-speed train system serving California's major metropolitan areas. The Authority has a nine-member policy board and a small core staff. All environmental, planning, and engineering work is performed by private firms under contract. With the certification of the Statewide Final program-level Environmental Impact Report (EIR)/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in November 2005, the Authority began implementation of a 700+-mile high-speed train system serving Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Valley, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Orange County and San Diego. High-speed trains will be capable of maximum speed of at least 200 miles per hour with an expected trip time from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just over 2 hours and 30 minutes. The system is would potentially carry over 100 million passengers per year by 2030. The 2007-08 enacted state budget provides $20.7 million to continue project implementation. Of this $3.5 million are local funds provided by the Orange County Transportation
Authority (OCTA) towards the preparation of the Los Angeles to Anaheim Project-Level EIR/EIS.`
Bond funding for the project must still be authorized by voters in 2008. A $9.95 billion dollar bond measure is on the November 2008 ballot with $9 billion for implementing high-speed rail and $950 million for improvements to other rail services that connect to the high-speed rail service. This bond measure requires a simple majority vote for approval.
This piece from a Paris newspaper last March, suggests at least one of our representatives in Sacramento is on the ball:
Paris (AFP) March, 2007:- The state of California is eyeing France's high speed train for a planned link between San Francisco and San Diego, the speaker of its state assembly said on Tuesday during a visit to France. "We are contemplating in California the possibility of a high speed train that would go from the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles and San Diego, in South California. We're here to study the rail system," the speaker, Fabian ,Nunez, said. "France's TGV set a new world speed record
for a train on rails, at 357.2 miles per hour. You have been ahead of time (in producing a) very practical rail system in France," Nunez is California's third most powerful politician.
In April 18th's San Francisco Chronicle, staff writer Carl Nolte noted that: "Sunday, (April 20th) is the Golden Anniversary of the last run of electric trains across the Bay Bridge , the end of one era of Bay Area commuting, and the beginning of another."
Then last green white and yellow FKey System train left the TtransBay Terminal in San Francisco and clanked and roared over the bridge to Oakland on April 20th, 1958." National City Lines which had bought out the TransBay System.
As those rails were being torn from the Bay Bridge, San Francisco was the last of some 81 US cities to lose its rail system. Few Americans understand why those quiet, non-polluting electric rail system (mostly trolleys) which once served all our major cities, suddenly disappeared like the dinosaurs, and most have accepted the automobile as the evolutionary replacement. However, no asteroid from outer space wiped out America's rail systems
In 1922 only one American family in 10 owned an auto. Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., GM's president, decided to change this and with friends at Firestone Rubber, Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum and Mack Truck, Sloan formed a financial consortium and began secretly, first to buy up and then destroy the rail systems in America's large cities.
To hide his campaign from the public eye, he hired an unknown, E. Roy Fitzgerald, as a figurehead, advertising him as " an entrepreneur from the sticks" . They formed a company, National City Lines, and quickly purchased Yellow Bus, America's largest diesel bus builder, and Omnibus, a bus-operating company. National City Lines, headed by Fitzgerald, began buying up the rail systems in
America's cities, one by one using political know-how and money to influence city councils while they were paying Madison Avenue to tell the country "the trend was away from rail," they systematically destroyed America's clean, electric rail systems, replacing them with their polluting diesel buses. By 1941, National City Lines owned the transportation system in over 83 American cities across the country
The day National City Lines signed a purchase agreement, their staff took over, rail management was fired, and the process of piecemeal destruction set in motion. Fares were increased, routes cancelled and trolleys were taken out of service, schedules were reduced, salaries of workers cut, and maintenance neglected. As rail systems thus self-destructed, a nationwide media campaign offered "modern, non-polluting diesels." Eventually, the last rail and trolley disappeared, along with the tracks.
There was no media warning of this campaign, but an independent observer, Commander Edwin Quinby, caught onto GM's plot and took it upon himself to warn the city fathers across the country. At his own expense, he mailed out a 31-page brochure, outlining the takeover plan. GM hoisted an expensive public-relations campaign to discredit Quinby. Some readers, however, got the news, and a grassroots protest brought an investigation by the Justice Department. In 1936, National City Lines, along with General Motors, was found guilty. The two were fined $5,000 apiece, while their management staff were fined $1
each. Later Justice Department investigations got nowhere, because by 1932 GM had created the National Highway Users Conference, a powerful Washington lobby to push for more freeways and silencing any discussion of diesel pollution. Alfred P. Sloan headed the conference for 30 years until another GM man took over. With the post-WWII boom in home construction, President Eisenhower, in 1953, appointed the then-president of General Motors, Charles Wilson, as Secretary of Defense and DuPont's chief, Secretary of Transportation (DuPont was GM's biggest investor). These two set out to pave over America for the auto. DuPont got Eisenhower to set up the Highway Trust Fund which funneled gasoline tax money into highway construction. Two thirds of these funds went to build inner-city freeways. Meanwhile, GM, recognizing the limits of bus sales as contrasted with automobiles, changed its tactics, and in 1972, convinced the House of Representatives to deny all funding for public transportation, hoping to reduce bus service. The money was diverted to freeways. By the 1950's buses were disappearing and everyone wanted a car. Thus while post-war Europe and Japan were rebuilding their rail transit, America was destroying hers. Though the House of Representatives in 1972 blocked monies for rapid transit, public pressure was making itself heard. San Francisco's Mayor Alioto, in the 1974 Senate hearings, publicly questioned whether " what was good for General Motors was good for the country ", by 1992, the Intermodal
Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) allowed local input into transit decisions, and by 1991, 25 cities across the country were experimenting with light rail systems.
Americans should be aware that those same corporate giants that destroyed America's rail systems will continue to lobby against any and all rail proposals. As a first step in the fight for a cleaner planet, write your representative in Sacramento and encourage support of the proposed fast rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles before the November ballot.
Coastal Post Home Page