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Study: Americans Unclear on Energy Saving

NEW YORK, Aug. 17 (UPI) — Americans are generally in the dark when it comes to the most efficient ways to save energy, U.S. researchers say.

A survey by Columbia University researchers found the majority believe they can save energy with small changes in lifestyles, while completely underestimating the major effects of changing over to efficient, currently available technology, a university release said Monday.

The largest group, nearly 20 percent, said turning off lights was the best approach — an action that affects energy budgets relatively little, researchers say. Very few thought about purchase decisions like more efficient cars that experts say could significantly cut U.S. energy consumption, the survey found.

In general, the survey author says, people tend to believe in what she calls curtailment.

“That is, keeping the same behavior, but doing less of it,” Shahzeen Attari of Columbia University’s Earth Institute said. “But switching to efficient technologies generally allows you to maintain your behavior, and save a great deal more energy.”

As an example, she cited high-efficiency light bulbs that can be kept on all the time and still save more than minimizing the use of low-efficiency ones.

People typically are willing to take one or two actions to address a perceived problem, Attari says, but after that they start to believe they have done all they can.

“Of course we should be doing everything we can. But if we’re going to do just one or two things, we should focus on the big energy-saving behaviors,” Attari said. “People are still not aware of what the big savers are.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Researchers: Car Systems Are Vulnerable

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Aug. 12 (UPI) — New wireless technologies showing up in cars could compromise a driver’s privacy and are a potential security and safety threat, U.S. researchers warn.

Researchers at Rutgers University say wireless sensors and devices, such as systems that monitor air pressure inside tires and trigger dashboard warnings if a tire’s pressure drops, are becoming increasingly common on modern cars, a university release said Thursday.

The Rutgers scientists say signals from such wireless devices can be easily intercepted from as far away as 120 feet using a simple receiver. Since signals in tire pressure monitoring systems include unique codes, this raises concerns drivers’ locations could be tracked, they say.

The devices lack common security protections such as input validation, data encryption or authentication, so a transmitter that mimics, or “spoofs,” the sensor signal could easily send false readings and trigger a car’s dashboard warning display. This could prompt a driver into stopping his or her car when there is actually nothing wrong with the tires, they say.

Marco Gruteser, Rutgers professor of electrical and computer engineering, said it’s reasonable to expect other aspects of automobile operation will come under wireless control.

“A spoofed signal could potentially cause serious safety concerns if stability control or anti-lock braking systems relied on the data,” Gruteser said. “So we are sounding the alarm right now.”

The fact people could carry out those actions using publicly available radio and computer equipment costing a few thousand dollars shows that systems are vulnerable, he said,

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Study: Cars Warm Climate More Than Planes

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) — A trip in a car increases global temperatures more than the same trip by airplane, although the flight has a more immediate impact, U.S. researchers say.

In the short run, traveling by air has a larger adverse climate impact because airplanes strongly affect short-lived warming processes at high altitudes, a study in the Journal Environmental Science & Technology says.

The study compared the impacts on global warming of different modes of transport using climate chemistry models to consider the climate effects of all long- and short-lived gases, aerosols and cloud effects resulting from transport worldwide.

The researchers concluded that in the long run the global temperature increase from a car trip would be on average higher than from a plane trip of the same distance.

However, in the first years after the journey, air travel increases global temperatures four times more than car travel.

“As planes fly at high altitudes, their impact on ozone and clouds is disproportionately high, though short lived,” study lead author Dr. Jens Borken-Kleefeld said. “Although the exact magnitude is uncertain, the net effect is a strong, short-term, temperature increase.”

But in the long term it was still car journeys that would have the most impact, he said.

“Car travel emits more carbon dioxide than air travel per passenger mile. As carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere longer than the other gases, cars have a more harmful impact on climate change in the long term.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Indiana Company to Make 'green' Race Fuel

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., July 26 (UPI) — An Indiana company says it is partnering with a major U.S. motor racing series to bring “green” technology to the motor sports world.

Swift Enterprises Ltd. of West Lafayette has joined with the Great American Stockcar Series to produce high-performance “green” fuel for the series’ Aug. 7 race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, a company release said Monday.

Unlike traditional petroleum-based racing fuels, the new fuel is renewable and made from resources like sorghum and wood, the company said.

Great American Stockcar Series founder Chris Evans said the company’s product could be the right fit for him and his teams.

“We are constantly looking for ways to maximize the efficiency and power output of our race engines,” he said. “The concept of Swift’s formulation of an eco-efficient fuel derived from biomass sources is of great interest to us.”

The 2010 Great American Stockcar Series races feature 22 custom-built, late-model stock cars powered by Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge engines.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Solar Power Could Create Fuel for Cars

ALBUQUERQUE, July 2 (UPI) — Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could soon be used to create fuel to drive the word’s cars and trucks, a U.S. researcher says.

Solar-powered technology could be used to “photosynthesize” hydrocarbon fuels that present-day vehicles could run on without major modifications, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

Solar reactors can take carbon dioxide and turn it into carbon monoxide and can also turn water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The results can react with a catalyst to form hydrocarbon fuels, in a technique known as the Fischer-Tropsch process.

Tests have been conducted with solar reactors in New Mexico and Zurich, Switzerland.

Using solar energy to create usable fuel is a possible way to satisfy the world’s energy demands while minimizing carbon emissions, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution told Britain’s New Scientist magazine.

“This area holds out the promise for technologies that can produce large amounts of carbon-neutral power at affordable prices, which can be used where and when that power is needed,” he said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Solar Power Could Create Fuel for Cars

ALBUQUERQUE, July 2 (UPI) — Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could soon be used to create fuel to drive the word’s cars and trucks, researchers say.

Solar-powered technology could be used to “photosynthesize” hydrocarbon fuels that present-day vehicles could run on without major modifications, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

Solar reactors can take carbon dioxide and turn it into carbon monoxide and can also turn water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The results can react with a catalyst to form hydrocarbon fuels, in a technique known as the Fischer-Tropsch process.

Tests have been conducted with solar reactors in New Mexico and Zurich, Switzerland.

Using solar energy to create usable fuel is a possible way to satisfy the world’s energy demands while minimizing carbon emissions, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution told Britain’s New Scientist magazine.

“This area holds out the promise for technologies that can produce large amounts of carbon-neutral power at affordable prices, which can be used where and when that power is needed,” he said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Study: Cycling Healthier for All

UTRECHT, Netherlands, June 30 (UPI) — Dutch researchers found cycling is healthier than driving, despite the increased risk of a cyclist’s injury and exposure to car exhaust.

Jeroen Johan de Hartog of the Utrecht University and colleagues did an integrated health risk assessment of cycling versus driving and concluded cyclists may breath in more car exhaust fumes more deeply and face more serious injury, but they are healthier than those taking cars due to their increased exercise.

The study, published online ahead of print in Environmental Health Perspectives, suggested not only does the health of the individual cyclist improve as he or she drives less and exercises more, the resulting reduction in exhaust emissions benefit the whole community.

“The promotion of walking and cycling is a promising way to increase physical activity across the population by integrating it into daily life,” the study authors said in a statement.

The study estimated the health impacts if 500,000 Dutch people ages 18-64 were to switch from driving to cycling one round trip daily.

The researchers estimated that in the Netherlands the health benefits of cycling are at least nine times greater than the hazards, with the average person who switches to cycling living 3-14 months longer, while potentially losing 0.8-40 days of life due to increased exposure to air pollution and an average of 5-9 days due to fatal traffic accidents.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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40 Children Die Each Year in Hot Cars

ATHENS, Ga., June 30 (UPI) — University of Georgia researchers say they developed a tool to help officials warn parents against leaving a child in a vehicle, risking exposure to heat.

Study leader Andrew Grundstein said there is never a reason to leave a child in a car unattended because the risks of abduction or injury abound, but about 40 U.S. children die each year from being left in cars that become too hot.

“Most of the time, caregivers simply forget their children, but more than a quarter of deaths in this situation involve children intentionally left in cars,” Grundstein said in a statement. “In some cases, parents just don’t want to disturb a sleeping child. Such behavior shows a clear lack of understanding about the dangers of leaving children unattended in vehicles.”

Grundstein and colleagues developed a table of vehicle temperature changes indicating that in hot weather in an open parking lot, the inside temperature of a vehicle can rise by 7 degrees Fahrenheit in 5 minutes, 13 degrees in 10 minutes, 29 degrees in 30 minutes and 47 degrees in an hour.

For example, on a 90-degree F day, temperatures within a vehicle would reach an “excessive heat advisory” in about 10 minutes and an “excessive heat warning” in less than 30 minutes.

The findings are published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Machines That Understand Us on the Rise

NEW YORK, June 25 (UPI) — Devices that can understand people, using a technology known as speech recognition, are becoming a common feature of everyday life, researchers say.

From people telling their cellphones to dial a number to doctors using speech recognition software to record and transcribe patient visits, speech recognition is making inroads into all areas of human activity, The New York Times reported Friday.

Call centers use voice software technology, often to the point where an entire session is automated. If a caller becomes confused or angry, the software can even recognize that and transfer the call to a human manager.

A dark side of the technology, experts warn, is the almost certain loss of millions of jobs as humans are replaced by machines that can understand speech and act to perform a simple requested task.

“Basic work that can be automated is in the bull’s-eye of both technology and globalization, and the rise of artificial intelligence just magnifies that reality,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But the technology will also drive innovation and create job opportunities, Brynjolfsson says, just as the Internet has led to new businesses and new forms of communication like blogs and social networking.

Experts say the technology is still in its infancy and some day smart machines could tutor students, assist surgeons and safely drive cars, the Times reported.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Study Shows Turning off Car A/C Saves Fuel

ZURICH, Switzerland, June 24 (UPI) — Swiss researchers say they’ve found the use of car air conditioning systems can account for up to 30 percent of a vehicle’s fuel consumption in hot climates.

Even in Switzerland, with its temperate climate, the scientists at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research said the use of air conditioning systems is responsible for about 5 percent of total fuel usage, rising to about 10 percent in urban traffic.

The scientists said car air conditioning systems require energy to compress the cooling agent, and the greater the degree of cooling required the more fuel they use.

The researchers noted air conditioning systems in cars with automatic transmissions only turn themselves off when the external temperature drops below about 40 degrees, when the cooling system could ice up. That occurs because air conditioning systems not only cool the air before blowing it into the vehicle’s interior, but also dry it to avoid causing condensation on the windshield.

The study appeared in the June 8 early, online edition of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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