July 28, 2008

Are you ready for some biofuel adventuring?

Posted: 08:37 AM ET

It's been a long day here in the Bay area. So long that you'll likely not see this post until Monday a.m.

Brian and I spent the day readying the Scout for the long drive. This included securing a new battery (we still have the old one for backup), attaching some weather stripping that the previous owner left for us (wow, did that reduce the amount of rattling in the old gal) and extolling the virtues of a little device we like to call the "lifesaver" (more on that later).

We're working on a video of the Scout - which you just might see on later today.

Cya on the flipside!

– Cody

Filed under: environment • Road trip

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July 26, 2008

Scout in hand!

Posted: 02:36 AM ET

Here we are in California. I got to lay eyes and hands on my 1978 diesel Scout for the first time after purchasing it about a month ago. I must say it meets or exceeds my expectations. I’m pretty pumped about this trip. That’s Brian Hardy, my trusty co-pilot and fellow amateur diesel mechanic and biodiesel enthusiast, standing next to the Scout with me to his left.

I want to give a big shout-out to Thom Belote and the awesome people he works with at Untangle for letting us park the Scout in their lot and letting us ship a bunch of stuff to them so we wouldn’t have to fly with it.

We got the Scout up to a roaring 60 miles an hour (hey — the engine only puts out about 100 horsepower!) and hit an electronics store for a solar panel (how else are we going to keep all this gear charged while driving and camping?)

We’ll spend the weekend prepping for hitting the open road on Monday. Check back and maybe you’ll get to see some more pictures of our awesome ride.

Filed under: environment • Road trip

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July 25, 2008

Cody's biofuel road trip begins!

Posted: 11:25 AM ET

Hi! This is producer Cody McCloy. Web developer Brian Hardy and I are jetting off to Cali today to kickoff our road trip with renewable biodiesel fuel from the San Francisco Bay to Atlanta. Read Cody's kickoff article

Along the way we’ll cover things a road-tripper might find interesting, such as how to save money on the road and how cleaner-burning alternative fuels can reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Of course we’ll also hit some major destinations and roadside attractions as we rattle and hum down the highway in our classic 1978 International Harvester Scout.

Watch our live video broadcast this Monday at 9:40 a.m. ET on Live!

And of course, you can follow along right here on the SciTech blog.

If there’s something you think we should stop and see along the way – please hit us up via  and send us photos and videos of places you want us to visit.

And finally you can vote on our destinations at’s special report American Road Trips.

See ya on the road!


Filed under: environment • Road trip

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Big Clean-Up in the Big Easy

Posted: 11:14 AM ET

On Wednesday, a 600-foot tanker and a river barge collided on a spot of the Mississippi River that I, as a Louisiana native and frequent New Orleans visitor, know well.

Tugboats hold up parts of a barge that collided with a tanker. The collision spilled 419,000 gallons of oil.

After splitting in half, the barge proceeded to spill an estimated 419,000 gallons or 9,980 barrels of oil into the mighty Mississippi. According to the Coast Guard, the pilot of the tugboat pushing the barge was not properly licensed. Crews are working to contain and clean up the spill, but the environmental damages of the accident are still unknown.

Concern is growing over the quality and supply of drinking water in parishes downstream from the accident. Many of these areas normally pump from the Mississippi River for their drinking water supply but are now trucking in bottle water to help ease concerns of shortages.

(Ironically, one of these parishes, St. Bernard Parish, was not only one of the areas ravaged the worst by Hurricane Katrina, but also the same parish soaked in more than 1 million gallons of oil after the storm’s winds dislodged an above ground storage tank at a nearby oil refinery.)

Oil spills from transportation vessels are nothing new. Most of us remember the Exxon Valdez accident off the coast of Alaska in 1989 which spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. Fortunately, legislation like the 1990 Oil Pollution Act has contributed to a substantial drop in both spill incidents and volumes, but vessel spills still happen frequently. According a 2007 American Petroleum Institute study, 174 vessel spills occurred in 2005.

With river shipping halted, and drinking water and the environment threatened, many Louisianans are upset that accidents like this one still occur. But events like Wednesday’s spill are extremely rare relative to the amount of oil refined and transported in our state and nation everyday. If anything, it’s in the Louisiana oil industry’s interest to keep spills at a minimum. No one wants to see our $65 billion-a-year industry be saddled with any more bad press or regulations.

So here’s the crux of the situation. Its no secret that, while rare, pipellines can break, tanks can be blown over, and ships can collide. Is there truly anyway we can eliminate these risks or are they simply the cost of doing business?

Julia Griffin, CNN Science & Technology

Filed under: environment • Gasoline • oil spills • science

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July 24, 2008

Is oil our heroin?

Posted: 09:39 AM ET

Having grown up in a major southern city in Brazil in the late 70s and 80s, I can vividly remember going to any fuel station and the attendant asking my father if he wanted gasoline or "alcool" - ethanol made from sugarcane.

A worker cuts sugarcane at harvest. Source: Getty Images

When I moved to the U.S. in 1989, I realized that American drivers didn't have the same choice as we did in Brazil, but gasoline here was so cheap and abundant that there was no need for an alternative.

Well, you don't need me to tell you that times have changed. While politicians try to spread the blame and try to feed us ideas that will get them elected or re-elected, gas prices continue to go up.

Most Republicans in Congress want to drill in Alaska's ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) as a solution. It sounds sexy enough to say let's drill on our own turf and flip the middle one toward the Middle East, but the reality is that it would take years for any of us to see a drop of that oil in our tanks and there isn't enough there to suppress our addiction to it.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says the immediate solution is to open up our oil reserves, which we've already paid for as taxpayers, and make it available right now instead of drilling in ANWR. That sounds like a great idea, in theory. But if oil is our heroin, Pelosi is basically saying let's make more of it available to all addicts so that their withdrawal is mitigated. How about when the reserve is gone? What are we going to do then?

I'm not suggesting we follow in the footsteps of Brazil and mass produce our own ethanol. We're trying it with corn, which is driving the prices of food and basically everything way, way up. What works in Brazil may not work elsewhere. Besides, Brazil has its share of problems with ethanol - the Amazon rainforest continues to be cut down to grow more sugarcane. This year, 24 ethanol producers were fined in the millions for planting sugarcane illegally and operating without licenses, among other things.

We must look toward other solutions, be it hydrogen, electricity, solar power or even water. Whatever the answer, our children and grandchildren will either suffer or benefit from the decisions we make today.

What do you think is the answer to our oil addiction? Do Republicans and Democrats have a solution or are they sidestepping the real issues? And how are you coping with the high gas prices?

Paulo Nogueira - Producer, CNN Science & Technology

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Cars • environment • Ethanol • Fuel • Gasoline

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July 23, 2008

Renting an office in the eye of a hurricane

Posted: 11:39 AM ET

We received this today from CNN producer Alex Walker, who's on the beach at South Padre Island as Hurricane Dolly comes ashore as a Category Two storm. Alex provides a little background on setting up a live shot from a storm while keeping the team safe (He's with meteorologist Reynolds Wolf, photographer Stuart Clark, field tech Jerry Appleman, and satellite truck operator Michael Humphrey).

I haven't seen a single person on or near the beach this morning. Yesterday, as we started feeling winds and rain from some of Dolly's outer bands, residents and tourists flocked to the shore here to look at the white caps and even do a little surfing. Today, the only people I've seen are media crews covering the story.

Reynolds Wolf (in red), live from the beach at South Padre Island. Photographer Stuart Clark is in yellow.

I rented a 2-story banquet hall/restaurant for our liveshots, so we have enough room to accommodate CNN, CNN NewsSource and Univision. NBC wanted this location, and it felt great to scoop the competition and secure a great spot. We have power, and a safe place to take cover. It's nice to be able to duck inside in between liveshots, as the winds are fierce now. The eye of the storm may pass right over us.

We are stuck on this island, to ride out the storm, as the causeway to the mainland is closed. I'm watching some unbelievable surf right now. Off the balcony is a narrow public beach access between the dunes. Last night, bulldozers piled additional sand – about 20 feet long and 5 feet high – to close the passageway. Water is piling up on the other side. I hope it works!

Alex Walker CNN Science & Technology Producer

Filed under: Flooding • hurricanes • meteorology • Severe weather

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July 22, 2008

Dolly heads for the border

Posted: 10:14 AM ET

Still at Tropical Storm status as of Tuesday morning, Dolly is beginning to kick up a breeze on Texas's South Padre Island. The National Hurricane Center track has the storm coming in midday Wednesday, probably as a weak hurricane. In its path are the cities of the Rio Grande Valley - McAllen, Harlingen, and Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros and Reynosa, Mexico.

The real threat from Dolly may not be storm surge, though the Padre Island resorts are bracing for it. The inland border cities, as well as Monterrey, Mexico, could see flooding from heavy rains. Monterrey is an industrial city of four million an hour's drive from the Rio Grande.

Hurricane Emily hit the same area of the coast as a Category Three storm in July 2005. While Dolly will almost certainly not be quite as strong, Emily could be a preview of the potential for this storm.

- Peter Dykstra, Executive Producer, CNN Science, Tech, & Weather

Filed under: hurricanes • Weather

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July 21, 2008

Sony vs. Microsoft vs. Nintendo

Posted: 02:12 PM ET

It was a three-way brawl at last week's E3 conference as these top console makers revealed their newest developments. Who won the battle? We'll let you decide.

Nintendo's Wii has sold 29 million units to date to become the fastest-selling console in history.

Nintendo introduced its Wii MotionPlus accessory for the Wii Remote. This accessory, to be released in spring 2009, attaches to the end of the Wii Remote and it will track every movement a user makes with their arms and wrist. The Wii MotionPlus accessory will be included with the sequel to Wii Sports, entitled Wii Sports Resort. In this game you will be able to duel it out with swords, skiff across the water on a Jet Ski and play Frisbee with a dog.

Another hardware release, WiiSpeak, coincides with the release of "Animal Crossing: City Folk." WiiSpeak is a microphone/speaker system that will allow users to chat with each other while gaming. In "Animal Crossing: City Folk," users will run around with a plethora of animals, build and improve their community, take a bus into the city, and be able to bid on items in an auction house. These two items are scheduled for release on November 16.

With Wii Music the entire family can rock out to 60 different instruments using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers. You never have to worry about being off the beat, unlike with some other games. Users can improvise and transform songs then share them with friends and family.

Get ready to grand-slam your way through Baseball Kingdom in "Mario Super Sluggers." You can take control of over 40 Nintendo characters, including your own Mii, to play nine-inning games, home-run contests, and several mini-games.

Microsoft is in the middle of the pack with 20 million Xbox 360 units sold worldwide. Every five seconds a new member joins Xbox Live to add to its already 12 million-plus membership.

Microsoft is teaming up with Netflix to offer streaming movies directly to your XBox. More than 10,000 movies and TV episodes will be offered next fall to Xbox Live Gold members and Netflix subscribers.

Other enhancements to Xbox Live include Xbox Live Primetime, which allows users to play such game shows as “1 vs. 100." Xbox Live Party will allow you to create your own avatar while you share movies and pictures with friends around the globe.

Also on tap in its gaming lineup is "Halo Wars," a real-time strategy game, based off the original Halo series. Making the jump from Nintendo to Xbox is the family friendly "Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts." An exclusive "Grand Theft Auto IV" episode will be released in the fall as well.

For you music fans, "Rock Band 2" will be launched first on the 360 in September. If you are more into singing then playing the instruments then you will want to check out "Lips," which will allow you to use a wireless motion-sensing microphone to sing songs from your own music collection. And with "You’re in the Movies," players can put themselves into several short films utilizing the Xbox Live Vision camera. This will hit stores right before the holiday season.

In hardware news, Microsoft unveiled its 60GB Xbox for $349.99 while dropping the 20GB version by $50, to $299.99.

Sony made several announcements concerning its PlayStation 3, which has sold 14 million units.

The PlayStation Network will allow users to download 300 movies and 1,200 TV shows in both standard and high definition. Movies such as "Alvin and the Chipmunks," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" and "10,000 B.C." will be available to both rent and buy.

Rentals range from $2.99 to $5.99 and users have 14 days to start watching their movie. Once the movie is started the user has 24 hours to watch it before it expires. You can purchase movies from $9.99 to $14.99. Owners will be able to transfer content from their PS3 to their PSP for watching on the go.

"LittleBigPlanet" is a first-of-its-kind game where users can customize the world that they play in. Each character has certain powers that they can use to interact with their world while solving puzzles. Once you've completed your world you can invite friends via the Playstation Network to check it out.

Sony also announced first-person shooter games "Resistance 2" and "Killzone 2," "NBA 09 The Inside," and "Buzz! Quiz TV" that includes wireless buzzers.

For those of you who desire more space, Sony will release an 80GB model for $399.99 in September.

The battle at E3 has been fought, but the war is not over for supremacy in this generation of video-game consoles. Now it is your turn to tell us who you think presented the best hardware and software during E3. What are you looking forward to playing the most?

Posted by:
Filed under: Gaming

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July 19, 2008

Fausto, Bertha, and Cristobal go into a bar....

Posted: 09:48 PM ET

And it's potentially no laughing matter.

Bertha continues to churn in the North Atlantic, after bringing power failures and heavy rain to Bermuda, and surfer-friendly waves and swimmer-unfriendly riptides to the US East Coast.  Its closest land point is Newfoundland, and it's projected to move toward Iceland in the next few days.

A disturbance that started in the Gulf of Mexico has moved into the Atlantic, and picked up strength off the Carolinas.   Cristobal will bring more high surf and heavy rains.  The National Hurricane Center projects the storm as moving along the East Coast, offshore from Nova Scotia by Tuesday.

NOAA's National Hurricane Center watches the storms.  Look out for #1, in the lower left.

NOAA's National Hurricane Center watches the storms. Look out for #1, in the lower left.

Fausto is a hurricane in the Eastern Pacific that could threaten Baja California this week.  (Sunday update:  Fausto is moving farther away from Baja, and at this point doesn't look like a threat)

But there's a system in the Caribbean, south of Jamaica and east of Honduras, that could make a name for itself.  The disturbance that meteorologists thought could grow into Hurricane Cristobal lost out on the naming race.  It's headed toward the resorts on the Yucatan coast, then into the Gulf of Mexico, where it has the potential to threaten the Texas coastline in a big way by midweek.  The next name on the list is Dolly.

To find out how hurricanes and typhoons get their names, go here.  The map links posted here are current as of Saturday Night, July 19.  To get more current maps, go to

Peter Dykstra   Executive Producer   CNN Science, Tech, & Weather

Filed under: Uncategorized

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July 18, 2008

Can a "Green Pope" Make a Difference?

Posted: 10:17 AM ET

Pope Benedict XVI admires the sky aboard a harbor cruise with youths, in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, July 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Benedict XVI continues to speak out against global warming.

200,000 pilgrims from 168 countries are in Sydney for the Church's World Youth Day.

The following is an excerpt from the the 81-year-old pontiff's speech yesterday:

"Perhaps reluctantly we come to acknowledge that there are also scars which mark the surface of our Earth: erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world's mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption."

He went on to say that care for the environment is of "vital importance for humanity".

Is this unprecedented? Have other popes addressed global warming?

The Roman Catholic Church has over a billion followers worldwide. Will this sort of public awareness campaign make a difference?

- Alex Walker, CNN Science & Technology

Posted by:
Filed under: climate change • environment • Religion

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