September 8, 2013 in Nation/World

In brief: Rent a car, skip cost of gas with Orlando electric come-on

From Wire Reports
 

Orlando, Fla. – Visitors to Orlando often try new things while on vacation: thrilling roller coasters, luxury hotels, different cuisines.

Now they can try out a fully electric car – and not have to pay for gas during their vacation.

Under a new program called Drive Electric Orlando, anyone who rents one of 15 Nissan Leaf cars from Enterprise Rent-A-Car will be able to charge the car for free. There are about 300 charging stations in the greater Orlando area, with many located at hotels, near theme parks and even downtown outside of City Hall.

“This is a first of its kind. This is groundbreaking,” said Robbie Diamond, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Electrification Coalition, a group that worked with Enterprise, several hotels, corporations and local officials to organize the program.

The group, whose aim is to get more people behind the wheel of electric cars, is made up of business executives, including some from Nissan – which means they have an interest in marketing the rental cars in hopes of courting future buyers.

“Our hope is that it’s a revolutionary project – once we get people in the car, we’re confident that the technology will sell itself,” Diamond said.

Scientists assess damage from Yosemite-area fire

Sacramento, Calif. – As a gigantic wildfire in and around Yosemite National Park entered its fourth week Saturday, environmental scientists moved in to begin assessing the damage and protecting habitat and waterways before the fall rainy season.

Members of the federal Burned Area Emergency Response team were hiking the rugged Sierra Nevada terrain even as thousands of firefighters still were battling the blaze, now the third-largest wildfire in modern California history.

Federal officials have amassed a team of 50 scientists, more than twice what is usually deployed to assess wildfire damage. With so many people assigned to the job, they hope to have a preliminary report ready in two weeks so remediation can start before the first storms, said Alex Janicki, the Stanislaus National Forest BAER response coordinator.

Team members are working to identify areas at the highest risk for erosion into streams, the Tuolumne River and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, San Francisco’s famously pure water supply.

The wildfire started in the Stanislaus National Forest on Aug. 17 when a hunter’s illegal fire swept out of control and has burned 394 square miles of timber, meadows and sensitive wildlife habitat.

It has cost more than $89 million to fight, and officials say it will cost tens of millions of dollars more to repair the environmental damage alone.

About 5 square miles of the burned area is in the watershed of the municipal reservoir serving 2.8 million people. So far the water remains clear despite falling ash, and the city water utility has a six-month supply in reservoirs closer to the Bay Area.

World’s new skyscrapers are tall, but only to a point

Chicago – Tall buildings just aren’t what they used to be.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has released a report noting that the developers of many new super-skyscrapers have been sticking huge, “useless” needles on top of them so they can be marketed as being among the world’s tallest.

The trend means that many towers now appearing on lists of super-tall buildings actually have fewer usable floors and lower roofs than the old behemoths they are knocking out of the top ranks.

New York City’s unfinished One World Trade Center is listed as being among the top offenders, thanks to the 408-foot needle installed on its roof, but it’s hardly the worst in terms of “vanity height.”

The entire top 40 percent of Dubai’s Burj Al Arab is purely decorative.

The Chicago-based council, which is seen as a leading authority on skyscrapers, says 44 of the world’s 72 tallest buildings got over the symbolic 300-meter mark by adding a decorative spire.


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