AmeriScan: January 21, 2003

* * *

Tax Credits Could Boost SUV Sales

WASHINGTON, DC, January 21, 2003 (ENS) - A tax credit proposed by the Bush administration would allow small business owners to purchase large sport utility vehicles (SUVs) almost for free.

One of the tax cuts included in a package proposed by President George W. Bush would increase from $25,000 to $75,000 the amount that business owners, including wealthy self employed doctors and lawyers, could claim as a tax write off if they buy a large SUV for their business use.

The so called SUV loophole, first reported yesterday by "The Detroit News," is part of a tax proposal that the administration says would help stimulate the economy by allowing a higher deduction for business equipment. The deduction was $17,500 in 1996, but was raised to $25,000 in 2003 under the Bush tax plan.

"This is a plan that says that if you are willing to take risk and invest more, that there's a benefit for doing so," Bush said when he announced his new tax initiative on January 9. "It will have a positive effect throughout our entire economy."

But environmental groups say the proposal could have a negative effect on the environment, encouraging small business owners to buy the largest SUVs available, rather than more fuel efficient, less polluting vehicles. The Internal Revenue Service defines any vehicle with a gross weight of 6,000 pounds or more as a truck, including large SUVs, and business owners can write off such trucks as necessary equipment.

But they cannot write off as equipment vehicles that do not meet that weight requirement. A business can claim a deduction for the depreciation in value that a car experiences as soon as it is driven off the lot, but the maximum deduction is just $7,660 - far less than the proposed cap on business "equipment."

Even the tax credits offered for alternative fueled cars, which qualify for a $2,000 clean vehicle deduction, do not bring the incentives for buying cars up to the level of the proposed incentives for buying large SUVs.

"Leave it to the Bush administration to try to make an even more outrageous a taxpayer rip-off that benefits the rich," Daniel Becker, director of the global warming and energy program at the Sierra Club, told the "Detroit News." "I'm sure there will be a fight over this."

* * *

World Trade Center Collapse Leaves Underwater Traces

NEW YORK, New York, January 21, 2003 (ENS) - Dust and debris deposits associated with the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center have left a distinct fingerprint on the bottom of New York Harbor, scientists have found.

The combination of the collapse of the towers, the fires that burned at the excavation site for three months after the World Trade Center attack, and the subsequent cleanup activities, released dust, debris and associated contaminants into the surrounding urban environment.

The geochemical fingerprint left by the event may lead to a better understanding of the short to medium term processes that affect the input, dispersal and fate of particles and contaminants in the lower Hudson River, the researchers believe.

"One of the tools available for finding out the fate of fine particles and contaminants released into estuarine systems is the measurement of geochemical 'tracers' that have known sources and histories of input into the system, such as those from the World Trade Center," said scientist Curtis Olsen of the University of Massachusetts at Boston (UMB).

The research is detailed in the January 21, 2003, issue of the journal "EOS," a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

The results provide new information for assessing the potential environmental and human health impact of the World Trade Center catastrophe, said Olsen. Their report could also validate sediment and contaminant transport models already developed for the lower Hudson River estuary.

The legacy of the World Trade Center attack, Olsen and his colleagues found, is recorded in New York Harbor sediments as a layer containing high concentrations of several elements, including copper, zinc, calcium and strontium. Results indicate that the deposition of World Trade Center ash, through fallout from the atmosphere, urban runoff in streams or site remediation activities, could account for all of these elevated concentrations.

The samples of ash and debris were collected near Ground Zero a week after the collapse, and sediment cores were collected on October 12, 2001, in two inactive New York Harbor slips, Pier 32 and Pier 40, along the lower West Side of Manhattan. The high levels of calcium, strontium, and sulfur concentrations found in the near surface sediments of the cores, are consistent with presence of gypsum.

Gypsum is used as drywall in building construction. Copper and zinc are also common components of building materials. The scientists observed that this near surface sediment layer also contained silica rich fibers and rods, which may reflect the input of fiberglass from ceiling tiles and other materials in the World Trade Center towers.

"We also found, unexpectedly, short lived radioactive iodine, produced for medical treatments and diagnostic procedures, in New York Harbor sediments," said Sarah Oktay of UMB, lead author of the paper. "This is most likely related to urban wastewater discharges and appears to be unrelated to the collapse of the trade center buildings."

The scientists believe that the fingerprint of the World Trade Center attack will provide a better understanding of the processes that affect the dispersal and fate of particles and contaminants in New York harbor. In the future, they plan to extend the framework of their study to determine whether the legacy of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center has been preserved in the sedimentary record of New York harbor, or resuspended and dispersed by coastal currents.

* * *

Environmental Satellites Aid Search & Rescue

SUITLAND, Maryland, January 21, 2003 (ENS) - Some of the environmental satellites launched by the U.S. have a secondary mission: helping to track vehicles and people in distress.

Thanks to satellites with search and rescue tracking capability, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) helped save 171 lives in the United States in 2002. The NOAA satellites, along with Russia's Cospas satellites, are part of an international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System known as Cospas-Sarsat.

Together, the system uses a constellation of satellites in geostationary and polar orbits to detect and locate emergency beacons on vessels and aircraft in distress and from hand-held Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs). India and the European Space Agency also provide geostationary satellites for the Cospas-Sarsat System.

"One of NOAA's missions is to protect lives and property," said NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher. "The SARSAT System is a great example of how we work to achieve that goal every day."

NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) can detect emergency distress signals in real time. The polar orbiting satellites in the system detect emergency signals as they circle the Earth from pole to pole.

The signals are sent to the Mission Control Centers, then sent to rescue forces around the world. Today there are 35 countries participating in the system.

Of the 171 rescues last year, 133 people were saved on the nation's seas, 27 in the Alaska wilderness and 11 from downed aircraft in states around the country. Of the 69 separate SARSAT rescue events, a variety took place out at sea.

Engine fires, flooding and rough seas all caused emergencies resulting in distress calls and rescues. In Alaska, stranded snowmobilers and lost persons were among those rescued.

Downed aircraft incidents included those making emergency landings. In one such incident, a Piper Supercub had flipped after landing near Glenallen, Alaska. Both the pilot and passenger were uninjured.

More than 15,000 lives have been saved worldwide since the system became operational in 1982 and almost 4,500 in the United States alone. September 2002 marked the 20th anniversary of the first Sarsat rescue.

"It is our business to save lives," said Ajay Mehta, manager of NOAA's SARSAT program. "We are an international humanitarian program whose goals and rewards are based on this premise."

The NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NOAA Satellite and Information Services) operates the SARSAT U.S. Mission Control Center in Maryland, and represents the United States in the international program by providing satellites, ground stations and the mission control center.

NOAA expects the number of worldwide rescues for 2002 will total about 1,500. Numbers will be available this spring, as countries around the world report their rescues to the international Cospas-Sarsat organization.

"The average number of distress alerts continues to rise internationally as more countries sign on to use the advantages and benefits of the Cospas-Sarsat system," said Mehta.

* * *

New Loans Available to Aid New Jersey Conservation

TRENTON, New York, January 21, 2003 (ENS) - A new conservation loan program announced today will provide loans to non-profit organizations working to preserve open space in New Jersey.

The Open Space Institute and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation have combined forces to create the New Jersey Conservation Loan Program to help protect environmentally threatened areas across the state.

The program will provide bridge loans to nonprofit groups, a somewhat new approach to the need for anti-sprawl initiatives. Many land protection deals are stymied at the eleventh hour because funding is not available at the time of closing. The Conservation Loan Program will offer a bridge loan in such situations to qualifying organizations. Most of the loans will exceed $200,000 with a low interest rate of three percent.

The $2.5 million loan fund, established through a Program Related Investment (PRI) by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, will be administered by the Open Space Institute.

"Land is being lost at a rapid rate and development deals are going through by the minute. This is why our ability to respond quickly will be critical to our success," said Robert Perry, director of the Foundation's environment and welfare of animals programs. "Our shared goal is quick and concerted action in the state of New Jersey."

Citing recent statistics from Rutgers' Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Perry added, "New Jersey is headed toward a complete buildout within 30 to 60 years. To protect our most valued open spaces, we need to think creatively about financing options for preservation efforts that are time sensitive."

The first loan extended under the new program helped the Delaware & Raritan Greenway to purchase a conservation easement on 58 acres of woodlands and stream headwaters in the Sourland Mountains. The area provides critical habitat for neotropical migratory birds that breed in the Sourlands in the Summer and winter as far south as Mexico and Costa Rica.

"We were very grateful that the OSI/Dodge fund was there when we needed it. This was a classic example of a great project that was in jeopardy due to lack of state funding at closing time," said Linda Mead, executive director of the Delaware & Raritan Greenway. "We felt passionately about protecting this important refuge, which is located near some of the state's busiest highways and increasingly threatened by development," added Mead.

The loan program marks a new strategic direction for the Open Space Institute (OSI), a New York City based conservation group. Since its founding in 1974, OSI has focused on land acquisition and protection efforts in New York's Hudson River Valley, but with this new initiative, OSI is extending its reach to the state of New Jersey.

"The statistics speak for themselves," said Joe Martens, president of OSI. "New Jersey has the highest percentage of developed land in the country, in addition to being very densely populated. As advocates for open space, we simply cannot ignore our neighbor, particularly in light of the state's valuable watersheds and wildlife habitats."

Martens added that growing demand associated with New Jersey's Green Acres program had created inevitable funding delays.

"The conservation loan program is in its true sense a bridge that will buy time," said Martens. "Immediacy - our ability to respond quickly to encroachment and sprawl - will be the measure of our success in the 21st century."

For more information, visit: http://www.osiny.org/njclp/

* * *

Recycled Plastic Forms Bridge Beams

WHARTON STATE PARK, New Jersey, January 21, 2003 (ENS) - The first all plastic vehicular bridge using unreinforced I-beams and other components made from recycled plastics is now in place in New Jersey.

The 42 foot, single lane fire equipment access bridge over the Mullica River in Wharton State Park is strong enough to support a loaded fire truck weighing 36,000 pounds.

The bridge is made from a novel composite polymer material developed at Rutgers University. Post consumer recycled polymers, such as high density polyethylene and polystyrene from consumer packaging, were used to make the tough, stiff, inexpensive structural materials, keeping these plastics out of landfills.

Neither of the constituent polymers, found in polystyrene cups and polyethylene milk jugs, would be suitable for structural use by themselves. A patented processing technology developed at the Center for Advanced Materials via Immiscible Polymer Processing (AMIPP) at Rutgers University combines the polymers to create a blended composite material with great strength.

bridge

The bridge materials started as recycled polystyrene from plastic or foam cups, and recycled polyethylene such as that found in antifreeze or milk containers. (Photo courtesy Dr. Thomas Nosker, Rutgers University)
The process melts two or more polymers together, then extrudes them to form a fine microstructure. The special properties of the material result from the development of an oriented microstructure that gives the material unexpected mechanical properties and enables it to be used for bridge I-beams, railroad ties, boardwalk substructures and decking, and numerous other applications.

The Wharton project is the first demonstration of this new bridge building technology. The bridge was designed by McLaren Engineering, a civil engineering design and consulting firm, and consists of large I-beams supported by posts with smaller I-beams spanning between the larger structures. Three-inch thick tongue and groove decking material provides the road surface.

All bridge members are fabricated from a special formulation of polyethylene and polystyrene by the Polywood Corporation. Construction was conducted by a special engineering team headed by Professors Thomas Nosker and Richard Renfree at Rutgers University.

The new bridge, completed in November 2002, is impervious to water and weathering effects, is almost indestructible, and never needs the painting or other maintenance common to steel or wooden structures. Sunlight and other natural elements help form a thin protective coating on the surface of the polymer composite, and give it a finish that blends well with the natural surroundings.

In addition to bridge I-beams, the AMIPP Center at Rutgers is working on a variety of advanced materials using similar technologies to those used on the bridge I-beams. Included are structural materials for automotive and aerospace applications, specialized membranes and catalyst supports for the chemical process industry, and biomedical materials such as a synthetic bone material that imitates real bone when implanted in the body by promoting tissue growth through a porous polymer network.

* * *

Actor Promotes Hydrogen Cars on TV, Website

LOS ANGELES, California, January 21, 2003 (ENS) - Actor Dennis Weaver is a champion of alternative fueled vehicles, and he is also about to play one on TV.

Weaver is thought to be the first actor to star in a fictitious role in a television series which parallels what he is doing in real life. Though busy in his acting career, Weaver has been crusading to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and end the importation of oil. He is promoting the use of hydrogen as an automobile fuel that would create no pollution.

The actor and his wife, Gerry, founded the non-profit Institute of Ecolonomics in 1992. Their goal is to "save the planet" from pollution, by encouraging businesses to improve the environment while still making a profit.

As Weaver writes in his Ecolonomics newsletter: "With a united effort, a hydrogen economy and total freedom from our reliance on foreign oil could be completed in three to four years."

Martha Williamson, executive producer of "Touched by an Angel," was impressed by what Weaver has been advocating. She has had a segment written to guest star Weaver as a man who perfects a method to create hydrogen economically.

On the show, the breakthrough promises to revolutionize the world of energy, and end the use of the fossil fuels that pollute the atmosphere. Titled "The Good Earth," the episode is now filming on locations around Salt Lake City, Utah.

In real life, from May 1 to 14, Weaver will be leading a caravan of non-gasoline fueled automobiles - many hydrogen or partly hydrogen propelled - from Los Angeles to Washington DC. Rallies and consciousness raising events will be held en route, where Weaver hopes to gather 100,000 anti-oil importation/pro- hydrogen signatures to present to Congress.

For more information about Weaver's campaign, "Drive To Survive 2003," visit: http://www.drivetosurvive.info

* * *

Furs Not Welcome at Genesis Awards

HOLLYWOOD, California, January 21, 2003 (ENS) - Invitations to The Seventeenth Annual Genesis Awards advise celebrities to leave their furs at home - or better yet, "on the original owners."

Honoring the news and entertainment media for producing outstanding works in television, film, print and music which increase public awareness of animal issues, the annual Genesis Awards is the only awards show of its kind. This year, the awards will be presented by the Humane Society of The United States (HSUS) on March 15, in the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California.

With an invitation that reads: "No furs, please - leave them on their original owners," celebrities will be advised to think about their choice of designer evening wear for the glitzy occasion.

"Our motto is: 'Cruelty Can't Stand the Spotlight'," said Gretchen Wyler, vice president of The HSUS Hollywood Office, chairperson of the event and executive producer of the Genesis Awards.

"Cruelty comes in many guises and we can only hope that those who are currently adorning themselves in animal skins will soon realize that fur has, and always will be, cruelty all dressed up," Wyler added.

Throughout the year, The HSUS Hollywood Office collects and evaluates a vast array of candidate material from which the awards committee, representing a diverse group of animal protection organizations, selects the winners in over 20 categories for spotlighting animal welfare issues with passion, courage, creativity and integrity. The awards are bestowed by a host of celebrity presenters.

Now in its 17th year of production and its 13th year on television, the Genesis Awards is taped and edited for a two hour television special, airing nationwide on the cable channel Animal Planet and exposing millions of viewers to animal rights and animal "wrongs."

* * *

Art Cars Promote California EcoPlates

SAN FRANCISCO, California, January 21, 2003 (ENS) - Decorated automobiles will help California to promote sales of its environmental license plates.

The California Coastal Commission and the California Tahoe Conservancy have joined forces with Black Rocket, the award winning San Francisco advertising agency, in commissioning San Francisco art car artist JeanAnnette Saulsbury to transform a used 1979 Datsun 210 into a mobile work of art as part of a new advertising campaign for ECOPLATES.com.

"My vision for the Lake Tahoe art car is one that combines art with science, and is specific and unique to the animals and landmarks of the Tahoe area," said Saulsbury.

The joint ad campaign for the Lake Tahoe and Whale Tail plates features art cars to promote the agencies' environmental license plates and ECOPLATES.com. These are official California license plates whose sales support two of California's treasures, the California Coast and Lake Tahoe.

Artist Saulsbury is using local flora and fauna to create the Lake Tahoe art car, including a scaled down fiberglass Mount Tallac with its trademark snowy cross, and many of the birds, animals and plants native to the Tahoe region.

Saulsbury is working in an open air studio in Black Rocket's parking lot at Pier 33 South in San Francisco, and expects to complete the Datsun's transformation by early February. Once transformed, the art car will be brought to Lake Tahoe for an official launch and press tour and will be featured in the Tahoe License Plate ad.

Since 1985, revenues from the sale of Lake Tahoe ecoplates have allowed the Tahoe Conservancy to carry out many important public access, soil erosion control, wildlife habitat enhancement and water quality projects.

The Whale Tail License Plate ad will feature images of "The Whale Car," an art car designed and created by artist Christian Zajac of Santa Cruz, to support sales of the California Coastal Commission's Whale Tail Plate. This plate was established in 1996 and has provided close to 1.5 million dollars in grant funding for coastal protection projects, marine education, habitat restoration and access projects.

In addition to funding its own Adopt-A-Beach Program and Coastal Cleanup Day, the Commission distributes funding from the Whale Tail Plate to nonprofit organizations, local government and schools.