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Chuck Schumer Proposes $454 Billion Plan to Swap Gas Guzzlers for Electric Vehicles

Politics
Chuck Schumer Proposes $454 Billion Plan to Swap Gas Guzzlers for Electric Vehicles
Electric cars are parked at the Computer History Museum during the Tesla annual shareholders meeting in Mountain View, California on June 3, 2014. Steve Jurvetson / CC BY 2.0

The Senate's top Democrat, Charles Schumer of New York, proposed on Thursday a $454 billion 10-year plan to boost the sale of electric vehicles and reduce the number of gasoline-powered cars. His plan would offer cash vouchers to entice Americans to trade in their internal combustion engine car for a car that runs on hybrid, electric or hydrogen fuel cells, according to Reuters.


Schumer said in a statement that his plan would offer rebates of $3,000 or more to individual buyers, to help transition nearly one-fourth of the U.S. car and light-truck fleet, or 63 million vehicles, to cleaner technology over the next decade, as Reuters reported.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Schumer touted his plan for "its ability to unite the American environmental movement, the American labor movement and large automakers. It has already earned the support of climate groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters; labor unions like the United Automobile Workers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and car manufacturers like Ford and General Motors."

"We need to act urgently and ambitiously, which will require building diverse coalitions of political support," Schumer said.

His plan, if ever enacted, would take a significant chunk of carbon emissions out of the atmosphere. Automobiles are America's largest producer of planet-warming emissions, according to The New York Times.

To reduce vehicular emissions, the U.S. car fleet will need to be overhauled. In the U.S., nearly half of all car sales are SUVs, which over the last decade have emitted more greenhouse gases than planes and ships combined, according to recent research from International Energy Agency (IEA), as CBS News reported.

From 2010 to 2018, "SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector, but ahead of heavy industry (including iron and steel, cement, aluminum), as well as trucks and aviation," the IEA reported.

Schumer's plan is far less ambitious than the Green New Deal, which would overhaul the country's infrastructure and economy in an attempt to stop the climate crisis. It also stands little chance of passing in a Republican-led senate, according to The New York Times.

However, it does make a strategic move as the 2020 campaign season ramps up to appeal to a broad coalition from environmentalists to autoworkers in crucial Midwest states.

The plan would "reduce the number of carbon-emitting cars on the road, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and accelerate the transition to net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century," Schumer said, as Reuters reported.

Schumer's plan has three parts. The first is $392 billion in vouchers for Americans to trade in their current car for a zero-emissions vehicle that is manufactured in the U.S. The second part is $45 billion earmarked for cities and states to build charging stations so the infrastructure to power an electric vehicle is more widely available. Finally, the third part is $17 billion given to auto manufacturers to overhaul their factories to enable them to manufacture hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles, as The New York Times reported.

"The goal of the plan, which also aims to spur a transformation in American manufacturing, is that by 2040 all vehicles on the road should be clean," Schumer wrote in his op-ed in The New York Times.

American automobile makers and workers lauded the proposal.

General Motors praised the effort to "advance electrification through much-needed infrastructure investments, consumer incentives and promotion of American electric vehicle manufacturing," as Reuters reported.

Reuters also reported that United Auto Workers President Gary Jones said in a statement that the Schumer proposal "honors the sweat and sacrifice of American autoworkers by investing in domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles and incentivizing high quality jobs across the auto supply chain."

Now, the question remains what the future of the proposal will be in a Republican-controlled Senate and with a president hostile to advancing environmental initiatives.

"If this were something that Congress could pass, it could make a difference," said Kevin Book, an analyst with ClearView Energy Partners, a nonpartisan Washington research firm, to The New York Times. "The question is whether it could ever pass."

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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