Joe notes this piece talking about wikileaks and Canadian tar sands - the Obama Administration is not taking global warming seriously ... but that isn't terribly surprising.
A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks has revealed that a U.S. diplomat warned the Obama administration about significant environmental impacts stemming from Canada's controversial tar sands oil production program.
The language in the cable contradicts recent statements by U.S. State Department officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that underplay the environmental impacts of tar sands oil while defending a proposed pipeline that would bring the extremely polluting oil from Canada to the U.S.
In the January 2009 cable, which was prepared for President Obama and Secretary Clinton in advance of the president's first trip to Canada, the diplomat states that Canada has "keen sensitivity over the higher environmental footprint of oil from western Canada's oil sands." The diplomat goes on to warn the president that among Canadian officials there is "concern about the implications for Canada of your energetic calls to develop renewable energies and reduce our reliance on imported oil."
This candid admission of the impacts of tar sands oil production, which results in three times more global warming pollution than production of conventional oil, differs markedly from the description of tar sands oil given by the State Department in public documents.
In its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared to analyze the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would pump tar sands oil from Canada through six U.S. states to refineries in Texas, the State Department claims that tar sands oil is "similar" to other oils and that the impact of increasing reliance on tar sands oil "would be minor." Despite the fact that her agency is still completing its final EIS, Secretary Clinton has stated that she is "inclined" to approve the pipeline.
Someone wrote in asking if I knew anything about the Rhodes Car. I don't other than I have seen one in a retirement community. They strike me as very heavy and probably only suited to suburban travel, but more power to them if they can make a dent in car use somewhere as well as improving someone's fitness.
Other attempts have been made to work out a more of less conventional platform human powered vehicle - the Animas Quadracycle is a more sophisticated example, but it is a one-off that would be very expensive to duplicate in small numbers. If they could convince a Chinese manufacturer to make them in the tens of thousands it is probably a few thousand dollars, but finding demand would be difficult.
Velomobiles are probably a better answer. Usually three wheeled and often surprisingly light, they have aerodynamic bodies and on level ground can be faster than conventional bicycles. They have a bit of popularity in Northern Europe, but we're talking about the low thousands. The Mango is a good example. The big issues that prevent them from growing in popularity are a very high price, difficulty in mixing with conventional bike traffic on bike paths (they tend to be faster) and difficultly finding parking spots. Price is coming down - this Australian design looks promising and volume production in China would dramatically reduce the price.
If people were seriously interested in capping speed limits in regions, velomobiles and electrically assisted variants could dramatically reduce energy use for certain class of travel.
One of the reasons for going to a velomobile, apart from a bit of weather protection and a place to stuff cargo, is the much lower aerodynamic drag. Given a 95 kg bike+ rider with a CdA of 0.5 m2 and a Crolling resistance of 0.005 and a 115 kg velomobile with the same rolling resistance and a CdA of 0.1 m2, you get the following (drivetrain losses are only a few percent on each and both of the CdAs are typical). A A rider can easily supply 100 watts* and a 200 or 300 watt augmentation gives more speed than you probably want on a velomobile.
It could be practical in many areas for much of the year and reasonably inexpensive given volume production, but I would imagine it is politically impossible in countries like the US where it seems important to be very inefficient by using one type of vehicle for all types of ground travel.
* Colleen can leisurely do about 13 mph burning 31 kcal on indigo blaze - about 470 watts. A person is about 20% efficient on this type of bike, so roughly 100 watts of power...