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A modified Tesla Model X drives in the tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube - the tech entrepreneur's answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." (Robyn Beck/Pool Photo via AP)

A modified Tesla Model X drives in the tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube - the tech entrepreneur's answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." (Robyn Beck/Pool Photo via AP)


A modified Tesla Model X rests on an elevator above the pit and tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube — the tech entrepreneur's answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." (Robyn Beck/Pool Photo via AP)


The Boring Company signage is displayed at the tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube — the tech entrepreneur's answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." (Robyn Beck/Pool Photo via AP)


Elon Musk unveils underground tunnel, offers rides to VIPs

By AMANDA LEE MYERS

Associated Press

Wednesday, December 19

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube — the tech entrepreneur’s answer to what he calls “soul-destroying traffic.”

Guests boarded Musk’s Tesla Model S and rode along Los Angeles-area surface streets about a mile away to what’s known as O’Leary Station. The station, smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood — “basically in someone’s backyard,” Musk says — consists of a wall-less elevator that slowly took the car down a wide shaft, roughly 30 feet (9 meters) below the surface.

The sky slowly fell away and the surprisingly narrow tunnel emerged.

“We’re clear,” said the driver, who sped up and zipped into the tunnel when a red track light turned green, making the tube look like something from space or a dance club.

The car jostled significantly during the ride, which was bumpy enough to give one reporter motion sickness while another yelled, “Woo!”

Musk described his first ride as “epic.”

“For me it was a eureka moment,” he told a room full of reporters. “I was like, ‘This thing is going to damn well work.’”

He said the rides are bumpy now because “we kind of ran out of time” and there were some problems with the speed of his paving machine.

“It’ll be smooth as glass,” he said of future systems. “This is just a prototype. That’s why it’s a little rough around the edges.”

Later in the day, Musk emerged from the tunnel himself inside one of his cars. He high-fived guests and pumped his fists in the air before delivering a speech in the green glow of the tunnel about the technology and why it makes sense.

“Traffic is soul-destroying. It’s like acid on the soul,” he said to guests who snacked on marshmallow treats and hot dogs and hoped for a turn in the tunnel.

On Tuesday, he explained for the first time in detail how the system, which he simply calls “loop,” could work on a larger scale beneath cities across the globe. Autonomous, electric vehicles could be lowered into the system on wall-less elevators, which could be placed almost anywhere cars can go. The cars would have to be fitted with specially designed side wheels that pop out perpendicular to the car’s regular tires and run along the tunnel’s track. The cost for such wheels would be about $200 or $300 a car, Musk said.

A number of autonomous cars would remain inside the tunnel system just for pedestrians and bicyclists. Once on the main arteries of the system, every car could run at top speed except when entering and exiting.

“It’s much more like an underground highway than it is a subway,” Musk said.

The cars would have to be autonomous to work in the system but not Teslas specifically, and they would have to be electric because of the fumes from gas, Musk said.

The demo rides were considerably slower — 40 mph (64 kph) — than what Musk says the future system will run at: 150 mph (241 kph). Still, it took only three minutes to go just over a mile from the beginning to the end of the tunnel, the same amount of time it took to accomplish a right-hand turn out of the parking lot and onto a surface street even before the height of Los Angeles’ notorious rush-hour traffic.

Tuesday’s reveal comes almost two years to the day since Musk announced on Twitter that “traffic is driving me nuts” and he was “going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging.”

“I am actually going to do this,” he added in response to initial skepticism. Soon after, he began The Boring Company, tongue in cheek intentional.

For the privately funded test tunnel, Musk acquired a tunnel-boring machine that had been used in a San Francisco Bay Area project and put it down a shaft in a parking lot at the SpaceX headquarters.

Musk dismissed concerns such as the noise and disruption of building the tunnels, saying that when workers bored through the end of the test tunnel the people in the home 20 feet (6 meters) away “didn’t even stop watching TV.”

“The footsteps of someone walking past your house will be more noticeable than a tunnel being dug under your house,” he said,

The Boring Company canceled its plans for another test tunnel on Los Angeles’ west side last month after a neighborhood coalition filed a lawsuit expressing concerns about traffic and disruptions from trucks hauling out dirt during the boring process.

However, Steve Davis, head of The Boring Company, said the interest in the tunnel systems has been significant — anywhere from five to 20 calls a week from various municipalities and stakeholders.

One project Musk is planning on, known as the Dugout Loop, would take Los Angeles baseball fans to Dodger Stadium from one of three subway stations. Another would take travelers from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport. Both projects are in the environmental review phase.

Musk said he thinks the Chicago project has the most potential to open soonest and that he’s hoping an extensive network opens in Los Angeles before the city hosts the 2028 Olympics.

“Wouldn’t it be incredible if you could travel around LA, New York, D.C., Chicago, Paris, London — anywhere — at 150 mph?” Musk said. “That’d be phenomenal.”

Musk’s representatives also unveiled on Tuesday a new tunnel-boring machine they say they hope to have online soon, one that can bore four times faster than the one they’ve been using.

Musk said it took about $10 million to build the test tunnel, a far cry from the $1 billion per mile his company says most tunnels take to build.

Cost-cutting measures included improving the speed of construction with smarter tools, eliminating middlemen, building more powerful boring machines, and turning the dirt being excavated into bricks and selling them, Musk said.

The tunnel will not be open to the public for the foreseeable future, Musk said, adding that regulations wouldn’t allow for it to open widely for demo rides just yet.

Musk’s vision for the underground tunnels is not the same as another of his transportation concepts known as hyperloop. That would involve a network of nearly airless tubes that would speed special capsules over long distances at up to 750 mph (1,200 kph), using a thin cushion of air, magnetism and solar power.

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

Elon Musk to unveil underground tunnel, transport cars

By AMANDA LEE MYERS

Associated Press

Tuesday, December 18

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is set to unveil an underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday that could move people faster than subways.

Musk also plans to show off the autonomous cars that will carry people through the test tunnel, which runs about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) under the streets of Hawthorne, California, Musk’s SpaceX headquarters. He’s also planning to unveil elevators he says will bring users’ own cars from street level to the tunnel.

Tuesday’s reveal comes almost two years to the day since Musk announced on Twitter that “traffic is driving me nuts” and he was “going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging.”

“I am actually going to do this,” he added in response to initial skepticism.

So began The Boring Company, tongue in cheek intentional. Since the announcement, Musk has revealed a handful of photos and videos of the tunnel’s progress.

The tunnel, meant to be a “proof of concept,” is being used to help Musk and The Boring Company conduct research and development for a broader system in traffic-plagued Los Angeles and beyond.

One, known as the Dugout Loop , would take Los Angeles baseball fans to Dodger Stadium from one of three subway stations. Another would take travelers from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport. Both projects are in the environmental review phase.

The Boring Company canceled its plans for another test tunnel on Los Angeles’ west side last month after a neighborhood coalition filed a lawsuit expressing concerns about traffic and disruptions from trucks hauling out dirt during the boring process.

Musk has described a system in which vehicles would descend via elevators into tunnels and move on electrically powered platforms called skates. Up to 16 pedestrians and bicyclists could board autonomous vehicles also traveling on the skates as fast as 150 mph (240 kph).

“Once fully operational (demo system rides will be free), the system will always give priority to pods for pedestrians & cyclists for less than the cost of a bus ticket,” Musk tweeted in May.

For the privately funded test tunnel, Musk acquired a tunnel-boring machine that had been used in a San Francisco Bay Area project and put it down a shaft in a parking lot at the SpaceX headquarters.

Musk’s vision for the underground tunnels, known as loop, is not the same as another of his transportation concepts known as hyperloop. That would involve a network of nearly airless tubes that would speed special capsules over long distances at up to 750 mph (1,200) kph), using a thin cushion of air, magnetism and solar power.

The loop system is designed for shorter routes that wouldn’t require the elimination of air friction, according to The Boring Company.

The company says on its website that the reason such a system hasn’t been done before is that tunnels can be as expensive as $1 billion a mile to dig. But by using the skates to transport cars, which reduces the size of the tunnels needed by about half, thus reducing the cost to build them by up to four times, the company says.

The Conversation

If you recycled all the plastic garbage in the world, you could buy the NFL, Apple and Microsoft

December 18, 2018

Author

Liberty Vittert

Visiting Assistant Professor in Statistics, Washington University in St Louis

Disclosure statement: Liberty Vittert is an Ambassador for the Royal Statistical Society and a member of the Judging panel for the Statistic of the Year.

This year, I served on the judging panel for The Royal Statistical Society’s International Statistic of the Year.

On Dec. 18, we announced the winner: 90.5 percent, the amount of plastic that has never been recycled. Okay – but why is that such a big deal?

Much like Oxford English Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” competition, the international statistic is meant to capture the zeitgeist of this year. The judging panel accepted nominations from the statistical community and the public at large for a statistic they feel shines a light on today’s most pressing issues.

Last year’s winner was 69. That’s the annual number of Americans killed, on average, by lawn mowers – compared to two Americans killed annually, on average, by immigrant jihadist terrorists and the 11,737 Americans killed annually by being shot by another American. That figure, first shared in The Huffington Post, was highlighted in a viral tweet by Kim Kardashian in response to the proposed migrant ban.

This year’s statistic came into prominence from a United Nations report. The chair of the judges and RSS president, Sir David Spiegelhalter, said: “It’s really concerning that so little plastic has ever been recycled and, as a result, so much plastic waste has leached out into the world’s environment. It’s a great, growing and genuinely world problem.”

Let’s take a closer look at this year’s winning statistic. About 90.5 percent of the 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste produced since mass production began about 60 years ago is now lying around our planet in landfills and oceans or has been incinerated. If we don’t change our ways, by 2050, there will be about 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste.

When the panel first began looking at this statistic, I really didn’t have any comprehension of what billions of tons of plastic means. Based on a study from 2015 and some back of the envelope calculations, that’s the equivalent of 7.2 trillion grocery bags full of plastic as of 2018.

But again, I still didn’t quite have a feel for how much that actually is. People tend to use distance measurements to compare numbers, so I tried that. Assuming that a grocery bag of plastic is about 1 foot high, if you stacked the grocery bags, you could go to the moon and back 5,790 times. That’s starting to feel a bit more real.

In fact, if you could monetize all of the plastic trash clogging up our environment – including the 12 percent that is incinerated– you could buy some of the world’s biggest businesses.

Assuming it costs 3.25 cents to produce a plastic bottle, we can estimate that a grocery bag contains about US$1 of plastic material production. (I took a grocery bag and filled it with 31 bottles.) So 7.2 trillion grocery bags is the equivalent of a cool $7.2 trillion.

What can you buy with that? Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Walmart, Exxon, GM, AT&T, Facebook, Bank of America, Visa, Intel, Home Depot, HSBC, Boeing, Citigroup, Anheuser-Busch, all the NFL teams, all the MLB teams and all the Premier League Football teams.

In other words, if someone could collect and recycle all the unrecycled plastic on earth, this person would be richer than any individual on the planet.

One of the most difficult aspects of statistics is putting the numbers into a context that we can wrap our heads around, into a format that means something to us. Whatever it is that speaks to you, all I can say is that this speaks to me. It’s clearly time to clean up our act.

The Conversation

An Indian perspective on the Poland climate meeting: Not much help for the world’s poor and vulnerable

December 19, 2018

Author

Arun Agrawal

Professor of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Michigan

Disclosure statement

Arun Agrawal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners: University of Michigan provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

The international climate change conference that concluded in Katowice, Poland on Dec. 15 had limited ambitions and expectations – especially compared to the 2015 meeting that produced the Paris climate agreement. It will be remembered mainly for its delegates agreeing on a common “rulebook” to implement existing country commitments for reducing emissions.

The deal is vital. It keeps the new global climate regime alive. It maintains a path to deliver financial and technical assistance to vulnerable countries and peoples. Actors with quite divergent interests, including the United States, the European Union, oil producing states, China, India and small island nations all accepted a common approach to measuring progress.

But from my perspective as a social scientist focusing on conservation and international development, the technical orientation of the Katowice meeting failed to match the urgency of needed climate action. Negotiators made little progress toward deeper emissions cuts. Nor did the meeting do much to help the most vulnerable people, ecosystems and nations.

Rapid progress is needed

Delegates in Poland were simply unprepared to work toward the radical structural transformations for which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called in its special report in October 2018 on the implications of failing to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This report showed the enormous risks if average global temperatures exceed preindustrial levels by more than 1.5 degrees C. Unless the global community brings runaway emissions under control within 12 years, it will be too late to hold temperature increases within that range.

Such an undertaking requires countries, businesses and households to shift away from existing energy and transportation systems. New land use practices and diets that reduce emissions are necessary. Changes in basic social dynamics on this scale are unprecedented in human history except during times of war.

Four oil-exporting countries – Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States – prevented the delegates in Poland from officially welcoming the IPCC report. Many critics viewed this action as downplaying the report’s urgency.

India’s pivotal role

India’s high and rising greenhouse gas emissions, and the fact that some 600 million of its poorest and most vulnerable people depend on agriculture, make it a particularly important player in climate negotiations.

To keep global emissions under control, it is critical that India take meaningful and decisive actions. Bold action is also necessary to make Indian households more resilient against climate change.

India’s emissions have grown rapidly since 2000. It currently emits about 2.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, making it the world’s third largest emitter, after China – which produces about 9.5 gigatons yearly – and the United States at 5 gigatons Admittedly, India ranks far lower in terms of its per capita emissions, which place it 105th in the world.

More than two-thirds of India’s emissions are from the energy sector. Of that amount, more than 75 percent can be attributed to electricity generation.

India’s energy mix is set to improve. It is increasing reliance on renewables; it has placed a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants; and, it is attempting to improve energy use efficiency.

But without far more aggressive action, its aggregate emissions will continue to rise. This is because India needs to meet the energy needs of a growing and increasingly wealthier population. Also, over time, more Indians will gain access to energy from utilities rather than using cookstoves and open hearths.

Aid questions unresolved

In its official statement on the COP24 agreement, India praised the outcome as positive. During the meeting, delegates recognized India’s progress in meeting its commitments to reduce emissions. Renewable sources are projected to account for 40 percent of its installed electrical energy capacity by 2027, and could reach 60 percent of installed capacity by 2030.

But on at least two counts the negotiations did not meet India’s goals. First, the 2015 Paris Agreement recognized the principle of “Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capacities.” This principle highlights the historical injustice of climate emissions and inequitable use of the global atmospheric commons. It aims for richer nations to make larger emissions cuts.

At Katowice, as one official from India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change noted, India was the key country to raise this principle and the continued need to recognize it. But rich countries blocked its recognition in the Rulebook that conferees adopted.

Just as importantly, rich countries prevented advances on how to estimate financial contributions to support adaptation by vulnerable countries. Poor countries would like estimates of climate finance to be additional to current development aid. They also want climate finance to be viewed more as a response to the loss and damage suffered by poor countries rather than as aid. Absent these principles, existing foreign aid flows could easily be reclassified as a contribution to climate finance, leaving aggregate levels of support unchanged.

The Katowice agreement, however, sidesteps these concerns about climate finance by not addressing them officially in the final agreement. The one positive from the meeting is that rich country negotiators agreed to revisit the issue of scaling up financial contributions in 2025.

People are vulnerable now

The Indian government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions means very little for much of the country’s population that lives in grinding poverty. More than 600 million Indians need meaningful and decisive national action for adaptation. They also need international financial support and technology transfer commitments. Such support will help them adapt to the rising climate threats of hurricanes, floods, droughts and heat waves.

National actions and international support are necessary to help poor and vulnerable Indian households make their current livelihood strategies less climate sensitive. They can enable adults and children to learn climate-resilient skills, including artisanal production, small-scale processing and employment in the service sector.

In extreme cases, such interventions would support migration to new places less exposed to climate threats. Vulnerable households need programs and policies that make their lives more resilient. Those who have recently escaped the clutches of poverty need action so that they do not slide back.

International negotiators and India’s business and political leaders need to come up with measures that can help the poor and the vulnerable now. Households throughout the lower-income world, not just in India, need supportive efforts today. Waiting for 12 more years to launch programs for enhanced resilience will be too late for many of them.

A modified Tesla Model X drives in the tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube – the tech entrepreneur’s answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." (Robyn Beck/Pool Photo via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/12/web1_121987676-d7c7d3c26c4f45a58b162ddc10cb0272.jpgA modified Tesla Model X drives in the tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube – the tech entrepreneur’s answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." (Robyn Beck/Pool Photo via AP)

A modified Tesla Model X rests on an elevator above the pit and tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube — the tech entrepreneur’s answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." (Robyn Beck/Pool Photo via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/12/web1_121987676-7124df45ae7946b88f62f37b51401444.jpgA modified Tesla Model X rests on an elevator above the pit and tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube — the tech entrepreneur’s answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." (Robyn Beck/Pool Photo via AP)

The Boring Company signage is displayed at the tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube — the tech entrepreneur’s answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." (Robyn Beck/Pool Photo via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/12/web1_121987676-8ff1e469985c45698bf2f73e54b24db3.jpgThe Boring Company signage is displayed at the tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday, allowing reporters and invited guests to take some of the first rides in the revolutionary albeit bumpy subterranean tube — the tech entrepreneur’s answer to what he calls "soul-destroying traffic." (Robyn Beck/Pool Photo via AP)
NEWS & VIEWS

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