Ever since President Eisenhower signed the 1956 law that produced our national highway system, we've been struggling to resolve the legislation's fundamental flaw: basing a revenue structure on fuel volume rather than price.
So this most recent round of foot-dragging on SAFETEA-LU, which should've been reauthorized two years ago, is not unusual. But we can't just keep on transferring money from the general treasury into the Highway Trust Fund whenever the latter threatens to dip into the red.
The administration's “second stimulus” program allocates $50 billion over six years through a National Infrastructure Bank designed to facilitate public-private partnerships, and other “innovative” financing options, but doesn't address where the money's coming from.
That's why we like House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. James Oberstar's (D-Minn.) idea: don't raise the gas tax to fund the Highway Trust Fund; instead, implement other fees, such as doubling the heavy vehicle use tax to $200 plus $44 for every 1,000 pounds the truck exceeds 55,000 pounds.Nanotechnology researchers
After analyzing 140 studies, including research by the Federal Highway Administration and Caltrans, Rice University scientists Pedro Alvarez, Jaesang Lee (now with Korea Insitute of Science and Technology's Water Environment Center in Seoul), and Shaily Mahendra (now with UCLA) believe nanotechnology can be used to build longer-lasting roads and bridges.
But like all technology, there's a potential downside.
No sweat, says Oregon State University's Frank Chaplen and Hong Liu. Simply turn sludge into energy. Coating anodes with nanoparticulate gold makes bacteria in a cathode chamber grow 20 times faster, generating electricity in the process. (Palladium and iron also work, but not as well as gold.)
Virginia Tech's Bojeong Kim and Michael Hochella Jr. proved that the silver nanoparticles that keep many consumer products bacteria-free make their way to wastewater treatment plants and from there, theoretically, into biosolids used for agricultural fertilizer. No one's determined the solubility of 5- to 20-nanometer silver, the size Kim and Hochella evaluated, compared to the element's regular size; nor has anyone determined how the treatment process may affect silver's toxicity.Lynn Waldorf
Sometimes nature is the simplest, safest, and least-expensive solution, as the Aquatics Department supervisor for St. Paul, Minn., proved by testing sphagnum moss to filter water at indoor and outdoor swimming pools. As chemical costs and turbidity levels fell, word spread that the city was using less chlorine to keep the water clean and the department brought in $100,000 more from residents than last summer.