31 Are EVs, Plug-in Hybrids the Cars of the Future?
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I’m Shirley Griffith.
STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.
Starting this Friday, the auto industry will show off more than nine hundred of its latest vehicles at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California. The event provides a look at about fifty hybrid, electric and alternative fuel cars that could soon be available in the United States. Join us as we discuss the new kinds of cars, and what this means for the future of driving in America.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: At the beginning of the nineteen hundreds, the automobile was rare. Many early models ran on electric batteries. It was not until Henry Ford’s gas-powered
Model T that the internal combustion engine and the car became inseparable. Henry Ford had wanted to develop an electric car. But the technology of the time was not ready. Today, the same problems faced by early automobile pioneers remain. But materials are available to overcome the old problems. The result is that electric batteries and motors may finally power cars of the future. Some experts predict that five to ten percent of cars on the road in twenty twenty will be electric.
STEVE EMBER: The heart of any electric car is its battery. A battery stores electricity and makes it available for use by the motor. Partly electric cars are already common in many countries, including the United States and Japan.
Hybrid vehicles run on both electric power and gasoline. The Toyota Prius is the top selling hybrid car in the American market today. Most current hybrid cars use an internal combustion engine to drive the car and to help provide electric power that is stored in a battery. The battery then uses its stored energy to run the car at low speeds.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The race to develop electric cars and other fuel-efficient models took on greater urgency earlier this year. The Obama administration set new rules in the United States. They require two thousand sixteen model vehicles to get an average of fifteen kilometers to a liter of gasoline.
One way to raise the average fuel economy is to increase the number of electric cars on the road. And manufacturers are rushing to get electric vehicles and hybrids on the market. At this
year's LA Auto Show, many models will be on display.
STEVE EMBER: No car in recent years has been as important to a manufacturer as the Chevy Volt is to General Motors. The electric hybrid car is set to be released next year. GM plans to sell stock to the public soon -- possibly raising as much as seventeen billion dollars. GM has reported over four billion dollars in profit this year. The company suffered huge losses during the economic crisis of two thousand eight and two thousand nine. The Volt could change all that. It could be a sign that GM has recovered from the bankruptcy and restructuring it went through last year.
GM started taking orders for the Volt in July. The General Electric company has promised to buy twenty-five thousand electric vehicles. This includes one thousand Chevy Volts next year and thousands more to come.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The Volt is designed to run as an electric car for more than sixty kilometers. After that, a gasoline engine powers the car. The battery and the gas generator let the Volt travel a total of about five hundred sixty kilometers on one charge and tank of gasoline. What is different about the Volt is that its electric motor always runs the car. Gasoline is used only to generate electricity. GM engineers say they chose this design because it is ten to fifteen percent more efficient. They also used a new, lithium-ion battery that is expected to last longer than batteries in current hybrid cars.
GM is selling the Volt for about forty-one thousand dollars. This is more than two times the cost of other small GM cars. But buyers can get a seven thousand five hundred dollar tax credit from the government for buying a Volt.
In the past, fuel-efficient cars have been small cars that Americans have rejected -- at least when gasoline prices are low. High school and college students are a big market for such vehicles. But a change has taken place in the world of environmentally friendly cars. Several are sports cars. (SOUND)
STEVE EMBER: Tesla is a new carmaker based in Palo Alto, California. The company's chief executive is Elon Musk. He is also known for leading SpaceX, a space travel company. Tesla's goal is to make more affordable all-electric cars. The Tesla Roadster, however, has attracted a lot of attention for being a fast sports car that costs over one hundred thousand dollars.
Tesla cars were first offered for sale in two thousand eight. The company says there are now one thousand three hundred Roadsters being driven around the world.
The Roadster can reach speeds up to about two hundred kilometers an hour. And it releases zero pollution. It can travel almost four hundred kilometers before it needs recharging, depending on how fast it is driven.
Fisker Automotive is a new carmaker based in Irvine, California. Its costly sports car is called the Karma. Like the Chevy Volt, the Karma runs on electricity at first. Then it uses gas to power an electric motor. It also has solar panels on the roof. The company says the panels collect enough energy to extend the life of the battery charge. Fisker says the Karma travels about twenty-nine kilometers on a liter of gas and a full electric charge.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Not all new, fuel-efficient cars are electric or hybrid. Diesel engines have long been used in trucks and buses that travel long distances. Diesel fuel is more dense than gasoline. It produces more energy when it burns. High levels of sulfur in diesel made from
petroleum have meant diesel engines produce a strong smell. Newer, more refined diesel solves this problem.
Don Hillebrand is the director of transportation research at the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, Illinois. His team of engineers works on new diesel technology. He says until recently, American car makers have not offered many diesel cars in the United States.
DON HILLEBRAND: "Many of the American-based companies make outstanding diesel engines, but they only sell them overseas. They don't actually sell them in North America." Don Hillebrand also says diesel can help in lowering the use of carbon-based fuels. DON HILLEBRAND: "The diesel can give you an extra thirty percent fuel economy, which is a substantial amount of carbon reduction and a substantial amount of cost savings." The Ford Motor Company makes diesel vehicles for the European market and could sell them in the United States. And GM has said it will manufacture a diesel passenger vehicle for the American market soon.
STEVE EMBER: Yet, gasoline engines remain the most common in passenger vehicles in the United States and are expected to remain so. Some manufacturers are pushing cars to new levels of fuel efficiency.
GM is offering the Chevrolet Cruz Eco. It has a gas-powered engine that is more fuel efficient than most hybrid models. The car travels about seventeen kilometers on a liter of gas. And then there is extreme fuel efficiency. The Edison2 is an experimental car that was one of the winners of the ten-million-dollar Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize. The prize was given to teams that could design a vehicle that could travel one hundred miles or more on one gallon of gas. That is at least forty-three kilometers a liter.
Oliver Kuttner led the Edison2 team. He says electric cars have a problem with weight. He says their batteries weigh too much. He believes very light-weight cars are more efficient than electric cars can ever be. The Edison2 car uses E85 fuel that is mostly ethanol, a form of alcohol. SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: But all-electric cars that the public can afford to buy are no longer something for the distant future. Japanese carmaker Nissan has said it will offer its LEAF for sale next month.
The LEAF has no gas engine. It runs completely on stored electric power. The company has not released exact performance details. But Nissan says the LEAF will run for about one hundred sixty kilometers between charges. The company says ninety-five percent of drivers travel fewer than one hundred sixty kilometers a day.
The Chevy Volt and the Nissan LEAF are among five cars competing for the 2011 Green Car of the Year award. The other finalists are the Ford Fiesta, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. The prize is given by Green Car Magazine which has been writing about cars, energy and the environment for eighteen years. The winner will be announced at the LA Auto show on Friday.
STEVE EMBER: This program was written and produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember. SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I'm Shirley Griffith. Go to voaspecialenglish.com for pictures and MP3s of our programs. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and iTunes at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.
32 China Passes India as Top Country Sending Students to US
This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
This week, the Institute of International Education in New York published its yearly report on international students in the United States. The report says more than six hundred ninety thousand attended American colleges and universities during the last academic year.
That number was a record high. It was an increase of three percent from the year before. But it was mainly the result of heavy growth from one country, China. China passed India as the top country sending students to the United States.
The president of the institute, Allan Goodman, says the economic crisis could have limited growth from other countries.
ALLAN GOODMAN: "Rates of increase for international students coming to America were a little bit slower in the last year and we think that reflects the global recession. And the number of Americans studying abroad declined a little bit. So we think that these flows are sensitive to things like wars, revolutions, recessions and natural disasters."
The Institute of International Education publishes its report called "Open Doors" with support from the State Department. The latest report is for the academic year that ended this past June. It says China sent more than one hundred twenty-seven thousand students. That was an increase of thirty percent over the previous year.
India was the top sending country for eight years. But last year it was in second place, followed by South Korea. Among the top sending countries, Japan showed the greatest decrease -- a drop of fifteen percent.
For a ninth year, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles reported the largest number of foreign students -- nearly eight thousand.
The most popular field of study for international students in the United States is business and management, followed by engineering.
But the report noted a nine percent decrease for intensive English-language programs. Allan Goodman says the reason may have been the recession. He says English-language training is often the most costly part for students beginning their studies.
But Mr. Goodman pointed to an increase in another area: the number of foreign students at the undergraduate level.
ALLAN GOODMAN: "Traditionally, study in America has been overwhelmingly at the graduate level. And in the past several years we've begun to see almost an equal interest by families in sending students here for undergraduate education, and I think that’s going to continue because America is really a unique country. We have four thousand accredited colleges and universities. International students make up only about three percent of our total enrollment." What that means, he says, is that there is a lot of room for growth.
And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Lawan Davis. I'm Steve Ember.
33 American History: Wilson Urges Support for Idea of League of Nations
BOB DOUGHTY: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA
After the end of World War One, President Woodrow Wilson sought national support for his idea of a League of Nations. He took his appeal directly to the American people in the summer of nineteen nineteen.
This week in our series, Tony Riggs and Frank Oliver continue the story of Wilson's campaign. TONY RIGGS: The plan for the League of Nations was part of the peace treaty that ended World War One. By law, the United States Senate would have to vote on the treaty. President Wilson believed the Senate would have to approve it if the American people demanded it. So he went to the people for support.
For almost a month, Wilson traveled across America. He stopped in many places to speak about the need for the League of Nations. He said the league was the only hope for world peace. It was the only way to prevent another world war.
Wilson's health grew worse during the long journey across the country. He became increasingly weak and suffered from severe headaches. In Witchita, Kansas, he had a small stroke. A blood vessel burst inside his brain. He was forced to return to Washington.
FRANK OLIVER: For a few days, President Wilson's condition improved. Then, his wife found him lying unconscious on the floor of his bedroom in the White House. Wilson had lost all feeling in the left side of his body. He was near death.
The president's advisers kept his condition secret from almost everyone. They told reporters only that Wilson was suffering from a nervous breakdown.
For the next few days, the medical reports from the White House were always the same. They said Mister Wilson's condition had not changed.
People began to wonder. Were they being told the truth. Some people began to believe that the president was, in fact, dead. Vice President Thomas Marshall was worried. If the president died or could not govern, then he – Marshall -- would become president. But even Vice President
Marshall could get no information from Wilson's doctors.
TONY RIGGS: After several weeks, the president seemed to get a little stronger. He was still very weak. He could not work, except to sign several bills. This simple act took most of his strength.
Wilson's wife Edith guarded her husband closely. She alone decided who could see him. She alone decided what information he could receive. All letters and messages to Woodrow Wilson were given first to Edith Wilson. She decided if they were important enough for him to see. Most, she decided, were not. She also prevented members of the cabinet and other government officials from communicating with him directly.
Mrs. Wilson's actions made many people suspect that she -- not her husband -- was governing the country. Some spoke of her as the nation's first woman president.
FRANK OLIVER: There was one issue Mrs. Wilson did discuss with her husband: the League of Nations.
The Senate was completing debate on the Treaty of Versailles. That was the World War One peace agreement that contained Wilson's plan for the league. It seemed clear the Senate would reject the treaty. Too many Senators feared the United States would lose some of its independence and freedom if it joined the league.
The leader of Wilson's political party in the Senate, Gilbert Hitchcock, headed the administration campaign to win support for the treaty. He received Mrs. Wilson's permission to visit her husband. Hitchcock told the president the situation was hopeless. He said the Senate would not approve the treaty unless several changes were made to protect American independence. If the president accepted the changes, then the treaty might pass.
TONY RIGGS: Wilson refused. He would accept no compromise. He said the treaty must be approved as written.
Senator Hitchcock made one more attempt to get Wilson to reconsider. On the day the Senate planned to vote on the treaty, he went back to the White House. He told Mrs. Wilson that compromise offered the only hope for success.
Mrs. Wilson went into the president's room while Hitchcock waited. She asked her husband: "Will you not accept the changes and get this thing settled?" He answered: "I cannot. Better a thousand times to go down fighting than to surrender to dishonorable compromise."
FRANK OLIVER: The Senate voted. Hitchcock's fears proved correct. The treaty was defeated. The defeat ended Wilson's dream of American membership in the League of Nations. Mrs. Wilson gave the news to her husband. He was silent for a long time. Then he said: "I must get well."
Woodrow Wilson was extremely sick. Yet he was not the kind of man who accepted opposition or defeat easily. From his sick bed, he wrote a letter to the other members of the Democratic Party. He urged them to continue debate on the League of Nations. He said a majority of Americans wanted the treaty approved.
Wilson probably was correct about this. Most Americans did approve of membership in the League of Nations. But they also wanted to be sure membership would not restrict American independence.
TONY RIGGS: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed to re-open discussion on the treaty. It searched yet again for a compromise. It made new efforts to get Wilson to accept some changes.
But, as before, Wilson refused. He was a proud man. And he thought many of the Senators were evil men trying to destroy his plan for international peace.
Wilson's unwillingness to compromise helped kill the treaty once and for all. The Senate finally voted again, and the treaty was defeated by seven votes. The treaty was dead. The United States would never enter the League of Nations. And one of the most emotional and personal stories in the making of the American nation had ended.
FRANK OLIVER: The long battle over the Treaty of Versailles ended with political defeat for Woodrow Wilson. Yet history would prove him correct.
Wilson had warned time and again during the debate that a terrible war would result if the world did not come together to protect the peace. Twenty years later, war came. The First World War had been called 'the war to end all wars'. But it was not. And the Second World War would be far more destructive than the first.
TONY RIGGS: The debate over the Treaty of Versailles was the central issue in American politics during the end of Woodrow Wilson's administration. It also played a major part in the presidential election of nineteen twenty.
Wilson himself could not be a candidate again. He was much too sick. So the Democratic Party nominated a former governor of Ohio, James Cox. Cox shared Wilson's opinion that the United States should join the League of Nations. He campaigned actively for American membership. The Republican Party chose Senator Warren Harding as its candidate for president. Harding campaigned by promising a return to what he called 'normal times'. He said it was time for America to stop arguing about international events and start thinking about itself again.
FRANK OLIVER: The two presidential candidates gave the American people a clear choice in the election of nineteen twenty.
On one side was Democrat James Cox. He represented the dream of Woodrow Wilson. In this dream, the world would be at peace. And America would be a world leader that would fight for the freedom and human rights of people everywhere.
On the other side was Republican Warren Harding. He represented an inward-looking America. It was an America that felt it had sacrificed enough for other people. Now it would deal with its own problems.
Warren Harding won the election.
TONY RIGGS: The results of the election shocked and hurt Woodrow Wilson. He could not understand why the people had turned from him and his dream of international unity and peace. But the fact was that America was entering a new period in its history. For a long time, it would turn its energy away from the world beyond its borders.
That will be our story next week.
BOB DOUGHTY: Our program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Tony Riggs and Frank Oliver.
You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and images at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- an American history series in VOA Special English.
34 On Stage: The Great American Novel, All of It, In 'Gatz'
DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson.
This week we play music from winners of the Country Music Association awards ... And answer a question about the military academy West Point ...
But first, a report on an unusual stage production in New York of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous book.
DOUG JOHNSON: Some theater goers in New York City are experiencing an unusual stage production at the Public Theater. The theatrical group Elevator Repair Service is performing “Gatz,” a reading of the great American novel, “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Faith
Lapidus tells about this six-hour play and how the actors read every word of the book while keeping viewers interested.
FAITH LAPIDUS: The Elevator Repair Service created “Gatz” and began performing it in two thousand five. It is the company’s best known work. “Gatz” has played in many American cities
and also overseas. Theater goers have seen the play in Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Austria, Belgium and other places.
However, the members of Elevator Repair Service had been wanting for years to perform the play in New York, where the company is based. They had sought permission from the F. Scott Fitzgerald estate which owns the rights to the writer’s works. Finally, they received permission.
John Collins is the director of “Gatz.” He has not missed a single performance. He has heard the
forty-nine thousand words of the novel countless times. Mr. Collins said he was not sure when he started the project if the production would include each word. But then, he told a reporter, he realized that “The Great Gatsby” was a novel in which every word was necessary.
“Gatz” has thirteen cast members. Scott Shepherd plays Nick Carraway, the lead character. He
also narrates most of the novel. The show opens in an office of a small business. An employee finds a copy of “The Great Gatsby” and begins to read it aloud.
Slowly, other workers begin to take part in the events that happen in the book.
“The Great Gatsby” is set in the nineteen twenties in New York City and on Long Island. It is a story about success and what one must do to gain it. It is a story about appearance and reality, love, hate, loyalty and disloyalty.
“The Great Gatsby” was published in nineteen twenty-five. It was not as successful as
Fitzgerald’s other books during his lifetime. However, it is now considered one of the greatest
modern American novels.
You can hear more about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life and work Sunday on the Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA.
DOUG JOHNSON: This week our listener question comes from Xian, China. Meng Cheng wants to know about the famous military school known as West Point.
West Point, New York, is a small town about eighty kilometers north of New York City. It is the home of the United States Military Academy. Many people speak of the academy as simply “West Point.”
It was formed in eighteen-oh-two when Thomas Jefferson was president. It is the oldest of the five military colleges in the United States. It also is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the United States. This four-year school has about four thousand four hundred students, or cadets. Both men and women study here before joining the United States Army. After graduation, they are given the rank of second lieutenant.
It is difficult to become a student at West Point. Only about fifteen percent of students who apply are accepted. High school seniors must have very good grades. They also must be nominated by a member of the United States Congress or by the president of the United States. Each year about one thousand new students are chosen. They do not have to pay for their education. All student costs are paid by the United States Army. But the students must agree to serve actively in the Army for at least five years after finishing their studies. West Point also accepts a limited number of international students. After graduation they return to their home countries to serve in their country’s army.
Cadets can take classes in more than forty subject areas. The most popular are foreign languages, management information systems, history, economics and mechanical engineering. The cadets are required to take physical fitness courses. Most of them are also members of sports teams. An important part of a student’s life at West Point concerns the honor code. It says: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.” This code is enforced both in and out of the classroom.
The students and teachers at the United States Military Academy are proud of their history. Two presidents of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower, graduated from West Point. Many famous generals, astronauts and business leaders have also studied at the academy. CMA Awards
DOUG JOHNSON: The Country Music Association held its yearly awards program last week. We play music from some of the winners and Mario Ritter tells about them.
MARIO RITTER: Miranda Lambert was a big winner at the Country Music Association Awards.
She won the Music Video of the Year award for that song, “The House that Built Me.” It also won Song of the Year. Lambert also received the Female Vocalist of the Year award and Album of the Year for her CD, “Revolution.”
Miranda Lambert’s boyfriend, Blake Shelton, won Male Vocalist of the Year. The singer-songwriter also won for Musical Event of the Year for his hit song “Hillbilly Bone.”
Country music star Trace Adkins performs with him.
Lady Antebellum won the award for Vocal Group of the Year. Its album, “Need You Now,” was also nominated for Album of the Year but did not win. However, the title track did win the C.M.A. award for Single of the Year.
Country star Brad Paisley was one of the two hosts of the awards ceremony held last week in Nashville, Tennessee.The Country Music Association also honored him with the biggest award of the night. He won the Entertainer of the Year award for the first time. We leave you with Brad Paisley performing, “Then,” from his latest studio album, “American Saturday Night.”
DOUG JOHNSON: I’m Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Jim Tedder and Caty Weaver,
who also was our producer.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.
35 Groups Offer Ideas to Cut US Deficits
This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
Continuing debt problems in Greece and Portugal. The banking crisis in Ireland. A trillion-dollar deficit in the United States. These are all reasons why high levels of public debt are a big worry around the world.
Countries that keep spending a lot more than they earn may not be able to repay their debts. That risk of default can make it harder and costlier for them to borrow more money. Heavy debt can also affect a country's competitiveness.
Voter anger at government spending and taxes helped lead to the big Republican gains in America's elections this month.
President Obama says for the economy to improve, the government must cut spending and reduce