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Bad Storm in San Francisco; Controversial Plans for Building Canal in Nicaragua; Batteries to Drive Cars

Aired December 12, 2014 - 04:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN ANCHOR: Fridays are awesome. The undisputed king of weekdays. I`m Carl Azuz. We are starting today`s commercial free coverage

on the West Coast where wind gusts in the Sierra Nevada Mountains have been as high as 147 miles per hour. That`s hurricane force. Where seven foot

waves have been reported on Lake Tahoe, where as much as 14 inches of rain has fallen near San Francisco. It is a monster of a storm. One of the

strongest to hit the area since 2008.

Ferry services have been canceled, schools around the San Francisco Bay Area have been closed. A stream of moist air has flowed to the region from

Hawaii. It`s effecting California, Oregon and Washington.

You`d think rain would be good for California in the middle of its historic drought, but so much rain in so little time on such dry ground can bring

serious flooding. And there`s a blizzard warning in parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Students, please remember, Sierra Nevada Mountains. It`s an answer to the weekly news quiz at our website. Teachers, you can buy in that news quiz

on today`s transcript page. It`s totally free, we put one together for you every week on Friday. It`s a great way to quiz your classes` recall of

topics we`ve covered or to offer extra credit. Why not? At, just click under transcript and "Roll Call." Ten news

quiz questions are waiting for you there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time for "The Shoutout." Managua is the capital of what Central American nation? If you think you know it, shout it out. Is

it Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica or Nicaragua? You`ve got three seconds, go!

You`d find Managua in Nicaragua, a nation located between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. That`s your answer and that`s your "Shoutout."

AZUZ: That location is key. They country`s government is hoping to build a canal, a manmade waterway between those two seas. Nicaragua is a few

hundred miles from Panama, where a canal already exists. Why does Nicaragua want one? Well, the government says building it would create

50,000 jobs, significantly helping Central America`s poorest country.

It`s planned canal would be wider and deeper than Panama`s, but thousands of people are protesting the plans. Many are concerned their land would be

taken away to build it and that they wouldn`t be paid fairly for that. Their concerns aren`t the only ones about the project.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Panama Canal may be getting some competition, at least if Nicaraguan government gets its wish. If all goes as planned,

construction on a giant transoceanic canal across Nicaragua will begin as soon as next month. Chinese investment firm, HKND group is leading the

project. The planned route is 172 miles long, more than three times the length of the Panama Canal. It comes with the promise of economic

benefits, but many questions remain unanswered. Like who is going to foot the bill for the $50 billion project.

RICHARD FEINBERG, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: There`s no sense - and I want to underscore no sense as to where this 50 billion would come


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens to farmers and indigenous communities along the canal route, and what risks are posed to the country`s drinking

water? The planned canal cuts through Lake Nicaragua, their primary fresh water reservoir.

FEINBERG: That`s what we need to see more studies on to really have a good sense as to just how severe the damage would be, what it would cost to

mitigate some of those damages, how much money would be paid to those persons or companies that are adversely affected.

All this fundamental information has yet to be released by the government or the Chinese company.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Despite the concerns, developers stand by the project.

ZHU XIAOYA, HKND GROUP (through translator): Some voices have doubt and even though right opposition have emerged out there, we want to express our


TELEMARCO TALAVERA, NICARAGUAN CANAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT (through translator: We are saying that all the people who have not gotten the

proper information, we are convinced, they will be in agreement with these project, because it is for their benefit as well. We will talk with each

one of them, with every community, with every property owner or home owner, et cetera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Others are more skeptical: will this actually help the economy. Is there a need for two canals in the same region? What if the

money runs out? All questions perhaps better answered before the project begins.


AZUZ: We`ve got our rollout, and we are not afraid to call it. We are going to start in the Philippines. Brand International School Subic, great

to see you today watching from Subic Bay Freeport Zone. To the Lone Star State. Let`s give it Texasize, welcome to Amarillo High School, the

Sandies (ph) are in Amarillo. And riding north of there to the Cowboy state Johnson Junior High School is on our roll. We found the firebirds in

Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The battery is something we don`t think much about unless it`s about to go dead. Technically speaking, it`s a device that converts chemical energy

into electrical energy. It was discovered in the late 1700 by Italian physicist Alessandro Volta. But though it`s come a long way since then, it

doesn`t have every advantage when it comes to power.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lightning in a bottle. That`s the battery. Corked and on demand. But for all the talk that batter powered cars are our

future, why aren`t we driving them? Think about it. What are the batteries you use every day? The rechargeable lithium ion ones, right?

The ones in your phone or computer. People are obsessed with how long these last. But car batteries, who`s pushing for them to last longer?

The battery-powered car with the longest range in the U.S. is the $80,000 Tesla S. That lasts about 265 miles before needing to recharge.

The second longest, the $30,000 Nissan Leaf, last about 84 miles. The average range of a gas-powered Toyota Camry, 476 miles at a sticker price

under $25,000.

For all the talk of being efficient and ecofriendly, gas-power still wins on what matters most for people: price.

That`s because car batteries are expensive. And while Elon Musk claims his plan the gigafactory will mass produce lithium ion car batteries, and lower

their costs by 30 percent, will that be enough to power our driving future?

Maybe in the short term, but some researchers believe that in order to be truly transformative, batteries need to evolve into something completely


Enter the concept stage. Batteries on a whole new level. One idea calmly called the air battery. Swaps heavy, expensive battery metals for highly

reactive and totally free oxygen.

Another battery, that`s too big for a car, repurposes unused electricity from the power grid. It`s called a flow battery. And as the name

suggests, this battery uses the liquid flows to generate power. Both kinds of batteries have a long way to go before they are on commercial use. Air

batteries need better recharging capabilities, and flow batteries need cheaper organic materials to make them cost effective. But researchers are

hopeful ideas like this will pan out.

To have transformative innovation, researchers say the push and demand must come from buyers, but we don`t see that yet. Sure, carmakers are selling

electric-only vehicles, but their sales are a small share of the automotive pie. The question is, will that piece get big enough for a shift in the

auto world? From home to hearing aids to cars, maybe even planes. Batteries are an will continue to energize the future, but will they power

the future of travel?


AZUZ: You know dasher and dancer - I`m not going to sing. You know Donner and Blitzen, too. How about Nemo? Just south of the North Pole, in

corporos (ph) Christie, Texas, Santa Claus has suited up and dived down to bring a little Christmas cheer or at least fish food to all the good little

cold-blooded aquatic vertebrates. They might have been threatened with sand and seaweed in their stockings, but they are big fins of Santa and no

one got bitten or hooked at the Texas state aquarium. He swam to his sleigh, to his school, blew some bubbles in a way they all floated through

the aquatic tubble. But I heard him gurgle through the water to me. Happy Christmas to all on land and at sea. It was Santastic.

CNN STUDENT NEWS is back next week.