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This article is from the In-Depth Report Science and the Obama Administration

Obama's inauguration: Tech and enviro impact

Chomping at the bit to Twitter, text and make cell phone calls from tomorrow's inauguration? You might want to limit your expectations: telecom providers say they're expecting record wireless and Internet traffic in the nation's capital, and are asking mobile users to wait until after the big event to start tweeting and calling, lest their messages get delayed and their calls met by busy signals.

The Wireless Association, an industry trade group based in Washington, D.C., is asking people to text instead of call, because it uses less bandwidth. For the same reason, it's also recommending that folks send mobile photos and video after Barack Obama is sworn in as president.

“Despite all the industry’s efforts to increase network capacity, it’s really important for the public to understand that unusually large crowds can generate congestion and communications delays,” Steve Largent, the group's president and CEO, said in a statement. “Think of a wireless network like a highway. Even though we’re building more lanes, if millions of people jump on the road at the same time, there could be a traffic jam.”

Carriers hope to pick up more signals with radios they've added to Washington, D.C.-area cell towers, the The New York Times reports. They've added more landlines to carry the signals to network centers and brought trucks to the area to transmit those signals, too.

Twitter expects some spikes in its traffic tomorrow and is doubling its capacity, co-founder Biz Stone told the Times.

But no problem if our new prez wants to tweet or make a call during his inauguration. The president uses the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service (GETS), which gives federally approved users a guaranteed hookup, CNET notes. A special calling card designates their calls as high-priority and routes them in a way that prevents them from being blocked by congestion or network overload.

A different scientific concern—the environment—has folks wondering what kind of carbon footprint will be left by the inauguration of a president who campaigned on a green platform. The right-leaning Institute for Liberty calculates that it will surpass 575 million pounds of carbon dioxide. Among the big offenders, according to the group:

•    Some 600 private jets ferrying visitors to and from D.C. for the swearing-in ceremony and events surrounding it will produce 25.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide, and cars could create 262 million pounds.

•    Inaugural parade horses will produce more than 400 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Several inaugural balls are billing themselves as green. A gala hosted by former Vice President Al Gore will be decorated with tree seedlings and will serve organic food prepared across the street to minimize transportation-linked carbon emissions, the The New York Times reported yesterday. Organizers will recycle and compost waste.

And receptions hosted in the House of Representatives will use biodegradable containers, plates and utensils made from corn resin, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Image by Pete Souza/Change.gov

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