Business

  • Warming pushes Western U.S. toward driest period in 1,000 years

    Study warns of unprecedented risk of drought in twenty-first century. Today, eleven of the past fourteen years have been drought years in much of the American West, including California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona and across the Southern Plains to Texas and Oklahoma. The current drought directly affects more than sixty-four million people in the Southwest and Southern Plains, and many more are indirectly affected because of the impacts on agricultural regions. A new study predicts that during the second half of the twenty-first century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions “driven primarily” by human-induced global warming.

  • Closing the high seas to fishing would benefit fish stocks without hurting industry

    The world’s high seas should be closed to fishing, argues a new study. The world’s oceans are separated into exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and the high seas. EEZs are the coastal areas that are within 200 nautical miles of maritime countries that maintain the rights to the resources in these waters. Less than 1 percent of the global landings come from fish caught only in the high seas. The bulk of the world’s fisheries actually come from fish stocks that straddle both areas.

  • Spotting, neutralizing hackers when they are already inside your systems

    Since the Internet gained popularity in the 1990s, the traditional model of cybersecurity has been to build systems and software which could keep hackers out of computers. As hackers continue to tap into complex security systems, however, some cybersecurity experts are advising companies to focus on tricking or neutralizing hackers once they have infiltrated networks, rather than spending money only on trying to keep them out.

  • Royal commission into nuclear will open a world of possibilities

    By Ben Heard and Barry W. Brook

    Discussion of nuclear energy in Australia has matured in recent years with greater focus on factual arguments, the relativity of risks and the need for robust scientific sourcing of claims. South Australia’s potential to merge prosperity, clean energy and good global citizenship can barely be overstated. Globally, there are around 240,000 metric tons heavy metal (MtHM ) in spent nuclear fuel, much of which was dug from South Australian ores. By 2040 this will be around 700,000 MtHM. Robust dry-cask storage is now a demonstrated, reliable and recognized solution for holding this material. It can be quickly, readily implemented by South Australia. Importantly, such a facility would mean the material is retrievable, to enable the extraction of further value through recycling. A secure, multinational destination for spent fuel, located in a politically and geologically stable country such as Australia, would spur more rapid expansion of current generation reactors. This would displace coal as the fuel of choice in rapidly growing economies.

  • view counter
  • Cybersecurity sector welcomes Obama’s $14 billion cybersecurity initiatives in 2016 budget

    Massachusetts cybersecurity firms applauded President Barack Obama proposed$14 billion toward cybersecurity initiatives in his 2016 budget. If approved, the federal government would spend more money on intrusion detection and prevention capabilities, as well as cyber offensive measures. Waltham-based defense contractor Raytheon, whose government clients already use the firm for its cybersecurity capabilities and expertise, believes the cybersecurity industry is expected to grow even faster in the coming years.

  • Oklahoma rejects “rush to judgment” on the connection between fracking and earthquakes

    Between 1978 to mid-2009, Oklahoma recorded one or two 3.0 or greater magnitude earthquakes. Last year the state experienced 585 earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater. Studies conducted by seismologists, including those who work with the United States Geological Survey(USGS), have attributed the spike in earthquakes to the roughly 3,200 active disposal wells, in which wastewater produced during oil and gas drilling is stored deep underground, and independent scientific studies have established the causal relationship between fracking and earthquake. Arkansas, Ohio, and Colorado have imposed temporary restrictions on fracking, while Texas and Illinois are considering similar measures – but the Oklahoma Geological Survey says that “We consider a rush to judgment about earthquakes being triggered to be harmful to state, public and industry interests.”

  • view counter
  • Texas appoints seismologist to examine wave of Irving-area quakes

    Research over decades has shown the fracking process — injecting fluid underground to release oil — has been the cause of fault slips and fractures. The fluid can often lubricate existing faults and cause them to slip. The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) has turned to David Craig Pearson to help study a series of quakes which hit the area of Irving within a span of a few days. A UT-Austin seismologist has already published a report which found that most earthquakes in Texas’s oil-rich Barnett Shale occurred within two miles of an injection well, essentially proving that some of the quakes are caused by fracking. Pearson’s appointment was not universally welcomed, as some see him as too close to industry. “I’m absolutely engaged with trying to figure out the cause of all earthquakes throughout Texas,” said Pearson. “I’m a scientists first, and a Railroad Commission employee second.”

  • Floating wind turbines bring electricity – and power generation -- to customers

    Most wind turbine manufacturers are competing to build taller turbines to harness more powerful winds above 500 feet, or 150 meters. Altaeros is going much higher with its novel Buoyant Airborne Turbine — the BAT. The Altaeros BAT can reach 2,000 feet, or 600 meters. At this altitude, wind speeds are faster and have five to eight times greater power density. As a result, the BAT can generate more than twice the energy of a similarly rated tower-mounted turbine. The BAT’s key enabling technologies include a novel aerodynamic design, making it, in effect, a wind turbine which is being lifted by a tethered balloon. In the future, the company expects to deploy the BAT alongside first responders in emergency response situations when access to the electric grid is unavailable.

  • The water industry needs to join the fight against superbugs

    By Peter Fisher and Peter Collignon

    The fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria — so-called “superbugs” — is a huge challenge, one that the World Health Organization has described as a grave global problem. The problem of antibiotic resistance is being exacerbated worldwide by the pollution of waste water with leftover drugs, providing breeding grounds for resistant bacteria and their genes. The problem can persist for years, constantly refreshed by new discharges of both drugs and of resistant bacteria themselves, shed by people and animals. It is time for the health and water industries to strike a bargain. Health professionals need to be aware of the need for pharmaceuticals to be managed as organic and persistent pollutants. Tackling hot spots in “source control” such as hospitals and clinics could make significant inroads on the amount of waste drugs entering treatment plants. The water industry should ensure that treatment plants are operating under optimal conditions and that the older ones are either replaced or upgraded.

  • Obama continues push for cybersecurity bill

    Following his remarks on cybersecurity at the 2015 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama will attenda summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protectionat Stanford Universitythis Friday. Attendees will include major stakeholders in cybersecurity and consumer financial protection issues, including executives from the financial services, telecommunications, and retail industries, as well as law enforcement officials and consumer advocates. Obama has requested $14 billion for cybersecurity initiatives in the 2016 federal budget, a 10 percent increase from 2015 budget.

  • Winter storms costly for Western economies: Aon Benfield

    Aon Benfield’s January 2015 catastrophe report reveals that a series of four powerful windstorms over a seven-day span during January in different regions of Western Europe caused economic and insured losses were expected to reach hundreds of millions of euros. The catastrophe study highlights that two separate winter weather events impacted northeastern parts of the United States during the month, caused total economic damage and losses, including business interruption, estimated at $500 million.

  • Coastal communities can lower flood insurance rates by addressing sea-level rise

    City leaders and property developers in Tampa Bay are urging coastal communities to prepare today for sea-level rise and future floods in order to keep flood insurance rates low in the future. FEMA, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program(NFIP), is increasing flood insurance premiums across the country, partly to offset losses from recent disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Cities can reduce insurance premiums for nearly all residents who carry flood coverage by improving storm-water drainage, updating building codes to reflect projected rise in sea-levels, moving homes out of potentially hazardous areas, and effectively informing residents about storm danger and evacuation routes.

  • Growing demand for cyber insurance, especially by small and mid-size businesses

    Technology startup firms are leading the way in ensuring not only the security of their customers, but their own security as well. American businesses are expected to pay $2 billion for cyber insurance premiums in 2014, a 67 percent increase from just one year earlier. More than fifty U.S. insurance carriers are now offering cyber insurance policies. Even more impressively, many of these are focusing on small and mid-size businesses.

  • More crude-oil trains means more accidents, spills

    In 2013 U.S. railroads carried more than 400,000 car loads of crude oil, a sharp increase from the 9,500 they carried in 2008. Crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale region has fueled most of the surge, and this surge has increased the potential for rail accidents. Each train carrying more than a million gallons of Bakken crude could cause damage similar to what occurred in July 2013, when a runaway train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing forty-seven people. Another derailment near Lynchburg, Virginia in April 2014, spilled about 30,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil into the James River.

  • Emergence of the Internet of Things significantly weakens privacy protection

    Researchers are urging consumers to take a proactive approach to ensure Internet privacy, particularly with companies that use and share Internet data to influence consumer behavior. They warn that privacy “approaches that rely exclusively on informing or ‘empowering’ the individual are unlikely to provide adequate protection against the risks posed by recent information technologies.”Those emerging risks include information compiled by Internet-connected appliances, cars, and health monitors.