Business

  • The price tag of the 2° climate target

    Addressing climate change will require substantial new investment in low-carbon energy and energy efficiency — but no more than what is currently spent on today’s fossil-dominated energy system. To limit climate change to 2° Celsius, low-carbon energy options will need additional investments of about $800 billion a year globally from now to mid-century, according to a new study, but much of that capital, however, could come from shifting subsidies and investments away from fossil fuels and associated technologies. Worldwide, fossil subsidies currently amount to around $500 billion per year.

  • Syrian Electronic Army’s attack on Reuters makes a mockery of cyber-security (again)

    One big security issue that has arisen lately concerns control of news media. National boundaries have become blurred on the Internet, and the control any nation can have over information dissemination has been eroded — on news Web sites but especially on open platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. One lesson from all the attacks on open platforms is that a focus of any attempted hack will be a spear phishing e-mail. Tricking users into entering their details may be simple, but it can be very serious. For example the Reuters site, which was attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a pro-Assad group of “hacktivists,” integrates more than thirty third-party/advertising network agencies into its content. A breach on any of these could compromise the agency’s whole infrastructure.

  • Foreign investment in agriculture increases productivity of subsistence farming

    The improved infrastructure brought about by foreign investment could increase the productivity of subsistence farmlands in countries such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and could mean these lands can feed at least 300 million people around the world. This is compared to about 190 million people that could be fed if the land was left tended to by the local population. The most targeted countries for land grabs are Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and the former Sudan. Altogether, these nations account for around 82 percent of the total food calories that can be produced by acquired croplands worldwide.

  • Net energy analysis should regarded as a standard policy tool: scientists

    It takes energy to make energy, whether it is renewable or a fossil fuel. Net energy analysis gauges the sustainability of energy technologies over time. Net energy analysis provides a quantitative way to compare the amount of energy a technology produces over its lifetime with the energy required to build and maintain it. The technique can complement conventional energy planning, which often focuses on minimizing the financial cost of energy production, Stanford researchers say.

  • Privacy advocates worried about new Senate cybersecurity bill

    Privacy groups are concerned that a new Senate cybersecurity bill could give the NSA unrestricted access to personal information of Americans. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a counterpart to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which passed the House in 2013, would create a “gaping loophole in existing privacy law,” several privacy advocacy groups wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

  • Heavier oil train traffic in western U.S. causes safety worries

    In May, following extensive debate regarding security concerns, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx ordered railroads to share oil train shipment information with states, in order better to inform first responders should an accident occur. In the first quarter of 2014 alone, there were 110,000 carloads of oil. Each train can carry three million gallons of oil.

  • U.S. should re-evaluate definition of skilled workers in immigration policy: experts

    A new study suggests the United States should re-evaluate its definition of skilled workers to include informal skills of migrant workers. The study identifies lifelong human capital — knowledge and technical and social skills — acquired and transferred throughout these migrants’ careers. The researchers discovered that skills among these migrants not only include basic education and English, but also technical and social skills and competencies acquired informally on and off the job throughout their lives — skills that are used in construction, domestic, retail and hospitality work.

  • Congress may modify the amount, manner by which Project BioShield procurements are funded

    In 2004, Congress passed the Project BioShield Act to provide the federal government with new authorities related to the development, procurement, and use of medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents. Among other things, the authority allows the government to guarantee a market for CBRN medical countermeasures. Under this provision, the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) may obligate funds to purchase countermeasures that still need up to ten more years of development. Since 2004, HHS has obligated approximately $3.309 billion to guarantee a government market for countermeasures against anthrax, smallpox, botulism, radiation, and nerve agents. Another provision established a process through which the HHS secretary may temporarily allow the emergency use of countermeasures which lack Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The 113th Congress may also consider modifying the amount and manner by which it funds Project BioShield procurements.

  • As Baby Boomers retire, nuclear industry faces manpower shortages

    Many nuclear power plants in the United States are facing an employment and training crisis as their largely Baby Boomer-generation (1946-64) workforce begins to retire. The nuclear industry is making an effort to usher in new and better-trained workers — many from university programs and former military service — to fill in the gaps created by retirement-aged engineers.

  • Details of oil shipments by rail are not security sensitive and should be released: DOT

    The boom in U.S. oil shipments by rail is largely due to the growing production of shale oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota and Montana, but also due to the slow construction of new oil pipelines. U.S. freight railroads are estimated to have carried 434,000 carloads of crude oil in 2013, compared to 9,500 carloads in 2008. In 2014, 650,000 carloads of crude oil are expected to be carried. So far U.S. crude oil shipments by rail have reached a record 110,000 carloads in the first quarter of 2014. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx issued an order in May for railroads to provide states with details on routing and oil-train volumes. Last week, U.S. Department of Transportationofficials affirmed that details about volatile oil train shipments are not sensitive security information, thereby allowing states to release such information to the public.

  • Researchers develop better methods to detect E. coli

    Researchers have developed a method to detect E. coli before it can potentially contaminate the food supply. The newly developed test is a molecular assay, or polymerase chain reaction, that detects bacteria based on genetic sequences, which are the bacteria’s “fingerprints.” The new approach to E. coli detection would benefit the beef industry by preventing costly recalls, and it would benefit consumers by ensuring the safety of the beef supply.

  • ISIS insurgents take over Iraq’s largest refinery, continue advance toward Baghdad

    Earlier this morning (Wednesday) ISIS Islamic militants took over Iraq’s biggest oil refinery, located near the town of Baiji, 130 miles north of Baghdad. The fall of the refinery is a major blow to the already-reeling government of Nouri al-Maliki. The refinery provides about 40 percent of Iraq’s refined oil needs, and if the supplies dry up, the Iraqi economy would be paralyzed within a few days, and Iraqi citizens would be without power or gas for their cars. As was the case since the ISIS campaign began late last week, the Iraqi military and security forces put up only a token resistance, with most of their units melting away and leaving their arms and equipment behind without even engaging the militants. Iraq is the second largest oil producer in OPEC.

  • Security flaw: Researchers find thousands of secret keys in Android apps

    Researchers have discovered a crucial security problem in Google Play, the official Android app store where millions of users of Android, the most popular mobile platform, get their apps. “Google Play has more than one million apps and over 50 billion app downloads, but no one reviews what gets put into Google Play — anyone can get a $25 account and upload whatever they want. Very little is known about what’s there at an aggregate level,” says one of the researchers.

  • Texas limits release of information about toxic chemicals storage in the state

    Shortly after the 2013 chemical explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services(DSHS) releasedto several media outlets its list of businesses across the state that store or handle large supplies of chemicals, including ammonium nitrate, the chemical which ignited the explosion. More recently, the department has been working to limit the release of its database of chemical inventories from the public.

  • Chemical pollution of European waters is worse than anticipated

    Until now environmental authorities and parts of the scientific community have considered toxic chemicals to be rather a local problem affecting only a few bodies of water. A new study, however, reveals for the first time on a large scale the ecological risks emanating from chemical toxicants for several thousands of European aquatic systems. Chemical toxicity represents an ecological threat to almost half of all European bodies of water, and in approximately 15 percent of cases, the biota in freshwater systems may even be subject to acute mortality.