The Other Liquid Gold – By Selim Can Sazak and Lauren R. Skin November 10, 2015


Nuclear Power and Desalination in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi regime has insisted that its primary motivation for building a nuclear program is to develop a sustainable power source for the country’s desalination plants. A 2009 royal decree outlining Saudi Arabia’s energy policy illustrated the logic: “The development of atomic energy is essential to meet the kingdom’s growing requirements for energy to generate electricity, produce desalinated water, and reduce reliance on depleting hydrocarbon resources.” On the surface, this makes sense. The Saudis need water; for water, they need energy. And they have enough capital—political and economic—to make it happen.

Saudi Arabia is a desert country with no permanent rivers or lakes and erratic rainfall. The vast majority of its territory—95 percent—is covered by one of three deserts: the Rub al-Khali, an-Nafud, or ad-Dahna. Most of Saudi Arabia’s natural reservoirs, such as the Saq-Ram and Wajid aquifer systems, are nearly tapped out. Although other promising reservoirs have been found—for example, the Wasia aquifer, which is thought to hold as much water as the entire Persian Gulf—they are nestled deep in the desert, away from urban areas. Tapping into their full potential would take many years and billions of dollars. Accordingly, the Kingdom has turned to an obvious solution: desalinated water from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. According to the latest estimates, the country consumes an estimated 3.3 million cubed meters of desalinated water per day, and desalination provides 70 percent of urban water supplies.

Taking salt out of water is an

Oil-trading legend Andy Hall thinks everyone is dead wrong about one big thing – Akin Oyedele Sept 4 2015


crude oil spewing

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Andy Hall, hedge fund boss and the so-called god of oil trading thinks the market is wrong about how “oversupplied” the oil market is, according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg.

Crude oil prices crashed 60% from highs last year, rebounded for a few months this year, and then tumbled into a bear market.

Many in the oil market attributed the collapse to a market that was heavily oversupplied.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, crude oil stocks are currently near an 80-year high.

But as Bloomberg’s Simone Foxman and Saijel Kdishan report, Hall’s most recent letter to clients said, “the world, whilst moderately oversupplied, is not awash in oil.”

Hall’s Astenbeck Capital Management hedge fund was, however, crushed by the ugly downturn in oil prices two months ago and lost about 17% in July — its second-largest loss ever. The fund was flat in August.

According to Bloomberg, Hall said in his latest note to clients there’s still room to store about 200 million barrels of oil, adding that current prices reflect a “worst case scenario.”

Again, official data from the EIA show that US crude stockpiles have definitively surged within the past year, though it seems that Hall doesn’t think this as dire a signal for the market as current prices reflect.

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/andy-hall-on-oil-market-oversupply-2015-9

 

Hawaii’s Going 100 Percent Renewable, And It’s Not Using Natural Gas As A ‘Transition’ – BY SAMANTHA PAGE AUG 2015


One out of every eight homes in Hawaii has solar.

One out of every eight homes in Hawaii has solar.

Hawaiian Gov. David Ige said this week he opposes plans to use liquefied natural gas as a “transitional fuel” for the island state as it moves to 100 percent renewable electricity. Ige said investment in infrastructure for LNG — or any fossil fuel — was misplaced, and he expressed doubt that there would be any monetary benefits to LNG proposals.

“LNG is a fossil fuel. LNG is imported. And any time or money spent on LNG is time and money not spent on renewable energy,” Ige told the audience at the Asia Pacific Resilience Innovation Summit and Expo in Honolulu on Monday night.

The governor’s remarks are especially significant because Florida-based NextEra Energy is trying to purchase Hawaii’s major utilities. NextEra is an electric utility that also produces natural gas, which makes up a large portion of its generation mix.

Hawaii’s public utility corporation (PUC) is currently reviewing NextEra’s bid, after the board of the Hawaiian Electric Companies, which serve most of Hawaii between three providers, approved the deal. Hawaiians have voiced concern that NextEra will transition the state’s power fleet from oil to natural gas. Hawaii gets more of its electricity from oil than any other state — and it has the highest electricity rates.

Natural gas has long been touted as a “transitional” fuel — a lower-carbon option than burning coal that can be used until even lower-carbon options such as wind and solar ramp up. But methane emissions from LNG development, especially fracking, are even more potent than carbon in terms of trapping heat. Many environmentalists argue that the switch to natural gas is not an effective means of addressing climate change. And volatile prices can make installing new natural gas infrastructure risky.

But moving to natural gas might not help lower costs, said State Rep. Chris Lee, chair of Hawaii’s Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

Article continues:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/08/28/3696207/hawaii-isnt-big-on-gas/

 

How Life and Luck Changed Earth’s Minerals – ROBERTA KWOK 08.16.15. 7:00 AM


Is evolution predictable, or was it heavily shaped by random events? Biologists have argued over this question for decades. Some have suggested that if we replayed the history of life on our planet, the resulting species would be different. Opponents counter that life is largely deterministic.

Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent division of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences

Recently, researchers have begun to ask the same questions about rocks. About 5,000 minerals—crystalline substances such as quartz, zircon and diamond—have been found on Earth. But minerals didn’t just appear all at once when the Earth formed. They materialized over time, each crystal arising in response to the conditions of the particular epoch in which it formed. Minerals evolved—in some cases, in response to life. And so geologists are left to ask: Are today’s minerals a predictable consequence of the planet’s chemical makeup? Or are they the result of chance events? What if we were to look out at the cosmos and spot another Earth-like planet—would we expect its gemstones to match ours, or would they shine with a luster never seen before?

Robert Hazen, a mineral physicist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory, and his colleagues are publishing a series of four papers this year that reveal broad insights into whether geology is a matter of fate. Minerals on Earth may indeed have been guided by some deterministic rules that could apply to other worlds as well, they found. But our planet is rife with extremely rare minerals, which suggests that chance occurrences also play a significant part.

In addition, if we found an Earth-like twin elsewhere in the universe, many common minerals would likely be the same—but that planet would probably also hold many minerals unlike any that exist here.

The findings aren’t just a matter of curiosity. Some minerals may have helped early organisms emerge. And understanding which minerals could have formed on Earth-like planets may help scientists better predict which worlds are likeliest to harbor life. Conversely, some minerals arise only in the presence of organisms. So finding patterns in Earth’s mineral distribution could help scientists identify a mineralogical signature for life, which they could then search for on other planets.

Time and Chance

Traditionally, mineralogy has been dominated by analyzing the structures and formation of individual minerals. But in a 2008 study in American Mineralogist, Hazen and his colleagues took a more historical view. The researchers assessed Earth’s known minerals and tried to figure out when the conditions were right for their formation. The team concluded that about two-thirds of Earth’s minerals would not have emerged until life was present.

For example, early microorganisms seeded the atmosphere with oxygen, which interacted with existing minerals to yield new ones. The so-called Great Oxygenation Event “was a huge game changer,” said Hazen. “You open the door to literally thousands of new minerals.”

Article continues:

http://www.wired.com/2015/08/life-luck-changed-earths-minerals/

 

Why economists were totally wrong about cheap oil – CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP MAY 23, 2015, 5:05 PM


gas pump

Matt RourkeGas is pumped into a car at the Eastcoast filling station Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Pennsauken N.J.

WASHINGTON (AP) — If there was one thing most economists agreed on at the start of the year, it was this: Plunging oil prices would boost the U.S. economy.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

The economy is thought to have shrunk in the January-March quarter and may barely grow for the first half of 2015 — thanks in part to sharp cuts in energy drilling. And despite their savings at the gas pump, consumers have slowed rather than increased their spending.

At $2.74 a gallon, the average price of gas nationwide is nearly $1 lower than it was a year ago. In January, the average briefly reached $2.03, the lowest in five years.

Cheaper oil and gas had been expected to turbocharge spending and drive growth, more than making up for any economic damage caused by cutbacks in the U.S. oil patch.

Consider what Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said in December: Lower gas prices, Yellen declared, are “certainly good for families. … It’s like a tax cut that boosts their spending power.”

Other experts were more direct: “Lower oil prices are an unambiguous plus for the U.S. economy,” Chris Lafakis, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, wrote in January.

So what did they get wrong?

It turns out that the economic effects of lower energy prices have evolved since the Great Recession. Corporate spending on drill rigs, steel piping for wells and railcars to transport oil has become an increasingly vital driver of economic growth. So when oil prices fall and energy companies retrench, the economy suffers.

Article continues:

http://www.businessinsider.com/economists-were-totally-wrong-about-cheap-oil-2015-5

The GOP’s demonic alliance: How the religious right & big business are dumbing down America Monday, Apr 27, 2015 02:59 AM PDT


It’s a tradition as old as the nation itself: The right rejects intellectualism in favor of a perverse religiosity

 

The GOP's demonic alliance: How the religious right & big business are dumbing down America

Mike Huckabee, David Koch, Ted Cruz  (Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall/Mark Lennihan/J. Scott Applewhite/Photo montage by Salon)

Though presidential hopeful Ted Cruz was apparently a top student at Harvard Law, he has always been quick to distance himself from the organization, especially since the despised Barack Obama went to the same school less then a decade earlier. Back in 2013, at a conference sponsored by the Koch brothers, he said that “[Obama] would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.”

His reasoning:

“There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”

This claim was discredited by Harvard Law, but it certainly cannot come as a surprise that Cruz wants to distance himself from an academic organization that is generally thought of as liberal. His voter base, after all, is not a particularly highbrow community.

Article continues:

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/27/the_gops_demonic_alliance_how_the_religious_right_big_business_are_dumbing_down_america/

When the Snows Fail – By Michelle Nijhuis | Photographs by Peter Essick


Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at Apr 20, 2015 4.32

For three generations the Diener family has farmed the same ten square miles of Central Valley dirt. In the 1920s they grew barley and alfalfa to feed the mules that powered the construction of Los Angeles. In the 1930s, as internal combustion replaced animal muscle, they grew cotton to bind rubber car tires.

Today, as California limps through its third year of drought, John Diener, his sons, and their land are getting into the cactus business.

Diener grows produce on as grand a scale as any in the Central Valley, cultivating hundreds of acres of tomatoes, almonds, organic broccoli, and other crops. But he thinks differently from most farmers here. Maybe it’s that he’s the youngest son of a youngest son, used to making the most of bad situations. Or maybe his years living outside the valley have given him a maverick’s confidence.

Whatever the reason, he doesn’t put much stock in more dams, fewer environmental restrictions, or any of the other measures his neighbors say will relieve the economic pain. Short-term fixes, he shrugs. “The real problem,” he says as he navigates his pickup through the valley’s grid of dusty roads, “is that there’s just not enough water in the system.”

On the western edge of his property, below the snowless hills of California’s coastal mountains, Diener stands on the dry dirt between rows of young cacti, inspecting the bright green new growth. In cooperation with researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Diener has planted about 20 acres of a patented variety of prickly pear cactus, a crop he hopes to sell both as food and as a mineral-rich nutritional supplement. Years of drought have concentrated naturally occurring salts in this field’s soil, but the cacti appear to be doing just fine.

“If we need to, we’ll plant more,” he says. He laughs. “We’re opportunists, after all.”

Article continues:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/west-snow-fail/

THE DEADLY GLOBAL WAR FOR SAND – VINCE BEISER BUSINESS 03.26.15 7:00 AM


The killers rolled slowly down the narrow alley, three men jammed onto a single motorcycle. It was a little after 11 am on July 31, 2013, the sun beating down on the low, modest residential buildings lining a back street in the Indian farming village of Raipur. Faint smells of cooking spices, dust, and sewage seasoned the air. The men stopped the bike in front of the orange door of a two-story brick-and-plaster house. Two of them dismounted, eased open the unlocked door, and slipped into the darkened bedroom on the other side. White kerchiefs covered their lower faces. One of them carried a pistol.

Inside the bedroom Paleram Chauhan, a 52-year-old farmer, was napping after an early lunch. In the next room, his wife and daughter-in-law were cleaning up while Paleram’s son played with his own 3-year-old boy.

Aakash Chauhan and Preeti Chauhan stand for a portrait at their home.
Aakash Chauhan and Preeti Chauhan stand for a portrait at their home. Adam Ferguson

Gunshots thundered through the house. Preeti Chauhan, Paleram’s daughter-in-law, rushed into Paleram’s room, her husband, Ravindra, right behind her. Through the open door, they saw the killers jump back on their bike and roar away.

Paleram lay on his bed, blood bubbling out of his stomach, neck, and head. “He was trying to speak, but he couldn’t,” Preeti says, her voice breaking with tears. Ravindra borrowed a neighbor’s car and rushed his father to a hospital, but it was too late. Paleram was dead on arrival.

Despite the masks, the family had no doubts about who was behind the killing. For 10 years Paleram had been campaigning to get local authorities to shut down a powerful gang of criminals headquartered in Raipur. The “mafia,” as people called them, had for years been robbing the village of a coveted natural resource, one of the most sought-after commodities of the 21st century: sand.

That’s right. Paleram Chauhan was killed over sand. And he wasn’t the first, or the last.

A view of a construction site in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India, on March 19, 2015.
Construction in Uttar Pradesh, India. Any building that needs concrete needs sand. Adam Ferguson

Our civilization is literally built on sand. People have used it for construction since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. In the 15th century, an Italian artisan figured out how to turn sand into transparent glass, which made possible the microscopes, telescopes, and other technologies that helped drive the Renaissance’s scientific revolution (also, affordable windows). Sand of various kinds is an essential ingredient in detergents, cosmetics, toothpaste, solar panels, silicon chips, and especially buildings; every concrete structure is basically tons of sand glued together with cement.

Article continues:

http://www.wired.com/2015/03/illegal-sand-mining