Hydrogen is a bad car fuel, but it’s the perfect boat fuel

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Because boats are cars too

There are issues inherent with hydrogen as a fuel for cars. It is incredibly expensive and energy intensive to create, it is difficult to pressurize and transport, and the infrastructure for hydrogen as fuel is far less developed than battery electric charging. A few automotive manufacturers, chiefly Honda and Toyota, have hung their zero emissions program hat on the hydrogen peg, but it’s still a very small sliver of the automotive market. It’s pretty much only viable in a small area of Southern California near the fueling stations. As a car fuel, hydrogen straight up sucks.

 Toyota and the Energy Observer are proving that hydrogen might be best served as a fuel for traversing the high seas, however. Toyota has adapted what it has learned from the Mirai hydrogen experiment to the Energy Observer, a former racing catamaran which now travels the world preaching the gospel of maritime ZEVs.

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The ‘forever chemicals’ fueling a public health crisis in drinking water

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About 700 PFAS-contaminated sites have been identified across the US while those exposed to enough chemicals can face devastating health consequences

Recent tests revelaed dangerous levels of PFAS in rain, a range of foods and sewage sludge that farmers spread on cropland as fertilizer.

In 2002, the French multinational Saint-Gobain boosted production of chemically weatherproofed fabrics that it produced in its Merrimack, New Hampshire, plant. Soon after, serious health problems began hitting residents living near the facility.

The Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water (MCCW) advocacy group says people there suffer from high levels of cancer, cardiovascular issues, autoimmune disorders, kidney disease and developmental disorders. That includes an alarming number of children facing rare and aggressive cancers, said MCCW’s Laurene Allen, who lives in the city of about 30,000 that sits an hour north of Boston.

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Everything you know about recycling is probably wrong

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A refresher for the new decade.

The next time you pass a recycling bin, do yourself a favor and take a peek inside. See anything unusual? Let’s rip the Band-Aid off right now: Turns out many of the things we drop into recycling bins don’t go on to beautiful second lives as bespoke greeting cards or shiny new bikes — a large percentage of this stuff actually ends up in landfills.

If you’re just tuning in, some background to our current recycling problem: In 2018, China, which previously bought and processed 70%(!) of the US’s recycled plastics, changed its policies about what kinds of recycled waste it would accept. China banned imports of certain types of paper and plastic, and cracked down on contamination (like leftover food scraps) in the materials they still process and recycle.

As long as we were shipping our recycling overseas, Americans never really had to deal with the repercussions of being, to quote Alana Semuels at The Atlantic, “terrible at recycling.” We tend to just throw everything into the bin without much thought about whether everything is actually, you know, recyclable. Now that US towns and cities are scrambling to figure out how to deal with recyclables, Semuels explains, they have two options: “pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away.”

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Rolls-Royce plans to build up to 15 mini nuclear reactors in Britain

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Artist’s concept of a Rolls-Royce SMR plantRolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce has announced that it plans to build, install, and operate up to 15 mini nuclear reactors in Britain, with the first set to go online in nine years. In a BBC Radio 4 interview with business journalist Katie Prescott on January 24, 2020’s Today program, Paul Stein, chief technology officer for Rolls-Royce, said that the company is leading a consortium to produce factory-built modular nuclear reactors that can be delivered for assembly by ordinary lorries.

Currently, the world is undergoing a boom in nuclear power. According to the World Nuclear Association, there are 448 operating civilian reactors and another 53 under construction. However, almost all of these are being built in Eastern Europe and Asia, with China alone building more reactors than the entire Western world combined.

Part of the reason for this is political with every reactor program in Europe or North America facing implacable environmentalist opposition and part of it is the expense of building and operating large reactors in an energy economy now dominated by cheap natural gas. However, one technology trend that could reverse this stagnation is the development of small, modular nuclear reactors that could be mass-produced in factories, carted to the site by ordinary lorries, and then assembled to generate cheap carbon-free electricity.

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Igloo says goodbye to styrofoam coolers, releases biodegradable update

 

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Styrofoam coolers are lightweight, cheap, and pretty good at keeping beverages cold.

They’re also pretty bad for the environment.

Styrofoam is Dow Chemical’s trademarked name for extruded polystyrene, and in addition to being conveniently disposable, it’s also a source of greenhouse gases, doesn’t degrade for centuries, and is highly flammable. Oh, and animals confuse it for food and could eat enough of it and die.

Igloo’s come up with a less destructive alternative made out of paraffin wax and recycled paper called RECOOL. The 16-quart cooler has a weight capacity of 75 pounds and is highly water resistant. Igloo says the RECOOL can keep ice cold for up to 12 hours and hold water for up to five days without leaking.

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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff says over 300 companies have agreed to help plant one trillion trees

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Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 23, 2020

KEY POINTS

  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said Thursday that over 300 companies have joined his latest initiative to plant 1 trillion trees by the end of the decade.
  • President Donald Trump announced U.S. government support for the initiative on Tuesday.
  • Environmental activist Greta Thunberg criticized the initiative in her keynote speech at the WEF on Tuesday for not doing enough to counter climate change.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, whose known for badgering tech executives to be more civic-minded, said Thursday that over 300 companies have joined his latest initiative to plant one trillion trees by the end of the decade.

“Nobody’s against trees,” he said in an interview with “Squawk on the Street” co-host Sara Eisen from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “The tree is also a bipartisan issue.”

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This leaf-shaped bottle cap condenses and collects atmospheric moisture, turning it into drinking water

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Designed to magically ‘turn air into water’, the Limbe is a new sort of dehumidifier that works without electricity, giving its user access to drinking water throughout the day. Its unique leaf-inspired design harks back to how water droplets condense on the surface of leaves, while its 3D printed intricate PET structure helps guide those water droplets down the ‘veins of the leaf’ into Limbe’s central axis which collects the water in your regular plastic drinking bottle.

Fabien envisioned the Limbe as an easy way to allow people with no access to running water, to easily capture atmospheric water vapor for drinking purposes. While the Limbe works best in high-humidity areas, it can work wonders in deserts and drought-struck regions too, gathering condensed fog in the early hours of dawn, filling up a single bottle. Plus, its ability to be printed or even molded at a relatively low cost means anyone can dehumidify air into drinking water… without electricity!

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5 bold urban design projects that made cities more fun, clean, and accessible in 2019

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Cities can get rid of cars—and build urban ski slopes.

You may think the only changes to cities have been negative ones, and yes, urban areas have certainly seen increased traffic and heightened housing problems, but plenty of places have also debuted new features that aim to make a positive impact. Whether adapting to climate change, trying to be more inclusive to underserved populations, or updating their infrastructure with new technology, cities around the world are serving as laboratories to test bold ideas.

Here’s a look at some of the most fun and interesting urban innovations of 2019, proving that some cities are already in the future and are using their corners of the world to make our planet a little bit better.

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Scientists used loudspeakers to make dead coral reefs sound healthy. Fish flocked to them.

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A mass coral spawning on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on Nov. 16. Derek Hawkins

The desperate search for ways to help the world’s coral reefs rebound from the devastating effects of climate change has given rise to some radical solutions.

In the Caribbean, researchers are cultivating coral “nurseries” so they can reimplant fresh coral on degraded reefs. And in Hawaii, scientists are trying to specially breed corals to be more resilient against rising ocean temperatures.

On Friday, British and Australian researchers rolled out another unorthodox strategy they say could help restoration efforts: broadcasting the sounds of healthy reefs in dying ones.

In a six-week field experiment, researchers placed underwater loudspeakers in patches of dead coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and played audio recordings taken from healthy reefs. The goal was to see whether they could lure back the diverse communities of fish that are essential to counteracting reef degradation.

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Why the world is running out of sand

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It may be little more than grains of weathered rock, and can be found in deserts and on beaches around the world, but sand is also the world’s second most consumed natural resource.

A South African entrepreneur shot dead in September. Two Indian villagers killed in a gun battle in August. A Mexican environmental activist murdered in June.

Though separated by thousands of miles, these killings share an unlikely cause. They are some of the latest casualties in a growing wave of violence sparked by the struggle for one of the 21st Century’s most important, but least appreciated, commodities: ordinary sand.

Trivial though it may seem, sand is a critical ingredient of our lives. It is the primary raw material that modern cities are made from. The concrete used to construct shopping malls, offices, and apartment blocks, along with the asphalt we use to build roads connecting them, are largely just sand and gravel glued together. The glass in every window, windshield, and smart phone screen is made of melted-down sand. And even the silicon chips inside our phones and computers – along with virtually every other piece of electronic equipment in your home – are made from sand.

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Large ‘Tesla ships’ all-electric container barges are launching this autumn

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The Dutch company Port-Liner is building two giant all-electric barges dubbed the ‘Tesla ships‘. The company announced that the vessels will be ready by this autumn and will be inaugurated by sailing the Wilhelmina canal in the Netherlands.

The 100 million-euro project supported by a €7m subsidy from the European Union is expected to have a significant impact on local transport between the ports of Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Rotterdam.

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How cheap robots are transforming ocean exploration

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Backed by billionaire philanthropists and Silicon Valley venture capitalists, a wave of entrepreneurs are developing high-tech, low-cost technologies to probe the watery realms we still barely understand. Are the oceans finally getting their moon-shot moment?

The robot was born out of a treasure hunt.

It all started in 2010, when Eric Stackpole was a promising young engineer designing satellite technology as an intern at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He was simultaneously working toward a master’s degree at nearby Santa Clara University and was prone to procrastinating. Lately, he’d become taken with the idea of building his own underwater robot.

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