Science & Technology
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One of the single largest sources of pollution in the United States may be closing down in the near future. Early in January it was announced that because of low natural gas prices and the rising cost of electricity generation, Arizona’s Navajo Generating Station may be done for.

This closure would follow a trend across the U.S. of coal plants shutting down. And despite what President Trump may promise, it’s a dying industry.

To be clear though, it is natural gas, another source of climate change-causing carbon dioxide, that is putting this giant down. Not Obama’s “war on coal,” and not renewable energy either.

On the other side of the United States, the Tennessee Valley Authority has closed 3 coal plants in the last 6 years, and two more are likely to be shut down by 2018.

Natural gas is going to make it difficult for the president to follow through on his promises to revive the waning coal industry. The states most likely to bring on new coal jobs, like Kentucky and West Virginia, are themselves relying more and more on natural gas.


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British Petroleum and Total are preparing to drill for oil dangerously close to a newly discovered coral reef off the coast of Brazil. The closest drilling rig will be just 8 km from the reef.

Scientists credited with discovering the reef are alarmed by the prospect of an oil spill, fearing that it could dramatically effect the future of the reef. They’re pushing for the British ministry of environment to conduct a new environmental study.

The Brazilian government thinks the Amazonian basin could contain 14 billion barrels of oil.

The reef is ecologically unique. It runs 600 km from French Guiana to Brazil and exists under a plume of muddy water.

The region the coral occupies is home to numerous endangered species which do not exist anywhere else on Earth. These include the Amazon river dolphin and Amazonian manatee.

Regardless of the potential damage to the environment, the Brazilian ministry of environment is expected to approve the drilling.


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The Fukushima nuclear power plant, which suffered a catastrophic meltdown in the wake of the 2011 earthquake off the coast of Japan, could have a fuel breach, allowing radiation to leak out of its containment vessel.

Tepco, the company responsible for the containment of the reactor, sent in a robot equipped with a camera and observed a meter-wide hole in the containment vessel. Radiation levels inside the containment vessel are 100 times the dose necessary to be fatal.

The highest reading level inside the plant was 73 sievets per hour. 1 sievet is enough to give you radiation sickness, and 10 is fatal in a few weeks. The current reading is an incredible 530 sievets per hour.

Authorities at Tepco intended to remove the fuel by next year, but this discovery could create a delay. The government has pledged $190 billion to the complete decommissioning of the plant.

In related news, Forbes Magazine recently reported that Japan’s solar boom is accelerating at a rapid pace.


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According to new research from Duke University, the coal industry is shedding jobs by the thousands, and renewable energies like solar and wind power are adding them at a faster rate. Natural gas jobs growth outpaces them all, however.

Their research found that between 2008 and 2012, the U.S. coal industry lost about 50,000 jobs, or 12% of the total during the five-year period studied. This is likely attributed to increasing regulation and tough competition from renewable energy and natural gas. The coal jobs lost weren’t associated with electricity production.

Over that same period, renewable energy added 79,000 jobs and natural gas brought in 94,000 new workers. When indirect jobs were taken into consideration, wind, solar and natural gas created 220,000 jobs. Hydroelectric and nuclear power were not considered as their job numbers tend to remain steady over time.

Each year that passes by, coal’s position as the largest energy resource is even more imperiled. In 2014, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted that about 60 gigawatts of coal power will retire by 2016. Another report from The Solar Foundation found that there were more than 173,000 solar jobs in the United States in 2014. That number marks as 22% increase over the previous year.

When accounting for these jobs numbers, researchers didn’t consider construction, installation, and manufacturing, but they did account for operations and maintenance such as transportation, distribution, extraction and mining. In terms of fossil fuel jobs, construction and installation are short-term jobs. The same goes for construction. Overall, they made up a fraction of the jobs numbers.

With wind, however, O&M jobs and construction and installation jobs were about equal. For solar, O&M is the smaller figure. This skews the results a bit because it didn’t consider distributed solar and those installation jobs. The Solar Foundation predicts that up to 210,000 solar jobs in 2015 will be installation jobs.

The one unfortunate footnote to all of this good news is that these jobs aren’t being distributed equally across the United States. Coal jobs saw most of their decline in states like Kentucky and West Virginia. Clean tech and natural gas sectors did not replace the lost jobs in those areas.


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One of the greatest challenges in making otherwise clean technologies truly green and sustainable is the difficulty associated with recycling rare earth elements, or REEs. REEs are chemically similar elements that have been used in the manufacture of various advanced metals for high-technology products, like magnets and lasers.

As an example, neodymium is used in a lot of green technologies, like electric cars and wind turbines.

REEs are essential to a variety of products, but extracting them is an environmentally disastrous process. One ton of REEs produces 75 cubic meters of acidic waste water that can be incredibly damaging the soil. Another problem associated with REEs is that they’re often located in nations that are geopolitically inaccessible. This is why recycling REEs is so important. But about ability to do so has been limited due to cost and the fact that REE recycling is also kind of bad for the environment.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have been investigating whether or not bacteria could be used to recover spent REEs. They found that the phosphate site on bacterial cell walls can serve as a binding site of REEs, which is what lead them to the possibility that DNA could be used to extract REEs in a solution.

But they faced one glaring problem: DNA is soluble in water. So they needed a source of DNA that wouldn’t break down water.

Enter: salmon sperm.

Salmon sperm, or milt, is inexpensive, insoluble, and there are literally thousands of tons of the stuff discarded each year by the fishing industry. Scientists have tested it out and found that metal bonds strongly with salmon sperm. REEs can be easily extracted using an centrifugal acid bath. It’s not perfect, but it’s promising.

Thanks, salmon friends!

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Hot damn, people must really like beekeeping! For this father-son beekeeping duo, their dreams have come true with a successful Indiegogo fundraising campaign that has raised $4.8 million and counting. They surpassed their goal after just 10 minutes. Their idea? A new type of hive they call Flow.

Their idea has the potential to change beekeeping, and the future of bees themselves, forever. To the more than 9,000 people who have so far invested in it, it’s a sweet idea that can help save the bees. There is clearly excitement.

“The Flow hive is now the largest international campaign ever on Indiegogo,” says Slava Rubin, CEO of Indiegogo. They set a record for the amount raised in one day: $2.1 million.

Cedar Anderson says that his friends convinced him to take his idea to Facebook and start posting about it. “We have a lot of friends of family who helped us by spreading the word,” he says.

“People think that we had a huge promotional budget behind us, but we just did it all ourselves,” he says. “Local media coverage went viral, and before we knew it, the whole world was taking a much greater interest than we thought possible.”

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Understanding why this invention captured the attention of the world is pretty easy to see. The hives are filled with partially completed honeycombs. When populated with bees, the worker bees finish the honeycombs and begin producing honey. When the cells are full, and the bees have completely capped them off, all you have to do is turn a lever and the honey will run out into an external jar.

Turn on the tap and watch the honey flow. Check out their campaign’s video below and visit their Indiegogo campaign.