Canada set to purchase Kinder Morgan pipeline for $4.5 billion

May 30, 2018 by  
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The Canadian government is planning to buy the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from major energy corporation Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion in an effort to secure its construction. The controversial project, which would triple the current capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline and run from the tar sands of Alberta to the Pacific Coast, is a major priority for Ottawa . The pipeline has suffered delays due to opposition from indigenous communities and environmental groups. Alberta and British Columbia have also been at odds over the potential environmental risks of the project. With the Canadian government’s financial and political support, the project is more likely to move forward. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project would vastly increase Canada’s ability to export oil to Asia. Canada possesses the world’s third largest oil reserves, but 99 percent of its oil exports are sold in the U.S.  While the government’s takeover of the project has reassured its backers that it will be built, with construction starting in August, it also raises the stakes for Ottawa. “It’s a chess move that allows the project to proceed and positions it as a national interest,” infrastructure expert Matti Siemiatycki told the Guardian . “[But] it’s also highly risky because now the government bears the risk.” The government intervention to save the project is based on the idea that investing in oil today will pay off in the future, something that is far from certain. “The pipeline expansion presumes there’s going to be a high demand for oil going forward for decades — but there’s significant risk that that may not prevail because of changing technologies and changing demand,” explained Siemiatycki. Related: The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought Meanwhile, environmental and indigenous groups continue their opposition. “The cost that they did not calculate in their $4.5 billion purchase is that Indigenous frontlines will stop this pipeline,” Tsleil-Waututh member and Coast Salish Watch House spokesperson Will George said in a statement. “The Watch House will continue to stand in the way of pipeline development, and I will continue to meet the responsibility passed on to me by my ancestors to protect the water and land.” In a statement, Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema asserted that “Trudeau is gambling billions of Canadian taxpayer dollars on an oil project that will never be built — a project that Kinder Morgan itself has indicated is ‘untenable’ and that faces more than a dozen lawsuits, crumbling economics and a growing resistance movement that is spreading around the world.” Even with government support, it remains to be seen whether the project will ultimately be completed. Via the Guardian Images via Bureau of Land Management Alaska (1, 2) and William Chen

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Canada set to purchase Kinder Morgan pipeline for $4.5 billion

France completely bans fracking and oil extraction

December 21, 2017 by  
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The French Parliament recently passed into law a complete ban on the extraction of oil and gas within any of France’s territories. Beginning in 2040, fracking, oil drilling, and other extraction methods will be banned across France . Meanwhile, no new permits to extract fossil fuel in France will be given. Although this law highlights France’s commitment to take action against climate change, it is primarily a symbolic gesture. France imports 99 percent of the oil and gas that it consumes, extracting only a negligible amount from its territory. To put this in perspective, France extracts about 815,000 tons of oil per year, the same amount extracted every few hours in Saudi Arabia . While France’s recent law may not have a large direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions , French lawmakers hope that the move will inspire other European nations to make similar commitments, with Socialist lawmaker Delphine Batho telling the Guardian that she hoped the ban would be “contagious.” Left-wing members of parliament abstained from the vote to ban, while the right-wing Republicans party voted no. The law’s impact will be most felt in French Guyana, France’s South American territory where oil companies had sought to drill. Related: France is the world’s most sustainable food country French President Emmanuel Macron has sought to position France as a global leader on climate change. As the United States has retreated on the world stage, France has stepped forward. Macron has gone so far as to offer grants to climate scientists from American institutions to do research under a government that recognizes the reality of climate change. Internally, France is taking action. Gas and petrol vehicles are to be banned in France by 2040, and the government is working to shift the energy economy away from fossil fuels and nuclear power, and towards clean renewable energy. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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US to lift restrictions on making viruses deadlier and stronger

December 21, 2017 by  
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The United States National Institute of Health (NIH) announced on Tuesday that it will soon end a three-year moratorium on funding research projects that aim to make pathogens more powerful than they are naturally. The restrictions were put in place during the Obama Administration while the NIH created a more comprehensive system of risk-benefit analysis for the research. Now that such a system has been developed, the NIH is moving forward with its plans to develop more dangerous forms of deadly viruses . The goal is to study these lab-grown super-viruses to determine how these viruses might evolve in the real world, enabling experts and institutions to prepare antiviral medicines or other public health responses. Projects that engineer super viruses in the hopes of learning their weaknesses are called “gain-of-function” studies. Scientists seek to learn how a virus interacts with its hosts may change based on evolution . While research involving highly dangerous pathogens is strictly regulated, the potential cost from a mistake or malicious action could be devastating. Former CIA director John Brennan recently highlighted biological weapons, like a weaponized form of the ebola virus , as one of the most pressing existential threats facing the United States. Related: Scientists harness tobacco plants to produce polio vaccine Between 2003 and 2009, there were 395 reported incidents in which human error created a situation in which people were at risk of infection from these deadly viruses. Only seven infections resulted from these 395 events. Although this research is ostensibly to serve the public’s interest, some scientists question whether the risks are worth any potential reward. Gain-of-function studies have “done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics, yet they risked creating an accidental pandemic , said Marc Lipsitch, epidemiologist at Harvard University, according to Nature . It would seem that the NIH did its due diligence in preparing a comprehensive policy concerning the research of deadly pathogens. Hopefully it is enough to keep these super viruses behind tightly closed doors. Via Motherboard Images via NIAID   (1)  

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US to lift restrictions on making viruses deadlier and stronger

Spend the night in this magical Hobbit House tucked into the Washington shire

December 21, 2017 by  
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Tiny house builder Kristie Wolfe has created an amazing hobbit home in Washington’s breathtaking Columbia River Gorge – and now you can experience hobbit life firsthand! Wolfe’s solar-powered hobbit house is now available to rent on Airbnb . No word on if Bilbo Baggins will be stopping by for tea. The 288 square foot home was built entirely from scratch on a 5.5 acre plot near Chelan, Washington. It comes with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living space with a beautiful stone fireplace at the heart of the design. The tiny cottage has a series of large, round windows that let in natural light and provide amazing views of the rolling green hills that extend out to the mountainside. Related: Washington Hobbit Hole is the first of three in an off-grid Shire The home’s interior is filled with rustic hobbit-inspired touches. In fact, Wolfe used all-natural products and techniques that one would assume hobbits implemented in their own homes. According to Wolfe, the corkwood floor alone took over 1,200 rounds and countless hours of cutting, gluing, and grouting. The hobbit home is completely off grid, thanks to solar panels and various sustainable touches. The home uses water from a nearby water tower and a greywater recycling system irrigates the grass on top of the home. A propane heater keeps the space warm and cozy. In case you’re worried about boredom, the many hobbit-themed amenities will keep you pleasantly occupied. Kirsten has filled the charming cottage with books of riddles, pastries wrapped up like lembas (a type of Elven bread), a hidden precious treasure, etc. Whittled furniture and accessories can be found throughout the charming home. Of course, once you step outside the home, there’s a whole world of nature at your doorstep, just on the other side of the fence made of woven sticks and branches. At the moment, the cottage offers the ultimate in solitude, but Kirsten already has plans to expand it: “I want to build a communal kitchen … that will look like an English-style pub,” Wolfe said. “People from all over can meet, or come stay with their friends and family, and break bread together like hobbits would.” + Airbnb Hobbit Hole + Tiny House on the Prairie Via Apartment Therapy Images via Airbnb

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Spend the night in this magical Hobbit House tucked into the Washington shire

Oil rig explodes in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain, injuring several near New Orleans

October 16, 2017 by  
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An oil rig on Lake Pontchartrain exploded on Sunday night in Kenner, Louisiana , home of the Louis Armstrong International Airport and only a few miles from New Orleans . Authorities began receiving calls about the explosion around 7:18 PM on Sunday; although no official explanation has been offered, authorities on the scene believe the explosion was caused by flammable cleaning chemicals on the oil rig’s surface. At least seven people were injured in the blast and, according to initial reporting, one person is missing. Many of the injuries were serious and authorities expected more to be reported in the near future. Lake Pontchartrain is a brackish body of water that is about 12-14 feet deep, though some shipping channels are dredged deeper, and covers 630 square miles to the north of New Orleans. The exploding rig in the Lake is owned by Clovelly Oil Co., which uses the structure for transferring oil . It is possible that oil is still leaking into Lake Pontchartrain, though this will not affect local drinking water, which is sourced from the Mississippi River. Local residents report having their homes rattled when the explosion occurred. “My house actually shook,” said Andrew Love, who lives in the area. “At first I thought it was a sonic boom or something, I had no idea what was happening.” No damage to homes has yet been reported. Related: New NASA study reveals just how fast New Orleans is sinking George Branigan was sitting at home with his wife and stepdaughter when the explosion happened. “We heard something blow up and it sounded like it was in my backyard ,” Branigan said. After going outside to investigate, Branigan heard what sounded to him to be small pebbles, likely debris from the explosion, falling on his home. Branigan was still watching the flames from his porch several hours after the explosion. Via the New Orleans Advocate and San Francisco Gate Images via  City of Kenner Government

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Oil rig explodes in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain, injuring several near New Orleans

Dakota Access pipeline springs first oil leak – before completion

May 11, 2017 by  
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Before the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was even completed, it suffered its first leak. On April 6, the $3.8 billion project spilled 84 gallons of crude oil at a South Dakota pump station, enraging members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other activists who protested its development for nearly one year. The Guardian reports that the leak was quickly contained and cleaned. However, critics of the spill say that the environmental travesty could have been prevented had state officials listened to concerned members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and those who support them. The pipeline was in its final stages of preparing to transport oil when the leak occurred. Beginning in April of 2016, thousands of people gathered near Cannon Ball, ND, to protest the DAPL ’s development. The main concerns continue to be that its construction could contaminate the Missouri river and that a portion of land the DAPL runs through was promised to the Standing Rock Sioux in an 1851 treaty. Though the Obama administration halted the DAPL’s development in December of 2016, President Trump ordered it to resume shortly after his inauguration. Activists were forcibly removed from the protest grounds. Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said, “They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong. It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.” “It doesn’t give us any pleasure to say, ‘I told you so.’ But we have said from the beginning that it’s not a matter of if, but when. Pipelines leak and they spill. It’s just what happens,” she added. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has fought Energy Transfer Partners and the U.S. government in court, argues that the project requires a full environmental study to assess the risks. Because President Trump has financial ties to the oil company, however, it is unlikely such an assessment will be conducted. Standing Rock Sioux tribe chairman Dave Archambault II said the spill is just one more sign the courts should intervene. “Our lawsuit challenging this dangerous project is ongoing, and it’s more important than ever for the court to step in and halt additional accidents before they happen – not just for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and our resources but for the 17 million people whose drinking water is at risk,” he said in a statement. Related: Major oil spill 150 miles from DAPL protest validates Standing Rock concerns Neither the company nor the state have made a public announcement about the spill . According to Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota department of environment and natural resources, this is because the spill was relatively minor as it was caused by a mechanical failure at a surge pump. “It’s not uncommon to have a small release at a pump station,” said Walsh, adding that the company responded immediately and cleaned up the liquid petroleum. Via The Guardian

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Dakota Access pipeline springs first oil leak – before completion

This modern log home in Finland is heated by the earth

May 11, 2017 by  
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This may look like a traditional log home, but unlike other homes, it can withstand harsh winters and freezing temperatures down to -30°C (-22°F) without a huge impact on the environment. Finnish architecture firm Pluspuu Oy designed the Log Villa house in Finland as an energy efficient modern residence for cold climates that offers optimal living conditions thanks to a well-insulated envelope and the use of geothermal energy. The Log Villa sits near a beautiful lake in Central Finland and offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Thick laminated timber logs constitute the envelope and features three-layer glued pine as the outer layer. This allows the structure to withstand extremely low temperatures. Although the design references traditional log buildings of the region, the villa’s envelope has no overlaps or visible cross corners. Related: Four-Cornered Villa is an Off-Grid Minimalist Retreat in Finland Geothermal energy is the main source of heat, which is pumped out of a well drilled in the ground. During the summer, when temperatures can go up to 30°C, cool air is pumped from the ground into the building. Triple-glazed thermal glass and blown-in wood fiber insulation make the envelope airtight and contributes to the ecological construction approach. + Pluspuu Oy Via Archdaily Photos by Samuli Miettinen

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This modern log home in Finland is heated by the earth

Big Oil celebrates Trump’s goal to open up drilling in national parks

January 13, 2017 by  
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How should the government best manage America’s national parks ? It’s a question that has provoked debate for years, and President-elect Donald Trump ‘s pro- fossil fuel campaign pledges have ignited even more controversy. As he will be inaugurated later this month, oil industry members expressed delight at the potential of more leases to drill or mine the vast amounts of oil , coal, natural gas, and uranium hiding on those contentious federal lands. During President Obama ‘s time in office, the number of leases for mining and drilling stagnated, but Trump promised to “unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves” and might be able accomplish that through new leases to drill for fossil fuel companies. Big Oil is thrilled with that goal; American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard told Reuters, “This opportunity is unique, maybe once in a lifetime.” Related: Obama creates two new western national monuments in last minute effort During his campaign, Trump said Obama denied “millions of Americans access to the energy wealth sitting under our feet,” in part by restricting leases. Some people agree with him, such as former U.S. Bureau of Land Management officer Bob Turri who lives amidst a federal forest in Utah and told Reuters, “We can’t maintain our families here because there are no jobs. That’s the only hope we have left, is what Trump may be able to do for us.” Federal land oil output accounted for around one fifth of the country’s total oil output in 2015, according to Reuters, after comprising over one third of oil output in 2010. In a late November blog post , the Trump-Pence Transition Team said, “Rather than continuing the current path to undermine and block America’s fossil fuel reserves, the Trump Administration will encourage the production of these resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters.” In the very same post they said they plan to conserve “our wonderful natural resources and beautiful natural habitats.” If they’re actually committed to the latter promise as they claim, perhaps they should take a closer look at the havoc drilling has wreaked on the environment in the past . Via Reuters and EcoWatch Images via brewbooks on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Big Oil celebrates Trump’s goal to open up drilling in national parks

World’s first material-sensing smartphone reveals what’s in your food

January 13, 2017 by  
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If you are tired of hearing everyday products and even our water laced with harmful, carcinogenic chemicals, you might be encouraged to learn that a company in China has just unveiled the world’s first material-sensing smartphone. Offering consumers a powerful new defense against elements that potentially undermine environmental and public health, the Changhong H2 is capable of reading the molecular makeup of just about anything—from strawberries and pills to your own body metrics. Sichuan Changhong Electric Co teamed up with ADI and Consumer Physics to develop the groundbreaking device, which is fitted with a smaller version of the SCiO sensor used in Consumer Physics’ groundbreaking pocket spectrometer . Consumer Physics founder and CEO Dror Sharon told Inhabitat he is extremely excited about this new release for the company. “The main mission we have been pursuing since the company’s founding is to empower people with knowledge about materials surrounding us,” he said in an email. “The ability to scan directly through the smartphone, immediately and everywhere you are, would eventually allow access to many more and the development of many new apps.” Like the SCiO spectrometer , which measures the light reflected off any given object, breaks down its spectrum, and then sends the ensuing information to the cloud to determine its molecular properties, the H2 will allow users to carefully evaluate everything they eat, drink, wear and more. “It’s a smartphone that creates miracles,” according to Consumer Physics. “From identification of compositions like alcoholic drinks, to process control – with the right apps and corresponding database, it can create experiences beyond our imagination.” Related: World’s first pocket spectrometer measures the molecular makeup of just about anything “Just as the smartphone put the power of the internet and a vast knowledge base into our pockets, this innovation will put the capability to learn about the chemical and molecular makeup of materials into the public’s hands,” Sharon added. Sharon said the H2 is the first smartphone embedded with SCiO, but they are talking to other mobile manufacturers to equip more smartphones with the tiny material-sensing technology. Consumer Physics says the plan is to release the H2 in China for about $435 in the middle of this year, and a phone for consumers outside of China later this year. + Consumer Physics Images courtesy Consumer Physics

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World’s first material-sensing smartphone reveals what’s in your food

Yves Behar unveils friendly robot that helps aging adults stay connected to the world

January 13, 2017 by  
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A new startup called Intuition Robotics just unveiled their stealth product: ElliQ, an AI robot companion created to help aging adults stay active and engaged. Designed by Yves Behar and fuseproject , the robot helps senior citizens stay connected to the world through video chat, online games, and social media – so they can interact with far-away friends and family – and it also encourages them to stay active and reminds them to take medications. The ElliQ is designed to help people who struggle with loneliness and have a difficult time operating digital technology by themselves. Research has shown that, for seniors, feelings of isolation are linked to declines in physical and mental health, so it’s incredibly important for those who live alone to have a companion to help monitor their health. They frequently have problems understanding modern technology, which can be a major barrier when it comes to keeping in touch with friends and family. ElliQ is designed to overcome those challenges and keep seniors at high risk connected with the world around them. Related: Retirement home in China emphasizes communal living in a natural setting Designer Yves Behar deliberately departed from traditional concepts of what a robot “should” look like, in order to make ElliQ more welcoming and comforting to interact with. The result is a device that looks like something that might step out of a Pixar movie: it’s has friendly, soft, rounded shapes that allow it to convey a sense of emotion through simple gestures and an LED lighting display. The robot’s friendly and approachable appearance should make it a welcome addition in any home. If you’d like to see the ElliQ, the robot is currently on display at the Design Museum in London, as part of its “ New Old: Designing For Our Future Selves ” exhibition. Starting in February 2017, Intuition Robotics plans to start a trial by placing it in the homes of older adults in the Bay Area. + Intuition Robotics Images via Intuition Robotics

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Yves Behar unveils friendly robot that helps aging adults stay connected to the world

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