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Weighing the risks of fracking

first_imgCheap, plentiful natural gas from underground shale deposits promises to change the U.S. energy picture in the years to come, prompting retirement of the oldest, dirtiest coal plants as new power plants are built to burn gas, a former U.S. energy official said Wednesday.Shale gas has environmental problems of its own, however, and its growth is dependent to some extent on the industry solving those problems, said Susan Tierney, who was assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Energy under President Bill Clinton. Tierney also led the energy transition team for President Obama and is currently managing principal at the consulting firm Analysis Group.Tierney spoke at the Northwest Laboratory building in a Future of Energy talk sponsored by the Harvard University Center for the Environment.Gas from shale deposits has become an important factor in U.S. energy as new technology has increased the supply. Natural gas is conventionally extracted along with oil and other petroleum products from deep underground wells. Shale gas is extracted from deposits of shale rock by drilling wells thousands of feet underground and injecting liquids under high pressure that fracture the rock, releasing the gas. The process, called “fracking,” has become increasingly controversial in recent years, with nearby residents lodging a variety of complaints, including pollution of groundwater sources.Tierney said Wednesday that pollution and environmental problems do occur in conjunction with shale gas extraction, but because the fracking occurs thousands of feet below the deepest aquifers, problems are most likely tied to how the well penetrates the aquifer rather than the fracking process itself.“The issues of hydraulic fracturing are less about the fracturing than they are about drilling through the aquifer,” Tierney said.Along with groundwater problems, chemical spills have polluted surface water sources, and methane releases have caused smog to form in communities where shale gas is being extracted. In rural areas, heavy truck traffic has been an issue.“These are really changing land uses,” Tierney said.Many of those complaints are resolvable, however, if companies pay more attention to safety and if regulators keep a closer eye on gas extraction operations, Tierney said. One challenge is that some regions where shale deposits are found do not have the regulatory framework of oil-drilling states such as Texas.Along the Appalachian Mountains, for example, drilling operations have increased dramatically. In Pennsylvania alone, permits for well drilling increased from fewer than 100 as recently as 2007 to more than 3,000 in 2010.“This is a pace of development that is extraordinary,” Tierney said.Estimates of U.S. gas reserves have more than doubled in the past decade, Tierney said, and projections show extraction continuing its rapid rise. This is expected to drive prices down to the point where gas can challenge coal, which is inexpensive but a significant source of both pollution and greenhouse gas. In addition, if expected federal regulations on downwind air pollution, toxic compounds, and cooling water use are implemented, it may make more financial sense for owners of old coal plants – especially those built before the 1980s — to shutter them and build gas-fired plants.“There are … market forces making it so that there are lots of opportunities for gas to displace coal,” Tierney said.Replacing older coal plants with gas plants could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to climate change, because gas, though it is a fossil fuel, burns cleaner and releases less carbon dioxide than coal does. A recent study indicated that turnover of older plants and increased use of natural gas because of its lower price and greater availability could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heating, cooling, power plants, and industrial sources by as much as 50 percent. Going beyond that, however, would require the addition of carbon sequestration and other technologies that remove and store carbon.“It gets you part of the way through market forces; then you have to do something,” Tierney said.But there will be no end to the controversy around shale gas extraction until the industry cleans up its act and reduces spills, methane gas leaks, water pollution, and truck traffic, Tierney said. What’s needed, she added, is education — to close the gap between what people think they know and what is actually happening. Also needed is the development of a culture of safety within the industry and of regulation within government. Most state oil and gas agencies are tasked with both nurturing and regulating the industry, goals that might not be compatible within the same office. Disclosures on pollution, chemicals, and the amounts of water used would increase openness.“There’s a lot of gas out there, the benefit depends on the industry doing it right,” Tierney said.last_img read more

Is eating red meat OK, after all? Probably not

first_img Study finds greater adherence lowers risk of Type 2 diabetes by 23% Growing support for plant-based diet Amino acid leucine, found in animal products and beans, blocks effectiveness of medications Meaty subjects have been in the news recently, with a series of studies questioning dietary recommendations that we eat less of the red stuff, even as plant-based substitutes have moved into the spotlight with fast-food breakthroughs. A new generation of faux burgers, such as Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat, which more closely replicate the experience of eating the real thing (they even “bleed”), have been popping up on the menus of chains like Burger King, Subway, and KFC. Scientists re-examining the dietary role of red meat, meanwhile, turned the nation’s nutrition landscape on its head in early October by casting doubt on the conventional wisdom that generally Americans need to eat less of it. Those findings drew a rapid and negative reaction from several quarters, including the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and scientists such as Frank Hu, chairman of the Nutrition Department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Hu discussed the shifting landscape with the Gazette.Q&AFrank HuGAZETTE: Meat and meat substitutes have been prominent in discussions of diet and health recently. A group of scientists issued guidelines suggesting adults continue their consumption of red and processed meats — the opposite of existing recommendations to cut back. Can you help clear up the confusion?HU: This was indeed very confusing, so I’ll get right to the point. The recent guidelines published in the Annals of Internal Medicine should not change existing recommendations on healthy and balanced eating patterns for the prevention of chronic diseases. Guidance to reduce red and processed meats is based on a large body of evidence indicating that higher consumption of red meat — especially processed red meat — is associated with higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancers, and premature death. While this guidance is supported by both national and international organizations, including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and the World Health Organization, consumers should know that the new guidelines were released by a self-selected panel of 14 members. Furthermore, when my colleagues and I closely reviewed the studies informing the panel’s decision, we saw that their findings contradicted their guidance. In short, the three meta-analyses of observational studies actually confirmed existing evidence on the potential for health benefits when cutting back on red and processed meats. However, because they based their analysis on a measure of three servings of red meat per week, the effects of an individual reducing consumption appeared small. But if you consider that about a third of U.S. adults eat one serving or more of red meat each day, the potential health benefits of reducing consumption become much greater.GAZETTE: Authors of the new guidelines say that existing recommendations to cut back on red meat are based on “low-quality evidence.” How did they reach that conclusion?HU: Looking at their methods, this is not surprising because they applied an assessment criteria to observational lifestyle research that was developed for evaluating clinical trials, such as those used in drug research. However, we can’t study diet the same way we can a pill. It would be unethical to select individuals and feed them high amounts of red meat over the course of many years to observe the outcome. For this reason, we need to look at research on diet in a more sophisticated way. Criteria have been developed and applied to do just that but the authors didn’t use them. The takeaway here is that nutrition research is complex, and rarely do [its findings] reverse so abruptly. That’s why it’s so important to look beyond the headlines at the quality of the evidence behind the claims. Still, the publication of these new guidelines in such a prominent medical journal is unfortunate as it risks further harm to the credibility of nutrition science, eroding public trust in research as well as the recommendations they ultimately inform.,GAZETTE: The panel didn’t consider environmental impact when forming their guidelines. You and Harvard Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment Director Gina McCarthy recently noted in a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Viewpoint that increased sustainability is a potential benefit of the new plant-based meat alternatives. Why is it so important to be concerned about environmental sustainability when making dietary recommendations?HU: This was certainly a missed opportunity. From a planetary health perspective, already our current production of red meat, particularly beef, stands out for its disproportionate greenhouse-gas emissions in comparison to other foods, especially plant-based foods. Beyond emissions, there is concern that industrial meat production can contaminate our water resources with runoff from animal-waste lagoons. Concerns have also been noted about the welfare of animals raised in these industrial conditions. For those concerned with human health and the health of the planet, these multifaceted issues are alarming in light of projections that the global demand for meat will continue to increase in the coming decades.GAZETTE: Let’s shift gears to the other “meats” making headlines — the new wave of plant-based alternatives, which promise real meat flavor to those who can’t give up burgers. What did you think when you first heard of them? Good dietary development or bad?HU: My first thought is that these are an interesting application of innovative food technology that may be useful for individuals looking to reduce their intake of red meat and move toward a more plant-based diet. Of course, this is a hypothetical as we have no research as to whether this is a shift consumers will make, and whether such a shift will be transitional or long-term. Furthermore, like any new technology, we must be watchful to ensure that these new products are beneficial to human health as well as the health of the planet, and to understand and consider any unintended consequences.GAZETTE: For products like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat to make a difference on global sustainability, they’d have to translate an expensive, high-tech solution to developing and middle-income countries on a massive scale. Is that likely?HU: We are faced with the unprecedented challenge of feeding a global population slated to reach 10 billion by 2050. When the EAT-Lancet Commission looked at this from both a human and planetary health perspective, they came up with a planetary health diet that would meet nutritional requirements while staying within the confines of our planet’s natural resources. While this shift would require total global consumption of foods such as red meat to decrease by half, all nations are not on an even playing field. North American countries are consuming over six times the amount of red meat recommended by the planetary health diet, while South Asian countries are eating only half the recommended amount. So, while these plant-based analogues may play some role in helping to satisfy the projected desire for burgers and other red meat worldwide, we should be cautious in viewing them — or any single innovation — as a silver bullet. Likewise, we must ensure that they do not distract from necessary efforts to shift our global agricultural system to produce more healthy and sustainable foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.GAZETTE:  Does a better strategy exist by encouraging people in developing nations to embrace healthy aspects of their traditional diets rather than Western diets?HU: The research we have on healthy dietary patterns points to an abundance of minimally processed plant foods — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts; moderate amounts of dairy products, seafood, and poultry; and lower amounts of processed and red meat, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains. While there are many traditional diets that fit this profile — which should certainly be encouraged — it’s not the case everywhere. Undernutrition and food insecurity remain a burden for those living in many developing countries, so again, it’s important to not only make recommendations for a healthy diet but to create a global food system where it can be achieved. Related Researchers show how several diets can improve heart health center_img GAZETTE: You point out in the JAMA article on meat alternatives that the plant protein in them is highly processed and that we don’t know if the salutary effects of eating plants is maintained after processing. Why is processing a concern and are there possible analogies to highly processed carbs, which play a role in the obesity and diabetes epidemics?HU: Indeed, we can’t directly extrapolate existing findings on minimally processed plant-based foods to these products. Food processing is a broad spectrum, but when a food is highly processed it leads to the loss of some nutrients and phytochemicals naturally present in plant foods. It may also lead to the creation of highly-palatable products with high amounts of added sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats, which can result in excess caloric intake and weight gain. Many highly processed foods are loaded with refined carbs, and others also contain protein isolates and other purified ingredients.GAZETTE: In recent years, we’ve become aware of the potentially major influence of our microbiome on health. Is there concern that there may be unrecognized impacts of these new food products there?HU: Research is needed to understand how consumption of these novel meat alternatives impact our microbiome. Similar to other highly processed foods, these products rely on purified plant ingredients, and therefore lack much of the fiber and polyphenols found in intact plant foods, which are favored by our healthy gut bacteria. This raises the question as to whether regular consumption of these products could lead to the reduction of healthy bacteria, and as a result, an increase in unhealthy bacteria.GAZETTE: What is the most important thing for the public to know about these products?HU: I think it’s important to know that although these plant-based products may have less environmental impact than their animal-based counterparts, there is no evidence that these products are also beneficial to human health. Clearly, there is no evidence to suggest that they can substitute for healthy diets focused on minimally processed plant foods. Protein, fat, or carbs? Dietary link found to drug-resistant breast cancer The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news.last_img read more

Tag New Media launches new online presence for hummel America.

first_imgTag New Media (TNM) has announced the launch of the hummel America website. Hummel, a soccer equipment and branded apparel company based in Denmark, partnered with TNM to assist them with their online expansion into the U.S. market.The Flash™-based hummelamerica.com website, reflects thecompany’s mission of branding by story-telling. The site’s interactive and youthful feel invites visitors to explore the hummel brand by interacting with virtual “Polaroids” placed within a hummel “keepsake” shoe box. Each “Polaroid” represents one of hummel’s ten key brand messages.Brian Kukon, CEO of hummel America says, “Tag New Media represents the cutting-edge, advanced thinking and dynamic team approach used in website development much the same as hummel approaches the soccer and fashion industries. Our companies have the same synergy.”Tag New Media is an award-winning Web design and development studio based in Burlington, Vermont. Since 1996, TNM has focused on delivering value to their clients through thoughtfully conceived and appropriate interactive design and technology solutions – solutions that address core businessobjectives.last_img read more

New York begins bidding process for 800MW of offshore wind

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Associated Press:New York has kicked off the competition for the state’s first large-scale offshore wind development contracts.Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday the solicitation seeking 800 megawatts or more of new offshore wind projects is an initial step toward the state’s goal of 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030 to combat climate change.The Democrat has mandated that 50 percent of the state’s electricity must come from renewable sources by 2030.Under the solicitation, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has the ability to award 25-year contracts for projects ranging from 200 to 800 megawatts. Bids are due in February and awards are expected in the spring.The agency will award contracts according to price as well as economic benefits and project viability.More: New York kicks off competition for offshore wind contracts New York begins bidding process for 800MW of offshore windlast_img read more

Weekend Pick: One Last Day of Skiing at Wintergreen

first_imgSpring skiing is usually reserved for those resorts in the Mountain West. Those resorts build up a base that just doesn’t quit when the sun comes out and the spring freeze/thaw cycle begins. While powder days may be few in March and April, the upside is that spring corn is almost as good, when it’s good. When it’s bad, you are still skiing or snowboarding in a t-shirt, the warm sun is still hitting your face, and the good vibes of another ski season are still coursing through your veins. Plus, sometimes the snow bunnies come out in non-traditional ski attire, which can be something to see. Yes, the spring ski season out West is a great time to be on the slopes, but is something we rarely see here on the East Coast. Usually, as soon as the temperatures start to rise and the snow melts faster than a snowball in hell. Speaking of, that is about the chance of spring skiing we see in any given year.Well, this year, that snowball is going to make it until this weekend. Due to some late season snowfall and low temperatures in the mountains, Wintergreen Resort will open Saturday for one last day on the slopes. This is the last opportunity to get some winter sport in, so take advantage. Wintergreen is also offering lift tickets for $25, so there is no real excuse: unpack those boards, throw on some jean shorts and stretch it out because there is going to be some hot-dogging going on Saturday!View Larger Maplast_img read more

FOMC expected to raise rates tomorrow

first_img The Federal Open Market Committee begins its two-day meeting today, after which it is expected to announce an increase in the federal funds target rate.The range has been set at 0 to 0.25 percent since 2008. Observers have been awaiting the rate increase for months, while the committee has repeatedly indicated they were still waiting for inflation to increase and for the labor market to improve. The committee had also expressed unease about economic instability abroad. continue reading » The Federal Reserve 4SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Seaford Woman Killed in Parkway Crash

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York A 43-year-old Seaford woman died after she crashed her car on the Wantagh State Parkway in Wantagh on Thursday morning.New York State police said Amy Giunta was driving her Cadillac DTS northbound “at a high rate of speed” when she crashed into the woods south of the Southern State Parkway shortly before 9 a.m.The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.Witnesses told investigators that the victim was speeding before crossing the lanes of the roadway, driving onto the shoulder and hitting a tree.Northbound lanes of Wantagh parkway were closed at Sunrise Highway for two hours while investigators were on the scene.last_img read more

Security blanket

first_imgWould you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletters To access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week.last_img

Greater Manchester fund buys retail complex

first_img”This acquisition continues our strategy of acquiring development and redevelopment opportunities in the north west.”At present, property investments make up approximately 6% of GMPF’s £13bn portfolio, of which two-thirds are in direct holdings and one-third in funds.Morris said that GMPF’s planned target allocation to property in the medium-term is 10%, delivered in various ways.He added direct property holdings were expected to be in the range of 4 to 8% of the total portfolio. But the fund will continue to develop other means of obtaining its property exposure, such as GMPVF. The Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund (GMPVF) has moved to acquire Chorlton Shopping Centre in a £10m (E12m) deal from Development Securities.GMPVF invests in property development and redevelopment opportunities in North-West England on behalf of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF)The shopping centre has 16 retail units, a supermarket, offices and a car park. Existing tenants include travel agency Thomas Cook, newsagents Martins, Heron Foods, Quality Save and a large number of independent quality retailers.Peter Morris, director of pensions, GMPF, the largest scheme for local authority workers in England & Wales, said: “This is a long-term investment. We will develop a plan that will see the centre improved over time, respecting the diversity of operators there.last_img read more

​Towers Watson restructures global manager research team

first_imgTowers Watson is reorganising its manager research team, appointing a new global division head following the promotion of Craig Baker.The consultancy said Luba Nikulina, its long-standing global head of private markets, would take over as global head of manager research with immediate effect.Baker, Nikulina’s predecessor, was named global CIO in June, at the same time the firm promoted Chris Mansi to global delegated CIO, a role he previously held for the consultancy’s European division.Nikulina has worked at Towers Watson since 2005, both in the company’s London and New York offices, and was previously deputy head of capital investment at Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel. She also spent five years as an investment manager at Probusinessbank in Moscow.The promotion of Nikulina will trigger a restructuring of the consultancy’s manager research business, according to Baker.He noted that Towers Watson had long been asset-class agnostic, with an emphasis on asset returns over individual classes.“The new structure will enhance our ability to compare mandates of a similar nature, such as long-only equity and long/short equity, or, indeed, public and private equity,” he said.“It will also create better alignment between our research efforts and portfolio construction process.”The new structure will see the creation of three global research teams – equity, credit and diversified strategies.Jim MacLachlan will continue to lead the equity research department but with additional responsibility for long/short equity hedge funds and private equity funds.Chris Redmond will remain in charge of credit but additionally cover fixed income hedge funds and illiquid credit.Damien Loveday, former head of the hedge fund research team, has been named head of the diversified strategies team, which will cover macro hedge funds, reinsurance, multi-strategy and real assets, such as infrastructure, property and farmland.last_img read more