letter to shareholders.

“I’ll venture a rare prediction,” he wrote in February. “BNSF will be a key asset for Berkshire and our country a century from now.”

Peter S. Goodman and Clifford Krauss contributed reporting.

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U.S. Northeast faces potential energy shortages as rails start to shut

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Unused oil tank cars are pictured on Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad tracks outside Hinsdale, New York August 24, 2015. Picture taken August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario/File Photo

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NEW YORK, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Some trains carrying fuel components to the U.S. Northeast have been halted in preparation for a possible railroad shutdown in the coming days, two sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

The northernmost East Coast states rely on railroad shipments to supplement pipeline deliveries from the U.S. Gulf. The region is among the largest fuel consumers in the nation, where U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows that in July inventories of heating oil and diesel reached the lowest levels in at least three decades.

Major railroads, including Union Pacific (UNP.N) and Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRKa.N) BNSF, must reach a tentative deal with three unions representing 60,000 workers before 12:01 a.m. on Friday to avert a shutdown.

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Unit trains to the Northeast that carry commodities including ethanol and crude oil have already stopped, two sources told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

All railroads are preparing to wind down operations in the next day, said a spokesperson at Norfolk Southern (NSC.N) who declined to comment further. Passenger rail operator Amtrak has already canceled all long-distance routes nationwide as their trains run largely on freight lines outside of the U.S. Northeast. read more

Nationwide, stocks of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, are at their lowest levels seasonally since 2000, according to EIA data.

The situation is more dire in New England and the Central Atlantic states. In that region, stretching from Maine to Maryland, stocks are at 16.6 million barrels, lowest seasonally since the EIA started keeping the data in 1990.

Fuel distributors generally have inventories to last several days and those markets can also receive imports, but prices would be expected to rise in anticipation of a possible shortage.

Some shippers, anticipating a shutdown, have already stopped transporting hazardous materials around the United States, including fuel blending components.

“I already have companies that have been limiting their production knowing this was coming and now they’ll have to face the music and shut down,” said Tom Williamson, a railcar broker and owner of Transportation Consultants, which manages over 2,000 railcars.

He said he has been busy the past few days communicating with clients who are starting to shut down production of hazardous materials.

The upper Northeast relies on rail for shipments of crude oil, natural gas and fuel products more than other regions because of a lack of pipelines. New England receives most of the natural gas it uses to heat homes and light stoves by rail, according to consultancy RBN Energy, making it vulnerable to a stoppage.

“Over the past 20 years, regional imbalances between where products are produced and where they are demanded has increased,” said Debnil Chowdhury, vice president, Americas head of refining and marketing, S&P Global Commodity Insights. “This has increased the need to transfer products from the Gulf Coast to the (Northeast).”

Pipelines carrying fuel and natural gas from Texas and other oil and gas-producing states of the U.S. South are already full, Chowdhury said, leaving little room to increase flows on the lines if a shutdown happens.

“All sorts of stuff is going to grind to a halt,” said one executive familiar with the region’s rail operations, who asked not to be named. “It’s going to be brutal.”

In July, governors of New England states wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm warning her that the region faced surging winter heating bills due to lack of natural gas pipeline connectivity.

They also asked the Biden Administration to suspend the Jones Act, which requires goods moved between U.S. ports to be carried by ships built domestically and staffed by U.S. crew, for the delivery of LNG for at least a portion of the upcoming winter.

In 2021, the six-state New England region got most of its power, or 46%, from natural gas, according to ISO New England, the region’s power grid operator. On the coldest winter days, the grid relies on oil as well to fuel a much bigger percentage of power generation.

Nationwide, shippers for oil and chemical companies are making contingency plans.

“We are starting to see impacts already,” said Chris Ball, chief executive officer of Quantix, a Houston-based company that provides trucks and trailers to transport chemicals for companies including Exxon Mobil, Dow and LyondellBasell.

“They (railroads) have already restricted what they’re taking and so we’re getting a fair amount of trucking orders across our whole network,” Ball said.

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Reporting by Laila Kearney, Laura Sanicola and Jarrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Laura Sanicola

Thomson Reuters

Reports on oil and energy, including refineries, markets and renewable fuels. Previously worked at Euromoney Institutional Investor and CNN.

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In Parts Of The Mideast, Power Generators Spew Toxic Fumes 24/7

The pollutants caused by massive generators add to the many environmental woes of the Middle East.

They literally run the country. In parking lots, on flatbed trucks, hospital courtyards and rooftops, private generators are ubiquitous in parts of the Middle East, spewing hazardous fumes into homes and businesses 24 hours a day.

As the world looks for renewable energy to tackle climate change, millions of people around the region depend almost completely on diesel-powered private generators to keep the lights on because war or mismanagement have gutted electricity infrastructure.

Experts call it national suicide from an environmental and health perspective.

“Air pollution from diesel generators contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants, including many known or suspected cancer-causing substances,” said Samy Kayed, managing director and co-founder of the Environment Academy at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

Greater exposure to these pollutants likely increases respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease, he said. It also causes acid rain that harms plant growth and increases eutrophication — the excess build-up of nutrients in water that ultimately kills aquatic plants.

Since they usually use diesel, generators also produce far more climate change-inducing emissions than, for example, a natural gas power plant does, he said.

The pollutants caused by massive generators add to the many environmental woes of the Middle East, which is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change. The region already has high temperatures and limited water resources even without the growing impact of global warming.

The reliance on generators results from state failure. In Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, governments can’t maintain a functioning central power network, whether because of war, conflict or mismanagement and corruption.

Lebanon, for example, has not built a new power plant in decades. Multiple plans for new ones have run aground on politicians’ factionalism and conflicting patronage interests. The country’s few aging, heavy-fuel oil plants long ago became unable to meet demand.

Iraq, meanwhile, sits on some of the world’s biggest oil reserves. Yet scorching summer-time heat is always accompanied by the roar of neighborhood generators, as residents blast ACs around the clock to keep cool.

Repeated wars over the decades have wrecked Iraq’s electricity networks. Corruption has siphoned away billions of dollars meant to repair and upgrade it. Some 17 billion cubic meters of gas from Iraq’s wells are burned every year as waste, because it hasn’t built the infrastructure to capture it and convert it to electricity to power Iraqi homes.

In Libya, a country prized for its light and sweet crude oil, electricity networks have buckled under years of civil war and the lack of a central government.

“The power cuts last the greater part of the day, when electricity is mostly needed,” said Muataz Shobaik, the owner of a butcher shop in the city of Benghazi, in Libya’s east, who uses a noisy generator to keep his coolers running.

“Every business has to have a backup off-grid solution now,” he said. Diesel fumes from his and neighboring shops’ machines hung thick in the air amid the oppressive heat.

The Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people rely on around 700 neighborhood generators across the territory for their homes. Thousands of private generators keep businesses, government institutions, universities and health centers running. Running on diesel, they churn black smoke in the air, tarring walls around them.

Since Israel bombed the only power plant in the Hamas-ruled territory in 2014, the station has never reached full capacity. Gaza only gets about half the power it needs from the plant and directly from Israel. Cutoffs can last up to 16 hours a day.

WAY OF LIFE

Perhaps nowhere do generators rule people’s lives as much as in Lebanon, where the system is so entrenched and institutionalized that private generator owners have their own business association.

They are crammed into tight streets, parking lots, on roofs and balconies and in garages. Some are as large as storage containers, others small and blaring noise.

Lebanon’s 5 million people have long depended on them. The word “moteur,” French for generator, is one of the most often spoken words among Lebanese.

Reliance has only increased since Lebanon’s economy unraveled in late 2019 and central power cutoffs began lasting longer. At the same time, generator owners have had to ration use because of soaring diesel prices and high temperatures, turning them off several times a day for breaks.

So residents plan their lives around the gaps in electricity.

Those who can’t start the day without coffee set an alarm to make a cup before the generator turns off. The frail or elderly in apartment towers wait for the generator to switch on before leaving home so they don’t have to climb stairs. Hospitals must keep generators humming so life-saving machines can operate without disruption.

“We understand people’s frustration, but if it wasn’t for us, people would be living in darkness,” said Ihab, the Egyptian operator of a generator station north of Beirut.

“They say we are more powerful than the state, but it is the absence of the state that led us to exist,” he said, giving only his first name to avoid trouble with the authorities.

Siham Hanna, a 58-year-old translator in Beirut, said generator fumes exacerbate her elderly father’s lung condition. She wipes soot off her balcony and other surfaces several times a day.

“It’s the 21st century, but we live like in the stone ages. Who lives like this?” said Hanna, who does not recall her country ever having stable electricity in her life.

Some in Lebanon and elsewhere have begun to install solar power systems in their homes. But most use it only to fill in when the generator is off. Cost and space issues in urban areas have also limited solar use.

In Iraq, the typical middle-income household uses generator power for 10 hours a day on average and pays $240 per Megawatt/hour, among the highest rates in the region, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

The need for generators has become ingrained in people’s minds. At a recent concert in the capital, famed singer Umm Ali al-Malla made sure to thank not only the audience but also the venue’s technical director “for keeping the generator going” while her admirers danced.

TOXIC CONTAMINANTS

As opposed to power plants outside urban areas, generators are in the heart of neighborhoods, pumping toxins directly to residents.

This is catastrophic, said Najat Saliba, a chemist at the American University of Beirut who recently won a seat in Parliament.

“This is extremely taxing on the environment, especially the amount of black carbon and particles that they emit,” she said. There are almost no regulations and no filtering of particles, she added.

Researchers at AUB found that the level of toxic emissions may have quadrupled since Lebanon’s financial crisis began because of increased reliance on generators.

In Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, miles of wires crisscross streets connecting thousands of private generators. Each produces 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases per 8 hours working time, according to Mohammed al Hazem, an environmental activist.

Similarly, a 2020 study on the environmental impact of using large generators in the University of Technology in Baghdad found very high concentrations of pollutants exceeding limits set by the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.

That was particularly because Iraqi diesel fuel has a high sulphur content — “one of the worst in the world,” the study said. The emissions include “sulphate, nitrate materials, atoms of soot carbon, ash” and pollutants that are considered carcinogens, it warned.

“The pollutants emitted from these generators exert a remarkable impact on the overall health of students and university staff, it said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Illinois Town’s $13 Million Water System Will Remove All Toxic PFAS

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, don’t degrade over time, which causes harm to humans when ingested through water or other products.

Freeport is a small industrial city of 24,000 in northwest Illinois. For a price tag of $13 million, it’s building a new water system to tap deep into new, uncontaminated water sources.

“The most important room is… the filter room,” said Rob Boyer, Freeport public works director, while visiting the construction site. “It is designed to produce approximately 2 million gallons per day of potable drinking water.” 

Boyer says when the “enormous” project is completed sometime in 2023, the city’s drinking water will be entirely free of so-called forever chemicals.

“This is critical to life and health issues in the city and for its residents, and that’s why it’s prioritized,” Boyer said, noting that there’s no contamination in the source water where the new well and plant are being built.

About 10 years ago, the EPA found high levels of forever chemicals in two wells that produced about a third of Freeport’s drinking water.  

Boyer says he can only speculate what the source of the contamination could have been, but that speculation points him to the prevalence of industry in general there.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are nicknamed forever chemicals because they don’t degrade over time. This group of man-made chemicals have been used in many consumer and industrial products since the 1950s.

“There are over 200 different use categories, ranging from dental floss to clothing to carpets to compostable cookware to all kinds of plastics,” said Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The chemicals were pioneered by conglomerates 3M and Dupont. They’ve been popular because of their resistance to water, stains, heat and oil. 

Since they don’t break down, the are now omnipresent in our environment — and even in our blood. 

“I would say that everyone in our country has them in their bodies,” Birnbaum said. 

Scientists are now linking these chemicals to potential harmful health effects, such as kidney and testicular cancers. But back in 2014, the chemicals’ potential negative impacts were not as well-known.

Still, Freeport officials quickly shut down the two wells with the most contamination. Soon after, they put in motion plans to drill the new well and build the new treatment plant. 

“It is protecting our lives here, and it’s protecting the residents’ lives here,” Boyer said. 

According to the advocacy nonprofit the Environmental Working Group, more than 200 million Americans may be drinking water contaminated with the chemicals. 

Freeport officials tell Newsy their decision to completely revamp the city’s drinking water system puts them on the leading edge of the national fight against forever chemicals, but at what cost? 

Like hundreds of impacted cities nationwide, Freeport is considering joining ongoing litigation against 3M, Dupont and other PFAS manufacturers.

But for now, it’s the residents who bear the health and financial costs caused by pollution most people don’t even know exists.

Source: newsy.com

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Scientists Are Trying To Solve The ‘Forever Chemicals’ Problem

PFAS are chemicals that don’t wear down even after being disposed. Now scientists are trying to address them before they cause human side effects.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are chemicals that have made a lot of products better: They have been used in firefighting foam, food wrappers, makeup and, maybe most famously, in the original formulation for Teflon used in non-stick pans.

But PFAS might be a little too good at their jobs. They don’t wear down while they’re used, and even when they get thrown out, they don’t go away. It’s led to them being dubbed “forever chemicals.”

PFAS have been detected in people’s blood, and studies have suggested 98% of people have PFAS somewhere in their body. They’ve been found in air, soil and drinking water.

They’re also associated with some significant negative side effects if you’re exposed to them at high enough levels. Those can include decreased fertility, developmental delays in children, high cholesterol, higher blood pressure in pregnant people, worse response to vaccines, and higher risks of prostate, kidney and testicular cancers.

David Andrews, a senior scientist at the advocacy nonprofit the Environmental Working Group, says you don’t need to be exposed to that much of it to be at risk.

“The number of studies and the research going on continues to expose more and more different health effects, and I think what also stands out is that these health effects and these linkages to health really occur at incredibly low concentrations,” Andrews said.

It’s not clear exactly how bad they are for you, and not everyone exposed to PFAS will necessarily develop these side effects. But there’s a lot of movement to address the issue as research reveals more about them.

Now, advocates are aiming to find ways to break down these compounds and make sure they’re not used as much in the first place. 

“We can’t just focus on destroying the chemicals once they’re in the environment because the environment is already very saturated with past chemicals, and they stay there forever,” said Melanie Benesh, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “It’s an enormous task if we think about taking PFAS out of all the water, if we think about taking PFAS out of all the contaminated communities, so just having a destruction technology isn’t the solution. We also really need to put less of this stuff out in the environment in the first place.”

But it’s not just advocacy groups like the Environmental Working Group working on policy solutions.

It’s not clear when historically-large PFAS producers like DuPont, Chemours and 3M knew about the negative health effects of these chemicals. But all three note that they’ve reduced the levels of PFAS used in their products and committed to PFAS destruction. 3M, for example, says they have invested more than $200 million toward testing and clean-up.

At the government level, the EPA has gone even further.

In the last year-plus, the EPA proposed a rule to require PFAS producers to turn over more data about how the chemicals are used and announced more plans to address PFAS water contamination, including $1 billion that states can apply for in grants to help remove PFAS from their drinking water.

This year, they have taken further steps, designating two of the most widely-used PFAS compounds, often known as PFOAs and PFOS, as hazardous substances under the Superfund rules.

“The EPA does have some power currently to address people as pollutants or contaminants, but the set of tools that they have is a lot smaller if something is not a hazardous substance,” Benesh said. “So now that the EPA is considering calling PFOA perhaps hazardous substances, once that’s final, the EPA can use appropriated funds, and then just generally it’ll change the way that they prioritize sites that are contaminated with these substances.”

In August, researchers at UCLA, Northwestern University and China’s Tianjin University released a study in the journal Science that showed PFAS can be destroyed relatively easily and inexpensively.

Will Dichtel, the Northwestern professor who oversaw the study, told Newsy how.

“We found that a certain type of group that is found in two of the largest classes of us out there, known as that carboxylic acid, is now known in organic chemistry to be able to be removed under certain conditions,” Dichtel said. “So the eureka moment here was when we figured out that this reaction that was discovered a few years ago could be applied too fast and that that they would then fall apart into safe products.”

It remains to be seen if it will work outside a lab, but it opens the door to a potentially revolutionary new path to making sure fewer “forever chemicals” actually last “forever.”

Source: newsy.com

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Shock Waves Hit the Global Economy, Posing Grave Risk to Europe

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the continuing effects of the pandemic have hobbled countries around the globe, but the relentless series of crises has hit Europe the hardest, causing the steepest jump in energy prices, some of the highest inflation rates and the biggest risk of recession.

The fallout from the war is menacing the continent with what some fear could become its most challenging economic and financial crisis in decades.

While growth is slowing worldwide, “in Europe it’s altogether more serious because it’s driven by a more fundamental deterioration,” said Neil Shearing, group chief economist at Capital Economics. Real incomes and living standards are falling, he added. “Europe and Britain are just worse off.”

eightfold increase in natural gas prices since the war began presents a historic threat to Europe’s industrial might, living standards, and social peace and cohesion. Plans for factory closings, rolling blackouts and rationing are being drawn up in case of severe shortages this winter.

China, a powerful engine of global growth and a major market for European exports like cars, machinery and food, is facing its own set of problems. Beijing’s policy of continuing to freeze all activity during Covid-19 outbreaks has repeatedly paralyzed large swaths of the economy and added to worldwide supply chain disruptions. In the last few weeks alone, dozens of cities and more than 300 million people have been under full or partial lockdowns. Extreme heat and drought have hamstrung hydropower generation, forcing additional factory closings and rolling blackouts.

refusing to pay their mortgages because they have lost confidence that developers will ever deliver their unfinished housing units. Trade with the rest of the world took a hit in August, and overall economic growth, although likely to outrun rates in the United States and Europe, looks as if it will slip to its slowest pace in a decade this year. The prospect has prompted China’s central bank to cut interest rates in hopes of stimulating the economy.

“The global economy is undoubtedly slowing,” said Gregory Daco, chief economist at the global consulting firm EY- Parthenon, but it’s “happening at different speeds.”

In other parts of the world, countries that are able to supply vital materials and goods — particularly energy producers in the Middle East and North Africa — are seeing windfall gains.

And India and Indonesia are growing at unexpectedly fast paces as domestic demand increases and multinational companies look to vary their supply chains. Vietnam, too, is benefiting as manufacturers switch operations to its shores.

head-spinning energy bills this winter ratcheted up this week after Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company, declared it would not resume the flow of natural gas through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline until Europe lifted Ukraine-related sanctions.

Daily average electricity prices in Western Europe have reached record levels, according to Rystad Energy, surging past 600 euros ($599) per megawatt-hour in Germany and €700 in France, with peak-hour rates as high as €1,500.

In the Czech Republic, roughly 70,000 angry protesters, many with links to far-right groups, gathered in Wenceslas Square in Prague this past weekend to demonstrate against soaring energy bills.

The German, French and Finnish governments have already stepped in to save domestic power companies from bankruptcy. Even so, Uniper, which is based in Germany and one of Europe’s largest natural gas buyers and suppliers, said last week that it was losing more than €100 million a day because of the rise in prices.

International Monetary Fund this week to issue a proposal to reform the European Union’s framework for government public spending and deficits.

caps blunt the incentive to reduce energy consumption — the chief goal in a world of shortages.

Central banks in the West are expected to keep raising interest rates to make borrowing more expensive and force down inflation. On Thursday, the European Central Bank raised interest rates by three-quarters of a point, matching its biggest increase ever. The U.S. Federal Reserve is likely to do the same when it meets this month. The Bank of England has taken a similar position.

The worry is that the vigorous push to bring down prices will plunge economies into recessions. Higher interest rates alone won’t bring down the price of oil and gas — except by crashing economies so much that demand is severely reduced. Many analysts are already predicting a recession in Germany, Italy and the rest of the eurozone before the end of the year. For poor and emerging countries, higher interest rates mean more debt and less money to spend on the most vulnerable.

“I think we’re living through the biggest development disaster in history, with more people being pushed more quickly into dire poverty than has every happened before,” said Mr. Goldin, the Oxford professor. “It’s a particularly perilous time for the world economy.”

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Cloud Wars: Mideast Rivalries Rise Along a New Front

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Iranian officials have worried for years that other nations have been depriving them of one of their vital water sources. But it was not an upstream dam that they were worrying about, or an aquifer being bled dry.

In 2018, amid a searing drought and rising temperatures, some senior officials concluded that someone was stealing their water from the clouds.

“Both Israel and another country are working to make Iranian clouds not rain,” said Brig. Gen. Gholan Reza Jalali, a senior official in the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps in a 2018 speech.

are turning up at the water’s surface.

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  • While there had been enough water to sustain the tiny country’s population in 1960, when there were fewer than 100,000 people, by 2020 the population had ballooned to nearly 10 million. And the demand for water soared, as well. United Arab Emirates residents now use roughly 147 gallons per person a day, compared with the world average of 47 gallons, according to a 2021 research paper funded by the emirates.

    Currently, that demand is being met by desalination plants. Each facility, however, costs $1 billion or more to build and requires prodigious amounts of energy to run, especially when compared with cloud seeding, said Abdulla Al Mandous, the director of the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology in the emirates and the leader of its cloud-seeding program.

    After 20 years of research and experimentation, the center runs its cloud-seeding program with near military protocols. Nine pilots rotate on standby, ready to bolt into the sky as soon as meteorologists focusing on the country’s mountainous regions spot a promising weather formation — ideally, the types of clouds that can build to heights of as much as 40,000 feet.

    They have to be ready on a moment’s notice because promising clouds are not as common in the Middle East as in many other parts of the world.

    “We are on 24-hour availability — we live within 30 to 40 minutes of the airport — and from arrival here, it takes us 25 minutes to be airborne,” said Capt. Mark Newman, a South African senior cloud-seeding pilot. In the event of multiple, potentially rain-bearing clouds, the center will send more than one aircraft.

    The United Arab Emirates uses two seeding substances: the traditional material made of silver iodide and a newly patented substance developed at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi that uses nanotechnology that researchers there say is better adapted to the hot, dry conditions in the Persian Gulf. The pilots inject the seeding materials into the base of the cloud, allowing it to be lofted tens of thousands of feet by powerful updrafts.

    And then, in theory, the seeding material, made up of hygroscopic (water attracting) molecules, bonds to the water vapor particles that make up a cloud. That combined particle is a little bigger and in turn attracts more water vapor particles until they form droplets, which eventually become heavy enough to fall as rain — with no appreciable environmental impact from the seeding materials, scientists say.

    That is in theory. But many in the scientific community doubt the efficacy of cloud seeding altogether. A major stumbling block for many atmospheric scientists is the difficulty, perhaps the impossibility, of documenting net increases in rainfall.

    “The problem is that once you seed, you can’t tell if the cloud would have rained anyway,” said Alan Robock, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University and an expert in evaluating climate engineering strategies.

    Another problem is that the tall cumulus clouds most common in summer in the emirates and nearby areas can be so turbulent that it is difficult to determine if the seeding has any effect, said Roy Rasmussen, a senior scientist and an expert in cloud physics at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

    Israel, a pioneer in cloud seeding, halted its program in 2021 after 50 years because it seemed to yield at best only marginal gains in precipitation. It was “not economically efficient,” said Pinhas Alpert, an emeritus professor at the University of Tel Aviv who did one of the most comprehensive studies of the program.

    Cloud seeding got its start in 1947, with General Electric scientists working under a military contract to find a way to de-ice planes in cold weather and create fog to obscure troop movements. Some of the techniques were later used in Vietnam to prolong the monsoon season, in an effort to make it harder for the North Vietnamese to supply their troops.

    While the underlying science of cloud seeding seems straightforward, in practice, there are numerous problems. Not all clouds have the potential to produce rain, and even a cloud seemingly suitable for seeding may not have enough moisture. Another challenge in hot climates is that raindrops may evaporate before they reach the ground.

    Sometimes the effect of seeding can be larger than expected, producing too much rain or snow. Or the winds can shift, carrying the clouds away from the area where the seeding was done, raising the possibility of “unintended consequences,” notes a statement from the American Meteorological Society.

    “You can modify a cloud, but you can’t tell it what to do after you modify it,” said James Fleming, an atmospheric scientist and historian of science at Colby College in Maine.

    “It might snow; it might dissipate. It might go downstream; it might cause a storm in Boston,” he said, referring to an early cloud-seeding experiment over Mount Greylock in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.

    This seems to be what happened in the emirates in the summer of 2019, when cloud seeding apparently generated such heavy rains in Dubai that water had to be pumped out of flooded residential neighborhoods and the upscale Dubai mall.

    Despite the difficulties of gathering data on the efficacy of cloud seeding, Mr. Al Mandous said the emirates’ methods were yielding at least a 5 percent increase in rain annually — and almost certainly far more. But he acknowledged the need for data covering many more years to satisfy the scientific community.

    Over last New Year’s weekend, said Mr. Al Mandous, cloud seeding coincided with a storm that produced 5.6 inches of rain in three days — more precipitation than the United Arab Emirates often gets in a year.

    In the tradition of many scientists who have tried to modify the weather, he is ever optimistic. There is the new cloud-seeding nanosubstance, and if the emirates just had more clouds to seed, he said, maybe they could make more rain for the country.

    And where would those extra clouds come from?

    “Making clouds is very difficult,” he acknowledged. “But, who knows, maybe God will send us somebody who will have the idea of how to make clouds.”

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    Surging Demand For Bug Spraying Is Hurting Other Animals

    Experts are warning about the harm that spraying yards for bugs can bring to the ecosystem.

    They are the bane of summertime existence: mosquitoes, eager to bite anytime.

    Not only are they an itchy nuisance — they carry diseases.

    In 2020, the CDC reported “dramatic” increases in illnesses spread by mosquitoes and other blood feeders. Scientists are finding malaria and dengue emerging in previously unaffected areas.

    Climate change has extended the mosquito season in some areas, and that’s factoring into a surging demand for professional yard spraying.

    But there’s a potential downside to yard-wide treatments.

    According to the journal Biological Conservation, more than 40% of insect species worldwide are threatened with extinction. That includes pollinator bees and butterflies. 

    “If you’re using a toxic chemical that’s toxic to certain types of species like insects, you might expect to see some collateral damage,” said John Meeker, an environmental health sciences professor at University of Michigan.

    There’s also been a decrease of predators. Three billion North American birds have been lost in recent decades, mostly consisting of insect eaters.

    Some companies are offering natural alternatives for mosquito control, like water mixed with essential oils from plants like lemongrass, garlic and peppermint.

    “One of our dogs likes to eat wood chips from the landscaping,” said Marty Marino, who is trying natural mosquito repellents. “I haven’t figured out how to stop that yet, but if he’s going to do that and there’s the synthetic insecticide on it, that’s a great concern.” 

    Experts say homeowners can also avoid the unwanted effects of chemicals by using simpler solutions, like emptying stagnant water sources and using electric fans to keep the pests away.

    Source: newsy.com

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    Chemical Tanker, Cargo Ship Crash Near Southwestern Japan

    By Associated Press
    August 20, 2022

    Some oil leaked from the engine area of the cargo ship, which initially started to sink, but it was brought under control.

    A Japanese chemical tanker ship crashed into a cargo ship off the coast of southwestern Japan, the coast guard said Saturday.

    No one was injured among the six Japanese crew members aboard the tanker Ryoshinmaru and 14 Chinese crew members aboard the Belize-registered cargo ship Xin Hai 99.

    The crash early Saturday was under investigation and both ships were anchored in the area, about 2.2 miles off the coast of Wakayama prefecture, according to a Kushimoto Coast Guard official.

    Some oil leaked from the engine area of the cargo ship, which initially started to sink, but it was brought under control, the official said.

    The tanker had left Kobe port to pick up chemicals from another Japanese port and did not have any chemicals on board at the time of the accident.

    Divers were sent to the scene and GPS records pursued to determine the cause of the accident. The Chinese crew told the coast guard the tanker had suddenly veered toward them, the official said.

    Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

    Source: newsy.com

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    How Social Media Has Fueled The ‘Clean Eating’ Movement

    Clean eating can mean different things for different people, but the influence of social media on diet trends is ever-changing, from gluten to dairy.

    Social media has a big influence on food trends and what humans eat. 

    A study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that social media actually helps young adults choose healthier foods. One survey of over 1,200 young people ages 14 to 24 found that more than half were familiar with the term “clean eating” from social media, other online sources or their peers.

    The hashtag #EatClean has more than 61 million posts on Instagram. But, how exactly did this trend become so popular, and what does it mean to “eat clean?”

    The meaning of the term “eat clean” can vary by person. Generally, it means eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible by avoiding processed foods and added preservatives.

    Diets have been a trend for several decades. Counting calories dates back to the 1910s and Weight Watchers emerged in the 60s. The Atkins diet and other low-carb diets became popular in the 90s and early 2000s.

    Our modern idea of clean eating can be traced back to popular books like “The Eat-Clean Diet” in 2007 and “Clean,” which came out in 2009. These books promoted more than a diet but a lifestyle — the idea that eating these foods was a more holistic way of living. Over the last decade, more people started cutting a lot of things out of their diets.

    Sondra Kronberg is a licensed clinical nutritionist, certified eating disorder specialist and founder of Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative. She’s seen a lot of diet trends evolve over the years, and she’s seen the impact social media has on diet trends today.

    “There’s enormous pressure to eat right, to look right, to fit in to this culture — never used to be like that,” Kronberg said. “I mean, there was a cluster of people who thought eating was so important and what you eat. But now everything — the chemicals, where it comes from, the pollution — I mean, there’s a lot of value on what food you eat.”

    Between 2009 and 2014, the number of Americans who stopped eating gluten, even though they didn’t have celiac disease, more than tripled. The lead researcher on that study thinks one reason for this is because being gluten-free became trendy for health-conscious people. There were also more people stepping away from dairy and substituting regular milk for almond or oat milk. Sales for those other regular milk alternatives grew by more than 60% between 2012 and 2018.

    During the pandemic, there was a surge in plant-based diets. In 2021, the plant-based food market value rose to an all-time high of more than $7 billion, growing by more than 50% in three years.

    Experts say part of this could have been because of COVID-19. Some people may have wanted to eat healthier to improve their immune response. Harvard researchers found that plant-based diets could decrease the risk of getting a severe case of the virus. 

    On social media, more influencers promoting their plant-based lifestyles have emerged. People like Tabitha Brown blew up on TikTok during the pandemic with her tasty-looking, vegan-inspired foods. She now has more than 4 million followers on Instagram and Tik Tok and has a cookbook coming out.

    There are also celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, actor and founder of wellness brand “Goop,” who are known for talking about and promoting clean and vegan eating. Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving claims his plant-based diet has made him a better player.

    It’s an easy option for celebrities and influencers, and it’s likely these trends will show up on the plates of higher-income people. That’s because healthy foods are expensive. Consumer Reports says organic foods cost about 40% more than non-organic foods.

    In the past several years, natural and organic foods have made the jump from special health food stores to more traditional grocery stores, but that only does so much for “food deserts” — neighborhoods that lack access to grocery stores to begin with.

    Some nutritionists warn that the idea of clean eating can create or worsen stigmas attached to certain foods that aren’t especially bad for you, like anything that’s not clean eating can become “dirty.” But, some nutritionists say that’s not necessarily true because healthy eating is subjective, and you should figure out what works for you with the help of a licensed professional, rather than turning to social media for advice. “Trainers working out in the gym are giving out nutritional advice, and the guy who makes the smoothie is giving out nutritional advice,” Kronberg said. “Everybody thinks they know something from their own experience, and I will give them credit for having their own experience. But that is your own experience.”

    Although 71% of young adults surveyed defined clean eating as healthy, it has the potential to become dangerous. When people are on strict diets, they can develop an eating disorder called orthorexia. It can cause people start avoiding certain events and eating with friends out of fear that they won’t be able to find the right food.

    “So if somebody is older, they’re eating, they’re dieting, and they’re trying to manipulate their body and size, the weight, in a stillman’s way, let’s say,” Kronberg said. “They and the younger generation are eating all clean and pure and healthy and the salmon from Alaska, so based on what’s going on in the culture that becomes part of the eating disorder. You can eat as whole and as fresh and as raw as possible, but sometimes you have to be able to eat something that’s not.”

    One study found that among young adults, the higher use of Instagram is associated with developing Orthorexia, so while social media has the power to introduce people to healthier eating options, it can also do the exact opposite.

    As more people continue to change their diets because of social media’s influence, the question is how to move beyond the current trends.

    “I think it’s going to take a while,” Kronberg said. “But I do think — just like other movements that are occurring now where people are saying we don’t all have to be the same, and in fact we’re not all the same — we all need to come to our own inner way of taking care of ourselves.”

    Source: newsy.com

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