Finance

Parched California Pours Mega-Millions Into Desalination

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 17, 2014   View Article

Besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water, California towns are ramping up plans to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. The plants that carry out the high-tech “desalination” process can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there may be few other choices for the parched state.

Where the Pacific Ocean spills into the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Calif., construction is 25 percent complete on a $1 billion project to wring 50 million gallons of freshwater a day from the sea and pour it into a water system that serves 3.1 million people.

Desalination was a dreamy fiction during the California Water Wars of the early 20th century that inspired the classic 1974 movie “Chinatown.” In the 1980s, however, the process of forcing seawater through reverse osmosis membranes to filter out salt and other impurities became a reliable, even essential, tool in regions of the world desperate for water.

No water, no beer: brewers race to save the ales

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 3, 2013   View Article

As water becomes increasingly scarce on our ever more crowded and warming planet, brewers of beer are racing to secure a steady supply of their most prized ingredient by using less of it.

“Without water, there is no beer,” Kim Marotta, the sustainability director for MillerCoors, the Chicago-based joint venture of international brewing giants SABMiller and Molson Coors, told NBC News.

Like many in the brewing industry, MillerCoors understands that access to water of the quantity and quality it needs to grow barley and hops and brew beer is no longer a guarantee as population growth, water pollution and climate change threaten water resources.

Increased flooding may cost the world $1 trillion by 2050

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 18, 2013   View Article

Flood damage in the world’s major coastal cities may top $1 trillion a year by 2050 due to rising seas and subsiding land, according to a new study.

The startling figure is “not a forecast or a prediction,” but rather a means to “show that not to adapt and not to improve protection is impossible,” St├ęphane Hallegatte, a senior economist with the World Bank in Washington, D.C., and the study’s lead author, told NBC News. “We have to do something.”

Greenhouse gas escaping in the Arctic could cause economic harm, experts say

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 24, 2013   View Article

Methane bubbling to the surface as the Arctic sea ice retreats could have catastrophic consequences for the global economy, a team of researchers argue in a new paper. To avoid the economic pain measured in tens of trillions of dollars over the coming century will “require major reductions in global emissions” of greenhouse gases, the team concludes.

The economic fallout will come from an added uptick in extreme weather, rising seas, reduced crop yields and other impacts already associated with global climate change.

Three-fingered iRobot hand points to strong, nimble future machines

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 2, 2013   View Article

A robotic hand strong enough to lift a 50-pound weight yet so nimble it can pluck up keys from a table demonstrates real capabilities of a coming generation of robots that will be at work everywhere, from the battlefield to the construction site.

In a segment of a video compilation that was just released publicly, the three-fingered hand picks up a drill, and uses it to bore a hole through a narrow piece of lumber.

To fight climate change, don’t mention it, study suggests

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 29, 2013   View Article

Shhh! Widespread adoption of energy-efficient technologies such as compact fluorescent light bulbs and electric cars promises to curb the pace of global climate change. But if widespread adoption is the goal, don’t mention the environmental benefits, a new paper suggests.

“There is likely to be a significantly sized group that may not like these environmental messages,” Dena Gromet, a researcher at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the paper’s lead author, told NBC News.

Whey cool: Dairy waste turned into electricity

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 15, 2013   View Article

Get a whiff of this: Milky rinse water flowing from Wisconsin cheese factories will soon be used to generate enough electricity for 3,000 homes, thanks to an innovative solution to a growing wastewater problem.

For years, the milky rinse water was spread on farmland as a low-grade fertilizer, but the practice was curtailed in the face of more stringent environmental regulations to limit runoff pollution, especially in the winter months when spraying on frozen ground was outlawed.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach