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How America's shale gas revolution makes Putin ever weaker | Spectator Blogs

How America's shale gas revolution makes Putin ever weaker | Spectator Blogs | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Once or twice every century something good happens to Russia, but then another long night of suffering closes over the great Asian wastes. In 1917, the Russians managed to overthrow their hated Czar and proclaim a democracy. It only lasted a few months before being swept away by a much worse autocracy, which stayed in power until 1991.


The sudden prospect of post-Soviet freedom was accompanied by the promise of long-delayed prosperity, as the liberated nation began to develop its vast resources, one of which was natural gas. For a few years, Putin’s Russia dominated the international natural gas market and earned high prices. Recent developments elsewhere, however, are now shrinking that boom almost as quickly as Putin is stamping out the new freedom. Now, as Putin rolls his armies into Ukraine and Crimea, his finds that his greatest diplomatic weapon, Russia’s abundance of natural resources, is a less and less potent factor on the international stage.


Russia’s monopolistic gas company, Gazprom, has a near-stranglehold on supplies to Eastern Europe, whose governments have to step carefully in response to Russian actions. It is hoping to increase its grip on Western European markets as British and Norwegian supplies dwindle, and it declared as much at a London conference last week. But Gazprom depends on an ageing, Soviet-era infrastructure, runs inefficiently, depends on political cronyism, and hasn’t kept up with new recovery methods. Its monopoly practices have made it unpopular and provoked threats of anti-monopoly litigation from the EU. Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine it faced energetic new challengers.


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Government reforms will 'probably kill stand-alone solar PV in the UK' | TheEcologist.org

Government reforms will 'probably kill stand-alone solar PV in the UK' | TheEcologist.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

By publishing its 'reform' proposals for the support of large scale solar PV in two separate documents on the same day, the Government managed to conceal its true intent from the industry, writes Chris Goodall. The truth is much worse than anyone realised.


This week the government announced the abrupt end of the current subsidy scheme for large scale solar PV farms.


From early 2015, no PV installation above 5 MW will be entitled to payments under the Renewable Obligation (RO).


The industry was understandably upset but assumed that the next scheme (called Contracts for Difference) would simply replace the RO.


The CFD is a more cumbersome and bureaucratic scheme that would impose extra cost and hassle on the relatively small scale generators that operate in the sector. So far, so bad.


And that's how the story was reported in The Ecologist (see 'Government attacks UK's big solar') - as a negative, unwelcome and unnecessary move, but not a catastrophic one.


But it is just that - the sudden death of an industry.


This seems to be very much the wrong impression. Another DECC document, put out on the same day as the subsidy withdrawal, makes clear that under the new scheme, starting in late 2014, solar will have to fight onshore wind and other cheaper technologies for budget.


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Artists design giant PV-packing floating duck for the city of Copenhagen | GizMag.com

Artists design giant PV-packing floating duck for the city of Copenhagen | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A group of British artists have conceptualized a giant solar harvesting floating duck as part of the 2014 Land Art Generator Initiative Copenhagen design competition. Dubbed Energy Duck, the giant structure has been designed not only to generate clean electricity for the local residents of Copenhagen, but to also provide a unique visitor center.


"Energy Duck is an entertaining iconic sculpture, a renewable energy generator, a habitable tourist destination and a celebration of local wildlife," say its creators, Hareth Pochee, Adam Khan, Louis Leger and Patrick Fryer.


Inspired by the arctic eider duck, Energy Duck not only hopes to offer a unique renewable energy source, but also highlight the impact that climate change has had on the local population and breeding habitats of the eider duck in recent years.


Covered in photovoltaic panels, Energy Duck is designed to harvest solar energy from every inch of its exterior shell, while also taking advantage of the sun’s rays reflected off the water’s surface. Additionally, the facility features hydro turbines which use water pressure to provide stored energy to the grid after sunset and during the evening.


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Experimental diesel/gas engine could give 2009 Saturn a big boost in fuel efficiency | GizMag.com

Experimental diesel/gas engine could give 2009 Saturn a big boost in fuel efficiency | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Five years ago we first heard about a Caterpillar diesel engine located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that had been modified to run on an unlikely-sounding mixture of diesel and gasoline. Not only did the one-cylinder engine work, but it was more efficient than pure-diesel or pure-gas engines at converting the chemical energy of fuel into motion. Sitting in a basement lab, however, isn't the same as experiencing use in the real world. That's why students at UW-Madison, led by Prof. Rolf Reitz, have now put another diesel/gas engine into a 2009 Saturn.


The original Cat engine utilizes a system known as reactivity controlled compression ignition, or RCCI. It uses sensors and a computer system to continuously and instantaneously adjust the ratio of the two fuel types. Diesel is injected to start the engine, as it has a lower ignition temperature than gas. From there, the fuel blend varies depending on real-time operating conditions, with the goal of "exploiting each fuel’s strong points."


As a result, the lab-based engine currently has an efficiency of 59.5 percent – regular diesel truck engines manage no more than 52 percent, and the theoretical maximum is 64 percent.


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Philippines: PLDT abandons plans to use Meralco infrastructure for BPL | TeleGeography.com

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) has abandoned previously stated plans to offer broadband over power lines (BPL), via a tie-up with Manila Electric Co (Meralco). PLDT president Napoleon Nazareno told InterAksyon: ‘It was not viable at [the] time we did pilot test. It was not economical because of [a] technological issue’.


BPL was one of the potential business synergies that PLDT and Meralco were exploring when the country’s largest telco acquired a majority 49.96% stake in the electricity distribution company, as part of Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, a joint venture with Metro Pacific.


The plan would have involved tapping Meralco’s poles and fibre-optic network to provide internet connectivity directly to the more than five million households that use Meralco’s supply.

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Vodafone Egypt to bolster network with EGP9.5bn investment over three years | TeleGeography.com

Vodafone Egypt will spend approximately EGP9.5 billion (USD1.3 billion) on making improvements to its network over the next three years, Reuters reports, citing the operator’s recently appointed CEO. It is understood that the expenditure will use existing funds, according to Ahmed Essam.


Meanwhile, with Egypt still finalising the details for the unified licence regime which will allow the nation’s telecoms operators to offer both fixed and mobile services, Vodafone Egypt expects that it will costs around EGP100 million to gain access to the fixed line network owned by incumbent Telecom Egypt.


Vodafone Egypt is, however, said to still be studying the possibility of offering landline services, with it understood that it has not yet reached a decision on the matter.

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Despite foot-draggers in Congress, wind turbine company adding 800 jobs to Colorado manufacturing | DailyKos.com

Despite foot-draggers in Congress, wind turbine company adding 800 jobs to Colorado manufacturing | DailyKos.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The United States had a tremendous opportunity in the early 1980s to become the world's premier manufacturer and innovator of wind turbines. Thanks to the Reagan administration's sneering and budget-cutting, that opportunity was squandered and, as a consequence, a one-time Danish appliance company called Vestas became the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer. Currently, 19 percent of global wind turbine capacity has been built by Vestas, totaling 60 gigawatts. Vestas has installed 51,000 turbines in 73 nations.


Many other companies, including the U.S.-based G.E. Energy, have entered the market over the years, and G.E. even managed to outpace Vestas to take the No. 1 position in 2012. But last year Vestas was again the world's biggest supplier, with 13.1 percent of global installations. It has installed 52 percent more wind capacity than the next strongest company.


Its U.S. headquarters are in Portland, Oregon, and Vestas has four manufacturing plants in Colorado, which generated 13.8 percent of its electricity with wind power last year. The company announced Friday that the worldwide boom in wind energy has spurred it to hire more employees in Colorado by the end of 2014:


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China's President Xi Jinping signs Venezuela oil deal | BBC News

China's President Xi Jinping signs Venezuela oil deal | BBC News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Chinese President Xi Jinping has signed a series of oil and mineral deals with Venezuela.


They include a $4bn (£2.34bn) credit line in return for Venezuelan crude and other products.


The agreements came on the latest stop of a four-country visit to Latin America.


Mr Xi has already signed key deals in Argentina and Brazil. He has now departed from Venezuela and will visit Cuba next.


In Argentina the Chinese leader agreed to an $11bn currency swap providing much needed money for the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.


Argentina has been locked out of the international capital markets since a default in 2001.


Mr Xi also helped launch a new development bank alongside the other emerging powers of the Brics group - Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa - at a summit in Brazil.


The new bank is intended to create an alternative to the Western-dominated World Bank.


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Norway: Svalbard’s reindeer thrive as climate warms | Climate News Network

Norway: Svalbard’s reindeer thrive as climate warms | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

There will be winners as well as losers as climate change intensifies, and scientists say they have just found one species that is prospering already.


Far from threatening the reindeer on the Norwegian high Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, rising temperatures appear to be driving a remarkable increase in the animals’ numbers.


Scientists from the University of Manchester, UK, and the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø have found that the numbers of Svalbard reindeer, continuing a trend that has been observed over the last 36 years, increased by 30% in the last year.


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Typhoon Rammasun kills more than 100 in China and Philippines | CNN.com

Typhoon Rammasun kills more than 100 in China and Philippines | CNN.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The strongest typhoon to hit southern China in four decades has killed at least 16 people in the region after leaving scores dead in the Philippines.


Strong winds and rain from Super Typhoon Rammasun hit dozens of southern coastal cities in the provinces of Guangdong and Hainan and the region of Guangxi, affecting more than 3 million people, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported Saturday.


The powerful storm made landfall on the island province of Hainan about 1:30 p.m. Friday after veering west, according to the China Meteorological Administration.


Planes were grounded in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi, stranding 1,300 passengers, Xinhua said, and train service between Nanning and coastal cities was suspended.


Rammasun struck the Philippines earlier in the week, killing at least 94 people and displacing more than half a million, according to the country's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.


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MA: How to install solar power and save | The Boston Globe Magazine

MA: How to install solar power and save | The Boston Globe Magazine | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Thomas and Margaret Hall of Quincy have almost twice the house they did in 2009 but less than half the utility bills. “The renovation started because we needed another bathroom,” says Thomas, who works in technical sales at IBM. But the scope of the project quickly expanded, and the couple ended up adding a floor and a half to their 1903 bungalow, just about doubling its square footage. “During the construction we’d super-insulated the house, making it extra-extra efficient, so we decided as committed environmentalists now was the time to add solar. We thought, ‘We’ll never do this again; let’s do it right.’ ” They’re glad they did, since their winter utility bills have gone from around $500 a month to a mere $110 or so, despite more than 1,500 square feet of additional space. “That includes electric and gas,” Thomas points out.


By now everyone knows that solar power can save homeowners big money on utility bills. But doesn’t it also cost big money to install? It doesn’t have to. (Read on.) Isn’t there a big learning curve? Nope. “You don’t need to know anything,” Thomas says. “It just runs.” And does it even work during dreary New England winters? Yes, as long as you have land or a roof that’s not shaded by trees or other buildings and is oriented correctly (south-facing is ideal but not mandatory). “Even snow doesn’t matter if your panels have a steep angle,” says Henry K. Vandermark, founder and president of Solar Wave Energy in Cambridge. “It just slides right off them.”


So the easy questions are out of the way. And the more complicated aspects of going solar, it turns out, aren’t so difficult, either, once you break them down.


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Google aimed to build ultrafast broadband in Britain | Telegraph.co.uk

Google aimed to build ultrafast broadband in Britain | Telegraph.co.uk | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Google is exploring building ultrafast fibre optic networks in British cities, in a move that would add to pressure on BT to further upgrade its ageing infrastructure.


It is understood that web giant has held detailed talks with a recently listed British company called CityFibre, with a view to extending its Google Fiber project outside the US for the first time.


The discussions broke down amid concerns from CityFibre that an existing partnership with BSkyB would be threatened. BSkyB and TalkTalk are funding a pilot fibre-optic network rollout in to 20,000 homes and businesses in York.


CityFibre feared the satellite broadcaster would see the web giant as a future rival in the pay-TV market and back out, sources said. Google is understood to still be looking to build internet infrastructure in the UK, however.


A source said: “Google historically have always publicly said they would never build fibre outside the US. But in the background they are talking to people here in the UK and looking at projects.


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How Secret Partners Expand NSA’s Surveillance Dragnet | The Intercept

How Secret Partners Expand NSA’s Surveillance Dragnet | The Intercept | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Huge volumes of private emails, phone calls, and internet chats are being intercepted by the National Security Agency with the secret cooperation of more foreign governments than previously known, according to newly disclosed documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden.


The classified files, revealed today by the Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information in a reporting collaboration with The Intercept, shed light on how the NSA’s surveillance of global communications has expanded under a clandestine program, known as RAMPART-A, that depends on the participation of a growing network of intelligence agencies.


It has already been widely reported that the NSA works closely with eavesdropping agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia as part of the so-called Five Eyes surveillance alliance. But the latest Snowden documents show that a number of other countries, described by the NSA as “third-party partners,” are playing an increasingly important role – by secretly allowing the NSA to install surveillance equipment on their fiber-optic cables.


The NSA documents state that under RAMPART-A, foreign partners “provide access to cables and host U.S. equipment.” This allows the agency to covertly tap into “congestion points around the world” where it says it can intercept the content of phone calls, faxes, e-mails, internet chats, data from virtual private networks, and calls made using Voice over IP software like Skype.


The program, which the secret files show cost U.S. taxpayers about $170 million between 2011 and 2013, sweeps up a vast amount of communications at lightning speed. According to the intelligence community’s classified “Black Budget” for 2013, RAMPART-A enables the NSA to tap into three terabits of data every second as the data flows across the compromised cables – the equivalent of being able to download about 5,400 uncompressed high-definition movies every minute.


In an emailed statement, the NSA declined to comment on the RAMPART-A program. “The fact that the U.S. government works with other nations, under specific and regulated conditions, mutually strengthens the security of all,” said NSA spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines. “NSA’s efforts are focused on ensuring the protection of the national security of the United States, its citizens, and our allies through the pursuit of valid foreign intelligence targets only.”


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China's Internet adoption sags to levels not seen since in 8 years | NetworkWorld.com

China's Internet adoption sags to levels not seen since in 8 years | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

China’s rush to the Internet is slowing, with the country adding only 14.4 million new Internet users in the first half of 2014, the lowest half-year growth in eight years.


There were 632 million Internet users in China in June, according to the government-linked China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).


Although China has long reigned as the country with the world’s largest Internet population, the services are still struggling to take off in the rural areas, where about 450 million people never go online, said the CNNIC in its bi-annual report.


Total Internet penetration in China is at 46.9 percent. This is far lower than the U.S, which has a penetration rate of 87 percent, according to Internet World Stats.


Many of these non-Internet users in China have low education levels, and have little need to surf the Web, the research group added. To increase adoption, the CNNIC recommended that the country focus on teaching rural elementary students Internet skills.


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Tor Project working to fix weakness that can unmask users | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com

Tor Project working to fix weakness that can unmask users | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Developers of Tor software believe they’ve identified a weakness that was scheduled to be revealed at the Black Hat security conference next month that could be used to de-anonymize Tor users.


The Black Hat organizers recently announced that a talk entitled “You Don’t Have to be the NSA to Break Tor: Deanonymizing Users on a Budget” by researchers Alexander Volynkin and Michael McCord from Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) was canceled at the request of the legal counsel of the university’s Software Engineering Institute because it had not been approved for public release.


“In our analysis, we’ve discovered that a persistent adversary with a handful of powerful servers and a couple gigabit links can de-anonymize hundreds of thousands Tor clients and thousands of hidden services within a couple of months,” the CERT researchers had written in the abstract of their presentation. “The total investment cost? Just under $3,000.”


In a message sent Monday to the Tor public mailing list, Tor project leader Roger Dingledine said that his organization did not ask Black Hat or CERT to cancel the talk. Tor’s developers had been shown some materials about the research in an informal manner, but they never received details about the actual content of the planned presentation, he said. The presentation was supposed to include “real-world de-anonymization case studies.”


Despite the lack of details, Dingledine believes that he has figured out the issue found by CERT and how to fix it. “We’ve been trying to find delicate ways to explain that we think we know what they did, but also it sure would have been smoother if they’d opted to tell us everything,” he said in a subsequent message on the mailing list.


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"World’s largest" hybrid renewable energy project unveiled in Jamaica | GizMag.com

"World’s largest" hybrid renewable energy project unveiled in Jamaica | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Generating renewable electricity at home or in commercial buildings is becoming increasingly viable. WindStream Technologies has installed what it says is the world's largest wind-solar hybrid array on an office roof in Kingston, Jamaica. The array is expected to generate over 106,000 kWh annually.


The increasing trends towards renewable and distributed energy generation are reflected by other recent "world's largest" projects. In January, the world's largest solar bridge was completed in London, the world's largest solar-thermal plant became fully operational the following month, and Jaguar finished installing the world's largest rooftop solar array in April.


WindStream Technologies produces wind and sun generation equipment aimed at municipalities, commercial buildings and homeowners. It was successful in competing for the contract, tendered by law firm Myers, Fletcher & Gordon, having been able to demonstrate an ability to maximize energy production and return on investment, whilst working with limited roof space.


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Salt water-powered Quant e-Sportlimousine gets European approval | GizMag.com

Salt water-powered Quant e-Sportlimousine gets European approval | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

After making a debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, the Quant e-Sportlimousine has received approval from Germany's TÜV Süd. The car, which uses an electrolyte flow cell power system, is now certified for use on German and European roads.


As I stood around waiting for NanoFlowcell's Geneva Motor Show press conference in March, my eyes bounced back and forth between the exotic curves of the concept car at center dais, the oddly punctuated letters of the make and model and the bubbling tanks of water that looked like they were ripped off the wall of an after-hours lounge. Then Nunzio La Vecchia sauntered out, wearing his best jet black pompadour, and made a bunch of bold claims about the 912-hp, gull-winged 2x2 and its bleeding-edge flow cell technology.


Everything about the scene suggested that it might very well have been the last we heard of the NanoFlowcell Quant e-Sportlimousine. Promises of a magic bullet of energy storage, made by a three-month-old company, packaged with outlandish numbers like 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 236 mph (380 km/h), hinted, rather strongly, that this car's technology and performance would only exist on paper. Given that a similarly outlandish Quant car, centered in a similar black-walled booth, introduced by a very different Nunzio La Vecchia company, had vaporized years earlier, it seemed a responsible assumption that the e-Sportlimousine would do the same.


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Algeria: Djezzy signs up 60,000 3G subscribers in two weeks | TeleGeography.com

Viccenzo Nesci, the president and CEO of Algerian cellco Djezzy GSM, has revealed that the operator has signed up a total of 60,000 3G subscribers in the two weeks since the service was introduced on 5 July, Agence Ecofin reports.


The executive divulged the information at a press conference on 17 July, also noting that Djezzy’s management team took its cues from sister company Wind Italy, in order to gain sufficient expertise for the 3G rollout.


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Australia: Telstra to launch commercial trial of 700MHz LTE and LTE-Advanced in six locations | TeleGeography.com

Australia’s largest cellco by subscribers Telstra has announced that, in a similar fashion to rival Optus, it has launched commercial trials of LTE-based services using the 700MHz band.


In a press release the company has confirmed that it will conduct the trials using 20MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band at customers in six locations, those being: Perth, Fremantle, Esperance, Mildura, Mt Isa and Griffith. Looking ahead, Telstra then expects to roll out 4G 700MHz services in a ‘range of cities and regional centres’ from January 2015.


Commenting on the benefits of offering LTE using the 700MHz band, Mike Wright, Telstra Group Managing Director Networks, noted: ‘This spectrum operates at a lower frequency that will give our customers better 4G coverage in buildings, lifts and car parks … Our superior spectrum holding is significant and as customers take part in this commercial trial, they will experience faster speeds compared with other services in this band.’


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NHL Warns Climate Change Could Put Hockey in Penalty Box | ForeignPolicy.com

NHL Warns Climate Change Could Put Hockey in Penalty Box | ForeignPolicy.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Climate change threatens plenty of things, from polar bears to coral reefs. Now the National Hockey League says the sport could be endangered too.


On Monday, the NHL released its first sustainability report, part of the league's effort to get a handle on the energy and environmental aspects of pro hockey. One of the conclusions? By leading to shorter winters, thinner ice, and truncated outdoor skating seasons, global warming could choke the game's future lifeline and keep potential Gretzkys and Lemieuxs cooling their heels.


"Before many of our players took their first stride on NHL ice, they honed their skills on the frozen lakes and ponds of North America and Europe," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in the report. "Major environmental challenges, such as climate change and freshwater scarcity, affect opportunities for hockey players of all ages to learn and play the game outdoors."


The link between climate change and hockey's future has been steadily strengthening. In 2009, the Nuclear Energy Institute inked a sponsorship deal with the Washington Capitals largely meant to promote nuclear power (which has no greenhouse gas emissions) to beltway power players. Pointing to melting lakes and ponds, the nuclear lobby said climate change potentially threatened the game's development.


Six years ago, the NHL and other professional sports leagues started working with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, to implement more sustainable business practices. In baseball, for instance, that translates to fewer high-wattage stadiums, fuel-efficient vehicles to ferry scouts around the country, and an aggressive recycling campaign.


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Rain-fed farms are common, but India is unique in letting bad rains wreak economic havoc | Quartz

Rain-fed farms are common, but India is unique in letting bad rains wreak economic havoc | Quartz | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Last week’s rains helped dispel some of the gathering economic clouds‎. Though the storm has yet not passed, there is a collective sigh of relief, because poor rains would have meant higher inflation, lower GDP, commodity price swings and widespread human misery among India’s vast number of farmers and farm hands.


India might nurse delusions of becoming an economic superpower, but monsoons are still the final arbiter of our GDP. With all the progress in technology and weather forecasting in the last few decades, we seem to be still just as helpless as our grandfathers when it comes to rains.


India is not alone in being unable to control rainfall; nobody can. And India is not unique in being dependent on rainfall. Almost three-quarters of the world’s grain is grown on rain-fed farms. Majority of the farms in USA, Canada, and the EU—the agricultural giants of the developed world—are watered solely by rain. China and Brazil grow bulk of their crops without irrigation. Yet their farmers are prosperous. Their yields are several times higher than our irrigated farms. Their droughts do not result in human suffering.


What is India doing wrong?


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Meet the Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block | ProPublica.org

Meet the Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block | ProPublica.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Update: A YouPorn.com spokesperson said that the website was "completely unaware that AddThis contained a tracking software that had the potential to jeopardize the privacy of our users." After this article was published, YouPorn removed AddThis technology from its website.


This story was co-published with Mashable.


A new, extremely persistent type of online tracking is shadowing visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.com.


First documented in a forthcoming paper by researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium, this type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.


Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit — profiles that shape which ads, news articles, or other types of content are displayed to them.


But fingerprints are unusually hard to block: They can’t be prevented by using standard Web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus.


The researchers found canvas fingerprinting computer code, primarily written by a company called AddThis, on 5 percent of the top 100,000 websites. Most of the code was on websites that use AddThis’ social media sharing tools. Other fingerprinters include the German digital marketer Ligatus and the Canadian dating site Plentyoffish. (A list of all the websites on which researchers found the code is here).


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The Economics Underlying the Texas Boom | Urban Land Magazine

The Economics Underlying the Texas Boom | Urban Land Magazine | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

An all-out economic boom has exploded in Texas, the result of a potent mixture of the energy industry’s fracking extravaganza, population growth, and a rekindling of manufacturing.


The report card of Texas economic achievement is hard to beat:


  • Houston led the nation in housing starts in 2013 with 28,339, according to the Metrostudy housing research firm. Dallas was second, and Austin and San Antonio also were in the national top ten.
  • The state’s unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in February was significantly lower than the 6.7 national rate, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.
  • Austin was the national leader in metropolitan population gain on a percentage basis, climbing 2.6 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Houston added more people to its population than any other U.S. city in terms of pure numbers, with 137,692 new Houstonians for the same period.
  • Over the past four years, Texas has added more than 1.2 million jobs, an impressive rebound following the Great Recession.


“Texas is clearly outperforming the U.S. economy. We came out of the recession early,” says economist Jeanette Rice of Rice Consulting, based in Fort Worth. “Texas is expanding, of course, because of energy. It’s not just because of jobs in Houston, but it’s also creating jobs in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Shale is one of the big drivers for all of this state.”


Shale is a dense geologic formation that can be “fracked,” or split open by hydraulic fracturing—high-pressure injection of water, sand, and chemicals. With innovations in fracking and horizontal drilling, the underground shale is now being tapped for large qualities of oil and natural gas in the Eagle Ford Shale formation near San Antonio, the Barnett Shale around Fort Worth, and the Haynesville Shale in east Texas. Fracking has also been a game changer in the hydrocarbon-rich Permian Basin in far west Texas.


Domestic oil drilling hit an all-time high in April, according to Baker Hughes Inc., which began tracking rig counts in 1944. Another industry booster is the price of oil, which has been hovering in the range of $90 to $100 per barrel for several years, double its price during the recession. After 2009, with the recession fading, hydraulic fracturing kicked in and changed Texas.


“Fracking and looking for domestic oil just took off,” says Clark Martinson, general manager of the Energy Corridor District, a quasi-govermental agency created by the Texas Legislature to implement public safety, streetscape, and business development initiatives in suburban west Houston. “They had to ramp up employment in all these companies, whether it was trucking, drilling, or exploration. That has meant huge growth.”


How huge? Martinson says 30 office buildings are under development in the Energy Corridor, where occupancy rates for Class A office buildings have been around 99 percent for the past two years.


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Yes, Yellowstone's Roads Just Melted. No, There's No Reason to Panic | SmithsonianMag.com

Yes, Yellowstone's Roads Just Melted. No, There's No Reason to Panic | SmithsonianMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Last week, a major tourist thruway in Yellowstone National Park had to be shut down because the road melted. The road’s Wicked Witch of the West impression was caused by high temperatures in both the air and under the ground. Yellowstone sits atop a volcanic hotspot, and that heat helped cause the asphalt to soften and oil to well up onto the surface.


For some people, melting roads would seem to herald some kind of volcanic doom. But for Yellowstone, it’s all in a day’s work. Yellowstone spokesman Dan Hottle told USA Today, "We see this kind of thing quite a bit.” The hotspot is continually monitored by the scientists at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, and even though there has been increased earthquake activity and ground deformation in the past few months, researchers say there is no evidence of an imminent catastrophic eruption. 


It’s not like melting asphalt in summer is unprecedented. In 2012, a plane at Reagan National Airport in DC got stuck on the tarmac after the asphalt under its wheels melted. And last year, during Europe’s heat wave, parts of the UK’s busiest road, the M25, shut down when parts of it melted. These incidents didn’t happen at volcanic hotspots, just in places where the temperatures got hot enough for the road to buckle. 


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A guide to the confusing Internet of Things standards world | NetworkWorld.com

A guide to the confusing Internet of Things standards world | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Google recently announced a new networking protocol called Thread that aims to create a standard for communication between connected household devices.


If that description sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Thread joins similar collaborative efforts led by the likes of Intel, Qualcomm, GE and others in the race to establish standards for the Internet of Things, which is widely considered the next technology frontier.


The complexity of these standardization efforts has evoked comparisons to the VHS and Betamax competition in the 1980s. Re/Code’s Ina Fried wrote, “there’s no way all of these devices will actually be able to all talk to each other until all this gets settled with either a victory or a truce.” In the meantime, we’re likely to see some debate among the competing factions.


“If this works out at all like past format wars, heavyweights will line up behind each different approach and issue lots of announcements about how much momentum theirs are getting,” Fried wrote. “One effort will undoubtedly gain the lead, eventually everyone will coalesce and then, someday down the road, perhaps all these Internet of Things devices will actually be able to talk to one another.”


So here’s a guide to the current state of affairs in the race to standardize the Internet of Things, along with what people are saying about each.


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Australia: Where will the NBN chaos take us? | BizSpectator.com.au

Australia: Where will the NBN chaos take us? | BizSpectator.com.au | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Over the past five years our telecommunications industry has been slipping ever so slowly into a state of chaos unlike anything seen by a sector in Australian history.


With glimpses of sanity few and far between, the past year has seen the industry clinging for dear life on an out of control roller coaster, plotting a tumultous course.


As Canberra settles in for a long and protracted fight over an austerity budget and a cantankerous Senate, it’s time for the telcos to realise that there’s little hope of Canberra dispatching the cavalry to ride to the industry’s rescue in the foreseeable future.


So who exactly is to blame for the turmoil?


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