Category: Business

Trump Administration Waives Brain Damage-Causing Clean Water Regulation Against Court Orders

by Arun Balaji and Kunaal Venugopal

On Thursday morning, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a decision to waive a regulation for a contaminant in clean water that harms babies’ brains and can reduce their IQ severely at a young age. The chemical, perchlorate, had been recognized as harmful for years and had been ordered by the court to introduce a new regulation by this month. However, the EPA did not introduce a new regulation, instead waiving the current existing regulation out of reason that perchlorate was not present enough in water to the point where regulations would need to be implemented.

In rolling back the regulation, the Trump Administration hopes to remove a burden to business in the United States. However, this regulation sets federal limits for perchlorate, a chemical compound that has detrimental effects on humans. According to the EPA, “Perchlorate is commonly used in solid rocket propellants, munitions, fireworks, airbag initiators for vehicles, matches, and signal flares. Perchlorate may occur naturally, particularly in arid regions such as the southwestern United States and is found as an impurity in hypochlorite solutions used for drinking water treatment and nitrate salts used to produce nitrate fertilizers, explosives, and other products.” Rolling back the regulation allows for greater perchlorate levels in drinking water, increasing the risk of developing illnesses like hypothyroidism.

In 2018, the court demanded the EPA introduce a regulation that would prevent the outstanding quantities of perchlorate in the water. However, the EPA has now gone against this rule and instead has waived the regulation, causing many to be in shock.

The public is reasonably infuriated by the EPA’s lack of action to regulate a chemical as toxic as perchlorate. On top of its contamination, the chemical causes brain damage in babies and is especially damaging to the health of animals as well. Since the chemical is present in something the world needs, drinking water, the public is angry at the lack of effort to protect the health of the country’s citizens.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the EPA has revoked, altered, or waived several Obama-era regulations, citing the health of the economy or necessity out of reason. The Trump Administration has revoked two other clean water regulations on top of revoking mercury and fuel emission regulations.

The decision to revoke yet another clean water regulation is one that has many people confused and furious. Although the EPA cites reasons for removing these regulations, only time will tell what effect it will have on the environment and the health of citizens.

Russian Oil Spill in Arctic Circle Could Take Years To Clean Up

by Daanyal Raja

On May 29th, more than 21,000 tonnes of fuel was released due to a fuel reservoir collapse in Russia’s Arctic region, becoming the largest oil spill to have ever hit the Arctic. The power plant with the collapsed reservoir, a subsidiary of metal giant Norilsk Nickel, had their director of the power station as well as two engineers detained on suspicion of violating strict environmental protection rules. If convicted, the three employees could face up to five years in prison. Worse yet, many Siberian officials have stated that the clean up process will take years.

In a statement, Norilsk Nickel stated that the allegations against their employees are “unjustifiably harsh” and stated that all three of the detained men are “cooperating with law enforcement authorities [but] that they would be more useful at the scene of the clean-up operation”. Investigators said that the power plant’s fuel storage required major repairs since 2018, but the suspects involved “continued to use it in breach of safety rules”. Transneft Siberia, an oil and gas transportation company that is involved in the spill clean-up, claimed that the situation was slowly stabilising, but many members on the clean-up team had witnessed birds and other animals being killed by the spilled oil. Viktor Bronnikov, the general director of Transneft Siberia, told the Guardian,“If a bird lands on the diesel fuel or a muskrat swims through it, it is condemned to death”. Bronnikov then told the Guardian, “We will be removing diesel fuel from the Ambarnaya River for at least eight to 10 days,” Bronnikov said. “We will need years to completely clean up.”

Vladimir Potanin, the man who heads Norilsk Nickel, said that the company will pay approximately $146 million after Russian president Vladimir Putin backed a state of emergency due to the oil spill. The company stated that the fuel reservoir was built in 1985 and was repaired in 2017 and 2018 before going through a safety audit. Many local officials have stated that despite efforts to stop the fuel leak from spreading within the river, it has reached a freshwater lake which is a major water source for the region. The pollution could flow into the Kara Sea in the Arctic Ocean near Siberia, which worries Greenpeace Russia expert Vladimir Chuprov, as he told AFP that would be “a disaster.”

After Over 130 Years, King Coal Topped By Renewable Energy Resources In The US

by Nakul

Since the various Industrial Revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries, coal and other fossil fuels have dominated the global market due to their cheap prices, efficient production processes, and reliability. However, the gradual yet growing movement towards renewable energy sources has made a notable breakthrough this past year in the United States. 

Renewable energy sources, mainly solar energy, wind energy, and hydropower, have been growing in popularity and use over the past few decades. However, these sources have largely been out shadowed by the more established but harmful, non-renewable energy sources, namely coal. Nevertheless, in recent times, these renewable energy sources have made significant progress in the energy market – according to findings in the Monthly Energy Review published by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) this past Thursday, in 2019, consumption of renewable energy resources surpassed coal consumption for the first time since 1885. Additionally, note that the various renewable energy resources we know today were not popularized until relatively recently; as the EIA explained, “Historically, wood was the main source of U.S. energy until the mid-1800s and was the only commercial-scale renewable source of energy in the United States”. Therefore, the more modern, popularized renewable energy resources of today display exciting projections for the future, due to their variability and more efficient manners of production in comparison to wood.

One drawback of this remarkable achievement is due to the broad scale of renewable energy, creating a possibly unfair head-to-head comparison between coal and renewable energy – as financial expert Maxx Chatsko stated, “Energy consumption from renewable energy topped coal last year, but only when all energy sources are counted. In other words, the math only works when electricity production, transportation, and consumption from industrial, residential, and commercial markets are combined.” 
Ultimately, despite the potential fallacies in comparison of the two energy industries, a glance at trends in coal consumption and renewable energy consumption reveal clear conclusions: according to the report by the EIA and analysis by hydrogeologist Scott K. Johnson, coal consumption dropped 15% from 2018 to 2019, while renewable energy consumption, namely in wind and solar energy, ticked up 1% within the same timeframe, a seemingly small yet nevertheless important sign of growth. To sum it up, as president of the Environmental Working Group, Ken Cook, pointed out, “It’s basic economics. Renewable energy is cheaper, cleaner, and abundant. There is simply no way for coal to compete.”

Why Central Banks in Asia Must Take Climate Change Seriously

By Anshul Dash

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has claimed that due to the exponentially growing population and the high amount of natural disasters, climate change will have a disastrous impact in Asia. Many rivers in Asia, such as Yangtze, Mekong, and Brahmaputra, can change in behavior due to the melting of glaciers from global warming. The World Bank has predicted that due to rising global temperatures, living conditions in South Asia will worsen, directly impacting agriculture there. Despite these accurate predictions, Asia has not responded and its energy consumption habits remain the same.

The industry in Asia is rapidly evolving. The demand for energy has increased by 80 percent since 2000. These demands require double the amount of fossil fuels, which is causing financial troubles for power plants in Southeast Asia. Despite increasing demands for biofuel, oil still dominates the region. Coal production is also expected to increase in order to fuel new coal-powered power plants. However, there are many obstacles in the way of achieving this goal, such as complications to safeguard competitiveness in financing new coal plants.

People in Asia who hold stocks in these industrial companies are facing trouble in making sure that there is a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy. Central banks can learn to become more climate-friendly through multiple methods. For single organizations, they can evaluate the risks that come with the changing climate. Central banks in developed countries have already started using this tactic. Organizations can also apply policy tools in order to promote low-carbon actions/efforts and minimize climate risks. Addressing climate change as a risk regularly will encourage these banks and industries to take action and contribute to its mitigation.

While there are many areas under the stress of climate change, testing in these areas will need the support of banks and industries in the area to address these risks. As a result, the development will be more proficient and new methods on how to do low-carbon productions will be developed more quickly. Officials are now focusing on how these approaches should be launched in each central bank as each one operates differently and have different ways of mitigating climate change. To prevent any financial problems, officials have also recommended that an effective framework and economic policy be created to prevent these problems. Climate change can end more quickly with the contribution of these central banks and industries in Asia.

French Oil Company Pressured to Further Address The Issue of Climate Change

By Ritvik Dutta

On Wednesday, eleven investors owning about 1.35% of Total SA’s capital increased pressure on the French Oil Company, stating that the current efforts to comply under the Paris Agreement were inadequate. The investors pushed for the company to alter their business plans to focus more on the reduction of carbon emissions. Although efforts were made in the past to attenuate greenhouse gas output of their own energy generation, their marketable products remained untouched. 

The Paris Agreement was signed into action on November 4, 2016 in order to ensure lower environmental carbon levels in the future. Ratified by the 55 countries that make up the majority of global emissions, the agreement brings most of the polluting countries together to “strengthen the global response.” According to the UNFCC, the main goal of the UN committee that signed the agreement is to minimize as much greenhouse gas damage to the environment as possible and keep the temperature change in this century under “2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.”

Total SA’s investor group led by Meeschaert Asset Management consists of Actiam, Ecofi Investments, Sycomore Asset Management, La Banque Postale Asset Management, and Credit Mutuel Management. Together, they are working on creating a plan that they will present later at the next Total SA shareholder meeting currently scheduled for May 29th. In an interview done by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, an oil campaigner noted that if the plan is indeed implemented by Total SA, there would be a massive change in the oil giant’s business strategy. This huge change would prove to be instrumental during this time period due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. Demand for fuel is at an all-time low and the industry as a whole is forced to take drastic measures and institute cost cuts. 

The Houston Chronicle reports that a separate organization by the name of Follow This is “delighted that institutional investors have now filed a resolution with the exact same request as ours.” Follow This adds that “Similar resolutions have been proven effective with Shell in 2017 and with BP and Equinor in 2019.” This forced reduction of emissions appeals to work with Total SA as it has in the past with other supergiant oil companies.

Competitors such as BP Plc, Repsol SA. Royal Dutch Shell, and Equinor ASA have all pledged to implement some form of carbon emission reduction, with BP plc and Repsol SA assuring carbon-free emissions by 2050.  Total SA reports that since 2010, they have already reduced carbon emissions by 25%, pledging to reduce 40 million tons of carbon emissions by 2025. However, what the future actually entails for Total SA is yet to be seen.

Report Suggests Time is Running out to Address Climate Crisis

By Jalen Xing

Climate Change has not only caused significant problems in peoples’ health but also detrimental effects on the economy. As temperatures and ocean levels continue to rise, infrastructure, agriculture, and business can be greatly affected.

A report projected two scenarios: “if the higher-temperature scenario (4.5˚ C) prevails, climate change impacts on these 22 sectors could cost the U.S. $520 billion each year. If we can keep to 2.8˚ C, it would cost $224 billion less.” Infrastructure may begin to lose value near coasts because, due to the trend of rising sea levels, people are unable to predict whether or not their building will be in the water in the future. Therefore, in the future, many people will have trouble predicting trends and whether or not infrastructure should be built near coasts.

Another impact of rising water trends is in agriculture. Extreme rainfall events have increased 37 percent in the Midwest since the 1950s, and this year, the region has experienced above-normal amounts of rain and snowmelt that have caused historic flooding. This will result in many farmers losing their jobs from loss of agriculture, and disrupt food distribution in local markets. Farmers also face other difficulties from rising temperatures: droughts, fire risk, pests, and weeds. Furthermore, many commodity crops such as corn, soybean, wheat, rice, cotton, and oats don’t grow well in warm temperatures. This will begin to impact the price of each of these because growing and sustaining the crops will become substantially more difficult. Farmers will have to adapt by buying more pesticides, finding new ways to adapt, or utilizing alternatives in order to promote cooler temperatures, which will directly affect the consumer. Human productivity will begin to decrease as a result of the rising temperatures: temperature extremes are projected to cause the loss of two billion labor hours each year by 2090, resulting in $160 billion of lost wages. As more and more people are unwilling to work jobs in the heat, the cost to find workers will begin to increase and as a result, affect the consumer.

Climate change can also wreak havoc on businesses. Due to the varying temperatures and natural disasters, many businesses such as airports can’t predict the number of customers per season, which greatly affects their planning. Insurance plans can also increase because people are looking for different types of support in case of any extreme natural disasters. Many of the big companies have to preemptively prepare for natural disasters, costing them trillion dollars. Climate change can potentially change the economy whether we expect it to or not.

The Power Of An Individual In The Fight Against The Climate Crisis

By Arun Balaji, Kunaal Venugopal, Kaushal Kumar, and Sudhit Rao

In the fight against the climate crisis, individuals are often reluctant to become activists due to the belief that their actions will fail to incite change. However, this viewpoint has been proven fallacious with the actions of individual activists such as Greta Thunberg. Thunberg, now a seventeen-year-old girl from Sweden, has made strides in the climate change movement that have resulted in her winning Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019.

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Greta Thunberg grew interested in the climate change movement as a young child, but her activism drew global attention when she started climate strikes at her school in August 2018. The threat of her strike was to not attend school until the election that year in order to convince the Swedish government to institute policies that aligned with the Paris Agreement, which holds a central goal of ameliorating the global response to climate change by limiting the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Thunberg’s actions have instigated a ripple effect across the globe as she pushes for global awareness for the pressing issue of climate change. Recently, Thunberg made a post on Twitter showing her continued support for the climate strike movement in schools. Thunberg’s ability to make a substantial impact on the climate change movement elucidates to the potential that all individuals could have. Clearly, no matter where an individual is from, regardless of their background or situation, they can make an impact on our world.

When it comes to mitigating the climate crisis, an individual can do a variety of things in their community to raise awareness on the issue and further developments in mitigating the problem. One can do something as simple as encouraging their peers to reuse and recycle to create a cleaner world, design more efficient recycling procedures, creatively reduce ocean pollution, or create a business that regulates these procedures– the possibilities are endless. No matter the scale, we can make an impact by creating a ripple effect and inspiring our peers to do something in their community. After all, it is our planet to save.

Inspired by the actions of Thunberg, Adarsh Ambati, a sophomore from Mitty High School, is working diligently to combat climate change by making STEM accessible to all, through his non-profit Gro-Stems. Working by his vision of achieving “a world in which everyone strives to better the environment,” Adarsh, funded by his sale of succulents and a GoFundMe, hopes to mitigate climate change by increasing environmental literacy in homeless shelters around him. Simple passion projects like Adarsh’s have made a great impact on the community, as a right step forward in a cleaner, better planet.

We all can make a difference. If you think that you have an idea regarding the fight against climate change or any business proposals/innovational ventures, consider taking part in Cloud9, a virtual pitch competition hosted by Elevate the Future, a nonprofit organization focused on “providing youth with the resources and support in order to spark their passions and set them up for success.” Co-founded by Rayan Garg and Arjun Gupta, the organization has worked tirelessly to close the educational gap in Generation Z. The competition is being judged by industry experts from large Silicon Valley corporations. The winners not only receive a cash prize but also an automatic entry to the semifinals of the Blaze Global competition; this competition may be the perfect platform to showcase your ideas. Really, anyone can have an impact, with these competitions being only one of those venues. So let your ideas fly, innovate, and make a positive difference in our world.

The Hidden Carbon Footprint Behind Cryptocurrency

by Suraj Gangaram

Due to the market meltdown in early March, the price of a cryptocurrency referred to as Bitcoin dropped by $1000 within less than a day. As a result of Bitcoin’s extensive power consumption and carbon footprint, people adhering to the ESG (environmental, social, and governance) criteria have sparked debate over the practicality of it in today’s day and age. The presence of the coronavirus situation especially begs the question:

How are cryptocurrencies in general going to move forward?

Believe it or not, Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency which operates independently of a central bank, has a giant carbon footprint associated with producing it. The digital currency offers relative anonymity, does not charge sales tax and is free from bank and government interferences. Transactions are digitally stored as “blocks” in a chain as opposed to a traditional centralized location as in banks; the “winner” is given the right to add another block of data to the chain, and is rewarded with a new Bitcoin. Bitcoin, currently sitting at a value of around $7000, is infamous for its energy consumption, demanding a plethora of tailor-made computers to carry out its arduous mining process which requires complex mathematical computing. As part of an attempt to save on their expenditures, mining companies have relocated their computers, known as ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits), to warehouses with access to cheap electricity. Currently, over 50% of all mining occurs in China’s Sichuan province, which has a superabundant capacity for hydropower. Seemingly just another financial trading tool, it consumes as much electricity as the country Chile, with nearly 19 million inhabitants. Researchers calculated that the Bitcoin network consumed 31.3 Terawatt-hours (1 TWh = 3.6*10^15 J) of electricity and 17.3 megatons (17.3 million tons of TNT) of CO2 in 2018 alone.

Companies are cognizant of the impact of crypto-currency production on climate change as it works its way into becoming the currency of the future. A Canadian company, Upstream Data, has invented a method of diminishing the amount of methane vented into the atmosphere from oil wells through utilizing the fuels as a generator for mining computers. Steve Barbour, the company’s founder, has described the venture as one of “a low capital…for an oil company.” Looking to set the path forward for ESG-minded individuals, mining companies are looking to reconfigure the processes of producing crypto-currency, before climate change demands them to do so.

Here’s how Plant-Based Meats are Reducing the Carbon Footprint of the Agriculture Industry

by Arun Balaji

The Beyond Burger (NASDAQ: BYND) and Impossible Burgers, among many others, have taken the country by storm as cost-effective and great tasting plant-based alternatives to meat based cuisine. More than just a namesake, gag, and the subject of challenges for many that appear on YouTube, these alternatives provide a legitimate solution to those that want to remove meat from their diet without missing out on “that meaty flavor.” 

Furthermore, scientists have recently found that meat consumption is actually detrimental to humans, as among many reasons, the digestive systems simply aren’t built to process animal meat. Studies have also linked meat consumption to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many types of cancer. Additionally, animaltarian efforts that argue the immorality, inhumanity, arguing the ethics of taking a life, an angle that hasn’t been challenged in recent memory.

Hence, it’s to no surprise that the prominence of animal agriculture and the consumption of red meat and poultry has experienced a steep decline over the past decade, as plant-based substitutes garner a steady follower base. 

What is surprising, though, is the little-known superlative benefit surrounding plant meat consumption. It’s actually good for the environment. Researchers found that the slaughtering of cows and other animals releases an extraordinary amount of nitrogen into the environment. Although it isn’t carbon, the element most commonly associated with pollution, nitrogen is a greenhouse gas, and it is warming our Earth at an unnatural level. This process is unavoidable, and even after iterations of improvements, the production of nitrogen is still significant. As a result, animal slaughtering has produced 500 nitrogen-flooded dead zones in the ocean, emitting more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation combined. Plant-based substitutes avoid all of these emissions, providing a clean and environmentally friendly option to consume meat.

So the debate is brought up once more in our time. Should we eat meat? Ultimately, this question really doesn’t have an answer as the nutritional benefits meat offers has its negative counterparts, much like everything in our plant– everything has its positive and negative. Though this debate can stand the test of time, our planet is on a ticking clock as global warming persists, and little changes to our diet could be the deciding difference.

Picture credit: Impossible Foods

Meet the World’s Greenest Car: Sony’s Fisker Ocean

by Sudhit Rao

Tesla’s pure domination of the electric car market might soon come to an end with the unveiling of Sony’s new Fisker Ocean, an affordable electric sports utility vehicle. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020 featured a countless number of great products but Sony’s Fisker Ocean certainly stole the show as most surprising. The electric car boasts a price of just $29,999 after federal tax incentives, cutting off Tesla’s most popular and affordable car, the Model 3 priced at $35,000. 

Headquartered at the heart of technological innovation, California, Fisker Ocean’s mission runs parallel with creating a cleaner and greener future for the world. The car company hopes to “Provide the world’s most sustainable vehicles through an e-mobility service” and envisions “A clean future for all”(Fisker Ocean).  

While their purpose is certainly in the hopes of a better, more green future, how does the company hope to accomplish this? Fisker Ocean implements various techniques such as recycling and renewable power to do just that. The car’s exterior body is created from recycled materials such as discarded fishing nets and plastics that would instead be left in the ocean, unused. The interior of the car consists of recycled polyester such as T-Shirts and fibers and recycled plastics. This has enormous benefits to the environment as the polyester manufacturing process primarily requires gasoline. To top that, Fisker Ocean is the first car to implement a solar roof, claiming that it would provide users with an additional 1,000 miles of range for zero cost. The roof would improve fuel performance as well as reduce the overall CO2 emissions. More information about the sustainability of the car can be found here

Fisker Ocean is a serious contender as a pure electric car due to its affordability, but more importantly, a far more important issue is being tackled by the car company, environmental sustainability. The sustainability of the car can prove extremely beneficial to the environment by reducing carbon emissions and recycling materials that would otherwise go unused but only time will tell if Fisker Ocean is crowned king as the world’s most sustainable car.