Climate change can ruin your beer

Water is beer’s primary ingredient, and brewers are worried about having enough.

In 2011, it took brewing giant Anheuser-Busch Inbev 3.5 barrels of water to produce 1 barrel of beer. Due to concerns over drought and shrinking water supplies, the world’s largest brewer set a goal to drop that number to 3.25 barrels by 2012. It met that goal, and this week, Pete Kraemer, the company’s vice president for supply said that they had shrunk that number down to 3.15 barrels, with plans to drop it still further. For context, their plant in Houston alone produces 12 million barrels of beer each year…

Most of the water used to make beer does not make it into beer bottles — it ends up as wastewater, which in turn requires energy to treat. Matt Silver was a NASA researcher who decided to use his knowledge of life-support systems in space to create a water treatment system that turns industrial wastewater into electricity. The water that comes out of a brewery, for example, contains too much in the way of organic compounds to be dumped down the drain — but those compounds can feed microbes that turn it into methane, which can be used to heat and power a factory. His company, Cambrian Innovations, received seed money from the EPA, NASA, and the Pentagon and has been selling systems that do this to breweries like Lagunitas in drought-parched California…

Large brewers are also concerned about barley, the second ingredient of beer.

In recent years, heavy rains in Australia and drought in England have damaged barely crops. That pattern of heavier downpours and drier droughts is likely to accelerate as greenhouse gases trap heat and warm the planet, according to the National Climate Assessment. Anheuser-Busch Inbev receives a lot of their barley from Idaho. Howard Neibling, a professor in the University of Idaho’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, told the Houston Chronicle that farmers see less water coming as snowpacks decline, and have tried to become more efficient with their water usage.

The third ingredient of beer is hops, which is also facing pressures from a warming world.

A study from 2009 suggested that the quality of Saaz hops from the Czech Republic has been falling since 1954 due to warmer temperatures. This is true for hops-growing regions across Europe. “If you drink beer now, the issue of climate change is impacting you right now,” Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company sustainability director Jenn Orgolini said in 2011. “Craft brewers — the emphasis there is on craft. We make something, and it’s a deeply agricultural product.”

Beyond adapting to the impacts of climate change, however, some breweries are directly trying to lower their carbon emissions that help fuel climate change. Many are finding it’s also saving them money…

New Belgium Brewing Company last year was recognized by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council for putting in place systems that allow it to divert 99.8 percent of its waste from the landfill.

More examples in the article. And these are examples that can be repeated in industry after industry. Maybe it takes federal and local pressure to encourage corporate managers. Maybe it takes incentives. Either road, it’s our lives ultimately affected by turning our industries Green.

Thanks, Mike

Japan “interprets” regulations to hide over a ton of plutonium

Japan-Developing-Nuclear-Weapons-Preparing-For-War

The Japanese government has not declared about 640 kg of unused plutonium in its annual report for the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2012 and 2013, an amount enough to make 80 nuclear bombs…

Japan claims to own 44 tons of plutonium, while the actual amount is 45 tons, said Japan’s Kyodo News Agency. The unreported plutonium is part of the plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel placed at an offline reactor in a nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture, southern Japan.

The MOX fuel was loaded in March 2011, shortly before the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis happened later that month. Until two years later, the unused fuel was taken out from the reactor which remained offline.

An official from Japan Atomic Energy Commission argued that the plutonium is considered being used and hence exempt from reporting to the IAEA.

But plenty of experts both abroad and at home criticized the action of the Japanese government for failing to recognize the seriousness of the problem…”From the safeguards point of view this material is still un- irradiated fresh MOX fuel regardless of its location,” former IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen said. Thus the unreported plutonium could be diverted to as many as 80 nuclear bombs.

Japan keeps the largest amount of plutonium among non-nuclear nations. The country used it for power generation in the past, but after the 2011 disaster at Fukushima, Japan’s nuclear reactors remain idle.

The big amounts of plutonium are causing regional worries over Japan’s motives, as well as global concerns over the security of these nuclear fuel reserves.

This ain’t an “oops!” moment. Reflect for a minute on what reasons there might be for Japan to hide a ton of plutonium. It’s not like they’re paying taxes or licensing fees on the stuff.

It isn’t likely Japan would sell plutonium to some other nation – especially when the first use that comes to mind is production of nuclear bombs or warheads, dirty or otherwise. Just when the Abe government is trying to unwrite the nation’s pacifist constitution.

NOAAWatch — Excessive heat #1 killer weather in USA


August 2013

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. In fact, on average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. In the disastrous heat wave of 1980, more than 1,250 people died. In the heat wave of 1995 more than 700 deaths in the Chicago area were attributed to heat. In August 2003, a record heat wave in Europe claimed an estimated 50,000 lives.

North American summers are hot; most summers see heat waves in or more parts of the United States. East of the Rockies, they tend to combine both high temperature and high humidity; although some of the worst heat waves have been catastrophically dry.

NOAA has a page [here’s the link] explaining warning levels and including suggestions. Read it. Save the link. Most places in the United States you will need this info sooner or later.

Thanks, Mike

What would a functioning warp-drive ship look like?


Image by Mark Rademaker

Artist Mark Rademaker has unveiled a set of concept images imagining what a spaceship capable of traveling to other stars in a matter of months would really look like. Although it may look like something from the next science fiction epic and is unlikely to lift off anytime soon, his IXS Enterprise design is actually based on some hard science…

The idea comes from the work published by Miguel Alcubierre in 1994. His version of a warp drive is based on the observation that, though light can only travel at a maximum speed of 186,000 miles per second spacetime itself has a theoretically unlimited speed. Indeed, many physicists believe that during the first seconds of the Big Bang, the universe expanded at some 30 billion times the speed of light.

The Alcubierre warp drive works by recreating this ancient expansion in the form of a localized bubble around a spaceship. Alcubierre reasoned that if he could form a torus of negative energy density around a spacecraft and push it in the right direction, this would compress space in front of it and expand space behind it. As a result, the ship could travel at many times the speed of light while the ship itself sits in zero gravity, meaning the crew don’t end up as a grease stain on the aft bulkhead from the acceleration.

Unfortunately, the original maths indicated that a torus the size of Jupiter would be needed, and you’d have to turn Jupiter itself into pure energy to power it. Worse, negative energy density violates a lot of physical limits itself and to create it requires forms of matter so exotic that their existence is largely hypothetical.

In recent years, Dr Harold “Sonny” White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center has given the interstellar minded some cause for optimism by showing that even if the warp drive may not be possible, it may be much less impossible than previously thought. White looked at the equations and discovered that making the torus thicker, while reducing the space available for the ship, allowed the size of the torus to be greatly decreased, down to a width of 10 meters for a ship traveling ten times the speed of light.

According to White, with such a setup, a ship could reach Alpha Centauri in a little over five months, and oscillating the bubble around the craft reduces the stiffness of spacetime, making it easier to distort. This would reduce the amount of energy required by several orders of magnitude, making it possible to design a craft that, rather than being the size of Jupiter, is smaller than the Voyager 1 probe.

RTFA for another set of reasons why we ain’t seeing this anytime soon. Or maybe even later.

But, as David Szondy says in his article, “It doesn’t hurt to dream”.