Posts with «nature & environment» label

Jack Dorsey says Square is ‘considering’ building a Bitcoin mining system

Jack Dorsey says that Square is “considering” building its own Bitcoin mining system using custom silicon and open source software. “Square is considering building a Bitcoin mining system based on custom silicon and open source for individuals and businesses worldwide,” Dorsey wrote in a Twitter thread Friday.

He added that such a project would follow a similar approach as the bitcoin hardware wallet Square began working on earlier this summer. But building a mining system would be considerably more complicated for the payments company than simply building a wallet. Creating custom chips is, as Dorsey points out, “very expensive,” and would be new territory for the payments company, which has been a major supporter of Bitcoin.

“Mining needs to be more efficient,” Dorsey wrote. “Driving towards clean and efficient energy use is great for Bitcoin’s economics, impact, and scalability. Energy is a system-level problem that requires innovation in silicon, software, and integration.”

3/Silicon design is too concentrated into a few companies. This means supply is likely overly constrained. Silicon development is very expensive, requires long term investment, and is best coupled tightly with software and system design. Why aren’t more companies doing this work?

— jack⚡️ (@jack) October 15, 2021

As with his earlier tweets about plans for the hardware wallet, Dorsey didn’t share many details about how the mining system would actually work. But he said the goal would be to make mining more efficient and accessible to more people, which could address two of the most important issues related to cryptocurrency mining.

Bitcoin-related power usage has reached record highs in recent years, raising major concerns about the cryptocurrency’s impact on climate change. Mining has also driven up the prices and scarcity of GPUs, which has made it increasingly difficult for the average crypto enthusiast to mine on their own.

Our team led by @jessedorogusker will start the deep technical investigation required to take on this project. We’d love your thoughts, ideas, concerns, and collaboration. Should we do this? Why or why not? We’ll update this thread as we make our decisions. And now over to Jesse.

— jack⚡️ (@jack) October 15, 2021

"Bitcoin mining should be as easy as plugging a rig into a power source,” Dorsey said. Whether or not Square will be able to accomplish that, is less clear. He said that the company “will start the deep technical investigation required to take on this project,” and is hoping to hear feedback on the idea in the meantime.

Google Cloud will show users their gross carbon emissions

Google Cloud has added tools to help users gain a better understanding of their environmental impact as part of the company's broader efforts to combat climate change. The Carbon Footprint feature shows the gross carbon emissions linked to the electricity consumption of someone's Cloud Platform use. It displays emissions over time and can break down the data by project, product and region.

Companies will be able to roll this information into their own emissions data for internal audits and making carbon disclosures (they can export the data to Salesforce Sustainability Cloud, for instance). Google stressed that the figures relate to a user's gross carbon emissions, since the company has been carbon neutral for over a decade. It plans to run entirely on carbon-free energy by 2030.

Google Cloud will also flag applications that are not in use, as well as their carbon emissions. Google suggests that deleting apps identified by the Unattended Project Recommender will help companies mitigate security risks, lower costs and reduce their carbon footprint.

Google #EarthEngine is now available in preview to commercial customers via Google Cloud Platform. We're building on our long track record on environmental impact to enable companies and governments that want to make progress on climate action.

— Google Earth (@googleearth) October 12, 2021

In addition, Google is bringing Earth Engine to the Cloud Platform for select users. Using satellite imagery, data sets and other tools, companies can harness Earth Engine to "track, monitor and predict changes in the Earth’s surface" caused by extreme weather events or human activity. That, Google says, will enable businesses to reduce and mitigate risks, "become more resilient to climate change threats" and save money. Companies can apply for access to Earth Engine through Google Cloud.

Last week, Google unveiled a string of features that highlight the environmental impact of consumer choices. Shopping results can promote greener options, while Google Flights started showing carbon emission estimates for almost all trips. The Nest Renew program, meanwhile, can switch your thermostat on or off depending on the availability of clean energy. In addition, Google is hoping to use AI to improve the efficiency of traffic lights and reduce pollution from idle cars.

Tesla's Berlin Gigafactory could produce EVs as soon as November

Tesla's long-in-the-making German Gigafactory is close to manufacturing its first electric cars. As Bloombergreports, company chief Elon Musk told those at an October 9th event that the Berlin-area factory should start production of Model Y crossovers in November or December. The challenge, as Musk explained, was bringing production up to healthy levels.

The CEO estimated that the Berlin Gigafactory would produce 5,000 to 10,000 vehicles per week, but only by the end of 2022. The facility will likely source batteries from China until a German cell plant is ready, he added. Don't expect this latest factory to play a meaningful role in Tesla's earnings for a while.

That's also assuming the Gigafactory moves forward as planned. Tesla is still facing complaints and lawsuits over the impact of the plant, particularly on the environment, and a public consultation process won't wrap up until October 14th. There's a chance officials might deny final approval or require further promises.

Tesla has vowed to offset the impact of the factory by planting more trees than it removed, not to mention minimizing water use. Whether or not that's enough to please authorities, it's clear Tesla's European plans have reached a turning point. The next several weeks could decide whether Tesla surges in the region or struggles against reinvigorated incumbents.

YouTube blocks ads on climate change denial videos

YouTube's reduced tolerance for misinformation now extends to climate science. The Google service has enacted a new policy barring ads and monetization for content that contradicts the "well-established scientific consensus" surrounding climate change, including videos that claim climate change is a hoax or reject the human link to global warming. YouTube will start enforcing the policy in November.

The company stressed that it would allow ads for videos discussing those bogus claims as well as other climate-related subjects, such as the exact degree of human impact or debates on climate policy. YouTube is basing its judgments on "authoritative" expertise, including contributors to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The firm wasn't shy about the reasoning for the move: advertisers just don't want their ads linked to climate change denial material, and creators don't want those ads on their pages. YouTube is concerned it could lose business, and dropping monetization for bogus science is an easy way to prevent that loss.

This effort stops short of banning climate change denial, although that's not surprising. Unlike anti-vaccine misinformation, climate change denial doesn't carry the risk of short-term harm. YouTube can keep the content visible for the sake of debate and expression without worrying that it will directly lead to illness. This won't stop science deniers from moving to other platforms or using their videos to peddle products like books, but it might discourage 'casual' attempts to profit from climate misinformation.

Google's Nest Renew program can help you use more clean energy at home

Google's latest effort to help you make more environmentally friendly decisions is all about your power grid. The new Nest Renew program is a suite of features that look at the times of day when the electricity feeding into your home is cleaner and turning your compatible Nest thermostats on or off accordingly. Renew arrives in a by-invitation preview in the coming weeks, and will be available for free in the continental US when it launches publicly. 

At the heart of Nest Renew is the understanding that at any given time, the power grid in your neighborhood contains a mix of clean and traditional energy. In the early afternoon, perhaps, there could be a higher concentration of electricity from solar sources, while a windier day could mean more power from turbines is coming through. Depending on the region, power grids could be getting their electricity from a diverse mix of sources. According to Nest product manager Jeff Gleeson, "a smart dynamic electric grid really needs smart homes." 

Nest Renew will not only automate some of this decision-making for you, but it can also give you insights on the type of power coming into your home. First, a new feature called Energy Shift will let those with a Google account and compatible Nest Thermostat automatically activate heating or cooling during times when your grid is cleaner. 


Because Google can now see how carbon-intense a grid is, it can start cooling, say, earlier in the day when solar energy is more available (and your home is approaching your temperature limit). Gleeson told Engadget that the company doesn't think people will notice a difference with this change, and stresses that "customers are always in control." 

If your thermostat kicks in before you want it to, you can always dial it back down, and you'll know the device is making a Renew-related decision thanks to a green leaf that will appear onscreen. For those whose energy provider charges based on time-of-use, this can also help you save money.

Nest has had the leaf symbol on its product for years as an indicator of more power-efficient temperature control. Now, you can earn leafs by doing things like using Energy Shift, joining monthly challenges to do things like running your laundry on cold. When you accumulate enough leafs to hit milestones, you can vote where Google sends its funds (from a list of its Energy Impact partners starting with non-profits GRID Alternatives and Elevate). 


In addition to automatic adjustments via your thermostat, Nest Renew will provide monthly "impact reports" that not only tell you the difference you're making, but also display when the electricity coming into your home is greener. With this data, you can choose to run the laundry, dishwasher or charge your devices earlier or later when your grid is cleaner.

Renew is a free opt-in program and works with the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Thermostat E or the most recent Nest Thermostat. Google is also offering a Premium tier for $10 a month in select parts of the US. It will unlock a Clean Energy Match feature that will exchange renewable energy credits (RECs) for what it estimates to be the same amount of fossil fuel-based electricity you use at home each month. This way, even if clean energy isn't available when you need to use it, you can at least assuage your guilt over using non-renewable power. Premium members will also get a unified bill that shows their monthly subscription to the program as well as their usual utility charges. 

Gleeson said Nest has been working on this program for years, and in that time it has teamed up with utilities and energy providers to encourage enrollment in residential programs, among other things. For Nest Renew, it's teamed up with eight Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMS) providers to help shape the program to meet their respective zero-carbon goals. 

Through the Nest Thermostats, increased visibility and marketing and relevant rewards programs, Google hopes to get more people enrolled in green energy utilities offers and programs. The company also wants to help utilities "bring more renewables online" and accelerate the process either by supporting them in building or buying renewable infrastructure, according to head of energy partnerships Hannah Bascomb.

Google's slew of sustainability-minded announcements today demonstrate a continued commitment towards the "carbon-free future" that CEO Sundar Pichai wrote about a year ago. In what Pichai called "our third decade of climate action," Google plans to operate on carbon-free energy 24/7, help more than 500 cities reduce 1 gigaton of carbon emissions and enable its partners to reduce carbon emissions all by 2030. Nest Renew is a part of a wide-ranging set of updates today across Search, Maps and more to help Google's users make more-informed, environmentally friendly decisions.

Google search results now highlight sustainable travel and shopping

Google is making its search engine more useful for the eco-friendly crowd. The internet giant is updating its search to provide information on more sustainable shopping and travel options. Look for energy-intensive appliances like hot water heaters or dishwashers, for instance, and you'll see suggestions for more sustainable (and frequently more cost-effective) products. A future update will also make it easier to cross-shop electric and hybrid cars, complete with identifying tags and a view of nearby compatible charging stations.

Google Flights, meanwhile, will show the estimated CO2 emissions for "nearly every" flight, right down to the seat level. An economy seat on a new aircraft could be much kinder than a first class berth aboard an older airliner.

Even stocks will see an improvement. Google Finance is launching sustainability scores for stock portfolios, giving you an overall sense of how Earth-conscious your investment companies are. Google will source info from the Climate Disclosure Project.

Search will also improve if you're simply trying to investigate climate change. Google is promising a dedicated results page with in-depth data, including related info from the UN and other authorities. Ideally, the data panels will help you better understand climate change and the fight to minimize it.

You'll have to wait a while to see all of Google's planned changes. The shopping and travel changes will arrive this week, but you'll have to wait until later in October for climate change info panels. The stock portfolio scores are merely "coming soon," and you'll have to wait until early 2022 to see EV and hybrid tags.

This is far from guaranteed to have a tangible effect on the environment. Just because you've seen an environmentally-savvy search link doesn't mean you'll click on it or even consider it. Even if that's the case, it signals a shift in attitude at Google. Tthe tech firm no longer considers reductions in behind-the-scenes resources to be enough — it's educating web users directly.

NOAA's surfing drone captured footage inside Hurricane Sam

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has shared what it says are the first images and video captured inside a hurricane by a surface drone. The agency placed the Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 in the path of the category-four Hurricane Sam. The saildrone overcame 50-foot waves and winds at speeds topping 120 miles per hour to capture data from the hurricane and offer a new perspective into such storms.

The device has a special “hurricane wing” to help it survive the intense wind conditions. The SD 1045 is one of five saildrones that have been in the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season. They are constantly recording data to help researchers gain a deeper understanding into hurricanes. The information could help improve storm forecasting, which will hopefully reduce the loss of lives when hurricanes make landfall.

“Using data collected by saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes,” Greg Foltz, a scientist at NOAA, said in a statement. “Rapid intensification, when hurricane winds strengthen in a matter of hours, is a serious threat to coastal communities. New data from saildrones and other uncrewed systems that NOAA is using will help us better predict the forces that drive hurricanes and be able to warn communities earlier.”

Sidenote: I can't be the only one with a sudden urge to watch Twister again.

Apple, Amazon and others back groups trying to kill US climate legislation

Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Disney are among the major companies backing corporate lobby groups and organizations that are battling a US climate bill, according to a report. That's despite those companies all making pledges to reduce their impact on the environment.

The United States Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the Rate Coalition are three of the lobbyist and business groups that oppose the Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget bill, which includes measures to fight climate change. The Guardian reports that watchdog Accountable.US analyzed the groups to learn which companies have connections to them.

The Chamber of Commerce, the biggest lobbying group in the US, has said it would "do everything we can to prevent this tax-raising, job-killing reconciliation bill from becoming law.” The group's board includes executives from the likes of United Airlines and Microsoft.

The board of the Business Roundtable includes Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google and Alphabet chief executive Sundar Pichai and Amazon CEO Andy Jassy. The group has said it's “deeply concerned” about the bill and the increased taxes it would lead to for the rich. Google has also made political contributions in the past to individuals and organizations that have denied climate change.

The report notes that The Rate Coalition is set to release attack ads against the bill. That body's members include Disney and Verizon (Engadget's former parent company).

The support of lobbying groups that are attempting to kill the bill conflicts with the tech companies' attempts to tackle the climate crisis. Apple, Google and Microsoft have all backed the Paris Agreement, for one thing. Apple and Microsoft promised to become carbon neutral and carbon negative respectively by 2030.

In 2019, Amazon and founder Jeff Bezos launched the Climate Pledge, which has a goal of hitting net zero carbon emissions by 2040 and meeting the Paris Agreement benchmarks a decade early. Microsoft is among the 200+ companies that have joined the pledge. Disney, meanwhile, is aiming to reach net zero emissions for its direct operations by 2030.

Engadget has contacted Apple, Google and Microsoft for comment. The Guardian said that none of the companies it contacted rejected the stances of the groups they're members of. None of them said they would re-assess their connections to those bodies either.

As Congress considers a vote on the #IIJA, we urge action to modernize the transportation network, reduce emissions and address the climate change crisis. The climate-focused elements included represent significant strides to turn ideas to reality.

— Amazon Public Policy (@amazon_policy) October 1, 2021

On Friday, Amazon expressed support for the infrastructure bill and the climate aspects of the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. A spokesperson provided the following statement to Engadget:

Amazon believes both private and public sector leadership is required to tackle the global issue of climate change. That’s why we actively advocate for policies that promote clean energy, increase access to renewable electricity, and decarbonize the transportation system. In addition to advocating for these issues on a local, state, and international level, we have a worldwide sustainability team that innovates sustainable solutions for both our business and customers, as well as co-founded The Climate Pledge - a commitment to be net-zero carbon 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement.

Amazon has made bold commitments to reduce our carbon emissions, and we continue to encourage other companies to join us. We support investments in the Infrastructure and Build Back Better bills to lower emissions in key sectors like energy and transportation, and we believe these investments will help advance America’s carbon reduction goals. As we said earlier this year, we support an increase in the corporate tax rate to pay for things like infrastructure, and we look forward to Congress and the administration coming together to find the right, balanced solution that maintains or enhances U.S. competitiveness.

Update 1/10 12:22PM ET: Added Amazon's statement.

Nikola signs deal to build hydrogen fueling stations across North America

EV automaker Nikola has signed a memorandum of understanding with Opal Fuels to build and operate hydrogen fueling stations across North America. Under the preliminary agreement, the two companies will work to co-develop the technology necessary to accelerate the adoption of fuel-cell electric vehicles. They also plan to explore the use of renewable natural gas.

Initially, they say they plan to focus on infrastructure for private shipping companies before looking at whether it makes sense to make something similar available to the public. To date, Opal has built more than 350 renewable natural gas stations.

“Today marks another important step forward in Nikola’s stated energy infrastructure plans and its focus on providing hydrogen fueling services to customers,” said Pablo Koziner, the president of Nikola’s energy and commercial operations.

The announcement comes just months after federal prosecutors indicted Nikola founder and former executive chairman Trevor Milton of fraud. Among other allegations, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Milton of falsely claiming the company was producing hydrogen at four times less than the market rate.

ABB claims its Terra 360 is the 'world's fastest electric car charger'

Swiss company ABB, which supplies EV chargers to Ionity and Electrify America, has unveiled what it calls the "world's fastest electric car charger," Reuters has reported. As its name suggests, the Terra 360 has a 360 kW capacity, meaning it could fully charge a (theoretical) EV in 15 minutes. More realistically, it can charge four vehicles simultaneously, saving space at charging stations. 

The Terra 360 isn't the most powerful charger by much, as companies like Electrify America, Ionity and EVGo have been using 350 kW chargers manufactured by ABB and others since at least 2018. However, it's the "only charger designed explicitly to charge up to four vehicles at once," the company said. "This gives owners the flexibility to charge up to four vehicles overnight or to give a quick refill to their EVs in the day." They also have a relatively small footprint, allowing installation in small depots or parking lots. 

There aren't a lot of EVs that can handle that kind of charge. The fastest-charging EV available is Hyundai's Ioniq 5, which supports DC fast-charging at up to 350 kW, in theory. The only two approaching that are Porsche's Taycan, with 270 kW of charging capacity and the new Lucid Air, which allows for up to 300 kW fast-charging. Tesla's Model 3 and Model Y EVs can charge at up to 250 kW. 

Such high charging levels aren't necessarily great for an EV's battery. Porsche, for instance, has a battery preservation setting on its Plug & Charge Taycan feature that lowers voltage to 200 kW from the maximum 270 kW allowed — so it's essentially acknowledging that faster charging degrades the battery. On top of that, extreme charging levels don't necessarily save you much time, as Car and Driver found. Tesla recently promised to upgrade its own Supercharger V3 network from 250kW to 300kW. 

ABB's new chargers will be able to add 100 km (62 miles) of range in less than three minutes. They'll arrive in Europe by the end of the year and start rolling out in the US and elsewhere in 2022.