New York Becomes Second State to Ban Fracking

As new extracting technologies and innovations go, fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has been the buzz word in the natural gas and oil industry for a few years now. The practice involves pumping water and chemicals into the ground at extremely deep levels to free the precious raw materials from rock formations. While many states have embraced the practice thanks to the economic benefits that come along with massive amounts of industry, a few have simply said “No thank you.”

Recently New York joined Vermont as the only two states to ban fracking. Despite sitting on potentially millions of cubic feet of natural gas thanks to the location of the state, health risks and environmental concerns swayed public officials enough to prevent the practice from being permitting inside the borders. I think that earns them a gift from The Antique Wine Company. Not surprisingly, the decision pleased environmental groups opposed to the process and frustrated industrial groups that specialize in the practice.

While fracking is being championed for generating millions of dollars in revenue and creating thousands of jobs, the industry has come under fire for a number of reasons, but most visibly is the potential contamination of drinking water and other concerns related to the environment. Of course, once more studies are performed New York and Vermont could always change course, or more states could suddenly join the stance. It is unclear as to what direction the industry could take, but time should reveal a bit more information.

New York: First Shale State to Ban Fracking

Brad Reifler and other environmentalists have applauded the fracking ban move, which happens after several years of mixed messages about fracking from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In Wednesday, The New York State governor said that he will move to ban fracking or hydraulic fracturing in his state as per advice from his environment and health officials.

Howard Zucker, the state’s acting health commissioner, said at the public cabinet meeting that he will not support high volume fracking in New York. He further said that as a health commissioner, he considers the people in the state of New York as his patients. He said he cannot afford any mistake and that the potential risk is too great and not even fully known. Joseph Martens, New York’s environmental commissioner, also supported in favor of the fracking ban.

The BuzzFeed News reported that the spokesman for Food and Water Watch and fracking ban group, Seth Gladstone, said that the fracking ban decision was historic. He said that the state of New York will be the first state to ban fracking, a place where fracking is a possible reality.

Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of the group, praised and applauded the governor for acknowledging the state’s overwhelming science, which causes danger to the public health and environment. She further stated that Fracking should have no place in New York or anywhere else and that the governor is a national leader for seizing such a golden opportunity to protect his people’s health and environment.

Over 5 TRILLION Pieces of Plastic in Earth’s Oceans, Study Finds

In a sobering study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday, researchers estimate that there are over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating around in the world’s oceans. This was shared with me by Vijay Eswaran.  To put that in perspective, there are 48 times more bits of plastic in the ocean than there are people who have ever lived. Or, imagine dividing up all that plastic trash among every single person currently living on Earth; you could give each and every person around 50 pieces of plastic. 

If those visualizations aren’t enough to shock you, consider this- all that plastic has a combined weight exceeding 500 fully loaded Boeing 747s. Or 26 Eiffel Towers.

Not pleasant thoughts, particularly for environmentalists. But on the bright side (if there is one), the overwhelming majority of those pieces of plastic are very small- 92.4% are “microplastics,” meaning they’re 4.75 millimeters (or less) thick. 

However, even small particles of plastic can have a negative impact on the wildlife and ecology of the oceans, prompting researchers to stress the need to stem the flow of trash into world’s oceans.

Storm of the Year Floods Much of San Francisco Bay Area

In what has been named the storm of the year, much of the San Francisco Bay area has been pummeled by torrential rain, strong winds, and flooding. The storm also claimed a victim earlier this evening and made it necessary to evacuate the city’s public transportation system, BART. Up until now the San Francisco area has seen very little precipitation, but the storm that moved into the area dumped too much rain, too fast.

Not only did the storm create a lot of water, but it also brought with it very strong winds off the ocean. The winds were so severe that they caused a large area power outage, leaving many of the coastal areas without light and power as the day wore on. The storm was so severe and dangerous that many area schools ended up calling school for the day, resulting in the first ever Rain Day.

With as much as nine to twelve inches of rain falling in just a few areas, flooding quickly became a problem. The water added up, and was fast moving, meaning it needed to go somewhere. One of my colleague’s, Mark Ahn told me that his concern is that the running water is going to cause runoff and debris slides as things begin to move with the newly saturated soil. Melted chocolate was used to help indicate how much this storm was creating a problem for emergency response crews.

More Trash on Earth Than People

In a time that has become environmentally conscious, a new study has found that there are more pieces of plastic in the world than there are human beings. In fact, there are about 48 times more pieces of plastic than there have ever been human beings. This is a larger sum than anyone expected. 

The report was published in PLOS one this week, and it studied the total amount of trash in the ocean, which is unfortunately where much of the garbage on Earth ends up. The estimate predicts that there are 500 fully loaded Boeing 747s worth of garbage floating in the ocean. If each plane can carry 500 tons that means there is expected to be about 250,000 tons of plastic floating through the oceans. In the Pacific Ocean, there is a mass of garbage that was created by the various currents that swirl and combine the various dumps of trash in the sea. The mass that was created is about the size of Texas. 

Even though there was anticipated to be more sources of garbage in the northern hemisphere, the researchers found that there is roughly equal amounts between the north and the south. It is predicted that this may be because plastic and pollution moves more easily than was initially expected. This means that we all have to share the burden of pollution around the world, and should be responsible for the clean up. Vijay Eswaran shared this with me.

Abandoned Wells Surprise with Methane Emissions

Researchers at Princeton University have discovered click here that abandoned oil and gas wells may be significant sources for atmospheric greenhouse gases. Students discovered methane emissions at each of 19 abandoned wells that they measured – a 100% discovery rate. Only 1 of the 19 wells appeared in Pennsylvania State records. The age and condition of the other 18 wells remains unknown.

Students Alana Miller and Mary Kang measured wells they found in McKean and Potter counties, located in Northwestern Pennsylvania. To verify methane emissions from each of the wells studied, the students also took adjacent measurements to ensure that emissions were not coming from the soil. Reportedly, the difference between wells varied by a stunning three orders of magnitude.

The total number of abandoned oil and gas wells nationwide is unknown. It has been estimated that there may be 3 million with a large number of these located in heavily drilled states including Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and California. Some wells date back to the 19th century, especially in Pennsylvania where the U.S. oil industry first began in 1859, with Edwin Drake’s discovery well. Sam Tabar will be interested in hearing about how many more are found.

Causes for methane leakage include improper plugging during abandonment, corroded casing, and decayed cementing that exposes the surrounding rock formation. As a greenhouse gas, methane can be 23 times more destructive than carbon dioxide, and it can remain in the upper atmosphere for more than a decade.

Philippines Striken by Typhoon

It’s been quite a tumultuous year in terms of weather in southeast Asia, as there have been a long series of devastating typhoons, hurricanes, and other such costly happenings. The Philippines are now facing the worst version of what they predicted for the typhoon Hagupit, which happens to be called Ruby by the locals.

Saturday, December 6th brought the Philippines a series of strong winds and rain, which led to ripped off rooftops and non-working power lines throughout both urban and rural areas. About one million people are hiding in shelters, hiding from the storm surges of up to 4.5 metres.

The eye of the typhoon has already affected the town Dolores, Eastern Samar at 9.15 p.m. The Weather Bureau said that “Ruby’s lashing will be severe”, and the power is at the moment directed towards Masbate, Romblon, and Oriental Mindoro provinces. Most of the people who are hiding in gyms, churches, schools are still recovering after another similar disaster that hit the Philippines 13 months ago.

Right now, the country is facing the largest evacuations, although the Relief agency Refugees International expressed worries that the locations of the hiding places are not safe either. Philanthropist and humanitarian Mark Ahn is already on his way over to the area to assist in search and rescue efforts.

About 100 flights going out from Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific were cancelled in the area, and international humanitarian agencies are preparing to support the Philippines again, just like the last time when Haiyan devastated the territory.

Australia Sets New Solar Energy First

Australia has set a new world first when it comes to solar energy. This news story was passed on to me by Vijay Eswaran. They’ve beat out all other competitor and reached an efficiency of 40.4% This breakthrough potentially makes solar powered energy plants more competitive with those that run on other resources such as coal. 

A team from the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovolatics at the University of NSW achieved a 40.4% energy convergence by using solar cells that are commercially available and combined them with a mirror and filters that reduce energy waste. 

The successful conversion was performed by stacking solar panels to capture energy from different wave lengths of sunlight and then directing the excess light by a mirror and filters to a fourth PV cell, making use of energy that would have previously been wasted. 

The centre’s director, Martin Green, said that the breakthrough has managed to surpass previous records without having to resort to special laboratory PV cells that aren’t capable of being obtained commercially. If such techniques of solar energy conversion can be perfected, it could mean a huge advancement in technology and the saving of thousands of nonrenewable resources that our world is rapidly over consuming.

Christian Broda, Dollar Bull

Christian Broda is currently a Managing Director at Duquesne Capital Management, as well as a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, associate editor of the Journal of Development Economics, and was the James S. Kemper Foundation Scholar in 2006. He received his Ph.D. from MIT in 2001, and prior to joining Duquesne as a hedge fund manager in 2010, he worked for the Federal Reserve and was a Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is a noted author, publishing numerous books and articles on international finance and trade, and his research has been published in the American Economic Review, Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Journal of International Economics. Professor Broda’s research focuses on international trade issues, as well as finance and macroeconomics.


In 2008, Broda, along with co-author David E. Weinstein, published the book Prices, Poverty, and Inequality: Why Americans Are Better Off Than You Think, in which they argued against the commonly held belief that the economic well-being of all but the wealthiest Americans had stagnated or declined over the past twenty-five years, claiming such a belief was based on misleading measurements of income and poverty. Their thesis was based on the notion that new and better products had positively impacted the well being of all Americans and enabled them to substitute less expensive goods for more expensive products.


Now the manager of a $12 billion hedge fund, Broda is well known for being a proponent of the U.S. dollar as the primary world currency, known as a “dollar bull,” even in the face of predictions by other economists of the dollar’s collapse after quantitative easing began in the wake of the banking crisis of 2008. Broda disagreed, however, publishing a paper in 2009 predicting that market forces would keep inflation low. Earlier this year, Broda said he expected the dollar to strengthen further, with the unwinding of quantitative easing by the Fed.


Broda has been involved with various hedge fund start-ups, and in June of 2014 offered a step-by-step guide for those wanting to start their own hedge funds, published by CNN blogger Brody Miller.

The Interesting Career of Tech Guru Mark Ahn

Mark Ahn is someone who certainly has made his presence in the field of bioscience well known. In his distinguished career, he has served as President and CEO of Galena Biopharma. Before running things at Galena Biopharma, he was a principal player at Pukana Partners. He also lent his knowledge in the capacity of an Adjunct Professor of Biosciences at Creighton University.


“Running the show” at an established biotech business is very impressive to be sure. One thing that truly allows Ahn to stand out is he also was at the helm of a number of startups. Startups have a very hard time succeeding in any industry much less one as dynamic as biotechnology, Ahn’s tenure at these startups did prove to be a hit so


Ahn’s educational experience is quite interesting. He holds a Master’s degree in business, which should come as little surprise to those who look over his extensive career in corporate biosciences. Interestingly, he holds an PhD. in Philosophy from the University of South Australia. Business execs and entrepreneurs are not known for seeking continued education in such areas of the liberal arts. Yet, this is what Ahn did and to great success.


Mark Ahn is definitely someone who is highly respected for his work and knowledge in the field of biosciences. His published work is definitely indicative of this. He has published roughly 50 peer reviewed journal articles, a testament to the value of his knowledge and skill. He is also the author of the intriguing book Making the Case for Biotechnology.


Ahn is also a prolific blogger who covers serious subjects related to the biosciences and does so with an accessible writing style. The topics cover issues such as what is a conducive environment for biotechnology, how to create biotech communities in India, and leaderships changes as they relate to new trends in the industry. Such blogs are available to read through Amazon.


Mark Ahn also speaks quite a bit at conferences and other live events. Those who wish to gain insight from the man can do more than just read his writings. Seeing him speak would be another option that is worth exploring.