The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what went on in last week’s issue of C&EN.
Didn’t have a chance to attend last weekend’s get-rich-quick seminar at your local mall? Never fear, Newscripts is here! Just check out last week’s column, written by C&EN Senior Editor Alex Scott, for some helpful tips on how to approach future investments.
Worried that your stock portfolio invests too heavily in fossil-fuel companies? Well, you should be, according to a new report by Carbon Tracker Initiative and the London School of Economics & Political Science that finds that more than $674 billion is spent annually on the discovery of fossil fuels. Such an investment is misguided, says the report, given that fossil-fuel consumption will inevitably have to be curtailed in order to prevent irreparable climate-change damage. This fact, however, seems to be lost on energy companies, and their investors, who continue to pump money into the discovery of new fossil fuels.
So get-rich-quick tip #1? Avoid overinvesting in fossil-fuel companies. “It seems ridiculous to me that investors have not recognized that in the future it may become socially, and politically, unacceptable to burn fossil fuels and that this risk needs to be factored into their company evaluations,” Alex says. As just one example of the risks posed by burning fossil fuels, Alex points to a study published earlier this month that found that air pollution in northern China has decreased life expectancy there by five-and-a-half years.
Alex, however, is quick to point out that investments in fossil fuels can be beneficial when combined with a commitment to sustainability. For example, plastics makers can use closed-loop manufacturing systems to turn discarded plastic into new material for their supply chains, he says.
In the second part of his column, Alex gives get-rich-quick tip #2: Be on the lookout for microwave-driven Internet. As Alex explains, Perseus Telecom, an e-trade information technology firm, is conducting studies regarding the feasibility of using balloons to transmit microwave signals across the Atlantic Ocean. Such signals would be able to transmit data faster than current fiber-optic infrastructure, providing stock traders with a potential advantage in their fast-paced work environments.
There is one big problem with this dream, however: Microwave signals would need to be shepherded across the ocean in order to reach their intended destinations. That’s where the balloons come in. Perseus is considering lining up a row of balloons across the Atlantic that will relay these signals to their targets.
“Frankly, I think floating balloons in a straight line over the Atlantic sounds silly,” Alex says. “It’s the equivalent of spinning plates over a large distance.”
Yet, this ridiculousness isn’t stopping Perseus from seriously considering the idea. What’s more, even Google is exploring a similar project. The Internet giant is considering launching balloons into the stratosphere at heights twice as high as those used by commercial airplanes; the balloons would then be used to deliver Internet access to remote parts of the world. It’s an impressive idea, but one that Google also recognizes as slightly unrealistic. That’s why the company is calling the effort Project Loon.
As to which of these ideas, the curbing of fossil fuels or the use of balloons to transmit microwaves, is most likely to happen first, Alex says his vote is with the microwave data balloons. After all, he says, “weaning humans off fossil fuels is going to be a long, slow process.”
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