The right to hydrogen

By Jorgo Chatzimarkakis – Even one year ago hydrogen would have been regarded as an interesting niche technology – but rather science-fiction than a future cornerstone of the European Green Deal. As with many other important historical disruptions, the pandemic has also led to viewing this technology from a different angle on a global level. This became visible this very week when John Kerry visited Berlin in order to prepare a joint approach with the Europeans towards the next big climate conference: The former US- Vice-President mentioned green hydrogen continuously at the same level as electrification. And this mirrors the importance that has been attributed to hydrogen by the Europeans already a year now, starting with the launch of the European hydrogen strategy in July last year.

Including renewable produce hydrogen into the energy, mobility and industry scenario leads to major shifts with regards to policies, investments and overall expectations. And this is good because we have to use the technology which helps us to quickly achieve palpable results in the “battle” for zero-emissions that we all strive for. But this situation unequivocally leads to distribution struggles. The issues on the agenda are: Who should be favored by which legislation? Who should be invited to conferences preparing big decisions? Who would be justified to receive public funding? Who will be favored by private investment?

Picking up a thought mentioned already: We do not need to focus on technology A versus technology B, but maintain technological openness and focus on those solutions that allow us to achieve our goals in the best way. I believe that even the advocates for an all-electric scenario have rightly understood that hydrogen will most probably become the other leg of the energy, mobility and industry transition next to electrification. more>

Unsnarling Traffic Jams Is the Newest Way to Lower Emissions

By John Fialka – The Department of Energy is preparing to use the massive computing power of its national laboratories to tackle a daily scourge of American life: traffic jams.

The effort is aimed at more than just improving motorists’ moods. If it works, it could cut U.S. transportation fuel consumption up to 20% and reduce auto emissions.

A second goal is to recover as much as $100 billion in lost worker productivity by unsnarling rush hour traffic jams in U.S. cities over the next 10 years.

Two years ago Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., selected Chattanooga, Tenn. (population 182,799), as the guinea pig for their first traffic-cutting experiment.

The city, nestled among the hills and ridges of the southeastern corner of the state, is ranked among the nation’s top 20 most traffic-congested cities.

The first step for NREL scientists was to make a detailed computer model, or what it calls a “digital twin,” of the city’s traffic patterns to isolate and then explore solutions to its snarled rush hours.

“Chattanooga provided an ideal microcosm of conditions and opportunities to work with an exceptional roster of municipal and state partners,” explained John Farrell, who manages the vehicle technology management program for NREL.

“Eventually, the plan is to apply these solutions to larger metropolitan areas and regional corridors across the country.” more>

Updates from ITU

The benefits of space must be accessible to all
ITU News recently caught up with Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Simonetta Di Pippo, who leads UNOOSA’s strategic, policy and programmatic activities and advises the United Nations Secretary-General on space affairs. 

UNOOSA carries out an important mission regarding activities in space. What exactly does UNOOSA do, and how does this differ from the work of its sister UN agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)?

UNOOSA’s mission is to promote the peaceful uses of outer space and ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to the benefits of space technology and applications. ITU, on the other hand, is committed to connecting all the world’s people, wherever they live and whatever their means, so that they can effectively communicate through radio and satellite technology. Therefore, our missions are closely aligned and interdependent.

Space exploration is the backbone of modern communication technologies: every time you make a phone call or access the Internet, you are benefitting from space technology, which also enables satellite navigation, remote financial transactions and many more of the activities that make our modern lives possible.

UNOOSA’s work, in ensuring strong international cooperation in space, the sustainability of space exploration, and inclusiveness for developing countries in benefiting from space, creates a strong foundation for ITU’s work in leveraging the potential of communication technologies. more>

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The Road to Full Employment

Recovery in the U.S. labor market, along with wage growth, may be stronger and faster than expected. Here’s what that could mean for investors.
By Lisa Shalett – With major U.S. stock indexes notching new highs, long-term Treasury yields retreating from recent peaks and lower volatility, investors seem to be embracing an outlook of “just right” economic growth, steady job gains and a patient Federal Reserve committed to helping labor markets heal through ultra-easy monetary policy.

That view is understandable. The U.S. central bank has pledged to remain accommodative, until the economy reaches “maximum employment,” a shift from its historical goal of achieving a “natural” unemployment rate, below which inflation accelerates. Continued Fed dovisheness could support investor appetite for market risk and bolster expectations of lower-for-longer interest rates.

However, we expect a very different dynamic to unfold, as this business cycle progresses—namely, a hotter but shorter economic expansion, with a rapid recovery in labor markets and a burst of wage growth. Such an outcome could push up inflation rates faster than expected and prompt the Fed to raise interest rates, with important implications for portfolio positioning. more>

Economist Dennis Snower Says Economics Nears a New Paradigm

Beyond any shadow of a doubt, there is a change in the air, as economics nears its Copernican Moment.
By Dennis J. Snower – This is probably the most exciting and fruitful time ever to become an aspiring economist. Why? Because economics is reaching its Copernican Moment – the moment when it is finally becoming clear that the current ways of thinking about economic behavior are inadequate and a new way of thinking enables us to make much better sense of our world. It is a moment fraught with danger, because those in power still adhere to the traditional conventional wisdom and heresy is suppressed.

Up to the 16th century, the conventional wisdom on astronomy conformed to Aristotle’s cosmology and Ptolemy’s astronomy. In Aristotle’s system, the earth is the center of the universe and the heavenly bodies are part of spherical shells of aether. These shells fit around one another in a clear order: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the fixed stars. All these spheres are put in motion by the Prime Mover. By the 16th century, Ptolemy’s astronomy was regarded as in accord with the conventional reading of the Bible, the ultimate source of all knowledge.

Ptolemy’s system encountered endless difficulties in accounting for the empirical evidence, which were addressed through the repeated application of geometric “fixes” (eccentrics, epicycles, and equants). The underlying methodological requirement was to retain the Aristotelian system as the foundation for our understanding of the universe and then to depict each “fix” as a divergence from this accepted foundation. Thus, to be taken seriously as an astronomer, it was necessary to master the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic systems and to develop superstructures on them. Copernicus did not follow this intellectual path, but he did not dare to publish his heliocentric theory until the year of his death, in 1543. In 1632 Galileo published a book supporting Copernicus’ heliocentric theory, was summoned before the Inquisition, and recanted. The Church had the hard power of the Inquisition and the soft power of scholastic theology on its side.

In the academic discipline of economics, we are currently experiencing a tame analogue to these first throes of the scientific revolution. The punishment for heresy is not execution, but intellectual oblivion. more>

Updates from McKinsey

What’s next for digital consumers
Consumers say they will spend less time in digital channels once the pandemic ends. Here’s what it means for companies.
By Neira Hajro, Klemens Hjartar, Paul Jenkins, and Benjamim Vieira – The COVID-19 pandemic has driven rapid adoption of digital channels across countries and industries, but digital’s growth has plateaued in the past six months and may begin to slip back once the pandemic eases—even as total digital adoption stays well above prepandemic levels. That’s one of the findings from a new McKinsey survey of global consumer sentiment conducted in April 2021. Companies can look to hold on to newly digital consumers by improving digital experiences, investing in “phygital,” and putting consumer trust at the heart of all they do.

The survey suggests that industries across regions experienced an average of 20 percent growth in “fully digital” users in the six months ending in April 2021, building on previous gains earlier in the pandemic. During that same time period, it was primarily younger people joining the ranks of digital users.

But, with consumers having reached high levels of digital penetration in most regions and industries, the acceleration into digital channels now seems to have leveled off in both Europe and the United States, with consumers in some industries saying that they will be using digital channels less frequently once the pandemic ends. As a result, even as total digital adoption remains above prepandemic levels, many industries and regions may see a modest negative net change in postpandemic digital use relative to 2020.

The industries most vulnerable to the loss of digital consumers may be those that saw the biggest gains in digital adoption during the pandemic. New adopters had little choice during lockdowns but to embrace digital channels, and the channels they entered were more likely to have been newly built and with a less satisfying user experience than established ones. more>

Updates from Ciena

3 network capabilities that agencies need to keep up with cyberthreats
As malicious cyberattacks continue to grow, agencies need to ensure they’re deploying the best possible lines of defense to keep data and systems safe. Jim Westdorp, Ciena’s Government Chief Technologist, details the three network capabilities agencies need to keep up with cyberthreats.
By Jim Westdorp – Cybersecurity has always been a priority for government leaders, but today’s remote work environment is changing the security landscape. Now, government agencies are facing the challenge of securing and managing assets in the cloud while protecting exponential growth in network traffic across disparate locations.

Network termination points and traffic used to originate from office buildings and data centers but with COVID-19 forcing people to work from home, traffic has moved from commercial offices to residential networks served by the public internet, providing a larger attack surface for adversaries.

At the same time, low levels of automation, along with many manual processes in the network operations center, demand greater efforts to detect and mitigate security breaches. Unfortunately, traditional security techniques, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, no longer offer enough protection against today’s sophisticated threats, especially across a distributed work environment.

As malicious actors and cyberattacks continue to grow, agencies need to ensure they’re deploying the best possible lines of defense to keep data and systems safe. That security starts with the network — but not just any network. Here are the three key network capabilities needed to help agencies keep up with cyberthreats. more>

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GE eyes 100% hydrogen-fueled power plants by 2030

By Frédéric Simon – While fossil gas is often seen as a transition fuel towards a fully decarbonized energy mix, GE Gas Power sees low-carbon gas as “a destination technology” with the potential to convert power plants to run 100% on clean hydrogen by 2030.

“Today, we have a 50% hydrogen capability for combustion in our largest baseload gas turbines” used for power generation, said Martin O’Neill, vice president at GE Gas Power.

The company’s objective, he explained, is to continue research and development in order “to advance the percentage of hydrogen combustion capability towards 100% by 2030,” he told a EURACTIV event earlier this month.

However, getting there would require a rapid scale up in the production of clean hydrogen, he added. And that will only be possible if multiple sources of low-carbon hydrogen are added to the mix, including so-called “blue hydrogen” where emissions are somehow captured and stored. more>

Colonial Pipeline Darkside ransom hack shows nobody safe

By Kostis Geropoulos – The largest pipeline system for refined oil products in the US, the Colonial Pipeline, was shut down last week after a ransomware cyberattack. On May 12, the pipeline initiated the restart of operations but the attack highlights the risk of cyber-security threats against important energy infrastructures. It was later reported that Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million as a ransom to hackers after the company fell victim to the cyberattack.

Marcin Zaborowski, policy director of the GLOBSEC Future of Security Program, told New Europe on May 13 that companies must assume that sooner or later they will become cyber-security targets. They must invest in the state-of-the art security programs, which must be constantly updated,” he said, arguing that the blockchain technology provides best protection against unwanted interference of third parties.

Andrey Yarnikh, head of strategic projects at Russia’s Kaspersky lab, told New Europe on May 14 currently, encryption ransomware programs are one of the most dangerous trends for the Internet. “Encryption mechanisms rarely give a chance of successful decryption, this is the case when it is much easier and cheaper to prevent infection than to correct the consequences of an attack that has already occurred,” Yarnikh said.

Colonial Pipeline had to shut it down on May 8 following a cyberattack which later the FBI confirmed that the Darkside ransomware was responsible for the compromise of the pipeline networks. “We continue to work with the company and our government partners on the investigation,” the FBI said in a statement.

Zaborowski explained that the Darkside operates like a business, which can be contracted to perform an attack on a selected services and demand ransom in exchange for decryption tools. “It’s highly effective and commercially minded,” he said. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Building Hope
With support from Booth alumni mentors, students at a Near West Side high school are launching successful entrepreneurial ventures.
By Margaret Currie – David Lewis, ’13, has always been passionate about education. A board member for Booth’s Alumni Club of Chicago, he also serves on the board of Chicago Hope Academy, a Christian high school on the city’s Near West Side with a student body that’s primarily Black and Latinx.

Last spring, Lewis began thinking about how he could leverage Booth’s alumni network to invest in the Hope community.

“The kids from Chicago Hope look a lot like I did when I was growing up in Gary, Indiana,” said Lewis, cofounder of Circumspect Capital. “I wanted to find a way to tap into Booth’s resources to support a cause that’s dear to my heart, particularly for this socioeconomic demographic.”

Lewis approached Chicago Hope leaders with the idea of forming a partnership between the school and Booth’s Chicago-based alumni club. The initial plan was that Booth alumni would lead a resume workshop at Hope, but the partnership quickly expanded into a four-part speaker series complemented by one-on-one mentoring.

“When we reached out to alumni, they told us that they wanted to do more than read a few resumes,” Lewis said. “They wanted to create relationships that allow them to not only help students build their personal brand but also be a sounding board for ideas and considerations.” more>