Building the World

June 17, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Linking the World

“Ancient Silk Road,” image: wikimedia commons.

The history of civilization may be measured by connection. First it was the Silk Road that connected cities; then it was the age of ships that created ports from Singapore to Suez.  Canals threaded connection through waterways, making one route from inland to sea: the Grand Canal, Canal des Deux Mers, Erie, Panama. Rail linked continents: the Trans-Continental, Canadian Pacific, and the Trans-Siberian united people across vast spans. But each of these achievements was a separate project.

“Belt and Road Initiative.” graphic design by Mathildem 16, 2020. Image: wikimedia.

BRI or B3W? Now, there are two plans to connect the world in a more comprehensive way: the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) announced and begun in 2013 by China, and the “Build Back Better for the World” (B3W) proposed by the G7 in 2021. China is ahead: more than 100 countries have signed BRI agreements. Some comment that the BRI is able to move quickly from plan to construction of new ports linked to rail and road routes, and also express concern regarding resourcing: financial, human, and natural. But some say that the G7 could take inspiration from Charlemagne who united disparate groups through links of education, as well as land and sea. The G7’s B3W may include capital to fund areas like climate, digital technology, health security, as well as transport.

Will B3W make waves of change? “47th G7 2021 Waves Logo,” wikimedia commons.

Climate change will cause a new vision. It is certain that the world needs rebuilding: old bridges, ports, rail, and roads are in dire need of replacement, while new infrastructure could transform many places not yet linked. Some have cited the Marshall Plan as precedent to rebuilding and linking a new vision of the world. Others may see different possibilities that include contemporary concerns. As BRI and B3W consider terms of engagement and goals of success, is there an opportunity to link the world through the values of inclusion, peace, and sustainable resilience?  What is your vision of an interconnected world?

Ruta, Michele. “Three Opportunities and Three Risks of the Belt and Road Initiative.” 4 May 2018. World Bank Blog. https://blogs.worldbank.org/trade/three-opportunities-and-three-risks-belt-and-road-initiative

Sanger, Davi. E. and Mark Landler. “Biden Tries to Rally G7 Nations to Counter China’s Influence.” 12 June 2021. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/12/world/europe/biden-china-g7html?referringSource=articleShare

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

March 31, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Suez Canal

Ever Given container ship stuck in the Suez Canal. What is the future of shipping? Image: wikimedia.

One ship 1,300 feet long (400 meters); 14 tug boats; 30,000 cubic meters of mud and sand cleared; 369 ships waiting in line behind the behemoth vessel: these are the elements that marked the reopening of the Suez Canal this week. When the Ever Given stopped traffic on 23 March, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) estimated a $14 million revenue loss for each day of the blockage. Moreover, trade along the waterway that contributes 2% to Egypt’s GDP also stopped – costing $6.7 million per minute. (Russon 2021) Alianz insurer reported the Suez Canal March 2021 blockage cost between $6 billion and $10 billion.

Ever Given earlier in March in the port of Rotterdam. Image: wikimedia.

Almost everything we touch has reached us, at some stage in the supply chain, via ship. Suez averages 106 container vessels and cruise ships per day. Trends in the container shipping industry reveal continuous pressure for size increase: since 1968, container ship capacity has increased 1,200%. (World Shipping Council, 2021) Why the pressure for bigger? One reason is because shipping is twice as energy efficient as rail and seven times more than vehicle. Shipping emits 3.1% of global CO2, but that percentage could rise as other industries decarbonize. The Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) is a globally-binding design standard established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to reduce climate damage caused by shipping: ships built from 2020-2024 will be required to improve energy efficiency by 15-20%, and by 30% after 2025. Many of those ships will transit the Suez Canal.

Suez Canal, southern part, as viewed by Hodoyoshi satellite, 2015. Image: Axelspace Corporation, via wikimedia commons.

As container ships get bigger, canals will too. In 2015, Suez built a parallel waterway deepened by dredging one million cubic meters of sludge daily. Six companies did the work: Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company (USA), Jan de Nul Group and Deme Group (Belgium), National Marine Dredging (UAE), Royal Boskalis Westminster and Van Oord (Netherlands). The Panama Canal, begun by Ferdinand de Lesseps but completed by the US, recently installed new locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides that are 70 feet wider and 18 feet deeper than the originals. American ports like Baltimore, Charleston, Miami, Philadelphia, and Virginia have seen increased container traffic from the Panama expansion, according to the Supply Chain Management Program at MIT. The current US proposal “American Jobs Plan” allocates $42 billion for ports (air and sea) that may spur improvements.

Aida performed in the Arena di Verona, Italy, 2006. How can we celebrate great infrastructure in our times? Photographer: Christian Abend. Image: wikimedia commons.

Egypt’s famous waterway opened in 1869; 1.5 million people worked on the canal’s construction, evidence that infrastructure building creates jobs. Ferdinand de Lesseps, retired diplomat, visited his childhood friend now the khedive and viceroy of Egypt, in 1854 and gained concession to build the canal. Diplomacy remained a central value: the Suez contract Article VI states “tariffs of dues for passage…shall be always equal for all nations.” (Building the World, p. 193) To mark the inaugural opening of the Suez Canal, Giuseppe Verdi composed the opera Aida.  Should the “American Jobs Plan,” aimed at rebuilding infrastructure, include funding for art?

Davidson, Frank P. and Kathleen Lusk Brooke. Building the World: Great Engineering Projects in History. Volume 1, Chapter 16, “The Suez Canal,” pages 187-204. Greenwood/ABC-CLIO, 2006. ISBN: 9780313333736

DC Velocity. “Has the Panama Canal expansion changed anything?” 20 December 2018.  https://www.dcvelocity.com/articles/30335-has-the-panama-canal-expansion-changed-anything.

Edwards-May, David, and Li Denan. China’s Grand Canal: Mirror of Civilisation. Xanadu Publishing 2020. ISBN: 9781784591830.

Gooley, Toby. “Has the Panama Canal expansion changed anything?”

Inland Waterways International (IWI).  https://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org/

Navigating a Changing Climate Partnership and World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure. “Mitigation: Moving towards low carbon navigation infrastructure.” @NavClimate.  https://navclimate.pianc.org

Russon, Mary-Ann. “The cost of the Suez Canal blockage.” 29 March 2021. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56559073

Street, Francesca. “What’s it’s really like steering the world’s biggest ships.” 29 March 2021. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/steering-worlds-biggest-ships-suez-canal-cmd/index.html

Tankersley, Jim. “Biden Details $2 Trillion Plan to Rebuild Infrastructure and Reshape the Economy.” 31 March 2021. The New York Times.

Transport & Environment. “Shipping and Climate Change.” https://www.transportenvironment.org/what-we-do-/shipping-and-environment-shipping-and-climate-change

Verdi, Giuseppe. Aida. Performance by Pavarotti. LISTEN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8rsOzPzYr8

World Shipping Council. “Container Ship Design.” https://www.worldshipping.org/about-the-industry/liner-ships/container-ship-design.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

February 18, 2021
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ENERGY: Genie in a Bottle

“Genie in a Bottle,” from Stripped Tour, Christina Aguilera Image: wikimedia.

February 18, 2021. It’s National Battery Day. What is this genie in a bottle that we call a battery?

Lithium-ion batteries are making news. It’s a technology popularized in 1991, when rechargeable lithium-ion batteries were first used in hand-held camcorders. A decade later, Apple began using these batteries in smartphones. When electric cars entered the market (Edison worked on one, before Henry Ford invented the gasoline-driven automobile), batteries became the way to power the future. SEMATECH introduced a new industry, and now two new semiconductor materials – gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SIC) are now being used in EV batteries. With General Motors (GM) pledging a full transition from gas and diesel to electric vehicles by 2035 (Ford, Tesla, Volkswagen and others in similar quests), the race is on.

“Tesla Model S at a Supercharger station.” Image: wikimedia.

Who’s Who (a partial list) in Electric-Vehicle Batteries:

CATL or Contemporary Amperex Technology Col, Limited, founded in 2011 in China, announced an increased investment of $4.5 billion on 4 February 2021. CATL will open a new plant in Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province, upgrade a plant in Yibin, Sichuan Province, and expand a joint venture plant with automaker China FAW Group. A new plant in Germany is also under construction. (300750:CH)

LG Chem in South Korea, world’s biggest EV battery manufacturer, just announced its battery division would now be a stand-alone business. LG counts GM, Geely Automotive Holdings Shanghai Maple Guorun Automobile Co., Hyundai Motor Group, and Tesla among its customers. Tentative name for the new business: LG Energy Solutions. (LGCLF)

Nissan Motor Co. and American Electric Power are competitors with a different strategy: reusing old EV batteries with a technology to extend lithium-ion battery life by over 30%. The experiment uses Nissan Leaf expired-batteries with a method developed by Melbourne-based Relectrify. BMW AG and Toyota are also reusing cells in EV charging. (NSANY)

Novonix is working with Dalhousie University on battery material research, noting new deals with Tesla on synthetic graphite. (NVNXF)

Panasonic. Tesla is in talks with Indonesia to build a battery cell factory with Panasonic. (PCRFY)

QuantumScape is introducing solid-state batteries lithium-metal batteries, offering a faster charge, longer life, and increased safety. The San Jose, California company filed with the SEC for a new development on 1 February 2021. (QS)

Tesla. Bringing battery production in-house has been a goal for Elon Musk who introduced a ‘tab-less’ battery called 4680 that will produce a 16% increase in range for the company’s electric vehicles. They new cells measure 46 millimeters by 80 millimeters. (TSLA)

Zinc Copper Voltaic Pile. Image: wikimedia.

The oldest battery known to history was found in Baghdad: a clay pot containing a metal tube and rod. But when Alessandro Volta discovered that zinc and coper, placed in a saline or acid solution, could transform zinc into a negative pole and copper into a positive pole, the action began. Chevrolet named one of its early EV models a “Volt.”

Will batteries advance hydroelectric power? Image: Hoover Dam, wikimedia.

Battery storage may transform hydroelectric power In Chile, a 50 megawatt-hour (MWh) battery energy storage project (think the equivalent of 5 million iPhones) will be paired with a hydroelectric facility, to store generated energy without need to construct a dam or reservoir. Will the Hoover Dam explore this technology, with consideration to drought affecting Lake Mead? It was hydroelectric power that first fascinated Nikola Tesla who, looking at a photo of Niagara Falls, said: “Someday I’ll harness that power.”

Battery Council International. “It’s national battery day.” www.batterycouncil.org

Hareyan, Armen. “Rumor says Tesla may have completed 1st round of Indonesia battery talks involving Panasonic.” 12 February 2021. Torque News. https://www.torquenews.com/1/rumor-says-tesla-may-have-completed-1st round-indonesia-battery-talks-involving-panasonic

Hawkins, Andrew J. “Tesla announces ‘tabless’ battery cells that will improve the range of its electric cars.” 22 September 2020. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/22/21449238/tesla-electric-car-battery-tabless-cells-day-elon-musk

Kawakami, Takashi. “EV-battery giant CATL to boost capacity with $4.5bn investment.” 4 February 2021. NikkeiAsia.com. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Automobiles/EV-battery-giant-CATL-to-boost-capacity-with-4.5bn-investment

Kubik, Marek. “Adding Giant Batteries To This Hydro Project Creates A ‘Virtual Dam’ with Less Environmental Impact.” 23 May 2019. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/marekkubik/2019/05/23/adding-giant-batteries-to-this-hydro-project-creates-a-virtual-dam-with-less-environmental-impact

Schmidt, Bridie. “EV battery material firm Novonix strengthen ties with Dalhousie University.” 15 February 2021. The Driven. https://thedriven.io/2021/02/15/ev-battery-material-firm-novonix-strengthen-ties-with-dalhousie-university

Semiconductor Review. “How Semiconductor Advancements Impact EV Batteries.” 26 October 2020. Semiconductor Review. https://www.semiconductorreview.com/news/how-semiconductor-advancements-impact-ev-batteries-nwid-124.html

Stringer, David and Kyunghee Park. “Top Electric-Car Battery Maker Wins Approval for Company Split.” 30 October 2020. Bloomberg News and Transport Topics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles-top-electric-car-battery-maker-wins-approval-company-split

Stringer, David. “Companies Explore Using Old Electric Car Batteries to Cut Costs.” 24 January 2020. Transport Topics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles/companies-explore-using-old-electric-car-batteries-cut-costs

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

January 28, 2021
by buildingtheworld
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TRANSPORT/SPACE: Can the Internet fly?

Google/Alphabet Loon. Image: wikimedia

Wave Goodbye to Loon. The visionary project, to beam down the Internet from floating balloons, called it quits. For nine years, Google/Alphabet sent up as many as 35 floating globes – the size of tennis courts – with the goal of transmitting internet capability to areas where land-based infrastructure is not feasible. Of course, the balloons used Google autonomous navigation technology to steer themselves. But this week, the start up wound down. In 2017, when Hurricane Maria wiped out Puerto Rico’s telecommunications system, Loon helped to get the island back online. Another good outcome: Telkom, a telecommunications company in Kenya, inked a deal to bring 4G to remote areas. Because almost half the world does not yet have internet access, it’s a big market. Land-based technologies picked low-lying fruit, but there is still room for growth – above.

Starlink satellites stacked and ready to launch. Image: SpaceX and wikimedia commons.

Flying internet is a rapidly developing sector. Since early days of COMSAT, satellites are proving better vehicles for connectivity, even to what some call “notspots” (Kleinman 2021) with a vision of bringing the whole world online. It’s a movement that recalls the achievements such as the telephone and telegraph (connections were laid under the tracks of the Transcontinental Railroad). Here are some satellite enterprises delivering broadband internet today – and tomorrow:

FLYING INTERNET PROVIDERS

Apple – A plan to develop their own satellites prompted Apple to recruit two Google satellite experts: John Fenwick and Michael Trela will work with Greg Duffy, Dropcam founder who joined Apple recently. Apple may partner with Boeing to launch more than 1,00 low-orbit satellites.

Starlink –  Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink will require 42,000 satellites. SpaceX launched 60 satellites on 20 January 2021 to tally 1,015 so far (only 951 are still in orbit). In 2020, SpaceX carried out 14 launches. Possible subscription: $99 monthly fee + $499 for hardware.

OneWeb – Founded in 2014 by Greg Wyler, OneWeb re-emerged from potential bankruptcy with help from Bharti Global and UK government. 648 satellites will form OneWeb network constellation. Development of terminals is with Intellian Technologies and Collins Aerospace. Customers? While at first it was rural folks (OneWeb promises they won’t be overlooked), now it is telecom companies. Second generation satellites will include intelligence and security capabilities. New funding from SoftBank Group Corp and Hughes Network Systems/EchoStar tallied $1.4 billion in funding to put first-generation fleet in place in 2022.

Project Kuiper Constellation  – Funded by Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s satellite project plans to launch 3,236 satellites. In March 2019, Project Kuiper filed with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and Federal Communications Commission. The satellite array will orbit at three altitudes: 784 satellites at 367 miles (590 kilometers); 1,296 satellites at 379 miles (610 kilometers), and 1,156 satellites at 391 miles (630 kilometers). The plan is to provide coverage from latitude 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south – that’s where 95% of the world’s people live. (Boyle 2019)

Telesat – With priority Ka-band spectrum rights and a fifty-year history of technical prowess, Telesat Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will link to customer terminals and electronically steered antennas (ESAs) for commercial, government, and military use. The first launch happened in January 2018.

LeoSat – The vision was a constellation of 78 -108 satellites but in 2019 the company laid off its 13 employees after investors dropped support. The investors were Hispasat, Spanish satellite operator, and Sky Perfect JSat of Japan. LeoSat still exists but for now is dormant.

Viasat – This satellite system offers internet access from geosynchronous orbit. New entrants like Starlink, OneWeb, Kuiper, Telesat will use Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for lower latency and lower cost.

03b – Using medium Earth orbit (MEO), this constellation offers fiber-equivalent connection. The prime contractor is Arianespace for the operator SES Networks.

Athena Facebook filed with the Federal Communications Commission to launch Athena to provide broadband access to “unserved and underserved” areas of the world. The filing included a new name: PointView Tech LLC.

Boeing – The aerospace giant plans to launch and operate 147 satellites for a broadband constellation. Apple may help.

Satellites: a traffic jam in the sky? Can astronomers still see the stars? Image: Starlink, initial phase  – wikimedia.

PROBLEMS: Are satellite constellations the new Milky Way, or are we creating the same kind of traffic jam above that we suffer from on land? Some astronomers already report difficulty in seeing the sky. Negative comments from astronomers caused Starlink satellites to come up with a visor that prevents sun reflection, reducing glare – its a sub-company called VisorSat. OneWeb chair Sunil Bharti Mittal pledges environmental stewardship, working with astronomers on issues like reflectivity. (Amos, 2020) And then there is the problem of space debris: getting satellites up is easier than getting them down,

OPPORTUNITIES: Why are so many players entering the flying internet competition. Opportunity: Morgan Stanley projected that “the global space industry could generate revenue of $1.1 trillion or more in  2040, up from $350 billion today.” (Conroy 2019) Of that, $410 billion will come from satellite-based internet services.

GPS Constellation. Image: wikimedia

Amos, Jonathan. “OneWeb satellite company launches into new era.” 18 December 2020. BBC.com

Boyle, Alan. “Amazon to offer broadband access from orbit with 3,236-satellite ‘Project Kuiper’ Constellation.” 4 April 2019. GeekWire. https://www.geekwire.com/2019/amazon-project-kuiper-broadband-satellite/

Foust, Jeff. “SpaceX surpasses 1,000-satellite mark in latest Starlink launch.” 20 January 2021. SpaceNews.com. https://spacenews.com/spacex-surpasses-1000-satellite-mark-in-latest-starlink-launch/

Henry, Caleb. “LeoSat, absent investors, shuts down.” 13 November 2019. SpaceNews.com. https://spacenews.com/leosat-absent-investors-shuts-down/

Kleinman, Zoe. “Satellites beat balloons in race for flying internet.” 25 January 2020. BBC.com/Tech. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55770141

Matsakis, Louise. “Facebook Confirms It’s Working on a New Internet Satellite.” 28 July 2018. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-confirms-its-working-on-new-internet-satellite/

OneWeb. “OneWeb Secures Investment from Softbank and Hughes Network Systems.” 15 January 2021. https://www.oneweb.world/media-center/oneweb-secures-investment-from-softbank-and-hughes-network-systems

Raymundo, Oscar. “Apple is reportedly looking to put broadband-beaming satellites into orbit.” 21 April 2017. Macworld. https://www.macworld.com/article/3191474/apple-is-reportedly-looking-to-put-broadband-beaming-satellites-into-orbit.html

Yan Huang, Michelle, Bob Hunt, David Mosher. “What Elon Musk’s 42,000 Starlink satellites could do for – and to – planet Earth.” 9 October 2020. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/how-elon-musk-42000-starlink-satellites-earth-effects-stars-2020-10

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

October 16, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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TRANSPORT: 5G Whiz

It all started with DARPA. Image: “Darpa – Big Data.” Wikimedia.

“Gee Whiz” is an old-fashioned phrase, first used in 1876, but the combo of astonishment + speed related to the saying may well describe 5G speed in telecommunications. In this case, the G is for generation. And whiz – it’s still about speed.

5G is fifth generation mobile technology. Back in the days of 2G, mobile phones and texting were new, 3G brought mobile broadcast data, and 4G was faster and came to be called Long Term Evolution (LTE). Now we are at the advent of 5G. Ericsson created the initial 5G platform in 2017, but it is only in 2020 that 5G is coming to market. 5G is a breakthrough because of a something called “latency.”

Will 5G advance human and other mobility? Image: wikimedia.

Latency is the time it takes for information sent to be received. While 4G seemed fast at the time, taking about 30 milliseconds from sender to receiver, 5G could travel that synapse in 1-2 milliseconds. That whiz of time is barely perceptible. Closing the gap of latency will enable leaps the “Internet of Things” (IoT) including:

Autonomous vehicles

Drone navigation

Gaming

Robotics

Will 5G allow next-generation bicycle helmets? Image: wikipedia.

Many breakthroughs in technology began with military or government research, including the Internet that stemmed from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), founded in 1958 by American President Eisenhower in response to Sputnik’s success the year prior. DARPA led to computer networking, the Internet, and graphical user interfaces – and also to the NASA lunar landing.

Now, government may again take the lead in connection. The United States Department of Defense is exploring sharing a new 5G wireless network with commercial enterprises. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are rolling out 5G upgrades, and Google’s Alphabet has advocated sharing the wireless spectrum. A shared network would keep military use, but add commercial partners. License bidding for spectrum access through a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) raised $4.6 billion recently; in December 2020, another auction will determine future power and access. While CTIA, trade association for the wireless industry, may favor private-sector decisions, some advocate sharing. Precedent may be found in FirstNet, AT&T’s $40 billion service for fire-fighters and public safety. In 2021, the Pentagon may direct 100 megahertz of spectrum towards the FCC for auction. What do you think of military and commercial interests – combined or separate?

Drones – both military and commercial – may benefit from 5G. Image “Drohnenflug im Abendrot.” Wikimedia

Meanwhile, 5G network leaders include Ericsson (ERIC) with a market capitalization of $25 billion, Nokia (NOK) with $18.5 billion, and Qualcomm, with $81 billion market capitalization. Ericsson created the first 5G platform in 2017. Huawei is among 35 global carriers active in 5G deployment. New chips will be needed: Qorvo (QRVO) and Skyworks Solutions (SWKS) are active. It will also mean new phones: Apple (AAPL) announced the 5G-capable iPhone 12 this week.

5G – fifth generation mobile network. Image: wikimedia

Speed has always driven advances in transport. Wheels were faster than walking; cars were faster than horses (we still use the term “horsepower” for speed); jets were faster than propeller-equipped aircraft. Now, a new era of connective transport is arriving, with the advent of 5G. But latency exists in more than signals; it’s also a roll-out timing factor. Full 5G capability requires new infrastructure. China, South Korea, and Switzerland made progress in 2019; in 2020, U.S. low-band is more available than mid-band or high-band, and only in some cities. By 2023, 5G may support more than 10% of the world’s mobile connections. Investors are betting on developing capacity, including chip-makers, with the next wave of significant activity from 2021-2022. Meanwhile, important policy issues regarding 5G access are in discussion: what do you think?

Carpenter, J. William. “5G Network: Top 3 Companies to Invest in Before 2021.” Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing-strategy/062916/5g-network-3-companies-invest-2020-qcom-nok.asp/

DeGrasse, Martha. “Which vendor leads in 5G contracts?” 13 September 2019. Fierce Wireless. https://www.fiercewireless.com/5g/which-vendor-leads-5g-contracts

Fisher, Tim. “5G Availability Around the World.” 16 October 2020. Lifewire. https://www.lifewirecom/5g-availability-world-4156244.

Fitzgerald, Drew. “Pentagon Considers Sharing 5G Network: Private businesses would get opportunity to use spectrum without an auction.” 22 September 2020, page B6. The Wall Street Journal.

Krause, Reinhardt, “5G Stocks To Buy and Watch.” 17 September 2020. Investors.com. https://www.investors.com/news/technology/5g-stocks-5g-wireless-stocks/

McLaughlin, Ronan “%G Low Latency Requirements.” Broadband Library. https://broadbandlibrary.com/5g-low-latency-requirements/

Ranger, Steve. “What is the IoT? Everything you need to know about the Internet of Things right now.” 3 February 2020. ZDNet. https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-the-internet-of-things-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-iot-right-now/

Shankland, Stephen. “How 5G aims to end network latency.” 8 December 2018. CNET.com. https://www.cnet.com/news/how-5g-aims-to-end-network-latency-response-time/.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

April 29, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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CITIES/TRANSPORT: Carbon Neutral Boston

Boston is going carbon neutral. You can help. Image: “Traffic streaming through downtown Boston” by photographer Robbie Shade. Wikimedia commons.

Boston suffers some of the worst traffic in the United States. City of the ‘Big Dig’ or Central Artery Project, Boston has set the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Innovative ideas for that achievement can be discovered at the Museum of Science where students from around New England are presenting proposals and videos in Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge. Winners will be announced on April 30. Take a look at these ideas for building a better Boston, and vote for your favorite here.

“Go Carbon Neutral.” Museum of Science. April 27-30, 2020. https://mos.org/go-carbon-neutral-2020.

Van Allen, Fox. “Cities with the worst traffic in the world.” 26 January 2020. CBSNews.com. https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/worst-traffice-cities-in-the-world.

Appreciation to the Museum of Science, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

April 20, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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ENERGY: Funding the Future

How should we spend the money of hope? Image: wikimedia.

THE MONEY OF HOPE

In the early part of 2020, the entire globe went into lockdown, suffered a plague of sickness and death that took lives and livelihoods of those in every corner of the world. In an urgent response, money on an unprecedented scale has entered the global economy.

Economic stimulus, large deposits of cash and loans, initiated to save national and global economies, present opportunity. How countries direct their bailouts may determine the future. Never again will so much money be readily available to rebuild the world. Let’s take a look at some examples:

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$700 billion pledged in asset purchases or quantitative easing (QE)

Federal funds rate: 0-0.25%

Discount window rate: cut by 150 basis points

Unlimited QE, including purchase of corporate and municipal bonds

Six months of allowing foreign central banks to access U.S. dollars for overnight dollar loans

$2.3 trillion to support local governments, small-mid businesses, with 4-year loans to enterprise with up to 10,000 staff

$2.2 trillion aid package (27 March 2020) with $500 billion for suffering industries and direct payments to individuals ($1200) and families (up to $3,000)

EUROPEAN UNION

120 billion euros ($130 billion) added to asset-purchase program of 20 billion euros per month

750 billion euros in QE, adding to existing with total of 1.1 trillion euros

Eliminated cap on number of bonds EU could buy from any Eurozone country

Cut interest on Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs) by 25 basis points to -0.75% (12 March 2020)

Suspended limits of EU government borrowing

Allowed credit line equal to 2% of national GDP from European Stability Mechanism (ESM) fund

European Investment Bank lending 200 billion euros to businesses

ESM freeing up 240 billion Europe of credit to governments

Total of 3.2 trillion euros: including provisions to cut company working hours rather than jobs

Berlin, Germany. Image: wikimedia.

GERMANY

750 billion euros total: with 100 billion for economic stability fund with direct stake in businesses

100 billion euros for public-sector development bank

400 billion euros to secure corporate debt vulnerable to default

FRANCE

300 billion euros guaranteed for corporate borrowing from commercial banks

45 billion euros to shore up businesses and employees

ITALY

400 billion euros of liquidity and bank loans to businesses

25 billion euros to suspend mortgage and loan repayments for families and companies, and funds for firms to pay workers on furlough or layoff.

SPAIN

200 billion euros divided in half with 50% government-backed credit for businesses/50% to help vulnerable people

700 million euros program to suspend evictions for six months after emergency is lifted

UNITED KINGDOM

200 billion pounds ($248 billion) of bond purchases

interest rate cut to 0.10% Bank of England

Bank of England doubled corporate bond purchase program to 20 billion pounds

Bank of England pledge to buy commercial paper with maturity of up to 1 year for businesses with pre-crisis investment grade credit

330 billion pounds in loan guarantees to business including paying 80% of staff salaries

Allowing businesses to temporarily retain 30 billion pounds of VAT (value added tax)

CANADA

Reduced overnight interest rates to 0.25%

Pledged purchase of Government of Canada securities – C$5 billion per week

C$50 billion credit for insured mortgages

C$10 billion for business support

C$150 billion for morgtages

C$55 billion for tax deferrals for businesses and families

C$27 billion aid for workers and low-income households

Government payment of up to 75% of salaries for workers in small and mid-sized businesses

Japan. Image: wikimedia.

JAPAN

Bank of Japan one-year zero-rate program to financial insitutions

Y430 billion for small and mid-sized businesses

Funding upgrades of medical facilities

Pay working parents forced to take leave due to school closures

Stimulus package of Y108 trillion ($993 billion) with cash payouts to households, small businesses; total package is equal to 20% of Japan’s economic output

CHINA

Yuan 2.8 trillion for infrastructure investment, backed by local bonds (19 March).

People’s Bank of China cut reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for small banks by 100 basis points. Worth about 400 billion yuan; cut will be in two phases, 15 April then 15 May 2020.

500 billion yuan ($71 billion) for re-lending and re-discount quotas

350 billion yuan for increased loan quota for businesses

Cut cash reserve requirements for banks, releasing 550 billion yuan

Also ruled: expand budget deficit, issue more bonds, drop interest rates, delay loan repayments, reduce supply-chain bottlenecks, and encourage renewed consumption

INDIA

1.7 trillion rupee ($22 billion) for food security and direct cash transfers. (26 March)

Reserve Bank of India cut repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.40%

SOUTH KOREA

100 trillion won economic rescue package (7 April) including 29 trillion won in loans to small and mid-sized businesses, and 20 trillion won to buy corporate bonds and commercial paper

36 trillion won in loans to exporters hurt by virus shutdown

9.1 trillion won ($7.5 billion) cash payments to most families

17.7 trillion won to boost consumption

INDONESIA

$24.9 billion for social welfare to 10 million household for food and energy discounts, and 3 percentage point cut in corporate tax rate (to 22%)

Bank Indonesia cut seven-day reverse repurchase rate to 25 basis points to 4.50%

Central bank cut reserve requirement ratio by 200 bps for banks (and 50 bps for Islamic banks)

AUSTRALIA

A$90 billion ($56 billion) funding for banks at rate of 0.25%

A$15 billion program for residential mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities

Reserve Bank of Australia cut rates in two steps for total to 0.25%, and introduced QE with a target of 0.25% for bond yields

A$66 billion for companies and welfare

A$17 billion for apprentices, small business, retirees

A$130 billion for wage support for 6 million workers

A$715 million support for airlines

Sydney Opera House, Australia. Image: wikimedia.

BRAZIL

1.2 trillion reals ($231 billion) for central bank purchase of bank loan portfolios, repurchases of dollar-denominated sovereign bonds

150 billion reals for most vulnerable people and jobs

51 billion reals to allow companies affected by virus to reduce worker pay and hours, with a goal of preserving jobs (1 April)

SOUTH AFRICA

South African Reserve Bank (SARB) cut rate by 100 basis points to 5.25%, and then reduced again (14 April 2020) to 4.25%

1.2 billion rand ($66 million) for small farms to keep up food production

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

$50 billion to help low-income and emerging market countries

“The Great Lockdown Economic Retraction: A global map of the outlook of retraction and growth of nations across the world for 2020.” From IMF Outlook. Image: Foxterria, Wikimedia.

FUNDING THE FUTURE

Add up all those stimulus packages, monetary funds, loans, and that’s a lot of money, much of it supporting business interest rates and workers’ jobs. Yet, with the exception of instances where the industry is targeted (agriculture, transport, finance), there are few stipulations on how the money should be directed. For example, there could be payments and supportive programs for innovations in energy or water, decarbonizing transport, or reducing air pollution.

While the 2020 coronavirus is an acute crisis, and climate change is a chronic crisis, both require response. Over the past decades, we have talked about climate change, but taken too little action. Part of the reason is funding. Without the urgent public health crisis and resultant shutdown, the world would never have allocated so much money to rebuild economic life. Yet, there it is. Now.

Yes, there has been disaster response to unfortunate hot-spots suffering tsunami or hurricane damage, earthquake or fire devastation. But that was in a region. Yes, there has been systemic change, world-wide, in some industries due to disaster; after 9/11, airports and security changed permanently, but that was just one sector.

In 2020, the whole world changed at once. With everyone hit by the corona virus, new ways of communicating and working evolved. Cities rethought transport. Fossil fuel loss dropped and cities saw cleaner air. Sadly, it was all due to death and sickness. But as a result, to rebuild after the virus, every country on earth has raised new money, and new hope.

Where money goes to an industry, how can that sector direct renewal to the future we know is coming: de-carbonized and sustainable? Of course, some of the funds must support present production lines and supply-chains, but surely a percentage could be directed forward to future goals.

What would you do with this one-time funding to rebuild the world?

Sources:

Cash, David and Rebecca Herst, “Covid-19 and Climate: Policy and Practice.” 22 April 2020. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://www.umb.edu/news_events_media/events/covid_19_and_climate_policy_and_practice

Figueres, Christiana and Tom Rivett-Carnac. A Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Knopf, 2020. ISBN: 978052658351

International Monetary Fund. “IMF makes available $50 billion to help address the coronavirus.” 4 March 2020. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/03/04/sp030420-imf-makes-available-50-billion-to-help-address-coronavirus?mod=article_inline.

Ivanova, Maria. “Coasts and Communities.” Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, National Science Foundation. University of Massachusetts Boston, Center for Global Governance and Sustainability, Global Environmental Governance Project. https://www.umb.edu/igert/about.

Reuters, “Factbox: Global economic policy response to coronavirus crisis.”  14 April 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-economy-factbox/factbox-global-economic-policy-response-to-coronavirus-crisis-idUSKCN21W2AJ

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order. Princeton University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780691149097

Appreciation to the University of Massachusetts Boston, especially Dean David Cash, Professor Maria  Ivanova, and Director Rebecca Herst.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpo

April 13, 2020
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TRANSPORT: Trains as Mobile Medical System

India is rebuilding trains as rolling hospital wards, refitting coaches into care facilities with 16 beds. Indian Railways is modifying 20,000 carriage coaches, for a total of 320,000 new isolation pods, announcing the program on the same week COVID-19 cases increased by 1,637 infections and 38 deaths. Sports stadiums are also being deployed: Assam’s Sarusajai stadium will hold 1,000 patients, while Chandigarth’s complex will become a temporary jail to impound those who violate lockdown policy. (Singh 2020).

India’s rail system. Image: wikimedia.

Using trains for public health and education is not a new idea. When the Canadian Pacific Railway opened, special purpose carriages were a regular part of the route. Trains brought health care and education to previously unreachable places. Children saw a teacher once-a-week in a classroom car, then homeschooled until the next whistle stop. The Trans-Siberian railway and Russia’s rail system offered options like mobile therapy.

FIVE REASONS FOR USING TRAINS AS MOBILE MEDICAL SYSTEM

Trains, with their flexible number of carriages, can be configured to custom purposes.

Another factor? Speed and access. Amtrak is the only railroad in North America that holds right-of-way service speed: many stretches of track are certified and maintained for speeds up to 100+ miles per hour (160+ kph) on routes with no other traffic.

A third factor? Idle. With the advent of air travel and the building of the United States Federal Highway System, trains were already second class. Add stay-at-home lockdowns and social distancing for those few who must travel, and you’ve got a lot of idle equipment.

A fourth factor? Expensive to maintain idle. Planes, buses, and trains are all idle. Planes can be parked, buses can use roads already serviced for general vehicles. But trains require tracks and that means specialized maintenance.

A fifth factor? Subsidized, anyway.

“Red Cross Train, France” by Harold Septimus Power, 1918. Imperial War Museum, Art.IWM.ART 1031 Wikimedia

Proposal: use Amtrak train network as a mobile medical system. India shows that trains can easily be retrofitted as hospital wards, isolation units. And why not rolling ventilator-ready beds with the respiratory equipment already installed? Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York will send medical equipment to the next peak place. The virus is a rolling phenomenon: a rolling response is a good option.

Amtrak system map. Image: wikimedia

The United States Transcontinental Railroad once transformed and united a country. Now, can rails help address the virus crisis? Afterwards, American rail needs rebuilding, anyway; repurposing medical cars will offer a chance to rethink Amtrak. Will Japan’s Shinkansen, upgraded with maglev trains reaching 374 mph for the Tokyo Olympics, be an inspiration? One hopeful step is Amtrak’s strategic agreement with Alstom (2016) to produce 28 next-gen equipment to replace the Acela Express now entering 20 years of service. The new transit format is due to roll out in 2022, a timeframe parallel with virus response needed now. Many countries have train systems; this idea is scalable. But at the moment, the United States is experiencing an urgent medical crisis. We need every idea and every option. Let’s use sections of Amtrak as a mobile medical system.

Alstom. “Alstom to provide Amtrak with its new generation of high-speed train.” 26 August 2016. https://www.alstom.com/press-releases-news/2016/8/alstom-to-provide-amtrak-with-its-new-generation-of-high-speed-train/

Amtrak.https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/projects/dotcom/english/public/documents/corporate/nationalfactsheets/National-Fact-Sheet-FY2016-0717.pdf

Congressional Budget Office. “Federal Subsidies for Rail Passenger Service: An Assessment of Amtrak.” https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2018-10/41955-Amtrak.pdf

Japan Rail. “New Maglev Trains for Debut at Tokyo Olympics” Tokyo Summer Olympics Guide. https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/tokyo-2020-olympics.

Singh, Charanjit. “India turns trains into isolation wards as COVID-19 cases rise.” Charanjit Singh, quoted in the article, explains that Chandigarh’s temporary jail is a day’s sentence to education on sanitation and public health, before being released that evening to go home and stay there. 2 April 2020. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/india-turns-trains-isolation-wards-covid-19-cases-rise-200402071515155.html

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpo

 

March 9, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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ENERGY: Shaping the Future

Image: photographer Andrew MacMillan. wikimedia.

Electric vehicles are dependent upon batteries both for power and for design. That’s why General Motors’ recent announcement was a double break-through. A $20 billion investment in electric cars comes from a new kind of battery. Traditional EV batteries are a certain shape, determining the contours of a car. But GM’s new batteries can be stacked sideways, or even around curves, because the powerhouses are “soft, flat pouches.” (Valdes-Dapena, 2020). Tesla, by contrast, uses a hard cylinder. GM’s Ultium power cells may lead to curvy designs. Another advantage: Ultium uses far less cobalt that traditional EV batteries, significant because cobalt is becoming increasingly scarce. Finally, Ultium hits the desired metric: below $100 per kilowatt hour, the price point where electric cards are competitive with gasoline engines. According to estimates, electric vehicle sales in the USA will grow to 3 million units by 2030. Next-gen batteries enable driving ranges of 400  (and soon 600) miles. Longer range electric power means more highway trips, perhaps causing a redesign of the U.S. Federal Highway System, the Canada/USA Alaska Highway or the Pan-American Highway for a regional vision that could include a sportsway, maglev or hyper loop, in addition to vehicular paths. General Motors is partnering with LG Chem. With flexible batteries, look for different shapes to come.

Beresford, Colin. “GM Unveils Battery with Capacity Twice as Big as Tesla’s.” 4 March 2020. Car and Driver. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a31226611/gm-ultium-electric-vehicle-battery-revealed/.

Beresford, Colin. “GM, LG Teaming Up to Build Batteries for GM’s Future EVs in Ohio.” 5 December 2019. Car and Driver. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a30141005/gm-ev-battery-factory-ohio-lg/.

Valdes-Dapena, Peter. “GM’s new electric car battery tops Tesla’s.” 5 March 2020. CNN.Business. http://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/business/gm-electric-car-battery-400-miles-of-range.html/ 

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpo

February 24, 2020
by buildingtheworld
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WATER: Time and Tide in BOSTON

Boston, a port city, is threatened by rising seas. Map of Boston Harbor, wikimedia commons.

Coastal communities around the world are preparing for rising seas. Boston, a port city built on landfill, with a harbor renowned for freedom and liberty, is fighting a war. Last century, the Atlantic shore of Boston saw a persistent nine inch rise, with predictions that sea-rise may triple by 2030. By 2070? Look for three more feet of water. Boston ranks as the world’s eighth most vulnerable city, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of more than 100 coastal cities.

UMass Boston, waterfront campus, leads research on how to respond to coastal sea-rise. Image: wikimedia.

According to the University of Massachusetts Boston, and the Woods Hole Group, options to prevent the damage of flooding include spending $11.8 billion for a macro harbor barrier such as that built in the Netherlands. New York City is also studying the potential for a barrier that might cost $119 billion. In the short-term, Boston will budget $30 million per year to combat sea rise, with new ideas including:

TRANSPORT: New watertight doors on the rail tunnel near Fenway Park; redoing blockage of underground rail ventilation systems near Aquarium MBTA station.

PARKS: Protective berm of 10 feet along shore of Joe Moakley Park, a 60-acre oasis in South Boston near the beach. The park itself will be raised, and chambers installed beneath playing fields that will be capable of holding 5 million cubic feet of storm surge water. Other parks undergoing similar change: Ryan in Charleston on the Mystic River.

BUILDINGS: New condo high-rise housing on Boston Harbor comes with an “aqua fence” or portable flood barrier. General Electric (GE) leased two historic brick buildings, elevating the first floors and moving all electrical equipment to higher levels than the traditional basement.

MUSEUMS AND CULTURAL ICONS: Boston’s Children’s Museum redesigned a lawn into a hill, with a playground surrounded by dense plantings.

FOOD SUPPLY: Most large supermarkets build loading docks below ground; if food supply is to remain available when a city suffers flooding, relocating loading docks could improve public health.

MUNICIPAL PERMITS AND REGULATIONS: New buildings must meet increasing strict environmental standards. A similar approach governs new construction in Paris, France.

INVITING INNOVATIVE IDEAS: Boston’s Museum of Science, with the support of General Motors and Greentown Labs, is holding a $3,000 competition for ideas in transportation to help achieve carbon neutrality.

Museum of Science, Boston, sponsoring Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge, 22 April 2020. Image: wikimedia.

Boston’s Museum of Science is one of many educational design competitions; students worldwide may soon deposit capstones, and theses in an Idea Bank, and join Climate Conservation Corps service teams. Is your home community or school in a location vulnerable to sea-rise? What are you doing?  The best ideas are those that are shared.

Mufson, Steven. “Boston harbor brings ashore a new enemy: Rising Seas: Facing climate change, Boston must gird itself for an era of rising water – or be inundated.” 18 February 2020. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2020/02/19/boston-prepares-rising-seas-climate-change/.

Museum of Science, Boston. “Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge.” https://www.mos.org/go-carbon-neutral/

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Future Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities.” 2013. http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/future-flood-losses-in-major-coastal-cities.htm

OECD. “Ranking Port Cities with High Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes.” https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/environment/ranking-port-cities-with-high-exposure-and-vulnerability-to-climate-extremes_011766488208

Spang, Edward. “Food-Energy-Water Nexus.” Center for Water-Energy Efficiency. 4 May 2017. https://ie.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/38/2017/05/spang-o3MAY17.pdf.

Spang, Edward., and William Moomaw, Kelly Gallagher, Paul Kirshen, and David Marks. “Multiple metrics for quantifying the intensity of water consumption of energy production.” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 9 (10), 8 October 2018.

Appreciation to Charles E. Litwin, David H. Marks, and Cherie E. Potts for research suggestions.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpo

 

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