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Biofuels, the World’s Energy Past and Future




The biofuel from this mini biogas power plant in the municipality of Entre Rios do Oeste, in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, is supplied by local pig farmers, who earn extra income while the municipality saves on energy costs for its facilities and public lighting. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPSby Mario Osava (rio de janeiro)Thursday, November 11, 2021Inter Press Service

A larger number of poor Brazilians have returned to using firewood, less explosive but also a cause of accidents and of health-damaging household pollution. It is cheaper in the countryside, while in the cities people burn boards and old furniture, not always as widely available as alcohol or ethanol, which can be purchased at any gas station.

In fact, biofuels, such as wood, ethanol, biodiesel and biogas, have been competing with fossil fuels since the industrial use of coal began in England in the 18th century. Economic and environmental factors influence private and public decision-making with regard to their production and use.

A commitment made by 103 countries at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) on Climate Change, which is taking place in the Scottish city of Glasgow during the first 12 days of November, to reduce methane emissions from 2020 levels 30 percent by 2030, may now give biofuels a new boost.

Replacing oil, gas and coal with other sources will help contribute to that goal.

“In Brazil, the demand for ethanol was imposed for economic reasons: high oil prices; and energy reasons: the risk of shortages,” said Regis Leal, an aeronautical engineer and specialist in Technological Development at the state-owned National Laboratory of Biorenewables.

Ethanol in the seventies

Ethanol is a fuel produced from sugarcane, corn or any vegetable with a high sucrose content, which is mainly used in motor vehicles. Brazil is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol, after the United States.

The National Alcohol Programme (Proalcohol) was created in Brazil in 1975, two years after the first big oil crisis that more than tripled the price of a barrel of oil. Brazil, which at the time imported more than 80 percent of the crude oil it consumed, lost the momentum of an economy that had grown by more than 10 percent per year between 1968 and 1973.

With alcohol or ethanol replacing gasoline or mixed with it, the aim was to reduce dependence on imported oil, while intensifying the search for hydrocarbon deposits for self-sufficiency, which Brazil only achieved three decades later.

This sugar mill and ethanol distillery are in the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo, much of whose territory has been turned into one large sugarcane field. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

In the United States, the use of ethanol began to be fomented in the 1980s, but for environmental reasons, Leal told IPS in an interview by telephone from Campinas, a city in the interior of the state of São Paulo, near the country’s largest sugar and ethanol-producing area.

In cities located at high altitudes, such as Denver, the capital of the western U.S. state of Colorado, at 1,600 metres above sea level, lower oxygen levels lead to incomplete combustion of petroleum derivatives and, consequently, greater carbon monoxide contamination and health damage, he explained.

Mixing in MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether), a combination of chemicals, added oxygen, but because it was a highly toxic product it was soon replaced by ethanol, made from corn in the case of the U.S.

In both Brazil and the United States, biofuel production also bolstered or stabilised the price of sugar and corn by absorbing surplus production.

This is an aspect that is misunderstood by those who condemn biofuel production for apparently reducing food production. This is a false dilemma, because it must be analysed on a case-by-case basis, said Suani Coelho, coordinator of the Bioenergy Research Group (GBio) of the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of São Paulo.

“In Tanzania, a FAO (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation) study evaluated the production of ethanol from manioc. The hypothesis seemed doubtful, also because the energy balance of cassava is not so good. But in Tanzania there is a surplus of the crop that cannot be exported. So it is worth taking advantage of it to make ethanol,” said Coelho, a chemical engineer with a doctorate in energy.

In Brazil, where ethanol is made almost exclusively from the more locally productive sugarcane, corn was incorporated in the industry in 2017, with a distillery in Lucas do Rio Verde, in the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s largest producer of soybeans, corn and cotton.

Lucas do Rio Verde is in the state of Mato Grosso, the region of Brazil with the highest soybean and corn production, which is crowded with agribusiness warehouses and silos. The first corn ethanol distillery was set up there to take advantage of the surplus corn production. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

“Corn is produced there as a second crop, after soybeans, in the same area, in a volume that is not viable for export. So it makes sense to use it for ethanol,” she told IPS by telephone from São Paulo.

Ethanol led to a great improvement in the urban environment.

In Brazil it has already replaced 46 percent of gasoline, according to the sugarcane industry association (Unica), with an annual production of 35 billion litres. It is used as fuel alone in motor vehicles or as a 27 percent blend in gasoline.

The United States produces 50 to 70 percent more than Brazil, depending on the year. Together, they account for about 84 percent of world production, a level of concentration that hinders free international trade in ethanol.

Biofuels or electrification

Coelho and Leal do not agree with the claim that the electrification of transportation tends to hinder the expansion of biofuels to other countries and major producers.

Developing countries do not have the capacity to make large investments to build new infrastructure, such as electric recharging points for vehicles. Moreover, “Brazil is going through a crisis, it is increasing fossil fuel thermoelectric generation, making the energy mix dirtier, and it has no other way to increase the supply of electricity,” argued Coelho.

Leal said the demand for ethanol can grow a great deal. “Any increase in its blend in the United States, which accounts for half of the world’s gasoline consumption, will have a huge impact,” he said.

The ethanol expert also questions the environmental and climatic advantages of electric vehicles, taking into consideration the entire production cycle, transportation, batteries, employment and other aspects.

View of a vast oil palm plantation in Tailandia, a municipality in the state of Pará, in Brazil’s eastern Amazon rainforest. The intent to turn palm oil into biodiesel did not work out, because the oil serves a more attractive market in the food and chemical industries. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Biodiesel was not as successful as ethanol, but it also improved the urban environment and has a future, with some additional effort.

It is produced from vegetable or animal oils, even used, and other fatty materials.

Its main problem is that it is more expensive and therefore cannot compete with diesel fuel in order to replace it, Leal pointed out. Currently the diesel blend has been reduced from 12 to 10 percent, so as not to further drive up the cost of diesel fuel, the price of which is rising worldwide.

Another biofuel, which has been around for a long time but is now expanding, is biogas.

It is not only clean, but actually helps to reduce pollution, since it is the gas generated from garbage, wastewater, agricultural waste and animal excrement, which is no longer released into the air, thus reducing greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Its use is incipient in Brazil, but it has the potential to replace 70 percent of the diesel fuel consumed in the country, at a lower cost, according to the Brazilian Biogas Association. And big cities and the country’s enormous agricultural sector offer plenty of raw materials.

By means of a simple refining process, biogas is converted into biomethane, equivalent to natural gas and, therefore, a fuel that can even be used to run heavy vehicles. If used for electricity generation, it could meet 36 percent of national demand, the association of companies in the sector estimates.

Small biodigesters produce biogas that could prevent the use of firewood and ethanol, and the resultant accidents and pollution, among poor families, especially in the countryside, noted Coelho.

“Appropriate public policies and low-interest loans for investments” could boost biogas and its environmental benefits, at a time when international financial institutions are cutting financing for coal-fired and other fossil fuel power plants, Leal said.

The two experts stressed that all these biofuels play an important role in making green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy sources, viable and recognised as central to the world’s energy future.

Biofuels have served humanity since its earliest past, not always in a sustainable way. The first was firewood, on which 2.8 billion people in the world still depend, according to an October 2020 World Bank report. But it is environmentally unsound, and leads to deforestation and household pollution.

The oils and resins that illuminated cities and homes in centuries past, before the advent of electricity, were also destructive. Oils extracted from whale blubber and from the eggs of Amazonian turtles are examples, almost driving certain species to extinction.

© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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Protein subunit COVID vaccine, which can be manufactured using engineered yeast, shows promise in preclinical studies





While many people in wealthier countries have been vaccinated against COVID-19, there is still a need for vaccination in much of the world. A new vaccine developed at MIT and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center may aid in those efforts, offering an inexpensive, easy-to-store, and effective alternative to RNA vaccines.

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13 Ghost-Hunting Apps That Claim To Find Paranormal Activity




You don’t have to wait for Halloween to use a ghost hunting app. It’s a thrilling thing to do if you’re stuck at home, and even more fun to do with friends. Whether you go down to your creepy basement to talk to spirts, or venture through the woods looking for apparitions, you never know what you might find lurking in the dark.

In fact, an October 2021 survey of 2,000 people conducted by OnePoll revealed that over 63% of respondents believe in the paranormal in some form, and 44% have even had a personal paranormal encounter of their own. A third of respondents said they’ve felt a vague “unexplained presence” in their home, whether it was due to flickering lights or doors closing at random. And for the 23% who said they don’t believe in the paranormal, they admitted that they still wouldn’t want to “provoke” anything. (Looking at you, Ouija boards.)

Whether you want to debunk these claims, or prove once and for all that your hallway really is haunted, a ghost hunting app will come in handy. Most of them have heavy disclaimers stating that they can’t actually verify the presence of ghosts. But you know what? That shouldn’t stop you from playing around with tools like EMF meters or EVP recorders — and having yourself a spooky time.

Here, the 13 best ghost hunting apps that might help you detect paranormal activity.

Ghostcom Radar Spirit Detector

This highly-rated ghost hunting app allows you to exchange messages with ghosts while locating where they’re standing. (Yikes!) It also provides “spiritual statistics” about the ghost’s emotional state, zodiac sign, etc. The creators call it spooky, mysterious — and a great party game.

Download Ghostcon Radar Spirit Detector for Apple

Download Ghostcom Radar Spirit Detector for Android

GhostTube SLS

The GhostTube SLS app uses your phone’s technology to detect “humanoid bodies” in your environment by projecting a grid of infrared light. If your phone is new enough, it’ll also give you night vision capabilities. Open the app the next time the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and see if someone — or something — is hanging out in the shadows.

Download GhostTube SLS for Apple

Download GhostTube SLS for Android

Ghost Hunting Tools

Ghost Hunting Tools, available for iPhone users only, includes an EMF reader that detects fluctuations in the electromagnetic field, and an EVP recorder, which picks up electronic voice phenomena — things IRL ghost hunters rely on to detect otherworldly spirits. It uses a 1000-word dictionary to help you guess the intention of the spirit. And while the app says it’s just for fun, the reviews claim otherwise: one June 2021 review is titled, in all-caps, “100% REAL.”

Download Ghost Hunting Tools


This ghost hunting app produces speech from ghosts, called instrumental trans communication, based on changes to sensors on your phone. Who knows if it’s real, or if it just relies on what your phone already knows about you to send you scary messages? Either way, it’s sure to be hella creepy.

Download iOvilus for $1.99.

Spirit Board

Ask the Spirit Board questions, or input text, and then wait for a ghost to respond. To really set the mood, the creators suggest darkening your room and lighting a few candles. Then, place your fingers on the planchette, Ouija-board style, to initiate a ghostly convo. If a spirit responds to your questions, the planchette will move to show their answer. With four stars and over 30,000 reviews on the App Store, you know you’ll be in for a spooky time.

Download Spirit Board for Apple

Download Spirit Board for Android

Ghost Detector — Haunted Radar

The Ghost Detector — Haunted Radar app claims to be the most accurate ghost detecting app. It works by picking up changes in electromagnetic fields to identify whether or not ghosts are present. Use it to search for spirits, or to scare your friends.

Download Ghost Detector — Haunted Radar for Apple

Download Ghost Detector — Haunted Radar for Android

Ghost Radar: CLASSIC

If you’re a skilled ghost hunter, then you probably already know that traditional paranormal equipment can malfunction if “normal energy” interferes with the readings. Ghost Radar: CLASSIC solves that problem for you by analyzing the readings only when interesting patterns occur. So rest assured that you can go about your investigation without being fooled by something mundane, like the sound of wind or water messing with your reading.

Download Ghost Radar: CLASSIC for Apple

Download Ghost Radar: CLASSIC for Android

Ghost Tracker EMF EVP Recorder

The Ghost Tracker EMF EVP Recorder is said to be one of the most accurate and veteran-approved ghost hunting trackers out there, according to a real paranormal researcher. In fact, in an interview with VICE in 2018, Kim Johnston, a paranormal researcher from Birmingham, Alabama, said, “I find that [app] useful because it’s built by genuine researchers and not people who are just trying to have fun or make an app that’s kind of a joke.” Rely on this one if you want to get good data.

Download Ghost Tracker EMF EVP Recorder for Apple for $3.99

Download Ghost Tracker EMF EVP Recorder for Android for $5.99

Sono X10 Spirit Box

To switch things up, try the Sono X10 Spirit Box, which is another tool Johnston likes to use. To sum up what a spirit box is, the creators of the app made it simple: “It is not the spirit’s voice you hear, but the spirit can create words from the voice bank by manipulating the mobile’s sensors.” Um, creepy!

Download Sono X10 Spirit Box for Apple

Paranormal EMF Recorder and Scanner

This app is aimed at anyone who has an interest in paranormal investigation and research. It offers “fun and easy to use” EMF detection, automated EMF recording, and the ability analyze your findings right in the app. Get ready to hear some ~ghostly voices~.

Download Paranormal EMF Recorder and Scanner for Apple

OVERNIGHT Ghost Hunt Toolbox

Here’s one that has everything you need to conduct a full paranormal investigation. You’ll get a spirit box, digital dowsing rods, an entity detector, and more. Once you’ve finished collecting data, go ahead and share what you found in the “community” section.

Downloaded OVERNIGHT Ghost Hunt Toolbox for Apple

Download OVERNIGHT Ghost Hunt Toolbox for Android

Ghosthunting Toolkit

This app supplies you with five powerful ghost-hunting tools, including an EMF detector, a vibration detector, power detector, an EVP recorder, and even an interrogation tool to interview intelligent haunts. Use the vibration detector to verify if your furniture is, in fact, shaking all on its own, and the power detector to “coax entities into revealing their manifestation strength.”

Download Ghosthunting Toolkit for Apple for $5.99

Ghost Detector Radar Camera

Beware: This app is horrifying. To use it, brace yourself and walk around using the screen to hunt for ghosts. If one pops up, use the app to ask them questions. It’s an “ultra-realistic experience” that might as well be real, especially if you’re using the app alone.

Download Ghost Detector Radar Camera for Apple

Download Ghost Detector Radar Camera for Android

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SOME (So Others Might Eat) Announces Capability To Accept Cryptocurrencies Donations




WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2021 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — SOME (So Others Might Eat), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to aid men, women, and children experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty in the Nation’s Capital, is now accepting donations in the following cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Amp (AMP), Basic Attention Token (BAT), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), ChainLink (LINK), Dai (DAI), Dogecoin (DOGE), The Graph (GRT), Gemini Dollar (GUSD), Litecoin (LTC), Storj (STORJ), UMA (UMA), Zcash (ZEC), 0x (ZRX) and 1inch (1INCH) and more.

The Giving Block is a donation platform for nonprofits to accept cryptocurrency through their existing websites. The Giving Block cites that SOME is one of the first D.C.-based, human services organizations exclusively focused on those affected by homelessness and poverty issues, to begin accepting …

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