MIT moves toward greener, more sustainable artificial intelligence

While current artificial intelligence (AI) technology holds strategic and transformative potential, it isn’t always environmentally-friendly due to high energy consumption. To the rescue are researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who have devised a solution that not only lowers costs but, more importantly, reduces the AI model training’s carbon footprint.

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Back in June 2019, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst revealed that the amount of energy utilized in AI model training equaled 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. How so? Contemporary AI isn’t just run on a personal laptop or simple server. Rather, deep neural networks are deployed on diverse arrays of specialized hardware platforms. The level of energy consumption required to power such AI technologies is approximately five times the lifetime carbon emissions from an average American car, including its manufacturing. 

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Moreover, both Analytics Insight and Kepler Lounge warned that Google’s AlphaGo Zero — the AI that plays the game of Go against itself to self-learn — generated a massive 96 tons of carbon dioxide over 40 days of research training. That amount of carbon dioxide equals 1,000 hours of air travel as well as the annual carbon footprint of 23 American homes! The takeaway then? Numbers like these would make AI model deployment both unfeasible and unsustainable over time.

MIT’s research team has devised a groundbreaking automated AI system, termed a once-for-all (OFA) network, described in their paper here. This AI system — the OFA network — minimizes energy consumption by “decoupling training and search, to reduce the cost.” The OFA network was constructed based on automatic machine learning (AutoML) advancements. 

Essentially, the OFA network functions as a ‘mother’ network to numerous subnetworks. As the ‘mother’ network, it feeds its knowledge and past experiences to all the subnetworks, training them to operate independently without the need for further retraining. This is unlike previous AI technology that had to “repeat the network design process and retrain the designed network from scratch for each case. Their total cost gr[ew] linearly … as the number of deployment scenarios increase[d], which … result[ed] in excessive energy consumption and CO2 emission.”

closeup of a green piece of technology

In other words, with the OFA network in use, there is little need for additional retraining of subnetworks. This efficiency decreases costs, curtails carbon emissions and improves sustainability.

Assistant Professor Song Han, of MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, was the project’s lead researcher. He shared that, “Searching efficient neural network architectures has until now had a huge carbon footprint. But we reduced that footprint by orders of magnitude with these new methods.”

Also of particular interest was Chuang Gan, co-author of the MIT research paper, who added, “The model is really compact. I am very excited to see OFA can keep pushing the boundary of efficient deep learning on edge devices.”

Being compact means AI can progress towards miniaturization. That could spell next-generation advantages in green operations that improve environmental impact.

+ MIT News

Rich nations must make pandemic recovery plans green: global investors

LONDON (Reuters) – The world’s richest nations must ensure their COVID-19 recovery plans are sustainable and help meet the goals of the Paris climate accord, according to leading global investor groups that together manage trillions of dollars in assets.

FILE PHOTO: Environmental activists of Swiss Klimastreik Schweiz movement hold banners, one of them reads: “Crisis is crisis”, after placing shoes in place of live participants to demonstrate against climate change, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in front of the opera house on the Sechselaeutenplatz square in Zurich, Switzerland April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

While some members of the world’s 20 biggest economies such as Britain, France and Germany have made statements about doing just that, some of the biggest emitters such as China and the United States have yet to do so.

The intervention comes as more governments start to plan for the lifting of lockdown restrictions that have cratered the revenues of companies from airlines to retailers and radically changed the economics of the energy sector.

The groups said private capital would play a key role in the recovery, but investors needed long-term policies to be put in place that reflected the agreed move to a low-carbon economy.

“Recovery plans that exacerbate climate change would expose investors and national economies to escalating financial, health and social risks in the coming years,” they said in a statement said on Monday.

“Governments should avoid the prioritisation of risky, short-term emissions-intensive projects,” added the groups, which include the Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change, members of which include BlackRock.

Recovery money would be best spent on creating jobs and sustainable infrastructure that helped meet the goal of net zero carbon emissions across sectors including energy, industrials, building and transport, they said.

Also signing the statement, under the collective group known as the Investor Agenda, were the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, Ceres, CDP, Investor Group on Climate Change, Asia Investor Group on Climate Change and the UNEP Finance Initiative.

The statement follows similar calls for a green recovery in recent days from International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week urged the G20 to do more calling for “brave, visionary and collaborative leadership” to use COVID-19 relief money to accelerate the decarbonisation of the world economy.

The G20 collectively accounted for more than 80% of global emissions and over 85% of the global economy, and without a contribution by the biggest emitters, global efforts risked being doomed to failure, he said.

Reporting by Simon Jessop and Kate Abnett; Editing by Pravin Char

US Army examines the potential of electrifying its ground vehicles

The US Army is looking into the possibility of adding electric vehicle technology to its fleet of wheeled vehicles. The subject of a draft white-paper proposal by the Army Futures and Concepts Center (FCC), the hope is to simplify maintenance while reducing the logistical problems connected with fossil fuels.

According to FCC Director Lieutenant General Eric Wesley, electric vehicle technology has made great strides in the past decade, going from a low-performance niche curiosity to high-performance supercars and battery-powered tractor/trailer rigs. As a result, the US Army is showing interest in such advances as a way to help it with its ever-increasing logistical problems.

Currently, the Army is dependent on large vehicles powered by internal combustion engines to move personnel and materials to the battlefield. But such engines are extremely complex with many parts that could become more expensive as the demand for fossil fuel engines falls and production is cut back. In addition, such complex engines are difficult to maintain.

Worst of all, conventional engines mean moving tonnes of fossil fuels across the globe and to the battlefield – putting commanders at the mercy of very long and very vulnerable logistics chains.

The hope is that electrification could be one way to overcome these limitations. Electric motors have few components, are relatively easy to maintain, and battery ranges have improved significantly. Unfortunately, the technology also has its drawbacks. Batteries take a long time to recharge and have a short service life. Worse, while fossil fuels cease to be a problem, electric vehicles still need a power source that is reliable and within a reasonable distance.

To deal with the latter problem, the Army says that the Office of the Secretary of Defense is looking at several alternatives, including the development of mobile nuclear power plants to generate electricity. Meanwhile, the battery problem could be overcome by new capacitors that could extend battery life and reduce charge times.

According to Wesley, the prospect of an electrified Army is still at least a decade in the future. Powering the service’s heavy-vehicle fleet with batteries still isn’t practical and much of the desired technology is far from mature. That being said, the white paper, which is due for internal release in the middle of the year, will address the strategy for making the transition, as well as laying out how to develop requirements and industry objectives to electrify vehicles.

Source: US Army

4 Climate Crisis Solutions No One Is Talking About

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. While your body can make some of them, nine have to be obtained through your diet. These are referred to as essential amino acids and include:histidineisoleucineleucinelysinemethioninephenylalaninethreoninetryptophanvalineAnimal products like beef, fish, dairy, and eggs contain enough of every one of these essential amino acids. Thus, they’re considered complete proteins.However, many plant sources of protein are too low in or missing one or more of these essential amino acids. They’re considered incomplete protein sources.

<p>Still, given that plant foods contain varying amounts of amino acids, you can manage to get enough of each essential amino acid throughout the day by eating a varied diet and combining complementary plant proteins.</p><p>For example, grains like rice are too low in lysine to be considered a complete source of protein. Yet, by also eating lentils or beans, which are higher in lysine, throughout the day, you can be sure to obtain all nine essential amino acids.</p><p>Nevertheless, some people like knowing they’re getting complete proteins in a particular meal.</p><p>Fortunately for vegans and vegetarians, several plant-based foods and combos contain adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids.</p><p>Here are 13 nearly complete protein sources for vegetarians and vegans.</p>

1. Quinoa 

<p>Quinoa is an ancient grain that looks similar to couscous but has a crunchy texture and nutty flavor.</p><p>As it doesn’t grow from grasses like other cereals and grains, it’s technically considered a pseudocereal and naturally gluten-free.</p><p>One cup (185 grams) of cooked <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-quinoa” target=”_blank”>quinoa</a> provides approximately 8 grams of protein.</p><p>In addition to being a complete protein, quinoa provides more magnesium, iron, fiber, and zinc than many common grains.<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26114306″ target=”_blank”><span></span></a></p><p>You can use quinoa in place of rice in most recipes. It can also be simmered in a plant source milk for a creamy, protein-rich breakfast porridge.</p><p>Though most supermarkets have quinoa in stock, buying it online may offer you a wider selection and possibly better prices.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that contains 8 grams of protein per 1 cooked cup (185 grams). It’s also a good source of several minerals, including magnesium, iron, and zinc.</p>

2. Tofu, Tempeh, and Edamame 

<p>Tofu, tempeh, and edamame are all made from soybeans and make for excellent plant-based protein sources.<span></span></p><p><a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-tofu” target=”_blank”>Tofu</a> is made from coagulated soy milk that’s pressed into white blocks and comes in a variety of textures, including silken, firm, and extra-firm. As it’s quite bland, tofu tends to take on the flavor of the foods with which it’s cooked.</p><p>A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of tofu provides approximately 8 grams of protein. It also offers 15% of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium, as well as smaller amounts of potassium and iron.</p><p><a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/tempeh” target=”_blank”>Tempeh</a> is much chewier and nuttier than tofu and made from fermented soybeans, which are often combined with other seeds and grains to form a firm, dense cake.</p><p>Meanwhile, <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/edamame-benefits” target=”_blank”>edamame</a> beans are whole, immature soybeans that are green and have a slightly sweet, grassy flavor. They’re usually steamed or boiled and can be enjoyed on their own as a snack. Alternatively, they can be added to salads, soups, or grain bowls.</p><p>Three ounces (85 grams) of tempeh contain 11 grams of protein. This serving is also a good source of fiber and iron and contains potassium and calcium.<a href=”https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/390236/nutrients” target=”_blank”></a></p><p>A 1/2 cup (85 grams) of whole edamame provides 8 grams of protein along with a good amount of fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin C.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>Tofu, tempeh, and edamame are all derived from whole soybeans and excellent sources of complete protein. A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of edamame or tofu provides 8 grams of protein, while the same serving of tempeh has 11 grams.<br></p>

3. Amaranth 

<p>Amaranth is another pseudocereal that’s a complete source of protein.<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5977093/” target=”_blank”></a></p><p>Once considered a staple food in Incan, Mayan, and Aztec cultures, it has become a popular <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-gluten-free-grains” target=”_blank”>gluten-free grain</a> alternative.</p><p>Amaranth is a versatile grain that can be boiled for a side dish or porridge, or popped in a skillet to add texture to granola bars or salads. Similarly to quinoa, it has a delicate, nutty taste and retains its crunch even when cooked.</p><p>When ground into a flour, <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/amaranth-health-benefits” target=”_blank”>amaranth</a> can also be used in gluten-free baking.</p><p>One cup (246 grams) of cooked amaranth provides approximately 9 grams of protein. It’s also an excellent source of manganese, magnesium phosphorus, and iron.</p><p>In fact, 1 cup (246 grams) of cooked amaranth provides more than 100% of the DV for manganese, an essential mineral that’s important for brain health.</p><p>If you can’t find amaranth locally, you can buy it online.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>Amaranth is a gluten-free pseudocereal that provides 9 grams of protein per 1 cooked cup (246 grams). It also provides more than 100% of the DV for manganese.</p>

4. Buckwheat 

<p>While it’s not as high in protein as quinoa or amaranth, buckwheat is another pseudocereal that’s a plant-based source of complete protein.</p><p>Nutty in flavor, the hulled kernels, or groats, can be cooked similarly to oatmeal or <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gluten-free-flours” target=”_blank”>ground into a flour</a> and used in baking. In Japanese cooking, buckwheat is most commonly consumed in the form of noodles, which are called soba.</p><p>One cup (168 grams) of cooked buckwheat groats provides approximately 6 grams of protein.<a href=”https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170686/nutrients” target=”_blank”></a></p><p>This pseudocereal is also a good source of many essential minerals, including phosphorus, manganese, copper, magnesium, and iron.<a href=”https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170686/nutrients” target=”_blank”><span></span></a></p><p>You can buy buckwheat in specialty stores or online.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>Buckwheat is another gluten-free grain that’s a source of complete protein, with 6 grams of protein per 1 cooked cup (168 grams).</p>

5. Ezekiel Bread

<p>Ezekiel bread is made from sprouted whole grains and legumes, including barley, soybeans, wheat, lentils, millet, and spelt.</p><p>Two slices (68 grams) of the bread contain 8 grams of protein.</p><p>Unlike most breads, the combination of whole grains and legumes in <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ezekiel-bread” target=”_blank”>Ezekiel bread</a> provides all nine essential amino acids.<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24583381″ target=”_blank”><span></span></a></p><p>Plus, studies suggest that sprouting grains and legumes increases their amino acid content, especially their content of the amino acid lysine.</p><p>For an extra protein boost, use Ezekiel bread to make a vegan BLT sandwich with tempeh instead of bacon, or toast the bread and top it with peanut butter and chia seeds.</p><p>You can look for Ezekiel bread at your local supermarket or shop for it online.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>Ezekiel bread is made from sprouted whole grains and legumes and contains all nine essential amino acids. Just two slices (68 grams) provide 8 grams of filling protein.</p>

6. Spirulina 

<p>Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that’s a popular supplement among those on vegan and vegetarian diets.</p><p>While it can be purchased as tablets, the powdered form of <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-spirulina” target=”_blank”>spirulina</a> can be easily added to smoothies, granola bars, soups, and salads for a boost of nutrition.</p><p>Just 1 tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina provides 4 grams of protein.</p><p>In addition to being a source of complete protein, spirulina is rich in antioxidants and a good source of several B vitamins, copper, and iron.</p><p>If you would like to give spirulina a try, you can find it in specialty stores or online.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Spirulina, a supplement made from blue-green algae, is a source of complete protein. One tablespoon (7 grams) provides 4 grams of protein, as well as good amounts of B vitamins, copper, and iron.</p>

7. Hemp Seeds

<p>Coming from the hemp plant <em>Cannabis sativa</em>, hemp seeds are members of the same species as marijuana, but they contain only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana.</p><p><span></span>As a result, hemp seeds are unlikely to contain enough THC to cause a high feeling or any of the other psychoactive effects that are associated with marijuana.</p><p>However, there is concern that hemp seeds could become contaminated with TCH from other parts of the plant during harvesting or storing. Therefore, it’s important to purchase seeds from trusted brands that test for THC.</p><p>Technically a nut, the edible whites inside of <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-health-benefits-of-hemp-seeds” target=”_blank”>hemp seeds</a> are referred to as hemp hearts and incredibly nutritious.</p><p>In addition to being a source of complete protein, hemp hearts are particularly rich in the essential fatty acids linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3).</p><p>Three tablespoons (30 grams) of raw, hulled hemp seeds boast an impressive 10 grams of protein and 15% of the DV for iron. They’re also a good source of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.</p><p>Hemp hearts have a mild nutty flavor and can be sprinkled over yogurt or salads, added to smoothies, or included in homemade granola and energy bars.</p><p>These tasty seeds are widely available in stores and online.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Hemp seeds are often sold as hemp hearts and incredibly nutritious. In addition to providing 10 grams of protein in 3 tablespoons (30 grams), they’re a good source of essential fatty acids, iron, potassium, and several other essential minerals.</p>

8. Chia Seeds 

<p>Chia seeds are tiny round seeds that are often black or white.</p><p>They’re unique in that they can absorb liquid and form a gel-like substance. As a result, they can be used to make puddings and pectin-free jams. They’re also commonly used as an egg substitute in vegan baking.</p><p>However, <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds” target=”_blank”>chia seeds</a> can also be used raw as a topping for oatmeal or salads, mixed into baked goods, or added to smoothies.</p><p>Two tablespoons (28 grams) of chia seeds provide 4 grams of protein. They’re also a good source of omega-3s, iron, calcium, magnesium, and selenium.</p><p>If you would like to give chia seeds a try, stock up at your local supermarket or online.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>Chia seeds are tiny round seeds that contain all nine essential amino acids. Two tablespoons (28 grams) contain 4 grams of protein, as well as good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and several essential minerals.</p>

9. Nutritional Yeast 

<p>Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em> that’s grown specifically to be a food product.</p><p>Commercially, <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nutritional-yeast” target=”_blank”>nutritional yeast</a> is sold as a yellow powder or flakes and has a distinctive umami flavor that can be used to add a cheese-like flavor to vegan dishes, such as popcorn, pasta, or mashed potatoes.</p><p>A 1/4-cup (15-gram) serving of nutritional yeast provides 8 grams of complete protein.<a href=”https://vegfaqs.com/nutritional-yeast-amino-acid-profile/” target=”_blank”></a></p><p>When fortified, nutritional yeast can also be an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, copper, manganese, and all the B vitamins, including B12.<a href=”https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/575722/nutrients” target=”_blank”><span></span></a></p><p>You can shop for nutritional yeast locally or online.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of yeast that imparts a cheesy, umami flavor to vegan dishes. Just 1/4 cup (15 grams) provides 8 grams of protein.</p>

10. Rice and Beans

<p>Rice and beans are a classic pairing that’s a source of complete protein.</p><p>Both <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/brown-vs-white-rice” target=”_blank”>brown and white rice</a> are low in lysine but high in methionine. In contrast, beans are high in lysine but low in methionine. As such, combining them allows you to get enough of each, as well as the remaining seven essential amino acids, to count as a complete protein.</p><p>One cup (239 grams) of rice and beans provides 12 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber.</p><p>While you can enjoy the mixture on its own, rice and <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthiest-beans-legumes” target=”_blank”>beans</a> can be topped with guacamole, salsa, and roasted vegetables for a simple, filling meal.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>Together, rice and beans contain all nine essential amino acids to form a complete source of protein. Approximately 1 cup (239 grams) provides 12 grams of this nutrient.</p>

11. Pita and Hummus 

<p>A delicious Middle Eastern classic, pita and <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-hummus-healthy” target=”_blank”>hummus</a> are another combination that provides all nine essential amino acids.</p><p>Similarly to rice, the wheat used to make pita is too low in lysine to be considered a complete protein source. However, chickpeas — the main ingredient in hummus — are rich in lysine.<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4998136/” target=”_blank”></a></p><p>One medium-sized (57-gram) whole wheat pita with 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of hummus provides approximately 7 grams of protein.</p><p>In addition to serving as a snack, adding fried or baked ground chickpea balls known as <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-falafel-healthy” target=”_blank”>falafel</a> will further increase the protein content of your pita and hummus.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>The combination of pita and hummus is another classic pairing that constitutes a complete protein source. One medium-sized (57-gram) pita with 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of hummus provides 7 grams of protein.</p>

12. Peanut Butter Sandwich 

<p>A lunch box staple, natural <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-peanut-butter-bad-for-you” target=”_blank”>peanut butter</a> sandwiched between whole grain bread is another common combination that results in a complete protein source.</p><p>As mentioned earlier, wheat is low in lysine while pulses like peanuts make up for it by being high in lysine.</p><p>Two slices (62 grams) of whole wheat sandwich bread with 2 tablespoons (32 grams) of peanut butter provide approximately 14 grams of protein.</p><p>However, the exact amount of protein may vary depending on the brand of bread you buy.</p><p>When choosing a peanut butter, aim for a product with minimal ingredients, ideally only peanuts and maybe a bit of salt.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>Wheat bread is low in lysine, but when combined with lysine-rich peanut butter, it becomes a complete protein source. One peanut butter sandwich provides approximately 14 grams of protein.</p>

13. Mycoprotein (Quorn) 

<p>Mycoprotein is a meat substitute product that’s marketed under the name Quorn.</p><p>Made from a naturally occurring fungus called <em>Fusarium venenatum</em>, it’s sometimes mixed with eggs or milk protein before being shaped into patties, cutlets, or strips. As a result, not all mycoprotein products are vegan.</p><p>Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency have determined that <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/health/mycoprotein” target=”_blank”>mycoprotein</a> is safe enough to be sold to the public.<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6554455/” target=”_blank”><span></span></a></p><p>However, there are some concerns that the fungal ingredient in it can cause dangerous allergic reactions in some individuals.<a href=”https://www.annallergy.org/article/S1081-1206(18)30218-7/fulltext” target=”_blank”></a></p><p>Still, as it’s a rich source of essential amino acids and low in sodium, sugar, and fat, it’s a popular option for those looking for a plant-based alternative to chicken.<a href=”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6554455/” target=”_blank”><span></span></a></p><p>While the amount of protein varies by product, one 75-gram Quorn Chik’N patty contains 9 grams of protein.<a href=”https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/388023/nutrients” target=”_blank”><span></span></a></p><p>If you want to give mycoprotein a try, you can find many Quorn products in stores and online.</p><p><strong><strong>Summary</strong></strong></p><p><strong><strong></strong></strong>Mycoprotein, a popular meat alternative, is sold under the brand name Quorn. While the amount of protein varies by product, one Quorn Chik’N patty provides about 9 grams of complete protein.</p>

The Bottom Line

<p>Despite some concerns over being able to get adequate <a href=”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/protein-for-vegans-vegetarians” target=”_blank”>protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet</a>, many high protein, plant-based foods are available.</p><p>Furthermore, several of these foods even provide all nine essential amino acids and are therefore considered complete proteins.</p><p>To ensure you’re meeting your amino acid needs on a vegan or vegetarian diet, try incorporating a variety of these complete protein sources or combinations of nearly complete choices into your plant-based diet.</p>
Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

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To cut carbon emissions, a movement grows to ‘electrify everything’

On March 24, just before the city council of Santa Cruz, California passed an emergency measure to prevent evictions of renters suffering from lost income during the coronavirus pandemic, it adopted another new ordinance: effective July 1, all construction permit applications for new buildings in the city must submit a declaration that their design is “Natural Gas-Free.”

With that vote, Santa Cruz became the 30th city or county in California to enact a measure limiting or prohibiting the use of natural gas in new construction. It was just the latest in a string of victories for the “electrify everything” movement, which is pushing for a rapid transition away from burning natural gas and other fossil fuels in buildings.

In the past year, gas bans have spread with a speed that has taken even some of its most ardent proponents by surprise. Last July, Berkeley became the first city to adopt an outright prohibition on gas connections in most new buildings. A raft of other California cities followed with their own versions, including Menlo Park, home to some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, and San Jose, the tenth largest city in the nation. In November, the movement leapt beyond California when Brookline, a large suburb of Boston, became the first municipality in Massachusetts to pass an all-electric requirement for new buildings.

In the past year, gas bans have spread with a speed that has taken even some of its most ardent proponents by surprise. Last July, Berkeley became the first city to adopt an outright prohibition on gas connections in most new buildings. A raft of other California cities followed with their own versions, including Menlo Park, home to some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies, and San Jose, the tenth largest city in the nation. In November, the movement leapt beyond California when Brookline, a large suburb of Boston, became the first municipality in Massachusetts to pass an all-electric requirement for new buildings.

Dozens more U.S. cities are contemplating their own gas bans or all-electric mandates, motivated primarily by climate concerns. In Seattle, a proposed ban on natural gas systems in new construction is being considered by the city council. Bellingham, Washington is considering outlawing gas heating in new and existing buildings. In March, the city council of Takoma Park, Maryland passed a resolution to achieve net-zero emissions by 2035; the next step will be developing specific ordinances, including one potentially phasing out gas appliances. Last week, Ann Arbor, Michigan unveiled a similar plan.

“Twelve months ago, we were in early discussions with just a couple jurisdictions in California,” said Sage Welch, who leads outreach and communications for the Building Decarbonization Coalition, a network of city governments, utilities, and nonprofit organizations advocating for electrifying buildings. “Even the advocates working on this have been really floored by the way that cities have picked this up and run with it.”

City leaders, lawmakers, and climate activists pushing for all-electric policies argue that continuing to rely on fossil fuel-burning furnaces, water heaters, and cooking ranges is incompatible with plans to bring net carbon emissions to zero by mid-century or sooner. They are also making the case that electric appliances are safer and healthier — since they don’t produce combustion byproducts like particulate matter, carbon monoxide, or nitrogen dioxide — and cheaper over their lifespans than conventional gas systems.

Over 60 percent of homes nationwide rely on gas or other fossil fuels for heating. Burning gas or other fossil fuels for heating, cooking, and water heating contributes about 10 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. — generating 560 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. In California, energy use in buildings accounts for a quarter of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Even as the electricity sector’s carbon intensity has declined in recent years — in large part due to a switch from coal to natural gas as the dominant fuel — emissions from the use of fossil fuels in buildings have held steady. One reason is that local leaders, climate activists, and regulators have overlooked the long-lived appliances used to cook and heat offices and homes as a source of climate-warming pollution. States and cities are now pursuing a variety of approaches to cut carbon emissions produced by their buildings: whole-building energy efficiency targets, system-specific electric mandates, and, increasingly, comprehensive gas bans.

But just as the electrify everything movement has gained momentum, opposition has coalesced in some places. In February, with the support of gas utilities and the homebuilding industry, Arizona’s legislature passed a measure preventing local governments from prohibiting natural gas infrastructure. Lawmakers in five other states — Missouri, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Mississippi — have proposed similar bills preventing the bans.

“The gas industry is extremely powerful and well-resourced,” said Mark Kresowik, eastern region deputy director for the Sierra Club, which has been advocating for policies favoring electrification. “But there’s a growing recognition that electrification and getting beyond the gas system has tremendous benefits for consumers and communities. It’s cheaper, healthier, safer, and ultimately what we have to do for the climate. It is inevitable in the same way moving beyond coal power is inevitable.”

Two key factors have recently aligned to make going all-electric more feasible for policymakers, homeowners, and developers, as both a carbon- and cost-cutting measure. Electricity generation produces far fewer greenhouse emissions than it once did. And electric appliances have become more efficient, user-friendly, and reliable.

A few decades ago, gas furnaces were a cheaper and less-polluting choice than electric space heating systems plugged into a grid dominated by coal-fired power plants. But today’s electric grid is cleaner. In California, more than half of the electricity used by consumers is now zero-carbon; state law requires this share to reach 60 percent by 2030, and 100 percent by 2045. Nationally, about 38 percent of electricity was generated by zero-carbon (renewables or nuclear) sources in 2019, up from about 23 percent in 1980. Along with new mandates and market trends, recent improvements in energy devices, such as air-source heat pumps that can efficiently keep spaces warm or cool in a wide range of climates, have the potential to make conventional gas-burning heaters — and the vast infrastructure required to fuel them — obsolete.

“Natural gas has long been perceived as the lower cost option” compared to older electric resistance-based space or water heaters, said Pierre Delforge, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council who specializes in energy-efficient appliances and technologies for buildings. “But that’s no longer true with heat pumps. They are four or five times more efficient than gas alternatives. That shifts the economics.”

Those efficiencies, he said, unlock huge cost savings over the lifespan of appliances — savings that come on top of the avoided costs of connecting a home to gas lines. “These local codes and ordinances are focused on new construction, because there’s no question about the economics,” Delforge said. “It’s cheaper and faster to build all-electric than with gas because you don’t have to connect the building to the gas main in the street, and there’s no gas plumbing in the building.”

While outright gas bans have proved popular in California, lawmakers in Maine have taken a different tack: last year they passed a law setting a target of 100,000 heat pumps installed in the state’s homes by 2025. “Considering that there only about 500,000 homes in Maine, it’s the most ambitious building decarbonization policy in the U.S,” said Kresowik. To help meet the target, the state’s energy efficiency program recently doubled the rebates it offers for heat pumps.

Meanwhile, large cities like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. are coming up with transition plans for decarbonizing their gas utilities. That entails exploring options for retiring gas pipelines and fully electrifying heating and water heating, and identifying the lowest-cost route to meeting carbon targets. “In D.C., where I live, the public service commission recognizes that you can’t do new gas hookups until we’ve planned for the gas system’s alignment with climate commitments,” said Kresowik. “That’s something every regulator should be doing now.”

In California and elsewhere, policymakers are trying to ensure that low-income households and consumers aren’t left behind in the transition from gas-fueled to fully electrified houses, apartments, and businesses.

They are drawing lessons from the past decade’s boom in residential solar systems. Affluent early adopters embraced solar, kickstarting the market, and incentive programs enabled more and more homeowners to purchase solar systems. The all-electric movement is following a similar path — in fact most of the municipalities that have passed gas bans so far are upper- and middle-class communities. But a more equitable policy approach, such as creating incentives for low-income residents to go all-electric, is needed, said Bruce Nilles, who leads the building electrification program at the Rocky Mountain Institute.

“Everyone has to replace their appliances at some point — water heaters break,” said Nilles. “Let’s make that a seamless process, through incentives and financing.”

In the last two years, California’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has been funding pilot programs to help disadvantaged communities transition to the all-electric future that’s being planned for the entire state. In 2019, it awarded $50 million to electrify appliances in 1,600 low-income households in the San Joaquin Valley that currently lack access to gas distribution lines. And in February, the PUC approved a pilot program, funded by revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade emissions auction, that sets aside at least $60 million in financial incentives for all-electric low-income housing.

These pilots, however, are still limited in scope. For some advocates, securing support for all-electric ordinances from affordable housing organizations has proved challenging.

“There’s a lot of fear about increased costs and barriers,” said Diane Bailey, the executive director of Menlo Spark, a climate-focused nonprofit working on clean energy issues in the Silicon Valley region. “And some of those fears are real because affordable housing developers already have so many different hoops they have to jump through, especially to get the tax credits they need to make projects happen.

“The solutions should be statewide,” Bailey added, “because affordable housing developers are complaining loudly that they’re facing a patchwork of rules and regulations from different cities.”

Gas industry trade groups have launched advertising campaigns opposing city-level gas bans across the country. The American Public Gas Association, which represents local gas distribution utilities, has characterized city bans as “extreme” and “a heavy-handed approach [that] eliminates consumer choice, stifles innovation, and diminishes the flexibility to respond to GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions goals, with the least-cost solutions for consumers.”

Gas utilities, developers, and homebuilders associations have lobbied and testified against some cities’ all-electric mandates, citing the importance of preserving “energy choice” for consumers, and contending that they will drive up electric bills for ratepayers and overall costs for developers, restaurants, and other businesses. Last week, the American Petroleum Institute announced it will restructure its field offices around the country, in part to better push back against the national spread of the gas ban movement.

Advocates say they expected this pushback. But no one, of course, saw COVID-19 coming. Now, like everyone else, policymakers and electrification advocates are trying to figure out how to proceed. The lack of affordable housing was already a chronic crisis in California and many Eastern cities. With the mounting economic fallout of the pandemic, affordability concerns are only likely to loom larger.

Logistics and legal issues pose a more immediate problem. In December, Emily Norton, a city councilor in the affluent Boston suburb of Newton initiated committee hearings on a potential gas ban ordinance covering new buildings and major renovations. Newton is one of several municipalities in Massachusetts waiting to see how the state attorney general rules on the legality of Brookline’s newly adopted bylaw banning new gas connections.

Despite the challenges of conducting hearings and city business in a time of social distancing, Norton and her colleagues in Newton are pushing their ordinance planning forward and intend to move ahead regardless of the attorney general’s ruling. They hope to get a gas ban passed in the fall.

“Our constituents understand why we’re doing this,” Norton said. “They know we have very aggressive climate goals. At the same time, they want to know, ‘What will it cost? How will it affect me if I sell my house?’”

This story was published by Yale Environment 360 on April 14, 2020. You can find the original article here.

Can you fix ventilators? A fuel cell engineer figures it out

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — It was late when engineer Joe Tavi’s boss called with an odd question: Could their company, which makes fuel cells, learn how to fix a ventilator?

California had a bunch of broken ones, and the governor had asked if San Jose-based Bloom Energy could repair them so coronavirus patients could breathe.

Tavi, an engineer who grew up taking apart the family vacuum cleaner to see if he could put it back together, said he would sleep on it.

But he didn’t sleep. Instead, he made a pot of coffee and downloaded the more than 300-page manual for the LTD 1200, the type of ventilator state officials said they needed repaired.

At 4:45 a.m. the next day, coffee still in hand, his boss called again.

“We can do this,” Tavi told her. “We won’t be able to do it if we don’t try.”

Since then, a company that knew nothing about ventilators has fixed more than 500 of them. It’s a transformation akin to World War II, when manufacturing behemoths used their assembly line expertise to make airplanes and tanks. Now, some companies are tapping their storehouses of brainpower to do the same thing with medical equipment.

While most people with the coronavirus have only mild or moderate symptoms, it can cause more severe illness in some, including pneumonia — an infection that can cause the lungs to fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe. That’s where the ventilators come in.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine estimates about 960,000 COVID-19 patients in the U.S. might need a ventilator. But there are only about 200,000 machines available.

In California, the nation’s most populous state with nearly 40 million people, Gov. Gavin Newsom is on the hunt for at least 10,000 ventilators. So far, he’s found just over 4,000 of them — including 170 from the federal government’s national stockpile that needed repairs.

Bloom Energy makes fuel cells, which combine air and hydrogen to create electricity through a chemical reaction. To get the air and the hydrogen in the right quantities, the fuel cell uses hoses and valves and fans — similar functions to a ventilator. Chief Operations Officer Susan Brennan says the company isn’t profiting from the repairs; they hope to eventually recoup some of their expenses from the state.

Once he knew he could do it, Tavi gathered with other company engineers to come up with a plan, guided by lots of YouTube videos on ventilator settings and calibrations. The company’s head of supply chain ordered the parts.

There were some anxious moments, especially during testing. As a kid, Tavi said, when he would take apart his family vacuum cleaner, sometimes he couldn’t get it back together correctly. A ventilator isn’t something you want to put together and find a few screws left over.

But once the team got the ventilators hooked up to balloons, hearing the soft “woosh” of air as they expanded and contracted, Tavi said it went from being a machine to something much more personal.

“I would think about my mom or my uncle or a family member of a friend or a co-worker needing one of those machines,” he said. “We don’t view it as a number of units we are turning over. We view it as the maximum number of people we could potentially positively impact by having an extra ventilator that works. Even if it’s just one person.”

The Battle Against Global Warming Is the New Cold War

The Cold War inspired the creation of several key publicly funded organizations, many of them military, that have reconfigured the nation’s economy, and the world’s, through a series of transformative technology booms. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), which was founded by President Eisenhower in 1958 as a response to Sputnik, has been credited with laying the groundwork for the internet, Wi-Fi, supercomputing, desktop computing, GPS, robotics, artificial intelligence, drones, and voice recognition. Through the ’50s and ’60s, the Department of Defense learned how to best use its position as a primary customer to spur industries to create better and more innovative technologies—a process that has brought to market three of the most important energy technologies of the past century: nuclear power, sophisticated and efficient turbines, and solar photovoltaic tech. (The depth of the military’s influence on the US economy is so profound that, to understand its role, I found myself reading an economics book titled Is War Necessary for Economic Growth? The answer was, with some qualifications, yes.)

As Arati Prabhakar, who led Darpa from 2012 to 2017, explained to me, “We are very good at innovating in this country for the things that we set out to innovate for in 1945: national security, which led to changes in information technology, and health, which became biomedicine. And I don’t think it’s an accident that that’s what we’re good at now—because those were precisely the things that we focused on.”

The military has been successful at creating tech for a few reasons: As Prabhakar suggested, it sets priorities for problems it wishes to solve and then pursues multiple technological pathways. What’s more, it perseveres without caring excessively about costs.

Take Darpa itself. According to MIT’s Bill Bonvillian, who has studied the agency’s role in innovation for more than two decades, Darpa’s greatest advantage is its uniquely nimble, collaborative, mission-driven culture, where managers move back and forth between research and application, creating communities among researchers and industry. “In most R&D agencies, the critical decision is awarding the grant,” he says. “In Darpa, the managers award the grants and then move into the researcher’s home.”

In addition to providing what economists call the “technology push” by funding foundational science through Darpa, the military also excels at creating a “demand pull” by partnering with industry to develop the products, mounting large-scale demonstration projects, and being an early-adopting customer with deep pockets. Many of these innovations have made their way into civilian life.

Every time you board a 737, for example, you are experiencing the result of the Army’s demand pull in the world economy. In the early ’60s, Army and NASA engineers set out on a program of basic and applied research to radically change the way they understood jet engines, in a bid to make them much more energy-efficient. As researcher John Alic has documented, they went deep into the physics of the machines, studying the way air flowed over the blades and how metals behave at high temperatures. They funded basic research on rare earth magnets at university labs and developed ceramic coatings that are now standard for high-temperature uses. With the Army spending billions of dollars on research and then purchasing expensive products that spun out of it—like Apache helicopter blades—not only did jet engines become more efficient and reliable, the private sector adopted and built off of the new technologies to create civilian products—like that passenger aircraft, the turbines in gas-fired power plants, and even the magnets that run the electric windows in your car.

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The US has wallowed in the politics of climate despair since the late 1990s, so it may be hard to accept what I’m going to say next: We could fairly quickly adapt our existing federal technology innovation system to work on the tech we need to decarbonize energy at a scale that would have real impact. (What’s more, by shifting innovation from military applications to civilian ones, we’d be building a country where war is no longer necessary for economic growth. But that’s a different conversation.)