Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Trough oil to a longer life-the miracles of tomorrow

Few rather unrelated articles, which however can very well change the world of tomorrow.
The first one is on oil reserves on the Arctic. What really intrigued me was to how much a fifth of the worlds reserves equals: THE GLOBAL DEMAND FOR 3(THREE!!!) YEARS! So, if we roughly estimate the whole world reserve of oil and gas, we have what 20 years in case of not increasing demand. With the increasing demand, probably 10! WOW! I mean, that's not too far ahead in time. It sounds like much, but it certainly isn't! And even in the most optimistic scenario, we'll end up with oil/gas for like 30-40 years. And then what? Hmmm. The interesting part is that this isn't the point of the article :) Oh, well!

The second article is even more interesting. It's about the perspective to make fuel from waste products. I liked the business tone of it. I mean, we're all sick of propaganda and history shows that when you start looking at the things from a practical point of view, you're likely to succeed.

Third article is on a possible drugs for prolonging human life and I strongly suggest you read it. Those researches sound very promising to me, especially since they don't only prolong your life, expanding the misery, but they also make it healthier, which means, you'll enjoy your life and your additional years. If that's not a wonderful perspective, I don't know what is.
Enjoy!

Oil Survey Says Arctic Has Riches


Published: July 24, 2008

The Arctic may contain as much as a fifth of the world’s yet to-be-discovered oil and natural gas reserves, the United States Geological Survey said Wednesday as it unveiled the largest-ever survey of petroleum resources north of the Arctic Circle.

Oil companies have long suspected that the Arctic contained substantial energy resources, and have been spending billions recently to get their hands on tracts for exploration. As melting ice caps have opened up prospects that were once considered too harsh to explore, a race has begun among Arctic nations, including the United States, Russia, and Canada, for control of these resources.

The geological agency’s survey largely vindicates the rising interest. It suggests that most of the yet-to-be found resources are not under the North Pole but much closer to shore, in regions that are not subject to territorial dispute.

The assessment, which took four years, found that the Arctic may hold as much as 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil reserves, and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This would amount to 13 percent of the world’s total undiscovered oil and about 30 percent of the undiscovered natural gas.

At today’s consumption rate of 86 million barrels a day, the potential oil in the Arctic could meet global demand for almost three years. The Arctic’s potential natural gas resources are three times bigger. That equals Russia’s proven gas reserves, which is the world’s largest.

The agency called the Arctic region “the largest unexplored prospective area for petroleum remaining on earth.”

The world currently holds 1.24 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves and 6,263 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves.

The findings also confirmed the pivotal role of Russia. Nearly two-thirds of the yet-to-be found natural gas resources are in two Russian provinces, the West Siberian Basin and the East Barents Basin, which straddles the territorial waters of Russia and Norway.

Speaking of Alaska, Mr. Gautier said: “It is the most obvious place to look for oil in the North Arctic right now. It is virtually certain that petroleum will be found there.”

Unlike much of the continental shelf off the lower 48 states, the Alaskan coast is generally open to oil exploration. This year, oil companies spent $2.6 billion to acquire leases on government-controlled offshore tracts.source

Gassing Up With Garbage

Published: July 24, 2008

After years of false starts, a new industry selling motor fuel made from waste is getting a big push in the United States, with the first commercial sales possible within months.

Many companies have announced plans to build plants that would take in material like wood chips, garbage or crop waste and turn out motor fuels. About 28 small plants are in advanced planning, under construction or, in a handful of cases, already up and running in test mode.

For decades scientists have known it was possible to convert waste to fuel, but in an era of cheap oil, it made little sense. With oil now trading around $125 a barrel and gasoline above $4 a gallon, the potential economics of a waste-to-fuel industry have shifted radically, setting off a frenzy to be first to market.

Success is far from assured, however. Some of the latest announcements come from small companies whose dreams may be bigger than their bank accounts. They are counting on billions in taxpayer subsidies. Big technological hurdles remain, and even if they can be solved, no one is sure what unintended consequences will emerge or what it will really cost to produce this type of fuel.

Still, the incentive to make fuel from something, anything, besides oil and food is greater than ever. Moreover, the federal government is offering grants to help plants get off the ground and subsidies for one type of fuel of $1.01 a gallon, twice the subsidy it historically offered to ethanol made from corn.

Virtually any material containing hydrogen, carbon and oxygen could potentially be turned into motor fuel. That includes plastics, construction debris, forest and lawn trimmings, wood chips, wheat straw and many other types of agricultural waste.

The potential fuels include ethanol, which can be blended with gasoline, or other liquids that could displace gasoline or diesel entirely. Government studies suggest the country could potentially replace half its gasoline supply in this way — even more if cars became more efficient.

The government is pushing to get the industry off the ground. Legislation passed last year mandates the use of 36 billion gallons of biofuels a year by 2022, less than half of it from corn ethanol. Almost all the rest is supposed to come from nonfood sources, though the requirement could be waived if the industry faltered.

Much of the new money flowing into the field is coming from Silicon Valley, where the venture capitalists who gave the world the Internet revolution see an opportunity to do something similar with the fuel supply.

At Solazyme, a start-up in South San Francisco that hopes to commercialize a process for making fuel from algae, President Harrison F. Dillon said, “When we founded the company in 2003, we couldn’t find a venture capital firm that had heard of the concept of a biofuel.” Now he is backed by two such firms.

One of the first companies to bring a plant online is KL Process Design Group, in Wyoming. With experience making corn ethanol plants, it has built a small plant meant to use pine wastes from a nearby national forest. The company is still testing its production line but hopes to begin commercial sales of ethanol late this year.

Range Fuels, of Denver, is building a commercial-scale plant in Soperton, Ga., with help from the Energy Department. That plant will take pine chips and turn them into ethanol, with commercial sales expected by late 2009 or 2010.

Some companies want to use garbage. On Friday, a company called Fulcrum BioEnergy said it would start construction later this year on a $120 million plant at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, in Storey County, Nev., to make 10.5 million gallons of ethanol a year from 90,000 tons of garbage. Operation would begin in early 2010.

In Montreal, another firm, Enerkem, plans to use arsenic-contaminated utility poles from the provincial electric company. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission approved a plan by BlueFire Ethanol to build a $30 million garbage-to-ethanol plant on 10 acres next to a landfill in Lancaster, Calif.; construction will start soon, the company said.

History provides plenty of warning that it will not be easy. A company called Verenium in Lafayette, La., has cut ribbons three times in one locale since 1998 on plants that would supposedly make fuel from sugar cane waste, and has yet to sell a drop because of problems converting laboratory success into smooth, commercial-scale operation.

The Energy Department early last year picked six projects as most likely to succeed, and offered each of them tens of millions of dollars.

General Motors has invested an undisclosed sum in two companies, Coskata, of Warrenville, Ill., and Mascoma, of Lebanon, N.H., that aim to turn crop wastes into ethanol.

DuPont, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, has joined forces with a company called Genencor, announcing plans to commercialize a process for making ethanol from the nonedible parts of corn and sugar cane. They plan to invest $140 million over three years.source


Hoping Two Drugs Carry a Side Effect: Longer Life

Published: July 22, 2008

The mice, subjects in studies of health and longevity, are kept in wire baskets under intensive nursing care. A mouse gym holds a miniature exercise machine that tests the rodents’ ability to balance on a rotating bar. In a nearby water maze, mice must recall visual cues to swim to safety on a hidden platform, a test of their powers of memory. Those that forget their lessons are rescued as they start to submerge and humanely dried out under a heat lamp, Dr. Sinclair assured his visitor.

Dr. Sinclair is a co-founder of Sirtris, a company that itself has been swimming in uncharted waters as it works to develop drugs that may extend the human life span. But it seemed to have found a safe platform last month when it was bought last month by the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million.

Sirtris has two drugs in clinical trials. One is being tested against Type 2 diabetes, one of the many diseases of aging that the company’s scientists hope the drugs will avert. With success against just one such disease, the impact on health “could be possibly transformational,” said Dr. Patrick Vallance, head of drug discovery at GlaxoSmithKline.

The new drugs are called sirtuin activators, meaning that they activate an enzyme called sirtuin. The basic theory is that all or most species have an ancient strategy for riding out famines: switch resources from reproduction to tissue maintenance. A healthy diet but with 30 percent fewer calories than usual triggers this reaction in mice and is the one intervention that reliably increases their life span. The mice seem to live longer because they are somehow protected from the usual diseases that kill them.

But most people cannot keep to a diet with a 30 percent cut in calories, so a drug that could activate the famine reflex might be highly desirable. Dr. Leonard Guarente, an M.I.T. biologist who founded the field of sirtuin biology, thinks the famine reflex is mediated through the sirtuin enzymes. Dr. Sinclair, his former student, discovered that sirtuins could be activated by drugs. The most potent activator that emerged from his screens was resveratrol, a natural substance found in red wine, though in amounts probably too low to be significant for health.

The Sirtris drug being tested in diabetic patients is a special formulation of resveratrol that delivers a bloodstream dose five times as high as the chemical alone. This drug, called SRT501, has passed safety tests and, at least in small-scale trials, has reduced the patients’ glucose levels.

The other drug is a small synthetic chemical that is a thousand times as potent as resveratrol in activating sirtuin and can be given at a much smaller dose. Safety tests in people have just started, with no adverse effects so far.

The hope is that activating sirtuins in people would, like a calorically restricted diet in mice, avert degenerative diseases of aging like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. There is no Food and Drug Administration category for longevity drugs, so if the company is to submit a drug for approval, it needs to be for a specific disease.

Nonetheless, longevity is what has motivated the researchers and what makes the drugs potentially so appealing.

Dr. Christoph Westphal, the chief executive of Sirtris, said of the potential of the drugs, “I think that if we are right, this could extend life span by 5 or 10 percent.”

Sirtris was founded in 2004 after Dr. Westphal, then working at a Boston venture capital firm, approached Dr. Sinclair. Because of widespread interest in the sirtuin activation idea, Dr. Westphal had little difficulty raising money and recruiting distinguished scientists to Sirtris’s advisory board.

He later decided to sell the company to GlaxoSmithKline, he said, because it was getting harder to raise money and clinical trials could proceed faster with the larger company’s resources. Sirtris was acquired at an 84 percent premium, better than the 50 percent at which most companies are bought, Dr. Westphal said.

The impact of Sirtris’s drugs, if successful, could extend beyond the drug industry. Dr. Guarente believes that many people might start taking them in middle age, though after having started a family because they may suppress fertility.

Mice on the drugs generally remain healthy right until the end of their lives and then just drop dead.

GlaxoSmithKline could put SRT501, its resveratrol formulation, on the market right away, selling it as a natural compound and nutritional pharmaceutical that does not require approval by the F.D.A. “We haven’t made any decisions, but that clearly is an option,” Dr. Vallance said.

If GlaxoSmithKline decides instead to seek F.D.A. approval, it will need to prove that resveratrol is safe in the large doses required for efficacy. Resveratrol seems to exert many influences on the body, some of which are not exerted through sirtuin. “None of us should be naïve enough to think resveratrol won’t have multiple effects, including some you don’t want,” Dr. Vallance said.

In initial tests in mice, resveratrol has doubled muscular endurance, lowered the bad form of cholesterol, protected against various bad effects of a high-fat diet and suppressed colon cancer. New reports are confirming some of these benefits, but others are ambiguous or puzzling.

According to a study published on July 3 in the journal Cell Metabolism by Dr. Sinclair and Dr. Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute on Aging, resveratrol given to aging mice reduced their cataracts, strengthened their bones, improved coordination and enhanced their health in several other ways. Yet despite their better health, the mice lived no longer than usual.source

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