Saturday, April 15, 2017

Oil demand growth slows for second year; Robots to replace one-third UK jobs in 20 years; Free water from thin air

1 Oil demand growth slows for second year (BBC) Demand for oil is expected to slow for the second year in a row, the International Energy Agency has said. The forecast comes after years of excess supply, which last year prompted major oil producers to agree to cuts in output.

The IEA said the oil market was now "very close to balance." But the organisation predicted supply would grow in coming months, with US oil-producing firms driving the increase.

The IEA said it expected non-Opec production, of which the US and Russia account for the biggest chunk, to rise by 485,000 barrels a day in 2017 to a total of 58.1 million barrels a day.

US production had already climbed to 9 million barrels a day in March, up from a September low of 8.6 million barrels per day. The IEA said it expects demand to increase by just 1.3 million barrels a day in 2017, rising to a total of about 97.9 million barrels a day.

2 Robots to replace one-third UK jobs in 20 years (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) A leading thinktank has urged the UK government to spend billions of pounds helping poorly skilled workers in the less prosperous parts of the UK cope with the threat of the looming robot revolution.

The left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said more than 10m jobs in the UK – a third of the total – are thought to be at risk from automation within the next two decades and the scale of the challenge required urgent action.

There was also evidence to suggest that the impact of automation would be geographically concentrated and so widen the north-south divide. The IPPR research said that in four sectors alone – retail, hospitality, transport and manufacturing – 5m jobs were at risk, adding that a particular concern to ministers should be industries ripe for automation with a high proportion of workers least able to adapt.

The thinktank noted that adults who had left full-time education without GCSE-level qualifications were almost twice as likely as graduates to be unemployed a year after being made redundant – making them especially in need of help to retrain.

3 Free water from thin air (Dave Chambers in Johannesburg Times) To drought-hit areas it sounds like the holy grail: a device that extracts water from air using only the power of the sun. But scientists in the US have proved it can be done‚ even when humidity is as low as 20% — a level common in arid areas.

Their prototype “water harvester” extracted 2.8 litres of water from air in 12 hours‚ the scientists reported in the journal Science this week. “This is a major breakthrough in the long-standing challenge of harvesting water from the air at low humidity‚” said Omar Yaghi‚ one of two senior authors of the paper.

“There is no other way to do that right now‚ except by using extra energy. Your electric dehumidifier at home ‘produces’ very expensive water.” Yaghi’s prototype uses a material he invented 20 years ago‚ a metal-organic framework (MOF)‚ which combines metals such as magnesium or aluminium with organic molecules to create rigid‚ porous structures ideal for storing gases and liquids.

“One vision for the future is to have water off-grid‚ where you have a device at home running on ambient solar for delivering water that satisfies the needs of a household‚” said Yaghi. “To me‚ that will be made possible because of this experiment. I call it personalised water.”

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