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Microsoft, Meta, others face rising drought risk to their data centers

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Drought conditions are worsening in the U.S., and that is having an outsized impact on the real estate that houses the internet.

Data centers generate massive amounts of heat through their servers because of the enormous amount of power they use. Water is the cheapest and most common method used to cool the centers.

In just one day, the average data center could use 300,000 gallons of water to cool itself — the same water consumption as 100,000 homes, according to researchers at Virginia Tech who also estimated that one in five data centers draws water from stressed watersheds mostly in the west.

“There is, without a doubt, risk if you’re dependent on water,” said Kyle Myers, vice president of environmental health, safety & sustainability at CyrusOne, which owns and operates over 40 data centers in North America, Europe, and South America. “These data centers are set up to operate 20 years, so what is it going to look like in 2040 here, right?”

CyrusOne is formerly a REIT, but was purchased this year by investment firms KKR and Global Infrastructure Partners. When the company moved into the drought-stricken Phoenix area, it used a different, albeit more expensive method of cooling.

“That was sort of our ‘aha moment.’ where we had to make a decision. We changed our design to go to zero consumption water, so that we didn’t have that sort of risk,” said Myers.

 Realizing the water risk in New Mexico, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, ran a pilot program on its Los Lunas data center to reduce relative humidity from 20% to 13%, lowering water consumption. It has since implemented this in all of its center.

But Meta’s overall water consumption is still rising steadily, with one fifth of that water last year coming from areas deemed to have “water stress,” according to its website. It does actively restore water and set a goal last year to restore more water than it consumes by 2030, starting in the west.

Microsoft has also set a goal to be “water positive” by 2030.

 “The good news is we’ve been investing for years in ongoing innovation in this space so that fundamentally we can recycle almost all of the water we use in our data centers,” said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft. “In places where it rains, like the Pacific Northwest where we’re headquartered in Seattle, we collect rain from the roof. In places where it doesn’t rain like Arizona, we develop condensation techniques.”

While companies with their own data centers can do that, so-called co-location data centers that lease to multiple clients are increasingly being bought by private equity firms in search of high-growth real estate.

There are currently about ,1800 co-location data centers in the U.S., and that number is growing, as data centers are some of the hottest real estate around, offering big returns to investors. But the risk from drought is only getting worse. Just over half (50.46%) of the nation is in drought conditions, and over 60% of the lower 48 states, according to the latest reading from the U.S. Drought Monitor. That is a 9% increase from just one month ago. Much of the west and Midwest in ‘severe’ drought.

“We need to innovate our way out of the climate crisis. The better we innovate the cheaper it becomes, and the faster we’ll move to reaching these climate goals,” added Smith.

 



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Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather crypto scam lawsuit dismissed

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A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit by investors against the founders of the cryptocurrency EthereumMax, as well as celebrity endorsers including Kim Kardashian and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. over their promotion of the cryptocurrency on social media.

Investors who bought EMAX tokens alleged they had suffered losses after taking the word of the celebrity influencers about the value of the crypto. The suit claims the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to artificially inflate the value of the EMAX tokens.

Judge Michael Fitzgerald wrote that he recognized that the lawsuit’s claims raised legitimate worries about “celebrities’ ability to readily persuade millions of undiscerning followers to buy snake oil with unprecedented ease and reach.”

“But, while the law certainly places limits on those advertisers, it also expects investors to act reasonably before basing their bets on the zeitgeist of the moment,” wrote Fitzgerald, of the Central District of California.

The judge found that the plaintiffs’ allegations were insufficiently backed, especially “given the heightened pleading standards” for fraud claims, according to his ruling in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

In addition to Kardashian, Mayweather and former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce, the defendants in the case included Steve Gentile and Giovanni Perone, the co-founders of EthereumMax, and Justin French, a consultant and developer for the cryptocurrency, court documents state.

Fitzgerald in his ruling said he would allow lawyers for the plaintiffs to refile their suit after amending some of their claims under a number of the statutes cited in the original complaint, which included the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO.

“We’re pleased with the court’s well-reasoned decision on the case,” Michael Rhodes, a lawyer for Kardashian, told CNBC.

The dismissal came weeks after investors in fallen crypto exchange FTX filed a class-action lawsuit against former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and celebrity advertisers for the company, among them NFL superstar Tom Brady, for allegedly overstating the value of the crypto tokens in promotional messaging.

And the ruling came two months after Kardashian agreed to pay $1.26 million, and not to promote cryptocurrency for three years, to settle claims by the SEC for her failure to disclose a $250,000 payment touting EthereumMax on her Instagram account.

Fitzgerald in his ruling Wednesday said the EthereumMax lawsuit reflects a broader conflict surrounding celebrity and influencer promotional schemes.

“This action demonstrates that just about anyone with the technical skills and/or connections can mint a new currency and create their own digital market overnight,” Fitzgerald wrote in his dismissal.

Investors sued EthereumMax and its celebrity advertisers in January after a slew of influencers started snagging sponsorships to promote cryptocurrencies to their millions of social media followers.

Kardashian’s Instagram post in June 2021 had written, “Are you guys into crypto??? This is not financial advice but sharing what my friends told me about the Ethereum Max token.”

Her post included “#ad” at the bottom, indicating she had been sponsored. But it did not disclose her $250,000 payment from EthereumMax.

Mayweather promoted EMAX at a boxing match and a large Miami bitcoin conference in June 2021.

But by January, the cryptocurrency had lost 97% of its value.

Fitzgerald at a hearing last month indicated he was inclined to dismiss the case.

Bloomberg News, in an article about that hearing, said that an attorney for the plaintiffs in the suit asked the judge to allow him to revise the suit’s racketeering claims to show how the statements by the celebrity defendants harmed the investors.

“If plaintiffs had known the true facts related to the promoters’ financial interest in the tokens, and that they were being paid to shill these tokens, they wouldn’t have paid as much for the tokens as they did,” the attorney, John Jasnoch, told Fitzgerald, according to a transcript cited by Bloomberg.



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Cathie Wood says the Fed is making a serious mistake as bond market flashes worst signal since 1980s

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How the U.S. became a global corn superpower

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The United States has just about 90 million planted acres of corn, and there’s a reason people refer to the crop as yellow gold.

In 2021, U.S. corn was worth over $86 billion, according to calculations from FarmDoc and the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA, the U.S. is largest consumer, producer and exporter of corn in the world.

“We’re really good at [corn production],” Seth Meyer, chief economist at the USDA, told CNBC. “And that’s why you see big acres, big demand, export competitiveness.”

It’s not just what we eat.

“We turbocharged the value of corn through the application of science,” Scott Irwin, agricultural economist and professor at the University of Illinois, told CNBC.

Corn is in what we buy, including medications and textiles, and corn is turned into ethanol, which helps to fuel cars across the nation.

The rest of the world relies on U.S. corn, too. 

At $2.2 billion in 2019, corn is the most heavily subsidized of all crops in the country.

“A lot of these subsidies … do get embedded into the cost of farmland and they essentially bid up the price of farmland marginally,” Joseph Glauber, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and former USDA chief economist, told CNBC. “So the benefits accrue largely to those who own land.”

The federal crop insurance program’s net spending is forecast to increase to nearly $40 billion from 2021 through 2025, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

At the same time, farmland values have reached all-time record highs.

“Do we get the corn acres because we’ve got the support, or do we have the support because we have the corn acres?” Meyer said, posing the chicken-and-egg question about the nation’s grain superpower.

Watch the video above to learn more about how corn fuels the U.S. economy from its people to its vehicles, the power of the corn belt states, the role of subsidies and where government policy for the industry may go from here.



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