Are Amazon Jobs Worth 1,400 Loads of Traffic? French Region Is Split


FOURNÈS, France — On a sultry September morning, Claudie Cortellini headed into the vineyards to survey the grapes that go into her family’s heady Côtes du Rhône wines. In recent years, she has fought to ensure a good harvest as the climate grows warmer. But these days, she is facing an even bigger foe: a giant Amazon sorting center slated for construction near her land.

The project, a concrete-and-steel behemoth that would span nine acres, promises to bring hundreds of jobs to the Gard, an agricultural region in the south of France. Tourists are drawn to the countryside to see a landmark of monumental beauty: the Pont du Gard, a 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct that rises above the valley like a dusty jewel.

For Mrs. Cortellini and worried residents, however, the jobs are not worth the pollution and explosion in traffic the Amazon warehouse would bring.

The weedy plot carved out for Amazon — strategically near a six-lane highway — has become a point of contention in a bigger battle between rising environmental political forces and officials who say France can hardly afford to pass up opportunities for economic development, especially during a historically deep recession brought on by the coronavirus.

The Gard, despite picture-postcard beauty, has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. To people desperate for work, the environmental push to thwart Amazon — pointing to the stream of delivery trucks it will generate — seems out of touch with the hardscrabble reality facing families in the region.

If big tech is about to get split, consider Alphabet stock


Antitrust actions among corporations, particularly those in the tech industry, have received increased attention recently. Many politicians are explicitly calling for the breakup of some of the biggest tech companies out there.

Alphabet is one of many firms targeted by government officials for antitrust scrutiny, even under the administration of supposedly business-friendly President Donald Trump. It is believed that the Justice Department will soon file an antitrust suit against Alphabet related to its dominance in internet search.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has stopped short of saying he would break up any company over alleged antitrust actions. Nonetheless, Biden has called for more stringent antitrust scrutiny. The possibility of such actions fuels speculation over expanded antitrust investigations.

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Despite this news, the impact on some of these companies from an investor standpoint remains unclear. History suggests that tech stock investors should look at potential breakups as an opportunity to unlock value in a company. Let’s take a closer look at how this would affect Alphabet and see if history has anything to say about its situation.

Alphabet and antitrust

Although an antitrust lawsuit may pressure the stock for a time, antitrust actions are not necessarily negative for investors. The dirty secret about breakups is they have a history of creating new companies that lead to more investor gains.

This is exactly what happened when the government tore Standard Oil apart, the one-time parent of Exxon, Chevron, Marathon Oil, BP, and others, in 1911. The breakup of the old AT&Tin 1982 confirmed that tendency. The current AT&T (which was previously SBC Communications), Verizon and Lumen (formerly CenturyLink) came about due to that partition. In both cases,

Researchers use membranes that remove salt from water to help ‘split’ sea water into fuel


Generating renewable hydrogen fuel from the sea
Here is a visual representation of how ion movement is affected by a reverse osmosis (RO) membrane versus a cation-exchange membrane. Chloride ions from the seawater are not able to pass through the RO membrane and oxidize into chlorine gas. Credit: Logan Research Group

The power of the sun, wind and sea may soon combine to produce clean-burning hydrogen fuel, according to a team of Penn State researchers. The team integrated water purification technology into a new proof-of-concept design for a sea water electrolyzer, which uses an electric current to split apart the hydrogen and oxygen in water molecules.

This new method for “sea water splitting” could make it easier to turn wind and solar energy into a storable and portable fuel, according to Bruce Logan, Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering and Evan Pugh University Professor.

“Hydrogen is a great fuel, but you have to make it,” Logan said. “The only sustainable way to do that is to use renewable energy and produce it from water. You also need to use water that people do not want to use for other things, and that would be sea water. So, the holy grail of producing hydrogen would be to combine the sea water and the wind and solar energy found in coastal and offshore environments.”

Despite the abundance of sea water, it is not commonly used for water splitting. Unless the water is desalinated prior to entering the electrolyzer—an expensive extra step—the chloride ions in sea water turn into toxic chlorine gas, which degrades the equipment and seeps into the environment.

To prevent this, the researchers inserted a thin, semipermeable membrane, originally developed for purifying water in the reverse osmosis (RO) treatment process. The RO membrane replaced the ion-exchange membrane commonly used in electrolyzers.

“The idea behind RO is that you