Coconut Water may not be Worth the Hype as Previously Thought

Every now and then, a certain type of food makes headlines after research suggests that it is rich in antioxidants and contains nutrients that can fight off disease and premature aging. Some of these foods include pink salmon, wild berries, dark chocolate and flax seeds. For the most part, most of these foods are well deserving of its reputation. However, once in a while, some foods and supplements also make it on the list that could probably benefit from a little more research before it earns a spot among the list of wonder foods.

Coconut water is one beverage that is being touted for its health benefits though some experts are beginning to suspect that most of the claims by manufacturers are mostly fluff and hype. Most brands of coconut water are derived from the liquid in ripe green coconuts. To enhance the flavor, sugar and additional ingredients have been added in some brands.

Coconuts contain a high amount of potassium, so coconut water found on store shelves do actually contain some nutritional benefits. The problem is whether the benefits warrant the high cost. A 14 ounce bottle of the beverage from a popular brand can run as high as $3.50. You have to wonder whether such a beverage is worth that price when other foods like bananas and potatoes contain just as much potassium and are also much cheaper.

At an annual meeting held by the American Chemical Society, researchers submitted findings that showed that coconuts also contain electrolytes, which makes it a useful pre and post workout beverage. It is also a low glycemic food, which means it will not cause your blood sugar to spike.

Coconut is a legitimate health food; as long as you choose a brand of coconut water that is sugar-free and have no issue with the high price tag, then it is something that you can definitely benefit from. Just keep in mind that the nutritional content found in coconuts can also be easily found in most other foods at a much lower cost.

Let the Dead Sea Live

The water level in the Dead Sea is dropping nearly 4 feet (1.2 meters) per year. Israel is campaigning to have the Dead Sea – the earth’s lowest point and repository of precious minerals – named one of the natural wonders of the world. And at the same time, it is in a race to stabilize what it deems “The world’s largest natural spa” so hotels on its southern end are not swamped and tourists may continue to bask and float in the lake’s therapeutic waters.

Alon Tal an Israeli researcher says that:

“In five to 10 years, (the water) would flood the hotel lobbies, no question.”

The Dead Sea is divided into a southern and northern basin, located at different elevations, largely disconnected and miles (kilometers) apart. This means the rising waters of the southern basin cannot pour into the shrinking basin in the north.

Heavy industrialization is the cause of the waters on the southern basin to rise. A few chemical companies have built evaporation pools there to extract lucrative minerals. Tons and tons of salt are left annually on the floor of these pools, causing the water to rise 8 inches (20 centimeters) per year.

Israel’s tourism and environmental protection ministers are endorsing Tal’s proposal: An intricate $2 billion plan to chip off the salt buildup on the part of the lake which is rising and send it by conveyor belt to the northern end which is shrinking.

Obama Backs Away From Federal Wilderness Protection

Under much duress from Congress, the Obama administration is backing away from a plan to turn millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West into the federal wilderness protection.

Ken Salazar, interior secretary said in a memo last Wednesday his agency won’t designate any of those public lands as “wild lands“. Instead, Salazar said that officials will be working in concert with members of Congress to develop recommendations for managing millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West.

A budget deal approved by Congress prevented the Interior Department from spending money to implement the wilderness policy. GOP lawmakers complained that the plan would circumvent Congress’ authority and easily be used for declaring a vast swath of public land off-limits to oil-and-gas drilling.

Republican governors in Alaska, Utah and Wyoming, filed suit to block the move, claiming that it would injure their state’s economies by taking federal lands off the table for mineral production and the like.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah said:

“Since the majority of land in Utah is owned by the federal government, it is critically important to strike a balance between the needs of our local communities and the protection of public lands that truly do have wilderness characteristics rather than pandering to environmental extremists…Today’s announcement is a positive step toward restoring that balance…Without strong and decisive action from the Department of Interior, wilderness will not be given the protection it is due, putting millions of acres of public lands at risk…”

Atlas Shrugged

Notwithstanding that China produces 95% of the world’s rare earth minerals, they are home to only 37% of the world’s reserves. Considerable deposits are in the United States, Canada, India, Australia and Brazil.

Let’s focus on mining possibilities in North America, shall we?

In an alarmed response to the recent embargo, countries like Canada and the United States are dashing to develop new mines and renovate old ones.

But according to experts, any new production efforts are five years away at best. Not to mention that it will take an environmental cost calculus of its own – mountaintop removal mining is one example.

“In China, rare earth mines have scarred valleys by stripping topsoil and pumping thousands of gallons of acid into streambeds.”

Reported Keith Bradsher of the New York Times.

The only rare earth metal mine in America, the Molycorp complex at Mountain Pass, California, was once the world’s leading producer. This was before when in the late 1990s it leaked radioactive fluid into the neighboring desert, causing an expensive cleanup.

By the time of Molycorp’s closing in 2002, low Chinese prices made the mine less practicable.

Now, after raising money in a public stock offering last summer, the firm is hoping to re-establish the mine with higher environmental and safety standards.
The metal mines of southern China are free of thorium and have rare earths easily separated from the clay by dumping the ore in acid. Though, this relatively easy process, and financial burden on the world market is leading to the development of countless illegal mines, selling to organized crime syndicates who pay for rare earth concentrate with raw cash.

The Canadian firm, Avalon Rare Metals is developing $899m project in the Northwest Territories of Canada. According to the firm’s CEO, Don Bubar, Avalon is:

“Five years down a 10–year timeline toward getting its rare earth deposit into production.”

Other Canadian companies, like Great Western Minerals Group and Quest Rare Minerals also have domestic projects lined up. With about 70 rare earth exploration companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, there is now scouting happening everywhere from British Columbia to New Brunswick. Meanwhile, in the next three years, Great Western Minerals intends to start production utilizing minerals from a mine in South Africa.

Enjoy the showdown.

Heavy Metal: More Business For China

“Seventeen metals on the periodic table of elements are the commotion from Tokyo to Washington, D.C.”

Writes Catherine Ngai of National Geographic.

Rare-earth metals or REMs are composed of element number 21, scandium; number 39, yttrium; and the 15 lanthanides, numbers 57-71, on the periodic table. They are often found in clusters, but you would not call them rare.

These metals are crucial ingredients in making motors and batteries for hybrid and electric cars, Low energy light bulbs, solar panels and wind turbines.

And outside of the green energy forum, they are crux also in the art of weapons building. “Smart bombs” which use neodymium-iron-boron magnets to control their direction when dropped out of an aircraft, yttrium-aluminum-garnet used in determining the range of enemy targets at far distances, lasers that employ neodymium and neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnets used for sound system components utilized in psychological warfare are among their numerous practical uses.

The only U.S. mine, near the Mojave National Preserve in Mountain Pass, California, became inactive in 2002 after 50 years of production, due to economic and environmental issues.

The Chevron-owned mine was taken over in 2008 by Molycorp Minerals LLC. A company that spent more than $400,000 since 2008 lobbying Congress about rare-earth minerals.

In 2009, 90% of the U.S. imports for rare-earth metals were from China, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Though, according to USGS, the figure this year is 9%.

Consumption of the products which use rear-earth metals has decreased radically during the economic downturn, according to a USGS report. A 55% decrease from $186 million imported in 2008, in 2009, the estimated value of these products imported by the United States was $84 million, a 55% decrease from $186 million imported in 2008.

On the other hand, looking toward the future, the demand for rare-earth minerals would rise as electric cars and more alternative energy and efficiency applications comes on the market. There is a rumor that China plans to stop exporting their metals in 2012, reserving them for their own economic exansion, though this stands to be verified.

China now exports roughly 30,000 tons a year; only one-fourth of the world demand.

In order to facilitate the building of more “green” technology, the world will require 200,000 tons of rare earth elements by 2014.

One solution is to offer China an incentive by spawning more imaginative green technology ideas. This is if lobbying Congress to utilize whatever is at America’s disposal proves ineffectual, or if that supply eventually vanishes.