Energy Storage: The Necessary Link between Renewable Energy and the Grid

As global warming coupled with resource depletion becomes a greater concern, renewable energies, especially solar and wind, are gaining the spotlight as the ultimate energy source of the future. Currently, as most people are aware, there are limitations to renewable energies that make them less desirable – limitations such as high cost, quantity of generation, and unreliable energy output. The reason that the quantity and reliability of renewable energy generation is important is because the renewables must generate this electricity to be sent to the grid in real time, meaning that the renewables must meet the current demand at any time while the production itself from these is highly variable, as seen in the form of wind power generation in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Wind Power Generation 

All in all, this sheds some light on the inherent issues behind renewable energies. Fortunately, there is the possibility of closing these gaps in energy production through energy storage, mostly electrochemically. The NREL created a report that essentially presented what impacts energy storage would have in regards to renewable electricity generation. The NREL categorizes energy storage into three different classes: power quality, bridging power, and energy management. These three only differ in the amount of time it takes to discharge the energy stored in the devices. Figure 2 shows most of the batteries and storage technologies used for larger energy storage along with their discharge times.


Figure 2. Devices used for large energy storage

Typically, batteries are very expensive for use in any industrial process. The two energy storage techniques with the largest storage capacity, compressed air and pumped hydro, use similar techniques in that they both force air or water to a higher energy level and then run a turbine to get the energy back out of the substance. Both, however, require specific geological scenarios to be effectively economical without having to recreate ideal settings. Notice that neither of these are electrochemical storage devices. Because of the need for energy storage for renewables, NREL has seen a dramatic increase in energy storage research since the 1970s.

One emerging electrochemical storage device that came out of research is something called the liquid battery, created in Dr. Donald Sadoway’s lab at MIT. Sadoway and a post-doc created a company, now known as Ambri, to further research with the hopes of commercialization. As seen in Sadoway’s TED talk, the liquid battery would be made out of common metals, making it economical, and has proven to be scalable to meet energy capacity needs.


Figure 3. The simplified liquid battery

If they can pull this off, it would essentially revolutionize the argument for renewables.

What is your experience with energy storage techniques? Would better energy storage make us turn to renewable energy faster? Could energy storage benefit other industries? Have you ever heard of the Liquid Battery? What do you think the consequences would be if Ambri succeeds in creating an affordable, scalable energy storage device?

Alternative Energy, Energy

Could Wind Power Be The True Answer To The Energy Crisis?

With the growing fear of fossil fuel depletion and that fossil fuels are destroying our planet, many people have been trying to determine a easy, safe alternative that can be as reliable as fossil fuels. Fossil fuels not only destroy our environment when burnt, but also can lead to pollution when extracting them. Specifically, offshore drilling for oil is a practice that has already shown can lead to catastrophic leaks into our oceans. What many people do not think about that can also be harvested offshore with no risk to our environment is wind power.

We have all heard about the wonders of creating renewable energy from wind. The idea of wind power is pretty amazing and it is a resource that will never run out. The one major draw back of wind power is that you can only generate power when you have wind. So this technology can only be utilized in places that are in fact very windy. This is the major set back of this technology that has kept it from being a major source of power for our country.

With many of the oil crisis’ that have occurred in our country, a push towards renewable energy has occurred from our government. Many market-based incentives, such as business and residential tax credits, created a market for non-utility-produced electric power through the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) in 1978. There were also many acts passed that supported the further expansion and use of wind energy, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Like I said earlier, the use of offshore wind power could help reduce our use of oil and other fossil fuels. On the Atlantic Coast alone, offshore wind has the potential to produce almost 30 percent more electricity than offshore oil and gas resources combined. The only problem with the offshore wind power is that it can be intermittent and unpredictable. Scientists at MIT may have found a solution for this problem called Ocean Renewable Energy Storage system or ORES. This system is essentially an underwater pumped hydraulic system. The key point of this system is the placement of concrete spheres on the seafloor under the wind turbines. These spheres can act as both an anchor and a storage device for the energy generated. Whenever the turbines produce more power than is needed at the time, the power is diverted to a pump which pumps seawater from the sphere. When the power is needed later, water is then allowed to flow back into the sphere through a turbine attached to a generator, and the electricity generated can be sent back to shore. One thousand of these spheres could replace a conventional on-shore coal or nuclear power plant.

What are your views on wind power? Do you think that it would be advantageous to utilize wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean? Have you ever heard of ORES? What do you think the disadvantages of these ORES systems or wind power overall? If not for wind, do you think that the technology for the ORES system would be advantageous to use with other forms of renewables?

Food and environmental safety

Should Genetically Engineered Foods Be Labeled?

Everyone needs food to survive, but what happens when food becomes scarce? An answer to that question could be genetically engineered foods, GE foods. GE foods are “plants that have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content” (“Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful”). Today a large amount of GE foods are grown world wide, with the United States being the lead producer (“GM Crops around the World in 2011”). According to “Genetically Modified Foods: Get the Facts” , “as much as 80% of all packaged foods contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms)”, but due to the Food and Drug Administration’s GE food labeling policy you might not even know it.


Amount of GE foods grown world wide (“GM Crops around the World in 2011”).

In 1992, the United States Food and Drug Administration put into affect its policy on genetically engineered foods. “This policy provides that foods developed through genetic modification are not inherently dangerous and, except in rare cases, should not require extraordinary pre-market testing and regulation” (Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation). According to Gertsberg, this means, “genetically modified foods are regulated as ordinary foods, and not food additives, unless they contain substances or demonstrate attributes that are not usual for the product”. In short, the regulation only requires companies to label their food if substances are added or altered within the food and change the natural make-up of the product. Many American’s felt that this regulation was not stringent enough and the Just Label It movement began.

The Just Label It movement wants there to be a change in the labeling of GE foods. In September 2011, the Just Label It movement created a legal petition that was filed demanding the FDA to require labeling on all GE foods (currently 1.3 million people have signed the petition). According to their statistics more than 60 nations have labeling regulations, but the U.S. does not, even though 91% of Americans support the mandatory labeling of GE foods. The main argument associated with the Just Label It movement is that Americans have a right to know what is in the food they consume. Many parents are also concerned with introducing new genes into plants that could potentially create a new allergen and harm their children (“Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful”). Along with allergen concerns, some activists are also concerned with the effects that GE foods will have on the environment (“Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful”).


Facts based on the American population according to Just Label It (“Just Label It”).

In contrast with the Just Label It movement there are “an array of groups in many mainstream agribusiness, the grocery industry, and the biotech industry” that oppose the labeling of GE foods (“To Label or Not to Label”). These groups are mainly opposed to labeling simply because they are concerned about Americans not understanding the labels and in turn not purchasing there food (“To Label or Not to Label”). This is a problem because “labels on GE food imply a warning about health effects, whereas no significant differences between GE and conventional foods have been detected” (“Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods”).

Currently there has not been a change in the national FDA regulation on genetically modified foods, but in 2001 the FDA released Guidance for Industry: Voluntary Labeling Indicating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Developed Using Bioengineering; Draft Guidance (FDA). Image

Examples of voluntary labeling (“Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods”)

This guidance is not nationally required by any food production company, but is highly encouraged by the FDA. That being said, “nearly half of all U.S. states have introduced bills requiring labeling” (State Labeling Initiatives”). Meaning that companies are required to follow each states bill on labeling GE foods. Unfortunately Georgia is not one of these states, but there is a statewide movement asking that genetically engineered foods be labeled. In the end there will always be people who are for or against genetically engineered foods, but it is up to oneself to learn the facts and politics associated with GE foods before they make a decision on whether they should be labeled.

What did you previously know about GE foods? Did you know that there was controversy surrounding the labeling of GE foods? Do you think that GE foods should be labeled? Do you think GE foods would be good for the future? Does it surprise you that the FDA has not changed the regulation? Do you think the Georgia should pass a GE food labeling bill?


Guide to U.S. Regulation of Genetically Modified Food and Agricultural Biotechnology Products:

Sign the Just Label It petition:

Sign the Georgia petition to label GE foods:


Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation, p. 147 (2000), available at

FDA. Guidance for Industry: Voluntary Labeling Indicating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Developed Using Bioengineering; Draft Guidance. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <;.

“Genetically Modified Foods: Get the Facts.” The Dr. Oz Show. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <;.

“Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?” Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful? N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <;.

Gertsberg, Deniza. GMO News and Analysis Food Safety Politics GMO Journal RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <;.

“GM Crops around the World in 2011.” The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <;.

“Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods.” Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <;.

“State Labeling Initiatives.” Center for Food Safety. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <;.

“To Label or Not to Label.” EHP. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <;.

Food and environmental safety

What is actually safe to eat?

A couple of weeks ago, it seemed that in every class I was hearing about a new foodborne illness outbreak. Every teacher warned me of a different exposure route, but the majority of them were with contaminated seafood.  If you look towards the news, you would see that every couple months over the past few years there has been a new outbreak. A website known as “Food Safety News” is constantly posting new stories pertaining to foodborne illness outbreaks.


Formaldehyde Found in Seafood (Source: Food Safety News)

If you look at the majority of these stories on the “Food Safety News” website, you can see a pattern. Almost every foodborne illness story is related to the importation of specific foods or spices from other countries. This made me wonder who has control over inspecting and ensuring the safety of our imported foods. I found that the Food and Drug Administration was given the authority to ensure the safety of our food by the U.S. Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This act states “importers of food products intended for introduction into U.S. interstate commerce are responsible for ensuring that the products are safe, sanitary, and labeled according to U.S. requirements. (All imported food is considered to be interstate commerce.)”

The FDA’s website goes on further to say, “FDA is not authorized under the law to approve, certify, license, or otherwise sanction individual food importers, products, labels, or shipments. Importers can import foods into the United States without prior sanction by FDA, as long as the facilities that produce, store, or otherwise handle the products are registered with FDA, and prior notice of incoming shipments is provided to FDA.

Imported food products are subject to FDA inspection when offered for import at U.S. ports of entry. FDA may detain shipments of products offered for import if the shipments are found not to be in compliance with U.S. requirements. Both imported and domestically-produced foods must meet the same legal requirements in the United States.”

Further investigation into the FDA shows that there are many different programs and fail safes in place to ensure the quality of the food being imported, but still things slip past. It is impossible for the FDA and the port authority to search and test every shipment that enters the U.S., which makes it very difficult to ensure the quality of food that U.S. citizens are accustomed to.

A recent article by NPR,  “Fish and Spices top list of imported foods that make us sick”  tells of a different cause to the spread of foodborne illnesses. This article says, “Since the late 1990s the amount of food that’s imported has doubled and the number of outbreaks has mirrored that”. It goes on to explain that it is not the food coming in, but the quantities in which they are being consumed. Approximately 15% of all food on U.S. tables is imported from other countries, which makes it very difficult for the FDA to inspect all of it. In turn a new act was implemented in 2011, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which focuses on preventing contamination instead of responding to it. This is a completely new approach at tackling the problem of foodborne illness.

As consumers in the U.S. market do you feel safer with all these new regulations and programs? Do you believe it is advantageous to think foodborne illness is mainly caused by consumer practices? ( e.g. food preparation safety) What foods won’t you eat after hearing about how they have caused food borne illness? After hearing about so many different food borne illnesses, do you think you will change your eating habits? If not, why? Do you think the FDA should try a new approach at ensuring our safety or are they current doing all they can?

Alternative Energy, Energy

Energy in the current?

Over the past few years, there has been a major push towards transitioning to a renewable energy source that can keep this country going. The main renewable ideas that have been highly publicized include solar, wind and minimally biofuels, but there are still multiple options that are still available.

One of these new innovative and renewable energy resources being investigated is within the currents of the ocean. We already know that the globe is covered with 70% of water, and there has already been research into using water for mills and other hydroelectricity technologies, but this is vastly different. This technique is Hydrokinetic Energy, and is just as it sounds; it harnesses the kinetic energy from the water. Deep in the ocean, as well as within other water sources, there is a natural flow, or current, moving the water. That current is constantly flowing, and although it is affected by many different variables, the currents are relatively consistent and flow in one direction. This new kind of energy source being studied could be very renewable and reliable, as we have water sources all around the globe that can reach almost everyone. It was estimated by the BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) that harnessing only 1/1000th of the energy available within the currents would supply 35% of Florida’s electrical needs.


Major Ocean Surface Currents (Source: NOAA)

One of the first techniques that has been researched to harness this energy is using a turbine system; placing these turbines deep in the ocean and letting the current do the work. These turbines require 5 knots of energy, or 5 mph of current, to get the blades moving in order to start the energy creation. As with all renewable resources, there are controversies. One of the main problems that has risen with these turbines is possible biological build-up as well as the potential to change to the marine ecosystems by creating a disturbance within natural lifecycles within the ocean.


Water turbines (Source Institute of Marine Affairs)

Ocean current has also been studied by the University of Michigan, but in a different way. They have created a “device that acts like a fish that turns the potentially destructive vibrations in water into clean, renewable energy.” What is so innovative about their design, named VIVACE (vortex induced vibrations for aquatic clean energy), is that it can create water in flowing water moving slower that two knots or two miles per hour, whereas the turbines already investigated need five to six knots. This is very ground breaking, as this device can be placed in oceans as well as rivers and other smaller water sources since it needs only a low speed of moving water.


VIVACE device (Source: University of Michigan; photo by Omar Jamil)

Although this device does not actually look like a fish, the horizontal cylinders placed in the current will “cause alternating vortices” which will “push and pull the passive cylinder up and down on its springs, creating mechanical energy. Then, the machine converts the mechanical energy into electricity.” Michael Bernitsas, a professor at the University of Michigan, stated that “if we could harness 0.1 percent of the energy in the ocean, we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people.”

Since 2004, ORPC (Ocean Renewable Power Company) has been involved in this newer source option by developing technology that uses “ocean and river currents to produce clean, predictable electricity to power our homes and businesses while protecting our environment.” The company includes local communities, universities, environmental agencies, fishing industry groups, and other major stakeholders in their work during each project. A major project this company has created was ORPC’s Maine Tidal Energy Project.  Starting in 2006, this project has brought in more than $21 million into the state’s economy and has created or helped retain more than 100 jobs in 13 Maine counties. This company has worked on projects in other places including Nova Scotia, Florida, and Alaska.

Have you heard about this potential source before? What do you think about Hydrokinetic energy versus hydroelectricity? Do you think this is something that could, after more research, become a potential energy source we will rely on?

Alternative Energy, Energy

Green Crude


The global oil supply has been a topic of heated debate in recent years. On one hand, there is the concern that oil reserves are being depleted and we will be without a heavily relied on resource in the near future. On the other hand, there is the notion that we must continue to seek additional oil reserves and to refine every last drop from current ones. According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, the global oil supply has increased since 2010. This statistics doesn’t amount to much, though, because “at today’s consumption rates, the world has proved reserves sufficient to meet current production for 54 years for oil.” (BP) The underlying issue of a dependency on a nonrenewable resource still remains. George W. Bush summed it up perfectly when he said, “America is addicted to oil.” The solution to this addiction isn’t to exhaust our efforts and bank accounts until we can deplete the last reserve, but rather to curb our dependency from a nonrenewable source to one that is more renewable and sustainable.

Sapphire Energy essentially mimics those natural processes that produced crude oil millions of years ago. This mimicry can occur in four different methods.At Sapphire Energy, numerous open algae ponds line the facility grounds. Algae absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide and through high temperatures and high pressures, oil is extracted. The chemical composition of algal oil is so similar to crude oil that it does not render existing infrastructure obsolete.

      Green Crude

Sapphire Energy is most recognized by the supportive role they played in Josh Tickell’s effort to educate the public about greener fuels. Josh Tickell is a proponent of alternative fuels, particularly in the transportation sector. He was first known for his nonprofit educational program, the Veggie Van Organization, as well as for his 2008 Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary, Fuel (2008).


In his film, Tickell travelled across the globe in his van that ran off of fryer oil. He is more recently known for his modified Toyota Prius known as Algaeus. Algaeus is a hybrid that runs off of electricity and algal biofuel from Sapphire Energy. The vehicle made it from coast to coast on 25 gallons of algal biofuel, averaging about 52 mpg. Tickell’s modified Prius challenged the largest concern of alternative fuel based vehicles, short range anxiety.


There have been numerous analyses performed on the efficiency and feasibility of algal biofuel production. According to a study published in Bioresource Technology journal, carbon dioxide emissions from algae fuel were capable of being 50-70% lower than emissions from oil. As is often the case with renewable or alternative energies, there is no practicality involved. The United States Department of Energy determined that only 30,000 square kilometers, or an area about half of the state of South Carolina, would be required to replace petroleum in the United States. This seems like a substantial amount of land; however, a study conducted at the Pacific Northwest National Lab concluded that algal production could be implemented in 14% of the United States, or an area the size of Texas and New Mexico.

There are current policies in place that already acknowledge algae. Two said policies are the Department of Energy’s Biomass Program in 2010 and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).

Algal biofuels are a seemingly appropriate alternative to our current fuel resources, so it doesn’t make sense as to why they haven’t been widely accepted. A few concerns that still remain revolve around cost and need for further research. Should we also be concerned about relying on particular strands of algae? Is it possible that these strands could eventually evolve and render the costly operation invalid? More importantly, will algal biofuels ever take off? Will these groundbreaking technologies and breakthroughs disappear like the EV did? Is it fair that the government is funding and supplementing algae programs and farmers? Should algae production be included in any other federal policies, such as the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act?

Alternative Energy, Energy

Electricity- Can we do it without coal, when can we do it, and what do we do in the meantime?

I believe that carbon pollution is a problem, and I believe we are running out of time. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration for August 2013 was 395.15 ppm.  Atmospheric CO2 was 392.41 ppm in August 2012 and 390.19 ppm in August 2011.  These results are not surprising, it is common knowledge that atmospheric CO2 levels are and have been rising.  The big question that many have is, “Is that normal or are we causing that?” Those who do not believe in global warming can see by the global average temperature increases (here) that it is happening. What is not entirely understood is the cause and timeframe. Is it occurring over thousands of years or since the industrial revolution? Playing it safe, the likely answer is since the industrial revolution. If the data and research are accurate and atmospheric CO2 elevations are anthropogenic, then harsh realities for us and generations to follow may be approaching quickly.

There are many consequences and threats from elevated atmospheric CO2 levels that we hear about. Many of these threats have strong supporting evidence. Warming that causes ice cap melting results in sea level rise. This same warming results in ocean water density increase which contributes to more sea level rise. Sea level rise causes many problems, just to name a few: flooded cities, salt water intrusion to fresh water aquifers, and disruption of ocean currents which are crucial components to marine life, the climate, and fisheries that many countries depend on for food and income (not to say there aren’t a whole different set of environmental problems with the fishing industry). Increased atmospheric CO2 will also lead to a decrease in ocean pH (ocean acidification). This ocean acidification can result in destruction in coral reefs and ultimately extreme harm to the vast biodiversity found within coral reefs (not to mention the tourism aspect of the coral reefs which local economies depend on). Another issue with the ocean acidification is the disruption of the breakdown of ocean deposits that contain calcium ions necessary for ocean waters to absorb atmospheric CO2. In short, there are a lot of detrimental consequences to elevated atmospheric CO2.

With the aforementioned details on elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations, this blog post will primarily discuss carbon dioxide emissions associated with the power generation industry. The image below is of Plant Bowen, one of the largest coal-fired power plants in North America with a capacity of over 3000 Megawatts (MW). It is a coal-fired power plant located near Cartersville, GA. According to the Energy Information Administration the U.S. burns approximately 50,000,000 tons of coal for electricity generation each year in these kinds of facilities.  Plants like Bowen consume 1-3 train loads of coal a day; these train loads are 1-2 miles long with 10-15 thousand tons of coal on each. I have included this image to point out a few details that are typically misunderstood by the general public. The shorter (approximately 400 feet tall) parabolic-shaped towers are the cooling towers; the vapor rising from these towers is water. Most of the vapor sent to the cooling towers is condensed; what is seen rising from the towers is the fraction that does not condense. The shorter two stacks (the wet stacks) that have vapor leaving the chimneys are the only stacks being used. The vapor leaving these stacks is mostly carbon dioxide and water vapor; it is what remains from flue gas after the environmental controls  such as electrostatic precipitators and scrubbers have done their part. The two taller stacks (the dry stacks- approximately 1000 feet tall) are no longer used. Not all coal-fired power plants are like this. Some do not have the shorter wet-stacks and do not scrub sulfur oxides out of flue gas. Plant Bowen has been doing this since 2007. With the addition of these environmental controls, Plant Bowen and other plants with this technology are able to remove over approximately 95% of sulfur oxides from flu gas. This is just one example of a drastic improvement associated with coal-fired power generation. It is not an example given to try to show that this is a ‘clean’ plant or an argument for the advocacy for coal. It is an example meant to show that improvements…substantial improvements…are possible.

Plant Bowen Pic

According to the Energy Information Administration, the electric power sector emitted 2,039 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012. This is about 39% of the total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions related to energy. Of this 39%, coal fired power plants generated 1,514 million metric tons, or 74% of the carbon dioxide.

Many of these figures only concern the United States. What about the entire world? There is much concern with the possibility of the United States implementing laws and regulations on carbon emissions. People worry, for good reason, that we could jeopardize our national security and the health of our economy while global carbon pollution continues.

Perhaps other less-regulated countries would follow suit to carbon pollution control. If the United States were to work towards carbon capture and sequestration and find a way to make it economically feasible, maybe other countries (with push from international governmental agencies) would also be inclined to move towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology could be a way to help coal-fired power generation be a viable option in a diverse power generation portfolio. Even if coal is on its way out, carbon capture and storage may be able to help slow the increase in atmospheric CO2 in the meantime. Perhaps research and developments in CCS technology in the electricity generation industry could lead to efforts in the manufacturing and transportation industry which are other significant carbon dioxide emitting industries.  Look here.

What are we supposed to do in the meantime before renewables, nuclear, and natural gas can completely take over? What if hydraulic fracturing proves to be unsafe and is banned? What if nuclear powered electricity generation is shut down because of public and governmental concern? What will happen if coal is removed from the puzzle before renewables have enough time to be developed into a solution that can generate all of the world’s electricity? According to the International Energy Agency and the Institute for Energy Research , in 2012 only 12% of electricity generated in the U.S. came from renewable resources. Data showing electricity generation quantities from different sources can be found in Table 945 here .  With population increase, cost of technology, available methods, and the sluggish decision making in the United States, how quickly can renewable energy cover that separation?

Final Thoughts and Questions
There is no doubt that coal is dirty. It’s dirtier than natural gas, but natural gas extraction methods are controversial. Depending on who you ask, coal-fired electricity generation is better or worse than nuclear power generation. Renewable energy sources on a large scale will likely require vast amounts of land area and rare materials. Those are negative aspects of renewables, but they certainly could prove to be much less negative than current generation methods.

What can we do to bridge the gap between electricity generation sources now and a time where electricity is generated primarily by renewable sources? Will/should that time include nuclear power generation? Do you think that carbon capture and sequestration should be aggressively pursued and implemented on a national and/or international scale?