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You can now book a COVID-19 vaccine through Uber




Uber and Walgreens have been working together on a COVID-19 vaccination program for several months, and the latest step in their partnership should make it easier for you to get the vaccine. You can reserve a vaccination and book a ride to the clinic at the same time in the Uber app.

You’ll be able to select a time for your appointment and see which vaccine you’ll receive. Uber says the vaccination booking feature is available throughout the US starting today.

Walgreens and Uber teamed up earlier this year to offer free rides to appointments, particularly for those in socially vulnerable areas. Uber promised to provide 10 million discounted or free rides in December. The companies also partnered with PayPal and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to create a Vaccine Access Fund. Anyone can donate and fund more free rides to appointments for people who need them.

Uber announced the vaccine reservation tool as part of an event called Go Get, which was centered around having more options to go places and get things as we slowly return to normal life. Among the updates Uber announced was Uber Rent, a way to book a rental car in the app. It’s now available across the US.

To make renting a car even easier, there’s a valet option that will prompt a driver to bring the vehicle to you and collect it when you’re done. Valet will initially be available in Washington D.C. next month and it’ll expand nationwide later.

Elsewhere, you’ll be able to reserve rides at some airports up to 30 days in advance with flight tracking, up to 60 minutes of wait time and curbside pickup. The company plans to expand its by-the-hour ride service to thousands more cities across a number of regions this summer too.

The Pickup and Go feature allows you to place an order for pickup from restaurants and merchants that are close to your destination, so you can quickly stop and collect food and other items. In addition, you’ll at last be able to pre-order items for delivery when a store or restaurant is closed.

Later this spring, Uber will roll out an option to order from two merchants close to each other without having to pay a delivery fee for both. That’ll be useful when you and your partner want to order from different restaurants on date night. On the way next month is a Savings Hub that brings together all eligible deals and discounts, as well as restaurant loyalty programs. Also starting in May, Eats Pass members will receive 10 percent off their first three rides each month, on top of their existing perks.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Colonial Pipeline hack was ‘wakeup call’ on U.S. cyber vulnerability, Buttigieg says




Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Thursday the ransomware attack on the operator of the country’s largest fuel pipeline has been a “wakeup call” for U.S. cybersecurity vulnerability.

Colonial Pipeline is still struggling with a cybersecurity attack that forced its entire system offline last Friday and triggered widespread fuel shortages in the Southeast. The company restarted operations Wednesday afternoon but said the system won’t return to normal for several days.

“This has been a wakeup call on how actors anywhere in the world can impact us right here at home,” Buttigieg said during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” He added that the all-of-government response to the hack has “really paid off.”

Buttigieg’s remarks came a day after President Joe Biden signed an executive order to help strengthen U.S. cybersecurity defenses.

The president’s order calls on the federal government and private sector to work together to combat “persistent and increasingly sophisticated malicious cyber campaigns” that threaten the U.S.

The Department of Energy has led the federal response to the attack in coordination with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.

Buttigieg said the response has included weight limit waivers for tanker trucks to help ease shortage concerns, as well as increased flexibility in allowing workers to conduct manual inspections.

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Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Thursday morning that Colonial’s pipeline restart “went well overnight.”

“This should mean things will return to normal by the end of the weekend,” Granholm wrote in a tweet.

Colonial’s shutdown led to panic buying in some Southeastern states and pushed the national average for a gallon of gas above $3 for the first time since 2014.

Colonial shut off its system as a proactive measure after falling victim to the attack by a cyber criminal group known as DarkSide. The company’s pipeline spans 5,500 miles and carries almost half of the fuel supply on the East Coast, including gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil and jet fuel.

Gas outages continue to hit the Southeast, with more more than half of stations in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia without fuel, according to the latest data from GasBuddy.

— CNBC’s Pippa Stevens contributed reporting

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Former coal mines in Britain are being tested to see if they can become a geothermal energy plant




This image, from November 2017, shows derelict buildings at the Chatterley Whitfield Colliery in Staffordshire, England.

Alan Tunnicliffe Photography | Moment | Getty Images

A project aiming to harness geothermal energy from disused, flooded coal mines in the northeast of England took another step forward this week after it was given planning permission for an initial testing phase.

In an announcement Monday, South Tyneside Council said the development would “draw geothermal energy from abandoned flooded mines in the former Hebburn Colliery.” The Hebburn Colliery opened in the late 18th century and shut down in 1932.

The idea is that the project will heat buildings owned by the council, which is working on the project alongside Durham University and the U.K.’s Coal Authority.

The U.K.’s abandoned mines could well prove to be a useful source of geothermal energy — which the U.S. Department of Energy describes as a “vital, clean energy resource” — in the years ahead.

As the Coal Authority notes, “when underground mines are abandoned, the pumps that kept them dry are often switched off and the mines fill with water.”

Geological processes heat the water, it adds, and the temperature stays stable throughout the year.

In Hebburn, two wells are to be drilled to take water from the mines, with tests undertaken to make sure the project is viable.

If all goes to plan, a water source heat pump will eventually be used to “extract the heat from the minewater before it is compressed to a much higher temperature.” Drilling works and well construction are slated to be finished by the fall.

“Work will start on the testing phase of this project without delay,” Tracey Dixon, who is the leader of South Tyneside Council, said in a statement issued Monday.

Dixon added that the project, which will benefit from more than £3.9 million ($5.48 million) in funding via the European Regional Development Fund, was “expected to deliver a reduction of 319 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.”

The U.K. has a long association with coal mining, but the industry’s decline has hit many communities hard and is an emotive subject.

In recent times, plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria, in the northwest of England, have generated a great deal of debate, not least because the U.K. is set to host the COP26 climate change summit later this year. The project’s fate is still to be determined.

The Hebburn Colliery project is one of several in the U.K. looking to introduce new energy technologies to old coal mining sites.

In March, it was announced that a coal mine turned waste depot in the northeast of England would undergo a retrofit utilizing a range of sustainable technologies and design features.

The project to update the Morrison Busty depot in County Durham will center around the construction of a 3 megawatt solar farm that will power the site’s operations.

In addition, electric vehicle charging points will be integrated into the development’s design, while a battery storage system will also be built.

The depot, which is located in the village of Annfield Plain, traces its roots back to the 1920s, when it was known as the Morrison Busty Colliery. The coal mine closed down in 1973.

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Why everyone from Elon Musk to Janet Yellen is worried about bitcoin’s energy usage




Elon Musk’s decision to stop Tesla from accepting bitcoin as payment has led to fresh scrutiny of the cryptocurrency’s environmental impact.

Musk said Wednesday that Tesla had halted purchases of its vehicles with bitcoin due to concerns over the “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining.”

He alluded to data from researchers at Cambridge University which shows bitcoin’s electricity usage spiking this year.

Tesla won’t sell its bitcoin — the automaker is sitting on $2.5 billion worth of the digital coin — and Musk said it intends to resume transactions with bitcoin once mining “transitions to more sustainable energy.”

“We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of Bitcoin’s energy/transaction,” Musk said.

Musk’s comments roiled cryptocurrency markets, which have shed as much as $365.85 billion in value since his tweet.

Why is Musk worried?

Critics of bitcoin have long been wary of its impact on the environment. The cryptocurrency uses more energy than entire countries such as Sweden and Malaysia, according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index.

To understand why bitcoin is so energy-intensive, you have to look at its underlying technology, the blockchain.

Bitcoin’s public ledger is decentralized, meaning it isn’t controlled by any single authority. It’s constantly being updated by a network of computers around the world.

So-called miners run purpose-built computers to solve complex math puzzles in order to make a transaction go through. This is the only way to mint new bitcoins.

Miners do not run this operation for free. They have to shell out huge sums on specialized equipment. A key incentive of bitcoin’s model, known as “proof of work,” is the promise of being rewarded in some bitcoin if you manage to solve its complex hashing algorithm.

It’s worth noting that dogecoin, which has risen wildly in price lately on the back of support from Musk, also uses a proof-of-work mechanism.

Carol Alexander, a professor at the University of Sussex Business School, explains that bitcoin’s mining “difficulty” — a measure of the computational effort it takes to mine bitcoin — has been going “up and up” over the last three years.

“More and more electricity is being used,” Alexander told CNBC. “That means that the network difficulty will also be going up (and) more miners are coming in because the hash rate’s going up.”

Bitcoin’s price is up almost 70% so far this year. As it goes up in price, the revenue to miners also increases, incentivizing more participants to mine the cryptocurrency.

Meanwhile, Musk isn’t the only one who’s worried about the environmental impact of bitcoin. In February, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the digital coin is “extremely inefficient” for making transactions and uses a “staggering” amount of power.

Does bitcoin actually harm the environment?

It’s complicated. On the one hand, bitcoin’s network uses an unfathomable amount of energy. Much of the mining of bitcoin is concentrated in China, whose economy is still heavily reliant on coal.

Last month, a coal mine in the Xinjiang region flooded and shut down. This took nearly a quarter of bitcoin’s hash rate — or computing power — offline, according to crypto industry publication CoinDesk.

In March, China’s Inner Mongolia region said it would shut down cryptocurrency mining operations in the region due to concerns over energy consumption.

On the other side of the debate, bitcoin investors have attempted to push back on the narrative that it’s harmful for the environment.

While it’s difficult to determine the energy mix that powers bitcoin, some in the crypto industry say miners are incentivized to use renewables as it’s getting cheaper to produce them. In China, the province of Sichuan is known to attract miners due to its cheap electricity and rich hydropower resources.

Last month, Jack Dorsey’s fintech company Square and Cathie Wood’s Ark Invest put out a memo claiming that bitcoin will actually drive renewable energy innovation. However, critics said they had a vested interest in doing so.

Alexander said the debate around bitcoin’s environmental impact was misguided as most transactions with the digital asset aren’t happening on the blockchain.

“Almost all the trading is not done on the blockchain,” she said. “It’s done on secondary markets, centralized exchanges. They’re not even recorded on the blockchain.”

ESG concerns

Regardless of whether bitcoin is actually a polluter or not, the negative connotations around its energy consumption have worried investors conscious of companies’ ethical and environmental responsibilities.

ESG, or environmental, social and corporate governance, has become a growing trend in financial markets, with portfolio managers increasingly incorporating sustainable investments into their strategies.

Some Tesla shareholders may be worried that the company is betting big on bitcoin while also claiming to be a green energy company.

“Bitcoin backers will be wondering where this leaves the future of the cryptocurrency,” Laith Khalaf, a financial analyst at investment firm AJ Bell, said in a note Thursday.

“Environmental matters are an incredibly sensitive subject right now, and Tesla’s move might serve as a wake-up call to businesses and consumers using Bitcoin, who hadn’t hitherto considered its carbon footprint,” Khalaf added.

“Tesla’s decision certainly puts pressure on other big companies who accept Bitcoin to review their practices, because boardrooms will now be wary about getting it in the ear from ESG investors on the shareholder register.”

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Framework’s modular DIY laptop is available to pre-order




Framework, a startup creating a modular laptop for easy repair, is today opening pre-orders for its first product. The Framework Laptop is available to order with four variants up for selection right now. When it first announced the laptop, the company insisted that it wouldn’t charge people a premium to get their hands on one of its machines. And so far, it seems like the company is true to its word, since you can pick up the base model for just $999, or a DIY version for $749.

The units are differentiated by their CPU, RAM and storage options. The $999 base model packs Intel’s Core i5-1135G7 processor, paired with 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD and Windows 10 Home. The $1,399 Performance model, meanwhile, gets a Core i7-1165G7 with 16GB DDR4 RAM, a 512GB SSD and Windows 10 Home. The $1,999 Professional Model tops the range, offering a Core i7-1185G7, 32GB RAM, a 1TB SSD and Windows 10 Pro. And, if your budget stretches that far, you can also spec up further, with up to 64GB RAM and 4TB of SSD storage.

The rest of the spec list is certainly enough for the majority of people, with a 13-inch, 3:2, 2,256 x 1,504 display, a 55Wh battery and a keyboard with 1.5mm of travel. Speaking to Engadget, founder Nirav Patel said that his team — spurred on in part by the pandemic — also wanted to ensure the Framework was good at video conferencing. Consequently, the laptop is packing a 1080p, 60fps webcam with a hardware privacy switch. He added that the components were at least as good as what you’d find in other industry-leading devices.

In terms of Framework’s environmental bona fides, the machine uses at least 50 percent post-consumer recycled aluminum in its enclosure. Modularity hasn’t affected the size of the body too much either, with the Framework Laptop measuring in thinner and lighter than a 13-inch MacBook Pro. Plus, of course, you can hot-swap the quartet of ports attached to the laptop — connected in fact via USB-C inside the chassis. Alternative options include USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, MicroSD and additional storage.

For those people who would be leery about opening up any sort of device, let alone a laptop, Patel said that you shouldn’t worry. Swapping out and replacing a module should take even the most fearful of users less than 10 minutes. And each component will carry a QR code that leads you straight to a website offering step-by-step instructions and video in the style of iFixit. And users should only need the screwdriver that is included in the box to carry out any repair.

The only repair that likely to take longer than 10 minutes is if, or when, you so choose to swap out the CPU and mainboard. The chips aren’t socketed, so when it comes time to upgrade the brain, you’ll need to disassemble the whole unit for a replacement.

In terms of longevity, Patel said that there were, broadly, two periods of time when you use any computer. The first is when it’s relatively new and the hardware can keep up with the technical standards of the time. The second is when performance begins to sag as software and web standards move forward. Patel’s aim with Framework is to double the amount of those “happy years” when using your computer doesn’t feel like a chore.

For the braver amongst you, Framework’s DIY edition, priced at $749, offers the whole machine disassembled. You can then select the components you want to include, and pick the operating system to be pre-installed, or bring your own.

The pandemic has, for a lot of companies, slowed their ability to get product out of the door and that’s the situation here. Framework has begun producing the machine but expects the volume of units available to sell to be limited for the next few months. It will, instead, be offering pre-orders in batches, with early adopters putting $100 down now to get their machine in June. When those orders are fulfilled, pre-orders will open up in Canada, with European and Asian availability coming towards the end of the year.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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