North Dakotans can’t grow enough feed for their cattle, so they’re selling off the animals before they starve.
Heat and shifting weather patterns have intensified wildfires and sharply reduced water supplies across the Southwest, the Pacific Coast and North Dakota.
The two founders of Crusoe Energy think they may have a solution to two of the largest problems facing the planet today — the increasing energy footprint of the tech industry and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the natural gas industry.
Crusoe, which uses excess natural gas from energy operations to power data centers and cryptocurrency mining operations, has just raised $128 million in new financing from some of the top names in the venture capital industry to build out its operations — and the timing couldn’t be better.
Methane emissions are emerging as a new area of focus for researchers and policymakers focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global warming within the 1.5 degree targets set under the Paris Agreement. And those emissions are just what Crusoe Energy is capturing to power its data centers and bitcoin mining operations.
The reason why addressing methane emissions is so critical in the short term is because these greenhouse gases trap more heat than their carbon dioxide counterparts and also dissipate more quickly. So dramatic reductions in methane emissions can do more in the short term to alleviate the global warming pressures that human industry is putting on the environment.
And the biggest source of methane emissions is the oil and gas industry. In the U.S. alone roughly 1.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas is flared daily, said Chase Lochmiller, a co-founder of Crusoe Energy. About two thirds of that is flared in Texas with another 500 million cubic feet flared in North Dakota, where Crusoe has focused its operations to date.
For Lochmiller, a former quant trader at some of the top American financial services institutions, and Cully Cavmess, a third generation oil and gas scion, the ability to capture natural gas and harness it for computing operations is a natural combination of the two men’s interests in financial engineering and environmental preservation.
The two Denver natives met in prep-school and remained friends. When Lochmiller left for MIT and Cavness headed off to Middlebury they didn’t know that they’d eventually be launching a business together. But through Lochmiller’s exposure to large scale computing and the financial services industry, and Cavness assumption of the family business they came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way to address the massive waste associated with natural gas.
Conversation around Crusoe Energy began in 2018 when Lochmiller and Cavness went climbing in the Rockies to talk about Lochmiller’s trip to Mt. Everest.
When the two men started building their business, the initial focus was on finding an environmentally friendly way to deal with the energy footprint of bitcoin mining operations. It was this pitch that brought the company to the attention of investors at Polychain, the investment firm started by Olaf Carlson-Wee (and Lochmiller’s former employer), and investors like Bain Capital Ventures and new investor Valor Equity Partners.
(This was also the pitch that Lochmiller made to me to cover the company’s seed round. At the time I was skeptical of the company’s premise and was worried that the business would just be another way to prolong the use of hydrocarbons while propping up a cryptocurrency that had limited actual utility beyond a speculative hedge against governmental collapse. I was wrong on at least one of those assessments.)
“Regarding questions about sustainability, Crusoe has a clear standard of only pursuing projects that are net reducers of emissions. Generally the wells that Crusoe works with are already flaring and would continue to do so in the absence of Crusoe’s solution. The company has turned down numerous projects where they would be a buyer of low cost gas from a traditional pipeline because they explicitly do not want to be net adders of demand and emissions,” wrote a spokesman for Valor Equity in an email. “In addition, mining is increasingly moving to renewables and Crusoe’s approach to stranded energy can enable better economics for stranded or marginalized renewables, ultimately bringing more renewables into the mix. Mining can provide an interruptible base load demand that can be cut back when grid demand increases, so overall the effect to incentivize the addition of more renewable energy sources to the grid.”
Other investors have since piled on including: Lowercarbon Capital, DRW Ventures, Founders Fund, Coinbase Ventures, KCK Group, Upper90, Winklevoss Capital, Zigg Capital and Tesla co-founder JB Straubel.
The company now operate 40 modular data centers powered by otherwise wasted and flared natural gas throughout North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Next year that number should expand to 100 units as Crusoe enters new markets such as Texas and New Mexico. Since launching in 2018, Crusoe has emerged as a scalable solution to reduce flaring through energy intensive computing such as bitcoin mining, graphical rendering, artificial intelligence model training and even protein folding simulations for COVID-19 therapeutic research.
Crusoe boasts 99.9% combustion efficiency for its methane, and is also bringing additional benefits in the form of new networking buildout at its data center and mining sites. Eventually, this networking capacity could lead to increased connectivity for rural communities surrounding the Crusoe sites.
Currently, 80% of the company’s operations are being used for bitcoin mining, but there’s increasing demand for use in data center operations and some universities, including Lochmiller’s alma mater of MIT are looking at the company’s offerings for their own computing needs.
“That’s very much in an incubated phase right now,” said Lochmiller. “A private alpha where we have a few test customers… we’ll make that available for public use later this year.”
Crusoe Energy Systems should have the lowest data center operating costs in the world, according to Lochmiller and while the company will spend money to support the infrastructure buildout necessary to get the data to customers, those costs are negligible when compared to energy consumption, Lochmiller said.
The same holds true for bitcoin mining, where the company can offer an alternative to coal powered mining operations in China and the construction of new renewable capacity that wouldn’t be used to service the grid. As cryptocurrencies look for a way to blunt criticism about the energy usage involved in their creation and distribution, Crusoe becomes an elegant solution.
Institutional and regulatory tailwinds are also propelling the company forward. Recently New Mexico passed new laws limiting flaring and venting to no more than 2 percent of an operator’s production by April of next year and North Dakota is pushing for incentives to support on-site flare capture systems while Wyoming signed a law creating incentives for flare gas reduction applied to bitcoin mining. The world’s largest financial services firms are also taking a stand against flare gas with BlackRock calling for an end to routine flaring by 2025.
“Where we view our power consumption, we draw a very clear line in our project evaluation stage where we’re reducing emissions for an oil and gas projects,” Lochmiller said.
The North Dakota state Senate is jumping into a simmering feud between Apple and iOS software developers with a bill that would make it illegal for device makers to require to use their app stores and payment systems.
The bill (PDF) has two main prongs. First, it would make it unlawful for companies such as Google and Apple to make their app stores the “exclusive means” of distributing apps on their platforms. Second, it would prohibit those providers from requiring third parties to use their digital transaction or in-app payment systems in their applications.
The proposed law applies to app stores for which gross sales receipts to North Dakota residents exceed $10 million in a calendar year. It applies to any “general-purpose hardware,” including tablets and smartphones, but it explicitly excludes “special-purpose digital application distribution platforms” such as gaming consoles, music players, and “other special-purpose devices connected to the internet.” Thread that needle, and you’re left with a pretty firm arrow pointing directly at Google’s and Apple’s mobile app platforms. (It could also apply to the Mac OS and Windows app stores for laptop and desktop computers, but those platforms are already less restrictive.)
A vote on a bill this week is part of a movement that could cost Apple and Google billions of dollars. State legislatures are becoming the fight’s new front.
What my time working on a North Dakota oil patch taught me about America’s fossil fuel addiction — and how to curb it.
The average age of Lakota and Dakota speakers is 70. We are running out of time to save them.
Republican state lawmakers in North Dakota want Facebook and Twitter to face lawsuits from users who have been “censored.”
A bill submitted by the six legislators last week is titled, “an Act to permit civil actions against social media sites for censoring speech.” It says that social media websites with over 1 million users would be “liable in a civil action for damages to the person whose speech is restricted, censored, or suppressed, and to any person who reasonably otherwise would have received the writing, speech, or publication.” Payouts for “censored” users would include “treble damages for compensatory, consequential, and incidental damages.”
Even if passed by the North Dakota legislature, the bill would likely have no effect due to a conflict with federal law. The proposed law “would immediately be deemed void as preempted by Section 230 [of the Communications Decency Act],” because “federal law is supreme over state law where they conflict, and this would create an express conflict,” attorney Akiva Cohen wrote in a Twitter thread about the bill.
As the first shots are administered in the United States, we hear what it was like for health care workers in North Dakota and New Orleans.
At 94, the author of a North Dakota restaurant review that became an internet sensation is still at work. In the pandemic, though, she’s had to make a few changes.
In terms of the coronavirus, they’re a theater of American disgrace.
He caught Covid-19 as the virus surged across the state. How to fill his vacant seat in the state legislature remained in dispute.
When salespeople in California’s dynamic tech economy transition between jobs, the value they bring to their new company is often their customer relationships. Startup founders and salespeople considering joining competitors often assume continuing to maintain these customer relationships is noncontroversial given California’s well-known policy favoring employment mobility and outlawing non-competition agreements.
Yet California trade secret law regarding the ability of salespeople to solicit these customers once they jump to a competitor is increasingly confused and fails to provide meaningful guidance on what type of conduct is permissible. Thus, a salesperson’s move from their current company to a competitor is risky given it is unclear whether and to what extent they can continue servicing clients or contacts they previously worked with.
A salesperson working for a value-added reseller (VAR), for instance, should understand what they are getting into before moving to a competitor — they may risk longstanding relationships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users. This article explains the conflicting law on this issue so that salespeople planning on jumping ship, and the companies considering hiring them, can be informed regarding the current legal landscape.
California law invalidates non-competition agreements
In the vast majority of states, employers can, and do, require employees to enter into some form of non-competition agreement in exchange for continued employment.1 In contrast, California has a long-standing policy of favoring employment mobility over an employer’s concerns. California’s policy is embodied in Business and Professions Code section 16600, which provides: “Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.”
California courts “have consistently affirmed that section 16600 evinces a settled legislative policy in favor of open competition and employee mobility” that is intended to “ensure that every citizen shall retain the right to pursue any lawful employment and enterprise of their choice.”2 The policy also allows California employers to “compete effectively for the most talented, skilled employees in their industries, wherever they may reside.”3 Accordingly, unlike in most states, the “interests of the employee in [their] own mobility and betterment” generally outweigh the “competitive business interests of the employers.”4
Courts have broadly applied section 16600, invalidating non-competition agreements, which would prohibit or restrict an employee from leaving to work for a competitor.5 Importantly, courts have also invalidated contractual provisions purporting to restrict an employee’s ability to leave and then solicit the company’s customers.6 In other words, a salesperson cannot be contractually precluded from leaving their company, joining a competitor and continuing to solicit, service and communicate with their former company’s clients. Furthermore, with limited exceptions, California courts will disregard a “choice of law” provision purporting to mandate that the court follow the law from a state that enforces noncompetes.7
As Covid-19 cases grow in the Great Plains, one official said residents need to know “how perilously close we are to the edge.”
Oil and gas companies are hurtling toward bankruptcy, raising fears that wells will be left leaking planet-warming pollutants, with cleanup cost left to taxpayers.
The C.D.C. urged consumers in eight states to avoid four different salad kits produced by Fresh Express.
Some voting machines were not working as polls opened, and Georgia voters reported long lines and widespread frustration. Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and West Virginia are also voting today.
Dozens of tracking apps for smartphones are being used or developed to help contain the coronavirus pandemic. But there are worries about privacy and hastily written software.
Follow along as our reporters provide real-time analysis of the results of presidential primaries in six states.