Starting The Year With A Bang

Grind for January 1st, 2019
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

– Michael Jordan

Breathe Easy

The Headline

EPA will keep 2012 regulations in place for mercury emissions

The Grind

The process of burning coal releases mercury into the environment – where it can cause damage to the heart, lungs, brain, and immune system.

In 2012, the EPA imposed limits on coal-fired power plants over concerns about mercury’s impact on public health. Over the past decade, mercury emissions in the US have dropped an estimated 90%.

On Friday, the EPA said that emissions restrictions on coal-fired power plants are too expensive and should not be considered “necessary.”

This statement is in line with other moves by the Trump Administration to help the coal industry as it struggles to compete with cheaper electricity produced from natural gas and renewable energy.

The Implication

Industries affected by the emissions restrictions spend roughly $8 billion each year to comply with the rules.

The Trump Administration calculates the benefits of those rules to be between $4 million and $6 million. But according to the Obama Administration, the mercury restrictions save $80 billion in health costs and prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths annually.

While the EPA plans to keep existing restrictions in place for now, critics worry Friday’s announcement could undermine the justification for other environmental rules and make it harder to impose new regulations.

Utilities and regulatory and labor groups have asked the Trump Administration to keep existing limits in place.

“We should not limit ourselves in the ongoing fight against this dangerous pollutant,” argues mercury expert Celia Chen. “Regulators need the tools to strengthen mercury controls in the future if needed.”

Arms Race

The Headline

Pentagon to purchase thousands of battlefield robots

The Grind

The Pentagon is planning to spend more than half a billion dollars on backpack-sized robots they can deploy to soak up enemy fire during times of conflict.

One of many companies in contact with the Pentagon is Endeavor Robotics, whose “Centaur bot” can perform reconnaissance and defuse bombs.

The Details

The Centaur bot is considered an “intermediary device,” meaning it can perform useful tasks on the battlefield but is not capable of lethal force.

Robots with the ability to kill (AKA “killer robots”) are currently under debate on the world stage.

In August 2017, Elon Musk and 115 other experts signed a petition to ban killer robots.

“Once developed, [killer robots] will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” reads the petition. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”

The Pentagon’s investment in battlefield robots is in part a reaction to similar efforts by other nations.

As Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has warned, Russia and China are “investing heavily and very quickly” in battlefield robots. “My personal estimate,” he says, “is that robots will play a significant role in combat inside of a decade or a decade and a half.”

Did you know… Cracking your knuckles does not actually hurt your bones or cause arthritis. The sound you hear is just gas bubbles bursting.