Don’t Shred On Me
October 13, 2021
As promised, here are the results for the “Saturday Night Live” survey we sent out last week. Thank you to all who participated!
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” — Alice Walker
A Coal, Hard Truth
China is stuck between a lump of coal and a hard place. Coal is the country’s main source of energy, making up almost 60% of its total energy usage last year. This year, China is experiencing its worst power crunch in a decade. Extreme weather, surging demand for energy, and the post-pandemic commodities boom are delivering a triple blow to the electricity grid. At the same time, companies have been grappling with how to meet President Xi Jinping‘s push for a carbon-neutral China by 2060. That ambitious target for the world’s biggest coal consumer-led hundreds of coal mines to shut down or slash production earlier this year, reducing supply and driving up coal prices. Add to that the restrictions on coal imports from key supplier Australia, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
In recent weeks, energy shortages have spread to 20 Chinese provinces, forcing the government to ration electricity during peak hours and some factories to suspend production. Just as Beijing was attempting to ease power shortages by ramping up coal production and allowing coal-fired power stations to charge more for their electricity, the country was bombarded with more severe weather, further impacting industrial output.
Earlier in October, heavy rains and flooding forced the closure of 60 mines in Shanxi province, China’s largest mining hub supplying 25% of the country’s coal. The adjacent Shaanxi province, also reported hurt operations at local mines. On Monday, the price of thermal coal futures, primarily used to generate power, surged to all-time highs on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange, and the price has more than doubled so far this year. With no short-term solution in sight, the energy shortage is straining China’s economic recovery, and threatening more global supply chain chaos.
A month ago, experts and activists welcomed President Xi’s announcement at the U.N. General Assembly that China planned to be carbon neutral by 2060, with emissions peaking by 2030, a goal analysts say would involve shuttering 600 coal-fired plants. Xi also pledged to stop building new coal-fired power plants abroad. But now, just a little over two weeks before the start of COP26 — the critically important climate change conference hosted by the U.K. and Italy in Glasgow, Scotland — Beijing says it plans to build more coal-fired power plants and intensify domestic oil and gas exploration. Additionally, the energy crisis has led the government to rethink its timetable to slash greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a significant blow to the U.K.’s goal of securing a global agreement at the COP26 on phasing out coal. (CNN, Guardian)
This Is Pad News
- In May, a report from UNICEF and the population fund (UNFPA) found that 713,000 girls in Brazil live without access to a bathroom, around four million girls don’t have adequate hygiene facilities at school, such as soap and sanitary pads, and at least 200,000 girls lack even the minimum hygiene facilities at school, like a bathroom. Brazilian lawmakers approved a package of laws to promote menstrual health, including a plan to distribute free sanitary pads and tampons to disadvantaged girls and women where “period poverty” is estimated to keep one in four girls out of school.
- The plan was expected to benefit 5.6 million women, including homeless people, prisoners, and teenage girls at state schools. For some inexplicably evil reason, President Jair Bolsonaro chose to veto the plan last week. The president of the Brazilian Union of Secondary Students called the veto “absurd and inhumane.” What millions of disadvantaged girls and women must do to manage their periods is difficult to describe. What Bolsonaro did is unprintable. (Guardian)
A Power Move
- Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador presented a constitutional reform proposal Monday that would cancel contracts under which 34 private plants sell power into the national grid. The plan declares “illegal” another 239 private plants that sell energy directly to corporate clients in Mexico.
- It would also cancel many long-term energy supply contracts and clean-energy preferential buying schemes, often affecting foreign companies. The plan puts private natural gas plants second to last — just ahead of government coal-fired plants — for rights to sell electricity into the grid, even though the power produced by natural gas plants is 24% cheaper. Government-run plants that burn dirty fuel oil would have preference over private wind and solar plants.
- The plan guarantees the government utility a market share of “at least” 54%, or more if the utility itself determines it needs it. The president’s bill is clearly aimed at propping up the federal utility, which is currently producing only 38% of the country’s electricity because its plants are older, more expensive to run, and more polluting. (AP News)
Additional World News
- Magnitude 6.3 earthquake jolts Greek island of Crete (ABC)
- Navalny says his status has been changed to ‘terrorist’ in prison (The Hill)
- Brazil’s Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity at ICC for his record on the Amazon (CNN)
- COP26 chief Alok Sharma calls on the G20’s climate laggards to ‘step up’ (CNN)
- China says it held beach landing drills in province opposite Taiwan (CNN)
- G20 tackles Afghan humanitarian crisis at special summit (Reuters)
- New Zealand’s doctors and teachers must soon be vaccinated (NPR)
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Don’t Shred On Me
- Officials in Fulton County, Georgia fired two election workers Friday for shredding 300 paper voter registration applications prior to an upcoming election. Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta, is Georgia’s most populous county, and election operations there are already under review by the state.
- Voters are set to elect a mayor, City Council members, and other municipal officials on November 2nd. The deadline to register to vote in that election was October 4. Voters don’t register by party in Georgia, so the applications had no party affiliation. The heavily Democratic county does have a history of election problems, including long lines and inefficiency in reporting election results.
- An independent monitor was appointed to observe the county’s election processes from October 2020 through January 2021. He said he observed sloppy practices and poor management, but saw no evidence of “any dishonesty, fraud or intentional malfeasance.” Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has launched an investigation and called on the DOJ to also take a look at the county’s elections. (CBS News)
Contaminated Water In Michigan
- Residents of Benton Harbor, a Black-majority Michigan city, have suffered with lead-contaminated water for years, and efforts to get help from state officials have gone nowhere. Activists say failure to address Benton Harbor’s poor water quality — which is more toxic than Flint’s — is a sign of environmental injustice.
- On September 9, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a local activist group, and other organizations filed an emergency appeal with the EPA demanding federal action. On October 5, the EPA told petitioners it was working with the state, county, and city to “ensure there is prompt action to address the community’s public health needs.”
- Finally, the state stepped up and warned Benton Harbor residents not to use tap water for drinking, bathing, or cooking “out of an abundance of caution” owing to lead contamination. The state has also promised to expand free water distribution in the city and reaffirmed its commitment to comply with federal lead regulations. Michigan’s senior policy advocate for the NRDC said: “It is clear that EPA’s involvement is driving this forward.” (Guardian)
Additional USA News
- Grassley’s embrace of Trump shakes GOP landscape (The Hill)
- The House passes a short-term fix to the looming debt ceiling crisis (NPR)
- Pelosi says members telling her to do ‘fewer things well’ in spending bill (The Hill)
- Alisal Fire prompts evacuations in Santa Barbara County and closure of part of California’s iconic Highway 101 (CNN)
- Indigenous protesters urge Biden to stop approving fossil fuel projects (Guardian)
- Risky move: Biden undercuts WH executive privilege shield (AP)
- Suspect in shooting at Colorado supermarket found not competent to stand trial (The Hill)
A Tireless Effort
- And now for some smile-worthy news. Colorado wildlife officer Jared Lamb was counting bighorn sheep and mountain goats in the Rocky Mountains one day in July 2019 when he spotted something strange among a herd of elk — one had a car tire around its neck. Lamb didn’t know it at the time, but his sighting would start a search that would last over two years. Wildlife officials had a plan to find the elk and tranquilize it, so they could free it from its rubber-and-steel yoke. A trail camera near Conifer, a small unincorporated community 20 miles southwest of Denver, captured the animal twice in 2020, first on June 5 and then on July 12. Another trail camera picked it up on August 12.
- But the elk disappeared for long periods of time, especially in winter. There were many more reported sightings, and four times officers tried and failed to catch up with the tire-yoked bull. The long hunt ended Saturday when two Colorado wildlife officials were finally able to shoot the elk with a tranquilizer gun, after which they sawed off its antlers and removed the tire that had been around its neck for roughly half its life. They estimate the bull is 4½ years old and weighs more than 600 pounds. They wanted to leave his five-point-per-side antlers intact for mating season, but felt they couldn’t cut through the steel bead that ran through the tire.
- “We had to just get the tire off in any way possible,” Murdoch said. Once that was done, they were surprised that there was almost no damage to the animal’s neck — just a tiny spot of missing hair. The men found about 10 pounds of wet pine needles, dirt, and other debris in the bottom half of the tire, and estimated the elk was about 35 pounds lighter once it and its antlers were gone. There’s also a moral to the story: homeowners need to do more cleanup around their properties to get rid of anything wildlife can get stuck in. Murdoch said he’s seen elk get stuck in swing sets, basketball hoops, tomato cages, hammocks, and trash can lids. (WaPo)
- What sea level rise will do to famous American sites, visualized (Guardian)
- Big tech sweeps up Hill staffers — just when Congress needs them the most (Politico)
- Prince Charles says his Aston Martin runs on wine and cheese byproducts (WaPo, $)
- Trump Close to a Deal to Sell Marquee Washington, D.C., Hotel (WSJ)
- Physicists announce the world’s most precise measurement of neutron lifetime (Phys.org)
- Asteroids bigger than Pyramid of Giza to pass by Earth, NASA says (USA Today)
- Largest comet ever observed will come close to Earth in 2031 (AV Club)
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