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Miners replaced by machines

Charleston Gazette Mail | Posted on December 18, 2018

Around the world, in all types of mining, automated machines are replacing human diggers. Forbes magazine calls them “the robots that will mine in hell.”The magazine described a 7,000-foot-deep Arizona copper mine where temperatures are 175 degrees Fahrenheit and warm water drizzles constantly. Caterpillar and Komatsu are building “custom electric loaders, excavators and other robotic gear, equipped with thousands of sensors” to work in the hellish hole.“The machines will find the ore, mine it, and transport it to the surface under the watchful eye of technicians hundreds of miles away,” the business magazine said.Another report says China National Coal Group is using “completely deserted coal mining technology” at two mines. And Australia’s BHP (once Broken Hill Proprietary) is pushing a Next Generation Mining program that “includes autonomous drills and autonomous trucks.”An NBC News report says: “From robotic drills to self-driving ore trucks, automation is bringing a new measure of safety to mines.” Human miners can’t be killed on the job if there are no human miners. Mining professor Bernard Jung predicts “fully automated ‘man-less’ mines that are completely operated by machines.”


An Epidemic Is Killing Thousands Of Coal Miners. Regulators Could Have Stopped It

NPR | Posted on December 18, 2018

A multiyear investigation by NPR and the PBS program Frontline found that Smith and Kelly are part of a tragic and recently discovered outbreak of the advanced stage of black lung disease, known as complicated black lung or progressive massive fibrosis. A federal monitoring program reported just 99 cases of advanced black lung disease nationwide from 2011-2016. But NPR identified more than 2,000 coal miners suffering from the disease in the same time frame, and in just five Appalachian states.And now, an NPR/Frontline analysis of federal regulatory data — decades of information recorded by dust-collection monitors placed where coal miners work — has revealed a tragic failure to recognize and respond to clear signs of danger.For decades, government regulators had evidence of excessive and toxic mine dust exposures, the kind that can cause PMF, as they were happening. They knew that miners like Kelly and Smith were likely to become sick and die. They were urged to take specific and direct action to stop it. But they didn't."We failed," said Celeste Monforton, a former mine safety regulator in the Clinton administration who reviewed the NPR/Frontline findings.


U.S. ethanol producers seek pricing reform as markets plunge, ADM sells

Reuters | Posted on December 18, 2018

U.S. ethanol producers stung by collapsing prices are seeking changes to the way benchmark values for the biofuel are established, arguing the current system used by exchanges is vulnerable to manipulation, according to sources. The push comes as the key farm belt industry struggles with weak demand growth, a loss of export markets due to the U.S. trade war with China, and aggressive selling by global commodities giant Archer Daniels Midland Co that have pushed ethanol prices to 13-year lows.Top U.S. ethanol producer POET LLC has asked the CME Group to change its pricing method for a key swap contract used by the industry to hedge, and the rival ICE exchange is contemplating offering an alternative to CME’s product after discussions with biofuels companies, according to three sources familiar with the moves who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly.


Chevron granted waiver from U.S. biofuel laws at Utah plant

Reuters | Posted on November 22, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted oil major Chevron Corp a 2017 hardship waiver from U.S. biofuel laws for its Utah refinery earlier this year.


Federal judge blocks construction of Keystone pipeline

USA Today | Posted on November 22, 2018

A federal judge issued an order Thursday blocking construction of the $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline until further environmental analysis is conducted. The decision comes as TransCanada is preparing to build the oil pipeline beginning in northern Montana, with pipe being shipped to the state by train and trucked to locations along the line.Environmental groups that sued TransCanada and the U.S. Department of State in federal court in Great Falls called the decision to overturn the Trump administration-issued permit a landmark ruling.


No penalties for 90% of pipeline blasts

E&E News | Posted on November 21, 2018

 Federal regulators at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ordered Columbia to repair the line and inspect it at a higher standard. But they didn't seek a financial penalty. They rarely do. Since the beginning of 2010, interstate pipelines have exploded or caught fire 137 times, according to an E&E News analysis of interstate pipeline enforcement and incident data. In about 90 percent of those cases, PHMSA sought no fine.


There's still life in rural Tennessee, and electric co-ops power it

The Tennessean | Posted on November 21, 2018

You can’t deny it – big things are happening in Tennessee. Last season the Predators brought home the division title, and they now reside at the top of the Central Division. We’re home to the NFL and we have a beautiful new minor league baseball field.  A major league soccer team will soon play in a new stadium.Nashville is not alone. The New York Times named Chattanooga as one of 52 cities worldwide to visit, and in October, Bicycling Magazine named Knoxville one of the best bike cities in America.With so much new energy focused on Tennessee’s urban centers, it is easy to overlook the rest of the state. We shouldn’t.The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development reports that in 2017, 45 percent of all new Tennessee jobs – more than 9,700 – were created in the state’s rural counties. Oshkosh Corporation recently announced plans to bring 300 jobs to Jefferson City, Tyson Foods is bringing 1,800 jobs to Gibson and Obion counties and Stonepeak Ceramics is investing $70 million in its Crossville facility.


Renewables can challenge existing coal plants on price

Utility Dive | Posted on November 18, 2018

Average costs for wind and solar energy can undercut existing coal generation even without subsidies, according to analysis from the research firm Lazard.The latest version of Lazard's levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis finds that U.S. onshore wind energy costs average between $26/MWh and $56/MWh without subsidies, while utility-scale solar averages between $36/MWh and $44/MWh. That challenges the average cost for existing U.S. coal plants, which Lazard pegs between $27/MWh and $45/MWh. Factoring in federal subsidies for wind and solar, the renewable resources become even more competitive against coal and challenge nuclear and gas plants. The findings come on the heels of multiple utility announcements that they will replace coal and nuclear plants with renewable energy and natural gas.


California PUC chair says state won't let PG&E go bankrupt

Utility Dive | Posted on November 18, 2018

California's head utility regulator said Thursday he does not want utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to go bankrupt over escalating costs related to California's record wildfire season, sending shares soaring in after-hours trading. California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Chairman Michael Picker reportedly told financial analysts his agency would begin implementing a new state law that allows utilities to pass fire costs onto customers, while also expanding a probe into PG&E's corporate governance.Picker's announcement came after PG&E's power lines were linked to the ongoing Camp Fire in Northern California and PG&E withdrew all of its revolving credit lines, a move that can presage a bankruptcy filing. The utility's equipment was found responsible for 16 fires last year and this week its credit rating was downgraded by Moody's Investor Service and S&P.


Probe launched against PF & E after fires

Utility Dive | Posted on November 18, 2018

The California Public Utilities Commissions (CPUC) said Monday it has launched investigations into the regulatory compliance of electric facilities owned by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) related to three deadly fires. The investor-owned utilities (IOUs) had separately filed electric safety incident reports on Thursday, alerting regulators of problems with a PG&E transmission line around the source of Butte County's Camp Fire and with SCE transmission lines near ground zero of Ventura County's Hill Fire and Los Angeles County's Woolsey Fire. The CPUC and CalFire have not made official determinations on the causes of the fires.PG&E has incurred more than $2 billion in costs, net of insurance recoveries, related to wildfires so far this year, as its equipment was determined to be the cause of several deadly fires. SCE told the Securities and Exchange Commission it expects to incur losses based on the potential that its equipment started a deadly fire in 2017, and has been sued over its role in the blaze.


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