Colonial pipeline operators began restarting operations Wednesday evening but said it would take “several days” for the supply chain to return and warned some markets could continue experiencing “service interruptions.” The mass panic caused by gasoline shortages and spiking prices across the East Coast — nearly 7 in 10 gas stations in North Carolina, and about half in Virginia and South Carolina, were out of gas Wednesday evening, according to GasBuddy — highlighted the vulnerability of aging U.S. energy infrastructure unable to handle 21st-century threats, even those known about far in advance.
Founded as a joint venture by nine oil companies 59 years ago, Koch Industries currently owns the largest stake in the company.
An outside audit of the Colonial Pipeline’s cyberattack defenses, delivered to the company more than three years ago, described “atrocious” information management practices and “a patchwork of poorly connected and secured systems,” its author told the AP. “We found glaring deficiencies and big problems,” said Robert F. Smallwood, whose firm prepared an 89-page report after a six-month audit. “I mean, an eighth-grader could have hacked into that system.” Colonial Pipeline operators have been seeking to hire a cybersecurity manager for more than a month, with 32 applicants on LinkedIn.
Restart: Politico, Washington Post $, CNBC, Reuters, NPR, New York Times $, NBC, Wall Street Journal $, Axios; Gas prices: Axios, The Guardian; Koch ownership: CNN; Cybersecurity failure: AP, New York Times $, Utility Dive; Job Opening: Reuters, Al Jazeera
Originally published by Nexus Media.
GEM Is A Gem In The Battery Recycling Industry That Was Inspired By A Toothpaste Experiment
GEM Co., Ltd., which stands for “Green, Eco-manufacture,” has an interesting history. Today it is one of the largest battery recycling plants in China and has more than 10 years of experience in the industry. It’s had its up and downs, but through it all, it’s built a multi-directional and cross-regional battery waste recycling system.
I was actually looking at an initial news piece about the company’s latest investment when I stumbled onto an interview with its Chairman, Kaihua Xu, who wasn’t always an entrepreneur. He was previously an academic. It’s often small or mundane things that lead us on our paths in life, and for Xu, the success of an experiment with toothpaste was what inspired him to go in this direction.
How Toothpaste Led One Man Onto A Journey Into Battery Recycling
In a recent interview with Fastmarkets Industrial Minerals, GEM’s chairman, Kaihua Xu, spoke about the unlimited resources of recycling. The chairman has been focused on recycling in China since the mid-1990s and his company handles 10% of the recycling of electronic waste and 10% of discarded batteries in China. It also handles 5% of automobile recycling.
In this interview, he shared his story of how he got into recycling. As noted above, it started with toothpaste. He was studying at Central South University, a school that is well known for cultivating talents in metallurgy in China. Xu was researching the recycling of tin from toothpaste tubes as his college graduation project in 1985. I find this interesting because for as long as I can remember, we use plastic tubes for our toothpaste here.
“If I can extract tin from toothpaste tube wastes and produce the recycled tin into stannous sulfate, it will help to cut China’s dependence on imported cargoes,” Xu recalled.
This was during a time in which China relied on imports of stannous sulfate, a coloring pigment used in aluminum extrusion manufacturing. His project was successful and it inspired Xu to choose recycling as his academic direction.
GEM was the first company in China to adopt the idea of “resources are limited, recycling is unlimited,” and implemented urban mining. He shared the history of starting GEM and explained one of the reasons why GEM was founded in Shenzhen.
He noted that the city was a vibrant hub of consumer electronics in southern China and that it was a place where entrepreneurs could establish their business with minimal initial investments. This was due to the support of the local government.
“The other driver for us to do green industry in Shenzhen was that the European Union introduced the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in electrical and electronic equipment,” Xu said. “That is also why the Shenzhen government supported us in the eco-industry because the city was the center for manufacturing consumer electronics.”
His interview is actually pretty moving and he shared some of the struggles his company has overcome while keeping the focus on recycling. There were some setbacks such as the pressures of capital flows, and at one time, the company could barely manage its operations. “Commercializing this technology needed a lot of investments. Besides, the business required a high occupation of capital, but the payment period for electronics manufacturers was quite long,” Xu said.
He also had two business partners who quit and was suddenly in a situation where he could barely afford the water and electricity fees for the operations or the employees’ salaries. However, he didn’t give up, and kept his focus on recycling.
“I had to stick to my initial aspiration. There needs to be someone who practiced those recycling innovations in manufacturing in order to solve the bottleneck of resources and the environment,” Xu said. “We were seeking light in the darkness.”
Things began to look up when he changed the direction of the business from lead-free solder manufacturing to battery recycling in 2003. He had to solve two problems. The first was to find a business pattern that could generate cash. The second was to find venture capital to invest in the operations. After this, the company began recycling nickel and cobalt from battery waste material which was priced at a low cost. The company then produced the material into a nickel and cobalt powder which had high values.
Since then, the company set up a business model and supply chain that enables it to stand up to the competition in light of the increasing number of recycling companies. Xu touched upon this as well. “Recycling is a business that can be dated back in ancient Chinese history. But why were there no notable recycling enterprises in China? It was because we did not find a business model that combines technology, management, and profit-making,” he said.
He pointed out that GEM’s focus has been on technology innovations, since you need advanced technology to recycle electronics. He added that his company has invested 2.5 billion yuan ($387.4 million) in research and development over the past five years.
The interview is rather inspiring — a story of how someone didn’t give up on their dreams and kept on going. You can read the full interview here.
GEM’s Recent News: Investing 1.8 billion RMB Into A Battery Recycling & Precursor Production Plant
Gem recently announced that it will invest 1.8 billion RMB ($278.9 million) into a new battery recycling and precursor production plant in the Jiangsu province, north of Shanghai, China. The new plant will process battery scrap and have an output of 30,000 tonnes of NMC/NCA precursor, which are types of common cathode materials.
The plant will also process 10,000 tonnes of cobalt tetroxide and 3,000 tonnes of lithium-phosphate material, which is a first for GEM. The capacity will be over 120,000 tonnes of material on a cell level if the production is fed entirely by scrap metal.
Construction on the precursor plant is planned sometime this month, with staged commissioning between June 2022 and December 2023. The new plants will help GEM stand out in Shanghai in the same manner it already has done in Wuhan. In Wuhan, it has the full ability to disassemble vehicles, grade and repurpose batteries, and then recycle the batteries.
NREL Announces Plans To Collaborate With Georgia Institute of Technology
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Georgia Institute of Technology have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to bolster the interactions, collaborations, and joint scientific output of both institutions.
The purpose of the MOU is to leverage the expansive capabilities and infrastructure of both institutions in a multidisciplinary approach; expose a pipeline of talent to challenges of practical importance and complex nature early in their academic programs; and introduce new ideas, science, and technology into the industrial and federal marketplace with jointly developed intellectual property.
“We are excited about this MOU, which will facilitate expanded collaboration between NREL and Georgia Tech’s esteemed faculty and first-rate students,” said Peter Green, deputy laboratory director and science and technology officer at NREL. “Together we will leverage the significant intellectual, research, and infrastructure capabilities of both institutions to address some of the critical large-scale, complex research challenges facing industry during the energy transition.”
It is anticipated the collaborative projects between the two institutions will:
- Support goals that are complementary to those held by both institutions
- Share and leverage specialized or unique research facilities and equipment
- Increase inter-institutional collaborative engagement of faculty, staff, and students
- Look for opportunities for additional joint research initiatives and joint appointments.
“Building deep, substantive partnerships to impact society’s most urgent challenges is a major priority for Georgia Tech’s research enterprise,” said Chaouki Abdallah, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech. “We are excited about the possibilities for collaborative, innovative energy-related research with NREL, which has the potential to improve human lives and the world at large.”
The agreement also acknowledges that the energy research environment is evolving. Energy-related research topics are becoming more complex, and the pipeline of research talent is changing due to shifts in academic programs related to energy and the level of student interest in energy-related research as a career. The potential long-term benefits of creating and disseminating new energy technologies for the public good is regarded by the academic community as an increasingly important consideration for the nation’s economy and its prospects for energy security. Leaders from NREL and Georgia Tech agree that the outcomes from this memorandum of understanding will advance our ability to address this evolving landscape.
NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.
Article courtesy of NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy.
NHTSA: 38,680 Traffic Fatalities in 2020, Up 7.2% From 2019
Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its early estimates of motor vehicle traffic fatalities that took place in 2020. It estimated that 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes — representing an estimated increase of around 7.2% compared to the 36,096 fatalities that were reported in 2019.
The report includes preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that showed vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020 decreased by around 430.2 billion miles, translating to around a 13.2% decrease. In 2020, there were 1.37 fatalities per 100 million VMT. That number is an increase from 2019 in which data showed 1.11 fatalities per 100 million VMT.
The NHTSA estimated that the projected fatality rate for 2020 would be the greatest since 2007 and noted that in the last two quarters of the year the fatalities are projected to be greater than the final two quarters of 2019. Compared with 2019, the fatality rate per 100 million VMT in all four quarters of 2020 is much higher.
The NHTSA stated that all 10 of its regions are estimated to have increases in fatalities along with the fatality rate per 100 million VMT in 2020 compared with that of 2019. These are just early estimates. The annual reporting file for 2020 will be available later this year.
How Covid-19 Impacted The Numbers
Considering that there was a pandemic last year that had the entire world on lockdown and many nations issued stay-at-home orders, the numbers are a bit shocking. One would think that since very few people were traveling, the fatality rates would have decreased.
The NHTSA pointed out that the impact of the pandemic led to a decrease in VMT by 13.2% compared with 2019. However, the fatality rate had a marked increase. Why?
What caused these accidents and fatalities to jump? If everyone is staying at home, with the exception of essential workers, why would these numbers rise? The NHTSA shared that there were some potential contributing factors that influenced those numbers and that it’s still gathering data to try to learn more, including from police crash reports. The final file for 2019 and report file for 2020 should be available in the late fall of 2021
I have some theories — based on what I think is common sense.
Distracted driving. A new study conducted by Zendrive found that distracted driving skyrocked in 2020 here in the U.S. According to the results, which analyzed 86,000 motor vehicle collisions, drivers were actively using their cell phones within 60 seconds of impact 27% of the time.
And around 17% of drivers were on their phones during the five seconds immediately before impact. The study also sated that driving while using a mobile device reduced brain activity necessary for driving by 37%, and that engaging with a social network while driving results in the slowest reaction time for drivers, at around 38%. This is followed very closely by testing.
Great cell phone usage may have been a trend unrelated to the pandemic, or perhaps people thought there was less risk on the road due to fewer people driving and then became more careless as a result.
Road rage. A pastor here pulled a gun and shot a truck driver, then drove away — but later turned himself in. This is one wild incident of road rage, but the point is that road rage increased overall during the pandemic. There was even a new term coined, “Cov Rage.”
In May, the Washingtonian noted that re-entry anxiety had people on edge. The article pointed out that there’s been an uptick in road rage incidents across the nation that have been linked with pandemic emotions. Google searches for road rage have also increased during the pandemic and even spiked during the spring.
In the article, the author interviewed Dr. Caroline Wohlegemuth, a psychiatrist, about the emotional state around re-entry and the easing of restrictions. She has seen clients increasingly irritated or frustrated by sitting in traffic or having to wait in line. She noted that it’s not really the traffic or the line or the mask that is the core problem. Frustration is a symptom of underlying pandemic-era anxiety. “This is hard. Humans don’t like change,” she told me. “And even though [most of us] didn’t like isolating, we don’t like changing it again. You get used to a certain way of being,” she said.
Stressed out drivers. This was a horrible time for many who may have lost loved ones to Covid-19. Add in the stress on essential workers who had no choice but to work during the pandemic. A study by Deloitte found that both Millennials and Gen Zers have had to take time off work due to stress and anxiety that was caused by the pandemic — although some in this group gave their employer a different reason since there’s a continuing stigma around mental health in the workplace.
Finances, family welfare, and job prospects were the main causes for this stress, with 41% of millennials and 46% of Gen Zers being affected. Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global Deputy CEO and Chief People and Purpose Officer, added some thoughts about this. “Fostering open and inclusive workplaces where people feel comfortable speaking up about stress, anxiety or other mental health challenges they are experiencing is critical,” she said. “Employers have a responsibility to create a work environment that supports employees’ mental health and well-being and allows them to thrive.”
In many cases, this doesn’t happen, especially if the type of job is minimum wage. I’ve worked several of these jobs and they are demanding, and don’t really care if you fall ill, have an emergency, or whatever the case may be. If these jobs don’t care about that, then rest assured, they don’t care about the mental health of their employees either. Perhaps this is why so many people don’t want to work these slave-wage jobs anymore.
Again, those are just a few examples that could lead to why accidents and fatalities are on the rise. It makes sense that people are stressed and are having issues with anxiety. I get it too — I don’t like leaving home, and while I was flying to California last week, I was a bit worried. When the pilot came on and said the system shut down while we were getting ready to take off from Baton Rouge, I admit, I felt the anxiety come on strong. Fortunately, the guy next to me was cool and calm and happy to chat, and once we were off, the turbulence was rather soothing.
Odd to say, but our roads here in Louisiana are really messed up. The nonstop bumpy ride just kind of felt familiar.
Louisiana Says No To Biden’s Pause On New Oil & Gas Leases
President Biden suspended new oil and gas leases on federal land and water but U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty (LA) blocked the suspension. The judge also ordered that the delayed plans for lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska be resumed.
The ruling came in a lawsuit that was filed back in March by Louisiana’s attorney general, Jeff Landry (R), along with officials from 12 other states. The new ruling grants a preliminary injunction to those states and the judge said his order applies nationwide, The Advocate reported.
The idea that 250,000 Louisianans would lose their jobs if Biden didn’t end the pause on oil and gas leases was prevalent. Last month before the judge made his ruling. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards asked Congress on behalf of the oil and gas industry to lift the pause on oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico. I say on behalf of the oil and gas industry because HuffPost found email templates from an industry lobbying group The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association (LMOGA). The group actually helped ghostwrite a letter for the governor to send to President Biden while also providing him with industry talking points. You can read more about that here.
The Advocate noted that Landry and the supporters of the lawsuit claimed that the moratorium, which was imposed after President Biden signed executive orders to fight climate change, had already driven up prices and endangered energy jobs — yet Biden’s suspension didn’t stop companies from drilling on existing leases.
“No existing lease has been canceled as a result of any of the actions challenged here, and development activity from exploration through drilling and production has continued at similar levels as the preceding four years,” the lawyers for the administration pointed out during briefs.
Having spoken to a few folks at the state capitol building a couple of weeks ago, I understand just how deeply intense the fear that the oil and gas industry has programmed in their minds is. I had one security member tell me that if we do away with oil and gas, no one would have jobs. And yes, I could see the terror at that thought in his eyes.
The Advocate echoed this as well, stating that a long-term halt to oil and gas sales would curb future production and hurt our state, which is heavily dependent on that industry and more than willing to block out the horrendous effects of global warming that many Louisianans face. In essence, Louisiana is held captive by this monster industry.
The lawsuit stated that coastal states receive significant revenue from both onshore and offshore oil and gas activity. It also stated that stopping leases would diminish revenue that pays for Louisiana efforts to restore coastal wetlands, raises energy costs, and leads to major job losses in oil-producing states. These are myths and scare tactics, since Biden was only stopping new leases, not all leases, yet the judge agreed to the FUD he was fed.
I agree with Amanda Lefton, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. When the governor went to Congress, she explained that the pause is limited to leasing and doesn’t affect the production or permit applications for existing leases.
“There is continued production in the Gulf of Mexico and, therefore, there’s continued revenue that’s coming in,” she said.
Lefton explained that the pause on new leases didn’t have much to do with recent job losses. “We’re actually seeing a decline of jobs in the oil and gas industry over the years, in the past four years in particular,” she said. “I think it’s really important to think about what our opportunities are moving forward, and Gov. Edwards just spoke to one of those, which is how can we help transition communities to support new and growing industries like offshore wind.”
I’m honestly not surprised. Louisiana is an oil state and is the second largest producer in the nation, one of the top five states in both natural gas and oil production. We have 17 oil refineries that process around 3.4 million barrels of crude oil daily. With such a huge presence here, it’s no wonder that some of our politicians are sellouts to the oil industry.
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