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DALLAS (AP) — Donald Trump says he would bring back lost coal-mining jobs, and he is positioning for the November election in big coal states by portraying Hillary Clinton as a job killer.
Trump, however, has yet to explain exactly how he will revitalize Appalachia’s coal industry. To pull it off, he will have to overcome market forces and a push for cleaner fuels that have pummeled coal.
Coal’s slump is largely the result of cheap natural gas, which now rivals coal as a fuel for generating electricity. Older coal-fired plants are being idled to meet clean-air standards.
Another hurdle for reviving coal mining in Appalachia: less coal. Reserves of coal still in the ground are smaller than in western states like Wyoming, the leading coal producer.
There is no question that there are fewer mining jobs today. According to the Labor Department, there were 56,700 jobs in coal mining in March, down from 68,000 just a year earlier. In March 2009, shortly after President Barack Obama entered office, there were 84,600 coal-mining jobs.
TRUMP: “We’re going to get those miners back to work ... the miners of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which was so great to me last week, Ohio and all over are going to start to work again, believe me. They are going to be proud again to be miners.”
THE FACTS: It is unclear what Trump would do to increase mining jobs. He has long criticized the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, saying that its proposals to tighten emission standards on coal-burning power plants are killing American jobs. A Trump adviser said that a Trump administration would review many EPA regulations including those affecting the coal industry.
While the requirements have raised the cost of operating coal-fired plants, experts say a bigger factor in coal’s decline has been cheaper natural gas. Drilling techniques such as fracking have sparked a boom in gas production, driving down prices and prompting utilities to switch from coal.
As recently as 2008, about half the electricity in the U.S. came from burning coal and one-fifth from burning natural gas. Today, each accounts for about one-third — oil, hydroelectric and renewables like solar and wind make up most of the rest. Weak economic growth has hurt demand for Appalachian coal used in making steel.
U.S. coal production fell 10 percent last year. The Energy Department predicts it will drop 16 percent this year, the biggest one-year decline since 1958.
John Deskins, director of an economic-research bureau at West Virginia University, said government’s ability to boost coal production is limited.
“It is very unlikely we will see a return to levels of coal production like we observed in 2008,” the most recent peak in the state, Deskins said. Easing EPA restrictions — the industry is challenging EPA in court — would help over the long run, but not enough to offset the loss of market share to natural gas, he said.
There is another limitation on coal’s future in Appalachia: After decades of heavy production, there is less of it to be mined.
Wyoming, with rich reserves of low-sulfur coal near the surface, is the largest coal-producing-state and has the most coal still in the ground at producing mines. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Wyoming has three times as much recoverable reserves at producing mines as West Virginia and about twice as much as West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio combined.
TRUMP: “I want clean coal, and we’re going to have clean coal and we’re going to have plenty of it. We’re going to have great, clean coal. We’re going to have an amazing mining business.”
THE FACTS: Clean coal covers a range of technologies, some already in use, to reduce pollution. Many types of emissions from coal-fired plants have been reduced, but the capturing and storing of carbon dioxide, the emission that scientists say is most responsible for climate change, has been harder to accomplish on a significant scale.
A model carbon-capture plant being built in Mississippi has encountered repeated delays and huge cost overruns that will make it one of the most expensive power plants ever built. The coal industry complains that carbon capture has not received the government incentives showered on renewable energy.
TRUMP: “We’re not going to be Hillary Clinton. I watched her three or four weeks ago when she was talking about the miners as if they were just numbers, and she was talking about she wants the mines closed and she will never let them work again.”
THE FACTS: Trump is hitting Clinton for comments she made in March on CNN and which continue to dog the presumptive Democratic nominee on the campaign trail. But the remark was part of a longer answer.
Clinton said she had a policy to help coal country benefit from creating renewable energy “because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?” That was quickly followed by “We’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.”
This week an out-of-work coal miner in West Virginia confronted Clinton about the remarks, even handing her a photo of his family. Clinton said she had made “a misstatement.”
“What I was saying,” she told the voter, “is that the way things are going now we will continue to lose jobs.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — Getting stitched up by Dr. Robot may one day be reality: Scientists have created a robotic system that did just that in living animals without a real doctor pulling the strings.
Much like engineers are designing self-driving cars, Wednesday’s research is part of a move toward autonomous surgical robots, removing the surgeon’s hands from certain tasks that a machine might perform all by itself.
No, doctors wouldn’t leave the bedside — they’re supposed to supervise, plus they’d handle the rest of the surgery. Nor is the device ready for operating rooms.
But in small tests using pigs, the robotic arm performed at least as well, and in some cases a bit better, as some competing surgeons in stitching together intestinal tissue, researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“The purpose wasn’t to replace surgeons,” said Dr. Peter C.W. Kim of Children’s National Health System in Washington, a pediatric surgeon who led the project. “If you have an intelligent tool that works with a surgeon, can it improve the outcome? That’s what we have done.”
If you’ve heard about machines like the popular Da Vinci system, you might think robots already are operating. Not really. Today many hospitals offer robot-assisted surgery where surgeons use the machinery as tools that they manually control, typically to operate through tiny openings in the body. But robot-assisted surgery has been controversial, as some studies have shown it can bring higher costs without better outcomes.
So why the push for next-generation autonomous robots? Proponents think there are cases where a machine’s precision may outperform a human hand.
Wednesday’s project is “the first baby step toward true autonomy,” said Dr. Umamaheswar Duvvuri of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a head and neck surgeon and robotic specialist who wasn’t involved with new work.
But don’t expect to see doctors ever leave entire operations in a robot’s digits, he cautioned.
Because it’s designed to do one specific task — stitch up tissue — the machine is a lot like the automation trend in other industries. Robot arms do the welding and painting in most U.S. car assembly lines, for example. They can find inventory in warehouses. From the driver’s perspective, many cars now are able to warn drivers when they’re too close to the car in front, or take control and apply the brakes to prevent a crash.
The new STAR system — it stands for Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot — works sort of like a programmable sewing machine.
Kim’s team at Children’s Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation took a standard robotic arm and equipped it with suturing equipment plus smart imaging technologies to let it track moving tissue in 3-D and with an equivalent of night vision. They added sensors to help guide each stitch and tell how tightly to pull.
The surgeon places fluorescent markers on the tissue that needs stitching, and the robot takes aim as doctors keep watch.
Now the test: Could the STAR reconnect tubular pieces of intestinal tissue from pigs, sort of like two ends of a garden hose? Any soft-tissue surgeries are tricky for machinery because those tissues move out of place so easily. And the stitches in these connections must be placed precisely to avoid leaks or blockages, a challenge even for experts.
Using pieces of pig bowel outside of the animals’ bodies as well as in five living but sedated pigs, the researchers tested the STAR robot against open surgery, minimally invasive surgery and robot-assisted surgery.
By some measures — the consistency of stitches and their strength to avoid leaks — “we surpassed the surgeons,” said Children’s engineer Ryan Decker.
The STAR approach wasn’t perfect. The STAR had to reposition fewer stitches than the surgeons performing minimally invasive or robot-assisted suturing. But in the living animals, the robot took much longer and made a few suturing mistakes while the surgeon sewing by hand made none.
Kim, whose team has filed patents on the system, said the robot can be sped up. He hopes to begin human studies in two or three years.
HONG KONG (AP) — Most Asian stocks drifted lower in holiday-thinned trade after some uneven economic data sent investors into a holding pattern.
KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.3 percent to 20,469.10 while the Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China dipped 0.2 percent to 2,986.00. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 crept up less than 0.1 percent to 5,273.80. Taiwan’s benchmark fell while New Zealand’s rose and those in Southeast Asia were mixed. Markets were closed in South Korea and Japan for holidays.
US ECONOMY: Data releases gave mixed signals for the world’s No. 1 economy. A private survey by the Institute for Supply Management found growth at service economies in April accelerating to its high level this year. While this could be a sign that the broader economy is on an upswing, another survey by payroll processor ADP found that U.S. companies added jobs at the slowest pace in three years in April, indicating that slower growth and rocky financial markets might be weighing on hiring. Investors are now looking ahead to an official U.S. employment report on Friday that could give a clearer sign of economic growth and influence thinking on interest rates among Fed policymakers. Economists expect the report to show jobs grew by 200,000 last month while the unemployment rate stays at 5 percent.
MARKET INSIGHT: “On the surface, the poor ADP employment data and slightly stronger than expected ISM non-manufacturing and factory orders muddled the US growth outlook,” said Bernard Aw, market strategist at IG in Singapore. “The logical reaction should be lower expectations of Fed moving on rates next month,” however the dollar has defied those expectations by continuing to strengthen.
CHINA INDEX: The services industry expanded for a second month although at a slower rate in April, according to a survey of Chinese purchasing managers. The Caixin/Markit index fell to 50.8 last month from 51.3 the month before, based on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate contraction. The results indicate that momentum is slowing in China’s service sector, which has been a bright spot for China’s slowing economy as manufacturing remains weak.
WALL STREET: Major U.S. indexes fell for a second day, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 0.6 percent to 17,651.26 while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index slid 0.6 percent to 2,051.12. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.8 percent to 4,725.64.
ENERGY: Crude oil prices jumped, driven by what analysts said were concerns that output could be crimped after a massive fire swept through the Canadian oil sands hub of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose $1, or 2.2 percent, to $44.78 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 13 cents to close at $43.78 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 72 cents to $45.34 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 107.10 yen from 106.95 yen late Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.1490 from $1.1494.
Say goodbye to the old Fred Meyer building; Ogden working on plan to remove decades old eyesore.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Prodded by the U.S. government, Takata agreed Wednesday to add up to 40 million air bag inflators to an already massive recall, raising questions about the auto industry’s ability to produce and distribute the necessary replacement parts.
The recall of inflators that can explode with too much force and hurt people was already the largest in U.S. history at 28.8 million. But Wednesday’s announcement could raise that number as high as 69 million, a staggering task that will strain overburdened manufacturers.
The expansion also entered Takata, automakers and the government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a race against time. The government said the inflators have to be replaced before they reach six years old, when the risk of rupture increases.
Even before Wednesday’s expansion, it would have taken until the end of 2017 for enough replacement parts to be manufactured, said Scott Upham, CEO of Valient Market Research in Philadelphia, which tracks air bag sales. He wasn’t sure how many more years would be needed.
Other inflator manufacturers such as TRW Automotive, Daicel and Autoliv, which already are making replacement inflators, have agreed to join Takata to produce even more, Upham said.
“They’re pitching in to the best of their ability, but even with their help, it’s going to be very difficult to really ramp up production to cover this,” he said.
Still, the government said, it will take until the end of 2019 to finish the recalls, fast enough to catch the suspect inflators before they can burst and spew shrapnel into drivers and passengers. At least 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide have been blamed on the Takata parts.
But two years after the big Takata recalls began, automakers have only replaced 28 percent of the recalled inflators due to a lack of replacement parts and difficulty in finding owners and persuading them to get cars repaired.
“We are absolutely not satisfied with the completion rates of the recalls already under way,” Rosekind said, cautioning against moving too quickly. Inflators aren’t interchangeable and must be engineered to fit a specific vehicle, which takes time, he said.
“We don’t want to introduce new safety risks by pushing too fast,” Rosekind said.
Yet he said the recalls were urgent and told people to get recalled vehicles fixed as soon as parts are available.
“The science now clearly shows these inflators can become unsafe over time,” he said, referring to evidence that chemicals in the devices can degrade, especially when exposed to heat and humidity.
The models involved in the expanded recalls and the number of cars affected were not available Wednesday but will be posted within weeks on NHTSA’s website. The expansion adds three manufacturers — Tesla, Jaguar-Land Rover and Fisker — to the 14 that already have vehicles in the recall.
The expanded recall mainly covers inflators in front passenger air bags that do not have a chemical drying agent known as a desiccant. But it does not include side air bags without the drying agent, nor does it cover another 32 million air bags that have the desiccant. Some cars now have both driver and passenger inflators that are being recalled.
The expansion will be phased in between now and December 2019, with older cars and those in areas of high heat and humidity getting priority, the agency said.
Takata uses ammonium nitrate to create an explosion that inflates air bags in a crash. But over time and when exposed to airborne moisture and high temperatures, the chemical can degrade and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister and spewing shrapnel.
It takes a minimum of six years for the chemical to become unstable in high humidity regions, NHTSA officials said. As cars age, the risk grows, especially in areas where temperatures frequently cycle from cool to hot. Six years is a conservative estimate, and the replacement schedule is aimed at getting vehicles fixed before they are old enough to risk a rupture, the officials said.
But Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said the recalls still aren’t being done fast enough. “If we wait another three or four years for these to get replaced, more people are likely to die,” he said.
Inflators with the drying agent have not been recalled because none has ruptured due to problems with ammonium nitrate, NHTSA said. There was one rupture, but it was due to a manufacturing problem with the canister, the agency has said. Side air bags are designed differently and are far less risky, they said.
Takata said it knows of no ruptures in the batch of inflators that have been added to the recalls, nor does it know of any new data “that suggests any substantial risk with respect to such vehicles.”
Still, Takata said, it agreed to the expansion out of a shared interest in safety.
Rosekind praised Takata’s conduct in the latest recall, saying it appears the company “may be turning the corner toward a stronger and more effective safety compliance culture.”
The additional recalls come as authorities in Malaysia investigate two more recent deaths in cars with Takata air bags that ruptured. Honda says the inflators spewed metal fragments in the crashes, but the cause of the deaths has not been determined.
This story has been corrected to show that Valient Market Research has moved to Philadelphia.
Krisher reported from Detroit. AP Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit also contributed to this report.
Billion-dollar industries extract minerals from the Great Salt Lake used to grow food, build cars and more. So, what will happen if the lake disappears by fault of human-caused water diversion?
E3 is hosting its first Leadership Summit from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, May 5 at the Ogden Eccles Conference Center. Wade Davis, former Weber State and NFL football player and equality advocate, will be the keynote speaker.
The new owners of a set of abandoned buildings in downtown Ogden say they’ve got their work cut out for them, but are committed to bringing life back to the northeast corner of 24th Street and Wall Avenue. On April 11, George and Dragon LLC finalized the purchase of the old Antique Emporium building, 2386 Wall Ave. The group also purchased two buildings to the immediate north of the emporium.