Friday Facts: August 23, 2019

 It’s Friday! 

Quotes of note 

“Freedom brings men rudely and directly face to face with their own personal responsibility for their own free actions.” – Frank Meyer

“Conservatives pride themselves on resisting change, which is as it should be. But intelligent deference to tradition and stability can evolve into intellectual sloth and moral fanaticism, as when conservatives simply decline to look up from dogma because the effort to raise their heads and reconsider is too great.” – William F. Buckley 

Events

Today’s the registration deadline for “Election Integrity,” the Foundation’s Policy Briefing Luncheon on Tuesday, August 27.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS TODAY! Register here for “Election Integrity: Facts, Fraud and Fiction,” the Foundation’s August 27 noon Policy Briefing Luncheon at the Georgian Club. The speaker is Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. $35.

Mark your calendar: The Foundation’s in Savannah on September 18 for “License to Work,” a Policy Briefing Luncheon on occupational licensing reform at the Savannah Golf Club. $35. Details coming soon!

September 26: “The Student-Loan Debt Dilemma” is a Higher Ed Happy Hour discussion on student loans and college debt at No Mas! Cantina in Atlanta, with keynote speaker Jenna Robinson, president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. $10. Register here.

November 15: Early Bird registration is $75 through September 20 for the 2019 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum. The agenda is online for the daylong event on Friday, November 15, at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly. The theme: “Wisdom, Justice, Mobility.” Click here to register.

Energy and environment

WOTUS: A federal judge has sided with Georgia and nine others states in a ruling this week that found President Barack Obama’s signature water policy doesn’t pass legal muster. The opinion concluded he Obama administration’s Waters of the United States regulation violated the Clean Water Act as well as federal law that outlines how agencies can craft new policies. The rule removed “navigable” from U.S. water law and redefined nearly everything wet as “waters of the United States.” The court ruling was a victory for Attorney General Chris Carr, who helped organize the 10-state coalition that challenged the 2015 rule.. Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Records: U.S. petroleum and natural gas production grew by 16% and 12% respectively in 2018, the largest-ever absolute increases from a single country. Petroleum output climbed to a record 28.7 quadrillion British thermal units last year, while gas production soared to an all-time high of 28.5 billion cubic feet per day. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Emissions: Residents have been up in arms since learning Sterigenics, a Smyrna company that sterilizes medical equipment, has been releasing ethylene oxide, which may cause cancer through chronic (long-term) exposure. Attorneys already are seeking complainants. It’s worth noting, however, as WABE points out, “the company is not being accused of doing anything illegal, and it is not being fined. Both [the Environmental Protection Division] and Sterigenics say the company has not violated the conditions of its operating permit.” Additionally, the company has pledged “to take all the actions outlined in the proposed permit application to lower potential emissions.”

After 18 days of 90-plus degree weather in Atlanta, even the “camels” at the Atlanta Botanical Garden looked ready to depart for cooler surrounds this week. (Photo: Benita Dodd)

Clarion call: Twice in one week this month – and for the first time in five years – a heatwave prompted an energy emergency in Texas, according to U.S. News & World Report. Demand from air conditioners soared and winds slowed, and the state’s grid operator found itself with a shrinking margin of reserve power. “Electricity supply authorities are finding that when wind gets to be a substantial part of the power system, if you don’t have good connections with neighboring countries or neighboring systems, that can really get you into a lot of trouble in maintaining system stability,” noted Peter Hartley, a scholar in energy studies at the Baker Institute at Rice University.

Opportunity

Great score: A new study by WalletHub ranks Atlanta No. 6 nationally in soccer fan experience out of the 288 largest cities across the country. First is Los Angeles. Atlanta, home to Atlanta United, is No. 3 in the nation for the Major League Soccer experience.

Technology

Autonomous driving data: In a bid to shorten the lengthy process of teaching cars to drive themselves, Waymo is making its Open Dataset freely available to the research community. It hopes doing so with “the largest fully self-driving data set ever” will accelerate the development of machine perception and self-driving technology.

Surveillance: Atlanta (No. 10) and London (No. 6) are the only two cities outside China on the list of the top 10 most-surveilled cities in the world, according to Comparitech. Atlanta has 15.56 closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) per 1,000 people. The only other U.S. city in the top 20 is Chicago, No. 13 with 13.06 cameras per 1,000 people.

Intellectual property: More than 100 individuals working in U.S. academia, venture capital and pharmaceuticals signed a letter condemning what they see as unfair treatment of Chinese and Chinese-American scientists. In March, the National Institutes of Health sent out letters inquiring about researchers who might have undisclosed ties to foreign governments. Five researchers (including two at Emory University) were dismissed. The letter notes that while there should be safeguards to prevent theft and espionage, curtailing the contributions of the scientists would harm U.S. interests. Source: GenomeWeb.com

Taxes and spending

Fine time to leave: For hundreds of mostly small cities and towns, fines are a critical source of funding, at times accounting for more than half of all general revenues, Governing magazine found. It notes this revenue could erode as improved driver technology, autonomous vehicles and criminal justice reforms reduce fines and fees. Governing also names the states with the most localities that have relatively high shares of fine revenues. No surprise: Georgia is among them. (See state totals.)

Watt a waste: The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority approved a loan of $500,000 to Tybee Island for a solar system to support the wastewater treatment plant, according to The Savannah Morning News, “to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and to lower the overall cost for electricity to operate the plant.” The city will pay 0.94% interest on the 20-year loan. The projected savings is $17,431 a year. GEFA’s taxpayer-subsidized loans could easily be provided by the private sector; the Foundation wrote about GEFA’s mission creep a decade ago. 

Healthcare

Slippery slope? Amid a growing shortfall of qualified nurses in Britain, researchers at Imperial College London are developing a robot with dexterous 3D-printed fingers to assist the elderly or physically challenged. A modified version of a U.S.-created machine, the robot has two mechanical arms, an animated face and sensors to help it analyze patterns and detect if a human user is struggling to lift or move a limb. Source: IndustryWeek

Friday Flashback 

This month in the archives: In August 10 years ago, the Foundation published, “Hellish Health Reform.” It noted, “Changing federal and state laws to support the growth of health care consumerism by promoting personal responsibility can reduce the numbers of the uninsured by 15 million – and that’s without any government expenditures.”

Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read the Foundation’s latest commentary, “Going from Trees-R-Us to Trees-Or-Us,” by Harold Brown.

Have a great weekend!

Kyle Wingfield and Benita Dodd

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