Numlock News: June 7, 2022 • Solar, Robots, Tasers
By Walt Hickey
The Biden administration will roll out a fix to a tariff issue that’s causing major problems for importers of solar panels. Essentially, the Department of Commerce has been worried that Chinese solar panel manufacturers have been dodging tariffs by routing their panels through new operations in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The issue is, the investigation has spooked solar manufacturers in the four countries, as they could be staring down $3.6 billion in retroactive tariffs, and as a result they’ve cut off exports to the U.S. and in doing so put half of planned solar projects at risk. The proposed solution will grant a two-year reprieve on tariffs for solar panels coming from the four countries, while also activating the Defense Production Act to kickstart the domestic business.
The Great One
Wayne Gretzky, not merely content to have every major discernible record that a skater could hope to attain over a career in the National Hockey League, has struck yet again and secured yet another record, this time for the auction price for his final game-worn Edmonton Oilers jersey. The jersey saw action during the 1988 Stanley Cup Final and just sold for $1.452 million, beating the $1.3 million record previously held by a Paul Henderson 1972 Summit Series jersey. The game in which it was worn was the final in a sweep of Boston and was the final Stanley Cup of Wayne Gretzky’s career. Congratulations to Brent Gretzky, who given this $80 jersey I found on eBay presumably now has the record for highest combined sale price for a pair of NHL brothers’ hockey jerseys
South Korea has the highest industrial robot density in the world, and new laws mean that’s likely only going to get higher. Right now, there are 932 industrial robots per every 10,000 South Korean employees, vastly higher than the second-place country, Singapore, which had 605 robots per 10,000 workers. Compare that to Japan (390 robots per 10,000 workers), Germany (371 robots per 10,000 workers) and the United States (255 robots per 10,000 workers) and you can see just how robotic the South Korean industrial workplace is. And while automation is high, January’s implementation of the new Serious Disasters Punishment Act — which makes CEOs and high-ranking managers personally liable in the event of worker injury or death — has pushed companies to automate even further, to reduce their liabilities.
The AI ethics board for Axon, the company that manufactures Tasers, overwhelmingly opposed the company’s plan to roll out a Taser-enabled drone. After the company reacted to the vote by nevertheless continuing to develop the drones, which can Taser people, nine members of the ethics board have resigned in protest. On Sunday, in response, the company announced it was stopping the development of the drones, “pausing work” so that they can find a better path forward.
Now Is Lada’s Time To Shine
Russian car sales dropped a breathtaking 84 percent in May, as a whirlwind of international sanctions deprives the countries of the vehicles and the parts it needs to roll vehicles off the lots. Last month there were fewer than 25,000 vehicles sold in Russia, about a tenth of the typical peak month and the lowest level since at least 2006. It’s also pretty much just been suppliers who haven’t yet sold out their stocks, and as Russia’s automotive sector is very foreign-dominated it’s not entirely clear what happens next to the new automobile business in Russia. As it stands, only two Russian auto factories — a locally-owned one and a Chinese-owned plant — operate out of the 20 factories in the country.
Major retailers have a glut of all the wrong stuff in their inventories, as delayed shipments finally arrive. Many are just going to hold on to the excess inventory, waiting for the moment when it’s advantageous to hawk fleeces again. Walmart’s inventories are up 33 percent in the first quarter, and about 20 percent of it is stuff the company doesn’t actually want. Gap inventories are up 34 percent year over year, American Eagle inventory is up 46 percent, Urban Outfitters up 32 percent, and Kohl’s is up 40 percent. Anyway, if anyone wants a bunch of Christmas-themed pajamas that finally got off a boat, America’s retailers are ready to oblige you.
A drought in southern Nelson Mandela Bay has put three reservoirs that account for a third of the water supply for 1.3 million people at nearly empty, with the remaining water supply considered poor quality and full of contaminants. The South African government estimates that by the end of the decade, the country will face a water deficit of 20 percent. Gqeberha, the coastal city facing down water trouble, consumes 290 megaliters of water a day, 20 percent more than the national Water and Sanitation Department set as its targets.
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