Numlock News: May 18, 2022 • Cats, Compressed Air, LaGuardia Airport
By Walt Hickey
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced it will crack down on the street pricing policy it failed to maintain in the New York City-area airports that forbade ridiculous markups on food and beverage items. The decree follows an investigation by the agency that found 25 patrons were charged $23 to $27 for a single beer in Terminal C in LaGuardia Airport, specifically one 23-ounce can of Sam Adams Summer Ale that sold for $27.85, an “indefensible” amount of money. The agency unveiled a new 35-page guide for vendors who sell in the airport and announced random price checks were coming, which could mean cheaper food and drinks are on the way.
Cats can be ruthless predators, and their domestication has worked out pretty well for them in that they’ve coerced humans to drag them to places where they otherwise would never have been able to be ruthless predators. Studies attribute the extinction of 40 birds, 21 mammals and two reptiles in part to cats, and their hunts have helped make 587 other species endangered. They’re particularly rough on islands, which often are full of birds and small mammals that have never experienced a predator before the arrival of the domestic cat, and one such island is Iceland, otherwise home to just one native terrestrial predator. That’s one reason that some towns around the world are implementing cat curfews, one attempt to rein the beasts in.
In January, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection discovered that a company had installed 30 gas-fired generators on well pads and linked the generators directly up to equipment that mined cryptocurrency. It’s an oddly direct illustration of a fairly general problem: people attempting to turn fossil fuels into a combination of carbon dioxide and cryptocurrency that pollutes the air but enriches the driller. In this case, the wells are off the grid, unconnected to pipelines, and opening them and fracking them directly burned fossil fuels that otherwise would have remained in the ground. One bitcoin mining company installed four 1.25 MW gas generators at a previously dormant well in Alberta, managing to run it illicitly for 364 days without authorization.
An issue for the use of sustainable energy sources in power grids is that demand for power and the supply of power can be out of step, meaning if there’s a lot of demand on a cloudy windless day you may be in for some trouble. How to store renewably-generated energy for use later is an important way of easing the transition into renewables, and one solution is compressed air energy storage. In one new case — a 60-megawatt Chinese plant poised to be the largest built since 1991 — at night electricity will be used to pump air into an underground salt cavern, and then when demand peaks the following day it will release the air to power a turbine and release electricity. Right now, there’s 1128.5 MW of compressed air projects in the pipeline in the U.S., 621.5 MW in Europe, and 3,850.1 MW in China.
A new report from the Department of Justice found that U.S. firearm manufacturers produced 139 million guns from 2000 to 2020 for the commercial market, jumping from 3.9 million commercial guns produced in 2000 to 11.3 million of them in the year 2020 alone. A further 71 million firearms were imported over the same period, while just 7.5 million of the guns produced in the U.S were exported. The hundreds of millions of new guns injected into the American marketplace coincided with a significant rise in firearm homicides, with the 6.1 per 100,000 rate seen in 2020 the highest in 25 years, and up 35 percent over 2019.
Wills, which dictate the distribution of assets upon death, aren’t used equally across the population. A 2020 study of deaths in Alachua County, Florida, found that the average person who died without a will owned property that was worth 40 percent less than the average person who died with a will. Having a will was correlated strongly with race: 93 percent of those who died with a will were white, and while a fifth of the county was Black only 4 percent of those who died with a will were Black. While there are other ways to distribute assets after death without a will, the laws that undergird posthumous distribution of wealth are from a time before new family structures — like people who are cohabitating unmarried partners, or who have non-biological children who haven’t been formally adopted, or foster children — were as common as they are today.
A Chicago company that claimed it was offering PCR tests for coronavirus to government customers in Nevada including the University of Nevada Reno appears to have been incredibly unreliable according to state public health officials, with the company telling people that they had tested negative for the virus when in fact they were positive. State public health officials said that Northshore Clinical Labs missed 96 percent of the positive cases from the University of Nevada Reno, which sent infected people into the community none the wiser. The politically-connected company had its license application fast-tracked, and as of May 5 they collected $165 million from the federal government, the 11th most in the country, according to ProPublica.
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