One More Thing

A clean, beautiful mess

President Donald Trump announced in October the “war on clean, beautiful coal” has ended with the Environmental Protection Agency beginning its rollback of the Clean Power Plan.

That’s right. Clean, beautiful coal wins because the Clean Power Plan loses.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruit said the plan imposed “devastating effects” on the American people. Thirty-two percent of emissions were supposed to be cut across the states, with each state assigned its own goal based on its power mix. The coal industry was expected to be hardest hit.

But not anymore. Hopefully the renewable energy industry hasn’t got too comfortable with its dirty solar panels and noisy wind farms. According to Trump, coal should be back in the mix for the future of US energy.

Coal fell from half of US energy generation in 2003 to a third in 2015 – the year the Clean Power Plan was announced – according to the US Energy Information Agency. But that must be fake news. Natural gas and renewables are more efficient and cost competitive than coal. Shh…! The US isn’t meeting its global obligations. Make America great again.

The only place this makes sense is in Trump’s world, where dirty energy is clean.

Come fly with(out) me

Self-driving cars are old news. The newest trend in autonomous vehicles will be passing by a mile overhead.

Though not quite as advanced as driverless technology, pilotless flight may not be far behind, according to a report from NBC News. Already, Airbus is developing the Vahana, an “autonomous air taxi”, while Boeing may not be far behind.

What is driving (or should we say, piloting) this evolution? Cost is one major factor. UBS, a Swiss bank, released a study in August suggesting that moving towards pilotless flight may save the aviation industry as much as $35 billion per year. Eliminating human error may also make air travel safer, especially with the industry facing a potential shortage of qualified pilots.

“As a pilot, you can only think about so much at once,” one Boeing executive told Politico. “A computer can make a much quicker decision than a human being can.” If those decisions include more efficient use of take-off and landing slots, we can already see many a fund manager salivating.

But don’t expect to find empty cockpits just yet. While switching to pilotless planes is likely to face significant resistance from the aviation industry, an even bigger hurdle might be convincing passengers to get on board. In the same UBS study, just 17 percent of 8,000 people surveyed said they would be willing to fly on an unmanned flight, though younger respondents were a bit more open-minded.