Safety is Priority
The latest EHS Today National Safety Survey “finds many corporate leaders actively engage in safety efforts and communicate to workers that they value safety over production.” This year’s survey shows that “nearly 70 percent of respondents said that their company does prioritize safety over production and other business values,” and “over 80 percent said that top management provides active and visible support for occupational safety and health.”
Oil Inches Back
Crude oil “jumped as much as 5 percent” on comments from the Saudi oil minister about potential action to stabilize prices and the International Energy Agency’s forecast that crude oil markets would rebalance in the next few months.
A growing number of homeowners are missing payments on their home-equity loans, which often require interest-only payments for the 10 years, at which point, principal payments are required for the next 15 or 20 years. This is significant, the Journal notes, because some 840,000 such loans taken out in 2006 are resetting this year.
Out of this World
A small 110-pound vehicle “will travel to celestial bodies by 2020, with the intent to mine for ice water, building materials and precious metals.” Designed by Deep Space Industries, Prospector-1 is set “to carryout the first commercial mining mission beyond our planet’s orbit” by flying to a near-Earth asteroid.”
Faster than a Plane
The journey between Houston and Dallas on a proposed bullet train “might actually be faster” than a plane. The US High Speed Rail Association claims the 17,000-mile high-speed rail system “could be completed as early as 2030.” The group says on their website, “This new national system will revitalize our economy, reactivate our manufacturing sector, create millions of jobs, end our oil dependency, reduce congestion, and cut our carbon footprint by epic proportions.”
South Korea is publicly discussing their plans for the future development of fully autonomous cars, according to local media reports. The government “will be working on developing self-driving cars, and aims to have the technology ready for expressways beginning with the year 2024.”
As automakers work to improve fuel efficiency and meet increasing mileage standards, “one promising technology on the horizon is a new type of gas-electric hybrid that draws power from a 48-volt battery,” which is more powerful than the standard 12-volt auto battery but less expensive and less complicated than the 200-volt of more power packs found in hybrids like the Toyota Prius. Even with new technologies, “automakers still have an steep uphill climb” to achieve 54.5 mpg by 2025. Last month, a joint report from the EPA and the Transportation Department “said automakers were probably able to reach only an average rating of about 50 mpg by 2025 — about 36 mpg in real-world situations.”
Speaking of New Batteries
The US Department of Energy has “partnered with” the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology “to develop smart grid and energy storage technology.” The DOE and MST are “each committing $1.5 million per year for five years” to the research initiative, “which is meant to put grid modernization on a fast track with added research and deployment.” The US funds are pending congressional approval.
Consumer safety advocates are “calling for stricter and enforceable standards” for furniture manufacturers “after a report shows current criteria do not keep children safe from dresser tip-overs.”
The Energy Department is going ahead “with new efficiency rules for fluorescent lamps.” The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the DOE “announced it will issue new test procedures for fluorescent lamps.”