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Trump Set To Meet With Automakers

Trump to Meet with Carmakers on Trade, Pollution

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Donald Trump . VOA
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President Trump plans to meet next week with leaders from U.S. and foreign carmakers on trade and changes to emission standards.

“When the White House wants to meet with us about our sector and policy, we welcome the opportunity,” Alliance of American Automobile Manufacturers spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist said Wednesday.

The time and agenda of the talks are still to be announced. But the car builders want to make their concerns about possible changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement known to the president.

FILE - Employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., work on the assembly of a Passat sedans, July 12, 2013.
FILE – Employees at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., work on the assembly of a Passat sedans, July 12, 2013. VOA

They are also expected to talk about Trump administration plans to revise strict Obama-era emission standards for U.S. cars and light trucks.

Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., are suing the administration over the plans, accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of breaking the law.

“This is about health. This is about life and death,” California Governor Jerry Brown said Tuesday. “Pollutants coming out of tailpipes does permanent damage to children. The only way we’re going to overcome this is by reducing emissions.”

Brown accused Trump of wanting people to buy more gasoline and create more pollution.

The lawsuit argues the EPA acted arbitrarily and violated the Clean Air Act when it decided emission standards were too high.

Gov. Jerry Brown discusses a lawsuit filed by 17 states and the District of Columbia over the Trump administration's plans to scrap vehicle emission standards during a news conference, May 1, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif.
Gov. Jerry Brown discusses a lawsuit filed by 17 states and the District of Columbia over the Trump administration’s plans to scrap vehicle emission standards during a news conference, May 1, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. VOA

In 2012, former president Barack Obama ordered emission standards to be raised to about 21 kilometers per liter of gasoline by 2025. The goal was to cut pollution and make cars and small trucks more energy efficient.

The EPA is seeking to freeze fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels until 2026.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt said last month that Obama’s decision was politically based and the emission standards Obama set were too high and did not “comport with reality.”

Also Read: UN Requests Trump Not to Quit Iran Deal

Pruitt said his EPA will set fresh standards so new cars that use less gas and are safer than older models will be affordable.

But environmental groups said the American public overwhelmingly supports the stricter standards.  (VOA)

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Plastics Can Be Eaten By Enzymes And Reduce Pollution

The enzyme is able to digest polyethylene terephthalate

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Packs of flattened polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) bottles are carried into a depot before being pulverized as part of a recycling process at Tokyo PET Bottle Recycle Co. in Tokyo, Aug. 13, 2002. Researchers in Britain and the United States have engineered an enzyme that breaks down such plastics.
Packs of flattened polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) bottles are carried into a depot before being pulverized as part of a recycling process at Tokyo PET Bottle Recycle Co. in Tokyo, Aug. 13, 2002. Researchers in Britain and the United States have engineered an enzyme that breaks down such plastics. VOA

Scientists in Britain and the United States say they have engineered a plastic-eating enzyme that could help in the fight against pollution.

The enzyme is able to digest polyethylene terephthalate, or PET — a form of plastic patented in the 1940s and now used in millions of tons of plastic bottles. PET plastics can persist for hundreds of years in the environment and currently pollute large areas of land and sea worldwide.

Researchers from Britain’s University of Portsmouth and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory made the discovery while examining the structure of a natural enzyme thought to have evolved in a waste-recycling center in Japan.

Finding that this enzyme was helping a bacteria to break down, or digest, PET plastic, the researchers decided to “tweak” its structure by adding some amino acids, said John McGeehan, a professor at Portsmouth who co-led the work.

This led to a serendipitous change in the enzyme’s actions — allowing its plastic-eating abilities to work faster.

“We’ve made an improved version of the enzyme better than the natural one already,” McGeehan told Reuters in an interview.

“That’s really exciting because that means that there’s potential to optimize the enzyme even further.”

The team, whose finding was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, is now working on improving the enzyme further to see if it could be capable of breaking down PET plastics on an industrial scale.

Plastic pollution
Plastic pollution, Pixabay

“It’s well within the possibility that in the coming years we will see an industrially viable process to turn PET, and potentially other [plastics], back into their original building blocks so that they can be sustainably recycled,” McGeehan said.

‘Strong potential’

Independent scientists not directly involved with the research said it was exciting, but cautioned that the enzyme’s development as a potential solution for pollution was still at an early stage.

“Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms,” said Oliver Jones, a Melbourne University chemistry expert. “There is strong potential to use enzyme technology to help with society’s growing waste problem by breaking down some of the most commonly used plastics.”

Douglas Kell, a professor of bioanalytical science at Manchester University, said further rounds of work “should be expected to improve the enzyme yet further.”

Also read: Ayushmann Khurana speaks against plastic pollution

“All told, this advance brings the goal of sustainably recyclable polymers significantly closer,” he added. (VOA)