Georgia Today: Gov. Kemp to visit Israel; Bus drivers on strike; Donald Trump at Ga. GOP convention
On the Thursday, May 18 edition of Georgia Today: Donald Trump will speak at the Georgia GOP convention next month; Gov. Kemp is headed to Israel; and school bus drivers are on strike in Northwest Georgia.
Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Thursday, May 18. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, Donald Trump will speak at the Georgia GOP convention next month. Gov. Kemp is headed to Israel. And school bus drivers are on strike in Northwest Georgia. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.
Peter Biello: Gov. Brian Kemp is making an economic development trip to Israel. The governor's office announced the trip yesterday. Kemp will meet with Israeli companies that conduct business in Georgia as well as government officials. It's Kemp's second overseas trip in less than six months. In January, he attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Peter Biello: Wellstar Health System is now becoming one of the largest health tech funders in the state. Catalyst by Wellstar, the systems innovation arm, announced today the launch of a $100 million venture fund to invest in early-stage health care startups around the country. The move comes just months after WellstarWellstar closed two metro Atlanta hospitals that largely served poor and Black patients, citing financial reasons. State legislators, Fulton County Commission Chairman Rob Pitts and other local leaders in March filed two federal complaints stemming from these closures. One asked the IRS to investigate whether WellStar should maintain its nonprofit status. The other asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights to investigate whether the hospital closures violate Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and if so, to make Wellstar, quote, "redress the harm to the community."
Peter Biello: Former President Donald Trump is set to speak at the Georgia GOP convention next month. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports it'll be Trump's first event in Georgia since announcing his bid for president. A handful of Republican leaders, including Gov. Brian Kemp, said last month that they are not planning to attend the event. The event comes as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is deciding whether or not to bring criminal charges resulting from her office's investigation of the former president and his allies efforts to overturn Georgia's 2020 election. That decision is expected later this year.
Peter Biello: Some passengers going through security at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport soon will be able to present their iPhones as IDs. The Transportation Security Administration said today that ATL is the latest airport to use digital ID technology for the agency's trusted traveler pre-check members. Travelers will have to upload their Georgia driver's license or state ID to their Apple Wallet. TSA or other officers might still require a physical I.D., so the agency says you should still carry one.
Peter Biello: School bus drivers in Dalton are on strike. GPB's Devon Zwald has more.
Devon Zwald Bus drivers began manning picket lines on Monday, attacking what they say are anti-union actions by First Student, the Cincinnati-based company that contracts with Dalton schools. The district taught its 7,500 students online on Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, it held classes in person but ran buses for only two of its 10 schools. The company and union have been bargaining over wages, vacation time and insurance. From the GPB newsroom, I'm Devon Zwald.
Peter Biello: State transportation officials are cutting back a roadside assistance program on metro Atlanta highways. The Georgia Department of Transportation says staffing shortages are forcing a temporary reduction in hours for its highway emergency response operations or HERO program. Operations director John Hibbard told the agency's board today the program also will reduce its coverage area, which will put motorists in farther-out suburbs into the statewide roadside assistance program called CHAMP. The changes will take effect in July and focus HERO operations during peak morning and afternoon travel times. Both HERO and CHAMP help with accidents by redirecting traffic in minor car problems such as flat tires and dead batteries. Both can be reached 24 hours a day by calling 511.
Peter Biello: Authorities in Macon say they have identified the remains of a woman killed 46 years ago and they say she was the victim of one of the nation's most prolific serial killers. The Bibb County Sheriff's Office and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council said today that 20-year-old Yvonne Pless died at the hands of serial killer Samuel Little in 1977. Little died in a California prison in 2020 after confessing to 93 killings, including two in Macon. Investigators used genetic genealogy and a previously unknown submitted sexual assault kit to link Little to Pless, his earliest confirmed victim.
Peter Biello: Yesterday, judges in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans heard arguments in the case against the Food and Drug Administration's approval of mifepristone, the drug commonly used for abortions and miscarriages. GPB's Sofi Gratas reports.
Sofi Gratas: When it's released, an opinion from the 5th Circuit would have no immediate impact on access to the drug, as the case will likely head back to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the judges are expected to lean in favor of the plaintiffs, an anti-abortion coalition charging that the FDA was wrong in its approval of mifepristone more than 20 years ago and that the drug isn't safe. Attorneys for the FDA and drug manufacturer Danco Laboratories, argued Wednesday that less than 1% of abortions using the mifepristone result in a need for emergency care. In 2020, medication abortions accounted for more than half of all those performed in Georgia. Although abortions have declined here overall since the state banned them around six weeks into pregnancy, medication abortions in Georgia have increased. For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas.
Peter Biello: Jet fuel emits a lot of carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere, about 20 pounds of CO2 for every gallon burned. And that, of course, contributes to climate change. But sustainable jet fuel could offer a lower-carbon way forward. And it's one that the Biden administration is hoping to jump-start across the country. So where does Georgia fit into this equation? GPB's Benjamin Payne explains how.
Nick Cavalier: So this is alcohol to jet technology.
Benjamin Payne: Nick Cavalier is pointing to a factory — or rather, a future factory. It's still under construction in Soperton, about halfway between Savannah and Macon. The walls aren't built yet, but inside the exposed framing, you can see big metal reactors.
Nick Cavalier: So what these reactors do is as you take in this ethanol, you start in these reactors stacking the carbon chains.
Benjamin Payne: The science behind it is all pretty complicated. But basically the company Cavalier works for, called Lanza Jet, is building a factory that, as he tells me back in his.
Nick Cavalier: Office, takes in ethanol that can come from municipal waste, sugar cane, any renewable feedstock.
Benjamin Payne: Remember, ethanol is a kind of alcohol. On its own, it burns pretty quickly.
Nick Cavalier: And then we take in that ethanol. We run it through a process to stack the carbon chains and make renewable diesel and jet fuel.
Benjamin Payne: The longer a chain of carbon molecules gets, the more energy the chain stores. Breaking the chain releases energy. That's the power of jet fuel.
Nick Cavalier: That'll be the end product. 10 million gallons a year is what we're going to produce out of this facility.
Benjamin Payne: This particular technology isn't the only way to make sustainable jet fuel in Georgia.
Puneet Dwivedi: Definitely, we can use a lot of crops.
Benjamin Payne: That's Puneet Dwivedi, a professor of sustainability sciences at the University of Georgia. He's talking about farm crops with high oil content like soybeans. One crop in particular carries a lot of potential, and you may have never heard of it: Carinata.
Puneet Dwivedi: Carinata is a non-edible crop, so that helps because then the food versus fuel debate is out.
Benjamin Payne: In other words, converting carinata into jet fuel doesn't take away from the food supply like using soybeans would. Plus, it's pest-resistant. Another benefit of carinata: It's especially well-suited for Georgia's warm climate since it grows during the winter.
Puneet Dwivedi: So it is not competing with major cash crops, for example, cotton.
Benjamin Payne: But here's the rub: The USDA doesn't subsidize farmers planting carinata as a cover crop. So a farmer hoping to grow carinata for the barely emerging green jet fuel industry, would take on a lot of financial risk. And that could sit a larger challenge facing sustainable jet fuel. So far, there's not a lot of government money being thrown at it. That's despite a White House goal of 3 billion gallons of sustainable jet fuel produced annually by 2030.
Graham Noyes: We have a long road ahead to decarbonize aviation fuel.
Benjamin Payne: That's Graham Noyes, who directs the nonprofit Low Carbon Fuels Coalition.
Graham Noyes: We have the fossil fuels that have been subsidized for many, many years and have a very well-established infrastructure.
Benjamin Payne: He says to tilt the scales to renewable jet fuel, the federal government should mandate requirements for it. That's something that a few state governments like California have already done.
Graham Noyes: Typically, a petroleum refiner or importer has to either sell less and less carbon-intensive fuel or buy credits in the marketplace to meet those requirements.
Benjamin Payne: Back in Soperton, Nick Cavalier takes pride in the work he's doing now after having spent most of his career in high greenhouse gas industries.
Nick Cavalier: I have worked in traditional oil and gas for 24 and a half years and it's really hard for me to explain to my family what I did for a living, right, how I made an impact and a difference in the world. And here's a clear example where I could leverage a lifetime of experience to really, truly make an impact into something different and change the environment. And that's something that can be explained to my kids.
Benjamin Payne: Once the LanzaJet factory gets off the ground later this year, the company says it will be the first commercially operated sustainable jet fuel refinery in North America. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Soperton.
Peter Biello: 40 students at South Atlanta High School receive $2,500 college scholarships at a ceremony this morning funded by 1-800-TrukWrek and the Witherite law group. In addition, 70 students will renew their scholarships, resulting in $275,000 in financial aid for South Atlanta high graduates. Students had to apply for the money and go through an interview process. They'll receive $2,500 for their first year of college and can renew the scholarship each year they're in school.
Peter Biello: In sports, in baseball: Eddie Rosario hit an early home run for Atlanta. Ronald Acuna Jr. went deep in his fourth consecutive game and Orlando Arcia hit a tiebreaking solo homer with two outs in the ninth inning to help the Braves beat the Texas Rangers last night. 6-5. The Braves have the day off today before starting a 10-game homestand tomorrow, starting with three games against the Seattle Mariners.
Peter Bielo: And that is it for this edition of Georgia today. Thank you so much for listening. If you want to learn more about these stories, visit GPB.org/ News. And we would be remiss if we did not discuss the debt ceiling and its impact on Georgians on this program. So we're going to do that tomorrow. But if you can't wait for some solid info on what this debt ceiling debate is all about, check out today's edition of Political Rewind. GPB's Bill Nigut hosts a panel of knowledgeable people who break down what's at stake for Georgia and the nation. Listen to Political Rewind at GPB.org/PoliticalRewind or search for it wherever you get your podcasts. If you haven't yet subscribed to this podcast, we highly encourage you do so. Do it now and we'll pop up in your podcast feed tomorrow afternoon. And if you've got feedback or a story idea, we'd love to hear from you. Send us an email. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Peter Biello. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.