The first electric vehicle fast-charging network is now up and running across Newfoundland, which the province’s main energy provider hopes will make road trips easier for electric car owners and encourage more drivers to go electric in the future.
With the last of the 14 charging stations coming online in Corner Brook earlier this month, drivers now have a place to charge up about every 70 kilometres along the Trans-Canada Highway from Port aux Basques to St. John’s, along with one in Gros Morne National Park.
Jennifer Williams, president & CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, says many potential electric vehicle owners have been hesitant to give up on gasoline without fast chargers available across the island.
“The majority of people who were interested in EVs said one of the major barriers to them was indeed not having a fast-charging network that they could access,” she said.
“We really believe that this is going to help people cross over and become an EV owner.”
The first phase of the province’s <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/EV?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#EV</a> fast-charging network is complete! Our charging station in Corner Brook is now available, so you can cruise across the island in your EV with 14 stations at the ready. Thanks to everyone who helped reach this milestone!<a href=”https://t.co/mfQAD4OKQA”>https://t.co/mfQAD4OKQA</a> <a href=”https://t.co/Ku1n137UR1″>pic.twitter.com/Ku1n137UR1</a>
The charging network was first announced in October 2019, with an eye to having all 14 chargers up and running by the end of 2020. When work began, Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province in Canada without any publicly available Level 3 chargers.
After some COVID-19 pandemic-related delays, the stations are now up and running and can charge most EVs to 80 per cent in less than an hour at a prorated cost of $15 an hour
“The pandemic did have some effect, but we’re there now and we’re really happy and this is just the beginning,” said Williams.
Public charging becoming ‘a non-issue’
That’s encouraging for Jon Seary, an electric car owner and a co-founder of advocacy group Drive Electric N.L. He says the lack of fast chargers has been the “deal breaker” for many people looking to buy electric vehicles.
“Now you can drive right across the province. You can choose to stop at any of these to top up,” Seary said.
We are at the cusp now of seeing a huge upswing in electric vehicle adoption.– Jon Seary
Joe Butler, who is also a co-founder of the group, says the fast chargers have already made trips easier as they’ve come online across the island.
“In the past, it was a major impediment, really, to get anywhere, but now it’s changed dramatically,” said Butler.
“I just came back from Gros Morne and I had two stops and I was home, so the convenience factor if you just travel occasionally outside of town makes all the difference.”
Seary said according to numbers from provincial motor vehicle registration, there were 195 electric cars on the road at the end of 2020, but he estimates that there are now closer to 300 vehicles in use in the province — with the potential for many more.
“We are at the cusp now of seeing a huge upswing in electric vehicle adoption,” he said.
“The cost of the cars is coming way down, and has come down. More places are selling them and the availability of public charging is becoming a non-issue as we put more and more charging stations out there.”
But Seary said there is still more work to be done to improve the province’s charging infrastructure to catch up with other parts of the country.
“We are lagging the rest of the country,” Seary said.
“We have opportunities for federal funding for our charging infrastructure and it needs to be moving now. We have the surplus from Muskrat Falls to use and we have a climate that’s not going to wait … this is the time to get going with this now.”
Williams said together with Newfoundland Power, N.L. Hydro is now working on 19 more fast chargers to be placed elsewhere in the province and into Labrador.
“We’ve heard very loudly and very clearly from the folks in Labrador, as well as other parts of the province, that they want to have charging stations in their neck of the woods too,” she said.
“Putting them in Labrador, we believe that we’ll help people get over that concern and that fear. There are EV owners in Labrador … so we believe it can work there as well.”
With more chargers and electric vehicles comes less reliance on burning fossil fuels, and Williams said 21 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have already been offset with the chargers as they’ve come online over the past few months.
“It actually does equate to as if you had powered a whole house all year, but the important part to remember [is that] these are an enabler. Putting these in place is enabling people to purchase electric vehicles,” she said.
“You do 90 per cent of your charging at home, so if we’re seeing about 20 tonnes has been offset in the short period of time they’ve been in service, for the vehicles that are charging at home, imagine how much they’re actually offsetting. We figure it’s well in excess of 200 tons.”
Big gap between Pfizer, Moderna vaccines seen for preventing COVID hospitalizations – Yahoo News Canada
Amid persistent concerns that the protection offered by COVID-19 vaccines may be waning, a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that America’s workhorse shot is significantly less effective at preventing severe cases of disease over the long term than many experts had realized.
Data collected from 18 states between March and August suggest the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces the risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 by 91% in the first four months after receiving the second dose. Beyond 120 days, however, that vaccine efficacy drops to 77%.
Meanwhile, Moderna’s vaccine was 93% effective at reducing the short-term risk of COVID-19 hospitalization and remained 92% effective after 120 days.
Overall, 54% of fully vaccinated Americans have been immunized with the Pfizer shot.
The surprising findings came as a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended against offering booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine to all Americans ages 16 and older. In a striking rebuke, 16 of 18 experts told the agency it had not mustered enough data to make a third shot the norm.
In lengthy briefings to the panel, representatives from Pfizer pointed to clinical trial results involving 306 mostly healthy participants to argue that a booster “restores” the 95% vaccine effectiveness rate seen earlier in the pandemic.
Company officials also touted evidence from Israel, which rolled out boosters after seeing a rise in hospitalizations among people who were fully vaccinated. Those hospitalizations dropped dramatically after third doses were given, Israeli scientists have said.
But panel members made clear that despite Pfizer’s aggressive stance, it had not gathered enough evidence that a third shot was safe for young people and for those at lesser risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19.
“We need age-specific data” on the safety and protective benefits of a further booster, said Dr. Ofer Levy, a panel member who directs the Precision Vaccines program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
FDA clearance for booster shots for everyone 16 and older would be seen as something “close to a mandate,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, a panel member and infectious-disease expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Rubin worried that such a move could redefine what it takes to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“None of us are there yet,” he said.
But others apparently are. Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s top advisor on vaccines, has come out strongly in favor of booster shots, saying before Friday’s vote that a failure to endorse the shots “would be a mistake.”
And in mid-August, Biden himself said his administration would begin making booster shots available the week of Sept. 20 to those vaccinated for at least eight months.
Biden cautioned at the time that his plan was contingent on FDA approval. But his announcement stoked concerns of political meddling in a matter that required the unhindered evaluation of scientists.
“This should demonstrate to the public that the members of this committee are independent of the FDA,” Dr. Archana Chatterjee, dean of the Chicago Medical School, said after the vote. “In fact, we do bring our voices to the table when we are asked to serve on this committee.”
The panel unanimously agreed that a third shot of the vaccine now sold under the brand name Comirnaty should be offered to select groups: individuals 65 and older, people at risk of developing severe disease, and those, including healthcare workers, whose occupations put them at high risk of infection.
Dr. Peter Marks, who leads the FDA’s evaluation of drugs and vaccines, told panel members that the agency could give its blessing to booster shots with an emergency use authorization — a regulatory step that falls short of the full approval Pfizer had sought.
The company issued no statement Friday in response to the panel’s vote.
Researchers in the United States have been warning for months that the immunity afforded by COVID-19 vaccines might be waning. The CDC reported that in late July, close to three-quarters of the 469 people swept up in a Massachusetts outbreak were fully vaccinated. And the agency has launched several studies aimed at detecting changes in vaccine effectiveness in healthcare workers and others who were vaccinated early.
But virtually all of those infections appeared to be mild. And health officials eager to induce vaccine skeptics to step up for their shot — including Fauci and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — have repeatedly praised the vaccines for keeping most fully vaccinated people out of hospitals.
The new report on waning vaccine efficacy challenges that expectation.
Researchers from around the country found striking differences between two mRNA vaccines long thought to be interchangeable.
When the Moderna vaccine received emergency use authorization in December, the company reported that 30 people in its clinical trial developed severe cases of COVID-19, including nine who required hospitalization. All 30 patients were in the placebo group, resulting in a vaccine efficacy against severe disease of 100%.
Ten people in Pfizer’s initial clinical trial developed severe cases of COVID-19. Nine of them were in the placebo group, including seven who were hospitalized, resulting in a vaccine efficacy against severe disease of 88.9%.
Once the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were rolled out to the public, their records of preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations in the first four months were neck and neck — 93% and 91% effective, respectively. But the degree of protection diverged after that.
When they focused specifically on the period 120 days beyond the second dose, the study authors found that the Moderna vaccine remained 92% effective at preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations. But the equivalent figure for the Pfizer vaccine was 77%.
The results were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on mRNA technology, which delivers temporary instructions to the body’s muscle cells that help it learn to recognize the spike protein, a key part of the coronavirus’ structure. But “they’re actually not necessarily interchangeable,” said Dr. Timothy Brewer, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at UCLA.
Each vaccine is formulated and administered differently, Brewer said, and those differences could affect the strength and duration of the two vaccines’ protection.
Moderna’s shot contains 100 micrograms of vaccine, more than three times the 30 micrograms in the Pfizer shot. And Pfizer’s two doses are given three weeks apart, while Moderna’s two-shot regimen is administered with a four-week gap.
Brewer also pointed to evidence that the Moderna vaccine seemed to elicit higher levels of a key antibody than the Pfizer vaccine.
“We know from other studies the neutralizing antibody levels will decay over time, so starting at a higher level will mean that you have farther to go before you decay to a point where efficacy drops off,” he said.
Dr. Robert Murphy, who directs Northwestern University’s Institute for Global Health, said the Pfizer vaccine’s reduced protection against severe disease may bolster the case for boosters for all who got the vaccine, not just the specific groups identified by the FDA advisory panel.
“Based on the data I have seen, persons who received the Pfizer vaccine would benefit from a booster dose at this time,” he said. “I don’t see why we have to wait until the younger people get sick and become hospitalized.”
But Dr. Arnold Monto, who chairs the FDA advisory panel, applauded the agency’s willingness to withhold a full-throated call for boosters until a stronger case can be made. And he suggested that as more evidence accumulates, boosters for all might still get the nod.
“That’s the beauty of the emergency use authorization,” said Monto, an epidemiologist at University of Michigan. “It can be changed based on changing data.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
CN Rail to slash capital spending, resume stock buybacks as shareholder battle looms – The Globe and Mail
Canadian National Railway Co. has moved to fend off a battle for control of the company’s boardroom, rolling out a list of investor-friendly plans Friday that includes share buybacks, layoffs and reduced spending.
CN unveiled the changes, including the sale of non-rail businesses and other steps intended to boost profit and improve productivity, as it defended its actions in the failed takeover of U.S. railway Kansas City Southern.
CN’s announcement came less than a day after its second-largest investor, TCI Fund Management, gave the company 21 days to call a shareholder meeting at which TCI plans to oust CN’s chairman, chief executive officer and two directors.
Mathieu Gaudreault, a CN spokesman, said the company received TCI’s meeting requisition notice and will respond later.
British billionaire Chris Hohn, who owns TCI, said CN is poorly run by people with little or no rail experience. Mr. Hohn said the failed attempt to buy Kansas City Southern underlined CN’s “flawed decision making” and “a basic misunderstanding of the railroad industry and regulatory environment.”
Ben Walker, a partner in TCI, dismissed CN’s Friday announcement as “reactive” and said it does not change the plans to wage a boardroom fight. The dissatisfaction with CN’s leadership precedes the failed KCS bid, he said, pointing to CN’s underperformance in recent years compared with its rivals.
“A lot of the things they’re doing should have been done already as part of a continuous improvement plan and efficiency optimization,” Mr. Walker said by phone. “We’re hopeful that shareholders will vote for our slate of independent, high-quality nominees.”
KCS agreed to a cheaper bid from rival Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and is awaiting regulatory approval.
On a conference call with analysts Friday, CN executives defended their handling of the KCS bid and said the company’s management and board were the best people to lead the company.
“We have the right leadership team and management team to execute our strategic plan, both in the short term and the long term,” said Jean-Jacques Ruest, CN’s chief executive officer. “We have a vision for the industry which is forward-looking, not backward-looking.”
Mr. Ruest said the non-rail businesses that could be sold or shut down include its Great Lakes commodity ships, freight forwarding business and Winnipeg trucking company TransX Group, which CN bought in 2019.
“There is no sacred cow at CN,” Mr. Ruest said on the call. “Do they fit in the long-term strategy? Do they also contribute to feeding the beast or bringing business to the railroad?”
CN said it will eliminate 650 management jobs and 400 unionized positions in train operations.
Walter Spracklin, a Royal Bank of Canada stock analyst, said CN’s “strategic refocus” was inevitable.
“It is clear to us that CN’s operating efficiency has deteriorated over the past several years and the company has gone from industry leader to industry laggard,” Mr. Spracklin said. “That said, as an early pioneer of [precision scheduled railroading], we believe the company has the potential to achieve … efficiency levels that are among the best in the industry.”
TCI’s nominees to CN’s board include former CN and Union Pacific Railroad executive Jim Vena as CEO.
The US$40-billion hedge fund, launched in 2003 by Mr. Hohn, owns more than 5 per cent of CN’s shares, worth about $4-billion. TCI is also the largest owner of CP shares, at 8 per cent, and owns almost 3 per cent of Union Pacific.
In 2008, TCI led a boardroom fight at U.S. railway CSX Corp., replacing four of 12 directors.
Among the steps CN announced Friday:
- Resuming share repurchases to reach $1.1-billion by the end of January, 2022;
- Increasing shareholder returns, including share buybacks of $5-billion for 2022;
- Replacing two directors in 2022, including chairman Robert Pace, whose planned retirement was previously announced;
- Improving the operating ratio, which compares sales with costs, to 57 per cent; and
- Increasing train length and speed.
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US FDA panel okays COVID-19 booster jabs for people over 65 – Al Jazeera English
Recommendation comes after science advisory panel rejects Pfizer proposal to provide booster jabs to most people.
A United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel has given approval to a booster jab of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people over the age of 65 and others at high risk of the disease.
But the influential FDA panel of scientists on Friday rejected widespread delivery of boosters to most Americans, delivering a surprise blow to the Biden administration’s plan to combat the highly contagious Delta variant by rolling out third jabs of the vaccine next week.
Members of the FDA’s panel of outside experts voted unanimously to support boosters for older Americans and at-risk people after rejecting Pfizer’s proposal to provide boosters of the vaccine to the general public.
The FDA’s move to clear the way for booster jabs only for older and at-risk people came as President Joe Biden planned to host a COVID-19 summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.
The US has been pushing partner nations to increase the availability of vaccines worldwide. The World Health Organization has urged the US to hold off providing boosters to its citizens until more of the worldwide population has received an initial inoculation.
“We will be asking participants to commit to a higher level of ambition” on a “common vision for defeating COVID-19 together”, White press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
During several hours of discussion, the FDA panel of scientific advisers voiced frustration that Pfizer had provided little data on the safety of extra doses. And they complained information provided by Israeli researchers about their booster campaign was not useful for predicting the US experience.
Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech, as well as rival vaccine maker Moderna Inc, have presented analyses of clinical trials showing that the effectiveness of the vaccines wanes over time.
As a result, people who were vaccinated earlier on in the pandemic are now more vulnerable to infections, particularly in the face of the fast-spreading Delta variant of coronavirus.
Booster doses help restore the waning levels of antibodies produced by the original inoculation, the drugmakers have said.
Top FDA members have been split on the necessity of the boosters, with interim head Janet Woodcock backing them but some of the agency’s top scientists arguing they are not needed yet.
Members of the advisory panel said the Pfizer and the FDA request for approval for people as young as 16 years old is too broad. Most of them said they would support boosters for older Americans, but did not think they were needed yet for younger adults.
Many vaccine experts said the data so far only suggested a need for boosters in older adults and people with compromised immune systems. The critics include two FDA scientists who resigned as the Biden administration announced its booster shot plans.
A separate panel advising the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will meet next week to recommend which groups should get them.
The White House said it was ready to roll out boosters next week if health officials approve the plan. That programme now is likely to be narrowed in light of the advisory panel’s views and the FDA’s partial approval of the use of boosters.
A report published in The Lancet medical journal on September 13 concluded that even with the threat of the more contagious Delta variant, “booster doses for the general population are not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic.”
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