set up stakeouts to prevent illegal stuffing of ballot boxes. Officials overseeing elections are ramping up security at polling places.

Voting rights groups said they were increasingly concerned by Ms. Engelbrecht.

She has “taken the power of rhetoric to a new place,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, the acting director of voting rights at the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan think tank. “It’s having a real impact on the way lawmakers and states are governing elections and on the concerns we have on what may happen in the upcoming elections.”

Some of Ms. Engelbrecht’s former allies have cut ties with her. Rick Wilson, a Republican operative and Trump critic, ran public relations for Ms. Engelbrecht in 2014 but quit after a few months. He said she had declined to turn over data to back her voting fraud claims.

“She never had the juice in terms of evidence,” Mr. Wilson said. “But now that doesn’t matter. She’s having her uplift moment.”

a video of the donor meeting obtained by The New York Times. They did not elaborate on why.

announce a partnership to scrutinize voting during the midterms.

“The most important right the American people have is to choose our own public officials,” said Mr. Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Ariz. “Anybody trying to steal that right needs to be prosecuted and arrested.”

Steve Bannon, then chief executive of the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News, and Andrew Breitbart, the publication’s founder, spoke at her conferences.

True the Vote’s volunteers scrutinized registration rolls, watched polling stations and wrote highly speculative reports. In 2010, a volunteer in San Diego reported seeing a bus offloading people at a polling station “who did not appear to be from this country.”

Civil rights groups described the activities as voter suppression. In 2010, Ms. Engelbrecht told supporters that Houston Votes, a nonprofit that registered voters in diverse communities of Harris County, Texas, was connected to the “New Black Panthers.” She showed a video of an unrelated New Black Panther member in Philadelphia who called for the extermination of white people. Houston Votes was subsequently investigated by state officials, and law enforcement raided its office.

“It was a lie and racist to the core,” said Fred Lewis, head of Houston Votes, who sued True the Vote for defamation. He said he had dropped the suit after reaching “an understanding” that True the Vote would stop making accusations. Ms. Engelbrecht said she didn’t recall such an agreement.

in April 2021, did not respond to requests for comment. Ms. Engelbrecht has denied his claims.

In mid-2021, “2,000 Mules” was hatched after Ms. Engelbrecht and Mr. Phillips met with Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative provocateur and filmmaker. They told him that they could detect cases of ballot box stuffing based on two terabytes of cellphone geolocation data that they had bought and matched with video surveillance footage of ballot drop boxes.

Salem Media Group, the conservative media conglomerate, and Mr. D’Souza agreed to create and fund a film. The “2,000 Mules” title was meant to evoke the image of cartels that pay people to carry illegal drugs into the United States.

said after seeing the film that it raised “significant questions” about the 2020 election results; 17 state legislators in Michigan also called for an investigation into election results there based on the film’s accusations.

In Arizona, the attorney general’s office asked True the Vote between April and June for data about some of the claims in “2,000 Mules.” The contentions related to Maricopa and Yuma Counties, where Ms. Engelbrecht said people had illegally submitted ballots and had used “stash houses” to store fraudulent ballots.

According to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, a True the Vote official said Mr. Phillips had turned over a hard drive with the data. The attorney general’s office said early this month that it hadn’t received it.

Last month, Ms. Engelbrecht and Mr. Phillips hosted an invitation-only gathering of about 150 supporters in Queen Creek, Ariz., which was streamed online. For weeks beforehand, they promised to reveal the addresses of ballot “stash houses” and footage of voter fraud.

Ms. Engelbrecht did not divulge the data at the event. Instead, she implored the audience to look to the midterm elections, which she warned were the next great threat to voter integrity.

“The past is prologue,” she said.

Alexandra Berzon contributed reporting.

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The Supply Chain Broke. Robots Are Supposed to Help Fix It.

The people running companies that deliver all manner of products gathered in Philadelphia last week to sift through the lessons of the mayhem besieging the global supply chain. At the center of many proposed solutions: robots and other forms of automation.

On the showroom floor, robot manufacturers demonstrated their latest models, offering them as efficiency-enhancing augments to warehouse workers. Driverless trucks and drones commanded display space, advertising an unfolding era in which machinery will occupy a central place in bringing products to our homes.

The companies depicted their technology as a way to save money on workers and optimize scheduling, while breaking down resistance to a future centered on evolving forms of automation.

persistent economic shocks have intensified traditional conflicts between employers and employees around the globe. Higher prices for energy, food and other goods — in part the result of enduring supply chain tangles — have prompted workers to demand higher wages, along with the right to continue working from home. Employers cite elevated costs for parts, raw materials and transportation in holding the line on pay, yielding a wave of strikes in countries like Britain.

The stakes are especially high for companies engaged in transporting goods. Their executives contend that the Great Supply Chain Disruption is largely the result of labor shortages. Ports are overwhelmed and retail shelves are short of goods because the supply chain has run out of people willing to drive trucks and move goods through warehouses, the argument goes.

Some labor experts challenge such claims, while reframing worker shortages as an unwillingness by employers to pay enough to attract the needed numbers of people.

“This shortage narrative is industry-lobbying rhetoric,” said Steve Viscelli, an economic sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream.” “There is no shortage of truck drivers. These are just really bad jobs.”

A day spent wandering the Home Delivery World trade show inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center revealed how supply chain companies are pursuing automation and flexible staffing as antidotes to rising wages. They are eager to embrace robots as an alternative to human workers. Robots never get sick, not even in a pandemic. They never stay home to attend to their children.

A large truck painted purple and white occupied a prime position on the showroom floor. It was a driverless delivery vehicle produced by Gatik, a Silicon Valley company that is running 30 of them between distribution centers and Walmart stores in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Here was the fix to the difficulties of trucking firms in attracting and retaining drivers, said Richard Steiner, Gatik’s head of policy and communications.

“It’s not quite as appealing a profession as it once was,” he said. “We’re able to offer a solution to that trouble.”

Nearby, an Israeli start-up company, SafeMode, touted a means to limit the notoriously high turnover plaguing the trucking industry. The company has developed an app that monitors the actions of drivers — their speed, the abruptness of their braking, their fuel efficiency — while rewarding those who perform better than their peers.

The company’s founder and chief executive, Ido Levy, displayed data captured the previous day from a driver in Houston. The driver’s steady hand at the wheel had earned him an extra $8 — a cash bonus on top of the $250 he typically earns in a day.

“We really convey a success feeling every day,” Mr. Levy, 31, said. “That really encourages retention. We’re trying to make them feel that they are part of something.”

Mr. Levy conceived of the company with a professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab who tapped research on behavioral psychology and gamification (using elements of game playing to encourage participation).

So far, the SafeMode system has yielded savings of 4 percent on fuel while increasing retention by one-quarter, Mr. Levy said.

Another company, V-Track, based in Charlotte, N.C., employs a technology that is similar to SafeMode’s, also in an effort to dissuade truck drivers from switching jobs. The company places cameras in truck cabs to monitor drivers, alerting them when they are looking at their phones, driving too fast or not wearing their seatbelt.

Jim Becker, the company’s product manager, said many drivers hade come to value the cameras as a means of protecting themselves against unwarranted accusations of malfeasance.

But what is the impact on retention if drivers chafe at being surveilled?

“Frustrations about increased surveillance, especially around in-cab cameras,” are a significant source of driver lament, said Max Farrell, co-founder and chief executive of WorkHound, which gathers real-time feedback.

Several companies on the show floor catered to trucking companies facing difficulties in hiring people to staff their dispatch centers. Their solution was moving such functions to countries where wages are lower.

Lean Solutions, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., sets up call centers in Colombia and Guatemala — a response to “the labor challenge in the U.S.,” said Hunter Bell, a company sales agent.

A Kentucky start-up, NS Talent Solutions, establishes dispatch operations in Mexico, at a saving of up to 40 percent compared with the United States.

“The pandemic has helped,” said Michael Bartlett, director of sales. “The world is now comfortable with remote staffing.”

Scores of businesses promoted services that recruit and vet part-time and temporary workers, offering a way for companies to ramp up as needed without having to commit to full-time employees.

Pruuvn, a start-up in Atlanta, sells a service that allows companies to eliminate employees who recruit and conduct background checks.

“It allows you to get rid of or replace multiple individuals,” the company’s chief executive, Bryan Hobbs, said during a presentation.

Another staffing firm, Veryable of Dallas, offered a platform to pair workers such as retirees and students seeking part-time, temporary stints with supply chain companies.

Jonathan Katz, the company’s regional partnerships manager for the Southeast, described temporary staffing as the way for smaller warehouses and distribution operations that lack the money to install robots to enhance their ability to adjust to swings in demand.

A drone company, Zipline, showed video of its equipment taking off behind a Walmart in Pea Ridge, Ark., dropping items like mayonnaise and even a birthday cake into the backyards of customers’ homes. Another company, DroneUp, trumpeted plans to set up similar services at 30 Walmart stores in Arkansas, Texas and Florida by the end of the year.

But the largest companies are the most focused on deploying robots.

Locus, the manufacturer, has already outfitted 200 warehouses globally with its robots, recently expanding into Europe and Australia.

Locus says its machines are meant not to replace workers but to complement them — a way to squeeze more productivity out of the same warehouse by relieving the humans of the need to push the carts.

But the company also presents its robots as the solution to worker shortages. Unlike workers, robots can be easily scaled up and cut back, eliminating the need to hire and train temporary employees, Melissa Valentine, director of retail global accounts at Locus, said during a panel discussion.

Locus even rents out its robots, allowing customers to add them and eliminate them as needed. Locus handles the maintenance.

Robots can “solve labor issues,” said Nathan Ray, director of distribution center operations at Albertsons, the grocery chain, who previously held executive roles at Amazon and Target. “You can find a solution that’s right for your budget. There’s just so many options out there.”

As Mr. Ray acknowledged, a key impediment to the more rapid deployment of automation is fear among workers that robots are a threat to their jobs. Once they realize that the robots are there not to replace them but merely to relieve them of physically taxing jobs like pushing carts, “it gets really fun,” Mr. Ray said. “They realize it’s kind of cool.”

Workers even give robots cute nicknames, he added.

But another panelist, Bruce Dzinski, director of transportation at Party City, a chain of party supply stores, presented robots as an alternative to higher pay.

“You couldn’t get labor, so you raised your wages to try to get people,” he said. “And then everybody else raised wages.”

Robots never demand a raise.

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Expansion of Clean Energy Loans Is ‘Sleeping Giant’ of Climate Bill

Tucked into the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed last week is a major expansion of federal loan programs that could help the fight against climate change by channeling more money to clean energy and converting plants that run on fossil fuels to nuclear or renewable energy.

The law authorizes as much as $350 billion in additional federal loans and loan guarantees for energy and automotive projects and businesses. The money, which will be disbursed by the Energy Department, is in addition to the more well-known provisions of the law that offer incentives for the likes of electric cars, solar panels, batteries and heat pumps.

The aid could breathe life into futuristic technologies that banks might find too risky to lend to or into projects that are just short of the money they need to get going.

failure of Solyndra, a solar company that had borrowed about $500 million from the Energy Department, to criticize the Obama administration’s climate and energy policies.

Backers of the program have argued that despite defaults like Solyndra, the program has been sustainable overall. Of the $31 billion the department has disbursed, about 40 percent has been repaid and interest payments in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2021, totaled $533 million — more money than the failed Solyndra loan.

The Energy Department’s loan programs began in 2005 under the George W. Bush administration but expanded significantly in the Obama era. The department provided a crucial loan that helped Tesla expand when it only sold expensive two-door electric sports cars; the company is now the world’s most valuable automaker.

Under the Trump administration, which played down the risks of climate change, the department’s loan office was much less active. The Biden team has been working to change that. Last month, the department said it planned to loan $2.5 billion to General Motors and LG Energy Solution to build electric-car battery factories in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

complicate the qualification process.

  • Plug-In Hybrids: After falling behind all-electric cars, U.S. sales of plug-in hybrids have been surging. The high cost of electric cars and gasoline have given them an opening.
  • Car Crashes: Tesla and other automakers capture data from their vehicles to operate their products. Experts say the collected information could also improve road safety.
  • A Frustrating Hassle: The electric vehicle revolution is nearly here, but its arrival is being slowed by a fundamental problem: The chargers where people refuel these cars are often broken.
  • One beneficiary of the new loan money could be the Palisades Power Plant, a nuclear facility on Lake Michigan near Kalamazoo, Mich., that closed in May. The plant had struggled to compete in the PJM energy market, which serves homes and businesses in 13 states, including Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

    The Biden administration has made nuclear power a focal point of its efforts to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 2035. The administration has offered billions of dollars to help existing facilities like the Diablo Canyon Power Plant — a nuclear operation on California’s coast that is set to close by the end of 2025 — stay open longer. It is also backing new technologies like small modular reactors that the industry has long said would be cheaper, safer and easier to build than conventional large nuclear reactors.

    The owner of the Palisades facility, Holtec International, said it was reviewing the loan program and other opportunities for its own small reactors as well as bringing the shuttered plant back online.

    “There are a number of hurdles to restarting the facility that would need to be bridged,” the company said in a statement, “but we will work with the state, federal government, and a yet to be identified third-party operator to see if this is a viable option.”

    Rye Development, a company based in West Palm Beach, Fla., that is working on several projects in the Pacific Northwest.

    geothermal power; old coal power plants as sites for large batteries; and old coal mines for solar farms. Such conversions could reduce the need to build projects on undeveloped land, which often takes longer because they require extensive environmental review and can face significant local opposition.

    “We’re in a heap of trouble in siting the many millions of acres of solar we need,” Mr. Reicher said. “It’s six to 10 million acres of land we’ve got to find to site the projected build out of utility scale solar in the United States. That’s huge.”

    Other developers are hoping the government will help finance technologies and business plans that are still in their infancy.

    Timothy Latimer is the chief executive and co-founder of Fervo Energy, a Houston company that uses the same horizontal drilling techniques as oil and gas producers to develop geothermal energy. He said that his firm can produce clean energy 24 hours a day or produce more or less energy over the course of a day to balance out the intermittent nature of wind and solar power and spikes in demand.

    Mr. Latimer claims that the techniques his firm has developed will lower the cost for geothermal power, which in many cases is more expensive than electricity generated from natural gas or solar panels. He has projects under development in Nevada, Utah, Idaho and California and said that the new loan authority could help the geothermal business expand much more quickly.

    “It’s been the talk of the geothermal industry,” Mr. Latimer said. “I don’t think we were expecting good news a month ago, but we’re getting more ready for prime time. We have barely scratched the surface with the amount of geothermal that we can develop in the United States.”

    For all the potential of the new law, critics say that a significant expansion of government loans and loan guarantees could invite more waste and fraud. In addition to Solyndra, the Energy Department has acknowledged that several solar projects that received its loans or loan guarantees have failed or never got off the ground.

    A large nuclear plant under construction in Georgia, Vogtle, has also received $11.5 billion in federal loan guarantees. The plant has been widely criticized for years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns.

    “Many of these projects are funded based on political whim rather than project quality,” said Gary Ackerman, founder and former executive director of the Western Power Trading Forum, a coalition of more than 100 utilities and other businesses that trade in energy markets. “That leads to many stranded assets that never live up to their promises and become examples of government waste.”

    But Jamie Carlson, who was a senior adviser to the energy secretary during the Obama administration, said the department learned from its mistakes and developed a better approach to reviewing and approving loan applications. It also worked more closely with businesses seeking money to ensure that they were successful.

    “It used to be this black box,” said Ms. Carlson, who is now an executive at SoftBank Energy. “You just sat in purgatory for like 18 months and sometimes up to two years.”

    Ms. Carlson said the department’s loans serve a vital function because they can help technologies and companies that have demonstrated some commercial success but need more money to become financially viable. “It’s there to finance technologies that are proven but perhaps to banks that are perceived as more risky,” she said.

    Energy executives said they were excited because more federal loans and loan guarantees could turbocharge their plans.

    “The projects that can be done will go faster,” said William W. Funderburk Jr., a former commissioner at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power who now runs a water and energy company. “This is a tectonic plate shift for the industry — in a good way.”

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    Oil industry gears up to tap U.S. climate bill for carbon capture projects

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    A Shell employee walks through the company’s new Quest Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) facility in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada, October 7, 2021. REUTERS/Todd Korol

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    Aug 15 (Reuters) – Tax credits in the $430 billion U.S. climate and tax bill set to be signed into law this week will kickstart carbon sequestration projects, say oil and gas proponents, offsetting startup costs for some of the anti-pollution initiatives.

    Carbon capture and storage hubs that take gases from chemical, power and gas producers and oil refineries have become the energy industry’s preferred way to combat climate warming. But large-scale development has snagged over costs and lack of guaranteed revenue.

    The Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, which was approved by lawmakers last week, provides a tax credit of up to $85 per ton for burying carbon dioxide produced by industrial activity, and up to $180 per ton for pulling carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air.

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    The bill also greenlit new leases of federal land for oil and gas development, without considerations of climate impacts. Importantly, it automatically approved high bids from a November 2021 offshore auction that included a drilling project intended for a carbon-burying scheme. read more

    “It’s a pretty big deal,” said Tim Duncan, chief executive of Talos Energy Inc (TALO.N) , an offshore oil and gas producer that is building a business around carbon sequestration. Talos has launched four projects and signed up big backers including Freeport LNG and Chevron Corp (CVX.N) .

    “This is going to unlock a significant amount of emissions that could become economic for capture,” added Chris Davis, a senior vice president at Milestone Carbon, which develop carbon projects for mid-sized companies.

    CONTINUED STRUGGLES

    Over the last two decades, companies have tentatively tried and largely struggled to make a business from using CO2 to boost oil production. More recently, big investors want firms to address global warming, and the oil industry aims to show it takes climate change seriously.

    There are carbon sequestration hubs proposed around the world – in Alberta in Canada, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and Huizhou, China. Another type of carbon capture, which directly catches the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere rather than industrial production, also are being considered. read more

    A massive expansion of carbon capture is vital to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, according to energy consuming nations advocate, the International Energy Agency (IEA). The sector must go to storing 7.6 billion tonnes a year from around 40 million tonnes currently. read more

    The new tax incentives mean “a number of small to mid-scale projects have a better chance of becoming economical,” said Frederik Majkut, a senior vice president for energy services company Schlumberger’s (SLB.N) Carbon Solutions business.

    There are some 5 billion tons of carbon released in the United States annually that could be captured by these sequestration schemes. Previously, very little of that could be captured economically, said Milestone’s Davis said.

    “With $85 a ton, I think you can get another billion tons,” he said. “It starts to look like an attractive investment.”

    BIGGER PROJECTS

    Larger projects, such as that advanced by Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) , which floated a $100 billion plan for a massive carbon hub serving refineries and chemical plants, will need carbon taxes and other initiatives, said analysts.

    Widespread deployment of these industrial hubs will require additional policy support from the Biden administration, an Exxon spokesperson said of the bill’s climate provisions.

    Smaller projects are more likely to advance but still face hurdles including underground pore rights and permits, said Tracy Evans, chief executive of CapturePoint, which struck a partnership with pipeline operator Energy Transfer(ET.N) for a Louisiana hub.

    Currently, permitting for carbon injection wells can take years to secure. And while offshore auctions cover large blocks, aggregating smaller tracts of private land owners onshore can slow the process, he said.

    “It will drive more investment in the space for sure,” Evans said.

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    Reporting by Liz Hampton in Denver, additional reporting by Sabrina Valle in Houston
    Editing by Marguerita Choy

    Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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    Brittney Griner Is Sentenced to 9 Years in a Russian Penal Colony

    The W.N.B.A. star Brittney Griner’s friends and colleagues expressed support and sadness for her after a Russian court found her guilty of attempting to smuggle illegal narcotics into Russia and sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony.

    “Just really feeling sad and feeling sick for Brittney and hoping that she gets home as soon as possible,” said Breanna Stewart, a four-time W.N.B.A. All-Star who had played with Griner on the Russian team UMMC Yekaterinburg since 2020. “Now that the trial is done and the sentencing happened, I know she’s got to be in a very emotional state and just want her to know that we’re still continuing to do whatever we can to get her home.”

    Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17, when Russian customs officials at an airport near Moscow said they found hashish oil in vape cartridges in her luggage. Her trial began on July 1 and the conviction had been widely expected. The U.S. State Department has said that Griner is being wrongfully detained and that it has been working to negotiate her release.

    Griner’s family has sought help from Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor who is working to secure the release of Griner and of Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2018.

    “Today’s sentencing of Brittney Griner was severe by Russian legal standards and goes to prove what we have known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn,” Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said on Twitter. “We appreciate and continue to support the efforts of @POTUS and @SecBlinken to get a deal done swiftly to bring Brittney, Paul and all Americans home.”

    Moments after the verdict, A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces tweeted “Free BG!” with an emoji of an orange heart. Dijonai Carrington of the Connecticut Sun tweeted “praying so hard for BG.”

    The Phoenix Mercury released a statement calling Griner’s situation a nightmare.

    “While we knew it was never the legal process that was going to bring our friend home, today’s verdict is a sobering milestone in the 168-day nightmare being endured by our sister, BG,” the Mercury’s statement said.

    The W.N.B.A. players’ union posted a statement on Twitter from its executive director, Terri Carmichael Jackson, which called the verdict “unjust” and urged U.S. officials to do all they can to bring Griner home.

    “Given her record of service on and off the court, BG deserves to come home,” the statement said.

    It then called on the global sporting community to stand with Griner.

    N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver and W.N.B.A. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released a joint statement saying: “The W.N.B.A. and N.B.A.’s commitment to her safe return has not wavered, and it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States.”

    Some N.B.A. players weighed in as well.

    “Smh 9 Years…. Free BG,” Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat said on Twitter.

    Nets star Kyrie Irving tweeted: “What is truly happening with our Queen @brittneygriner @POTUS @VP? Please give us an Update.”

    Representative Colin Allred, Democrat of Texas, has been working to secure Griner’s release since March.

    “Folks must remember that this conviction is all part of a sham trial and Brittney was wrongfully detained,” Allred said on Twitter. “It is just another cynical way for Russia to try and gain leverage.”

    Debbie Jackson, Griner’s high school basketball coach, held back tears after learning of Griner’s verdict. Jackson recruited Griner, then a volleyball player, to play basketball at Nimitz High School in Houston, setting her on a path toward stardom on the court.

    “It makes me sick that that was the decision,” Jackson said. “I was trying to be optimistic, even fully aware that when you’re dealing with Russia, things don’t go the way you would hope they would.” She said she hoped Griner “can remain hopeful that our State Department will work on a prison swap for her and other Americans that are in prison over there.”

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    Oil from U.S. reserves sent overseas as gasoline prices stay high

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    HOUSTON, July 5 (Reuters) – More than 5 million barrels of oil that were part of a historic U.S. emergency reserves release to lower domestic fuel prices were exported to Europe and Asia last month, according to data and sources, even as U.S. gasoline and diesel prices hit record highs.

    The export of crude and fuel is blunting the impact of the moves by U.S. President Joe Biden to lower record pump prices. Biden on Saturday renewed a call for gasoline suppliers to cut their prices, drawing criticism from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. read more

    About 1 million barrels per day is being released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) through October. The flow is draining the SPR, which last month fell to the lowest since 1986. U.S. crude futures are above $100 per barrel and gasoline and diesel prices above $5 a gallon in one-fifth of the nation. U.S. officials have said oil prices could be higher if the SPR had not been tapped.

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    “The SPR remains a critical energy security tool to address global crude oil supply disruptions,” a Department of Energy spokesperson said, adding that the emergency releases helped ensure stable supply of crude oil.

    The fourth-largest U.S. oil refiner, Phillips 66 (PSX.N), shipped about 470,000 barrels of sour crude from the Big Hill SPR storage site in Texas to Trieste, Italy, according to U.S. Customs data. Trieste is home to a pipeline that sends oil to refineries in central Europe.

    Atlantic Trading & Marketing (ATMI), an arm of French oil major TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA), exported 2 cargoes of 560,000 barrels each, the data showed.

    Phillips 66 declined to comment on trading activity. ATMI did not respond to a request for comment.

    Cargoes of SPR crude were also headed to the Netherlands and to a Reliance (RELI.NS) refinery in India, an industry source said. A third cargo headed to China, another source said.

    At least one cargo of crude from the West Hackberry SPR site in Louisiana was set to be exported in July, a shipping source added.

    “Crude and fuel prices would likely be higher if (the SPR releases) hadn’t happened, but at the same time, it isn’t really having the effect that was assumed,” said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst at Kpler.

    The latest exports follow three vessels that carried SPR crude to Europe in April helping replace Russian crude supplies. read more

    U.S. crude inventories are the lowest since 2004 as refineries run near peak levels. Refineries in the U.S. Gulf coast were at 97.9% utilization, the most in three and a half years.

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    Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sam Holmes

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    Oil drops 2% to 12-week low on fears of global recession

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    Crude oil storage tanks are seen from above at the Cushing oil hub, in Cushing, Oklahoma, March 24, 2016. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

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    • Recession fears continue to weigh on prices
    • Dollar holds near 20-year high against other currencies
    • China reports new COVID-19 cases across the country
    • Norwegian oil output to return within days after strike
    • Russian court orders halt to Caspian oil pipeline

    NEW YORK, July 6 (Reuters) – Oil prices slid about 2% to a 12-week low in volatile trade on Wednesday, extending the prior session’s heavy losses as investors grew more worried energy demand would take a hit in a potential global recession.

    Looking ahead, analysts polled by Reuters forecast U.S. crude inventories fell about 1.0 million barrels last week. A drop in crude stockpiles could support prices. ,

    The American Petroleum Institute (API), an industry group, will issue its inventory report at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) on Wednesday. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports at 11:00 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) on Thursday. Both reports were delayed one day by the U.S. July Fourth holiday.

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    Brent futures for September delivery fell $2.08, or 2.0%, to settle at $100.69 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 97 cents, or 1.0%, to settle at $98.53. Both benchmarks closed at their lowest since April 11, in technically oversold territory for a second straight day.

    U.S. diesel futures also fell over 5%.

    Trade was volatile, with both crude benchmarks up over $2 a barrel early on supply concerns and down over $4 a barrel at session lows. Crude futures have been extremely volatile for months.

    On Tuesday, WTI slid 8% while Brent tumbled 9%, a $10.73 drop that was the third biggest for the contract since it started trading in 1988. Its biggest drop was $16.84 in March.

    Analysts at investment banks Goldman Sachs and UBS said oil prices dropped due to recession fears.

    UBS cited numerous reasons, including “the unwinding of the oil trade as inflation hedge, a stronger US dollar, hedge funds reacting to negative oil price momentum, producer hedging, and new mobility restriction concerns in China.”

    With the U.S. Federal Reserve expected to keep raising interest rates, open interest in WTI futures fell last week to its lowest since May 2016 as investors cut back on risky assets.

    “There are undeniably concerns about recessionary demand destruction, plus, WTI open interest at multi-year lows has created a bit of a liquidity crunch,” said Robert Yawger, executive director of energy futures at Mizuho.

    The head of the International Monetary Fund said the outlook for the global economy had “darkened significantly” since April and she could not rule out a possible global recession next year given the elevated risks. read more read more

    U.S. job openings fell less than expected in May, pointing to a still-tight labor market that could keep Federal Reserve policy aggressive as tries to bring high inflation down to its 2% target. read more

    Oil prices were also slammed by a soaring U.S. dollar

    In China, the world’s biggest oil importer, the market worried that new COVID-19 lockdowns could cut demand. read more

    China’s crude oil imports from Russia in May soared 55% from a year earlier to a record level. Russia displaced Saudi Arabia as top supplier, with refiners grabbing discounted supplies as Western countries sanctioned Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. read more

    Further pressuring oil prices, Equinor ASA (EQNR.OL) said all oil and gas fields affected by a strike in Norway’s petroleum sector were expected to be back in full operation within a couple of days. read more

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    Additional reporting by Rowena Edwards in London, Emily Chow in Kuala Lumpur and Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; Editing by David Clarke, David Goodman, Deepa Babington and David Gregorio

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    Eid Under the Taliban Shows a Changed Afghanistan

    KABUL, Afghanistan — Thousands of Afghans had piled into buses and set out down the country’s once perilous highways bound for relatives they had not seen in years. Afghanistan’s only national park was filled with tourists who had only dreamed of traveling to its intensely blue lakes and jagged mountains when fighting raged across the country.

    And Zulhijjah Mirzadah, a mother of five, packed a small picnic of dried fruit, gathered her family in a minibus and wove for two hours through the congested streets of the capital, Kabul, to a bustling amusement park.

    From the entrance, she could hear the low whoosh of a roller coaster and the chorus of joyous screams from Afghans inside celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. But she could not go further. Women, she was told at the gate, were barred by the Taliban from entering the park on Eid.

    “We’re facing economic problems, things are expensive, we can’t find work, our daughters can’t go to school — but we hoped to have a picnic in the park today,” said Ms. Mirzadah, 25.

    country’s economic collapse since the Taliban toppled the Western-backed government, the freedom of travel and luxury of celebratory outings remained out of reach.

    City Park, the amusement park in Kabul, and the city’s zoo, had less than half of the number of visitors that typically come each Eid, according to park managers. The low turnout was a reflection of both the country’s economic downturn and the Taliban’s edict barring women from visiting on Eid — the latest in a growing roster of restrictions on women in public spaces.

    In a modest house tucked into one of Kabul’s many hillsides, Zhilla, 18, gathered with relatives at her aunt’s house on the second day of Eid. Her young cousins and siblings chased each other in the small courtyard. Inside, Zhilla marveled over her new cousin, just six days old, sleeping peacefully in her mother’s lap.

    “The baby knows we’ve been through a lot, she needs to behave for us,” Zhilla joked.

    The previous year, she and her relatives had gathered by the city’s Qargha reservoir for a picnic by the river, as boys and girls rode bicycles along its banks and took boats out on the water — a memory that feels like a lifetime ago, she said.

    “This Eid is the same as any other day — we cannot go out, we cannot be free,” she said.

    Najim Rahim contributed reporting from Houston.

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    U.S. shale gas, LNG firms meet with European countries over supply crisis, article with image

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    3D printed Natural Gas Pipes are placed on displayed U.S. and Russian flags in this illustration taken, January 31, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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    April 6 (Reuters) – At least a dozen U.S. shale gas executives on Wednesday held discussions with European energy officials on increasing U.S. fuel supplies to Europe as part of efforts to replace Russian imports.

    At the meetings in Houston, foreign affairs, economic ministers and commercial buyers discussed how to lower their imports of Russian oil, coal and liquefied natural gas following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, trade group officials said. The European Union plans to cut its reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds this year. read more

    Delegations from Latvia and Estonia, diplomats from Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, and the United Kingdom toured the Golden Pass LNG export project in Sabine Pass, Texas, and later met in Houston with shale gas producers, Fred Hutchison, chief executive of trade group LNG Allies, said.

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    Group discussions included top executives from Chesapeake Energy (CHK.O), Coterra Energy (CTRA.N), EOG Resources (EOG.N) and EQT Corp (EQT.N), he said. Individual meetings are planned between U.S. executives and Latvian, Estonian and Slovak commercial representatives.

    “The situation in Europe is so precarious. All these countries that are dependent on Russian gas are committed to giving it up, in some cases completely,” said Hutchison.

    Building LNG capacity takes years and ample new supplies will not be available until mid-decade. “The capacity challenges in 2022 are great but the opportunities in a few years are really terrific,” he said.

    The meeting, coordinated by the American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC) along with LNG Allies, focused on ways to move Europe off Russian gas, including the need for more infrastructure in the United States and Europe, AXPC CEO Anne Bradbury said.

    The need for new LNG plants was highlighted at a congressional hearing earlier on Wednesday by Pioneer Natural Resources Chief Executive Scott Sheffield. He urged Congress to embrace the construction of new U.S. plants.

    “We need to build LNG facilities in the northeast,” Sheffield said.

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    Reporting by Liz Hampton in Denver; Edited by Gary McWilliams, Richard Pullin and Barbara Lewis

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