worldwide surge in energy prices threatens to impose more hardship as it hampers the recovery. This week, oil prices hit a seven-year high in the United States. With winter approaching, Europeans are worried that heating costs will soar when temperatures drop. In other spots, the shortages have cut even deeper, causing blackouts in some places that paralyzed transport, closed factories and threatened food supplies.

China, electricity is being rationed in many provinces and many companies are operating at less than half of their capacity, contributing to an already significant slowdown in growth. India’s coal reserves have dropped to dangerously low levels.

And over the weekend, Lebanon’s six million residents were left without any power for more than 24 hours after fuel shortages shut down the nation’s power plants. The outage is just the latest in a series of disasters there. Its economic and financial crisis has been one of the world’s worst in 150 years.

Oil producers in the Middle East and elsewhere are lately benefiting from the jump in prices. But many nations in the region and North Africa are still trying to resuscitate their pandemic-battered economies. According to newly updated reports from the World Bank, 13 of the 16 countries in that region will have lower standards of living this year than they did before the pandemic, in large part because of “underfinanced, imbalanced and ill-prepared health systems.”

Other countries were so overburdened by debt even before the pandemic that governments were forced to limit spending on health care to repay foreign lenders.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, there are fears of a second lost decade of growth like the one experienced after 2010. In South Africa, over one-third of the population is out of work.

And in East Asia and the Pacific, a World Bank update warned that “Covid-19 threatens to create a combination of slow growth and increasing inequality for the first time this century.” Businesses in Indonesia, Mongolia and the Philippines lost on average 40 percent or more of their typical monthly sales. Thailand and many Pacific island economies are expected to have less output in 2023 than they did before the pandemic.

debt ceiling — can further set back the recovery, the I.M.F. warned.

But the biggest risk is the emergence of a more infectious and deadlier coronavirus variant.

Ms. Gopinath at the I.M.F. urged vaccine manufacturers to support the expansion of vaccine production in developing countries.

Earlier this year, the I.M.F. approved $650 billion worth of emergency currency reserves that have been distributed to countries around the world. In this latest report, it again called on wealthy countries to help ensure that these funds are used to benefit poor countries that have been struggling the most with the fallout of the virus.

“We’re witnessing what I call tragic reversals in development across many dimensions,” said David Malpass, the president of the World Bank. “Progress in reducing extreme poverty has been set back by years — for some, by a decade.”

Ben Casselman contributed reporting.

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A Brexit-Weary Britain Finds Itself in a New Crisis With Brexit Overtones

LONDON — Few things are more likely to set teeth on edge in Downing Street than the tentative winner of an inconclusive German election declaring that Brexit is the reason Britons are lining up at gas stations like it’s 1974.

But there was Olaf Scholz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, telling reporters on Monday that the freedom of movement guaranteed by the European Union would have alleviated the shortage of truck drivers in Britain that is preventing oil companies from supplying gas stations across the country.

“We worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union,” Mr. Scholz said, when asked about the crisis in Britain. “Now they decided different, and I hope they will manage the problems coming from that.”

For ordinary people, Mr. Scholz’s critique might also seem like old news. Britain is no longer debating Brexit. Nearly everyone is exhausted by the issue and the country, like the rest of the world, has instead been consumed by the pandemic.

began to run out of gasoline, sparking a panic and serpentine lines of motorists looking for a fill up.

While it would be wrong to blame a crisis with global ramifications solely on Brexit, there are Brexit-specific causes that are indisputable: Of the estimated shortfall of 100,000 truck drivers, about 20,000 are non-British drivers who left the country during the pandemic and have not returned in part because of more stringent, post-Brexit visa requirements to work in the country, which took effect this year.

reversed course last weekend and offered 5,000 three-month visas to foreign drivers to try to replenish the ranks (while also putting military drivers on standby to drive fuel trucks, a move he hasn’t yet taken.)

“You have business models based on your ability to hire workers from other countries,” said David Henig, an expert on trade policy for the European Center for International Political Economy, a research institute. “You’ve suddenly reduced your labor market down to an eighth of the size it previously was. There’s a Brexit effect on business models that simply haven’t had time to adjust.”

after Britain’s successful rollout of coronavirus vaccines. Some attributed the government’s ability to secure vaccines and obtain swift approval of them to its independence from the bureaucracy in Brussels.

party’s leaders have failed to find their voices. It is reminiscent of earlier debates, where the party’s deep divisions on Brexit hampered its ability to confront the government.

“I’ve been amazed by the reluctance of Labour to go after them,” said Anand Menon, a professor of European politics at Kings College London. “You can allude to Brexit without saying Brexit. You can say it’s because of the Tories’ rubbish trade deal.”

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Biden’s Electric Car Plans Hinge on Having Enough Chargers

For years, start-ups, automakers and other companies have been slowly building chargers, mainly in California and other coastal states where most electric cars are sold. These businesses use different strategies to make money, and auto experts say it is not clear which will succeed. The company with the most stations, ChargePoint, sells chargers to individuals, workplaces, stores, condo and apartment buildings, and businesses with fleets of electric vehicles. It collects subscription fees for software that manages the chargers. Tesla offers charging mainly to get people to buy its cars. And others make money by selling electricity to drivers.

Once the poor cousin to the hip business of making sleek electric cars, the charging industry has been swept up in its own gold rush. Venture capital firms poured nearly $1 billion into charging companies last year, more than the five previous years combined, according to PitchBook. So far in 2021, venture capital investments are up to more than $550 million.

On Wall Street, publicly traded special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, have struck deals to buy eight charging companies out of 26 deals involving electric vehicle and related businesses, according to Dealogic, a research firm. The deals typically include an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars from big investors like BlackRock.

“It’s early, and folks are trying to wrap their heads around what does the potential look like,” said Gabe Daoud Jr., a managing director and analyst at Cowen, an investment bank.

These businesses could benefit from the infrastructure bill, but it is not clear how the Biden administration would distribute money for charging stations.

Another unanswered question is who will be the Exxon Mobil of the electric car age. It might well be automakers.

Tesla, which makes about two-thirds of the electric cars sold in the United States, has built thousands of chargers, which it made free for early customers. The company could open its network to vehicles made by other automakers by the end of the year, its chief executive, Elon Musk, said in July.

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E.P.A. Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking a Decade Ago, New Files Show

The presence of PFAS in oil and gas extraction threatens to expose oil-field employees and emergency workers handling fires and spills as well as people who live near, or downstream from, drilling sites to a class of chemicals that has faced increasing scrutiny for its links to cancer, birth defects, and other serious health problems.

A class of man-made chemicals that are toxic even in minuscule concentrations, for decades PFAS were used to make products like nonstick pans, stain-resistant carpeting and firefighting foam. The substances have come under scrutiny in recent years for their tendency to persist in the environment, and to accumulate inside the human body, as well as for their links to health problems like cancer and birth defects. Both Congress and the Biden administration have moved to better regulate PFAS, which contaminate the drinking water of as many as 80 million Americans.

Industry researchers have long been aware of their toxicity. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s, when the environmental attorney Rob Bilott sued Dupont for pollution from its Teflon plant in Parkersburg, W.Va., that the dangers of PFAS started to be widely known. In settlements with the E.P.A. in the mid-2000s, Dupont acknowledged knowing of PFAS’s dangers, and it and several other chemical manufacturers subsequently committed to phase out the use of certain kinds of the chemical by 2015.

Kevin A. Schug, a professor of analytical Chemistry at the University of Texas at Arlington, said the chemicals identified in the FracFocus database fell into the PFAS group of compounds, although he added that there was not enough information to make a direct link between the chemicals in the database to the ones approved by the E.P.A. Still, he said it was clear “that the approved polymer, if and when it breaks down in the environment, will break down into PFAS.”

The findings underscore how, for decades, the nation’s laws governing various chemicals have allowed thousands of substances to go into commercial use with relatively little testing. The E.P.A.’s assessment was carried out under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which authorizes the agency to review and regulate new chemicals before they are manufactured or distributed.

But for years, that law had gaps that left Americans exposed to harmful chemicals, experts say. Furthermore, the Toxic Substances Control Act grandfathered in thousands of chemicals already in commercial use, including many PFAS chemicals. In 2016, Congress strengthened the law, bolstering the E.P.A.’s authority to order health testing, among other measures. The Government Accountability Office, the watchdog arm of Congress, still identifies the Toxic Substances Control Act as a program with one of the highest risks of abuse and mismanagement.

In recent days, whistle-blowers have alleged in the Intercept that the E.P.A. office in charge of reviewing toxic chemicals tampered with the assessments of dozens of chemicals to make them appear safer. E.P.A. scientists evaluating new chemicals “are the last line of defense between harmful — even deadly — chemicals and their introduction into U.S. commerce, and this line of defense is struggling to maintain its integrity,” the whistle-blowers said in their disclosure, which was released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Maryland-based nonprofit group.

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Shell Must Reduce Emissions, Dutch Court Rules

A Dutch court ruled Wednesday that Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, must accelerate its efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to tackle climate change.

The District Court in The Hague ruled that Shell was “obliged” to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions of its activities by 45 percent at the end of 2030 compared with 2019. Shell is based in The Hague but is a global producer and supplier of oil and natural gas and other energy.

Shell has already adopted targets for emissions reduction, but the court requirements are likely to represent a substantial acceleration of the process of reducing emissions-producing fuels like oil and gas.

The ruling applies only in the Netherlands. Still, the defeat of an oil giant in a case brought by Milieudefensie, an environmental group, and other activists appeared to represent a kind of breakthrough in terms of a court’s willingness to dictate to a major business what it must do globally to protect the climate.

on the court website.

“But the court believes that the consequences of severe climate change are more important than Shell’s interests,” she added.

The court appeared to have accepted the environmentalists’ argument that not taking drastic measures on climate change would put lives in jeopardy.

“Severe climate change has consequences for human rights, including the right to life. And the court thinks that companies, among them Shell, have to respect those human rights,” Ms. Honée said.

A Shell spokesman said that the company expected “to appeal today’s disappointing court decision.”

The company said that it already had an extensive program to deal with climate change including billions of dollars of investment in low carbon energy including hydrogen, renewables like wind and solar and electric vehicle charging.

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South Korean Leader to Meet With White House

WASHINGTON — The United States is calling on South Korea to set more ambitious climate targets, an issue that will be a part of discussions when President Moon Jae-in meets with President Biden on Friday at the White House.

Last month John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s international climate envoy, traveled to South Korea and, according to officials in both countries, surprised members of Mr. Moon’s government by suggesting the country take “corresponding efforts” to the United States in reducing planet-warming emissions. That would nearly double South Korea’s current target of cutting carbon 24.4 percent below 2017 levels by the end of the decade.

South Korea, the world’s seventh-largest emitter of planet-warming carbon dioxide, is important to the Biden administration’s effort to show that other industrialized countries are acting vigorously against climate change.

international climate change summit that Mr. Biden hosted last month, promised to end funding of overseas coal plants.

At the same time, Korea has seven coal plants under construction, according to the Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based group that follows fossil fuel projects. And, a new study by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology found that unless the government enacted aggressive new policies, the country would “fall embarrassingly short” in meeting its current targets.

In a letter last week to Mr. Moon, former Vice President Al Gore urged him to set a target of at least 50 percent to “help protect the future of our planet.” More ambitious goals, Mr. Gore said, “would have a ripple effect on the climate policies of countries around the world.”

As a highly industrialized country that is heavily dependent on coal and imports virtually all of its oil and gas, South Korea faces serious challenges in meeting the United States’ and environmental groups’ expectations.

Won Hee-ryong, the governor of Jeju Province in South Korea, said he believed the government must improve its target, but he called hitting 50 percent “challenging.” Speaking Wednesday at a forum sponsored by World Resources Institute, Mr. Won said a more reasonable goal might be around 37 percent.

“It may be difficult for Korea to commit to an emissions target as ambitious as the United States, given that our emissions peaked only three years ago,” he said.

A senior administration official, speaking at a background briefing for reporters, said Mr. Biden intended to discuss with Mr. Moon ways both nations could eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from their power sectors and other parts of the economy, saying there would be “more to report” after the Friday meeting.

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Climate Is High on Agenda as Korean Leader Heads to White House

WASHINGTON — The United States is calling on South Korea to set more ambitious climate targets, an issue that will be a part of discussions when President Moon Jae-in meets with President Biden on Friday at the White House.

Last month John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s international climate envoy, traveled to South Korea and, according to officials in both countries, surprised members of Mr. Moon’s government by suggesting the country take “corresponding efforts” to the United States in reducing planet-warming emissions. That would nearly double South Korea’s current target of cutting carbon 24.4 percent below 2017 levels by the end of the decade.

South Korea, the world’s seventh-largest emitter of planet-warming carbon dioxide, is important to the Biden administration’s effort to show that other industrialized countries are acting vigorously against climate change.

international climate change summit that Mr. Biden hosted last month, promised to end funding of overseas coal plants.

At the same time, Korea has seven coal plants under construction, according to the Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based group that follows fossil fuel projects. And, a new study by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology found that, unless the government enacted aggressive new policies, the country would “fall embarrassingly short” in meeting its current targets.

In a letter last week to Mr. Moon, former Vice President Al Gore urged him to set a target of at least 50 percent to “help protect the future of our planet.” More ambitious goals, Mr. Gore said, “would have a ripple effect on the climate policies of countries around the world.”

As a highly industrialized country that is heavily dependent on coal and imports virtually all of its oil and gas, South Korea faces serious challenges in meeting the United States’ and environmental groups’ expectations.

Won Hee-ryong, the governor of Jeju Province in South Korea, said he believed the government must improve its target, but he called hitting 50 percent “challenging.” Speaking Wednesday at a forum sponsored by World Resources Institute, Mr. Won said a more reasonable goal might be around 37 percent.

“It may be difficult for Korea to commit to an emissions target as ambitious as the United States, given that our emissions peaked only three years ago,” he said.

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Iran’s Oil Exports Rise as U.S. Looks to Rejoin Nuclear Accord

But, the official said, the United States has been challenged to enforce the sanctions without reliable help from allies and as traders play a “cat-and-mouse game” to avoid being tracked on the high seas. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity while the Iran talks were continuing.

U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships conducting security patrols in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf have been confronted by Iranian military vessels three times over the past month, heightening tensions that could, if allowed to escalate, threaten the delicate nuclear negotiations in Vienna. Twenty percent of the global oil supply — about 18 million barrels each day — flows through the strait.

Other world powers have been reluctant to enforce sanctions that were imposed, over their objections, when the United States left the nuclear deal in 2018. The most notable example came last fall, when the Trump administration declared it had reimposed international sanctions against Iran that the United Nations Security Council refused to recognize.

The United States has also warned that it could impose what are known as secondary sanctions on foreign buyers of Iran’s oil, which would cut them out of American markets and other transactions that are processed in U.S. dollars. That has spooked international companies that do not want to lose access to American banks and some analysts said that it has hurt relations between the United States and European allies who had hoped the nuclear deal would open new economic markets for their industries in Iran.

“If the United States tries to use sanctions for everything, and tries to tell the rest of the world what it can and can’t do, at some point other countries could well push back and say, ‘We’ve had enough of this,’” said Corinne A. Goldstein, a sanctions expert and senior counsel at the law firm Covington & Burling. “So I think the United States risks losing the power of sanctions by abusing their use.”

Since January, The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has fined companies more than $2.1 million for violating its sanctions against Iran to settle or otherwise resolve yearslong cases, some of which began under President Barack Obama. The Treasury Department resolved about as many violations of Iran sanctions for all of 2020, including a $4.1 million settlement with Berkshire Hathaway after one of its Turkish subsidiaries was accused of selling goods to Iran and then trying to hide the transaction.

Elliott Abrams, who oversaw the drumbeat of sanctions against Iran toward the end of the Trump administration, said the penalties blocked revenues worth tens of billions of dollars to Tehran, limiting how much support Iran could devote to its nuclear and military programs, including its proxy forces across the Middle East.

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Colonial Pipeline Hack Shows Risk to US Energy Independence

HOUSTON — When OPEC barred oil exports to the United States in 1973, creating long gasoline lines, President Richard Nixon pledged an effort that would combine the spirit of the Apollo program and the determination of the Manhattan Project.

“By the end of this decade, we will have developed the potential to meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy sources,” he said in a televised address.

His timing was off — it took more than 40 years — but the country has come pretty close to energy independence in recent years thanks to a surge in domestic shale oil and natural gas production and the harnessing of solar and wind energy.

That independence, however, is fragile. Last week, cars lined up at gas stations across much of the Southeast after the Colonial Pipeline was paralyzed by a cyberattack by a criminal group seeking a ransom. The electric grid is also coming under greater stress because of climate change. In the last year, a heat wave in California and a deep freeze in Texas forced rolling blackouts as demand for power outstripped supply.

panic buying rarely seen in decades produced shortages, and prices at the pump rose as much as 20 cents a gallon for regular gasoline in some states in a few days, according to AAA.

Mr. Yergin said that drivers who lined up at pumps to fill gas cans and even plastic bags made the situation worse. The impulse to hoard harkened back to the oil shocks of the 1970s and appeared to touch a chord in the national psyche.

“People remembered gas lines even though they weren’t born yet,” Mr. Yergin said.

Colonial Pipeline, a private company, resumed full operations over the weekend, but it will take at least several more days before many gas stations are restocked.

Energy companies will come under greater pressure from governments and investors to bulk up their defenses against cyberattacks, but those and other vulnerabilities will not be easily overcome, especially after years of underinvestment.

Upgrading the energy system will not be easy. Dozens of competing companies that operate a vast web of oil and gas wells and pumping stations, transmission lines and power plants will need coaxing to make their operations more resilient to weather and criminal attacks. Considerable funding will have to come from business and government, as well as research to keep ahead of the cybercriminals. President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan devotes $100 billion to the transmission grid.

The quest for energy independence has never been a straight line, and there have been many unfortunate twists. Reliance on Middle East oil was a major consideration in military action and diplomatic strategy, including alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia with disturbing human rights records. A half-century ago, the country shifted from burning heating oil to relying more heavily on coal, which contributed to climate change.

But the search for energy independence also led to innovation. Fracking — the hydraulic fracturing of shale oil and natural gas deposits — not only slashed energy imports but also made the United States a major exporter. Suddenly oil and gas were not a national security vulnerability but a tool to further American interests.

nearly half of the transportation fuel needs of the region.

When hurricanes hit, and refineries on the Gulf shut down, gasoline and diesel prices tend to rise along the East Coast. Normally, that is not a huge problem because companies store lots of fuel close to where it is used and trucks and barges can usually make up the difference. This time, however, uncertainty about how long it would take to restore supplies made the Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown much more disruptive.

The ransomware attack was the work of DarkSide, an extortionist ring that has been responsible for scores of attacks on companies in several countries. But it is hardly the only group that infiltrates computer systems to extort money. Others go by names like REvil, Maze and LockBit.

“The technology moves so quickly, you solve one or two or twenty possible vulnerabilities in your computer systems and the hackers find a different way to get in.” said Drue Pearce, a former deputy administrator of the federal Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The criminal groups represent a threat to industries beyond energy. But experts say energy is of particular concern because it is essential to a functioning economy. The peril is no less complex than reducing the United States’ reliance on foreign oil, said Bill Richardson, a former energy secretary.

“This is a new threat that we are not prepared for,” he said.

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