Fed officials remain committed to wrestling America’s rapid inflation lower, and they have raised interest rates at the quickest pace since the 1980s to try to slow the economy and bring supply and demand into balance — making supersize rate moves of three-quarters of a percentage point at each of their past two meetings. Another big adjustment will be up for debate at their next meeting in September, policymakers have said.

But investors interpreted July’s unexpectedly pronounced inflation slowdown as a sign that policymakers could take a gentler route, raising rates a half-point next month. Stocks soared more than 2 percent on Wednesday, as Wall Street bet that the Fed might become less aggressive, which would decrease the chances that it would plunge the economy into a recession.

“It was as good as the markets and the Fed could have hoped for from this report,” said Aneta Markowska, chief financial economist at Jefferies. “I do think it removes the urgency for the Fed.”

Still, officials who spoke on Wednesday remained cautious about inflation. Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, called the report the “first hint” of a move in the right direction, while Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said that it was “positive” but that price increases remained “unacceptably high.”

Policymakers have been hoping for more than a year that price increases will begin to cool, only to have those expectations repeatedly dashed. Supply chain issues have made goods more expensive, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent commodity prices soaring, a shortage of workers pushed wages and service prices higher and a dearth of housing has fueled rising rents.

toward $4 in July after peaking at $5 in June, based on data from AAA. That decline helped overall inflation to cool last month. The trend has continued into August, which should help inflation to continue to moderate.

But it is unclear what will happen next. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects that fuel costs will continue to come down, but geopolitical instability and the speed of U.S. oil and gas production during hurricane season, which can take refineries offline, are wild cards in that outlook.

declined in July, perhaps in part because borrowing costs rose. Mortgage rates have increased this year and appear to be weighing on the housing market, which could be helping to drive down prices for appliances.

slow hiring. Wages are still rising rapidly, and, as that happens, so are prices on many services. Rents, which make up a chunk of overall inflation and are closely linked to wage growth, continue to climb rapidly — which is concerning, because they tend to change course only slowly.

Rents of primary residences climbed 0.7 percent in July from the prior month, and are up 6.3 percent over the past year. Before the pandemic, that measure typically climbed about 3.5 percent annually.

Those forces could keep inflation undesirably rapid even if supply chains unsnarl and fuel prices continue to fall. The Fed aims for 2 percent inflation over time, based on a different but related inflation measure.

“The Covid reopening and revenge travel pressures have eased — and are probably going to continue easing,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, senior U.S. economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives. But she also struck a note of caution, adding: “Under the hood, we’re still seeing pressures in rent. There’s still sticky inflation here.”

And given how high inflation has been for more than a year now, Fed policymakers will avoid reading too much into a single report. Inflation slowed last summer only to speed up again in fall.

“We might see goods inflation and commodity inflation come down, but at the same time see the services side of the economy stay up — and that’s what we’ve got to keep watching for,” Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said during a recent appearance. “It can’t just be a one month. Oil prices went down in July; that’ll feed through to the July inflation report, but there’s a lot of risk that oil prices will go up in the fall.”

Ms. Mester said that she “welcomes” a slowdown in some types of prices, but that it would be a mistake to “cry victory too early” and allow inflation to continue without taking necessary action.

For many Americans who are struggling to adjust their lifestyles to rapidly climbing costs at the grocery store and dry cleaners, an annual inflation rate that is still more than four times its normal speed is unlikely to feel like a big improvement, even as lower gas prices and rising pay rates do offer some relief.

Stephanie Bailey, 54, has a solid family income in Waco, Texas. Even so, she has been cutting back on meals at local Tex-Mex restaurants and new clothes because of the climbing prices, which she sees “everywhere.” At Starbucks, she opts for cold, noncoffee drinks, which in some cases are cheaper.

Her son, who is in his 20s, has moved back in with his parents. Rent had become out of reach on his salary working at a vitamin manufacturer. He is now teaching at a local high school.

“It’s just so expensive, with housing,” Ms. Bailey said. “He was having a hard time making ends meet.”

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Electric Cars Are Too Costly for Many, Even With Aid in Climate Bill

Policymakers in Washington are promoting electric vehicles as a solution to climate change. But an uncomfortable truth remains: Battery-powered cars are much too expensive for a vast majority of Americans.

Congress has begun trying to address that problem. The climate and energy package passed on Sunday by the Senate, the Inflation Reduction Act, would give buyers of used electric cars a tax credit.

But automakers have complained that the credit would apply to only a narrow slice of vehicles, at least initially, largely because of domestic sourcing requirements. And experts say broader steps are needed to make electric cars more affordable and to get enough of them on the road to put a serious dent in greenhouse gas emissions.

would eliminate this cap and extend the tax credit until 2032; used cars would also qualify for a credit of up to $4,000.

With so much demand, carmakers have little reason to target budget-minded buyers. Economy car stalwarts like Toyota and Honda are not yet selling significant numbers of all-electric models in the United States. Scarcity has been good for Ford, Mercedes-Benz and other carmakers that are selling fewer cars than before the pandemic but recording fat profits.

Automakers are “not giving any more discounts because demand is higher than the supply,” said Axel Schmidt, a senior managing director at Accenture who oversees the consulting firm’s automotive division. “The general trend currently is no one is interested in low prices.”

Advertised prices for electric vehicles tend to start around $40,000, not including a federal tax credit of $7,500. Good luck finding an electric car at that semi-affordable price.

Ford has stopped taking orders for Lightning electric pickups, with an advertised starting price of about $40,000, because it can’t make them fast enough. Hyundai advertises that its electric Ioniq 5 starts at about $40,000. But the cheapest models available from dealers in the New York area, based on a search of the company’s website, were around $49,000 before taxes.

Tesla’s Model 3, which the company began producing in 2017, was supposed to be an electric car for average folks, with a base price of $35,000. But Tesla has since raised the price for the cheapest version to $47,000.

pass the House, would give buyers of used cars a tax credit of up to $4,000. The used-car market is twice the size of the new-car market and is where most people get their rides.

But the tax credit for used cars would apply only to those sold for $25,000 or less. Less than 20 percent of used electric vehicles fit that category, said Scott Case, chief executive of Recurrent, a research firm focused on the used-vehicle market.

The supply of secondhand vehicles will grow over time, Mr. Case said. He noted that the Model 3, which has sold more than any other electric car, became widely available only in 2018. New-car buyers typically keep their vehicles three or four years before trading them in.

SAIC’s MG unit sells an electric S.U.V. in Europe for about $31,000 before incentives.

New battery designs offer hope for cheaper electric cars but will take years to appear in lower-priced models. Predictably, next-generation batteries that charge faster and go farther are likely to appear first in luxury cars, like those from Porsche and Mercedes.

Companies working on these advanced technologies argue that they will ultimately reduce costs for everyone by packing more energy into smaller packages. A smaller battery saves weight and cuts the cost of cooling systems, brakes and other components because they can be designed for a lighter car.

You can actually decrease everything else,” said Justin Mirro, chief executive of Kensington Capital Acquisition, which helped the battery maker QuantumScape go public and is preparing a stock market listing for the fledgling battery maker Amprius Technologies. “It just has this multiplier effect.”

$45 million in grants to firms or researchers working on batteries that, among other things, would last longer, to create a bigger supply of used vehicles.

“We also need cheaper batteries, and batteries that charge faster and work better in the winter,” said Halle Cheeseman, a program director who focuses on batteries at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, part of the Department of Energy.

Gene Berdichevsky, chief executive of Sila Nanotechnologies, a California company working on next-generation battery technology, argues that prices are following a curve like the one solar cells did. Prices for solar panels ticked up when demand began to take off, but soon resumed a steady decline.

The first car to use Sila’s technology will be a Mercedes luxury S.U.V. But Mr. Berdichevsky said: “I’m not in this to make toys for the rich. I’m here to make all cars go electric.” 

A few manufacturers offer cars aimed at the less wealthy. A Chevrolet Bolt, a utilitarian hatchback, lists for $25,600 before incentives. Volkswagen said this month that the entry-level version of its 2023 ID.4 electric sport utility vehicle, which the German carmaker has begun manufacturing at its factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., will start at $37,500, or around $30,000 if it qualifies for the federal tax credit.

Then there is the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, produced in China by a joint venture of General Motors and the Chinese automakers SAIC and Wuling. The car reportedly outsells the Tesla Model 3 in China. While the $4,500 price tag is unbeatable, it is unlikely that many Americans would buy a car with a top speed of barely 60 miles per hour and a range slightly over 100 miles. There is no sign that the car will be exported to the United States.

Eventually, Ms. Bailo of the Center for Automotive Research said, carmakers will run out of well-heeled buyers and aim at the other 95 percent.

“They listen to their customers,” she said. “Eventually that demand from high-income earners is going to abate.”

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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

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Oil tops $120 a barrel on Saudi pricing despite OPEC+ deal

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A drilling rig operates in the Permian Basin oil and natural gas production area in Lea County, New Mexico, U.S., February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

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  • Saudi Arabia raises official prices for Asian buyers
  • OPEC+ unlikely to reach increased output target -JP Morgan
  • WTI hits highest since early March

June 6 (Reuters) – Oil prices settled slightly lower after choppy trade on Monday, buoyed by Saudi Arabia raising its July crude prices but amid doubts that a higher output target for OPEC+ oil producers would ease tight supply.

Brent crude fell 21 cents, or 0.2%, to settle at $119.51 a barrel after touching an intraday high of $121.95.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 37 cents, or 0.3%, to settle at $118.50 a barrel after hitting a three-month high of $120.99. The benchmark fell by $1 earlier in the session.

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Saudi Arabia raised the July official selling price (OSP) for its flagship Arab light crude to Asia by $2.10 from June to a $6.50 premium over Oman/Dubai quotes, just off an all-time peak recorded in May when prices hit highs due to worries of disruptions in supplies from Russia. read more

The price increase followed a decision last week by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together called OPEC+, to boost output for July and August by 648,000 barrels per day, or 50% more than previously planned, though constraint in global refining capacity has kept prices elevated.

“Crude inputs into the U.S. refineries have been reduced by about 6% from four years ago at this time with this reduction associating with a need for less crude cover while contributing to a severe tightness in the gasoline and diesel markets,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois.

The increased target was spread across all OPEC+ members, many of which have little room to increase output and which include Russia, which faces Western sanctions after its invasion of Ukraine in February.

“With only a handful of … OPEC+ participants with spare capacity, we expect the increase in OPEC+ output to be about 160,000 barrels per day in July and 170,000 bpd in August,” JP Morgan analysts said in a note.

On Monday, Citibank and Barclays raised their price forecasts for 2022 and 2023, saying they expected Russian output and exports to fall by around 1 million to 1.5 million bpd by end-2022. read more

Separately, Italy’s Eni and Spain’s Repsol could begin shipping small volumes of Venezuelan oil to Europe as soon as next month, five people familiar with the matter told Reuters. read more

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Reporting by Laura Sanicola; Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in London, Florence Tan in Singapore and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; editing by Jason Neely, Will Dunham and Chris Reese

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Shell to stop buying Russian crude oil, issues apology, article with image

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  • Shell to stop all spot purchases of Russian crude oil
  • Says it’s sorry it bought Russian crude cargo last week
  • Shell says Russia withdrawal could slow some refinery output

March 8 (Reuters) – Shell (SHEL.L) stopped buying Russian crude on Tuesday and said it would phase out its involvement in all Russian hydrocarbons from oil to natural gas over Ukraine, becoming one of the first major Western oil companies to abandon Russia entirely.

While Russian crude and gas has been exempt so far from Western sanctions, oil soared above $139 a barrel on Monday to its highest since July 2008 as the United States and European allies began to consider banning Russian oil imports.

U.S. lawmakers have called for bans but President Joe Biden’s administration has only sanctioned Russian oil tankers. Britain and Canada have also barred Russian vessels from landing at their ports in protest at Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Shell apologised on Tuesday for buying Russian oil last week after it had said it would pull out of its Russian operations, including the Sakhalin 2 LNG plant in which it holds a 27.5% stake and which is operated by Gazprom . read more

“We are acutely aware that our decision last week to purchase a cargo of Russian crude oil … was not the right one and we are sorry,” Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said.

A 3D printed natural gas pipeline is placed in front of displayed Shell logo in this illustration taken February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/

Shell bought a cargo of Russian crude oil from Swiss trader Trafigura at a record low of dated Brent minus $28.50 a barrel, traders said on Friday. read more

British rival BP said last month it was abandoning its 19.75% stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft (ROSN.MM) in an abrupt move that could cost it up to $25 billion. read more

TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne said on Monday that the French company had stopped buying oil from Russia, although one its landlocked refineries in Germany continued to receive Russian crude by pipeline. read more

Shell said it would change its crude oil supply chain to remove volumes from Russia “as fast as possible” and shut its service stations in Russia, as well as its aviation fuels and lubricants operations in the country.

The company said the supply chain change could take weeks to complete and would lead to reduced output from some of its refineries while its withdrawal from Russian petroleum products, pipeline gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) would be phased.

The company also plans to end its involvement in the Nord Stream 2 Baltic gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany, which it helped finance as a part of a consortium.

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Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London. Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Louise Heavens and David Clarke

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High Gas Prices Force Sacrifices, Like Travel and Dining Out

A driver in Belleville, N.J., cut his cable and downsized his apartment to save money for gas. A retiree in Vallejo, Calif., said he had stopped driving to go fishing because the miles cost too much in fuel. An auto repairman in Toms River, N.J., doesn’t go to restaurants as often. And an Uber Eats deliveryman said he couldn’t afford frequent visits to his family and friends, some of whom live 60 miles away.

“Times are tough right now,” Chris Gonzalez, 31, the Uber Eats driver, said as he filled up his tank at a Safeway gas station off Interstate 80 in California.

Millions of American drivers have acutely felt the recent surge in gas prices, which last month hit their highest level since 2014. The national average for a gallon of gas is $3.41, which is $1.29 more than it was a year ago, according to AAA. Even after a recent price dip in crude oil, gasoline remains 7 cents more per gallon than it was a month ago.

While consumers are seeing a steady rise in the prices of many goods and services, the cost of gas is especially visible. It is displayed along highways across the country, including in areas where a gallon has climbed as high as $7.59.

survey from the fuel savings platform GasBuddy.

instructed the Federal Trade Commission this week to investigate why prices at the pump haven’t declined as much as might be expected, citing the possibility of “illegal conduct” by oil and gas companies. The administration is also facing calls from Congress to tap the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said would help struggling Americans.

Gas prices have gone up in part because of fluctuations in supply and demand. Demand for oil fell precipitously in the early months of the pandemic, so the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil-producing nations cut production. In the United States, reduced demand led to a substantial decline in drilling; the country’s oil rig count was down nearly 70 percent in summer 2020.

But over the past year, demand for oil recovered far faster than OPEC restored its production, and crude oil prices doubled to as much as $84 a barrel. (Since Nov. 9, the price has declined to just over $76.)

higher in the past; in 2008, the national average rose above $4.10 per gallon. (Adjusted for inflation, that would be equivalent to $5.16 today.) They’re optimistic that the increase in travel and gas demand is a reflection of the economy’s rebound from the pandemic, though they worry that rising prices could make people cut back on other spending.

“If gas prices rise so much that it affects consumers’ disposable incomes, this would weigh on discretionary spending,” said Fawad Razaqzada, a market analyst at ThinkMarkets. “It would be bad news for retailers.”

In California, where the average price of a gallon is the highest in the nation, at more than $4.60, drivers said they were changing their behavior. Some sought out cheaper spots, like Costco and Safeway gas stations, to save a few dollars.

At an Arco station in San Francisco’s NoPa neighborhood, a line of cars extended into the crowded street on Thursday. Some drivers searched for change. Others grumbled about the prices, which have shot up to as much as $4.49 at the Arco — known locally for its normally cheap rates — and up to $5.85 in the most expensive part of the city.

Keith Crawford, 57, who was filling up his Kia Optima, said he had taken to getting smaller amounts of gas twice a week to soften the blow to his bank account.

“You have to spread it out in order to stay afloat,” said Mr. Crawford, a concierge. “It’s part of the budget now.”

Thirty miles northeast of San Francisco in Vallejo, drivers lined up at the Safeway gas station off I-80, where the price was $4.83 per gallon. Several put the blame for their bills on the Biden administration.

“It’s Biden, Gavin Newsom — look at the gas taxes we pay,” said Kevin Altman, a 54-year-old retiree, referring to California’s governor.

Mr. Altman paid $50 to fill up his Jeep and estimated the gas would last him just two days. He said he had stopped driving to go fishing in nearby Benicia to avoid using too much gas, and would do all his Christmas shopping online this year.

The cost can be especially challenging for people who own businesses that depend on transit. Mahmut Sonmez, 33, who runs a car service, spends nearly $800 on gas out of the $2,500 he earns each week driving people around New Jersey. To save money, he moved in September into a Belleville apartment that is $400 cheaper than his previous home. He also cut his cable service and changed cellphone plans.

If gas prices keep rising, Mr. Sonmez said, he will consider changing jobs after nine years in the industry. “Somehow we’ve got to pay the rent,” he said.

In New Jersey, which bans self-service gas, some drivers are directing their ire toward station attendants.

“Every day they’re cursing me out,” said Gaby Marmol, 25, the assistant manager of a BP station in Newark, adding that when she sees how much the customers spend on both gas and convenience store items — $1.19 for ring pops that used to be 50 cents — she feels sympathetic. “We’re just doing our jobs, but they think we set the prices.”

Cheik Diakite, 62, an attendant at a Mobil station in Newark, doesn’t get as many tips as he did before the pandemic, he said, and grows frustrated listening to customers attribute the high prices to Mr. Biden.

Mr. Diakite typically passes afternoons by looking out for his most loyal customers. Bebi Amzad, who works at a nearby school, always has the same request for him: “Fill it up.” But when she pulled in on Thursday, she asked him to give her just $30 worth of gas.

“Today I’m not filling up all the way because I have other expenses,” said Ms. Amzad, 54, who commutes to Newark from Linden, N.J. “Everybody is hurting.”

Because she spends so much on gas and groceries, Ms. Amzad continued, she can’t afford many indulgences. “I don’t go to Marshalls anymore.”

Clifford Krauss 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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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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Canadian Company Defies Michigan Order to Shut Down Oil Pipeline

OTTAWA — A Canadian company on Wednesday defied an order to shut down an oil and gas pipeline that passes through Michigan, flouting a directive from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a contest of wills that threatens to aggravate U.S.-Canada relations.

Ms. Whitmer in November canceled the pipeline’s legal permission to cross the Straits of Mackinac, the narrow, heavily trafficked waterway that separates Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, and links Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.

She cited “persistent and incurable violations” of the permission, known as an easement, and concerns that potential leaks could pollute a vast area of the Great Lakes and endanger drinking water for millions of people in both countries.

The state had given Enbridge, the company that owns the pipeline, until Wednesday to shut it down. But the pipeline’s future is currently in mediation ordered by a U.S. district court in Michigan, and Mike Fernandez, senior vice president of Enbridge, said that the company, based in Calgary, Alberta, will only stop the flow of oil if ordered by a court.

and other pollutants than most oil production. Michigan’s action and the company’s defiance place Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in the uncomfortable position of defending an oil sands pipeline while making the fight against climate change one of its top priorities.

On Tuesday, Canada joined the legal fray, filing a brief in support of Enbridge, arguing that the state had overstepped its authority. Ottawa backed Enbridge’s claim that only the U.S. federal government can order a shutdown, and that the matter must be negotiated between the two nations.

Canada’s ambassador in Washington, said that Mr. Trudeau had raised the issue with the president and members of the Canadian cabinet had brought it up with their American counterparts. Along with other officials, Ms. Hillman said that she had laid out Canada’s case with Ms. Whitmer as recently as last week and with officials throughout Washington.

Exactly what Canada has to show for that, however, is unclear.

“I don’t really think that’s for me,” Ms. Hillman said. “Their discussions, within their system, are really something you’d have to ask them about.”

The Canadian government’s involvement adds another factor to the mix: a 1977 treaty in which Canada and the United States agreed not to block oil and gas while it is in transit through either country.

“The treaty is a very clear demonstration of the fact that this is an international matter,” Ms. Hillman said.

A spokesman for the White House declined to comment about Line 5 or Michigan’s authority over it.

Environmentalists in the state have long argued the line’s two aging pipes, which sit on the lake bed, could be broken open by a ship’s anchor or a structural failure. Any resulting spill would despoil cherished, economically vital waters.

“We spend time growing up going to the lakes, going to the beach,” said David Holtz, a spokesman for Oil & Water Don’t Mix, a group that wants Line 5 closed. “The governor has really decided that the right decision is to not put the Great Lakes, and our northern Michigan economy and shipping at risk for an oil pipeline that primarily services the Canadian market.”

Several Indigenous groups on both sides of the border and several states have also backed the governor’s move. Her opponents include business groups and some labor unions.

Detroit Free Press.

Ms. Whitmer said in a letter to Enbridge on Tuesday said that the state will attempt to recover all of the company’s future earnings from the continued operation of the pipeline.

Mr. Fernandez said pipeline opponents ignore its economic importance. In addition to delivering crude oil to Michigan and surrounding states, Line 5 provides refineries in Ontario and Quebec, home to about two-thirds of Canadians, with about 45 percent of their crude oil.

“There are protesters that think we can push a button or turn a dial and automatically what’s going to happen is that oil is going to be filled by other sources of energy,” Mr. Fernandez said. “That’s not readily apparent and the infrastructure currently is not in place.”

He added that the 4.5-mile-long underwater section of Line 5 has never leaked in the 68 years since it was built.

blamed avoidable blunders by Enbridge for the spill.

The Conservative opposition in Canada’s Parliament and the conservative government of Alberta have been pressing Mr. Trudeau to get Mr. Biden behind the pipeline. However, Annamie Paul, the leader of Canada’s Green Party, and several environmentalists say that Canada is backing the wrong side in the battle.

“We see no reason to doubt the data she is relying on,” Ms. Paul said of the governor. “It is ill-advised for our prime minister to be spending additional political capital down in the States on stopping the shutdown of a pipeline.”

Exactly how economically disruptive for Canada shutting the pipeline down would be is unclear.

Bob Larocque, the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Fuels Association, a trade group for oil refiners, said that his members’ contingency planning has found other pipelines can handle about 60 percent of the oil that now arrives at Ontario and Quebec refineries through Line 5. The rest, he said, would have to be moved by truck, trains and ships, all more expensive transport modes. Mr. Larcoque said that he had no way to estimate the resulting increase in the price of gasoline and other fuels.

Under Michigan’s previous governor, Rick Snyder, a Republican, Enbridge received state permission to build a tunnel well under the lake bed. It would, according to the company, eliminate any danger to the pipeline from ships and also contain any oil in the case of any leaks.

Canada, Ms. Hillman the ambassador said, hopes that Enbridge can end the dispute by selling its tunnel plan to Ms. Whitmer.

“We’re really supportive of that tunnel project,” she said. “The pipeline’s already operated safely for over 65 years and that the tunnel project will make the pipeline safer, eliminating any risk of spills.”

Mary M. Chapman contributed reporting from Detroit.

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Colonial Pipeline: A Vital Artery for Fuel

HOUSTON — The operator of a vital fuel pipeline stretching from Texas to New Jersey, shut down for days after a ransomware attack, said Monday that it hoped to restore most operations by the end of the week.

Federal investigators said the attackers aimed at poorly protected corporate data rather than directly taking control of the pipeline, which carries nearly one-half of the motor and aviation fuels consumed in the Northeast and much of the South.

The operator, Colonial Pipeline, stopped shipments apparently as a precaution to prevent the hackers from doing anything further, like turning off or damaging the system itself in the event they had stolen highly sensitive information from corporate computers.

Colonial said it was reviving service of segments of the pipeline “in a stepwise fashion” in consultation with the Energy Department. It said the goal of its plan was “substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week.” The company cautioned, however, that “this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation said was carried out by an organized crime group called DarkSide, has highlighted the vulnerability of the American energy system.

Part of that vulnerability reflects Texas’ increased role in meeting domestic demand for oil and gas over the last decade and a half, leading the Northeast to rely on an aging pipeline system to bring in fuel rather than refining imported fuel locally.

Since the pipeline shutdown, there have been no long lines at gasoline stations, and because many traders expected the interruption to be brief, the market reaction was muted. Nationwide, the price of regular gasoline climbed by only half a cent to $2.97 on Monday from Sunday, even though the company could not set a timetable for restarting the pipeline. New York State prices remained stable at $3 a gallon, according to the AAA motor club.

“Potentially it will be inconvenient,” said Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston. “But it’s not a big deal because there is storage in the Northeast and all the big oil and gas companies can redirect seaborne cargoes of refined product when it is required.”

The Colonial Pipeline is based in Alpharetta, Ga., and is one of the largest in the United States. It can carry roughly three million gallons of fuel a day over 5,500 miles from Houston to New York. It serves most of the Southern states, and branches from the Atlantic Coast to Tennessee.

Some of the biggest oil companies, including Phillips Petroleum, Sinclair Pipeline and Continental Oil, joined to begin construction of the pipeline in 1961. It was a time of rapid growth in highway driving and long-distance air travel. Today Colonial Pipeline, which is private, is owned by Royal Dutch Shell, Koch Industries and several foreign and domestic investment firms.

It is particularly vital to the functioning of many Eastern U.S. airports, which typically hold inventories sufficient for only three to five days of operations.

There are many reasons, including regulatory restrictions on pipeline construction that go back nearly a century. There are also restrictions on the use of foreign vessels to move products between American ports, as well as on road transport of fuels.

But the main reason comes closer to home. Over the last two decades, at least six refineries have gone out of business in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, reducing the amount of the crude oil processed into fuels in the region by more than half, from 1,549,000 to 715,000 barrels weekly.

“Those refineries just couldn’t make money,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service.

The reason for their decline is the “energy independence” that has been a White House goal since the Nixon administration. As shale exploration and production boomed beginning around 2005, refineries on the Gulf Coast had easy access to natural gas and oil produced in Texas.

That gave them an enormous competitive advantage over the East Coast refineries that imported oil from the Northeast or by rail from North Dakota once the shale boom there took off. As the local refineries shut their doors, the Colonial Pipeline became increasingly important as a conduit from Texas and Louisiana refineries.

The Midwest has its own pipelines from the Gulf Coast, but while the East Coast closed refineries, the Midwest has opened a few new plants and expanded others to process Canadian oil, much from the Alberta oil sands, over the last 20 years. California and the Pacific Northwest have sufficient refineries to process crude produced in California and Alaska, as well as South America.

Not very. The Northeast supply system is flexible and resilient.

Many hurricanes have damaged pipelines and refineries on the Gulf Coast in the past, and the East Coast was able to manage. The federal government stores millions of gallons of crude oil and refined products for emergencies. Refineries can import oil from Europe, Canada and South America, although trans-Atlantic cargo can take as much as two weeks to arrive.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, damaging refineries, Colonial Pipeline shipments to the Northeast were suspended for nearly two weeks. Gasoline prices at New York Harbor quickly climbed more than 25 percent, and the added costs were passed on to motorists. Prices took over a month to return to previous levels.

The hacking of a major pipeline, while not a major problem for motorists, is a sign of the times. Criminal groups and even nations can threaten power lines, personal information and even banks.

The group responsible for the pipeline attack, DarkSide, typically locks up its victims’ data using encryption, and threatens to release the data unless a ransom is paid. Colonial Pipeline has not said whether it has paid or intends to pay a ransom.

“The unfortunate truth is that infrastructure today is so vulnerable that just about anyone who wants to get in can get in,” said Dan Schiappa, chief product officer of Sophos, a British security software and hardware company. “Infrastructure is an easy — and lucrative — target for attackers.”

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