President Biden cheered the report in a statement Thursday morning. “For months, doomsayers have been arguing that the U.S. economy is in a recession, and congressional Republicans have been rooting for a downturn,” he said. “But today we got further evidence that our economic recovery is continuing to power forward.”

By one common definition, the U.S. economy entered a recession when it experienced two straight quarters of shrinking G.D.P. at the start of the year. Officially, however, recessions are determined by a group of researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research, who look at a broader array of indicators, including employment, income and spending.

Most analysts don’t believe the economy meets that more formal definition, and the third-quarter numbers — which slightly exceeded forecasters’ expectations — provided further evidence that a recession had not yet begun.

But the overall G.D.P. figures were skewed by the international trade component, which often exhibits big swings from one period to the next. Economists tend to focus on less volatile components, which have showed the recovery steadily losing momentum as the year has progressed. One closely watched measure suggested that private-sector demand stalled out almost completely in the third quarter.

Mortgage rates passed 7 percent on Thursday, their highest level since 2002.

“Housing is just the single largest trigger to additional spending, and it’s not there anymore; it’s going in reverse,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm KPMG. “This has been a stunning turnaround in housing, and when things start to go really quickly, you start to wonder, what are the knock-on effects, what are the spillover effects?”

The third quarter was in some sense a mirror image of the first quarter, when G.D.P. shrank but consumer spending was strong. In both cases, the swings were driven by international trade. Imports, which don’t count toward domestic production figures, soared early this year as the strong economic recovery led Americans to buy more goods from overseas. Exports slumped as the rest of the world recovered more slowly from the pandemic.

Both trends have begun to reverse as American consumers have shifted more of their spending toward services and away from imported goods, and as foreign demand for American-made goods has recovered. Supply-chain disruptions have added to the volatility, leading to big swings in the data from quarter to quarter.

Few economists expect the strong trade figures from the third quarter to continue, especially because the strong dollar will make American goods less attractive overseas.

Jim Tankersley contributed reporting.

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Why Is The U.S. West Experiencing A Megadrought?

Climate change is affecting the U.S. especially strongly in the west. Rivers and reservoirs are experiencing dangerously low levels.

The Colorado River is vanishing before our eyes.  

The nation’s two largest reservoirs are at dangerously low levels.  

This was one of them, Lake Mead, In 2001 and then in 2015. In just fourteen years, the lake dropped 143 feet and fires are devastating forests and homes from Oregon to Arizona.

2022 has been a year of drought, but officials say the west has actually been in a megadrought since the year 2000.

Why is it so dry out west? Should we blame climate change? And most importantly for the 79 million Americans that live in the U.S. West: Is this the new normal?  

Scientists have answered these questions by studying the silent witnesses to climate’s annual fluctuations in trees.  

Fat rings usually mean wet years, thin rings mean dry years. 

Ancient trees have revealed that the West has suffered periods of drought for centuries, long before giant dams or human-caused climate change.

But in February scientists wrote a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change putting the ongoing megadrought in historical perspective. 

They found drought conditions in the west haven’t been this severe in at least 1200 years.  

One driver of this megadrought is high temperatures. The blue line indicates the average temperature since 1895. 

Meanwhile, since 2000, the west has had mostly low precipitation. Notably, there’s a shortage of snow. Snowpack is more valuable than rain, say scientists, since it moistens soils for months into the summer as it steadily melts.

Robert Davies is an associate professor at Utah State University. 

“The snowpack is definitely declining over the last 40 years, particularly in the lower and mid elevations,” said Davies.  

There’s another factor, what scientists call vapor pressure deficit, or more simply, dry air.  Over the last 22 years, the dry air has grown thirstier and thirstier, sucking moisture right out of the ground.  

As the drought has worsened, municipalities have desperately tapped their wells for water, but that’s putting the system at severe risk. For example, in California’s Central Valley, government data shows that groundwater is getting deeper and deeper to access. 

So how much of the blame can we pin on climate change? For the Nature paper, the scientists did two experiments using 29 climate models. In one they measured how a warming planet had exacerbated the megadrought. On the other, they simulated what soil moisture would be like if climate change had never happened. The warming planet, they found, made the drought worse by 19%. 

A few years of better snow and rain could break the western megadrought, the report says. But its authors expect the U.S. west’s climate to become more and more arid. 

In the report it says the “increasingly dry baseline state” makes “future megadroughts increasingly likely” which will change the west for generations to come. 

Source: newsy.com

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In Parts Of The Mideast, Power Generators Spew Toxic Fumes 24/7

The pollutants caused by massive generators add to the many environmental woes of the Middle East.

They literally run the country. In parking lots, on flatbed trucks, hospital courtyards and rooftops, private generators are ubiquitous in parts of the Middle East, spewing hazardous fumes into homes and businesses 24 hours a day.

As the world looks for renewable energy to tackle climate change, millions of people around the region depend almost completely on diesel-powered private generators to keep the lights on because war or mismanagement have gutted electricity infrastructure.

Experts call it national suicide from an environmental and health perspective.

“Air pollution from diesel generators contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants, including many known or suspected cancer-causing substances,” said Samy Kayed, managing director and co-founder of the Environment Academy at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

Greater exposure to these pollutants likely increases respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease, he said. It also causes acid rain that harms plant growth and increases eutrophication — the excess build-up of nutrients in water that ultimately kills aquatic plants.

Since they usually use diesel, generators also produce far more climate change-inducing emissions than, for example, a natural gas power plant does, he said.

The pollutants caused by massive generators add to the many environmental woes of the Middle East, which is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change. The region already has high temperatures and limited water resources even without the growing impact of global warming.

The reliance on generators results from state failure. In Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, governments can’t maintain a functioning central power network, whether because of war, conflict or mismanagement and corruption.

Lebanon, for example, has not built a new power plant in decades. Multiple plans for new ones have run aground on politicians’ factionalism and conflicting patronage interests. The country’s few aging, heavy-fuel oil plants long ago became unable to meet demand.

Iraq, meanwhile, sits on some of the world’s biggest oil reserves. Yet scorching summer-time heat is always accompanied by the roar of neighborhood generators, as residents blast ACs around the clock to keep cool.

Repeated wars over the decades have wrecked Iraq’s electricity networks. Corruption has siphoned away billions of dollars meant to repair and upgrade it. Some 17 billion cubic meters of gas from Iraq’s wells are burned every year as waste, because it hasn’t built the infrastructure to capture it and convert it to electricity to power Iraqi homes.

In Libya, a country prized for its light and sweet crude oil, electricity networks have buckled under years of civil war and the lack of a central government.

“The power cuts last the greater part of the day, when electricity is mostly needed,” said Muataz Shobaik, the owner of a butcher shop in the city of Benghazi, in Libya’s east, who uses a noisy generator to keep his coolers running.

“Every business has to have a backup off-grid solution now,” he said. Diesel fumes from his and neighboring shops’ machines hung thick in the air amid the oppressive heat.

The Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people rely on around 700 neighborhood generators across the territory for their homes. Thousands of private generators keep businesses, government institutions, universities and health centers running. Running on diesel, they churn black smoke in the air, tarring walls around them.

Since Israel bombed the only power plant in the Hamas-ruled territory in 2014, the station has never reached full capacity. Gaza only gets about half the power it needs from the plant and directly from Israel. Cutoffs can last up to 16 hours a day.

WAY OF LIFE

Perhaps nowhere do generators rule people’s lives as much as in Lebanon, where the system is so entrenched and institutionalized that private generator owners have their own business association.

They are crammed into tight streets, parking lots, on roofs and balconies and in garages. Some are as large as storage containers, others small and blaring noise.

Lebanon’s 5 million people have long depended on them. The word “moteur,” French for generator, is one of the most often spoken words among Lebanese.

Reliance has only increased since Lebanon’s economy unraveled in late 2019 and central power cutoffs began lasting longer. At the same time, generator owners have had to ration use because of soaring diesel prices and high temperatures, turning them off several times a day for breaks.

So residents plan their lives around the gaps in electricity.

Those who can’t start the day without coffee set an alarm to make a cup before the generator turns off. The frail or elderly in apartment towers wait for the generator to switch on before leaving home so they don’t have to climb stairs. Hospitals must keep generators humming so life-saving machines can operate without disruption.

“We understand people’s frustration, but if it wasn’t for us, people would be living in darkness,” said Ihab, the Egyptian operator of a generator station north of Beirut.

“They say we are more powerful than the state, but it is the absence of the state that led us to exist,” he said, giving only his first name to avoid trouble with the authorities.

Siham Hanna, a 58-year-old translator in Beirut, said generator fumes exacerbate her elderly father’s lung condition. She wipes soot off her balcony and other surfaces several times a day.

“It’s the 21st century, but we live like in the stone ages. Who lives like this?” said Hanna, who does not recall her country ever having stable electricity in her life.

Some in Lebanon and elsewhere have begun to install solar power systems in their homes. But most use it only to fill in when the generator is off. Cost and space issues in urban areas have also limited solar use.

In Iraq, the typical middle-income household uses generator power for 10 hours a day on average and pays $240 per Megawatt/hour, among the highest rates in the region, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.

The need for generators has become ingrained in people’s minds. At a recent concert in the capital, famed singer Umm Ali al-Malla made sure to thank not only the audience but also the venue’s technical director “for keeping the generator going” while her admirers danced.

TOXIC CONTAMINANTS

As opposed to power plants outside urban areas, generators are in the heart of neighborhoods, pumping toxins directly to residents.

This is catastrophic, said Najat Saliba, a chemist at the American University of Beirut who recently won a seat in Parliament.

“This is extremely taxing on the environment, especially the amount of black carbon and particles that they emit,” she said. There are almost no regulations and no filtering of particles, she added.

Researchers at AUB found that the level of toxic emissions may have quadrupled since Lebanon’s financial crisis began because of increased reliance on generators.

In Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, miles of wires crisscross streets connecting thousands of private generators. Each produces 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases per 8 hours working time, according to Mohammed al Hazem, an environmental activist.

Similarly, a 2020 study on the environmental impact of using large generators in the University of Technology in Baghdad found very high concentrations of pollutants exceeding limits set by the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.

That was particularly because Iraqi diesel fuel has a high sulphur content — “one of the worst in the world,” the study said. The emissions include “sulphate, nitrate materials, atoms of soot carbon, ash” and pollutants that are considered carcinogens, it warned.

“The pollutants emitted from these generators exert a remarkable impact on the overall health of students and university staff, it said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Illinois Town’s $13 Million Water System Will Remove All Toxic PFAS

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, don’t degrade over time, which causes harm to humans when ingested through water or other products.

Freeport is a small industrial city of 24,000 in northwest Illinois. For a price tag of $13 million, it’s building a new water system to tap deep into new, uncontaminated water sources.

“The most important room is… the filter room,” said Rob Boyer, Freeport public works director, while visiting the construction site. “It is designed to produce approximately 2 million gallons per day of potable drinking water.” 

Boyer says when the “enormous” project is completed sometime in 2023, the city’s drinking water will be entirely free of so-called forever chemicals.

“This is critical to life and health issues in the city and for its residents, and that’s why it’s prioritized,” Boyer said, noting that there’s no contamination in the source water where the new well and plant are being built.

About 10 years ago, the EPA found high levels of forever chemicals in two wells that produced about a third of Freeport’s drinking water.  

Boyer says he can only speculate what the source of the contamination could have been, but that speculation points him to the prevalence of industry in general there.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are nicknamed forever chemicals because they don’t degrade over time. This group of man-made chemicals have been used in many consumer and industrial products since the 1950s.

“There are over 200 different use categories, ranging from dental floss to clothing to carpets to compostable cookware to all kinds of plastics,” said Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The chemicals were pioneered by conglomerates 3M and Dupont. They’ve been popular because of their resistance to water, stains, heat and oil. 

Since they don’t break down, the are now omnipresent in our environment — and even in our blood. 

“I would say that everyone in our country has them in their bodies,” Birnbaum said. 

Scientists are now linking these chemicals to potential harmful health effects, such as kidney and testicular cancers. But back in 2014, the chemicals’ potential negative impacts were not as well-known.

Still, Freeport officials quickly shut down the two wells with the most contamination. Soon after, they put in motion plans to drill the new well and build the new treatment plant. 

“It is protecting our lives here, and it’s protecting the residents’ lives here,” Boyer said. 

According to the advocacy nonprofit the Environmental Working Group, more than 200 million Americans may be drinking water contaminated with the chemicals. 

Freeport officials tell Newsy their decision to completely revamp the city’s drinking water system puts them on the leading edge of the national fight against forever chemicals, but at what cost? 

Like hundreds of impacted cities nationwide, Freeport is considering joining ongoing litigation against 3M, Dupont and other PFAS manufacturers.

But for now, it’s the residents who bear the health and financial costs caused by pollution most people don’t even know exists.

Source: newsy.com

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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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    Parents Worry About Increasing Cost Of School Supplies

    Some organizations are helping their communities get ready to go back to school as parents share concerns about rising costs for school supplies.

    It’s that time of year again — back to school. But some parents may not be as excited as their kids are.    

    As inflation continues to climb, some parents are worried about the increasing cost of school supplies. 

    Alissa Brown is a mother of four living in Colorado Springs who’s taking advantage of sales and budgeting. 

    “I’ve noticed clothes are more expensive, shoes are more expensive,” she said. “For things like backpacks and lunch boxes, that’s when I really shop the Prime and Target deals.” 

    In North Carolina, father Drew Davidson has noticed the increases as well.  

    “You definitely see an increase from the little things,” he said. “It’s a private school, so just the tuition — you’ve got to stay ahead of the game, try to keep that money to the side, do little things here and there just to stay ahead.” 

    The National Retail Federation, or NRF, says consumers are paying more due to inflation and supply chain issues. Compared to three years ago, back-to-school spending increased by 41% and back-to-college expenses increased by 36%. 

    Despite higher prices, the NRF says people are still spending.  

    Families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade are spending an average of $860 on school supplies. College students are spending an average of $1,200 — not including tuition and books.  

    Keith Lobis from Wells Fargo recommends parents stick to their budget, see what they have at home and cut that from their shopping lists. He also suggests parents consider buying in bulk.  

    “Sitting down and having your school supply list is a great way to start so you have a detailed list of things you want or need to buy,” he said. 

    And some groups are stepping up to meet families’ needs. Organizations like Northern Kentucky Harvest offer backpacks filled with supplies. 

    “I think it just gets harder year after year,” Northern Kentucky Harvest President Paul Gottbrath said. “I mean, there’s a whole assortment of expenses that they have to deal with. I think it’s just hard. A lot of these families are really struggling just to meet the basics.”

    In Milwaukee, Jacarrie Kicks4Kids assists families with returning to the classroom. 

    “At this event, the kids are able to get book bags or supplies, a free haircut or hairdo, they can get a brand new pair of shoes,”said organization founder Jacarrie Carr.

    The group plans to give away 600 pairs of shoes — a fresh new pair for a fresh new school year.  

    Source: newsy.com

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    Biden Administration’s Bid to Cap Russia Oil Prices Faces Resistance

    WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s push to form an international buyers’ cartel to cap the price of Russian oil is facing resistance amid private sector concerns that it cannot be reliably enforced, posing a challenge for the U.S.-led effort to drain President Vladimir V. Putin’s war chest and stabilize global energy prices.

    The price cap has been a top priority of Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who has been trying to head off another spike in global oil costs at the end of the year. The Biden administration fears that the combination of a European Union embargo on Russian oil imports and a ban on the insurance and financing of Russian oil shipments will send prices soaring by taking millions of barrels of that oil off the market.

    But the untested concept has drawn skepticism from energy experts and, in particular, the maritime insurance sector, which facilitates global oil shipments and is key to making the proposal work. Under the plan, it would be legal for them to grant insurance for oil cargo only if it was being sold at or below a certain price.

    Mike Salthouse, global claims director at The North of England P&I Association Limited, a leading global marine insurer. “If you have sophisticated state actors wanting to deceive people, it’s very easy to do.”

    He added: “We’ve said it won’t work. We’ve explained to everybody why.”

    That has not deterred Ms. Yellen and her top aides, who have been crisscrossing the globe to make their case with international counterparts, banks and insurers that an oil price cap can — and must — work at a moment of rapid inflation and the risk of recession.

    “At a time of global anxiety over high prices, a price cap on Russian oil is one of the most powerful tools we have to address inflation by preventing future spikes in energy costs,” Ms. Yellen said in July.

    The Biden administration is trying to mitigate fallout from sanctions adopted by the European Union in June, which would ban imports of Russian oil and the financing and insuring of Russian oil exports by year’s end. Britain was expected to enact a similar ban but has not yet done so.

    not solve the world’s oil supply problems. European officials, who have been skeptical, continue to say they are analyzing its viability.

    restricted natural gas flows to parts of Europe in retaliation for sanctions, would curb oil exports because of their importance to its economy.

    senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who works in the financial services industry, said of Russia’s cooperation with a price cap. “If that were the case, he wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine in the first place.”

    But proponents believe that if the European Union bans insurance transactions, an oil price cap may be the best chance to mitigate the economic fallout.

    John E. Smith, former director of the foreign assets control unit, said the key was ensuring that financial services firms and maritime insurers were not responsible for vetting every oil transaction, as well as providing guidance on complying with the sanctions.

    “The question is will enough jurisdictions agree on the details to move this forward,” said Mr. Smith, who is now co-head of Morrison & Foerster’s national security practice. “If they do, it could be a win for everyone but Russia.”

    Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting from Brussels.

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    California Not Counting Methane Leaks From Idle Wells

    By Associated Press
    July 31, 2022

    A scientist says the lack of data calls into question California’s ability to meet its ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.

    California claims to know how much climate-warming gas is going into the air from within its borders. It’s the law: California limits climate pollution and each year the limits get stricter.

    The state has also been a major oil and gas producer for more than a century, and authorities are well aware some 35,000 old, inactive oil and gas wells perforate the landscape.

    Yet officials with the agency responsible for regulating greenhouse gas emissions say they don’t include methane that leaks from these idle wells in their inventory of the state’s emissions.

    Ira Leifer, a University of California Santa Barbara scientist said the lack of data on emissions pouring or seeping out of idle wells calls into question the state’s ability to meet its ambitious goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

    Residents and environmentalists from across the state have been voicing concern about the possibility of leaking idle or abandoned wells for years, but the concerns were heightened in May and June when 21 idle wells were discovered to be leaking methane in or near two Bakersfield neighborhoods. They say that the leaking wells are “an urgent public health issue,” because when a well is leaking methane, other gases often escape too.

    Leifer said these “ridealong” gases were his biggest concern with the wells.

    “Those other gases have significant health impacts,” Leifer said, yet we know even less about their quantities than we do about the methane.

    In July, residents who live in the communities nearest the leaking wells protested at the California Geologic Management Division’s field offices, calling for better oversight.

    “It’s clear that they are willing to ignore this public health emergency. Our communities are done waiting. CalGEM needs to do their job,” Cesar Aguirre, a community organizer with the Central California Environmental Justice Network, said in a statement.

    Robert Howarth, a Cornell University methane researcher, agreed with Leifer that the amount of methane emissions from leaking wells isn’t well known and that it’s not a major source of emissions when compared with methane emissions from across the oil and gas industry.

    Still, he said, “it’s adding something very clearly, and we shouldn’t be allowing it to happen.”

    A ton of methane is 83 times worse for the climate than a ton of carbon dioxide, when compared over twenty years.

    A 2020 study said emissions from idle wells are “more substantial” than from plugged wells in California, but recommended more data collection on inactive wells at the major oil and gas fields throughout the state.

    Robert Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist and co-author on that study, said they found high emissions from some of the idle wells they measured in the study.

    In order to get a better idea of how much methane is leaking, the state of California is investing in projects on the ground and in the air. David Clegern, a spokesperson for CARB, said the agency is beginning a project to measure emissions from a sample of properly and improperly abandoned wells to estimate statewide emissions from them.

    And in June, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a budget that includes participation in a global effort to slash emissions called the Methane Accountability Project. The state will spend $100 million to use satellites to track large methane leaks in order to help the state identify sources of the gas and cap leaks.

    Some research has already been done, too, to find out how much methane is coming from oil and gas facilities. A 2019 Nature study found that 26% of state methane emissions is coming from oil and gas. A new investigation by the Associated Press found methane is billowing from oil and gas equipment in the Permian Basin in Texas and companies under report it.

    Howarth said even if methane from idle oil and gas wells isn’t a major pollution source, it should be a priority not just in California, but nationwide, to help the country meet its climate pledges.

    “Methane dissipates pretty quickly in the atmosphere,” he said, “so cutting the emissions is really one of the simplest ways we have to slow the rate of global warming and meet that Paris target.”

    A new Senate proposal would provide hundreds of millions dollars to plug wells and reduce pollution from them, especially in hard hit communities.

    Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

    Source: newsy.com

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