even tougher winter next year as natural gas stocks are used up and as new supplies to replace Russian gas, including increased shipments from the United States or Qatar, are slow to come online, the International Energy Agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook, released last week.

Europe’s activity appears to be accelerating a global transition toward cleaner technologies, the I.E.A. added, as countries respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by embracing hydrogen fuels, electric vehicles, heat pumps and other green energies.

But in the short term, countries will be burning more fossil fuels in response to the natural gas shortages.

gas fields in Groningen, which had been slated to be sealed because of earthquakes triggered by the extraction of the fuel.

Eleven countries, including Germany, Finland and Estonia, are now building or expanding a total of 18 offshore terminals to process liquid gas shipped in from other countries. Other projects in Latvia and Lithuania are under consideration.

Nuclear power is winning new support in countries that had previously decided to abandon it, including Germany and Belgium. Finland is planning to extend the lifetime of one reactor, while Poland and Romania plan to build new nuclear power plants.

European Commission blueprint, are voluntary and rely on buy-ins from individuals and businesses whose utility bills may be subsidized by their governments.

Energy use dropped in September in several countries, although it is hard to know for sure if the cause was balmy weather, high prices or voluntary conservation efforts inspired by a sense of civic duty. But there are signs that businesses, organizations and the public are responding. In Sweden, for example, the Lund diocese said it planned to partially or fully close 150 out of 540 churches this winter to conserve energy.

Germany and France have issued sweeping guidance, which includes lowering heating in all homes, businesses and public buildings, using appliances at off-peak hours and unplugging electronic devices when not in use.

Denmark wants households to shun dryers and use clotheslines. Slovakia is urging citizens to use microwaves instead of stoves and brush their teeth with a single glass of water.

website. “Short showers,” wrote one homeowner; another announced: “18 solar panels coming to the roof in October.”

“In the coming winter, efforts to save electricity and schedule the consumption of electricity may be the key to avoiding electricity shortages,” Fingrad, the main grid operator, said.

Businesses are being asked to do even more, and most governments have set targets for retailers, manufacturers and offices to find ways to ratchet down their energy use by at least 10 percent in the coming months.

Governments, themselves huge users of energy, are reducing heating, curbing streetlight use and closing municipal swimming pools. In France, where the state operates a third of all buildings, the government plans to cut energy use by two terawatt-hours, the amount used by a midsize city.

Whether the campaigns succeed is far from clear, said Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, a European think tank. Because the recommendations are voluntary, there may be little incentive for people to follow suit — especially if governments are subsidizing energy bills.

In countries like Germany, where the government aims to spend up to €200 billion to help households and businesses offset rising energy prices starting next year, skyrocketing gas prices are hitting consumers now. “That is useful in getting them to lower their energy use,” he said. But when countries fund a large part of the bill, “there is zero incentive to save on energy,” he said.

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On Portugal’s ‘Bitcoin Beach,’ Crypto Optimism Still Reigns

LAGOS, Portugal — The Bam Bam Beach Bitcoin bar, on an uncrowded beach in southwestern Portugal, is the meeting place.

To get there, you drive past a boat harbor, oceanside hotels and apartment buildings, then park near a sleepy seafood restaurant and walk down a wooden path that cuts through a sand dune. Yellow Bitcoin flags blow in the wind. The conversations about cryptocurrencies and a decentralized future flow.

“People always doubt when to buy, when to sell,” said Didi Taihuttu, a Dutch investor who moved to town this summer and is one of Bam Bam’s owners. “We solve that by being all in.”

melted down, and crypto companies like the experimental bank Celsius Network declared bankruptcy as fears over the global economy yanked down values of the risky assets. Thousands of investors were hurt by the crash. The price of Bitcoin, which peaked at more than $68,000 last year, remains off by more than 70 percent.

But in this Portuguese seaside idyll, confidence in cryptocurrencies is undimmed. Every Friday, 20 or so visitors from Europe and beyond gather at Bam Bam to share their unwavering faith in digital currencies. Their buoyancy and cheer endure across Portugal and in other crypto hubs around the world, such as Puerto Rico and Cyprus.

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In beach towns like Ericeira and Lagos, shops and restaurants show their acceptance of digital currencies by taking Bitcoin as payment. Lisbon, the capital, has become a hub for crypto-related start-ups such as Utrust, a cryptocurrency payment platform, and Immunefi, a company that identifies security vulnerabilities in decentralized networks.

“Portugal should be the Silicon Valley of Bitcoin,” Mr. Taihuttu said. “It has all the ingredients.”

news outlets covered his family’s story, Mr. Taihuttu’s social media following swelled, turning him into an influencer and a source of investment advice. A documentary film crew has followed him on and off for the past 18 months. This summer, he settled in Portugal and quickly became something of an ambassador for its crypto scene.

He has goals to turn Meia Praia, the beach where Bam Bam is located, into “Bitcoin Beach.” He is shopping for property to create a community nearby for fellow believers.

“You prove that it is possible to run some part of the world, even if it’s just one,” said Mr. Taihuttu, with a Jack Daniel’s and Coke in hand. He has shoulder-length black hair and wore a tank top that showcased his tan and tattoos (including one on his forearm of the Bitcoin symbol).

Ms. Bestandig was among those who Mr. Taihuttu drew to Portugal.

collapse of Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange that declared bankruptcy in 2014 after huge, unexplained losses of Bitcoin.

If cryptocurrency prices do not recover, “a lot of them will have to go back to work again,” Clinton Donnelly, an American tax lawyer specializing in cryptocurrencies, said of some of those gathered at Bam Bam.

Even so, Mr. Donnelly and other bar regulars said their belief in crypto remained unshaken.

Thomas Roessler, wearing a black Bitcoin shirt and drinking a beer “inspired by” the currency, said he had come with his wife and two young children to decide whether to move to Portugal from Germany. He first invested in Bitcoin in 2014 and, more recently, sold a small rental apartment in Germany to invest even more.

Mr. Roessler was concerned about the drop in crypto values but said he was convinced the market would rebound. Moving to Portugal could lower his taxes and give his family the chance to buy affordable property in a warm climate, he said. They had come to the bar to learn from others who had made the move.

“We have not met a lot of people who live this way,” Mr. Roessler said. Then he bought another round of drinks and paid for them with Bitcoin.

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This Year Marks The Fifth Anniversary Of Hurricanes Maria And Irma

By Newsy Staff
September 20, 2022

Five years on, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still rebuilding and repairing after hurricanes Irma and Maria.

This month marks five years since hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  

Both Irma and Maria were Category 5 hurricanes that made their way through the regions within two weeks of each other, killing dozens of people by the official count — although many experts believe the actual tally was far greater. The hurricanes also caused billions of dollars in damage to both those island regions. 

In the U.S. Virgin Islands in particular, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Maria damaged or destroyed 70% of the buildings on St. Croix, the region’s largest island. The hurricanes tore through a lot of the island’s infrastructure, including schools and the island’s only hospital. The power and communications networks in most of the USVI went down, with 80% to 90% of transmission and distribution systems destroyed. It was damage that would take months to repair and restore. 

That’s a daunting task for any region, but especially so for one that’s as small and isolated as the USVI. 

“It’s almost scary at times because you think ‘how do you do an $11 billion repair with 87,000 people and a workforce of only about 42,000?'” said U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. 

Bryan spoke with Newsy about the challenges and successes in their recovery, and where there is still work to be done.  

While acknowledging the intense damage, Bryan said the recovery efforts offer new hope for rebuilding in a way that better prepares the homes and the power grid in the area for future hurricanes or similar natural disasters. 

“But what we’re seeing is better building codes produce more resilient buildings. And then we’re having an opportunity through this storm. We built our our power grid three times in the last 30 years, completely. This time, we’re undergrounding more than 50% of the grid. You have some opportunities for renewables. That’s going to make every Virgin Islander a little more energy independent. And we’re just seeing a way now to because the most debilitating factor in our economy is the price of power,” said Bryan. 

The price of power is no joke. The USVI has some of the highest electricity rates in the U.S. and the world.  

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, midway through 2021, the average price of electricity paid by U.S. Virgin Island residents was about 43 cents per kilowatt hour. To compare, the average for the U.S. was about 14 cents for that same time period.   

Now, that pricing is in part because of petroleum fuel surcharges. The island relies heavily on imported fossil fuels to power its grid. But in rebuilding since the hurricanes, Gov. Bryan says the goal is to rely more on renewables like wind and solar energy. 

“So we depend a lot on the tropical wind making that power shift, the things that we’re able to do, adding new generators to the plant, creating a microgrid, adding a whole lot of solar power will allow us to get our power built a little bit closer to what normal Americans or mainland Americans [experience]. And that alone is going to just strengthen our families so much and, of course, create some resounding effects in our economy,” he said. 

Bryan also mentioned the caveat of climate change. Its growing effects could complicate life on the Virgin Islands further and increase hardships for its residents. Many of those residents are still coming to terms with the toll of Irma and Maria — not just in the physical aspects of their lives, but also in the mental aspects. 

“I think when you see in the Virgin Islands, we look at the mental health wholeness that’s in our faces, the people on the street, whether drug addiction, alcohol, they’re self-medicating themselves. But the real problem is a deeper problem, a deep seated problem, where as people of color, we don’t like to talk about our mental health. And we if there’s such a stigma around it, we’ve come a long way it with that. But we have a lot to go,” said Bryan. 

While the USVI’s rebuilding efforts have seen relative success, many areas of Puerto Rico are still struggling to recover from the massive devastation the hurricanes brought five years ago.  

Puerto Rico is not only a much larger territory, but it is also governed in a different way. It has 78 mayors through whom relief efforts and money needed to be individually funneled and utilized, while the USVI has a unitary executive branch. That means there are no mayors, and governors hold those responsibilities. 

Puerto Rico’s power grid also runs mainly on fossil fuels, but its recovery has not been on par with the USVI. And the company that currently controls its power grid has a problematic record. Newsy has previously reported on the damage from Maria and Irma in Puerto Rico as part of our documentary series, “In Real Life.” We investigated the region’s continuing power failures and how a private sector monopoly over the grid could be what’s keeping Puerto Ricans in the dark. 

: newsy.com

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How a Quebec Lithium Mine May Help Make Electric Cars Affordable

About 350 miles northwest of Montreal, amid a vast pine forest, is a deep mining pit with walls of mottled rock. The pit has changed hands repeatedly and been mired in bankruptcy, but now it could help determine the future of electric vehicles.

The mine contains lithium, an indispensable ingredient in electric car batteries that is in short supply. If it opens on schedule early next year, it will be the second North American source of that metal, offering hope that badly needed raw materials can be extracted and refined close to Canadian, U.S. and Mexican auto factories, in line with Biden administration policies that aim to break China’s dominance of the battery supply chain.

Having more mines will also help contain the price of lithium, which has soared fivefold since mid-2021, pushing the cost of electric vehicles so high that they are out of reach for many drivers. The average new electric car in the United States costs about $66,000, just a few thousand dollars short of the median household income last year.

lithium mines are in various stages of development in Canada and the United States. Canada has made it a mission to become a major source of raw materials and components for electric vehicles. But most of these projects are years away from production. Even if they are able to raise the billions of dollars needed to get going, there is no guarantee they will yield enough lithium to meet the continent’s needs.

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

For many people in government and the auto industry, the main concern is whether there will be enough lithium to meet soaring demand for electric vehicles.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed in August, has raised the stakes for the auto industry. To qualify for several incentives and subsidies in the law, which go to car buyers and automakers and are worth a total of $10,000 or more per electric vehicle, battery makers must use raw materials from North America or a country with which the United States has a trade agreement.

rising fast.

California and other states move to ban internal combustion engines. “It’s going to take everything we can do and our competitors can do over the next five years to keep up,” Mr. Norris said.

One of the first things that Sayona had to do when it took over the La Corne mine was pump out water that had filled the pit, exposing terraced walls of dark and pale stone from previous excavations. Lighter rock contains lithium.

After being blasted loose and crushed, the rock is processed in several stages to remove waste material. A short drive from the mine, inside a large building with walls of corrugated blue metal, a laser scanner uses jets of compressed air to separate light-colored lithium ore. The ore is then refined in vats filled with detergent and water, where the lithium floats to the surface and is skimmed away.

The end product looks like fine white sand but it is still only about 6 percent lithium. The rest includes aluminum, silicon and other substances. The material is sent to refineries, most of them in China, to be further purified.

Yves Desrosiers, an engineer and a senior adviser at Sayona, began working at the La Corne mine in 2012. During a tour, he expressed satisfaction at what he said were improvements made by Sayona and Piedmont. Those include better control of dust, and a plan to restore the site once the lithium runs out in a few decades.

“The productivity will be a lot better because we are correcting everything,” Mr. Desrosiers said. In a few years, the company plans to upgrade the facility to produce lithium carbonate, which contains a much higher concentration of lithium than the raw metal extracted from the ground.

The operation will get its electricity from Quebec’s abundant hydropower plants, and will use only recycled water in the separation process, Mr. Desrosiers said. Still, environmental activists are watching the project warily.

Mining is a pillar of the Quebec economy, and the area around La Corne is populated with people whose livelihoods depend on extraction of iron, nickel, copper, zinc and other metals. There is an active gold mine near the largest city in the area, Val-d’Or, or Valley of Gold.

Mining “is our life,” said Sébastien D’Astous, a metallurgist turned politician who is the mayor of Amos, a small city north of La Corne. “Everybody knows, or has in the near family, people who work in mining or for contractors.”

Most people support the lithium mine, but a significant minority oppose it, Mr. D’Astous said. Opponents fear that another lithium mine being developed by Sayona in nearby La Motte, Quebec, could contaminate an underground river.

Rodrigue Turgeon, a local lawyer and program co-leader for MiningWatch Canada, a watchdog group, has pushed to make sure the Sayona mines undergo rigorous environmental reviews. Long Point First Nation, an Indigenous group that says the mines are on its ancestral territory, wants to conduct its own environmental impact study.

Sébastien Lemire, who represents the region around La Corne in the Canadian Parliament, said he wanted to make sure that the wealth created by lithium mining flowed to the people of Quebec rather than to outside investors.

Mr. Lemire praised activists for being “vigilant” about environmental standards, but he favors the mine and drives an electric car, a Chevrolet Bolt.

“If we don’t do it,” he said at a cafe in La Corne, “we’re missing the opportunity of the electrification of transport.”

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Puerto Rico Under Hurricane Warning As Tropical Storm Fiona Approaches

By Associated Press
September 17, 2022

Fiona was about 135 miles southeast of St. Croix Saturday morning and could near hurricane strength when it passes through Puerto Rico Sunday night.

Tropical Storm Fiona was expected to become a hurricane as it neared Puerto Rico on Saturday, threatening to dump up to 20 inches of rain as people braced for potential landslides, severe flooding and power outages.

The storm previously battered various eastern Caribbean islands, with one death reported in the French territory of Guadeloupe. Regional prefect Alexandre Rochatte told reporters Saturday that the body was found on the side of a road after floods washed away a home in the capital of Basse-Terre. More than 20 other people were rescued amid heavy wind and rain that left 13,000 customers without power.

Fiona was located 130 miles southeast of St. Croix Saturday morning with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. It was moving west at 8 mph on a path forecast to pass near or over Puerto Rico on Sunday night. Fiona was expected to become a hurricane while moving near Puerto Rico.

“We are already starting to feel its effects,” said Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi. “We should not underestimate this storm.”

He said the heavy rains anticipated are dangerous because the island’s soil is already saturated. Meanwhile, many Puerto Ricans worried about serious power outages since the reconstruction of the island’s power grid razed by Hurricane Maria in 2017 only recently began. The grid remains fragile and power outages occur daily.

Fiona is expected to swipe past the Dominican Republic on Sunday as a potential hurricane and Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands on Monday and Tuesday with the threat of extreme rain.

Forecaster issued a hurricane watch for the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engaño westward to Cabo Caucedo and for the northern coast from Cabo Engaño westward to Puerto Plata.

In Puerto Rico, authorities opened shelters and closed public beaches, casinos, theaters and museums as they urged people to remain indoors. Officials also transferred hundreds of endangered Puerto Rican parrots to their shelter.

Pierluisi said $550 million in emergency funds are available to deal with the storm’s aftermath along with enough food to feed 200,000 people for 20 days three times a day.

At least one cruise ship visit and several flights to the island were canceled, while authorities in the eastern Caribbean islands canceled school and prohibited people from practicing aquatic sports as Fiona battered the region.

In the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, authorities said they recorded wind gusts of up to 74 mph, which would be considered a Category 1 hurricane. They also said 9 inches of rain fell in three hours in the Gros Morne area.

Fiona, which is the Atlantic hurricane season’s sixth named storm, was predicted to bring 5 to 10 inches of rain in eastern and southern Puerto Rico, with as much as 20 inches in isolated spots. Rains of 4 to 8 inches were forecast for the Dominican Republic, with up to 12 inches in places. Life-threatening surf also was possible from Fiona’s winds, forecasters said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

: newsy.com

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China, Japan Ground Ferries, Flights As Typhoon Approaches

By Associated Press
September 4, 2022

Typhoon Hinnamnor is forecasted to move gradually northward into the East China Sea with maximum sustained winds of nearly 110 miles per hour.

Cities in eastern China suspended ferry services and classes and flights were canceled in Japan on Sunday as Typhoon Hinnamnor, the strongest global storm this year, blew its way past Taiwan and the Koreas with fierce winds and heavy rains.

Shanghai grounded ferry services and deployed more than 50,000 police officers to aid with rescues and guide traffic away from danger areas. The eastern business hub of Wenzhou ordered all classes suspended on Monday.

Hinnamnor is forecasted to move gradually northward into the East China Sea with maximum sustained winds of nearly 110 miles per hour, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.

Evacuations and flight cancellations have been ordered in Japan’s southern Okinawa Island. The typhoon is also expected to bring intense rainfall to the Korean Peninsula, bringing the possibility of flooding.

China’s National Meteorological Center issued a yellow typhoon warning at 10 a.m. Sunday, and warned of heavy rains in northeastern Zhejiang, Shanghai and self-governing Taiwan.

Ships were told to return to port to take shelter from the wind, and the center also urged people against large gatherings both indoors and outdoors.

In Japan, the typhoon lashed Okinawa and nearby islands with heavy rain and fierce winds, threatening flooding and grounding more than 100 flights connecting the islands and parts of the main southern island of Kyushu.

Footage on Japan’s NHK national television showed trees violently shaken by the storm, with fierce rainfall hitting the pavement. A greenhouse for mangoes on Ishigaki Island was knocked down. On the main Okinawa island, two elderly people fell down and were slightly injured, according to media reports.

Officials said the slow-moving typhoon could add to rainfall and risks of flooding in the southern region where dense rain clouds have been stuck.

In Taiwan, over 600 residents in New Taipei, Taoyuan and Hsinchu counties were evacuated to shelters on Saturday amid the heavy rain and strong winds, according to the island’s Central News Agency.The typhoon caused a landslide in Miaoli county and blew over some 100 roadside trees. About 40 flights and more than 100 ferry services across Taiwan were also canceled Saturday.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

: newsy.com

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President Biden Kicks Off Midterm Rally As Democrats See Opening

Democrats have seen their political hopes rebound in recent months amid a legacy-defining burst of action by Congress and the president.

Aiming to turn months of legislative accomplishments into political energy, President Joe Biden will hold a kickoff rally Thursday to boost Democrats’ fortunes 75 days out from the midterm elections.

The event, in the safely Democratic Washington suburb of Rockville, Maryland, is meant to ease President Biden into what White House aides say will be an aggressive season of championing his policy victories and aiding his party’s candidates. It comes as Democrats have seen their political hopes rebound in recent months amid a legacy-defining burst of action by President Biden and Congress.

From bipartisan action on gun control, infrastructure and domestic technology manufacturing to Democrats-only efforts to tackle climate change and health care costs, President Biden is expected to highlight the achievements of the party’s unified but razor-thin control of Washington. And he will try to sharpen the contrast with Republicans, who once seemed poised for sizable victories in November.

Just months ago, as inflation soared, President Biden’s poll numbers soured and his agenda stalled, Democrats braced for significant losses. But the intense voter reaction to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and a productive summer on issues of core concern to Democrats have the party feeling like it is finally on the offensive heading into the Nov. 8 vote, even as the president remains unpopular.

Democrats, said Biden pollster John Anzalone, are “in a better position to compete because Joe Biden put us there.”

“It doesn’t mean that the wind’s at our back,” he added. “But we have more of a breeze than what felt like a gale hurricane in our face.”

President Biden’s Thursday event comes a day after the president moved to fulfill a long-delayed campaign pledge to forgive federal student loans for lower- and middle-income borrowers — a move that Democrats believe will animate younger and Black and Latino voters.

Republicans, though, saw their own political advantage in the move, casting it as an unfair giveaway to would-be Democratic voters.

“President Biden’s inflation is crushing working families, and his answer is to give away even more government money to elites with higher salaries,” said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. “Democrats are literally using working Americans’ money to try to buy themselves some enthusiasm from their political base.”

Biden aides said he would continue to paint Republicans as the “ultra-MAGA” party — a reference to former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan — opposing his agenda and embracing conservative ideological proposals on abortion and Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.

Since the June Supreme Court ruling, Democrats have seen a boost in donations, polling and performance in special elections for open congressional seats. The latest came Tuesday in a Hudson Valley swing district that, in a Republican wave year, should have been an easy GOP win. Instead, Democratic Ulster County executive Pat Ryan, who campaigned on a platform of standing up for abortion rights, defeated his Republican counterpart from Duchess County, Marc Molinaro.

The shift is giving Democrats a new sense that a Republican sweep of the House is no longer such a sure bet, particularly as polling better than President Biden and battle-tested incumbents work their districts

Meanwhile, Democrats have benefited from Republican candidates who won primaries but are struggling in the general campaign. Trump-backed Senate candidates have complicated the GOP’s chances in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona, while several Trump-aligned candidates in House races were not always the party’s first choice.

Trump’s grip on the GOP remains strong and has perhaps even become tighter in the aftermath of the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home.

JB Poersch, the president of Senate Majority Project, an outside group that is working to elect Democrats to the Senate, said the Republican candidates are “getting caught up in the Trump tornado once again — that is exactly what voters of both parties don’t want.”

President Biden’s political event, sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, comes as the president and members of his Cabinet are set to embark on what the White House has billed as the “Building a Better America Tour” to promote “the benefits of the President’s accomplishments and the Inflation Reduction Act to the American people and highlight the contrast with Congressional Republicans’ vision.”

It comes as the White House has benefited from a steady decline in gasoline prices, which while still elevated have dropped daily since mid-June.

Months ago, Democratic lawmakers facing tough reelection fights sought to make themselves scarce when President Biden came to town, though White House aides said President Biden was still an asset to them by elevating issues that resonate with voters and sharpening the distinction with Republicans.

Now allies see the fortunes beginning to change and the president as more of a direct asset to campaigns.

In Maryland, President Biden was set to be joined by gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore and a host of other officials on the ballot. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who is up for reelection, was missing it, according to a spokesperson, because of a long-planned wedding anniversary trip with his wife, but he recorded a video welcoming President Biden to his state that would play at the rally.

Cedric Richmond, the former Louisiana congressman and Biden senior adviser who now advises the Democratic National Committee, said if he were a candidate, he’d rush to have President Biden at his side.

“I’d get in front of the van and become the drum major and talk about all the accomplishments that have happened under the leadership of Biden,” Richmond said Wednesday. “You have a president who just keeps his head down and gets the work done and I think voters, as we kick off this campaign season, will see and appreciate that.”

He acknowledged some Democrats might opt against “bringing Washington to their district.”

“There are probably a few cases where that may make sense when you don’t even want to be associated with Washington,” Richmond said. “That has nothing to do with the president. That has everything to do with the typical dysfunction of Washington.”

He added, “The important point to stress is you don’t have that dysfunction right now because of President Biden.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

: newsy.com

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Pace of Climate Change Sends Economists Back to Drawing Board

Economists have been examining the impact of climate change for almost as long as it’s been known to science.

In the 1970s, the Yale economist William Nordhaus began constructing a model meant to gauge the effect of warming on economic growth. The work, first published in 1992, gave rise to a field of scholarship assessing the cost to society of each ton of emitted carbon offset by the benefits of cheap power — and thus how much it was worth paying to avert it.

Dr. Nordhaus became a leading voice for a nationwide carbon tax that would discourage the use of fossil fuels and propel a transition toward more sustainable forms of energy. It remained the preferred choice of economists and business interests for decades. And in 2018, Dr. Nordhaus was honored with the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Inflation Reduction Act with its $392 billion in climate-related subsidies, one thing became very clear: The nation’s biggest initiative to address climate change is built on a different foundation from the one Dr. Nordhaus proposed.

offers tax credits, loans and grants — technology-specific carrots that have historically been seen as less efficient than the stick of penalizing carbon emissions more broadly.

The outcome reflects a larger trend in public policy, one that is prompting economists to ponder why the profession was so focused on a solution that ultimately went nowhere in Congress — and how economists could be more useful as the damage from extreme weather mounts.

A central shift in thinking, many say, is that climate change has moved faster than foreseen, and in less predictable ways, raising the urgency of government intervention. In addition, technologies like solar panels and batteries are cheap and abundant enough to enable a fuller shift away from fossil fuels, rather than slightly decreasing their use.

Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, worked on developing carbon pricing methods at the Department of Energy. He thinks the relentless focus on prices, with little attention paid to direct investments, lasted too long.

California. But a federal measure in the United States, setting a cap on carbon emissions and letting companies trade their allotments, failed in 2010.

At the same time, Dr. Nordhaus’s model was drawing criticism for underestimating the havoc that climate change would wreak. Like other models, it has been revised several times, but it still relies on broad assumptions and places less value on harm to future generations than it places on harm to those today. It also doesn’t fully incorporate the risk of less likely but substantially worse trajectories of warming.

Dr. Nordhaus dismissed the criticisms. “They are all subjective and based on selective interpretation of science and economics,” he wrote in an email. “Some people hold these views, as would be expected in any controversial subject, but many others do not.”

Heather Boushey, a member of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers who handles climate issues, says the field is learning that simply tinkering with prices won’t be enough as the climate nears catastrophic tipping points, like the evaporation of rivers, choking off whole regions and setting off a cascade of economic effects.

“So much of economics is about marginal changes,” Dr. Boushey said. “With climate, that no longer makes sense, because you have these systemic risks.” She sees her current assignment as similar to her previous work, running a think tank focused on inequality: “It profoundly alters the way people think about economics.”

To many economists, the approach pioneered by Dr. Nordhaus was increasingly out of step with the urgency that climate scientists were trying to communicate to policymakers. But a carbon tax remained at the center of a bipartisan effort on climate change, supported by a panoply of large corporations and more than 3,600 economists, that also called for removing “cumbersome regulations.”

speech in 2018, Dr. Nordhaus pegged the “optimal” carbon price — that is, the shared economic burden caused by each ton of emissions — at $43 in 2020. Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia Business School, called it a “woeful underestimate of the true cost” — noting that the prize committee’s home country already taxed carbon at $120 per ton.

another tack. Carbon prices, they reasoned, tend to hit lower-income people hardest. Even if the proceeds funded rebates to taxpayers, as many proponents recommended, similar promises by supporters of trade liberalization — that people whose jobs went offshore would get help finding new ones in a faster-growing economy — proved illusory. Besides, without government investment in low-carbon infrastructure, many people would have no alternative to continued carbon use.

“You’re saying, ‘Things are going to cost more, but we aren’t going to give you help to live with that transition,’” said Rhiana Gunn-Wright, director of climate policy at the left-leaning Roosevelt Institute and an architect of the Green New Deal. “Gas prices can go up, but the fact is, most people are locked into how much they have to travel each day.”

At the same time, the cost of technologies like solar panels and batteries for electric vehicles — in part because of huge investments by the Chinese government — was dropping within the range that would allow them to be deployed at scale.

For Ryan Kellogg, an energy economist who worked as an analyst for the oil giant BP before getting his Ph.D., that was a key realization. Leaving an economics department for the public policy school at the University of Chicago, and working with an interdisciplinary consortium including climate scientists, impressed on him two things: that fossil fuels needed to be phased out much faster than previously thought, and that it could be done at lower cost.

Just in the utility sector, for example, Dr. Kellogg recently found that carbon taxes aren’t meaningfully more efficient than subsidies or clean electricity standards in driving a full transition to wind and solar power. And as more essential devices can be powered by batteries, affordable electricity becomes paramount.

more useful for policymakers than broad, top-down economic models.

begun to look at the relationship between extreme weather and federal revenue. But because it’s still not clear how best to do that, other institutions are trying as well.

Carter Price, a mathematician at the nonprofit RAND Corporation, is working on a budget model that will incorporate the latest social science research, as well as climate science, to inform long-term policy decisions.

“This is a space where having more models early on would be better,” Dr. Price said. “Rather than someone has an assumption, that assumption goes into a model, nobody questions it and, 10 years later, we realize that assumption is pretty powerful and maybe not right.”

The larger lesson is that modern climate policy is a complex endeavor that calls for large, interdisciplinary teams — which is not historically how the economics field has operated.

“You can only do so much by writing things down on a single sheet of paper from your office at Yale,” said Dr. Kopp, of Rutgers. “That’s not how science gets done. That’s how a lot of economics gets done. But you run into limits.”

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How to Prepare Your Home for Severe Storms and Weather

As a lifelong resident of Lafourche Parish in southern Louisiana, Jeanne Gouaux knew the storms that cut through the region demanded preparation. She had wind and hail insurance, a solid savings account. But it wasn’t until Hurricane Ida’s 150-mile-per-hour winds peeled back part of her roof last August that she experienced the fury — and its aftermath — up close.

“In a matter of one day, one storm came through and knocked out everything I worked so hard for all these years,” said Ms. Gouaux, a single mother of four and director of pharmacy for a surgery center near her home in Lockport, La.

With the cost and frequency of weather-driven disasters on the rise, girding your financial house for such a catastrophe — to the extent that you’re able — is increasingly crucial in parts of the country.

damage to residences, businesses and municipalities, according to an analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

too weak (or simply unenforced) to withstand damage.

But climate shifts are “supercharging the increasing frequency and intensity of certain types of extreme weather that lead to billion-dollar disasters,” said Adam Smith, the climate scientist who led the NOAA analysis, “most notably the vulnerability to drought, lengthening wildfire seasons in the Western states and the potential for extremely heavy rainfall becoming more common in the Eastern states.”

“It hints that the extremely high activity of recent years is becoming the new normal,” he added.

Ms. Gouaux, 45, had a bad feeling about Ida. In a prescient move, she packed up her family and, for the first time, left her home before the storm hit.

state program — while the home was gutted and repaired. Only in June, after 10 months, was the family able to partly move back in. With the house incomplete, meals are still cooked in the camper.

went bankrupt, causing the state guarantor to take over claims, gumming up an already slow process. It took nine months to collect her first insurance check.

Not all households have the wherewithal to prepare themselves for the worst. But there is some safeguarding that everyone can attempt. Here’s where to start:

tools can provide a starting point for assessing your home’s risk to earthly hazards.

Risk Factor has created a user-friendly tool that outlines flood, fire and extreme-heat risks (and soon other perils, including wind) for most homes across the country. Plug in an address, and it drills down to the property level, illustrating potential hazards. For example, it can show the probability that a property might flood, where the water is likely to pool, the damage it might cause and how much repairs might cost.

hazard maps for earthquakes, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Flood Insurance Program maintain flood maps (which also determine whether a home with a federally backed mortgage is required to have flood insurance). The flood program has recently overhauled its rating methodology, called Risk Rating 2.0, but you’ll have to contact a flood insurance agent who can share more about your property’s unique risk, said Jeremy Edwards, a FEMA spokesman.

You may be able to find more local hazard information, too. Californians, for example, can enter their address into the MyHazards website. And if you’re new to a community, talk to neighbors.

you can do to minimize damage if a flood or fire strike. The costs of mitigation will vary, but it may reduce your insurance premiums. Some insurers, for example, provide meaningful discounts in hurricane-prone regions after homeowners install roof braces or straps, said Alyssa Bourgeois, an insurance producer with MarshMcLennan in Metairie, La.

The Risk Factor website provides suggestions for hazards facing specific properties, and many regions have programs offering residents financial help to harden their homes against specific hazards, though funding is often limited.

Evaluate insurance needs. The insurance market varies greatly by locality and the hazards inherent to the area. Standard homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies do not cover all hazards. Floods and earthquakes always require separate coverage. Wind and hail (hurricane) coverage may carry its own deductible as part of your homeowners’ insurance, or it may be a separate policy, at least in certain areas. Wildfires, meanwhile, are often incorporated into many policies, experts said.

Flood insurance (see Ann Carrns’s guide here) is generally available through the National Flood Insurance Program, which FEMA manages. Most Californians buy earthquake coverage through the California Earthquake Authority, a nonprofit entity created through state law to provide policies through its member insurers.

enough coverage to replace your property — that is, to rebuild it, not what you’d pay to buy it again, said Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a consumer advocacy group.

But many households in the highest-risk areas, including hurricane-prone states like Louisiana and Florida, are having trouble finding affordable coverage as insurers exit the market in droves.

Jude Boudreaux, a financial planner in New Orleans, said he receives calls weekly from clients questioning whether they should continue living there given the increased insurance costs. “A lot of carriers are leaving Louisiana, so people with policies are getting nonrenewal notices, and there are fewer choices out there,” he said.

Until rates stabilize, many people are resorting to the usual strategies to keep costs manageable, like increasing deductibles and reducing some coverage, including on “other structures” such as garages and personal property.

cars and other vehicles. Comprehensive auto coverage, required by auto lenders, generally provides protection against natural disasters. But older, low-value cars may not have comprehensive (and it may not be worth the cost anyway). “In those cases, we’d recommend setting aside the amount of the premium you’d pay each year into a savings account instead of giving it to the insurer,” Mr. Heller said.

home inventory spreadsheet, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a related app, and there are other inventory apps as well.

The least time-consuming method might be to walk through each room of your home with your mobile phone’s video camera, narrating the contents along the way. Don’t forget to open up closets, cabinets and drawers, as well as storage spaces and the garage. Then email the file to yourself, or store it securely online (and perhaps on an external hard drive).

There’s real money at stake: Ms. Gouaux was able to recover only roughly $14,000 of the $53,000 in contents coverage on her wind and hail policy.

“The night we left, someone posted: Make sure you take photos of all the rooms,” she said. “We didn’t do a good job. By the time we got back, everything was all over the place, and it was very hot.”

fireproof and waterproof box. Consider storing electronic copies on an external hard drive (using password protection) or in the cloud.

FEMA’s financial emergency kit has an exhaustive check list of what to gather and protect, along with a 41-page emergency financial first-aid kit that can be filled out online and stored in a secure place. The American Red Cross has a version of its own.

If you have to leave your home, experts suggest taking key documents with you in case you need to file a claim with your insurer or apply for FEMA assistance.

Keep emergency funds. Having access to money for any basic needs is also something to consider. If there’s no electricity and A.T.M.s aren’t working, you’ll probably need cash. Stash some in a safe place.

And if you receive any federal benefits through paper checks, now is the time to switch to automatic electronic deposits. Ditto for any other payments you may receive by mail.

take. Mr. Boudreaux, who has lived with the threat of hurricanes for most of his life, said to walk through your home and think about what’s irreplaceable — it probably fits into a plastic box.

“Define what those things are, or create a list so if someone knocked on your door and said, ‘The fire is coming in 30 minutes’ — what would you take?” he said. “It’s also good life perspective exercise.”

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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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