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The next stimulus bill will help save our economy — it should transform it, too | TheHill – The Hill

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As work begins on a near-term aid package, no resource should be spared to support Americans in the fight against COVID-19. We will also face critical choices on the needed investments to bring tens of millions of people on unemployment back into the workforce.

How will we decide to rebuild our economy? Will we attempt to simply rebuild what we had, an economy with long stagnant wages and a widening wealth gap, powered by fossil fuels that threaten our planet? Or will we use this opportunity to try and build an economy more resilient, safer and more sustainable for the American people?

This is a unique moment and we must make bold choices. I believe we must choose to make a transformational investment in a green economy that not only delivers an economic recovery, but also serves as a down payment on our efforts to tackle the climate and environmental crises we face.

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The oil and gas industry is drowning in all-time high debt. Coal is already in steep decline. The fracking and oil shale booms were fueled by cheap debt and years of easy credit, dependent on expensive oil and access to international markets. That bill comes due when those markets return to cheaper energy from countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia, leading to waves of layoffs and bankruptcies.

The recent steps taken by the Trump administration to waive environmental enforcement during a pandemic, roll back fuel economy standards, and initiate a fire sale of cheap oil and gas leases will not put the economy on a firm footing. The boom and bust nature of the fossil fuel industry is not sustainable. Not even the Fed can bail out the planet.

No ordinary spark will restart the economy. We need a lightning bolt. Our stimulus must focus on shovel-ready projects in job intensive industries that can create jobs quickly for people out of work, bend the carbon curve, and cut air pollution that threatens the public health of frontline communities.

There are many infrastructure needs: ports, water utilities, the electric grid, mass transit, homes, buildings, and manufacturing. The good news is there is no shortage of ideas that members of Congress have put forward to invest in our infrastructure while reducing pollution and creating green jobs.

Take our homes and buildings, which account for almost 40 percent of America’s carbon emissions. A combination of weatherization and decarbonization can create millions of green jobs.

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The U.S. energy efficiency industry already directly supports 2.38 million jobs, more than the oil, gas, and coal industries combined. More than half of these jobs are in the construction industry. Households spend $230 billion annually on home energy consumption. Small businesses spend $60 billion. A massive investment in weatherizing millions of homes and buildings can create hundreds of thousands of jobs in communities and put billions of dollars back into the hands of households and businesses. It would also boost small business, since businesses with less than 20 employees make up 79 percent of energy efficiency employers.

Millions of our homes and buildings are also dependent on gas for appliances and heating, which is untenable for seriously addressing climate change. Explosive gas is piped through decades old, often leaky, pipelines and burned in our stoves and heaters. Children living in a home with a gas cookstove have a 42-percent increased risk of asthma. Analysis has found that electrifying 100 percent of all buildings in California could support more than 100,000 fulltime workers in the construction industry. A national electrification effort would support hundreds of thousands more.

A program of Apollo-level ambition to reach 100 percent clean energy in the electric sector by 2035 would complete the decarbonization of our buildings and create millions of jobs. The solar, wind, geothermal, and battery storage industries already collectively support 437,498 jobs, despite accounting for only 9.5 percent of our energy generation in 2019. The entire electric sector, including fossil fuels, employs 896,800 people. Vastly increasing the amount of clean energy generation would have a tremendous economic impact from the coasts to the heartland.

Providing these examples is only scratching the surface. A stimulus can focus on advanced vehicle manufacturing, modernization of our power grid, micro-grids to strengthen communities from disasters, the electrification of our ports, regenerative agriculture by small farmers and much more. We can tie this infrastructure funding to the creation of prevailing wage and union jobs that provide good health care and benefits. We can strategically invest in distressed and underserved communities.

Rather than trying to force jobs back into the declining fossil fuel economy as the president is doing, a green stimulus can provide the necessary support to transition workers who have lost their jobs into job intensive green industries that won’t go boom and bust based on the whims of the Saudis and Russians. This next stimulus bill – tasked with putting millions of Americans back to work – presents the once-in-a-generation opportunity to do it.

We have to get this right. There are no do overs. We know the importance of listening to our scientists. We must understand the consequences of acting too late. This cannot be a lost decade for our economy or our planet.

Congress must lead.

Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán represents the 44th District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is a member of on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and serves as the Co-Chair of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force. 

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Wall Street skids on inflation fears; USD, bond yields jump

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U.S. stocks suffered the biggest slump in at least 11 weeks on Wednesday and benchmark Treasury yields jumped after data showed consumer prices in April unexpectedly rose by the highest level in nearly 12 years, prompting bets on earlier interest rate hikes.

A 0.8% jump in the U.S. consumer price index – outpacing a 0.2% forecast – boosted the U.S. dollar as expectations of rising real interest rates burnished the currency’s appeal.

The gyrations in financial markets underscored concerns among some investors that the Federal Reserve could be wrong in its prediction that inflation pressures in the United States are temporary, and that the central bank may have to raise rates sooner than it expects.

The prospect of tighter monetary policy knocked shares lower and the stock market steadily extended losses through the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 2%, the S&P 500 dropped 2.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite lost 2.7%. [.N]

For the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite Index, Wednesday’s tumble was the biggest fall in a single day since Feb. 25, while the Dow’s decline was the sharpest in a day since Jan 29.

Richard Clarida, vice chair of the Federal Reserve, acknowledged on Wednesday that the latest inflation report was the second piece of data in a week to catch the central bank off-guard, describing it as the “biggest miss in history.”

Yet Clarida maintained the Federal Reserve’s dovish note, saying it will be “some time” before the U.S. economy is sufficiently healed for the central bank to consider pulling back its crisis-level of support.

Some investors continued to challenge the Federal Reserve’s assessment, however.

“We’ve been warning about the prospect of higher for longer inflation in the United States for many months, but even we hadn’t predicted this,” said James Knightley, chief international economist at ING Group.

“We increasingly doubt the Fed’s position that this is transitory and think they will end up hiking rates far sooner than 2024.”

Some money market investors seemed to agree. Eurodollar futures contracts expiring in December on Wednesday priced in a 25-basis-point rate hike by the end of next year, compared with 22 basis points before the inflation report.

DOLLAR GAINS

Weakness on Wall Street mirrored stock market losses in Asia, as surging commodity prices stoked inflation concerns. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan had slumped 0.95% overnight, after hitting its lowest level since March 26.

European shares fared better. London’s blue-chip FTSE 100 rebounded 0.8% as buoyant corporate earnings and a better-than-expected economic growth report bolstered hopes about a sharp recovery from the pandemic-driven recession.

In the United States, the surprisingly strong inflation data lifted Treasury yields. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield jumped to 1.6952%, its biggest rise in a day since March 18, and the two-year Treasury yield also rose to stand at 0.1668%. [US/]

In keeping with expectations of rising price pressures as the U.S. economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, the yield curve steepened, and the spread between two- and 10-year Treasury yields widened to 152.8 basis points.

The dollar, which could benefit from rising real interest rates, gained after wobbling briefly earlier in the day.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major currencies, rose 0.65% to 90.795.

A stronger dollar dented the euro, which slid 0.6% to $1.2070.

Higher Treasury yields and the stronger dollar dragged on non-yielding bullion. Spot gold slid 1.3% to $1,813.41 an ounce. [GOL/]

Hopes of rising demand on the back of an economic recovery pushed oil prices to eight-week highs.

U.S. crude jumped 1.2% to $66.08 a barrel, the highest close since March 11. Brent crude added 1.1% to $69.32 per barrel, a close last seen on March 5. [O/R]

In cryptocurrencies, ether fell after scaling a new record high overnight, dropping 2% to $4,096.01. The value of the second-biggest digital token has surged over 5.5 times so far this year.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing in New York, Tom Arnold in London and Swati Pandey in Sydney; Additional reporting by Sujata Rao in LondonEditing by Alison Williams and Matthew Lewis)

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Oil drops as India coronavirus crisis tempers rally

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Oil prices fell on Thursday, pulling back from an eight-week high as concerns about the coronavirus crisis in India, the world’s third-biggest importer of crude, tempered a rally driven by IEA and OPEC predictions that demand is coming back strong.

Brent crude was down 32 cents, or 0.5%, at $69.00 a barrel by 0145 GMT, after gaining more than 1% on Wednesday. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was down 31 cents, or 0.5%, to $65.77 a barrel, having risen 1.2% in the previous session.

“The path for crude prices appears to be higher but until the situation improves in India, WTI will probably struggle to break above the early March high,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, said in a note.

Oil demand is already outstripping supply and the shortfall is expected to grow further even if Iran boosts exports, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its monthly report on Wednesday.

A day earlier, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) stuck to its forecast for a strong return of world oil demand in 2021, with growth in China and the United States cancelling out the impact of the coronavirus crisis in India.

But global concern is rising over the situation in India, the world’s second-most populous country, where a variant of the coronavirus is rampaging through the countryside in the deadliest 24 hours since the pandemic began.

Medical professional are still unable to say for sure when new infections will hit a plateau and other countries are alarmed over the transmissibility of the variant that is now spreading worldwide.

Fuel shortages are getting worse in the southeastern United States six days since the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline network in the world’s biggest consumer of oil.

Colonial, which pipes more than 2.5 million barrels per day, said it is hoping to get a large portion of the network operating by the end of the week.

 

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Oil prices on track for eight-week high on demand hopes

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Oil prices rose more than 1% on Wednesday, putting the contracts on track for their highest close in almost eight weeks, as U.S. crude exports plunged and on signs of a speedy economic recovery and upbeat forecasts for energy demand.

Brent futures rose 74 cents, or 1.1%, to $69.29 a barrel by 12:05 p.m. EDT (1605 GMT), while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 75 cents, or 1.2%, to $66.03.

That puts both benchmarks on track for their highest closes since March 11. Earlier in the session, WTI on track for its highest close since Oct. 29, 2018 and Brent for its highest close since May 28, 2019.

U.S. crude exports fell last week to around 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd), their lowest since October 2018, while crude inventories declined 0.4 million barrels versus an expected 2.8 million-barrel draw, according to weekly government data. [EIA/S]

“The export (drop) is the bullish element keeping trade propped up,” Tony Headrick, energy market analyst at CHS Hedging, said, noting the crude stock “drawdown combined with the lack of exports is good sign.”

Traders noted one factor weighing on prices this afternoon was the U.S. inventory report also showed total oil products supplied fell 2.2 million bpd to 17.5 million bpd. That was their biggest weekly decline and the lowest weekly demand since January.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its monthly report that oil demand is already outstripping supply and the shortfall is expected to widen even if Iran boosts exports.

Similarly, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Tuesday stuck to a forecast for a strong recovery in world oil demand in 2021, with growth in China and the United States outweighing the impact of the coronavirus crisis in India.

Oil prices today are experiencing a lift on positive demand outlooks released by OPEC and IEA, which both came out with a similar consensus that oil demand will average 96.4 million bpd in 2021,” said Louise Dickson, oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy.

Oil also found support from positive economic data. Britain’s pandemic-battered economy grew more strongly than expected in March, while U.S. consumer prices increased by the most in nearly 12 years in April as booming demand amid a reopening economy pushed against supply constraints.

India’s coronavirus death toll crossed 250,000 in the deadliest 24 hours since the pandemic began.

In the United States, fuel shortages worsened as the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, the nation’s largest fuel pipeline network, entered its sixth day and gasoline stations from Florida to Virginia ran out of supply in some cities.

Colonial, which transports more than 2.5 million bpd, said it hopes to restart a large portion of the network by the end of the week.

The gasoline crack spread – a measure of refining profit margins – was on track for its highest close since hitting a record high on April 20, 2020 when WTI futures turned negative, according to Refinitiv data.

(Additional reporting by Laura Sanicola in New York, Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London and Shu Zhang and Sonali Paul in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Mark Heinrich)

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