Tariffs on solar panels threaten Biden’s climate change goals

Yahoo! News

Tariffs on solar panels threaten Biden’s climate change goals

Ben Adler, Senior Editor – May 26, 2022

An ongoing Department of Commerce investigation into whether China is circumventing tariffs on its solar energy products is slowing the expansion of solar power capacity in the U.S., according to industry and outside experts.

“In the blink of an eye, we’re going to lose 100,000 American solar workers and any hope of reaching the president’s clean energy goals,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA), said in a statement late last month.

On March 25, James Maeder, the deputy assistant secretary of commerce for anti-dumping and countervailing duty operations, announced an investigation into whether crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam that use components from China violate tariffs on Chinese solar imports. Pending the outcome of that investigation, tariffs could be applied — even retroactively, for recent purchases — to solar panels from those four Southeast Asian countries.

Solar panel installers anxious not to run up what could potentially be a huge tax bill are therefore avoiding buying panels from those major suppliers and are often unable to fulfill orders.

A worker wearing a mask, head covering and rubber gloves, leans over a solar battery to assemble it in a bare manufacturing facility, with one other worker visible in the distance.
A worker assembles a solar battery at Irex Energy JSC’s manufacturing facility in Vung Tau, Vietnam, in 2019. (Yen Duong/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As a result, on April 27, after surveying its members on the effect the investigation is having, the SEIA cut by 46% its forecast for new solar installations in 2022 and 2023. A May 10 analysis by Rystad Energy, an independent energy research consulting company, found a potentially even more dramatic contraction in the solar industry, concluding that 64% of the 27 gigawatts of new solar capacity that was to be installed in this year is in jeopardy.

With new tariffs potentially being imposed in August, clean energy advocates and experts say the problems may only grow worse in the months ahead. “Imports have fallen off, projects are being canceled, and projections of growth are being revised radically downward,” David Roberts, host of the podcast “Volts,” said Wednesday. “The tariffs could be anywhere from 30%-250%, which would radically change the economics of big solar projects, and, if applied, will be retrospective over the last two years, which means even existing contracts are in jeopardy. The uncertainty has cast a pall over the entire sector.”

President Biden is publicly committed to expanding solar capacity as quickly as possible to combat climate change. The White House has issued press releases and fact sheets touting its administrative moves to encourage the installation of wind turbines and solar panels on federal lands and waters, and the president has proposed tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for rooftop solar panels in his budget reconciliation package.

Joe Biden, in dark glasses and pursing his lips, in front of a solar array.
In June 2019, while running for president, Joe Biden walks past solar panels at the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative in Plymouth, N.H. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

The administration is caught between its climate goals and its desire to protect American manufacturers from unfair trade practices. If China can produce cheaper solar panels, with or without a government subsidy, it benefits American consumers and helps speed up the replacement of fossil fuels that cause greenhouse gas emissions. But allowing a rival to dominate the supply chain of growing U.S. energy sources could be risky, as Europe has seen with its reliance on Russian oil and gas. Every president wants to create domestic manufacturing jobs, which tend to pay relatively well, especially for those without a college degree.

In 2012, the Obama administration imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panel components — increasing the cost by 24% to 36% — when it found that, in violation of trade agreements, Chinese manufacturers were unfairly undercutting American competitors by using loans from the Chinese government to produce more panels at lower prices. (Tariffs have since increased to as much as 250%.)

The measure was supposed to bolster American solar manufacturing, but it didn’t work out that way.

President Barack Obama at the microphone in front of a solar array.
In March 2012, President Barack Obama tours Sempra’s Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility in Boulder City, Nev. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

“What happened was not that American domestic manufacturing flourished. What happened was: The same Chinese manufacturers decided to locate some of their supply chain in other countries,” Marcelo Ortega, an analyst at Rystad Energy who produced its recent report, told Yahoo News. Those countries include the four in Southeast Asia at issue in this case. As U.S. imports of solar panels from China fell, imports from these other countries rose just as fast.

In February, Auxin Solar, a U.S. manufacturer of solar modules, filed a complaint with the Commerce Department, which is responsible for enforcing the tariffs, claiming that the solar manufacturers in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are making an end run around the tariffs on Chinese photovoltaic cells. Imports from those countries accounted for 85% of all imported U.S. solar power capacity installed in 2021 and 99% of solar imports in the first two months of this year, according to Rystad’s analysis.

Companies that provide solar panels to U.S. customers say their business has been thrown for a loop.

“It makes deploying solar simply just more difficult and more expensive,” Gabe Phillips, CEO of Catalyst Power, a retail energy provider and solar developer, told Yahoo News. “On the distributed solar side, the pricing’s all over the place. They can’t commit to pricing. They’ll give me a price, with the caveat that it’s contingent on the outcome of this case. It’s stymieing the sales process.”

Two women in head coverings, masks, gloves and blue work clothes, bend over a production line.
Employees in Nantong City, in China’s Jiangsu province, work on the solar panel production line at a workshop of Jiangsu Fox Group on April 18. (Zhai Huiyong/VCG via Getty Images)

Apart from the uncertainty in pricing, the process of providing a customer with solar energy has become slower and less reliable.

“Suppliers don’t want to take the risk of being slapped with a potential 100% import tariff,” Ortega said. When the SEIA surveyed its members, 83% reported that purchases had recently been canceled or delayed.

“At the moment, the products we’re seeking to market have been pushed back at least a quarter,” Phillips said. “There’s less expectation of panel availability, and therefore dates for projects are being pushed back.”

The White House declined to comment on the record, noting that it does not get involved in legal proceedings such as the current Commerce Department investigation, but it reiterated the president’s commitment to deploying solar power.

“While we cannot comment on an ongoing, independent judicial investigation, the process cannot factor in policy or our solar strategy,” a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity wrote in an email. “President Biden remains committed to standing up clean solar energy across the country to lower energy bills for families, create good-paying union jobs, and … grow our clean energy economy. As the president has made clear from the earliest days of the campaign, solar power is at the heart of his agenda for cutting energy costs for American families, creat[ing] good jobs, and fight[ing] the climate crisis that is already causing unprecedented harm to our economy and national security.”

A worker in a red hardhat walks across a solar array followed by a colleague carrying a solar panel.
Electricians install solar panels at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, N.Y., in November 2021. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

The solar industry’s answer is to build up American solar manufacturing without resorting to jacking up the price on imports.

“I understand the detriment to American manufacturing that dumping causes,” Phillips said. “However, I’m not sure that I have a problem with the Chinese government subsidizing American renewable energy development. There are other ways that we could support our own domestic manufacturing of solar panels, other than sticking a tariff on someone else’s solar panels. We could do what China does and subsidize [it]. There must be tools that are available.”

Uvalde newspaper publishes powerful front page 2 days after school massacre

Yahoo! News

Uvalde newspaper publishes powerful front page 2 days after school massacre

Dylan Stableford, Senior Writer – May 26, 2022

The Uvalde Leader-News, a locally owned newspaper in Uvalde, Texas, published a powerful front page on Thursday, two days after 19 children and two teachers were killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

The cover of the twice-weekly paper was completely black, except for the date of the massacre — May 24, 2022 — a stark reminder of the darkness that has enveloped the community of about 16,000 people in southwest Texas.

The front page of Thursday's Uvalde Leader-News.
The front page of Thursday’s Uvalde Leader-News. (Uvalde Leader-News)

Inside, the first 10 pages of the 12-page paper contain news from what would have been an ordinary week in a small town: graduations, taxes, local elections, weather, sports. Three collegiate rodeo athletes have qualified for the National Rodeo Finals, the paper reported.

There is almost no indication of the carnage that unfolded on Tuesday, except for the announcement of a blood drive at the civic center on Saturday (there is an urgent need for donors, particularly those with type O blood, the paper said) and an advertisement for the Robb School Memorial Fund established by the First State Bank of Uvalde. An ad for the Uvalde Honey Festival, which had been scheduled for June 10 and 11, shows that it has been canceled without explanation.

The final two pages, however, are dedicated to the tragedy.

Crosses with the names of victims of the mass shooting are seen at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday.
Crosses with the names of victims of the mass shooting at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Thursday. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Under the headline “City’s Soul Crushed,” the back page of the paper includes photos of children being taken out of the school through windows, and a teacher running to safety after the last of her students were evacuated.

Another shows the suspect’s abandoned pickup truck crashed in a ditch, and a rifle, believed to be the shooter’s, sitting atop a duffel bag on the ground next to the passenger door.

There is also a story about the school district’s graduation ceremonies, which had been scheduled for Friday, being postponed.

“My heart is broken,” Hal Harrell, the district’s superintendent, is quoted as saying. “We are a small community and we are going to need your prayers to get through this.”

CBS News poll: More Americans label GOP extreme, but Democratic Party as weak

CBS News

CBS News poll: More Americans label GOP extreme, but Democratic Party as weak

Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, and Kabir Khanna – May 22, 2022

With midterm primaries helping set the direction for the Democratic and Republican parties, most Americans, including many of the parties’ own voters, aren’t terribly happy with the parties or what they’re talking about. Given that Sunday’s CBS News poll finds most aren’t happy with the direction of the country either, the major political parties aren’t providing much solace.

For starters, the Democratic Party — which controls Congress and the presidency — is not seen by a majority as either “effective” or “in touch,” which are, no doubt, important measures for a party in power. The Democratic Party is more apt to be described as “weak,” a label applied by a slight majority of Americans, than it is “strong.”

The Republican Party, for its part, is described by a slight majority as “extreme,” a term Americans apply to the GOP more so than to Democrats, though neither really escapes the label. Independents are more likely to call the GOP extreme. The GOP is described as “strong” more often than as “weak,” but it is also described by Americans more often as “hateful” than as “caring” — by double digits.

Primaries tend to find candidates arguing over matters that appeal to their bases, but as different as each side’s campaigns are, there is something voters of each side share: a desire for candidates to focus on inflation. Perhaps that’s no surprise, given how large it looms for most Americans.

Among Democrats, who also want a focus on taxing the wealthy and racial justice, many also want their candidates to focus on protecting abortion rights. In fact, especially among those who care a lot about the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade — almost all say they want the party’s nominees to focus on abortion rights.

Republicans want their nominees to focus on stopping illegal immigration and talk about traditional values. Illegal immigration is especially a priority among self-described conservative Republicans.

A majority of independents also want the Democrats to focus on abortion rights.

And there’s an asymmetry on abortion focus between the parties: even more Democrats want their candidates to focus on supporting abortion rights than Republicans want their candidates to talk about opposing it.

But despite being in power during a time of inflation, Democrats don’t cede that much ground to Republicans on who’s trusted to deal with it. It’s 51% of Americans who trust the GOP, not much more than the 49% who trust the Democrats on inflation. It’s the same nearly even gap on the economy. And that may be because the parties’ candidates aren’t talking about it enough.

Democrats have an advantage being trusted on abortion and coronavirus.

The Trump factor

Within the Republican rank-and-file, there’s a divide over how much they want to hear about loyalty to former President Donald Trump, some of which we’re seeing play out in the primaries right now. A slight majority of Republicans do want their candidates to focus on showing loyalty to Trump, but nearly half don’t. Related to this, four in 10 Republicans want the nominees focused on the 2020 election, but most don’t.

Who is fighting for whom?

We also see such dramatic differences in which people Americans think the parties support — or don’t. The overall picture reminds us of how much Americans see the parties dividing them, not only on policy, but by demographic groups.

Americans overall are more likely to see the Republican Party as fighting for White people than for Black people — by more than two to one. In fact, more say the Republican Party fights against the interests of Black Americans than is neutral toward them. It’s similarly true for views of the Republican Party’s approach to Hispanic people, with more feeling it works against them, rather than for them, and by more than two to one, against LGBTQ people than for them. Americans do think the GOP fights more for people of faith than do Democrats.

Conversely, they see the Democratic Party as fighting for Black and Hispanic Americans more so than for White Americans.

Americans are more likely to believe the GOP fights more against the interests of women than for women, and women overall describe things this way.

Men, meanwhile, are much more likely to think the Democrats fight more for women than for men, but a majority of men think the Republican Party fights for them (and more so than for women).

Echoing some of these perceptions are big differences in how partisans within the parties approach the country’s racial diversity — and each group’s partisans tend to think they’re not being treated fairly.

Big majorities of Democrats think immigrants make America better in the long run; a majority of Republicans say they make America worse.

Republicans are more likely to say White Americans suffer “a lot” of discrimination than they are to say Black Americans do.

Democrats see quite the opposite. And Democrats are more likely to say it’s very important for political leaders to condemn White nationalism.

Republicans tend to see America’s changing diversity as neither good nor bad, but those who take a position tend to say bad. Democrats (whose ranks are made up of more people of color) say it’s a good thing.

This CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,041 U.S. adult residents interviewed between May 18-20, 2022. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the U.S. Census American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, as well as to 2020 presidential vote. The margin of error is ±2.5 points.

‘Solid symbol of United States strength’: USS Nimitz introduced an enduring era

Pensacola News Journal

‘Solid symbol of United States strength’: USS Nimitz introduced an enduring era

Hill Goodspeed – May 22, 2022

The scene in Norfolk, Virginia, on May 4, 1975, awakened memories of earlier ceremonies in the historic place where many Navy ships embarked upon their service on the Seven Seas. Historic aircraft carriers under the overall command of an admiral whose namesake ship entered service that day. Amidst pageantry that included a 21-gun salute, colorful flags fluttering in the breeze and martial music, President Gerald R. Ford marked the commissioning of the USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the world’s second nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

President Gerald R. Ford and other dignitaries are pictured during the commissioning ceremony for USS Nimitz on May 3, 1975.
President Gerald R. Ford and other dignitaries are pictured during the commissioning ceremony for USS Nimitz on May 3, 1975.

“I see this great ship as a double symbol of today’s challenging times. She is first of all a symbol of the United States, of our immense resources in materials and skilled manpower, of our inexhaustible energy, of the inventive and productive genius of our free, competitive economic system, and of our massive but controlled military strength,” said the president, who during World War II sailed as a crewman on board an aircraft carrier in Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s Pacific Fleet. “Wherever the United States Ship Nimitz shows her flag, she will be seen as we see her now, a solid symbol of United States strength, United States resolve — made in America and manned by Americans. She is a movable part and parcel of our country, a self-contained city at sea plying the international waters of the world in defense of our national interests. Whether her mission is one of defense, diplomacy or humanity, the Nimitz will command awe and admiration from some, caution and circumspection from others, and respect from all.”

President Ford’s words were prophetic and still ring true today for not only Nimitz, but also the nine Nimitz-class carriers that have followed her down the ways, the last being USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), which was commissioned in 2009. Though the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers, the lead ship of which was commissioned in 2017, represent the Navy’s newest flattops, the ships of the Nimitz class will remain a vital component of the Navy’s arsenal.

With the final decommissioning of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) on Feb. 3, 2017, Nimitz became the oldest active aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy. In today’s digital world, it is humorous to read a newspaper account from 1975 lauding the technology on board the ship, where her first commanding officer, Capt. Bryan Compton, could address the crew on color television, which also boasted three channels for viewing by off-duty sailors and Marines. That she now operates with sophisticated 21st century technology speaks to the soundness of the Nimitz-class design, the lead ship having adapted to the times in her 47th year of service.

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The USS Nimitz operates in company with the battleship USS Missouri in 1987.
The USS Nimitz operates in company with the battleship USS Missouri in 1987.

After a brief shakedown cruise in the Caribbean and North Atlantic following her commissioning, Nimitz deployed to the Mediterranean in July 1976 with the guided-missile cruisers USS South Carolina (CGN 37) and USS California (CGN 36), marking the first time in a decade that nuclear-powered ships deployed to the Mediterranean. In 1979, the carrier played a starring role on the silver screen, the ship’s spaces transformed into a Hollywood set for the filming of “The Final Countdown” starring Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen. The plot involved Nimitz and her crew going back in time to the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack and the decision on whether to alter the course of history. The film provided a number of crewmen the opportunity to speak lines and featured aerial sequences showing VF-84 Jolly Rogers F-14 Tomcats with their colorful skull and crossbones tail markings.

It did not take long for the nation’s newest flattop to also assume a leading role on the real world stage. In 1980, while underway in the Indian Ocean during a deployment marked by 144 consecutive days at sea, RH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters launched from the ship to take part in Operation Evening Light (also known as Operation Eagle Claw). The attempted rescue of 52 American hostages held in Tehran ended in tragedy at a landing site in the Iranian desert. The following year, while Nimitz conducted exercises in the Gulf of Sidra near Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s “Line of Death,” two of her embarked F-14 Tomcats of the VF-41 Black Aces shot down a pair of Libyan Su-22 Fitters after the enemy aircraft fired upon them.

RH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters are pictured on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz prior to the attempted rescue of the Iran hostages.
RH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters are pictured on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz prior to the attempted rescue of the Iran hostages.

Shifting to her new homeport of Naval Station Bremerton, Washington, in 1987, Nimitz spent the ensuing years participating in Operations Earnest Will, protecting the shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf and flying combat air patrols as part of Operation Southern Watch. In the Far East, she provided U.S. Navy presence off Taiwan during a volatile standoff between that nation and China in 1995. In 1997 to 1998, she completed an around-the-world cruise, concluding it at Norfolk, the place of her birth, where she entered the yard for refueling and overhaul.

She emerged in June 2001, and just weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks put to sea and set course for her new homeport at NAS North Island. California. In March 2003, she deployed for the first time to the Fifth Fleet Area of Responsibility and launched air strikes in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The cruise marked the first deployments of both the F/A-18F Super Hornet and E-2C Hawkeye 2000, with Nimitz also becoming the first aircraft carrier to deploy with an air wing containing two Super Hornet squadrons.

In 2005, the carrier commemorated 30 years of service, film crews spending the entire deployment on board for the PBS documentary “Carrier,” which provided an intimate look at life aboard the ship. Amidst deployments supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Nimitz shifted her homeport to Everett, Washington, and helped evaluate the future of carrier aviation as the platform for the first carrier landings of the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. The carrier’s 2017 deployment included combat operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, followed by a period in overhaul.

An F/A-18C Hornet from the VMFA-323 "Death Rattlers" makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz in 2021.
An F/A-18C Hornet from the VMFA-323 “Death Rattlers” makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz in 2021.

A testament to the ship’s longevity occurred during her most recent deployment in the shadow of COVID-19, an 11-month cruise in which the carrier and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 conducted over 35,345 flight hours and 14,141 traps. Among the latter was a landing by an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323 Death Rattlers. It marked the final time that the venerable aircraft, which equipped the famed Blue Angels from 1986 through 2020, deployed on board an aircraft carrier. When Nimitz entered service in 1975, the Hornet had yet to make its first flight.

In a message to the personnel of the U.S. Pacific Fleet on Sept. 2, 1945, Fleet Admiral Nimitz wrote about what they owed to those who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II.

“To them we have a solemn obligation … to insure that their sacrifice will help to make this a better and safer world in which to live,” he stated. “It will also be necessary to maintain our national strength at a level which will discourage future acts of aggression aimed at the destruction of our way of life.”

The number of times Nimitz will leave the shores of the United States are numbered, her decommissioning slated for 2025, a half century after President Ford so eloquently captured in words what she represented. In that time, she has more that met the obligations her namesake outlined in 1945, and the class of carriers that followed her will carry that torch for many decades to come.

Hill Goodspeed is the historian for the National Naval Aviation Museum and a columnist for the News Journal. 

De-Arching: McDonald’s to sell Russia business, exit country

Associated Press

De-Arching: McDonald’s to sell Russia business, exit country

David Koenig and Ann Durbin – May 16, 2022

FILE - McDonald's restaurant is seen in the center of Dmitrov, a Russian town 75 km., (47 miles) north from Moscow, Russia, on Dec. 6, 2014. McDonald’s says it's started the process of selling its Russian business, which includes 850 restaurants that employ 62,000 people. The fast food giant pointed to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, saying holding on to its business in Russia “is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.” The Chicago-based company had temporarily closed its stores in Russia but was still paying employees. (AP Photo/FILE)
McDonald’s restaurant is seen in the center of Dmitrov, a Russian town 75 km., (47 miles) north from Moscow, Russia, on Dec. 6, 2014. McDonald’s says it’s started the process of selling its Russian business, which includes 850 restaurants that employ 62,000 people. The fast food giant pointed to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, saying holding on to its business in Russia “is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.” The Chicago-based company had temporarily closed its stores in Russia but was still paying employees. (AP Photo/FILE)
ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE - The oldest of Moscow's McDonald's outlets, which was opened on Jan. 31, 1990, is closed on Aug. 21, 2014. McDonald’s says it's started the process of selling its Russian business, which includes 850 restaurants that employ 62,000 people. The fast food giant pointed to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, saying holding on to its business in Russia “is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.” The Chicago-based company had temporarily closed its stores in Russia but was still paying employees. (AP Photo/FILE)
The oldest of Moscow’s McDonald’s outlets, which was opened on Jan. 31, 1990, is closed on Aug. 21, 2014. McDonald’s says it’s started the process of selling its Russian business, which includes 850 restaurants that employ 62,000 people. The fast food giant pointed to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, saying holding on to its business in Russia “is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.” The Chicago-based company had temporarily closed its stores in Russia but was still paying employees. (AP Photo/FILE)
ASSOCIATED PRESS

McDonald’s is closing its doors in Russia, ending an era of optimism and increasing the country’s isolation over its war in Ukraine.

The Chicago burger giant confirmed Monday that it is selling its 850 restaurants in Russia. McDonald’s said it will seek a buyer who will employ its 62,000 workers in Russia, and will continue to pay those workers until the deal closes.

“Some might argue that providing access to food and continuing to employ tens of thousands of ordinary citizens, is surely the right thing to do,” McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a letter to employees. “But it is impossible to ignore the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.”

McDonald’s said it’s the first time the company has ever “de-arched,” or exited a major market. It plans to start removing golden arches and other symbols and signs with the company’s name. McDonald’s said it will also will keep its trademarks in Russia and take steps to enforce them if necessary.

McDonald’s said in early March that it was temporarily closing its stores in Russia but would continue to pay its employees. It was a costly decision. Late last month, the company said it was losing $55 million each month due to the restaurant closures. It also lost $100 million worth of inventory.

McDonald’s has also closed 108 restaurants in Ukraine and continues to pay its employees there.

Western companies have wrestled with extricating themselves from Russia, enduring the hit to their bottom lines from pausing or closing operations in the face of sanctions. Others have stayed in Russia at least partially, with some facing blowback.

French carmaker Renault said Monday that it would sell its majority stake in Russian car company Avtovaz and a factory in Moscow to the state — the first major nationalization of a foreign business since the war began.

Maxim Sytch, a professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said McDonald’s and others also face pressure from customers, employees and investors over their Russian operations.

“The era where companies could avoid taking a stance is over,” Sytch said. “People want to be associated with companies that do the right thing. There’s much more to business __ and life __ than maximizing profit margins.”

McDonald’s first restaurant in Russia opened in the middle of Moscow more than three decades ago, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a powerful symbol of the easing of Cold War tensions between the United States and Soviet Union, which would collapse in 1991.

Now, the company’s exit is proving symbolic of a new era, analysts say. Sytch, who lived in Russia when McDonald’s entered the market and remembers the excitement surrounding the opening, said the closing signifies a reversal to the Soviet era of isolation.

“It’s really painful to see the many years of gains on the democratic front being wiped out with this atrocious war in Ukraine,” he said.

Kempczinski left open the possibility that McDonald’s could someday return to the Russian market.

“It’s impossible to predict what the future may hold, but I choose to end my message with the same spirit that brought McDonald’s to Russia in the first place: hope,” he wrote in his employee letter. “Thus, let us not end by saying, ‘goodbye.’ Instead, let us say as they do in Russian: Until we meet again.”

McDonald’s owns 84% of its restaurants in Russia; the rest are operated by franchisees. Because it won’t license its brand, the sale price likely won’t be close to the value of the business before the invasion, said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, a corporate analytics company.

McDonald’s said it expects to record a charge against earnings of between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion over leaving Russia.

McDonald’s has more than 39,000 locations across more than 100 countries. Most are owned by franchisees — only about 5% are owned and operated by the company.

McDonald’s said exiting Russia will not change its forecast of adding a net 1,300 restaurants this year, which will contribute about 1.5% to companywide sales growth.

Last month, McDonald’s Corp. reported that it earned $1.1 billion in the first quarter, down from more than $1.5 billion a year earlier. Revenue was nearly $5.7 billion.

In afternoon trading, shares of McDonald’s shed 21 cents to $244.83.

Michigan profs push ‘pee for peonies’ urine diversion plan

Associated Press

Michigan profs push ‘pee for peonies’ urine diversion plan

Mike Householder – May 13, 2022

University of Michigan civil and environmental engineering professor Krista Wigginton applies human urine derived fertilizer to beds of peonies at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor on Monday, May 9, 2022. The "pee-cycling" effort is part of University of Michigan research that promotes human urine-based fertilizer as beneficial to the plants and to the environment. (Marcin Szczepanski/Lead Multimedia Storyteller, Michigan Engineering via AP)
University of Michigan civil and environmental engineering professor Krista Wigginton applies human urine derived fertilizer to beds of peonies at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor. The “pee-cycling” effort is part of University of Michigan research that promotes human urine-based fertilizer as beneficial to the plants and to the environment. (Marcin Szczepanski/Lead Multimedia Storyteller, Michigan Engineering via AP)
University of Michigan civil and environmental engineering professors Nancy Love, and Krista Wigginton, right, apply human urine derived fertilizer to beds of peonies at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor on Monday, May 9, 2022. The "pee-cycling" effort is part of University of Michigan research that promotes human urine-based fertilizer as beneficial to the plants and to the environment. (Marcin Szczepanski/Lead Multimedia Storyteller, Michigan Engineering via AP)
University of Michigan civil and environmental engineering professors Nancy Love, and Krista Wigginton, right, apply human urine derived fertilizer to beds of peonies at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor. The “pee-cycling” effort is part of University of Michigan research that promotes human urine-based fertilizer as beneficial to the plants and to the environment. (Marcin Szczepanski/Lead Multimedia Storyteller, Michigan Engineering via AP)
University of Michigan civil and environmental engineering professors Nancy Love, right, and Krista Wigginton apply human urine derived fertilizer to beds of peonies at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor on Monday, May 9, 2022. The "pee-cycling" effort is part of University of Michigan research that promotes human urine-based fertilizer as beneficial to the plants and to the environment. (Marcin Szczepanski/Lead Multimedia Storyteller, Michigan Engineering via AP)
University of Michigan civil and environmental engineering professors Nancy Love, right, and Krista Wigginton apply human urine derived fertilizer to beds of peonies at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor. The “pee-cycling” effort is part of University of Michigan research that promotes human urine-based fertilizer as beneficial to the plants and to the environment. (Marcin Szczepanski/Lead Multimedia Storyteller, Michigan Engineering via AP)
University of Michigan civil and environmental engineering professor Krista Wigginton applies human urine derived fertilizer to beds of peonies at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor on Monday, May 9, 2022. The "pee-cycling" effort is part of University of Michigan research that promotes human urine-based fertilizer as beneficial to the plants and to the environment. (Marcin Szczepanski/Lead Multimedia Storyteller, Michigan Engineering via AP)
University of Michigan civil and environmental engineering professor Krista Wigginton applies human urine derived fertilizer to beds of peonies at Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor. The “pee-cycling” effort is part of University of Michigan research that promotes human urine-based fertilizer as beneficial to the plants and to the environment. (Marcin Szczepanski/Lead Multimedia Storyteller, Michigan Engineering via AP)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A pair of University of Michigan researchers are putting the “pee” in peony.

Rather, they’re putting pee ON peonies.

Environmental engineering professors Nancy Love and Krista Wigginton are regular visitors to the Ann Arbor school’s Nichols Arboretum, where they have been applying urine-based fertilizer to the heirloom peony beds ahead of the flowers’ annual spring bloom.

It’s all part of an effort to educate the public about their research showing that applying fertilizer derived from nutrient-rich urine could have environmental and economic benefits.

“At first, we thought people might be hesitant. You know, this might be weird. But we’ve really experienced very little of that attitude,” Wigginton said. “In general, people think it’s funny at first, but then they understand why we’re doing it and they support it.”

Love is co-author of a study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal that found urine diversion and recycling led to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and energy.

Urine contains essential nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus and has been used as a crop fertilizer for thousands of years.

Love said collecting human urine and using it to create renewable fertilizers — as part of what she calls the “circular economy of nutrients” — will lead to greater environmental sustainability.

Think of it not so much as recycling, but “pee-cycling,” Wigginton said.

“We were looking for terms that would catch on but get the idea across, and ‘pee-cycling’ seems to be one that stuck,” she said.

As part of a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation awarded in 2016, Love and Wigginton have not only been testing advanced urine-treatment methods, but also investigating people’s attitudes about the use of urine-derived fertilizers.

That is what brought them to the much-loved campus Peony Garden, which contains more than 270 historic cultivated varieties from the 19th and early 20th centuries representing American, Canadian and European peonies of the era. The garden holds nearly 800 peonies when filled and up to 10,000 flowers at peak bloom.

Love and Wigginton plan to spend weekends in May and June chatting up visitors. One important lesson they learned is about the precision of language.

“We have used the term, ‘pee on the peonies.’ And then it grabs people’s attention and then we can talk to them about nutrient flows and nutrient efficiency in our communities and how to be more sustainable,” Love said. “It turns out some people thought that that was permission to drop their drawers and pee on the peonies.

“So, this year, we’re going to use ‘pee for the peonies’ and hope that we don’t have that confusion.”

The urine-derived fertilizer the researchers are using these days originated in Vermont. But if all goes according to plan, they’ll be doling out some locally sourced fertilizer next year.

A split-bowl toilet in a campus engineering building is designed to send solid waste to a treatment plant while routing urine to a holding tank downstairs. Urine diverted from the toilet and urinal were to be treated and eventually used to create fertilizers, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the school to shut down the collection efforts.

In the meantime, the facility is undergoing an upgrade to its freeze concentrator and adding a new, more energy-efficient pasteurizer, both developed by the Vermont-based Rich Earth Institute.

“The whole idea is cycling within a community, so moving toward that we want to take urine from this community and apply it within this community,” Wigginton said.

White House says 20 internet companies will provide effectively free internet to millions of Americans

Yahoo! Finance

White House says 20 internet companies will provide effectively free internet to millions of Americans

Ben Werschkul, Senior Producer and Writer – May 9, 2022

The Biden administration announced Monday that 20 leading internet service providers have agreed to offer basic low cost plans that will be free for millions of Americans after a refund.

The 20 companies, including AT&T (T), Comcast (CMCSA), and Verizon (VZ), cover more than 80% of the U.S. population. They will immediately provide at least one plan that costs no more than $30 a month and provides download speeds of at least 100 mbps.

The White House says that 40% of the U.S. population, about 48 million households, will be eligible to sign up through an existing program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The program is aimed at lower income Americans and offers participants a discount of up to $30/month on their internet bill, meaning they’ll effectively get free service if they can get online with one of these participating companies.

AT&T CEO John Stankey said his company’s new plan “when combined with federal ACP benefits, provides up to 100 Mbps of free internet service.”

“Internet for all requires the partnership of business and government, and we are pleased to be working with the Administration, Congress and FCC to ensure everyone has accessible, affordable and sustainable broadband service,” he said.

‘High speed internet at home is no longer a luxury’

Monday’s news come largely thanks to $65 billion set aside for high speed internet in the Bipartisan Infrastructure law. That money has helped fund the ACP and is also being directed towards parallel efforts to increase coverage areas and speeds.

“High speed internet at home is no longer a luxury: it’s a necessity for children to learn, workers to do their job, seniors and others to access health care through telemedicine, and for all of us to stay connected in this digital world,” a senior administration official told reporters in previewing the announcement.

‘A historic opportunity’

Families are eligible for the ACP mostly based on income level. Any household making less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level — $55,500 for a family of four in the continental U.S. — is eligible. Households can also qualify if they participate in certain government programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.

“The Affordable Connectivity Program is a historic opportunity to close the digital divide by empowering more Americans to get online and connect to our increasingly digital world, “ said David N. Watson, the CEO and president of Comcast.

The full list of participating companies includes Allo Communications, AltaFiber, Altice USA, Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum, Verizon, Vermont Telephone Company, Vexus Fiber, and Wow! Internet, Cable, and TV.

Verizon, as an example, will now offer its existing Fios service for $30/month to program participants. Other companies, like Spectrum, say they will increase the speeds of an existing $30/month plan to reach the 100 mbps standard set by the White House, where their infrastructure allows it.

Pushing more companies to ‘make the same commitments’

Notably missing from Monday’s announcement are many smaller and rural internet service providers that would have a challenge meeting the White House’s pricing or speed requirements.

“I think that there are roughly 1,300 participating internet providers in the ACP right now and we would obviously love for each and every one of them to make the same commitments that these 20 companies are doing,” said a senior administration official.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks on the Biden administration’s Affordable Connectivity Program at the South Court Auditorium at Eisenhower Executive Office Building on February 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. During the event Harris announced that 10 million households had enrolled in the program which helps families access high-speed, affordable internet. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Vice President Kamala Harris discusses the Affordable Connectivity Program in February. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

These companies cover 50% of the rural population. Those Americans are still eligible to sign up for the ACP, but they may continue to face slower speed or plans that aren’t fully covered by the $30 refund.

So far, 11.5 million households have signed up to receive ACP benefits. The program was first created as a relief measure in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and Biden officials have moved to make it a permanent as a way to lessen the digital divide.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak at the White House Monday alongside internet company CEOs as the first part of a multi-pronged effort to drive signups. That effort includes a new website, GetInternet.gov, and direct outreach from federal agencies like the Social Security Administration as well as states.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

Climate change is why New Mexico’s wildfire season started early this year

Yahoo! News

Climate change is why New Mexico’s wildfire season started early this year

Ben Adler, Senior Editor – May 4, 2022

SANTA FE, N.M. — The smoke emerges, like a white veil draped across the sky, on the drive up from Albuquerque to this picturesque city of 84,000.

Historically, New Mexico’s wildfire season begins in May or June, but this year, wildfires sprung up in the drought-parched New Mexican desert in April. By April 23, more than 20 wildfires were burning in 16 of the state’s 33 counties. Last week, two of them merged into one megafire, the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. By Sunday, the New York Times reported, it had burned nearly 104,000 acres — more than 160 square miles — and smoke from it and another wildfire had blanketed most of northern New Mexico.

A satellite image of Hermits Peak wildfire.
A satellite image shows a color-infrared view of the Hermits Peak wildfire, east of Santa Fe, N.M., on Sunday. (Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters)

About 6,000 people from 32 communities in the area have been ordered to evacuate, and 1,100 firefighters have been working to contain the blaze.

Scientists say that this is not just a freak occurrence but rather the new normal caused by climate change.

“We’re really seeing an increase in these fires outside the normal summer season, the normal warm season, really across the West,” Kaitlyn Weber, a data analyst at the research organization Climate Central, told Yahoo News.

The McBride Fire in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
The McBride Fire burns in the heart of the village in Ruidoso, N.M., on April 12. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/USA Today Network via Reuters)

Warmer temperatures, which cause more evaporation, dry out the landscape and create the conditions for wildfires to break out. In addition, climate change causes more extreme weather, such as unseasonably warm days in winter, and may even be causing stronger winds — another risk factor for fire — due to jet-stream disruption.

“We had the big Marshall Fire in December in Colorado, we had the Big Sur fires here in California in January. [Fires] have just been happening throughout the year,” Weber said.

“Our risk season is incredibly and dangerously early,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said on April 23, by which time 200 structures in her state had already burned.

An aircraft dumps fire retardant near the Hermit Peak Fire in New Mexico.
An aircraft dumps fire retardant near the Hermit Peak Fire and homes in Las Vegas, N.M., on Tuesday. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire)

In August 2021, Climate Central released a report showing that the number of “fire weather days” — hot, dry, windy days that are ripe for wildfires — has increased dramatically over the last few decades. Analyzing data from 225 weather stations in 17 states across the West since 1973, Climate Central found that these days have become much more common, especially in New Mexico.

“Parts of New Mexico, Texas, and Southern California have experienced some of the largest increases in fire weather days each year,” the report’s summary stated. “Areas of New Mexico are now seeing two more months of fire weather than was the case nearly a half century ago.”

A resident prepares horses to evacuate.
A Las Vegas, N.M., resident prepares horses to evacuate as authorities battle the nearby Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon wildfires on Monday. (Adria Malcolm/Reuters)

“As climate change continues to warm our Earth, it increases temperatures across the landscape,” Weber said. “It causes this drying trend that’s really happening throughout the Southwest. So we’re seeing warm temperatures, drier days and, if the winds pick up, really dangerous conditions.”

The drying out of New Mexico — a February study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that the last 20 years were the driest two decades in at least 1,200 years — is largely responsible.

“As it gets warmer, then it increases evaporation, things gets drier, plants get drier, basically setting up fuels for these big fires. So when they happen, they burn longer, more severely,” Weber said.

Smoke rises in the distance from wildfires in New Mexico.
Smoke rises from the nearby Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon wildfires on Monday. (Adria Malcolm/Reuters)

Along New Mexico State Road 518, part of which runs along the scenic route known as the High Road to Taos, one can see the pale, dead grasses and pine trees, sitting like kindling along the roadside. Some stretches of intersecting roads are blocked, to keep traffic from getting too close to the ongoing blazes.

Living near nature, with the desert in sight, is central to the charm that has drawn tourists and new residents to the state. As a result, Climate Central estimates that more than 1.4 million people in New Mexico, approximately 70% of its population, lives in an area at-risk from wildfires, the so-called “wildland-urban interface.”

Right now, smoke comes and goes in Santa Fe and other nearby towns, depending on the winds. At best, the sky overhead is clear and the smoke to the west creates a startlingly magenta sunset. At worst, the smoke settles in around you, creating a fog-like haze, and it can be smelled and tasted in the air. On those days, the Air Quality Index (AQI) — the Environmental Protection Agency’s measure of air pollution — spikes well into the “unhealthy” range. Taos experienced those conditions on Sunday, and Santa Fe did on Monday.

Smoke is seen at sunset in Sante Fe, New Mexico.
Smoke is seen at sunset in Sante Fe, N.M., on April 30. (Ben Adler/Yahoo News)

“This morning, I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t see the mountains when I left my house. I couldn’t see any of the vistas or any of the landscapes, so there was no point in going hiking today,” Whitney Joiner, a resident of Taos, N.M., told Yahoo News on Sunday. “Not only could you not breathe, it hurt to breathe and people were wearing masks. And then a friend of mine who I go hiking with, she has asthma and she said she was inside with the air purifier and she was still coughing.”

“The Air Quality Index was 159, and when I looked up ‘Should I go outside at 159?’ it was like, ‘No,’” Joiner added. “I don’t really know anything about AQI, but that’s a new way of looking at my life.”

Climate change has also made it harder to perform routine forest maintenance — in which overgrown areas are deliberately burned with controlled fires — to reduce the risk of wildfires that can spin out of control and threaten communities.

A man wearing a face mask is seen spraying water on his property.
David Lopez hoses down his property as the authorities battle the wildfires nearby on Monday. (Adria Malcolm/Reuters)

“One of these fires was actually a prescribed burn fire that actually burned out of control when the winds picked up,” Weber noted. “As we see more of these fire weather days, we’re going to see a decrease in the number of days where you can do prescribed burns, which is really helpful, but you need the right conditions to do that.”

Other states throughout the West have also experienced megafires in recent years. A 2016 study from Climate Central found that “across the Western U.S., the average annual number of large fires (larger than 1,000 acres) burning each year has more than tripled between the 1970s and the 2010s.” Last summer, wildfires ravaged Washington state, Oregon and British Columbia, Canada.

An American flag on a fence blows in the wind as heavy plumes of smoke billow in the distance.
An American flag blows in the wind along State Road 22 in New Mexico as the Cerro Pelado Fire burns in the Jemez Mountains in the distance in April. (Robert Browman/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire)

In February, a United Nations report declared a “global wildfire crisis” is developing due to climate change, pointing to recent extreme fire outbreaks in countries such as Australia and even in Russian towns north of the Arctic Circle.

“As long as we keep emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we can expect that we are going to keep seeing this warming trend, we are going to keep seeing this drying trend — at least out here in the Southwest and the West, and so we’re going to see more of these fire weather days per year,” Weber said.

Mexico to reroute trade railway connection from Texas to New Mexico due to Abbot’s $4 billion stunt.

Daily Kos

Mexico to reroute trade railway connection from Texas to New Mexico due to Abbot’s $4 billion stunt.

Gabe Ortiz, Daily Kos Staff – May 03, 2022 

PHARR, TX - APRIL 13: A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper inspects a commercial truck near the Pharr-Reynosa International bridge on April 13, 2022 in Pharr, Texas. The bridge reopened to commercial traffic after 5 p.m. after being closed since Monday because of Mexican truckers on strike. (Photo by Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)
“A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper inspects a commercial truck near the Pharr-Reynosa International bridge on April 13, 2022 in Pharr, Texas.”

Mexico has been planning a trade railway that spans thousands of miles from Mazatlán to Winnipeg, with a connection in Texas. But while the T-MEC Corridor railway connecting the two nations is still happening, the stop in Texas is not.

Mexican officials have now decided to instead reroute the line through New Mexico, The Dallas Morning News reports. It’s a major loss for Texas, because border states thrive and depend on international trade. But the state has only one person to blame for this change: Greg Abbott.

RELATED STORY: Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star border stunt balloons by another $500 million

Mexican Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier said Abbott’s political stunt forcing commercial vehicles to undergo redundant inspections caused officials to rethink the Texas connection, all but calling the right-wing governor too volatile to deal with. Abbott shut down his $4 billion stunt just ten days after announcing it, following intense bipartisan opposition ranging from fellow state Republicans to the White House.

“We’re now not going to use Texas,” Clouthier said in the report. “We can’t leave all the eggs in one basket and be hostages to someone who wants to use trade as a political tool.”

But despite Texas’ own data showing that the governor’s redundant inspections turned up precisely zero migrants or drugs, he’s threatened to reinstate the policy. Not because of some new perceived threat—but because he didn’t like critical remarks by Mexico’s president. That threat probably didn’t help Abbott’s case when it came to the rail line—but why should Mexican officials further deal with a hostile actor when there are far friendlier neighbors?

“Jerry Pacheco, president of the Santa Teresa-based Border Industrial Association, called Clouthier’s announcement ‘a very positive step for New Mexico,’ but cautioned that such a project will take years to complete and ‘anything can happen in that time,’” The Dallas Morning News said. Pacheco told the outlet that they hope this fosters a continued relationship even if there’s a snag with the line.

“If this particular project doesn’t work out, there’ll be other projects that the Mexican government will have and they’ll speak favorably of New Mexico because they know we want to work with them in a constructive way,” Pacheco continued. He noted that Abbott’s stunt forcing massive commercial delays led to higher traffic numbers for his state.

Economists in Texas have said Texas’ now-rescinded policy “will cost the equivalent of 77,000 job years for the country and 36,300 for Texas’ economy,” The Dallas Morning News recently reported. Nationally, Abbott caused us roughly $9 billion in lost gross domestic product. But he’s also going to have to grapple with the interpersonal damage he created with his neighbor to the south (that is, if he even cares). The Dallas Morning News in its newer report said that Mexican Foreign Minster Marcelo Ebrard called Abbott’s policy extortion.

“I close the border and you have to sign whatever I say,” he said is what Abbott was forcing on them. “That’s not a deal; a deal is when you and I are in agreement on something.”

RELATED STORIES:  Angry over Mexico’s remarks, Abbott threatens to reinstate stunt that cost state $4 billion

Americans are moving out of urban counties like never before

Yahoo! Finance

Americans are moving out of urban counties like never before

Grace O’Donnell and Adriana Belmonte – April 28, 2022

Americans leaving urban counties reached a new high in 2021 as droves of people settled in suburban and exurban counties.

More than two-thirds of large urban counties saw their populations decline, according to a recent report by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) that used federal statistics. This marked the first time in 50 years that counties with an urban center and more than 250,000 people experienced negative growth as a category.

While some migration patterns had been in effect before the pandemic, COVID-era remote work and delayed immigration accelerated the shift.

“The big key takeaway to me was just how dramatic the effect was in 2021,” August Benzow, the lead researcher on the study, told Yahoo Finance.

Rural areas grew in population between 2020 and 2021. (Map: EIG)
(Map: EIG)

Exurban counties saw the biggest increase across the board, with about 80% gaining population. These counties are defined as areas with “a population smaller than 50,000, at least 25 percent of their population in a large or medium-sized suburb, and must be in a metro with a population of 500,000 or higher.”

“While there has been much discussion of a flight to the suburbs, the share of suburban counties growing actually declined,” the report stated. “Instead, exurban and rural counties saw a rising share of counties that gained population, with non-metropolitan rural counties seeing the highest population gain since 2008.”

The share of rural counties with population growth underscored the demand for more remote places.

‘Bigger, cheaper housing’

Housing affordability and spaciousness are likely culprits for the shift away from major cities.

“The tendency is just for people to maybe be attracted to cities when they’re younger and then move out to the suburbs and exurban places to find bigger, cheaper housing when they choose to have families,” Benzow said. “That trend has always sort of defined the map.”

Urban counties saw huge gains in the early 2000s that began petering out after the Great Recession. In 2011, nearly all of the top 15 counties for population growth were large urban counties, whereas just three were in 2021.

“That trend really picked up after COVID hit and during the pandemic as people started, for different reasons, exiting these more urban counties and moving further out,” Benzow said. “Suburbs are the dominant forces of the landscape in terms of being where the cheap affordable big housing is.”

People wearing masks load furniture into a U-haul moving truck in New York City. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

The result of the outward expansion from major metropolitan areas such as New York City and Washington D.C. created a phenomenon that has been called the “donut effect.” As counties farther out from city centers grow their populations, city centers become hollowed out due to departing residents.

However, the influx of people to suburbs and exurbs is more welcome in some places than in others.

In some areas like Billings, Montana, the housing inventory hasn’t been able to keep up with the increased demand, which has driven up housing costs for new and long-time residents alike. Other counties surrounding major cities hope to make the most of the population growth.

“There are definitely some negative effects in places that are getting too many people at once,” Benzow said. “But then there’s also the places that have been on the outskirts of metros and have maybe not seen a lot of populations grow and now are benefiting from having more people coming in and creating more jobs and more economic activity.”

Benzow added that “it’s a mixed bag, and it depends on how places can soak up all these newcomers and to what extent that’s a permanent shift too.”

More people left urban areas between 2020-2021, particularly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. (Chart: National Bureau of Economic Research)
More people left urban areas between 2020-2021, particularly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. (Chart: National Bureau of Economic Research)
‘Sunbelt and the Mountain West continued to outshine’

Another population dynamic that showed no indication of slowing down was migration Westward.

For instance, Phoenix’s Maricopa County, Arizona, experienced the most significant population growth despite being classified as a large urban county.

“Overall, the Sunbelt and the Mountain West continued to outshine the rest of the country,” the report stated. “Remote rural counties in eastern Oregon and northern Idaho experienced robust population growth while every single county in Nevada gained population.”

Urban cores in the Great Plains and Midwest generally fared worse, with some exceptions, while all large urban counties lost population in the Northeast. In the South, Wake County in North Carolina, which encompasses Raleigh, bucked the trend by adding 16,651 residents, and metropolitan areas in Texas and Florida largely retained their populations.

Aerial shot of suburban homes under construction in Marana, Arizona.
(Getty Images)

How these demographic shifts affect key issues such as labor markets, political maps, and resource distribution has yet to unfold.

“We’re still kind of waiting for the dust to settle” from the upheaval that the pandemic brought about, Benzow said.

“Some of the effects of the pandemic that drove this outmigration are likely temporary, such as young people moving back in with their parents and the more affluent retreating to vacation homes,” Benzow wrote in the report. “However, it seems less likely that those who purchased homes in the suburbs and exurbs during the pandemic, motivated in part by new remote work options, will be selling and moving back to cities.”

Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance.

Grace is an assistant editor for Yahoo Finance.