Recycling Is Broken. Should I Even Bother?

Every little bit helps. But doing it wrong can actually make matters worse.

By Winston Choi – Schagrin – June 17, 2024

A colorful illustration of two hands holding a jumble of household items including a can, a magazine, a wine bottle and a shampoo bottle. The background is hot pink and the items are framed by a green “chasing arrows” recycling symbol.
Credit…Naomi Anderson – Subryan

Recycling can have big environmental benefits. For one thing, it keeps unwanted objects out of landfills or incinerators, where they can produce potent greenhouse gasses and potentially hazardous pollutants.

Even more important, recycling allows us to extract fewer resources. The amount of energy required to recycle aluminum, for example, is less than 5 percent of the energy needed to mine new ore from the ground. Similarly, the more paper we recycle, the fewer trees we cut down.

But recycling rates in the United States have remained stubbornly flat for years. And, in some cases, they’re dismal. Just 10 percent of plastics are actually recycled. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of tons of recyclable waste are exported, often to developing countries.

It’s no wonder a lot of readers have asked us whether individual efforts make any difference at all. To answer that question, it helps to understand how the system works and how people use it.

The way the system is set up, recycling is a business. And our recyclables — metals, paper, and plastics — are commodities.

When you throw something into the blue bin, whether it’s recyclable or not, it gets carted off to a sorting plant where it runs along a conveyor belt and gets grouped with similar items. Then, the recyclable stuff is bundled. The process is labor-intensive.

One of the biggest challenges is that companies don’t want their material contaminated with things they don’t recycle or can’t recycle. The more random stuff that goes into a sorting plant, the more work facilities need to do to weed it out. And that increases costs.

Once that’s done, if the plant can find a buyer at a price that makes sense, the bundles will be shipped off to a recycling plant. Sometimes a local one, and sometimes one as far away as Africa or Southeast Asia. If they can’t, everything goes into a landfill or gets incinerated.

Recycling metals makes a lot of sense from an economic perspective, for the reasons outlined above. It’s just a lot cheaper than scraping ore from the ground. And, metals like aluminum can be endlessly recycled.

It also makes environmental sense. Mining contaminates soil and waterways. Recycling aluminum cans requires just a small fraction of the energy and water that mining does.

And recycling paper helps keep forests intact. Paper packaging accounts for around 10 percent of global logging, according to the forest conservation group Canopy. We save water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions when we recycle compared with products made from new pulp.

With glass and plastics, however, things start to get complicated.

Although intact glass is endlessly recyclable (the process has been around since Roman times) it often gets crushed or damaged on its way to sorting facilities, lowering its quality and sometimes rendering it unusable.

And “plastics” is an umbrella term for a seemingly endless number of different compounds with different chemicals and additives that can determine every attribute from color to stiffness.

That’s a problem for recyclers. Different kinds of plastic can’t be melted down together, so they have to be painstakingly, and expensively, sorted by color and composition.

Also: Plastics, if recycled at all, are usually “downcycled” into garden furniture or plastic fiber for insulation, after which it’s no longer recyclable. Recycling plastics again and again isn’t usually possible.

The result is that manufacturers often opt for new plastic, made from the plentiful byproducts of oil and gas, because it’s cheaper and easier.

One way to improve recycling is to regulate what can be sold in the first place. Almost three dozen countries in Africa have banned single-use plastics. And 170 countries have pledged to “significantly reduce” the use of plastics by 2030.

Another way is with technology, said Cody Marshall, the chief system optimization officer at The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit organization. More sorting plants are adopting better optical scanners that can detect a greater variety of plastics. (That technology is improving, but it’s still imperfect.)

When you do buy things, consider whether you can recycle the packaging. When choosing drinks, metal containers are generally better than plastics. When you shop online, you can sometimes ask for less packaging, as with Amazon’s “frustration-free” option. And remember the first two Rs: reduce and reuse.

Although these are small things you can do, the reality is that recycling’s challenges are systemic.

So, is it worth the effort?

In theory, every item you recycle can keep resources in the ground, avoid greenhouse gases and help keep the environment healthy. And that’s all good.

“The value is in displacing virgin materials,” said Reid Lifset, a research scholar at Yale’s School of the Environment.

But here’s the critical part: Don’t wish-cycle.

Follow the instructions provided by your local hauler. If you throw in stuff they don’t want, the effort needed to weed it out makes it less likely that anything will get recycled at all.

Freedom’s Just Another Word for Not Paying Taxes

By Paul Krugman, Opinion Columnist  – June 10, 2024

An American flag being flown upside-down next to the flag of the Heritage Foundation.
Outside the Heritage Foundation in Washington on May 31.Credit…Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

After Donald Trump was convicted on 34 felony counts, the Heritage Foundation — a right-wing think tank that has, among other things, produced the Project 2025 agenda, a blueprint for policy if Trump wins — flew an upside-down American flag, which has become an emblem for support of MAGA in general and election denial in particular.

This action may have shocked some old-line conservatives who still thought of Heritage as a serious institution, but Heritage is, after all, just a think tank. It’s not as if upside-down flags were being flown by people we expect to defend our constitutional order, like Supreme Court justices.

Oh, wait.

But Heritage’s embrace of what amounts to an attack on democracy is a useful symbol of one of the really troubling developments of this election as it heads into the final stretch. Heritage presents itself as a defender of freedom, but its real mission has always been to produce arguments — frequently based on shoddy research — for low taxes on rich people. And its tacit endorsement of lawlessness illustrates the way many of America’s plutocrats — both in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street — have, after flirting with the crank candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., been rallying around Trump.

Why would billionaires support Trump? It’s not as if they’ve done badly under President Biden. Stock prices — which Trump predicted would crash if he lost in 2020 — have soared. High interest rates, which are a burden on many Americans, are if anything a net positive for wealthy people with money to invest. And I doubt that the superrich are suffering much from higher prices for fast food.

Wealthy Americans, though, are surely betting they’ll pay lower taxes if Trump wins.

Biden and his team have offered fairly explicit guidance about their tax agenda, which would directly raise taxes on high-income Americans and also raise corporate taxes, which would indirectly be mainly a tax on the wealthy. These measures wouldn’t produce taxes at the top remotely comparable to what they were during the Eisenhower years, when the top marginal income tax rate was 91 percent and large estates could face inheritance taxes as high as 77 percent. Still, Biden’s plans, if carried out, would make the rich a bit less rich.

Trump has been far less explicit, but he clearly wants to retain his 2017 tax cut in full, and his allies in Congress are committed not just to tax cuts but to starving the Internal Revenue Service of resources, which would allow more wealthy Americans to evade the taxes they legally owe.

So billionaires aren’t wrong in thinking they’ll pay less in taxes if Trump wins. But why aren’t they more concerned about the bigger picture?

After all, even if all you care about is money, Trump’s agenda should make you very worried. His advisers’ plans to deport millions of immigrants (supposedly only the undocumented, but do you really believe many legal residents wouldn’t get caught up in the dragnets?) would shrink the U.S. labor force and be hugely disruptive. His protectionist proposals (which would be very different from Biden’s targeted measures) could mean an all-out global trade war. If he’s able to make good on them, his attacks on the independence of the Federal Reserve risk much more serious inflation than anything we’ve experienced in recent years.

Beyond all that, Trump will almost certainly try to weaponize the justice system to go after his perceived enemies. Only someone completely ignorant of history would imagine himself safe from that kind of weaponization — even if Trump considers you an ally now, that can change in an instant.

And if you’ve been following Trump’s rantings, you know that his rhetoric is getting less rational and more vindictive by the week. Yet his support among billionaires seems if anything to be consolidating.

So what’s going on? Here’s what I think, although it’s admittedly speculative.

First, America’s oligarchs probably believe that their wealth and influence would protect them from the arbitrary exercise of power. Trump and company might turn corrupt law enforcement and a cowed judiciary against other people, but surely not them! By the time they realized how wrong they were, it would be too late.

As I’ve written before, the superrich can be remarkably obtuse and ignorant of history.

Second, at some level I don’t really think it’s about the money. How much difference does it make to a billionaire’s quality of life if he has to settle for a slightly smaller superyacht? At the top of the pyramid, wealth is largely about status and self-importance; as Tom Wolfe wrote long ago, it’s about “seeing ’em jump.”

And when politicians don’t jump, when they don’t treat the very wealthy with the deference and admiration they consider their due, some of them become enraged. We saw this when many Wall Streeters turned on President Barack Obama — after he helped bail them out in the financial crisis — because they felt insulted by his occasional criticisms.

Biden is hardly a class warrior, but he clearly doesn’t worship the superrich. And all too many of them are turning to Trump out of sheer pettiness.

The Secret Reasons Why You Should Always Tip In Cash

Delish

The Secret Reasons Why You Should Always Tip In Cash

Taylor Ann Spencer – May 30, 2024

dollar banknotes and coins, money tips
Why You Should Always Tip In Cashvinnstock – Getty Images

We live in an era of cash-free convenience. We buy most things by swiping or tapping credit cards or holding our phones up to a screen. We prefer to tip our servers, bartenders, and hair stylists the same way because it’s as simple as hitting a button.

But what if I told you that there are several practical reasons why we should all be tipping exclusively in cash? The fast is, cash tipping is the only way to ensure that your servers actually walk away with 100% of their tip money.

As a former NYC bartender and server, I have plenty of my own opinions, but I also talked to several former and current service industry workers to get their perspective. Here’s why you should consider bypassing the credit card tip screen and leaving cash instead.

The Server Gets the Tip Immediately

One of the biggest reasons to tip in cash is that the service worker will receive that money immediately. This is a big bonus on both a psychological and a practical level. According to Colton Trowbridge, a longtime server who has worked in both Kansas and NYC restaurants, cash tips are better because they provide immediate evidence of earning money: instant gratification.

“It feels a little bit more real when it’s in your hand,” he says. This might sound trivial, but when you’re in the middle of a crazy eight-hour brunch shift and your guaranteed hourly rate is only 50% of the legal minimum wage, tangible proof that you are actually earning decent money counts for a lot.

Cash tips are also important because they mean that the server will likely get to take the money home that night. They won’t need to wait two weeks to receive it with a paycheck. This is often true even if the server has to pool their cash tips with others at the end of the night. “I have worked in a pooled house where cash is divided up evenly and then it’s given to you,” Trowbridge shared. “In that case, I prefer it for sure.”

For some servers, this day-to-day cash flow might not be necessary. For others, it might be as critically important as allowing them to buy food for their families or pay the babysitter who watched their children while they were working. Of course this varies by the individual, and there’s no way customers can know a specific worker’s situation. Regardless, cash is always the better bet.

Cash Tips Leave Less Margin for Error

There’s significantly less margin for error when you tip in cash. Think about it: a $10 bill is $10, and when you give it to your server, they have it securely in their hand and its value is indisputable.

But when you tip on a credit card, there are many potential pitfalls. If you’re writing the tip on a printed slip, there’s the possibility for written errors. Maybe you put the period in the wrong place and ended up tipping way less (or way more!) than you intended. Maybe you forgot to sign the slip or, worse, took the signed slip with you by accident.

I have personally lost at least two or three sizable tips when customers erroneously walked out the door with those slips. In these cases, the restaurant’s payment has already been processed, but the only proof of the tip left on the credit card is that slip they scrawled on. Without it, the server is left empty-handed.

glass tip jar at checkout counter
Catherine McQueen – Getty Images
Businesses Can Deduct Credit Card Processing Fees From Tips

No, you didn’t misread that. In most states, it is 100% legal for businesses to pay their credit card processing fees from the tip money left for servers on credit cards.

This is clearly stated on the U.S. Department of Labor website under the Fair Labor Standards Act: “tips are charged on customers’ credit cards…the employer may pay the employee the tip, less that [credit card service fee] percentage.”

Only Maine, Massachusetts, and California have laws banning this. So, to be absolutely clear, if you have tipped a server on a credit card in any other state, there’s a high probability that the server (or the pooled house the server belonged to) didn’t receive the full tip you left them.

Most businesses do not necessarily tell their staff when they are removing the fees from the tip pool. Trowbridge shared that he has worked at one restaurant where he knew they were taking out the fees, but only because he asked them point-blank.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something that most people are aware of.” Since then, he has worked in several other spots where he and his fellow servers might have been losing out on credit card tip money because of processing fees, yet it was never really discussed. “It’s definitely not a big topic of conversation in the industry.”

In this age of contactless payment, it takes extra planning to make sure you have cash on hand for tipping. But all things considered, it’s definitely worth it. Next time you reach the optional tipping screen, hit “skip” and tell your server you’ll be leaving the tip in cash. They’ll appreciate that extra effort.

Southern US city tops list of dirtiest in the nation, study says

Fox News

Southern US city tops list of dirtiest in the nation, study says

Pilar Arias – May 29, 2024

Southern US city tops list of dirtiest in the nation, study says

A recent survey named the “dirtiest” city in the U.S., and earning the top spot this year is none other than Houston, taking the crown from last year’s dirtiest, Newark, New Jersey.

Houston’s ranking in the study from LawnStarter came after a comparison of 152 U.S. cities in the categories of pollution, living conditions, infrastructure and customer satisfaction.

The study says Houston, also known as Space City, is the third most polluted of all the cities ranked, behind San Bernardino, California, and Peoria, Arizona. It cites another study that “found that the city’s petrochemical facilities severely violate EPA safety guidelines.”

LawnStarter data says Houston ranks “third worst in greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial facilities,” and the city has “the biggest cockroach problem, too.”

A spokesperson for the Houston Solid Waste Management Department — which is in charge of waste collection, disposal and recycling — did not immediately respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment.

ALLIGATOR DISCOVERED TAKING BITES OUT OF DEAD WOMAN IN HOUSTON

Last year’s reigning champion, Newark, slipped to the overall rank of No. 2.

Rounding up the top 10 are San Bernardino; Detroit; Jersey City, New Jersey; Bakersfield, California; San Antonio; Fresno, California; Oklahoma City; and Yonkers, New York. New York City came in at No. 12.

RESIDENTS IN TEXAS, OKLAHOMA SEEK SHELTER AS TORNADO DAMAGES HOMES, OVERTURNS TRUCKS

The Houston, Texas skyline
The Houston skyline and I-45 commuter traffic at dusk.

So why does any of this matter? LawnStarter said the study is meant to have people look beyond garbage, pests and poor waste management, saying the negative effects from living in dirty cities can be worse than people realize, citing health problems such as lung cancer, heart disease and stroke that can stem from air pollution.

“Here’s the bottom line: Dirty cities aren’t just an eyesore — they also damage our bodies and our wallets,” LawnStarter says.

NYC looting from TMX
New York City, where a store is seen after a looting in 2022, did not even make the top 10 list of dirtiest cities in the U.S.

LawnStarter provides lawn care providers to customers via its website and mobile application. The company used the survey as an opportunity to attract new business.

“Clean cities tend to have lots of tidy, healthy, green lawns,” they said.

Original article source: Southern US city tops list of dirtiest in the nation, study says

America’s dirtiest city is revealed — and it’s not NYC or anywhere near the north

New York Post

America’s dirtiest city is revealed — and it’s not NYC or anywhere near the north

Mary K. Jacob – May 28, 2024

The dirtiest city in America is not exactly what you would expect it to be.
The dirtiest city in America is not exactly what you would expect it to be.

Do you think New York’s filthy sidewalks, gross subway cars and rat infestations make it America’s dirtiest city? You’re in for quite a surprise.

A recent study by LawnStarter has crowned Houston, Texas, as the nation’s dirtiest city — bumping Newark, New Jersey from the top spot.

New York City, despite its notorious grime, didn’t even crack the top 10. It landed in 12th place. While the Big Apple dodged the title of dirtiest, it’s still grappling with its trash and pest problems.

The dirtiest city in America is not exactly what you would expect it to be. NY Post composite
The dirtiest city in America is not exactly what you would expect it to be. NY Post composite
A recent study found that Houston currently stands as the dirtiest city in America. Houston Chronicle via Getty Images
A recent study found that Houston currently stands as the dirtiest city in America. Houston Chronicle via Getty Images
Trash floating around a construction barge at Buffalo Bayou in Houston. Houston Chronicle via Getty Imag
Trash floating around a construction barge at Buffalo Bayou in Houston. Houston Chronicle via Getty Imag

Houston’s new dubious honor stems from its terrible air quality, infrastructure woes and a staggering number of pests invading homes.

LawnStarter’s sister site PestGnome pulled data showing Houston has the worst cockroach problem, with the city crawling with the creepy critters.

It’s not just Houston; southern cities seem to be a haven for cockroaches. San Antonio, Texas and Tampa, Florida, join Houston in the top three for cockroach infestations.

If cockroaches aren’t your nightmare, steer clear of Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. These cities top the list for rodent-infested homes.

A chart showing the nation’s worst offenders. Lawn Starter
A chart showing the nation’s worst offenders. Lawn Starter

Despite California’s hefty spending on cleaning efforts, several of its cities still rank poorly. San Bernardino, notorious as the “armpit” of California, ranks fourth dirtiest due to atrocious air quality.

Riverside and Ontario, also in the LA metro area, share this dismal air status, now plagued by pollution-heavy warehouses that have replaced orange groves and vineyards.

San Francisco, however, shines as a cleaner gem in California. With a $72.5 million street cleaning spree in 2019 and an additional $16.7 million budget in 2023, it’s among the cleaner half of US cities.

Newark, New Jersey ranked second of the dirtiest cities in America. mandritoiu – stock.adobe.com
Newark, New Jersey ranked second of the dirtiest cities in America. mandritoiu – stock.adobe.com

But this doesn’t account for the rising homeless and drug epidemic facing the city.

Dirty air isn’t the only issue — drinking water contamination is rampant in the southwest. Except for Salt Lake City, every major southwest city violated the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2020. Las Vegas, ranking 19th dirtiest overall, has the most unsafe water in the region.

Ohioans have a particular knack for littering cigarette butts. With five Ohio cities boasting the highest share of smokers, the state is battling an onslaught of discarded cigarettes, despite local campaigns urging residents to kick the habit.

Surprisingly, many of the cleanest cities are coastal, with Virginia Beach topping the list.

However, being near water isn’t a cleanliness guarantee — Fremont, California, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, also rank among the most pristine cities despite their inland locations.

Biden wants dishwashers to be more efficient. Republicans see a ‘war on appliances.’

Yahoo! News 360

Biden wants dishwashers to be more efficient. Republicans see a ‘war on appliances.’

Mike Bebernes, Senior Editor – April 22, 2024

Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images
What’s happening

Before Iran’s attack on Israel prompted them to change plans, last week was supposed to be “appliance week” for Republicans in the House of Representatives. The House GOP had scheduled a review of a slate of bills with names like the Hands Off Our Home Appliances Act, the Liberty in Laundry Act and the Refrigerator Freedom Act.

Each of these bills is a response to new energy efficiency standards from the Biden administration that, when they go into effect a few years from now, will require a whole range of household appliances to use less energy and water. Over the past year or so, the Department of Energy has released new standards for products including dishwashersair conditionerswater heatershome furnaceswashing machinesrefrigerators and even lightbulbs.

There’s nothing unique about President Biden requiring appliances to be more efficient. It’s been common practice for presidents of both parties since the first standards went into effect in the late 1980s. Over the years, these rules have helped drastically cut the amount of energy the typical household appliance uses. The average refrigerator sold today, for example, consumes 75% less energy than its equivalent in 1973 despite having significantly more storage space.

In previous decades, most of these changes were met with little pushback, but there’s been a groundswell of opposition to government-mandated efficiency standards within the Republican Party over the past few years. A big reason for that is former President Donald Trump, who regularly complained about energy-efficient lightbulbs and low-flow toilets during his time in office. Trump’s administration rolled back rules for some products and only consented to updating the standards on others when ordered to do so by a federal court.

Many Republicans now accuse Biden of waging a “war on appliances,” and efficiency standards have become part of a larger cultural battle. The dishwasher claims echo the uproar that emerged in 2022 when Republicans falsely claimed the president intended to ban gas stoves.

Why there’s debate

Supporters say strong energy efficiency rules are a win-win for consumers and the environment. Beyond the benefits to the climate achieved by reducing the use of fossil fuels and water that home appliances consume, the program will have helped American households save trillions of dollars on their energy bills by the end of the decade, according to estimates from the DOE.

But critics of Biden’s new standards argue that while the rules may have been necessary to phase out inefficient machines of the past, they do more harm than good because they limit consumer choice. These critics say the free market already gives manufacturers a strong incentive to make efficient products. Others add that at a certain point, the standards backfire because they lead to products that simply don’t work well.

Many liberals say the debate over Biden’s efficiency plans is just a political controversy manufactured by Republicans in an attempt to make the president appear like a “big government” tyrant.

What’s next

At the moment, it’s unclear if the House GOP has any plans to reschedule its “appliance week.”

Most of the Biden administration’s new efficiency standards won’t go into effect until 2027 or 2028, but it’s possible that Trump may attempt to intervene to block them if he regains the presidency.

Perspectives

We can’t confront the challenge of climate change without curbing emissions everywhere we can

“Efficiency now is all about the opportunism. It’s also more critical than ever to meeting climate change goals. As more buildings and cars switch from fossil fuels to electric power, efficiency will be equally important to make sure the grid is actually meeting the strain from rising demand.” — Rebecca Leber, Vox

The government should just let people buy whatever they want

“What today’s environmentalists fail to realize is that people will change their purchasing behavior as it becomes easier and cheaper to do so, that the products they seek to impose will, in many cases, inevitably become part of the marketplace if they’re good enough. In the meantime, they’ve made our kitchens and cooking worse, with no real effect beyond annoyance and cost increases.” — Liz Wolfe, Reason

Efficiency rules have made our appliances better, not worse

“Making appliances more energy efficient does not affect their durability and quality. All of that … rests on the hands of the manufacturer and their designers.” — Shanika Whitehurst, associate director for product sustainability, research and testing at Consumer Reports, to NPR

The standards lead to worse products that cost more

“Americans have learned the hard way that stricter efficiency rules on already efficient appliances translate into higher costs, inconvenience, and ultimately waste.” — Editorial, Wall Street Journal

When energy-efficient products don’t get the job done, people end up being more wasteful

“Regulations that cap dishwashers at 3.1 gallons of water (who came up with that figure?) result in dishes that get less clean, which means a second run or washing dishes by hand. Low-flow toilets might use less water per flush, but are they actually saving water if you must flush two or three times to do the job? Rule-making bureaucrats rarely consider such questions — and we mustn’t ask them.” — Jon Miltimore, Washington Examiner

Strong rules ensure consumers make the right choices

“Part of the reason we have regulation is that consumers can’t research every product they buy. People normally count on regulators to decide these issues for them.” — Andrew Koppelman, Northwestern University law professor, to the Nation

Republicans are inventing a controversy for political gain

“This might all sound like a commonsense win-win: changes that save people money, reduce emissions, and are well within the bounds of long-established federal statute. Republicans beg to differ, of course. To hear the right tell it, new appliance efficiency regulations are the equivalent of federal agents barging, guns blazing, into the homes of hardworking Americans to burgle their laundry rooms.” — Kate Aronoff, New Republic

Suspicious Frying Oil From China Is Hurting US Biofuels Business

Bloomberg

Suspicious Frying Oil From China Is Hurting US Biofuels Business

Kim Chipman, Tarso Veloso and Michael Hirtzer – May 7, 2024

(Bloomberg) — China is flooding the US with used cooking oil that the biofuel industry says may be tainted, hurting American farmers and President Joe Biden’s push to promote climate-friendly energy.

US imports of used cooking oil, an ingredient to make renewable diesel, more than tripled in 2023 from a year earlier, with more than 50% coming from China, according to the US International Trade Commission. American industry groups and biofuel executives are becoming increasingly worried that a significant amount of those supplies are fraudulent, and are urging the government to tighten scrutiny on the imports.

The heightened suspicions come after the European biofuel industry expressed similar concerns about cooking oil from China last year. Used cooking oil has a better carbon intensity score than feedstocks widely produced in the US like fresh soybean oil, so any potentially tainted imports are benefiting from Biden’s renewables incentives at the expense of American farmers.

Read More: Asia Floods Europe with Green Fuel Suspected to Be Fraudulent

“We’re putting more pressure on the US government to say what are we really importing,” said Todd Becker, chief executive officer of Green Plains Inc., which through its production of ethanol sells distillers corn oil, also a green diesel ingredient. “Somebody’s got to figure out that that’s not all Chinese used cooking oil.”

Tainted used cooking oil would exacerbate a challenging situation for farmers and agriculture companies. Companies including Bunge Global SA and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. have been counting on soaring demand for crop-based green diesel feedstocks, but competition from foreign imports is eating into profits and jeopardizing ambitious expansion plans. More broadly, there is a risk that illegal shipments could worsen trade tensions between China and the US.

Imports of used cooking oil, or UCO, amounted to 1.4 million metric tons (3.1 billion pounds) in 2023 — equivalent to the oil squeezed from more than 6% of US soybeans crushed to make soyoil last season. In addition to having a more favorable carbon intensity score, UCO is also priced about a third cheaper than refined soyoil.

Read More: Soaring Imports of Green Diesel Feedstocks Disrupt US Soy Market

One of the biggest concerns is that China shippers are adding UCO to fresh palm oil. Palm, the world’s most widely used vegetable oil, is a bane to environmentalists and many countries because the industry is a key driver of deforestation in places like Indonesia as well as tied to labor abuses.

China’s Ministry of Commerce didn’t respond to a faxed request for comment.

The Environmental Protection Agency has had discussions with industry stakeholders, including the National Oilseed Processors Association, about concerns over increased imports of UCO and other food wastes, according to agency spokesman Nick Conger. He said the EPA is aware of the increased imports and that will be a factor in establishing volumes for and implementing the Renewable Fuel Standard Program, a law that mandates how much biofuel must be blended into the country’s fuel supply each year.

Under RFS, producers using UCO or animal waste such as beef tallow are required to keep records that vow the ingredients meet the legal definition of “renewable biomass” as well as describe the ingredient and identify the process used to obtain it.

“We are concerned that unless EPA and other agencies get a handle on this pretty quickly, it could potentially undermine the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Geoff Cooper, chief executive officer of Renewable Fuels Association, said in an interview.

The surge in UCO imports is a top issue for NOPA, the trade group representing US seed processing industries for soybeans, canola and other crops. CEO Kailee Tkacz Buller said the group has had talks with federal lawmakers and agencies including the EPA and US Department of Agriculture.

Asia is by far the world’s biggest UCO supplier, led by China. The European Union initiated a probe into Asian imports last year at the request of European biodiesel producers, but the request was dropped. While the producers didn’t explicitly provide a reason for the change, they noted that biodiesel shipments to the EU from China’s Hainan Island — a green-fuel hot spot — immediately stopped after the start of the investigation.

“There is plenty of suspicion and lots of stories and anecdotes floating around,” said Cooper. “It appears to be one of the worst kept secrets out there that this is happening.”

–With assistance from Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Gerson Freitas Jr..

Oldest living Japanese American, 110, shares her longevity tips and the 1 food she eats every day

NBC News

Oldest living Japanese American, 110, shares her longevity tips and the 1 food she eats every day

Aryelle Siclait, TODAY – May 7, 2024

With 110 years of life behind her, Yoshiko Miwa isn’t going to wallow in the negative, and she doesn’t want you to either.

The oldest living person of Japanese descent in the United States, according to the Gerontology Research Group, Miwa prefers to focus on the times when she was happiest. She’s lived through the Spanish flu, prohibition, Black Tuesday, World War II, and the losses of her parents, siblings and friends, and still the supercentenarian’s go-to piece of longevity advice is: Don’t dwell.

Miwa is part of the nisei — the second-generation Japanese Americans sent to internment camps during World War II — who often say “gaman,” which translates to “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity,” Alan Miwa, her son, tells TODAY.com. It’s often loosely translated to “perseverance,” “patience,” or “tolerance.”

These feelings, Alan Miwa suspects, are born from the resilience of many from his mother’s generation — who had much to endure. Shikata ga nai (仕方がない), a Japanese phrase meaning, “It cannot be helped,” or, “Nothing can be done about it,” is a common saying among them, too, he adds.

Yoshiko Miwa was born Yoshiko Tanaka on Feb. 28, 1914, in Guadalupe, California, to Japanese immigrants. She was the fifth of seven children. When her mother and infant brother died in 1919, her father struggled to care for his family and tend to the farm he owned. So Yoshiko Miwa and her siblings were sent to live at the children’s home founded by their parish, Guadalupe Buddhist Church.

She went on to graduate from Santa Maria High School in 1932, and she studied business at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1936. She married Henry Miwa in 1939.

During the Second World War, the pair and their families were sent to Poston Internment Camp in Arizona before relocating to Hawthorne, California, after the war. When they, along with many other Japanese people, had difficulty finding work upon their release in 1945, her husband founded a plant nursery business, and in 1963, Yoshiko Miwa got her nursing license.

Yoshiko Miwa has three sons, 10 grandchildren, 20 great-grand children and one great-great-grandchild.

Yoshiko Miwa  (Alan Y. Miwa)
Yoshiko Miwa (Alan Y. Miwa)

These days, Alan Miwa says she’s in good health and lives in a care facility, where she gets her hair done weekly and attends church services on Sundays.

In addition to a positive spirit, keeping your mind and body active is the key to a long life, Yoshiko Miwa has said in the past. Ahead she shares a few other aspects of her life that she believes have led to her longevity.

She keeps an ever-expanding roster of hobbies

When Yoshiko Miwa retired, she’d walk 4 miles each morning. In 1990, at 76, she walked a 20K as part of the March of Dimes Walkathon. She’s an avid reader, she practices ikebana (flower arranging), sumi-e (Japanese ink art), sashiko (Japanese stitching), sewing, furniture refinishing and reupholstery.

These days, though, her favorite activity is sleeping, she tells TODAY.com via email.

She wrote an autobiography

After taking a writing course, Yoshiko Miwa penned an autobiography. In it, she recalls her travels to Rome, Japan, Paris and Niagara Falls. She describes life in the children’s home and the long walks to school, her siblings and her childhood with her parents.

“We had a big pasture for the horses and cows to graze on,” she wrote of her family’s farm her in autobiography. “Some days, my sister and I would wander around the pasture to pick wild violets that grew there.”

She loves to eat noodles

Yoshiko Miwa’s a fan of any kind of noodles, eating them every day. “When I was in the children’s home, the cook used to make noodles and I used to love them,” she says. “Today, I like spaghetti, udon, ramen, soba and any other kind of noodles.”

Her faith energizes her

Yoshiko Miwa is grateful to Rev. and Mrs. Issei Matsuura of the Guadalupe Buddhist Church, who took her in when her mother died of the Spanish flu.

Family and friends of Yoshiko Miwa at her 110th birthday celebration at the Gardena Buddhist Church. (Courtesy Alan Y. Miwa)
Family and friends of Yoshiko Miwa at her 110th birthday celebration at the Gardena Buddhist Church. (Courtesy Alan Y. Miwa)

Yoshiko Miwa was 4 years old when her father turned to the church for help. “The church then started a children’s home and taught us Buddhism, Japanese language, Japanese culture and responsibility,” she recalls. “I’ve always been indebted to Rev. and Mrs. Matsuura.”

… And her family does, too

The Miwa family travels together and hosts reunions. “I’ve been fortunate that my sons, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren and relatives have always been there for me,” says Yoshiko Miwa.

“Because my mother died so young, I have never enjoyed the warmth and love of a family unit,” she wrote in her autobiography. “Later, when I had my children, I keenly felt the wholesomeness of a complete family.”

Voters can’t tell between the arsonist and the fireman

Charlotte Observer – Opinion

Voters can’t tell between the arsonist and the fireman

Mark Gongloff, Bloomberg Opinion -The Tribune Content Agency May 02, 2024

US President Joe Biden presents his national statement as part of the World Leaders’ Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on Nov. 1, 2021. (Yves Herman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images/TNS) YVES HERMAN/POOL/AFP TNS

If you were shopping for toaster ovens and your choice was between one that posed a 1% chance of setting your house on fire and a competing one that would not only 100% set your house on fire but proudly guaranteed it right on the box, then you would probably go with the 1% model.

U.S. voters face a similar choice this November when it comes to which presidential candidate will set the climate on fire. But they don’t seem to realize how much of a no-brainer that choice truly is.

President Joe Biden may not have a spotless climate record, but he has done much more to ensure a livable environment for future generations than any of his predecessors. Donald Trump, on the other hand, not only has history’s worst climate record, but he has announced, loudly and often, that his second term would be far, far worse.

Voters haven’t received the message, according to poll after poll. The latest is from CBS News, which found that 49% of Americans have heard little or nothing about what Biden has done for the climate. More alarmingly, most Americans think neither Biden’s second-term policies nor Trump’s would make any difference to the climate. That is dangerous nonsense.

The list of what Biden has already done is long and substantial, and it goes beyond the Inflation Reduction Act, easily the biggest climate bill in history. He also passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Chips and Science Act, both with significant investments in the renewable-energy transition. He rejoined the Paris accord to limit long-term warming to 2 degrees Celsius, tightened emissions standards for power plants and cars and limited oil and gas drilling and liquefied natural gas exports. To name just a few things.

Biden has frustrated environmentalists at times with compromises such as approving the Willow drilling project in Alaska and pulling some regulatory punches on emissions and corporate disclosures. But he has done these things mostly in the name of getting reelected – which may sound cynical, until you consider the person who will be elected if Biden is not.

During his first term, Trump ditched the Paris accord and loosened regulatory fetters on the fossil-fuel and other polluting industries at the worst possible moment, just as the global concentration of atmospheric carbon was reaching dangerous levels. A Trump restoration would again come at a key point, just when scientists say the window to avoid the worst effects of a chaotic climate is slamming shut.

And Trump’s advisers are vowing to wreck progress even more aggressively in a second term. The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 lays out an agenda for Trump II that includes leaving the Paris accord again; undoing Biden’s efforts to regulate pollution; repealing the IRA or at least neutralizing it by closing the Energy Department loan office; throwing the entire country open to oil and gas exploration; and dismantling the climate-tracking National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. To name just a few things.

A second Trump term would add 4 billion extra tons of carbon to the atmosphere, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief, a nonprofit advocacy group. That’s about two-thirds of what the U.S. produces in an entire year and matches the combined annual emissions of the European Union and Japan. The global clean-energy transition has built up anti-Trump defenses in the past four years, as my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Liam Denning and I have written. But make no mistake about it: A second Trump presidency would be a disaster.

So the whole planet needs Biden to do a much better job of communicating the stark contrast between him and Trump. The first step will be overcoming the mistaken sense among his voting base that he has failed them with his compromises.

“The key voters that put Biden in office in the first place – young people, people of color, women in the suburbs – were very concerned about climate,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, told me in an interview. “Some of these same demographics think he’s done nothing or worse because of the Willow decision.”

Seven out of 10 Biden voters in 2020 said climate was important to their vote, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Nearly a fifth of Biden voters consider it their top priority, according to an Economist/YouGov poll. If he wants these voters back at the polls in November, then Biden must convince them early and often that staying home and giving Trump the White House would make all their worst fears come true.

The trick is that Biden may also need to win swing voters, most of whom don’t care as much about the environment and may fear (incorrectly) that there’s a trade-off between fighting global warming and growing the economy. That’s one reason Biden and his advisers spend so much time trumpeting the jobs the IRA and other climate actions create.

The good news is that the politics of this issue have shifted drastically in recent years. As evidence, Biden made his climate promises sharper for the general election campaign than during the Democratic primaries in 2020, Leiserowitz notes. Most Americans now think global warming is real and human-made and support Biden’s policies when they hear about them.

But we can’t wait for the battleship of public opinion to complete its U-turn. We don’t have another four years to waste.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Mark Gongloff is a Bloomberg Opinion editor and columnist covering climate change. He previously worked for Fortune.com, the Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Midwest tornadoes: What a decaying El Niño has to do with violent storms in the central US

The Conversation

Midwest tornadoes: What a decaying El Niño has to do with violent storms in the central US

Jana Lesak Houser, The Ohio State University – April 29, 2024

Dozens of tornadoes hit the central U.S. April 26-28, 2024, tearing through suburbs and small towns and damaging hundreds of homes from Oklahoma to Nebraska and Iowa.

Spring is tornado season in the U.S., but the tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa were quite a bit farther north and east of what would be typical for tornadoes in late April, when tornado activity is more common in Oklahoma and Texas.

The outbreak did fit another pattern for severe weather events, however, that occur as the atmosphere transitions out of El Niño. And this is exactly what was happening in late April.

I study tornadoes and the conditions under which they form. Here’s how these storm systems develop and what El Niño has to do with it.

Map shows lines of tornadoes across Nebraska and Iowa
Preliminary reports of tornadoes and hail during severe storms on April 26, 2024, collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center. NOAA
Map shows severe storms lines from Texas to Illinois.
Preliminary reports of tornadoes and hail on April 27, 2024, collected by the Storm Prediction Center. NOAA.
The right conditions for a tornado

Two basic conditions are required to produce the rotating supercell thunderstorms that are capable of generating tornadoes:

  1. Warm moist surface conditions and cold air above.
  2. Winds that change in both speed and direction as you move up in the atmosphere, known as vertical wind shear.

Picture a kid who has a helium balloon at a party and releases it – the balloon floats upward. Like that helium balloon, the warm moist air is less dense than the surrounding colder air, so it rises, accelerating upward. This upward motion releases heat, moisture and energy, and causes thunderstorms to develop.

As with many severe weather outbreaks that occur in the U.S., the atmosphere became primed for storms as warm moist air at the surface was being transported northward from the Gulf of Mexico by a series of surface low-pressure systems.

Higher up, about halfway between the ground and where airplanes fly, atmospheric waves within and below the jet stream were transporting cold air through the middle part of the atmosphere. These waves, formally called Rossby waves and commonly referred to as troughs and ridges, also enhanced vertical wind shear.

A small atmospheric wave that moved through the Central Plains and Midwest on April 26, helped trigger the tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa, including a large, destructive tornado in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska, and in the town of Minden, Iowa, about 30 miles away.

The following day, a bigger wave moved through Oklahoma, where tornadoes damaged several small towns that evening.

The two images show the short-wave trough, circled in red, and the longer wave, circled in orange, traveling behind it. On the left is April 26, with the short-wave trough moving through Nebraska. On the right, the longer wave is affecting Oklahoma and Kansas on April 27. <a href=
The two images show the short-wave trough, circled in red, and the longer wave, circled in orange, traveling behind it. On the left is April 26, with the short-wave trough moving through Nebraska. On the right, the longer wave is affecting Oklahoma and Kansas on April 27. TwisterData.com

What was especially important was how close these parameters were to the center of the surface low-pressure system and a warm front that extended just to the east of it. The tornado-producing storms were able to tap into that instability and draw on the strong vertical wind shear generated in the vicinity of the warm front.

A chart map of wind direction and temperature shows the warm front across Nebraska and Iowa where the tornadoes developed.
Surface temperatures (colors), winds (barbs indicating direction the wind was blowing from), surface pressure (solid black contours) indicating the location of the low pressure system (L), the warm front (red line) and the region of favorable conditions (blue circle) on the evening of April, 26, 2024. Pivotal Weather

In addition to the tornadoes, the warm moist storms brought heavy rainflash flooding and large hail across parts of the central U.S.

What El Niño has to do with tornado weather

In late 2023 and early 2024, much of the world experienced above-average temperatures, likely linked to global climate change and exacerbated by El Niño. El Niño is a naturally occurring cyclical climate phenomenon that affects both the oceans and the atmosphere.

When El Niño decays, the atmospheric waves change and can become wavier, so they have a greater amplitude. That tends to enhance conditions needed for tornadoes.

The U.S. often sees more frequent tornadoes when the climate is transitioning out of El Niño. The strong El Niño of 2023-24 was decaying in April 2024, and forecasters expect it to be gone by summer.

Forecasts can save lives

The tornadoes caused severe damage in several communities as they tore apart homes and buildings. At least five people died in the storms. But early communications that warned the public of the threat for severe weather days before the storms likely saved more lives.

Weather experts are getting better at predicting tornado conditions. It is not uncommon now to know days in advance of the actual event that an elevated threat exists. Forecasters have high-resolution weather models that can anticipate storms at an appropriate spatial scale to provide a sense of the likely organization of the storms and come close to the location.

The better we understand these storms’ attributes, the better those forecasts and warnings can become.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization bringing you facts and trustworthy analysis to help you make sense of our complex world. It was written by: Jana Lesak HouserThe Ohio State University

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Jana Lesak Houser receives funding from The National Science Foundation.