News roundup for Tue, May 10, 2022

Economy, energy, and supply chain

Recession fears are rising:Recession risks are low now but elevated in 2023 as inflation could force the Fed to hike until it hurts”, said a global economist at Bank of America. Bill Gates said that there’s a “strong argument” we’re about to see a global economic slowdown, and other top European CEOs are worried that Europe will soon face a recession, too.

US grid operators are bracing for a wave of blackouts this summer. If you’re worried about losing power here’s our off-grid power 101 guide, and our review of the best gas-powered portable generators to get you started.

There is talk about global diesel shortages. If you’re thinking about storing gas at home, here’s a handy guide on how to do that safely:

The G7 (France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the US) has now committed to banning or phasing out Russian oil. Experts warn that Europe may face an LNG (liquified natural gas) crisis this winter. In the meantime, the EU is going to give out permits for renewable projects at a faster speed to speed up the transition away from Russian gas.

The US 30-year mortgage rates hit 5.27% last week (the highest level since 2009), and gas prices hit record highs again. High UK gas prices could persist through 2025.

Visualizing how political and economic events shaped the price of oil from 1968 to March 2022:

via Visual Capitalist

Civica Rx, a nonprofit that makes generic drugs will sell generic insulin for no more than $30 for a month’s worth starting in 2024.

40% of the top-selling baby formulas were out of stock as of April 24.

Climate change

In the “It’s not even summer yet!” series, California’s largest reservoirs are at their lowest levels. The snowpack, which provides one-third of CA’s water supplies, has already melted much faster than expected due to warmer-than-average temperatures.

Human activity and climate change are ruining the layers of fungi, lichen, and bacteria that protect deserts. Researchers estimate that biocrusts will disappear by 25%–40% within 65 years. It can take decades for this crust to reappear after it has been disturbed or the bacteria died out. Without it, the desert would turn into a dust bowl.

The number of flying insects in the UK has plunged by almost 60% since 2004. Although this is “terrifying” news considering that life on Earth depends on insects, there is a need for more large-scale surveys to understand these numbers.

Did you know that tidal is one of the most predictable sources of renewable energy? But projects can take years to materialize, and it only really works in specific locations. The UK has one of the highest tidal ranges worldwide, and “almost 50% of the world’s installed tidal stream capacity is in UK waters”, making it the global leader in tidal power. The Faroes Islands (North of the UK, but not part of it; about 50,000 inhabitants) could get 40% of their power from tidal and are currently planning four sites that could achieve a total capacity of 120 MW of tidal energy, around 350 GWh a year.

The rest

Biden reached a deal to provide low-income Americans with a $30 a month subsidies ($75 in tribal areas) for internet service. Households are eligible if their income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, or if a member of their family participates in one of several programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), or the Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit.

FEMA will cover Covid funeral expenses, but few people know of this program or don’t apply. There are no income limits, life insurance does not preclude participation, and there is no deadline. One of the few disqualifiers is if a funeral was pre-paid. We had already covered this program last year, but since it seems that the program is underutilized, it might be worth repeating.

Someone built a dystopian simulator called ‘Quarantineer‘ (PC). We are not sure if we’re ready for it, but if you try, please let us know how it is!


    • brownfox-ffContributor

      What you can do about it:

      • Check your finances.
      • Sharpen your resume. Can you update and quantify your career accomplishments? Interview somewhere to check your value on the market? It may be a good time to practice.
      • Check your portable battery pack. Do you have a routine to keep it charged?
      • Consider a solar charger
      • Think about how you’ll stay warm next winter. Can you find season-ending sales on winter clothing? Do you have enough coats and blankets?
      • Get a home energy audit. An inspector may show where you could save the most by fixing up your home. Many areas have rebates for inspections and/or upgrades.
      • Consider a home insulating DIY project. The best returns are usually: air sealing and insulating attics or basements.
      • Plant a garden. The food you can grow yourself costs no fuel to transport far away.
      • Consider a rain barrel project. Save money collecting water for your garden, and extend your window of drought-tolerance.
      • Store some water in your home.
      • Get some exercise
      • Name one of your prepping victories. Reviewing progress that you’ve made and accomplishments you have worked for is healthy. Great work.
      • Take a break. Mental health is important too.

      Good luck this week.

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      • That’s a good tip to look out for winter clothing sales going on now. And to go through and charge up my battery packs. 

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      • Steps you can take right now financially (even if you can’t afford to pay off debt right now):

        • Use an automated budgeting app that connects to your bank account and tracks your spending.
        • Limit your news exposure and focus on how inflation is impacting you personally.
        • Look for a job that will be more insulated from an economic downturn, such as certain forms of public sector employment or employment at a large and “stable” company. Simply looking at postings is a good start.
        • Track grocery purchases and switch to cheaper items.
        • Join a community garden or grow your own food.
        • You can still work under many circumstances even if you get federal disability benefits (SSDI or SSI).
        • If you’re unemployed or underemployed, there’s no shame in going to and figuring out if there are any welfare programs you might be eligible for. The programs exist to help you when you’re down on your luck and you won’t necessarily become dependent if you use them until you can get a better job.

        Obvious disclaimer: I’m not a certified financial advisor and this isn’t financial advice.

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      • brownfox-ffContributor Karl Winterling

        Excellent list Karl, thank you for posting. It would be fantastic if every community had a good community garden.

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    • Captain Peanut

      Not sure if this is good or bad news, but because water levels are so low in many lakes things that are usually underwater are being see for the first time. For example, bodies keep being discovered in Lake Mead. Hopefully they can be identified and some cold cases can be solved or loved ones can find closure.

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      • Carlotta SusannaStaff Captain Peanut

        Absolutely! I was just talking about the same with a friend just yesterday: that water level is a bad climate indicator with real-life consequences, but hopefully, some families might get closure.

        FWIW we’ve covered Lake Mead’s low levels uncovering dead bodies in the last roundup.

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