Once again, we end the week with a deep-dive into the situation in Ukraine. The question today: How much longer can Ukraine and its people hold on? We're now on the ninth day of a full scale Russian invasion. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. He now believes “the worst is yet to come" and that Putin won't stop until he has full control of Ukraine. Putin is demanding that Ukraine completely give up its military, among other requirements. There was also a scare at a Ukrainian nuclear power plant.
In this edition, we'll break down the latest developments on the ground, and also take a closer look at American oil production, particularly as it relates to the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline.
And while we're talking about the economy, we'll preview the February jobs report out later this morning and look at the future of work. Spoiler alert: Summer Fridays may soon be Summer Thursdays (and we're not upset about it).
Holy Irresponsible: Russian forces attacked and seized the largest nuclear power plant in all of Europe overnight. The shelling ignited a fire, setting off global concerns about a meltdown late Thursday and an emergency phone call between Presidents Biden and Zelensky. But the fire is now out. Thankfully, the International Atomic Energy Agency said the blaze broke out in a training facility, didn’t affect essential equipment and no changes in radiation levels have been recorded. Ukrainian authorities say employees are still safely operating the facility, which provides power to 25% of the country.
No-Fly Zone: Regardless, Ukrainian President Zelensky said in a video that Russia’s actions amount to "nuclear terrorism" and show that “Europe needs to wake up.” He once again called for NATO to implement a no-fly zone over his country.
No-Go: So far, the US and NATO continue to reject the idea. If they implemented a no-fly zone they'd also have to enforce it over the skies of Ukraine with hundreds of planes. It could mean shooting down a Russian aircraft and risking turning this into a world war.
Diplomacy Update: Russian and Ukrainian officials met in Belarus yesterday for the second time. The Russians agreed to create safe corridors to allow civilian evacuations and the delivery of aid, but the sides made no progress on a cease-fire. Putin addressed his nation to say the invasion is proceeding according to plan. He is now demanding Ukraine give up all its weapons before he agrees to stop the invasion. Zelensky challenged Putin to meet with him directly. (BTW, Zelensky has reportedly survived three assassination attempts this past week. He's still insisting on staying in Kyiv.)
On the ground: Residents of the key southern city of Mariupol are facing a deteriorating humanitarian situation, as the city remains under siege by Russian forces determined to tighten their grip on Ukraine's south. The city, whose population is a similar size to Cleveland or New Orleans, has lost power, water, sanitation and heat as the Russian military lays siege to it. Putin's military views it as a vital bridge between territory they have taken in the east and the south.
Civilians targeted: The Russian military is increasingly shelling major civilian centers with millions of Ukrainians now hiding in shelters and subway stations, with food, water, clean clothes and basic hygiene products running out.
Refugees: New numbers show that more than one million people (2% of the population) have fled Ukraine in a week. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement Thursday: "I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one." Several million more are expected to flee.
Sanctions: President Biden imposed new sanctions on eight members of the Russian elite, aka "Putin's cronies and their family members," including Putin's press secretary. They'll be cut off from the US financial system and their property will be blocked from use. That comes as the White House also asked Congress to approve $10 billion in emergency humanitarian and defense aid for Ukraine on Thursday.
The Ides of March Approach
The Question of the Month
The answer? Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, tells Axios that Putin’s calculus will only change if he comes under enough pressure at home — based on casualties and economic hardship — that he decides he will benefit from ending the war.
And finally, what about the oil? Biden has been hesitant to sanction Russian oil or ban Russian oil shipments to the U.S. because gas prices are already surging. But now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she'd support banning Russian oil imports. Many Republicans, like Senator Lindsey Graham, have also been pushing for it and calling for the US to produce more oil domestically. Critics point out that someone else will likely buy Russian oil, even if the US drops it. The United States only imports a small fraction of its oil from Russia (≈2 percent of US crude needs). The bigger issue is Europe, which is much more reliant on Russia for its energy.
Get pumped. We breaking down US oil production and the Keystone controversy in light of all the questions we are getting on sanctions and rising gas prices.
The US oil industry is expected to pump out 12 million barrels of oil everyday this year, and an all-time record of 12.6 million barrels in 2023, in part because of new wells in Texas and New Mexico according to the Energy Information Administration. It's a remarkable climb after the US production bottomed out at 5 million barrels a day in 2008.
The US is now the top producer of crude oil in the world, pumping out more oil than Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Even so, it's still not enough to power our growing economy. It turns out we are also the largest consumer of oil in the world. And we need about 20 million barrels a day (and again, we produce about 12 million).
So, where do we get the rest? We import just under 8 million barrels a day. About 50% comes from Canada, followed by Russia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico. Russia accounts for about 2% of our crude oil.
Where does the Keystone XL pipeline fit in?
To start, the Keystone pipeline was completed and is functional (in blue, see map below). The debate over the last few years has been about an extension dubbed "Keystone XL" (in red). It was meant to get slightly more oil from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, TX slightly quicker than current means (rail and trucks).
The Canadian National Energy Board approved the pipeline XL extension in 2010 but President Obama did not issue permit required in the US, saying it would be bad for the environment, went through tribal lands, and the incremental amount of oil that would come through XL wouldn't put a dent in energy prices.
In 2017, President Trump approved the pipeline because of the jobs it would create and also his belief that there would be energy benefits for the US. That said, his State Department stated that XL wouldn't impact gas prices. Either way, it was slowed down by lawsuits from environmental groups as well as Native American groups that don't want it going through tribal land. Only 93 of the 1,210 miles of Keystone XL were built by the time Trump left office (about 8% complete).
One day after taking office, Biden canceled the project citing environmental concerns. And a few months later, the Keystone sponsor officially pulled the plug.
💻 JOBS REPORT
This morning the Labor Department will release the February jobs report. Economists expect another strong month of job growth, with about 440,000 jobs created, slightly less than January. Weekly jobless claims are also back at pre-pandemic levels, a sign that fewer companies are laying off workers.
But what does office life and the future of work even look like? One of the biggest changes: The Five-Day Workweek Is Dying. Just take a look at some of these numbers, as laid out in The Atlantic.
Office attendance is still at 33% of its pre-pandemic level (despite other areas like restaurants and even movie theaters getting closer to their pre-pandemic attendance). This could have a devastating impact on cities and their downtown and business areas.
In a survey from Nick Bloom, an economic professor at Stanford University, 20% of respondents would prefer to work from home “rarely or never”; more than 30 percent say they would prefer to stay home for the entire workweek.
Bloom says: “I talk to hundreds of companies about remote work, and 95 percent of them now say they’re going hybrid, while the other 5 percent are going full remote."
Bloom says that for workers who are hybrid, most choose to go to the office Tues-Thurs. Meaning Monday and Friday are now in a gray area when it comes to the workweek.
Great resignation: What's next? A record number of Americans also quit their jobs during the pandemic, which begs the question: What does everyone want to do next? Google combed through search data, looking for terms like "How to become [insert your desired job]", to figure out which careers are in high demand. Here's what they found out:
People were most interested in jobs that involve helping others, travel and working in real estate, positions that ideally don't require a traditional boss or sitting in an office.
The most-searched “how to become” jobs from January 2021-January 2022 were: Real estate agent, flight attendant, notary, therapist, pilot, firefighter, personal trainer, psychiatrist, physical therapist, electrician.
Here's how the data breaks down by region:
Another takeaway: The Great Resignation is not an American phenomenon. Per Google, the top countries searching for “how to leave your job” come from across the globe, with the Philippines at the top, followed by South Africa, the U.S., Australia and the U.K.
The More You Know 🌈: Henry Ford is considered the father of the 5-day work week, instituting it in his factories in 1926. It was adopted across the board as part of a 1938 federal law. Here is quick history on that and how FDR almost got us a 30-hour week.
In a court filing, the panel said there was enough evidence to suggest that the former president might have engaged in a criminal conspiracy as he fought to remain in office. (NY Times)
In an excerpt from his new memoir, the former Attorney General recalls the explosive White House meeting where he rejected President Trump’s claims about the 2020 election and Trump's reaction. (WSJ)
The court ruled 6-3 that information about the US government’s post-9/11 torture program at CIA “black sites” is protected by the “state secrets privilege." Notably, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch and liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined together for the dissent. (NBC News)
The former Louisville Metro Police detective charged for his role in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor nearly two years ago, was found not guilty of three counts of wanton endangerment on Thursday. (USA Today)
Lawmakers in at least 11 states have introduced copycat bills modeled after Texas’s six-week abortion ban (Washington Post)
For the first time since it was filled more than 50 years ago, Lake Powell, the second-largest reservoir in the country, is projected to dip past a critical threshold, threatening water supplies and putting a key source of hydropower generation at heightened risk of being forced offline, as climate change-fueled drought continues to grip the Western US. (CNN)
New York City students who are under the age of five will reportedly need to continue wearing masks in class, even if the school mask mandate is lifted by Mayor Eric Adams next week. A final decision is expected today. (Gothamist)
What we're NOT watching: The Larry David Story on HBO. David himself pulled the documentary the day before it was supposed to premiere. (Pretty much the most Larry David thing ever.) HBO tweeted: “Larry has decided he wants to do it in front of an audience.”
What we're reading: Russia, Ukraine and the 30-year quest for a post-Soviet order. The inside story of the west’s efforts to secure a post-Cold-War settlement — and how Putin seized on missteps and Russian grievances to destroy it (Financial Times)
What we're eating: Sumo oranges. Seedless, easy to peel and HOLY expensive. But they're only in season from January to April. And they are good ;)
And a special... What we're listening to: I appeared on two podcasts this week to talk about the state of the news industry. Good conversations where we try to lift the curtain about the media for you.
[Top Banner Photo Credit: Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images]