Business briefing

The daily business briefing: May 13, 2021

Colonial Pipeline restarts slowly as gas panic spreads, inflation rises at fastest pace since 2008, and more

1

Colonial Pipeline restarts slowly as gasoline panic-buying spreads

The Colonial Pipeline began restarting operations on Wednesday evening, but the company stressed that it would take "several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal." The pipeline carries nearly half the East Coast's fuel supply, running from Texas to New Jersey. It was shut down last Friday due to a ransomware attack by what investigators blamed on Russian hackers. People in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic along the pipeline's routes started panic-buying gas over the last two days, causing hundreds of gas stations to run out of fuel and sending the national price for gas rising above $3 a gallon for the first time since 2014. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm urged the public not to buy gas unless they really needed it.

2

Inflation accelerates at fastest pace since 2008

The Labor Department reported Wednesday that its consumer-price index jumped by 4.2 percent in April, the fastest pace since 2008. The sharper-than-expected inflation increase sent stocks plummeting due to fears that rising prices would prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner than previously anticipated to keep the economy from overheating. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by 2 percent, its worst day since January. The S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped by 2.1 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. Stock futures fell further early Thursday. "Investors who may have been looking for a reason to lighten up on a stock market that was up more than 10 percent year to date found a good one: rising inflation," Chris Hussey, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, said in a note.

3

EPA report finds entire U.S. affected by climate crisis

The Environmental Protection Agency released a dire report on Wednesday warning of signs that climate change is intensifying and affecting all parts of the country. The report, delayed by a Trump administration that downplayed the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, said the impact can be seen in the destruction of Alaskan year-round permafrost, the loss of winter ice on the Great Lakes, and summer heat waves that have increased dependence on air conditioners and caused summer energy use to nearly double over the last 50 years. "There is no small town, big city, or rural community that's unaffected by the climate crisis," EPA Administrator Michael Regan told reporters on Wednesday. "Americans are seeing and feeling the impacts up close with increasing regularity."

4

Musk halts Tesla's acceptance of bitcoin over environmental concerns

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday that the company would stop accepting cryptocurrency as payment for its electric vehicles, citing the environmental impact of the powerful, energy-sucking computers used to track transactions and "mine" the coins. "We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining and transactions," Musk explained in a tweet, "especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel." Musk's previous support of bitcoin through Tesla's investments and endorsement of it as a form of payment had helped drive its recent price spike. Musk's tweet sent the price of bitcoin dropping by more than 4 percent.

5

Boeing says FAA has approved 737 MAX fix

Boeing notified airlines on Wednesday that the Federal Aviation Administration had approved a fix on an electrical grounding problem that had affected about 100 737 MAX jets. An FAA official confirmed the approval, which cleared the planes to return to service after flights were paused in early April. "After gaining final approvals from the FAA, we have issued service bulletins for the affected fleet," Boeing told Reuters. "We are also completing the work as we prepare to resume deliveries." The development was good news for U.S. carriers preparing for the late May start of the summer travel season. Earlier in the day, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told lawmakers that the electrical issue required a "pretty straightforward fix."

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