Afternoon Coffee: California wildfires lead to electric shutoffs; Exxon Mobil to downsize; Overseas seed shipments banned by Amazon

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As wildfires make their way across California, the state’s largest utility service turned off power to 172,000 customers, according to the Associated Press. The shutoff came as a preemptive measure to prevent power lines and other equipment from sparking new fires.

California is heading into what is traditionally the peak of wildfire season, but the state has already counted a record of 2 million burned acres this year. A fire two years ago was the record for the deadliest fire in state history — started by Pacific Gas & Electric power lines, the article reported. To guard against new wildfires and protect liability, PG&E began preemptive power shutoffs when conditions get exceptionally dangerous.

Now in Northern California, the state is expecting high and dry winds until Wednesday. PG&E has received criticism for its handling of planned outages last year, so the utility said that “this year (we) will be making events smaller in size, shorter in length and smarter for customers.”

Exxon Mobil will have to downsize after ill-timed bets lead to huge revenue shortfall

Ill-timed bets on demand have Exxon Mobil Corp. facing a nearly $48 billion shortfall through 2021, requiring America’s top oil company to make deep cuts to staff and projects, according to Reuters.

Exxon became the world’s most valuable company in the 20th Century when considering global scale, expansion and strict financial controls. However, the company faced a series of setbacks in the last decade that CEO Darren Woods tried to remedy by big bets on U.S. shale oilfields, pipelines, and global refining and plastics.

But the company’s ability to finance these global expansions is no longer assured, the article said. Exxon borrowed $23 billion to pay its bills this year, while posting its first back-to-back quarterly losses ever in July. It was also removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the first time in 92 years. The year’s sharp drop in oil demand and pricing has not helped. Exxon will embark on a worldwide review of where it can cut expenses.

“We remain committed to our capital allocation priorities — investing in industry advantaged projects, paying a reliable and growing dividend, and maintaining a strong balance sheet,” spokesman Casey Norton told Reuters.

Amazon to ban overseas seed sales after random seed shipments show up on U.S. doorsteps

Amazon will ban foreign sales of seeds into the U.S. after thousands of suspicious packets — many postmarked from China — arrived at households around the world this summer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The mystery seeds led to U.S. officials raising concerns about the ease of how seed sales can occur on e-commerce websites, which can create threats to U.S. agriculture. Amazon announced that effective Sept. 3, it will no longer allow the import of plant or seed products while having some overseas sellers’ products removed from the site, the article said.

The policy changes also come as multiple agencies — U.S. Agriculture Department, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Postal Service and state-level departments of agriculture — investigate the mysterious seed shipments.

“E-commerce has presented us with a unique challenge,” Osama El-Lissy, a deputy administrator for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told the Wall Street Journal. “These sellers must meet the U.S.’s regulatory requirements.”

SIG hosting webinar this week discussing procurement in the COVID-19 pandemic

The Sourcing Industry Group will host a webinar Wednesday, Sept. 9, to discuss how procurement is pivoting through the COVID-19 pandemic. The topics covered include risk, innovation and successes of procurement in pandemonium. Register for the event to learn new best practices in the coronavirus age. 

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