Afternoon Coffee: Construction of offshore wind farm approved; Manufacturers have hard time filling positions; Fuel supply on East Coast low while pipeline stays shut down

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The Biden administration gave approval yesterday for construction on the country’s first commercial-scale offshore wind turbine farm to break this summer, according to the New York Times.

The Vineyard Wind project aims to have up to 84 turbines to be installed in the Atlantic Ocean about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. The turbines can generate about 800 megawatts of electricity, or enough power for about 400,000 homes. The project hopes to herald a new era of wind energy across the US, the article said.

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The effort fuses two White House initiatives — creating more jobs and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But some economists wonder if wind farms can create jobs on the scale predicted by the Biden administration. The supply chain for wind turbines, and especially the manufacturing jobs related to them, is primarily located in Europe, the NYT reports.

“A clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told the NYT. “The approval of this project is an important step toward advancing the administration’s goals to create good-paying union jobs while combating climate change and powering our nation. Today is one of many actions we are determined to take to open the doors of economic opportunity to more Americans.”

Manufacturers have hard time filling positions, Deloitte report shows

Hiring for manufacturing positions has struggled in the US for many years, and a recent Deloitte report showed that the issue persisted in 2020, according to Supply Chain Dive.

Between December 2020 and February 2021, Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute surveyed more than 800 US manufacturers and asked them about hiring trends. The report found that manufacturers had trouble filling 46% of open positions because of a mismatch in skills — which was a 12 percentage point increase from 2018.

One of the positions that manufacturers are having the hardest time filling is the “miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators,” which are entry-level positions that don’t require a ton of training. The issue is increasing competition, the article said.

"Fast forward three years and, amid a global pandemic and the first US recession in more than a decade, it would appear the same headline stands," Deloitte wrote in its most recent report on the skills gap in manufacturing.

Fuel supply on East Coast low while pipeline stays shut down

Drivers along parts of the East Coast are beginning to feel the effects of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown following a recent ransomware attack, according to CBS News.

The US energy secretary urged drivers to not panic-buy fuel. Officials are considering moving the fuel supply by train or ship if necessary. The South has been hit the hardest, with almost 6.5% of gas stations in Virginia out of fuel and another 1% of stations in North Carolina and Florida without gas.

Governors from North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia declared a state of emergency, the article said. Meanwhile, prices are expected to increase if the 5,500-mile pipeline doesn’t open soon. The pipeline — which is responsible for about 45% of the fuel supply on the US East Coast — had to pause operations after hackers accessed computer systems.

"It's very difficult to pin the exact amount prices may rise, but for now, it appears to be a few cents per gallon, possibly growing more significant if the pipeline remains shut down for more than 2-3 more days," the website GasBuddy said in a blog post, CBS News reported.

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