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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| March 18, 2022 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

The Senate passed the Postal Service Reform Act in a 79-19 vote. The act will save the Postal Service billions of dollars, guarantee the delivery of mail six days a week and reform rules that have stood in the way of service. The postmaster general appointed by the last administration took deliberate measures to slow mail delivery.

CNN says the act allows modernization and drops the previous mandate of forcing the Postal Service to fund employees’ health care decades in advance. Employees will instead be enrolled in Medicare. That is expected to save $50 billion over the next decade.

The U.S. has banned imports of Russian oil, Mother Jones reported. A comment that the rise in prices would partner with a clean conscience triggered talk about carpooling, reducing use of climate-polluting vehicles and more plans for better public transportation as well as splutters of indignation about higher pump prices. In 2021, the U.S. imported 3 percent of its oil from Russia, and less in 2022.

A Reuters poll shows 63 percent of respondents approve of dropping Russian oil. Various media outlets have stated that the president does not control the price of gas. Rather, oil companies are privately owned and determine prices. When demand is low, (think pandemic), oil prices go down. Prices rise when demand increases. The Guardian says oil companies had $174 billion in profits in 2021.

Historian and columnist Heather Cox Richardson explained more: Cancellation of the Keystone pipeline project (due to threats to water quality) would not have affected today’s prices. Even if it had not been cancelled, it would not have been completed at this time. As well, the pipeline was designed for export purposes. The U.S. exports half of its oil.

One factor behind the call for more drilling on public lands is the fact that those states get a kickback that, in the case of Wyoming, can amount to a billion dollars a year in royalties and tax funds for the state. Noticeably, the very day Russia invaded Ukraine, the fossil fuel industry called for more drilling, pipelines and fracking in the U.S.

Senators who have rallied for fossil fuel companies’ expansion of projects have, according to Open Secrets, received $4.27 million from those industries’ political action committees in the last five years, and another $6 million from those concerns’ executives and other employees. A Popular Information column points out that it would be faster to get renewables into place in Europe, to replace the loss of Russian fossil fuels, than it would be for U.S. companies to meet those fossil fuel demands. The European Commission President recently announced plans to double down on pursuing renewables.

The other reform, called for by over 600 We Mean Business companies (including Unilever, Volvo and Siemens) is that of ending fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. A report from The Guardian shows that global subsidization renders the price paid for fossil fuels to be 50 percent below cost.

A late night vote passed the U.S. Senate’s $1.5 trillion spending package that’s good through the end of September. Politico said it includes $14 billion to help Ukraine, a 7 percent increase for non-defense agencies, and a Republican priority of a 6 percent hike for national defense.

The simple way to think about the Russia-Ukraine ordeal, according to political columnist Robert Reich: there’s a 300-pound bully with a gun beating up a much smaller kid. It becomes suicide to intervene and moral suicide not to. What to do? Sending aid is great, but to help Russians who seek the truth, following Russia’s shut down of independent media, Mother Jones suggests becoming a subscriber to Meduza, a still-functioning Russian independent news organization. Meduza staffers had to flee but are still operating from elsewhere. Russians can access it but are now unable to engage in the crowd funding required to keep Meduza afloat. Meduza has an online site for becoming a member. A sample of past reporting: “state-run military training for Russian children.” Editor-in-chief of Meduza says many Russians, based on info from Russian-sanctioned TV, know nothing about the bombing of Ukrainian cities and refugees. They are led to believe only Ukrainian infrastructure is being bombed.

Blast from the past: “The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them,” said Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek.