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    U.S. Semiconductor Boom Faces a Worker Shortage

    Strengthened by billions of federal dollars, semiconductor companies plan to create thousands of jobs. But officials say there might not be enough people to fill them.Maxon Wille, an 18-year-old in Surprise, Ariz., was driving toward Interstate 17 last year when he noticed a massive construction site: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company at work on its new factory in Phoenix.A few weeks later, as he was watching YouTube, an advertisement popped up for a local community college’s 10-day program that trains people to become semiconductor technicians. He graduated from the course this month and now hopes to work at the plant once it opens.“I can see this being the next big thing,” Mr. Wille said.Semiconductor manufacturers say they will need to attract more workers like Mr. Wille to staff the plants that are being built across the United States. America is on the cusp of a semiconductor manufacturing boom, strengthened by billions of dollars that the federal government is funneling into the sector. President Biden had said the funding will create thousands of well-paying jobs, but one question looms large: Will there be enough workers to fill them?“My biggest fear is investing in all this infrastructure and not having the people to work there,” said Shari Liss, the executive director of the SEMI Foundation, a nonprofit arm of SEMI, an association that represents electronics manufacturing companies. “The impact could be really substantial if we don’t figure out how to create excitement and interest in this industry.”Lawmakers passed the 2022 CHIPS Act with lofty ambitions to remake the United States into a semiconductor powerhouse, in part to reduce America’s reliance on foreign nations for the tiny chips that power everything from dishwashers to computers to cars. The law included $39 billion to fund the construction of new and expanded semiconductor facilities, and manufacturers that want a slice of the subsidies have already announced expansions across the country.More than 50 new facility projects have been announced since the CHIPS Act was introduced, and private companies have pledged more than $210 billion in investments, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.But that investment has run headfirst into the tightest labor market in years, with employers across the country struggling to find workers. Semiconductor manufacturers have long found it difficult to hire workers because of a lack of awareness of the industry and too few students entering relevant academic fields. Company officials say they expect it to become even more difficult to hire for a range of critical positions, including the construction workers building the plants, the technicians operating equipment and engineers designing chips.The U.S. semiconductor industry could face a shortage of about 70,000 to 90,000 workers over the next few years, according to a Deloitte report. McKinsey has also projected a shortfall of about 300,000 engineers and 90,000 skilled technicians in the United States by 2030.Semiconductor manufacturers have struggled to hire more employees, in part because, officials say, there are not enough skilled workers and they have to compete with big technology firms for engineers. Many students who graduate with advanced engineering degrees in the United States were born abroad, and immigration rules make it challenging to obtain visas to work in the country.Ronnie Chatterji, the White House’s CHIPS implementation coordinator, said that filling the new jobs would be a big challenge, but that he felt confident Americans would want them as they became more aware of the industry’s domestic expansion.“While it hasn’t been the sexiest job opportunity for folks compared to some of the other things that they’re graduating with, it also hasn’t been on the radar,” Mr. Chatterji said. He added that America would be less “prosperous” if companies could increase output but lacked the employees to do so.In an effort to meet the labor demand, the Biden administration said this month that it would create five initial “work force hubs” in cities like Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio, to help train more women, people of color and other underrepresented workers in industries like semiconductor manufacturing.Administration and company officials have also pushed for changes to better retain foreign-born STEM graduates, but immigration remains a controversial topic in Washington, and few are optimistic about reforms.Some industry leaders are looking to technology as an antidote, since automation and artificial intelligence can amplify the output of a single engineer, but companies are mostly putting their faith into training programs. Federal officials have backed that effort and pointed out that funding in the CHIPS Act could be used for work force development.Intel, which announced plans to spend $20 billion on two new chip factories in Arizona and more than $20 billion on a new chip manufacturing complex in Ohio, has invested millions in partnerships with community colleges and universities to train technicians and expand relevant curriculum.Gabriela Cruz Thompson, the director of university research collaboration at Intel Labs, said the company anticipated creating 6,700 jobs over the next five to 10 years. About 70 percent would be for technicians who typically have a two-year degree or certificate.A silicon wafer, a thin material essential for manufacturing semiconductors, at a chip-packaging facility in Santa Clara, Calif.Jim Wilson/The New York TimesShe said that the industry had faced staffing challenges for years, and that she was concerned about the number of “available and talented skilled workers” who could fill all of the new Intel positions.“I am confident,” she said. “But am I fully certain, 100 percent? No.”Micron, which pledged as much as $100 billion over the next two decades or more to build a huge chip factory complex in New York, has also deployed new work force programs, including ones that train veterans and teach middle and high school students about STEM careers through “chip camps.”Bo Machayo, the director of U.S. federal affairs at Micron, said the company anticipated needing roughly 9,000 employees after its full build-out in the region.“We understand that it’s a challenge, but we also look at it as an opportunity,” he said.To be considered for the federal subsidies, manufacturers must submit applications to the Commerce Department that include detailed plans about how they will recruit and retain workers. Firms requesting more than $150 million are expected to provide affordable, high-quality child care.“We don’t think that a company can just post a bunch of jobs online and hope that the right work force shows up,” said Kevin Gallagher, a senior adviser to the commerce secretary.The lack of interest in the industry has been evident at academic institutions. Karl Hirschman, the director of microelectronic engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said the university was “nowhere close” to the maximum enrollment for its microelectronic engineering degree program, which sets up students for semiconductor-related careers. Enrollment averages about 20 new undergraduates each year, compared with more than 200 for the university’s mechanical engineering program.Although students graduating with more popular engineering degrees could work in the semiconductor industry, Mr. Hirschman said, many of them are more aware of and attracted to tech firms like Google and Facebook.“We do not have enough students to fill the need,” he said. “It’s only going to get more challenging.”Community colleges, universities and school districts are creating or expanding programs to attract more students to the industry.In Maricopa County, Ariz., three community colleges have teamed up with Intel to offer a “quick start” program to prepare students to become entry-level technicians in just 10 days. During the four-hour classes, students learn the basics of how chips are made, practice using hand tools and try on the head-to-toe gowns that technicians wear.More than 680 students have enrolled in the program since it began in July, said Leah Palmer, the executive director of the Arizona Advanced Manufacturing Institute at Mesa Community College. The program is free for in-state students who complete it and pass a certification test.In Oregon last year, the Hillsboro School District started a two-year advanced manufacturing apprenticeship program that allows 16- to 18-year-old students to earn high school credit and be paid to work on the manufacturing floors of companies in the semiconductor industry. Five students are participating, and officials hope to add at least three more to the next cohort, said Claudia Rizo, the district’s youth apprenticeship project manager.“Our hope is that students would have a job offer with the companies if they decide to stay full time, but also be open to the possibility of pursuing postsecondary education through college or university,” Ms. Rizo said.Universities are also expanding undergraduate and graduate engineering programs. Purdue started a semiconductor degree program last year, and Syracuse, which has worked with Micron and 20 other institutions to enhance related curriculum, plans to increase its engineering enrollment 50 percent over the next three to five years.Students participated in an event hosted by Micron at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, N.Y.Benjamin Cleeton for The New York TimesAt Onondaga Community College, near Micron’s build-out in New York, officials will offer a new two-year degree and one-year certificate in electromechanical technology starting this fall. The programs were already underway before Micron’s announcement to build the chip factory complex but would help students gain the qualifications needed to work there, said Timothy Stedman, the college’s dean of natural and applied sciences.Although he felt optimistic, he said interest could be lower than officials hoped. Enrollment in the college’s electrical and mechanical technology programs has noticeably declined from two decades ago because more students have started to view four-year college degrees as the default path.“We’re starting to see the pendulum swing a little bit as people have realized that these are well-paying jobs,” Mr. Stedman said. “But I think there still needs to be a fair amount of work done.”Ana Swanson More

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    U.S. Solar Makers Criticize Biden’s Tax Credits as Too Lax on China

    U.S.-based manufacturers of solar products say rules issued by the Biden administration on Friday will “cement China’s dominance” over the solar industryBiden administration rules released on Friday that will determine which companies and manufacturers can benefit from new solar industry tax credits are being criticized by U.S.-based makers of solar products, who say the guidelines do not go far enough to try to lure manufacturing back from China.The rules stem from President Biden’s sweeping clean energy bill, which offers a mix of tax credits and other incentives to try and spur the construction of more solar factories in the United States and reduce the country’s reliance on China for clean energy goods needed to mitigate climate change.The Treasury Department, in guidance issued on Friday, said it would offer a 10 percent additional tax credit for facilities assembling solar panels in the United States, even if they import the silicon wafers used to make those panels from foreign countries. Under the Biden administration’s new climate legislation, solar and wind farms can apply for a 30 percent tax credit on the costs of their facilities.Senior administration officials told reporters on Thursday that they were trying to take a balanced approach, one that leaned toward forcing supply chains to return to the United States. But China’s dominance of the global solar industry has created a tricky calculus for the Biden administration, which wants to promote U.S. manufacturing of solar products but also ensure a plentiful supply of low-cost solar panels to reduce carbon emissions.The officials said that the Biden administration would have the leeway to change the rules when American supply chains become stronger.“The domestic content bonus under the Inflation Reduction Act will boost American manufacturing, including in iron and steel, so America’s workers and companies continue to benefit from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a statement. “These tax credits are key to driving investment and ensuring all Americans share in the growth of the clean energy economy.”Critics said the new rules would not go far enough to give companies incentives to move the solar supply chain out of China.Mike Carr, the executive director of the Solar Energy Manufacturers for America Coalition, which includes solar companies with U.S. operations like Hemlock Semiconductor, Wacker Chemie, Qcells and First Solar, called the move “a missed opportunity to build a domestic solar manufacturing supply chain.”“The simple fact is today’s announcement will likely result in the scaling back of planned investments in the critical areas of solar wafer, ingot, and polysilicon production,” he said in a statement. “China is producing 97 percent of the world’s solar wafers — giving them substantial control over both polysilicon and cell production. We fear that this guidance will cement their dominance over these critical pieces of the solar supply chain.”A four-acre solar rooftop in Los Angeles. The Biden administration wants 100 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from carbon-free energy sources by 2035.Mario Tama/Getty ImagesThe Biden administration has set an ambitious goal of generating 100 percent of the nation’s electricity from carbon-free energy sources by 2035, a goal that may require more than doubling the annual pace of solar installations.The United States still relies heavily on Chinese manufacturers for low-cost solar modules, although many Chinese-owned factories now make these goods in Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.China also supplies many of the key components in solar panels, including more than 80 percent of the world’s polysilicon, which most solar panels use to absorb energy from sunlight. And a significant portion of Chinese polysilicon comes from the Xinjiang region, where the U.S. government has banned imports because of concerns over forced labor.Other companies in the solar supply chain, which rely on imported components, were more positive about the Treasury Department’s guidance.Abigail Ross Hopper, the chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said the guidance was an important step forward that would “spark a flood of investment in American-made clean energy equipment and components.”“The U.S. solar and storage industry strongly supports onshoring a domestic clean energy supply chain, and today’s guidance will supplement the manufacturing renaissance that began when the historic Inflation Reduction Act passed last summer,” she said.Congressional Republicans have already targeted the Biden administration’s climate legislation, saying that it fails to set tough guidelines against manufacturing in China and that it may funnel federal dollars to Chinese-owned companies that have set up in the United States.The Biden administration is also dispensing funding to build up the semiconductor and electric vehicle battery industries. Guidelines for that money include limits on access to so-called foreign entities of concern, like Chinese-owned companies. But the Inflation Reduction Act does not contain guardrails against federal dollars going to the U.S. operations of Chinese solar companies.In a congressional hearing on April 25, Representative Jason Smith, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, pointed to the Florida facilities of JinkoSolar, a Chinese-owned manufacturer, as being eligible for federal tax credits.“Work at the plant involves robots placing strings of solar cells — which are largely sourced from China — onto a solar panel base,” a fact sheet released by Mr. Smith said.Mr. Biden has also clashed with domestic solar manufacturers over a separate trade case that would see tariffs imposed on solar products imported from Chinese companies based in Southeast Asia.Mr. Biden’s decision to waive the tariffs for two years angered Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, who said U.S.-based manufacturers deserved more protection. In recent weeks, the House and Senate approved a measure to reverse the president’s decision, which Mr. Biden is expected to veto. More

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    After Pandemic Rebound, U.S. Manufacturing Droops

    The pandemic had a bright silver lining for Elkhart, Ind.The city, renowned as the capital of recreational vehicle production, had a surge in demand as cooped-up families took to the highways and avoided hotels. The cluster of manufacturers enjoyed record profits, and workers benefited as well: The metropolitan area’s unemployment rate sank to 1 percent in late 2021, and average weekly wages jumped 35 percent from their level in early 2020.That frenzy, however, has turned to a chill. Dealers, who stocked up on as many trailers and vans as they could, have been discounting them to clear their lots — and new orders have dried up. The area has lost nearly 7,000 manufacturing jobs over the past year, and unemployment is now above the national average. Thor Industries, which owns a wide portfolio of RV brands, saw its sales tumble 39.4 percent from the quarter a year ago.“In 2022, manufacturers overproduced, and you’re seeing some of the impact of that from the staffing standpoint,” said Chris Stager, chief executive of the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County. He foresees new projects propelled by recent federal energy and infrastructure legislation, but rising interest rates are taking a toll in the meantime.“It’s not bad, but it’s not what it was,” Mr. Stager said.That’s manufacturing in America in 2023.Factory construction is proceeding more rapidly than at any time in recent memory, heralding what may be a resurgence in domestic production powered by a move away from long, fragile supply chains and by the infusion of billions of dollars in public investment.At the same time, after an extraordinary boom fed by cooped-up consumers, manufacturing is suffering something of a hangover as retailers burn through bloated inventories. Inflation-fighting efforts by the Federal Reserve, which is expected to announce another interest-rate increase on Wednesday, have squelched big-ticket purchases. New orders have been declining since last summer, and a widely followed index of purchasing activity has been downbeat for six months.Working on sponge rubber automotive HVAC drain seals at Colonial.Whitten Sabbatini for The New York TimesManufacturing employment bounced back quickly after the pandemic — which is unusual for recessions — but has contracted for two months. While layoffs in the industry remain low, job openings and hires have sunk from recent highs.“It’s not one of these really concerning plunges, where we’re shedding a bunch of manufacturing jobs, but it seems kind of stalled,” said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. “And I think the longer that lasts, the harder it’s going to be to rev things up.”A bigger question for the American economy is whether this heralds a broader downturn, since cooling demand for goods usually signifies that consumers are feeling financially strained. “Manufacturing is always at the forefront of the recession,” notes Barbara Denham, a senior economist at Oxford Economics.To understand the current slump, it’s important to dissect the manufacturing moment from which America is emerging.For example: Those new manufacturing jobs weren’t all for people making steel coils and oak cabinets. The production of consumable items — including food, beverages, and pharmaceuticals — represented an outsize portion of the job growth from 2020 through 2022. But it tends to pay less well, requires less training and has fewer unions than heavy manufacturing in airplanes and automobiles. And it can disappear more quickly as demand returns to normal.Factory employment bounced back, but is now leveling off Number of manufacturing jobs as a percentage of the total in February 2020

    Source: Bureau of Labor StatisticsBy The New York TimesThe pandemic-era manufacturing boom also didn’t happen equally in all places. States like Nevada, Arizona, Florida and Texas surged far above their prepandemic baselines, while longtime manufacturing centers — Michigan, Illinois, New York and Ohio — have not fully bounced back. That imbalance reflects recent migration trends, as people have moved out of urban areas for more space, more sunshine and a lower cost of living.The factory construction underway is poised to further reshape the geography of American manufacturing, with the largest increases in investment happening in the Mountain West.LaDon Byars, who runs Colonial Diversified Polymer Products, said reinforcing domestic supply chains would be worth the effort.Whitten Sabbatini for The New York TimesAll that new building is propelled by several factors. Former President Donald J. Trump’s trade war raised the cost of importing from China and other countries, while the pandemic snarled ports and idled suppliers, hurting manufacturers who depended on far-flung sourcing networks.In recent months, the war in Ukraine — for which the United States has furnished more than $36 billion in weaponry — has generated more long-term contracts for defense manufacturers, mostly restricted to domestic production.Steve Macias, a co-owner of a small machine shop in Phoenix, said orders from the semiconductor industry have slowed as the demand for home electronics crested. But in the past few weeks, he has been busy serving military clients — because the Defense Department has been getting planes and ships back into fighting shape, as well as refilling empty stores of munitions.“There was a lot of deferred maintenance,” Mr. Macias said. “So you’ve got two things going on — this kind of catch-up, and this war that broke out that nobody was really anticipating.”Finally, over the last two years the passage of three major bills — the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the CHIPS and Science Act — made available hundreds of billions of dollars for the production of items like semiconductors, solar panels, wind turbines and bridge spans. Private funders have rushed to capitalize on the opportunity, even if much of it is still in the planning stages.“A lot of manufacturers are reacting to what they see as a lot of long-term structural factors in their industry,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at the Economic Innovation Group, an entrepreneurship-focused think tank. “They’re seeing more demand for domestic production long term. That’s a bet on the future. It’s going to take a while to really translate to employment.”Even when it does, however, that investment might not yield as many jobs as factories with similar levels of output did in the past.Freshly built production lines tend to be more automated and more efficient than those designed in the 1950s and ’60s — which they need to be, to compete with the lower cost of labor overseas. And some companies are adding robots to their plants, given the difficulty of attracting and retaining enough skilled workers to replace those retiring. The median age of workers in manufacturing is two years older than the national median.“These facilities are desperate to try to get the work force,” said Mark Farris, chief executive of the Greenville Area Development Corporation in Greenville, S.C. “And instead, I think they’re convincing the officers of the company, ‘Let’s think about robotics, let’s think about 3-D printing, the technology investment that would take the place of those workers we cannot find.’”Employers’ ferocious need for factory workers is easingManufacturing job openings surged in 2021, but have receded.

    Bureau of Labor StatisticsBy The New York TimesFor businesses that depend on industries related to fossil fuels, the ramp-up in federal investment may just be enough to keep them afloat even as demand shifts to clean energy.Automobile manufacturers are important clients, and Ms. Byars is encouraged as federally funded projects are required to find their parts and raw materials in the United States.Whitten Sabbatini for The New York TimesLaDon Byars runs Colonial Diversified Polymer Products, which employs about 75 people in western Tennessee. The company has survived many cycles of outsourcing and offshoring, making molded rubber products like gaskets and mats for a variety of customers. Automobile manufacturers are important clients, and Ms. Byars knows that demand for parts that go into cars with internal combustion engines will start to wane.She has been encouraged, however, by the number of solicitations she has received as a result of rules that require federally funded projects to find their parts and raw materials in the United States, rather than overseas. It may be difficult and impede progress at first, but she thinks reinforcing domestic supply chains will work out better in the end, just like building new roads.“It takes a while before they get that intersection through — it’s a mess and traffic is backed up,” Ms. Byars said. “And then when they finally open it up, everything works so much smoother and better, and you don’t have the long delays. We might not even see the impact of not being dependent on other countries, and not having the supply chain disruptions, but I do think that’s what the long-term best interest for the American people is.” More

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    How AI and DNA Are Unlocking the Mysteries of Global Supply Chains

    At a cotton gin in the San Joaquin Valley, in California, a boxy machine helps to spray a fine mist containing billions of molecules of DNA onto freshly cleaned Pima cotton.That DNA will act as a kind of minuscule bar code, nestling amid the puffy fibers as they are shuttled to factories in India. There, the cotton will be spun into yarn and woven into bedsheets, before landing on the shelves of Costco stores in the United States. At any time, Costco can test for the DNA’s presence to ensure that its American-grown cotton hasn’t been replaced with cheaper materials — like cotton from the Xinjiang region of China, which is banned in the United States because of its ties to forced labor.Amid growing concern about opacity and abuses in global supply chains, companies and government officials are increasingly turning to technologies like DNA tracking, artificial intelligence and blockchains to try to trace raw materials from the source to the store.Companies in the United States are now subject to new rules that require firms to prove their goods are made without forced labor, or face having them seized at the border. U.S. customs officials said in March that they had already detained nearly a billion dollars’ worth of shipments coming into the United States that were suspected of having some ties to Xinjiang. Products from the region have been banned since last June.Customers are also demanding proof that expensive, high-end products — like conflict-free diamonds, organic cotton, sushi-grade tuna or Manuka honey — are genuine, and produced in ethically and environmentally sustainable ways.That has forced a new reality on companies that have long relied on a tangle of global factories to source their goods. More than ever before, companies must be able to explain where their products really come from.A technician at Applied DNA Sciences testing samples to trace the raw materials.Johnny Milano for The New York TimesCotton samples that are being processed at the lab.Johnny Milano for The New York TimesThe task may seem straightforward, but it can be surprisingly tricky. That’s because the international supply chains that companies have built in recent decades to cut costs and diversify their product offerings have grown astonishingly complex. Since 2000, the value of intermediate goods used to make products that are traded internationally has tripled, driven partly by China’s booming factories.A large, multinational company may buy parts, materials or services from thousands of suppliers around the world. One of the largest such companies, Procter & Gamble, which owns brands like Tide, Crest and Pampers, has nearly 50,000 direct suppliers. Each of those suppliers may, in turn, rely on hundreds of other companies for the parts used to make its product — and so on, for many levels up the supply chain.To make a pair of jeans, for example, various companies must farm and clean cotton, spin it into thread, dye it, weave it into fabric, cut the fabric into patterns and stitch the jeans together. Other webs of companies mine, smelt or process the brass, nickel or aluminum that is crafted into the zipper, or make the chemicals that are used to manufacture synthetic indigo dye.“Supply chains are like a bowl of spaghetti,” said James McGregor, the chairman of the greater China region for APCO Worldwide, an advisory firm. “They get mixed all over. You don’t know where that stuff comes from.”Harvesting cotton in Xinjiang. Cotton from the region in China is banned in the United States because of its ties to forced labor.Getty ImagesGiven these challenges, some companies are turning to alternative methods, not all proven, to try to inspect their supply chains.Some companies — like the one that sprays the DNA mist onto cotton, Applied DNA Sciences — are using scientific processes to tag or test a physical attribute of the good itself, to figure out where it has traveled on its path from factories to consumer.Applied DNA has used its synthetic DNA tags, each just a billionth of the size of a grain of sugar, to track microcircuits produced for the Department of Defense, trace cannabis supply chains to ensure the product’s purity and even to mist robbers in Sweden who attempted to steal cash from A.T.M.s, leading to multiple arrests.MeiLin Wan, the vice president for textiles at Applied DNA, said the new regulations were creating a “tipping point for real transparency.”“There definitely is a lot more interest,” she added.The cotton industry was one of the earliest adopters of tracing technologies, in part because of previous transgressions. In the mid-2010s, Target, Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond faced expensive product recalls or lawsuits after the “Egyptian cotton” sheets they sold turned out to have been made with cotton from elsewhere. A New York Times investigation last year documented that the “organic cotton” industry was also rife with fraud.In addition to the DNA mist it applies as a marker, Applied DNA can figure out where cotton comes from by sequencing the DNA of the cotton itself, or analyzing its isotopes, which are variations in the carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms in the cotton. Differences in rainfall, latitude, temperature and soil conditions mean these atoms vary slightly across regions of the world, allowing researchers to map where the cotton in a pair of socks or bath towel has come from.Other companies are turning to digital technology to map supply chains, by creating and analyzing complex databases of corporate ownership and trade.Farmers in India auction their cotton.Saumya Khandelwal for The New York TimesSome firms, for example, are using blockchain technology to create a digital token for every product that a factory produces. As that product — a can of caviar, say, or a batch of coffee — moves through the supply chain, its digital twin gets encoded with information about how it has been transported and processed, providing a transparent log for companies and consumers.Other companies are using databases or artificial intelligence to comb through vast supplier networks for distant links to banned entities, or to detect unusual trade patterns that indicate fraud — investigations that could take years to carry out without computing power.Sayari, a corporate risk intelligence provider that has developed a platform combining data from billions of public records issued globally, is one of those companies. The service is now used by U.S. customs agents as well as private companies. On a recent Tuesday, Jessica Abell, the vice president of solutions at Sayari, ran the supplier list of a major U.S. retailer through the platform and watched as dozens of tiny red flags appeared next to the names of distant companies.“We’re flagging not only the Chinese companies that are in Xinjiang, but then we’re also automatically exploring their commercial networks and flagging the companies that are directly connected to it,” Ms. Abell said. It is up to the companies to decide what, if anything, to do about their exposure.Studies have found that most companies have surprisingly little visibility into the upper reaches of their supply chains, because they lack either the resources or the incentives to investigate. In a 2022 survey by McKinsey & Company, 45 percent of respondents said they had no visibility at all into their supply chain beyond their immediate suppliers.But staying in the dark is no longer feasible for companies, particularly those in the United States, after the congressionally imposed ban on importing products from Xinjiang — where 100,000 ethnic minorities are presumed by the U.S. government to be working in conditions of forced labor — went into effect last year.Uyghur workers at a garment factory in the Xinjiang region of China in 2019.Gilles Sabrie for The New York TimesXinjiang’s links to certain products are already well known. Experts have estimated that roughly one in five cotton garments sold globally contains cotton or yarn from Xinjiang. The region is also responsible for more than 40 percent of the world’s polysilicon, which is used in solar panels, and a quarter of its tomato paste.But other industries, like cars, vinyl flooring and aluminum, also appear to have connections to suppliers in the region and are coming under more scrutiny from regulators.Having a full picture of their supply chains can offer companies other benefits, like helping them recall faulty products or reduce costs. The information is increasingly needed to estimate how much carbon dioxide is actually emitted in the production of a good, or to satisfy other government rules that require products to be sourced from particular places — such as the Biden administration’s new rules on electric vehicle tax credits.Executives at these technology companies say they envision a future, perhaps within the next decade, in which most supply chains are fully traceable, an outgrowth of both tougher government regulations and the wider adoption of technologies.“It’s eminently doable,” said Leonardo Bonanni, the chief executive of Sourcemap, which has helped companies like the chocolate maker Mars map out their supply chains. “If you want access to the U.S. market for your goods, it’s a small price to pay, frankly.”Others express skepticism about the limitations of these technologies, including their cost. While Applied DNA’s technology, for example, adds only 5 to 7 cents to the price of a finished piece of apparel, that may be significant for retailers competing on thin margins.And some express concerns about accuracy, including, for example, databases that may flag companies incorrectly. Investigators still need to be on the ground locally, they say, speaking with workers and remaining alert for signs of forced or child labor that may not show up in digital records.Justin Dillon, the chief executive of FRDM, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending forced labor, said there was “a lot of angst, a lot of confusion” among companies trying to satisfy the government’s new requirements.Importers are “looking for boxes to check,” he said. “And transparency in supply chains is as much an art as it is a science. It’s kind of never done.” More

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    In Ohio, Electric Cars Are Starting to Reshape Jobs and Companies

    Erick Belmer has seen how tough the car business can be. He was working at a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, when it shut down in 2019, devastating the community.Mr. Belmer, an industrial mechanic, got another job at a G.M. transmission factory in Toledo, but his commute is now 140 miles each way. His schedule gives him just a few hours with his family and a few hours of sleep.Yet far from being bitter, Mr. Belmer says he is excited. G.M. is converting his factory to produce electric motors, part of an industrial transformation that will redefine manufacturing regions and jobs around the world.G.M., Ford Motor and other carmakers announced investments of more than $50 billion in new factories in the United States last year, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. All but a small fraction of that money was to build and retool plants for electric vehicles and batteries.Mr. Belmer is one of thousands of people who will also have to pick up new skills. “It’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve,” he said at the Toledo factory. “But our guys are well equipped to handle this.”Mr. Belmer and Ohio are bellwethers of how the transition to electric vehicles will play out. G.M., Jeep, Honda Motor and parts makers employ many thousands of people across this state.Gas transmissions at G.M.’s plant in Toledo. G.M. has committed to retraining the workers there to make electric motors, and to investing $760 million to convert the plant’s assembly lines.Ohio’s experience may signal how the transition to electric vehicles will play out for workers.An electric drive unit on display at the G.M. plant.Ohio produces more internal combustion engines than any other state, making an adjustment to electric cars particularly urgent. Nearly 90,000 people work in Ohio for carmakers or parts suppliers, and several times that many are employed by businesses that serve those autoworkers and their families.The changes are putting Ohio at the forefront of a new technology that is critical to fighting climate change. But some jobs will become obsolete, and some companies will go bankrupt. It’s an open question whether the winners will outnumber the losers.“This is the largest transition in our industry since its inception,” said Tony Totty, the president of a United Auto Workers local that represents G.M. workers in Toledo.Mr. Totty is optimistic about the members of his local. But he is worried about other colleagues whose jobs are tied to gasoline engines, he said.There is “an expiration date on those facilities and those communities,” Mr. Totty said.Warren, in eastern Ohio, knows what happens when a carmaker leaves town. The city lost one-third of its population, about 20,000 people, after G.M. closed the factory in nearby Lordstown, which produced Chevrolet Cruze sedans, in 2019. Sales of that car had been fading as more Americans chose sport utility vehicles.Even before that shutdown, auto production jobs had been declining. U.S. automakers and their parts suppliers employed about one million people at the end of 2018, down from more than 1.3 million in 2000. In the years before G.M. closed the Lordstown plant, it had reduced shifts and pared its work force.“Our biggest export for the last 20 years has been talented young people,” said Rick Stockburger, the president of Brite Energy Innovators, an organization in Warren that offers work space, advice and funding to start-ups.Today, things are looking somewhat better. Ultium Cells, a joint venture of G.M. and LG Energy Solution, is ramping up production of batteries near the defunct factory.Tony Totty, the president of the United Auto Workers local that represents G.M.’s workers in Toledo, said the current moment represented “the largest transition in our industry since its inception.”Foxconn, a Taiwanese manufacturer, has taken over the old G.M. plant and plans to produce electric vehicles and tractors there. The complex will also house an “electric vehicle academy” established by Foxconn and Youngstown State University to train workers.That surge in investment is helping to revive Warren’s tidy but sleepy downtown. Doug Franklin, the mayor, who worked for G.M. in Lordstown, said he was pleased recently to step into a local restaurant where “nobody knew me, because we had so many new people.”Mr. Franklin represents the optimistic view — that an industrial renaissance is underway. The pandemic and the supply chain chaos that it caused have made companies leery of components produced far away. That experience, plus billions in federal subsidies approved by Democrats last year, motivated manufacturers to build vehicles, batteries and other components in the United States.“We’re seeing a new level of hope that I haven’t seen in decades,” Mr. Franklin said.But community leaders in Warren are also aware that the transition comes with risks.Hopes that the old plant will become a buzzing electric vehicle factory have not panned out, so far. G.M. sold the factory to Lordstown Motors, a fledgling electric pickup truck company that ran into trouble and resold the plant to Foxconn.Executives at Foxconn, which has long assembled electronic devices but has little experience making cars, declined interview requests. It’s not clear when the company will mass-produce electric vehicles in Lordstown, if ever.The Rev. Todd Johnson, the pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Warren and a member of the City Council, worries that his mostly African American parishioners won’t benefit from the new jobs.Mr. Johnson, whose parents worked for G.M., encourages young people to study subjects like robotics and coding, and has led after-church trips to a science and technology center in nearby Youngstown.“There are going to be opportunities coming,” he said, “and I desperately don’t want to see the next generation of our children miss out.”One pressing question is what will happen to people whose skills are no longer needed.Eric Gonzales, the executive director of G.M.’s Toledo factory, says the plant will need at least as many workers as it has today, as it replaces its gasoline models with electric ones.G.M. is dealing with that issue at the Toledo factory, Toledo Propulsion Systems, which makes transmissions that electric cars won’t need. The automaker has committed to retraining the Toledo workers to make electric motors, and to investing $760 million to convert assembly lines at the plant.If anything, G.M. will need more workers, said Eric Gonzales, the executive director of the factory, as it replaces gasoline models with electric cars. “We’re taking the employees with us.”The G.M. factory in Toledo will show whether established automakers can compete with Tesla, the fast-growing automaker that can focus all of its resources on electric vehicles because that’s all it makes. Established carmakers need to keep earning money from internal combustion vehicles while ramping up a new technology that is not yet profitable.G.M. has an advantage, Mr. Gonzales said, because it has factories equipped with sprinkler systems, high-voltage power and other essentials. “We already have the four walls here with the infrastructure,” he said, speaking above the din of clanking machinery. “Somebody new, they have very expensive capital costs.”Other auto executives prefer to start fresh. Volkswagen’s new Scout Motors unit looked at sites in Ohio and other states to produce electric pickup trucks and S.U.V.s, but chose to build a $2 billion factory in South Carolina.It’s cheaper and easier to build from scratch, said Scott Keogh, the chief executive of Scout. “You’re not juggling this classic dynamic of a legacy internal combustion engine plant where you need to inject a new electric vehicle,” he said.Workers placing batteries in hybrid vehicles at the Honda plant in Marysville, Ohio.Ohio is in intense competition with other states to attract investment. But Midwestern states, including Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, have been less successful than states in the South where Republican political leaders have courted investment aggressively — even as they denounce the Democratic policies that helped create the boom.Since 2020, automakers have announced investments of $51 billion in electric vehicle and battery production in the South, compared with $31 billion in states in the Great Lakes region, according to the Center for Automotive Research.Southern states tend to have lower labor costs, in part because most auto plants there are not unionized. This could pose a problem for the United Auto Workers and President Biden, who want the switch to electric vehicles to create more high-paying union jobs. It could well be that most of the new electric car and battery jobs will end up in the South, where unions face political opposition, and not in the Midwest, where unions have political clout — and where most of the jobs lost in combustion engine vehicles once were.Ohio has some things going for it. In March, Honda Motor said it would convert one of two assembly lines at its decades-old plant in Marysville, near Columbus, to build electric vehicles. Honda, a Japanese company, is also building a battery factory about an hour away, in Jeffersonville, with LG Energy Solution.In Ohio, Honda employs more than 14,000 people making cars and motors, and the company’s plans will show whether electric vehicles, which require fewer parts than gasoline cars, will create or destroy jobs.Honda’s assembly line of electric-car batteries at its Marysville plant.For the next several years, the transition will probably create jobs as carmakers make both gasoline and electric vehicles. Bob Nelson, the executive vice president of American Honda Motor, noted that, at the moment, there was a shortage of skilled labor. “We’re going to need everybody,” he said in Marysville, where Honda makes Accord sedans.What happens later is less certain. “When you don’t have the complexity that we’re used to, with engines and transmissions and mufflers and radiators and exhaust systems and all those components that aren’t going to be there anymore,” said Bruce Baumhower, the president of a United Auto Workers local that represents employees of auto suppliers in Ohio, “it makes me wonder what’s left.”Dana Incorporated, based in Maumee, near Toledo, is also grappling with that question. Dana’s employees — more than 40,000 of them — make axles, drive shafts and other parts. Electric vehicles need axles but typically do not need long drive shafts because the motors can be placed close to the wheels.James Kamsickas, Dana’s chief executive, has spent time in China and has been struck by the proliferation of electric vehicles there. Recognizing the threat to some of Dana’s products, Mr. Kamsickas acquired several firms with expertise in electric motors and other technology.James Kamsickas, right, Dana’s chief executive, has acquired several firms with expertise in electric motors and other technology.Dana now offers axles with electric motors built in, saving weight and energy, and it has deployed its expertise in gaskets to make equipment for cooling electric-car batteries that G.M. plans to use. Most of Dana’s orders are for products related to electric vehicles.Ohio’s economic future hinges on whether other companies make similar leaps. “You don’t have a choice,” Mr. Kamsickas said. “Sooner or later, you’d be a melting iceberg.” More

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    Biden’s Reluctant Approach to Free Trade Draws Backlash

    A law intended to bolster clean energy manufacturing has ignited debate over whether the U.S. should work to break down international trade barriers — or keep them intact to protect American workers.WASHINGTON — Since President Biden came into office two years ago, the United States has declined to pursue new comprehensive free-trade agreements with other countries, arguing that most Americans have turned against the kind of pacts that promote global commerce but that also help to send factory jobs overseas.But in recent months, with the rollout of a sweeping climate bill intended to bolster clean energy manufacturing, the lack of free-trade agreements with some of America’s closest allies has suddenly become a major headache for the administration.The dispute, which centers on which countries can receive benefits under the Inflation Reduction Act, has caused significant rifts with foreign governments and drawn blowback from Congress. And it is helping to reignite a debate over whether the United States should be working to break down trade barriers with other countries — or keep them intact in an attempt to protect American workers.The law as written offers tax credits for electric vehicles that are built in North America or that are made with battery minerals from the United States and countries with which it has a free-trade agreement.Those provisions have angered allies in Europe and elsewhere that, despite close ties with America, do not actually have free-trade agreements with the United States. They have complained that companies in their countries would be put at a disadvantage to U.S. firms that can receive the subsidies. To soothe relations, the Biden administration has developed a complicated workaround, in which it is signing limited new trade deals with Japan and the European Union.But that solution has vexed lawmakers of both parties, who say that these agreements are not valid and that the administration needs to ask Congress to approve the kind of free-trade agreement the law envisions.“It’s a fix,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who specializes in trade, adding that they were not free-trade agreements “by any reasonable definition of the term.”The World Trade Organization defines a free-trade agreement as covering “substantially all trade” between countries. In the United States, such broad agreements need the approval of Congress, though the executive branch has the authority to negotiate much narrower agreements.Administration officials argue that because the Inflation Reduction Act does not define the term “free-trade agreement,” these narrower pacts are allowed. But in hearings before the House and the Senate last month, lawmakers criticized the administration for bypassing Congress in making these agreements.Some lawmakers argued for more traditional free-trade deals, while others voiced support for new deals with higher labor and environmental standards, like the North American agreement Congress approved in 2020.In hearings, Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, highlighted efforts to raise global labor standards and decarbonize industries, and said she and her colleagues were “writing a new story on trade.”Mariam Zuhaib/Associated PressIn her opening statement at the hearings, Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, set out a vision for a trade policy that was different from those of previous administrations, focused more on defending American workers from unfair foreign competition than opening up global markets. Ms. Tai said she and her colleagues were “writing a new story on trade” that would put working families first and reflect the interests of a wider cross section of Americans.Speaking before the Senate on Thursday, Ms. Tai said she remained “open minded” about doing more trade agreements if they would help address the challenges the country has today.The Biden administration has long insisted that past approaches to trade policy — in which other countries gained access to the U.S. market through low or zero tariffs — ended up hurting American workers and enriching multinational companies, which simply moved U.S. jobs and factories overseas. In contrast, Biden officials have pledged to strengthen the economy and to make the country more competitive with China by expanding the country’s infrastructure and manufacturing, rather than negotiating new trade deals.The administration is currently negotiating trade frameworks for the Indo-Pacific region and the Americas, and is engaging in trade talks with Taiwan, Kenya and other governments. But, to the dissatisfaction of some lawmakers in both parties, none of these agreements are expected to involve significantly opening up foreign markets by lowering tariffs, as more traditional trade deals have done..css-1v2n82w{max-width:600px;width:calc(100% – 40px);margin-top:20px;margin-bottom:25px;height:auto;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;font-family:nyt-franklin;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1v2n82w{margin-left:20px;margin-right:20px;}}@media only screen and (min-width:1024px){.css-1v2n82w{width:600px;}}.css-161d8zr{width:40px;margin-bottom:18px;text-align:left;margin-left:0;color:var(–color-content-primary,#121212);border:1px solid var(–color-content-primary,#121212);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-161d8zr{width:30px;margin-bottom:15px;}}.css-tjtq43{line-height:25px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-tjtq43{line-height:24px;}}.css-x1k33h{font-family:nyt-cheltenham;font-size:19px;font-weight:700;line-height:25px;}.css-1hvpcve{font-size:17px;font-weight:300;line-height:25px;}.css-1hvpcve em{font-style:italic;}.css-1hvpcve strong{font-weight:bold;}.css-1hvpcve a{font-weight:500;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}.css-1c013uz{margin-top:18px;margin-bottom:22px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz{font-size:14px;margin-top:15px;margin-bottom:20px;}}.css-1c013uz a{color:var(–color-signal-editorial,#326891);-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;font-weight:500;font-size:16px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz a{font-size:13px;}}.css-1c013uz a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.Learn more about our process.Representative Adrian Smith, a Nebraska Republican who leads the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee, said in the hearing that he was concerned the United States had “lost momentum on trade” even as China continued to aggressively broaden its own partnerships.“I cannot express strongly enough,” he added, “that the administration cannot just come up with new definitions of what a trade agreement is for some reason, and certainly not to give handouts for electric vehicles.”“You have to appreciate that we live in a very different world,” Ms. Tai responded. She said the Biden administration sought to adapt its policies to respond “to the world we’re living in, and not the world that we want to live in.”Part of the pressure stems from the fact that other countries — including China — are continuing to pursue more traditional trade deals that lower their tariffs with trading partners, giving their companies an advantage over businesses based elsewhere. On Friday, British officials announced that they had reached an agreement to join a Pacific trade pact that, despite being devised by the Obama administration, does not include the United States.Membership in the so-called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership will allow Britain to export products tariff-free to 11 other countries. With the inclusion of Britain, the pact will represent 15 percent of the global economy, British officials said.Jake Colvin, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a U.S. group that lobbies on behalf of major multinational companies, called the news “a stark reminder that the world isn’t waiting for the United States.”“While we congratulate the U.K. government for being part of this massive agreement, it’s frustrating to see America’s allies writing global rules and creating new market opportunities without the United States,” he said.Politicians of both parties have found support for free-trade agreements to be controversial in the United States in recent years. The Trans-Pacific Partnership — the original deal negotiated by the Obama administration with 11 other nations circling the Pacific Ocean — received criticism from labor unions and other progressive Democrats who said it would ship jobs overseas. Hillary Clinton opposed it as a candidate in the 2016 presidential election.As president, Donald J. Trump also criticized the deal and officially withdrew the United States from it in 2017. He also scrapped a negotiation over a comprehensive trade deal the Obama administration had been carrying out with the European Union.The Biden administration is trying to reach trade frameworks for the Indo-Pacific region and the Americas, but none of these agreements are expected to involve significantly opening up foreign markets by lowering tariffs.Coley Brown for The New York TimesMr. Trump went on to sign a series of limited trade deals with Japan and China without congressional approval. He also oversaw an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement that was ratified by Congress, which he named the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.Democrats also came to support that deal after adding significant protections for workers and the environment.Some trade experts have speculated that the Biden administration will try to build on the success of the U.S.M.C.A. by adding more nations to the pact, or by applying its terms to negotiations elsewhere. But so far, the Biden administration has not announced any such plans.Two top Democratic lawmakers focused on trade issued a statement last week criticizing the limited agreement the Biden administration had signed with Japan and urging officials to try to replicate the success of the U.S.M.C.A. by working with Congress to draft new deals with enforceable environmental and labor protections.“U.S.M.C.A. is a prime example of what’s possible when the executive and Congress collaborate, and its enforcement mechanisms should be the floor for future agreements,” Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon who leads the Finance Committee, said in the statement.Republicans have also been split over how aggressively to pursue new free-trade agreements. More traditional free-traders — like those from agricultural states that depend on exporting goods overseas — have been at odds with a growing populist contingent that favors industrial policy and trade barriers to protect American workers.Still, Kelly Ann Shaw, a partner with Hogan Lovells in Washington and a former economic adviser to the Trump administration, said that “the amount of inaction by the administration is doing a lot to unify Republicans” around pursuing more free-trade deals.“If you would ask me two years ago, I would have thought that Republicans were more split on this issue than they really are,” she said. “But it’s pretty clear that we’re losing out on opportunities by sitting on our hands and doing nothing.” More

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    Biden Highlights Economic Investments Ahead of Expected 2024 Announcement

    The president has warned that a strong economy could be weakened under Republican leadership, a point he and a host of advisers will make at 20 events across the country in the coming weeks.DURHAM, N.C. — President Biden visited North Carolina on Tuesday and said Republicans would undermine his administration’s gains on American manufacturing, as the president began to sharpen his political message ahead of an expected re-election announcement.Mr. Biden spoke at Wolfspeed, a semiconductor manufacturer that recently announced a $5 billion investment to expand operations in the state, a move that would create about 1,800 jobs, according to the White House. The company, based in North Carolina, has deals to supply the material to General Motors, among other buyers.But Mr. Biden’s visit was less about semiconductors than it was about making an argument that he sees as key to a re-election bid — essentially, that the American economy has recovered since the coronavirus pandemic, his administration has helped keep it strong and Republican policies would undo that progress.“I’ve got news for you and for MAGA Republicans in Congress: Not on my watch,” Mr. Biden said, referring to the far-right wing of the party that is loyal to former President Donald J. Trump.The White House has argued for months that Mr. Biden has presided over a steady economy and strong job growth, but the data presents a more complicated reality: The high pace of job creation is undercut by a continued deceleration in wage increases, and there are growing concerns that the Federal Reserve may move to raise interest rates. The Biden administration has also tried to assuage fears of instability after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank this month.Mr. Biden’s visit to North Carolina was the start of three weeks of related events to be held across the country by the president and Vice President Kamala Harris, plus their spouses and a host of cabinet officials. The group plans to visit 20 states and will highlight investments in American manufacturing, supply chains and job-creation efforts, according to a summary of efforts sent by the White House.During his trip to Durham, Mr. Biden highlighted legislation passed last year, including the CHIPS and Science Act, which contains $52 billion in subsidies and tax credits for companies that manufacture chips in the United States. More than half of the amount is dedicated to helping companies build facilities for making, assembling and packaging some of the world’s more advanced chips. In his remarks, the president said that over $435 billion had been invested in American companies since he took office.“America’s coming back,” Mr. Biden said, standing beside Gina Raimondo, the commerce secretary, who traveled with him to Durham. “We are determined to lead the world in manufacturing semiconductors.”Ms. Raimondo, who is expected to participate in the tour over the coming weeks, told a crowd gathered at Wolfspeed that the pandemic had “opened all of our eyes” to the importance of maintaining the global supply chain and protecting competitive advantages in technology.“The truth of it is the United States was for a long time a manufacturing powerhouse,” she said. “Still is, but for a long time we took our eye off the ball, and we watched manufacturing leave our shores in search of cheap labor in Asia.”.css-1v2n82w{max-width:600px;width:calc(100% – 40px);margin-top:20px;margin-bottom:25px;height:auto;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;font-family:nyt-franklin;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1v2n82w{margin-left:20px;margin-right:20px;}}@media only screen and (min-width:1024px){.css-1v2n82w{width:600px;}}.css-161d8zr{width:40px;margin-bottom:18px;text-align:left;margin-left:0;color:var(–color-content-primary,#121212);border:1px solid var(–color-content-primary,#121212);}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-161d8zr{width:30px;margin-bottom:15px;}}.css-tjtq43{line-height:25px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-tjtq43{line-height:24px;}}.css-x1k33h{font-family:nyt-cheltenham;font-size:19px;font-weight:700;line-height:25px;}.css-1hvpcve{font-size:17px;font-weight:300;line-height:25px;}.css-1hvpcve em{font-style:italic;}.css-1hvpcve strong{font-weight:bold;}.css-1hvpcve a{font-weight:500;color:var(–color-content-secondary,#363636);}.css-1c013uz{margin-top:18px;margin-bottom:22px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz{font-size:14px;margin-top:15px;margin-bottom:20px;}}.css-1c013uz a{color:var(–color-signal-editorial,#326891);-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;font-weight:500;font-size:16px;}@media only screen and (max-width:480px){.css-1c013uz a{font-size:13px;}}.css-1c013uz a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.Learn more about our process.The president spoke directly to people he said might feel “left behind” by technological changes, but said his administration would focus on programs that could train workers to produce technological projects without a college degree. Mr. Biden said the “vast majority” of jobs created by Wolfspeed would not require college degrees and could pay around $80,000.Events like the one held on Tuesday will provide Mr. Biden and his surrogates with an opportunity to hone his argument against Republicans.At the same time, a collision course looms in Washington over the debt ceiling.On Tuesday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, wrote a letter urging the president to negotiate on the federal debt limit. “With each passing day,” Mr. McCarthy wrote, “I am incredibly concerned that you are putting an already fragile economy in jeopardy by insisting upon your extreme position of refusing to negotiate any meaningful changes to out-of-control government spending.”Mr. Biden has said he will refuse to negotiate on the debt limit, pointing out that Republicans voted to raise the ceiling several times under his predecessor, Mr. Trump.“It’s time for Republicans to stop playing games, pass a clean debt ceiling bill and quit threatening our economic recovery,” Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement responding to Mr. McCarthy’s letter.In his own letter sent on Tuesday evening, Mr. Biden urged Mr. McCarthy and congressional Republicans to present a full budget proposal before Congress leaves for Easter recess.The president and his advisers have signaled that the situation would be worse under Republican leadership, a point he underscored in North Carolina. The White House says that companies have made $16 billion in private sector investment commitments since Mr. Biden took office, a development they have attributed to corporations taking advantage of tax breaks and federal funding that bolsters innovation.Mr. Biden has argued that the flow of money would be at stake if Republicans tried to repeal policies passed under his administration, including the Inflation Reduction Act. He has also said that individual Americans are at risk of losing access to lower health care, energy and internet costs that are provided for in the bills that were passed by a Democratic-majority Congress.“We’re not going to let them undo all the progress,” Mr. Biden said. More

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    Why Russia Has Such a Strong Grip on Europe’s Nuclear Power

    New energy sources to replace oil and natural gas have been easier to find than kicking the dependency on Rosatom, the state-owned nuclear superstore.The pinched cylinders of Russian-built nuclear power plants that dot Europe’s landscape are visible reminders of the crucial role that Russia still plays in the continent’s energy supply.Europe moved with startling speed to wean itself off Russian oil and natural gas in the wake of war in Ukraine. But breaking the longstanding dependency on Russia’s vast nuclear industry is a much more complicated undertaking.Russia, through its mammoth state-owned nuclear power company, Rosatom, dominates the global nuclear supply chain. It was Europe’s third-largest supplier of uranium in 2021, accounting for 20 percent of the total. With few ready alternatives, there has been scant support for sanctions against Rosatom — despite urging from the Ukrainian government in Kyiv.For countries with Russian-made reactors, reliance runs deep. In five European Union countries, every reactor — 18 in total — were built by Russia. In addition, two more are scheduled to start operating soon in Slovakia, and two are under construction in Hungary, cementing partnerships with Rosatom far into the future.For years, the operators of these nuclear power plants had little choice. Rosatom, through its subsidiary TVEL, was virtually the only producer of the fabricated fuel assemblies — the last step in the process of turning uranium into the nuclear fuel rods — that power the reactors.Even so, since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, some European countries have started to step away from Russia’s nuclear energy superstore.The Czech Republic’s energy company, CEZ, has signed contracts with Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse Electric Company and the French company Framatome to supply fuel assemblies for its plant in Temelin.Finland canceled a troubled project with Rosatom to build a nuclear reactor and hired Westinghouse to design, license and supply a new fuel type for its plant in Loviisa after its current contracts expire.“The purpose is to diversify the supply chain,” said Simon-Erik Ollus, an executive vice president at Fortum, a Finnish energy company.The Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant near St. Petersburg, Russia. Rosatom, a Russian company, dominates the global nuclear supply chain.Sezgin Pancar/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesBulgaria signed a new 10-year agreement with Westinghouse to provide fuel for its existing reactors. And last week, it moved ahead with plans for the American company to build new nuclear reactor units. Poland is about to construct its first nuclear power plant, which will feature three Westinghouse reactors.The State of the WarRussian Strikes: Moscow fired an array of weapons, including its newest hypersonic missiles, in its biggest aerial attack on Ukraine in weeks, knocking out power in multiple regions.Bakhmut: Even as Ukrainian and Russian leaders predicted that the fall of the city could open the way for a broader Russian offensive, the U.S. intelligence chief said that the Kremlin’s forces were too depleted to wage such a campaign.Nord Stream Pipelines: The sabotage in September of the pipelines has become one of the central mysteries of the war. A Times investigation offers new insight into who might have been behind it.Slovakia and even Hungary, Russia’s closest ally in the European Union, have also reached out to alternative fuel suppliers.“We see a lot of genuine movement,” said Tarik Choho, president of nuclear fuel unit at Westinghouse, adding that the Ukraine war accelerated Europe’s search for new suppliers. “Even Hungary wants to diversify.”William Freebairn, senior managing editor for nuclear energy at S&P Commodity Insights, said Russia’s march into Ukraine last year in some ways marked “a sea change.”“Within days of the invasion,” he said, “just about every country that operated a Russian reactor started looking for alternate supply.”In Ukraine, serious efforts to chip away at Russian nuclear dominance began in 2014 after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sent troops to occupy territory in Crimea and the eastern Donbas region. Ukraine, whose 15 Soviet-era reactors provided half the country’s electricity, signed a deal with Westinghouse to expand its fuel contract.It took roughly five years between the start of the design process and the final delivery of the first fuel assembly, according to the International Energy Agency.Ukraine “blazed a commercial trail,” Mr. Freebairn said. In June, Ukraine signed another contract with Westinghouse to eventually provide all its nuclear fuel. The company will also build nine power plants and establish an engineering center in the country.Technicians in a nuclear plant in Mochovce, Slovakia, last year. Slovakia is among the European countries seeking nuclear fuel suppliers other than Russia.Radovan Stoklasa/ReutersStill, a worldwide turn away from Russia’s nuclear industry would be a slog: The nuclear supply chain is exceptionally complex. Establishing a new one would be expensive and take years.At the same time, Rosatom has proved uniquely successful as both a business enterprise and a vehicle for Russian political influence. Much of its ascendancy is due to what experts have labeled a “one-stop nuclear shop” that can provide countries with an all-inclusive package: materials, training, support, maintenance, disposal of nuclear waste, decommissioning and, perhaps most important, financing on favorable terms.And with a life span of 20 to 40 years, deals to build nuclear reactors compel a long-term marriage.Russia’s tightest grip is on the market for nuclear fuel. It controls 38 percent of the world’s uranium conversion and 46 percent of the uranium enrichment capacity — essential steps in producing usable fuel.“That’s equal to all of OPEC put together in terms of market share and power,” said Paul Dabbar, a visiting fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, referring to the oil dominance of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.As with oil and natural gas, the cost of nuclear fuel supplies has risen over the past year, putting more than $1 billion from exports into Russia’s treasury, according to a report from the Royal United Services Institute, a security research organization in London.The American nuclear power industry gets up to 20 percent of its enriched uranium from Russia, the maximum allowed by a recent nonproliferation treaty, according to the International Energy Association. France imports 15 percent. Framatome, which is owned by state-backed nuclear power operator, Électricité de France, or EDF, signed a cooperation agreement with Rosatom in December 2021, two months before Russia’s invasion, that is still in effect. Framatome declined to comment.The control room of a nuclear power plant in Paks, Hungary, in 2019. Two Rosatom nuclear plants are under construction in Hungary.Tamas Soki/EPA, via ShutterstockAnd even with the slate of new fuel agreements in Europe with non-Russian sources, deliveries won’t begin for at least a year, and in some cases several years.Around a quarter of the European Union’s electricity supply comes from nuclear power. With pending climate disaster prompting a worldwide push to decrease the overall use of fossil fuels, nuclear energy’s role in the future fuel mix is expected to increase.Still, analysts argue that even without formal sanctions, Russia’s position as a nuclear supplier has been permanently compromised.At the height of the debate in Germany last year over whether to keep its two remaining nuclear power plants online because of the war, their reliance on uranium enriched by Russia for the fuel rods emerged as one of the arguments against extending their lives. The last two reactors are to be shut down next month.And when Poland’s Council of Ministers approved the agreement in November for Westinghouse to build the country’s first nuclear power plant, the resolution cited “the need for permanent independence from energy supplies and energy carriers from Russia.”Mr. Choho at Westinghouse was confident about the company’s ability to compete with Rosatom in Europe, estimating that it eventually could capture 50 to 75 percent of that nuclear market. Westinghouse has also signed an agreement with the Spanish energy company Enusa to cooperate on fabricating fuel for Russian-made reactors.A nuclear power plant in Wattenbacherau, Germany, last year. The country’s last two reactors are to be shut down next month.Laetitia Vancon for The New York TimesBut outside the European Union and United States, in countries where support for Russia’s government has held up, Rosatom’s one-stop shopping and financing remain enticing. Russian-built reactors can be found in China, India and Iran as well as Armenia and Belarus. Construction has begun on Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, and Rosatom has a memorandum of understanding with 13 countries, according to the International Energy Association.As a new report in the journal Nature Energy concluded, while the war “will undermine Rosatom’s position in Europe and damage its reputation as a reliable supplier,” its global standing “may remain strong.”Melissa Eddy More