Category: US News

Looking back on the November election

Lily McLean, editor-in-chief

The 2020 general election saw the spotlight turn, for the first time in many years, to poll workers. 

Poll workers are an often faceless class, invisible citizens who, motivated either by a sense of civic duty or perhaps the small stipend offered as a reward, stay at the polls from dawn to dusk. They facilitate a fundamentally democratic process, one that keeps the United States functioning as a republic. 

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Enigmatic Monolith in Utah Desert Conjures Theories

Paige P., journalist

Shortly after its mysterious appearance, a twelve-foot-metal structure found in a remote area of the desert in Utah has already disappeared, just as quickly as it came. Members of the Utah Department of Public Safety were flying over the desert on November 18th in search of bighorn sheep. In addition to sheep, they came across a triangular, hollow monolith sticking out of the red rock. By the night of November 27th, the structure, composed of three sheets of stainless-steel, had already been removed by an individual or group of people just over a week after it was originally spotted. At the moment, there is no solid evidence pointing to who created the monolith, how it got there, how long it has been there, or how it disappeared.

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Trump Refuses To Concede Election

Owen H., journalist

Washington, DC – President Donald Trump is refusing to concede the 2020 presidential race to President-Elect Joe Biden. If he continues, he will be the first United States President to ever do so. 

Not that the Trump presidency has been like any other. He has broken many norms already, and has been the third President in the United States to be impeached. But if he refuses to concede the election, he will be the first United States President to do so. Before the 2016 election, Trump said that he would refuse to accept the results of the election if he lost. He has done the same this election too, claiming that there was going to be mass voter fraud and that fake ballots would be cast by mail. 

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Covid Vaccine

Ben K., journalist

A new vaccine for the virus sweeping the country, COVID-19, is in place and may be distributed through pharmacies and grocery stores alike. For many months now, COVID has been affecting everyone in some way, no matter who you are or what country you live in. According to the Associated Press, Moderna, an American biotechnology company, has released news that the tests have yielded very good news, despite the current state of the virus now, and how the future would look very grim without the vaccine. The vaccine has appeared to be 94.5% effective, which is a huge step in dealing with the virus and will be very effective if distributed soon. Many companies are in a race for the vaccine, but only a few have been very successful. While Americans brace heavily for the next possible wave of COVID coming to us all, there is a light at the end of a tunnel for us all.

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Is Coronavirus the End of Fracking?

Croix Ellison, Science Co-Editor

As the top oil-producing industry in the United States, hydraulic fracturing has prevailed through the American economy for more than a century. As the process has significantly altered the energy landscape, fracking (short for “hydraulic fracturing”) has also led to rising oil and natural gas production. This production has also led to cheaper oil and reduced reliance on imports or oil and gas from other countries. However, the nation’s heavy use of the natural gas produced from fracking also leads to more pressing environmental concerns. 

Fracking is a process in which sand, water, and chemicals are injected directly into the ground at high pressure to crack open rocks and release the oil or gas trapped inside. The process is also considerably more expensive, and it only works when global oil is at much higher prices than it is now. 

Fracking (technically) is not new science, despite how it is framed in public discussion. With a history tracing back to the 1860s, the modern-day fracking process we know now has prevailed since the 1990s. Additionally, the fracking process, as a result of being made from toxic pollutants such as oil and gas, is a significant contributor to the devastating consequences of climate change, which has led to drastic and dangerous disruptions in our daily lives: there is an increase in natural disasters that are not only destroying shorelines, lowering air quality or eating away at world economies, but they are disproportionately affecting lower-income communities across the globe. The impact on vulnerable Black, Brown, and Indigenous populations in the United States is a particularly prevalent problem. 

What’s not discussed as widely is how the fracking process can go wrong. If this were to occur, it could lead to the contaminants from oil and gas wells leaking into streams and water supplies. Furthermore, fracking operations are industrializing (and destroying) both wild and rural landscapes and disproportionately putting agricultural and recreational economies at risk. Since the fracking boom hasn’t led to the type of environmental safeguards needed to regulate it heavily, restrict it or eliminate it (thanks to a very active and well-funded oil and gas industry that contributed nearly $100 million to candidates in the 2020 election cycle), the process could also lead to blighted landscapes and poison water. 

Yet, since the beginning of the pandemic, one central question persists: Is the fracking industry collapsing because of the coronavirus? As a result of Covid-19, the world has seen many shifts in economy and livelihood. Due to a decrease in the usage of carbon powered machines, air pollution levels have seen significant drops – perhaps more so during the first months of the pandemic as U.S. cities instituted mandatory lockdowns, at least according to a University of Minnesota study. As a result, certain countries, like the United States, have seen some improvement of the environment’s air quality due to a decrease in the use of machines powered by oil and gas (cars, airplanes, boats, trains).

For example, fewer people are commuting all over the world. Therefore, commuting traffic levels are not as high as pre-pandemic; most local travel is confined to shopping at local grocery stores for essential items. Travel bans have restricted international flights. Canceled conferences, festivals, concerts, and other public events have diminished tourism. Additionally, airline ridership has slumped altogether, and in many cases, airports are near-empty (despite a sudden uptick in holiday travel starting in the Thanksgiving break). Interestingly enough, the nation’s air quality has improved while energy oil and gas production has begun to deteriorate during this pandemic

The recent 2020 election debate over fracking between presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump gave the American public the impression that the fracking industry was somewhat strong. However, what was missed is that the fracking industry is, in fact, not doing so well. In the first month of official quarantine in the U.S., as declining oil prices had shocked the oil industry, fracking companies had already started to file for bankruptcy. During this pandemic, not even one out of 100 of the largest fracking operations can profit from such low oil prices. 

Since oil prices have decreased to staggeringly record lows, that has become a big problem for fracking companies, as they require oil prices of at least $30 or higher to turn a profit. The industry as a whole is in debt, especially as oil prices pretty much cratered in the Spring of 2020 due to the pandemic. Additionally, according to a recent report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, fracking companies are spending more money now than they are generating. Globally, 400,000 jobs have been lost in the oil and gas energy sector – and nearly half of those in the United States. Meanwhile, according to the International Energy Agency, “global energy demand is expected to contract by 6% in 2020, the largest drop in more than 70 years. Global CO2 emissions are expected to decline by 8% in 2020, falling to their lowest level since 2010.” These effects are all because of the pandemic and the fallout from it: rising coronavirus infections, increasing hospitalizations and deaths, and high unemployment and severe economic distress. 

It might seem like the disruption in the oil and gas sector leads to an opening for clean energy. Less reliance on fossil fuels should, naturally, mean a transition to clean energy sources like solar, hydro, and wind power. That hasn’t necessarily been the case during this pandemic. Every economic sector is experiencing some form of decline, including the clean energy sector, which has relied heavily on investments to help it move forward, including government support. As the IEA report (from June 2020) notes, the renewable energy sector has been resilient during the pandemic, but “… [d]espite this resilience, renewables’ growth is expected to slow down in 2020. 

Covid-19 is devastating the oil and gas industry, but it’s gently nudging the clean energy sector. Overall, however, it is having a significant impact on the energy industry as a whole. Still, there are signs that the energy sector may be addressing this challenge through gradual transitions to clear energy. Texas, for example, is a prominent case study. 

As a result of the largest oil and gas companies eliminating and laying off staff due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Texas’s oil jobs have disappeared rapidly. However, as the oil industry started to deteriorate, investors were already placing money towards renewable energy storage. 

According to ERCOT (The Electric Reliability Council of Texas), wind power accounted for 6% of Texas’s electricity in 2009. Last year, this percentage went up to 20%. Over this same course of time, coal production in Texas fell by almost half. Additionally, Texas has also made considerable headway on the transition to solar energy, and the state ranks number four in solar capacity. Furthermore, in Austin, Texas, Tesla’s new $1.1 billion “gigafactory” is under construction. This is estimated to build 5,000 jobs from electric vehicles and battery development. Texas can be used as an example to many other states when transitioning out of fracking and oil production into clean energy. 

Government support remains an essential key in the transition to clean energy. Federal, state and local levels should prioritize investments in clean energy start-ups and projects. There are signs that Congress will try to push through another pandemic economic relief package – or stimulus – by the end of this year or definitely at the start of the new Biden administration in 2021. Investments in clean energy projects, as part of a larger plan to boldly transition to a future with less air-polluting fossil fuel in it, would be a good start to build a new clean energy infrastructure. That would also create new jobs and spur innovation and help former oil and gas employees transfer their energy sector skill sets into new work. 

The fracking industry’s sudden disruption has many positive impacts on clean air, energy pollution, and the future of renewable energy. However, it would be the perfect opportunity now or in the immediate future to start exploring the process of switching to renewable energy. Otherwise, we have industries falling, economies failing, and little to no plans towards making any of that better. 

Joseph R. Biden Jr. Elected President of the United States

Lily McLean, editor-in-chief

Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been elected president of the United States on the fifth day of the 2020 presidential election. After a tight battle between Biden and the incumbent, Donald J. Trump, the state of Pennsylvania was called for Biden, giving him the twenty electoral votes he needed for victory. Major networks, from Fox News to CNN, have now called the election in favor of Biden.

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The Downfall of Fast Fashion and the Rise of Sustainability

Kathryn L., journalist

Approximately 15.1 million tons of waste was created from textiles in 2013, but the numbers have continued to grow.  The textile industry produces a large mass of waste every year.  The fashion industry has created and perpetuates wasteful practices such as using low-quality materials, poor environmental practices, and unethical production.  This has become known as fast fashion.  Switching to sustainable fashion can help our environment, the working conditions of the producers, and our future.

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The Electoral College

Claire D., journalist

Every four years in the United States of America, citizens attempt to secure the role of the nation’s leader. These elections are a two-step process, beginning with the popular vote, and ultimately decided by the Electoral College. In 2020, the popular vote, in which registered US voters cast their ballots marked with the name of the candidate they believe is fit to lead the country, takes place on November 3rd, only to be followed on December 14th by the electoral vote. What does this really mean, and how does the popular vote as well as the electoral college affect the election?

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How to Vote in 2020

Addison G., journalist

It is that time again, time to vote! This election season has been one with lots of facts and information thrown at us, to the point of being overwhelmed and not knowing what, or who, to listen to. Thankfully, the New York Times created an easy-to-read resource describing the three main ways to vote. If you choose to vote in person, make sure to do it safely by maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask.This also applies to early voting in person. The article also describes how to vote by mail. It explains that you need to look at the rules and regulations for your own state, so that you know exactly how to make sure your vote is counted.

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An Introductory Guide for Understanding Black Lives Matter

Alexa W., Senior Reporter

As a white person, I understand that I will never understand, but I stand with you. I want to preface this article by saying that this piece is intended for white readers.  It is not black people’s jobs to educate us about systematic racism, white privilege, police brutality, or any of the racial issues affecting them, and they shouldn’t have to.  Right now, black people are leading a fight for their rights to life, justice, and equality.  My intent in writing this article is to educate you all in the same ways that I have been educating myself–by providing you with information about white privilege, systematic racism, police brutality, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and ways that white people can help support this movement.  My goal in doing this is to amplify black voices and support their fight

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