Authorities in Saudi Arabia sign environment and water deals to promote technology, scientific research

CEO of the National Center for the Development of Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification Dr. Khaled Al-Abdul Qader signs agreement with Donal Bradley, vice president for research at KAUST. (SPA)
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CEO of the National Center for the Development of Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification Dr. Khaled Al-Abdul Qader signs agreement with Donal Bradley, vice president for research at KAUST. (SPA)
Minister of Environment Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli and KAUST President Dr. Tony Chan sign an agreement. (SPA)
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Minister of Environment Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli and KAUST President Dr. Tony Chan sign an agreement. (SPA)
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Updated 25 November 2021

Authorities in Saudi Arabia sign environment and water deals to promote technology, scientific research

Minister of Environment Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli and KAUST President Dr. Tony Chan sign an agreement. (SPA)
  • The agreement contributes to achieving the ministry’s objectives to meet current and future urban, agricultural and industrial needs

RIYADH: Officials in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday signed a strategic partnership agreement to establish a national data bank for plant genes in the Kingdom.
Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli, minister of environment, water and agriculture, witnessed the signing of the partnership between his ministry and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Riyadh.
The research cooperation agreement aims to map the genome and prepare genetic information bases for perennial and endangered plants, and plants of economic, medical and pastoral importance.
It will also establish a genetic data bank that will help understand the living nature of these plants, their adaptation in their diverse environments, and the extent to which they are affected by different pressures, in order to preserve them from extinction, and to reproduce and cultivate them in their natural locations.
KAUST organized field trips to collect samples of a number of perennial and endangered trees and plants, with the aim of conducting scientific experiments on them.
The water agreement aims to develop and implement a road map to enhance cooperation between the ministry and its partners in the water sector, including the National Water Company, the Saline Water Conversion Corporation, the Saudi Irrigation Organization and the Saudi Water Partnership Company), and KAUST in the field of water research and studies.
The agreement aims to define specific measurable target outputs for collaboration and it will also help in achieving a number of objectives of the National Water Strategy 2030.
The agreement contributes to achieving the ministry’s objectives to meet current and future urban, agricultural and industrial needs, focuses on the promotion, development and sustainability of water resources, provides innovative solutions to water sector challenges, and capacity building.
It will also establish a creative research partnership to benefit the Kingdom’s water sector through technology transfer and conducting research projects and strategic studies on issues that positively affect water resources, planning and governance, the relationship between water, agriculture, energy, water security, and the overall performance of the water sector.


Oil drops on Druzhba pipeline restart, jump in US stocks

Oil drops on Druzhba pipeline restart, jump in US stocks
Updated 13 sec ago

Oil drops on Druzhba pipeline restart, jump in US stocks

Oil drops on Druzhba pipeline restart, jump in US stocks
  • US crude inventories up more than 5 million barrels

NEW YORK: Oil prices fell on Wednesday as flows on the Russia-to-Europe Druzhba pipeline resumed and after US crude stocks rose far more than anticipated.

Brent crude futures were down $1.66, or 1.7 percent, to $94.65 a barrel as of 11:07 a.m. EST (1607 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down $1.70, or 1.9 percent, at $88.80.

Russian state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft has restarted oil flows via the southern leg of the Druzhba oil pipeline, RIA news agency said, citing Igor Dyomin, an aide to Transneft’s president, on Wednesday.

Ukraine had suspended Russian oil pipeline flows to parts of central Europe since early this month because Western sanctions prevented it from receiving transit fees from Moscow, Transneft said on Tuesday.

Demand fears also weighed on prices, analysts said.

“Fears of recession-induced demand destruction are the single-biggest price driver currently and the principal reason why Brent is trading sub-$100 a barrel,” said PVM analyst Stephen Brennock.

US stocks

US crude oil stocks, meanwhile, rose by 5.5 million barrels for the week ended Aug. 5, according to the US Energy Information Administration, more than the expected increase of 73,000 barrels. Refining activity also rose, as well as oil production. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast crude inventories would rise by about 100,000 barrels.

Though concerns over a potential global recession have weighed on oil futures, US oil refiners and pipeline operators expect energy consumption to be strong for the second half of 2022, a Reuters review of company earnings calls showed.

Overall, gasoline product supplied rose in the most recent week to 9.1 million bpd, but over the past four weeks that figure is 8.9 million bpd, down 6 percent from the year-ago period.

“The gasoline number was decent for this time of year,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York. “It’s good to see a near normal level here.”


Insilico raises $35m in Series-D round led by Aramco-backed Prosperity7 Ventures

Insilico raises $35m in Series-D round led by Aramco-backed Prosperity7 Ventures
Updated 13 min 9 sec ago

Insilico raises $35m in Series-D round led by Aramco-backed Prosperity7 Ventures

Insilico raises $35m in Series-D round led by Aramco-backed Prosperity7 Ventures

RIYADH: US-based Insilico Medicine has raised an additional $35 million in a Series D funding round led by Aramco-backed Prosperity7 Ventures.

According to FierceBiotech, with this new round the total Series D financing has reached $95 million.

The funds will allow the company to expand its artificial intelligence platform into other areas such as sustainable chemistry, green energy and agriculture.

The financing brought in Prosperity7 Ventures as a new investor.


Emirates airline invests over $2bn to boost customer experience 

Emirates airline invests over $2bn to boost customer experience 
Updated 38 min 39 sec ago

Emirates airline invests over $2bn to boost customer experience 

Emirates airline invests over $2bn to boost customer experience 

RIYADH: Dubai-based Emirates airline is investing over $2 billion to boost its inflight customer experience, according to a statement. 

The investment includes a program to retrofit over 120 aircraft with the latest interiors, in addition to an array of other service improvements across all cabins starting in 2022.

“While others respond to industry pressures with cost cuts, Emirates is flying against the grain and investing to deliver ever better experiences to our customers,” President Tim Clark said.

“Through the pandemic we’ve continued to launch new services and initiatives to ensure our customers travel with the assurance and ease, including digital initiatives to improve customer experiences on the ground,” he added. 

The airline’s latest initiatives include upgraded meal choices, new vegan menu, a “cinema in the sky” experience, cabin interior upgrades and sustainable choices. 


EU ban on Russian coal enters into force

EU ban on Russian coal enters into force
Updated 10 August 2022

EU ban on Russian coal enters into force

EU ban on Russian coal enters into force

BRUSSELS: The EU’s total ban on coal imports from Russia comes into force from midnight Wednesday, at a time the bloc is grappling with soaring energy costs following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Leaders of the EU’s 27 countries agreed the embargo in April in their first move targeting Russia’s key energy exports over its war on its pro-Western neighbor.

The measure was subject to a 120-day grace period before full implementation, to allow pre-existing contracts to be fulfilled.

The EU up to last year imported some 45 percent of its coal — worth an estimated €4 billion ($4.1 billion) — from Russia.

Overall, the bloc slashed its consumption of the polluting fossil fuel from 1.2 billion tons to 427 million tonnes between 1990 and 2020 as it pushed to hit climate goals.

But the closure of many mines across the continent led to an increase in Europe’s dependence on imports.

Some countries including Germany and Poland that used it to produce electricity were particularly reliant on Moscow.

In the face of cuts to Russian gas deliveries in recent months, EU members such as Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Italy have stepped up their use of coal-fired power plants.

Adding to the energy crunch, an EU plan to cut natural gas use by 15 percent in the face of rocketing prices came into force earlier this week.

During the first five months of 2022, the amount of electricity Germany produces from coal rose by 20 percent, according to energy analyst Rystad.

The embargo on Russia has pushed the EU to step up imports from other sources, including the US, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia.

But ending imports of Russian coal has already proved complicated for traditional mining nation Poland, which imported roughly 10 million tons from Moscow each year.

Its government imposed a total ban on Russian coal imports in mid-April, causing severe shortages and a surge in prices.

The cost of a ton of coal in Poland rose around fourfold from a year ago, leading to protests from the three million Poles still using it to heat their homes.


US consumer prices unchanged in July as cost of gasoline plunges

US consumer prices unchanged in July as cost of gasoline plunges
Updated 10 August 2022

US consumer prices unchanged in July as cost of gasoline plunges

US consumer prices unchanged in July as cost of gasoline plunges

WASHINGTON: US consumer prices were unchanged in July due to a sharp drop in the cost of gasoline, delivering the first notable sign of relief for weary Americans who have watched inflation climb over the past two years.

The Consumer Price Index was flat last month after advancing 1.3 percent in June, the Labor Department said on Wednesday in a closely watched report that nevertheless showed underlying inflation pressures remain elevated as the Federal Reserve mulls whether to embrace another super-sized interest rate hike in September.

The reading was the largest month-on-month deceleration of price increases since 1973 and followed on the heels of a roughly 20 percent drop in the cost of gasoline. Prices at the pump spiked in the first half of this year due to the war in Ukraine, hitting a record-high average of more than $5 per gallon in mid-June, according to motorist advocacy group AAA.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.2 percent rise in the monthly CPI in July. The Fed has indicated that several monthly declines in CPI growth would be needed before it lets up on the aggressive monetary policy tightening it has delivered to tame inflation currently running at a four-decade high.

HIGHLIGHTS

The Consumer Price Index was flat last month after advancing 1.3 percent in June.

Food is one component of the CPI that remained elevated in July.

Real average weekly earnings rose 0.5 percent in July.

But the lower-than-expected CPI data ignited a strong rally in equity markets, with the S&P 500 index up 1.5 percent in mid-morning trading. Investors immediately pared bets the Fed would deliver a third straight 75-basis-point rate hike at its Sept. 20-21 meeting, instead seeing the US central bank likely to opt for a half-percentage-point hike.

“This is not yet the meaningful decline in inflation the Fed is looking for. But its a start and we expect to see broader signs of easing price pressures over the next few months,” said Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics.

US consumer prices have been surging due to a number of factors, including snarled global supply chains, massive government stimulus early in the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Food is one component of the CPI that remained elevated in July, rising 1.1 percent last month after climbing 1 percent in June.

In the 12 months through July, the CPI increased by a weaker-than-expected 8.5 percent following a 9.1 percent rise in June. Underlying inflation pressures, which exclude volatile food and energy components, also showed some green shoots despite remaining strong.

The so-called core CPI rose 0.3 percent in July, a 10-month low, after climbing 0.7 percent in June, helped by an almost 8 percent fall in the cost of airline fares, but still increased 5.9 percent in the 12 months through July, matching the pace in June.

Inflation in the cost of rent and owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence, which is what a homeowner would receive from renting a home, rose at almost the same pace as in June. Shelter costs comprise about 40 percent of the core CPI measure.

Tight labor market 

A separate Labor Department report on Wednesday showed real average weekly earnings rose 0.5 percent in July, the first monthly increase since last September and largest gain since January 2021.

Inflation pressures until recently had been concentrated in goods, but consumers have refocused spending on services as the pandemic eased. Fed policymakers are fearful that accelerating service-sector inflation will be more difficult to unravel.

There was little relief on that front, with prices for services excluding energy-related items rising at a 5.5 percent annual rate in July, the same pace as in the prior month, although there was a decline in the monthly reading.

Wednesday’s inflation reading followed the release last Friday of the Labor Department’s monthly employment report, which showed stronger-than-expected job growth and wage gains in July. The economy created 528,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell back to its pre-pandemic low. That employment data will make it harder for the Fed to bring the economy into balance soon.

Labor market tightness is also underscored by the fact that, although US job openings fell to a nine-month low in June, there were still almost two jobs for every unemployed person.