🌍 Europe readies for Russian gas cutoff

High price

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Shanghai is expanding its lockdown. As cases of covid continue to go up, the Chinese commercial capital will extend lockdown measures to cover most of its population.

Europe is preparing to cut off Russian gas. President Vladimir Putin won’t trade gas if it’s not in rubles, and European countries are planning accordingly. Meanwhile, the US will tap its strategic oil stash (more below), and OPEC will stick to its modest output strategy.

Civilians will be evacuated from besieged Mariupol. Russia agreed to a humanitarian corridor, and the Ukrainian government is sending buses to the city to rescue its citizens. Meanwhile, Russia drafted 134,500 new conscripts.

India doubled its local gas prices. The increase reflects global trends but will likely push up the country’s inflation.

Dark days in Sri Lanka. The economic crisis, worsened by the pandemic and tax cuts, is causing reduced trading hours and cut-off street lights, as well as widespread protests.

A key US inflation gauge is up 6.4% year over year. This is the highest the inflation value has been since 1982, and it’s showing in the prices of food and gas.

What to watch for

Image: Giphy

Turns out plastic bags floating in the wind aren’t as pretty as American Beauty romanticized.

Starting today, the UK will implement a tax designed to curb the production of single-use plastics. Manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging will need to pay £200 ($262) per ton for any plastic made of less than 30% recycled materials. The government projects the measure could save 200,000 tons of carbon emissions in its first year and boost demand for recycled materials by 40%. Industry groups warn it will raise costs for consumers.

The real question is whether plastic taxes, which are also under consideration in Spain and Italy, can work better than plastic bag bans, which research has shown can lead to unintended side effects like an uptick in consumption of paper bags and trash bags. On March 2, world leaders agreed to pursue a new global treaty on plastic pollution, so more anti-plastic policies will be piling up soon.

Where are the US oil reserves?

The US announced its largest withdrawal of crude oil from its strategic petroleum reserves since they were first set up in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. The intended result is lower energy prices. But where’s the oil coming from?

The reserves are spread over four sites in the southern US, on the Gulf Coast, where tankers can easily make deposits and withdrawals. The oil is stored in large underground salt caverns, with a maximum capacity of 714 million barrels, though they’re not always at capacity. While adding a million extra barrels a day to the market won’t fix everything, drawing on US reserves can, at least, address the domestic demand for oil.

A map showing sites of the US strategic petroleum reserve. There are sites in In Texas and Louisiana near the Gulf of Mexico.

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Surprising discoveries

Pink Floyd is living its best life. A runaway flamingo was spotted chilling with some seagulls in Texas 17 years after it escaped a Kansas zoo with a buddy.

An emoji flag cannot a country make. Unicode won’t make flags for new countries so as not to get involved in complex geopolitical affairs.

Ukrainian designers are making army uniforms. The fashion industry is using its materials and skills to make camouflage nets, combat boots, and armored vests.

Sleep at work is the new work from home. To avoid shutting down in the latest covid wave, Shanghai companies are relying on closed loops and asking employees to live in their workplaces.

A snapshot of the US past. The 1950 census, with its trove of 6.4 million digitized pages of demographic and social information, will be accessible today after 72 years.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, YOLO flamingoes, and Quartz flag designs to hi@qz.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Tim McDonnell, Samanth Subramanian, Annalisa Merelli, and Morgan Haefner.