Posts tagged with "Judiciary Committee hearings"

Beer lovers dread looming shortages and price spikes

October 16, 2018

At the September 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which then-nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh was questioned about allegations of sexual assault, he was clear about his love of lager. “Yes, we drank beer,” he said, referring to his group of high school friends at the Georgetown Preparatory School. “My friends and I, the boys and girls. Yes, we drank beer. I liked beer. Still like beer. We drank beer.”

Indeed, as a senior, Kavanaugh wrote in the yearbook, “100 kegs or bust”—the goal he and his classmates set for their high school experience.

That’s way above the average for most Americans, but by any measure, beer is a very popular U.S. beverage. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2014, Americans drink an average of 2.4 gallons of alcohol, per person, per year—and beer accounts for half of all drinking in the United States.

Now, Kavanaugh and his fellow beer-lovers nationwide are facing a looming shortage of their favorite brew, according to reports by The New York Times and Reuters.

The cause is climate change.

Specifically, new research conducted by the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Britain warns that increasingly widespread and severe drought and heat may cause substantial decreases in barley yields worldwide, affecting the supply used to make beer, and ultimately resulting in “dramatic” falls in beer consumption and rises in beer prices.

Extreme weather events featuring both heat waves and droughts will occur as often as every two or three years in the second half of the century if temperatures rise at current rates, the study determined.

Average global barley yields during extreme events are expected to drop between 3% and 17%, depending on the conditions, said the study, published in the journal Nature Plants on October 18.

Under the hottest scenario, China will suffer the most shortages this century, followed by the United States, Germany, and Russia, the researchers said.

Dabo Guan, a professor of Climate Change Economics at the University of East Anglia and the study’s lead author, said beer issues pale in comparison to other climate induced problems, including food security, storm damage and fresh water scarcity.

The study did not consider climate change’s affects on other staple ingredients of beer such as hops.

Consumers in developed countries who want to avoid shortages would be wise to support policies reducing emissions of gases scientists blame for warming the planet, Guan said.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, said this year it would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025.

Jess Newman, the head of U.S. agronomy for Anheuser-Busch, said the company was experimenting with developing drought-resistant barley and working with farmers to reduce their need for water by, for example, encouraging them to place irrigation sprinklers closer to the ground.

“It’s definitely an incremental process but we have many varieties in the pipeline,” Newman said when asked how close the company was to breeding a drought-resistant barley in the United States. For several years, Anheuser-Busch has used a winter barley in Idaho that gets moisture from melting snow, cutting the need for irrigation.

Research contact: Dabo.Guan@uea.ac.uk

Pew poll: Supreme Court is ‘most important’ issue for midterms

September 28, 2018

Seventy-six percent of registered voters—both Democrats and Republicans—say that Supreme Court appointments are “very important” to their votes in the midterms, according to findings of a  Pew Research Center poll released on September 26.

According to Pew, the result marks the first time since August 2004 that the economy has not been the issue most often deemed “very important” to voters. Indeed, the economy has routinely been the top-cited “very important” factor for voters, almost always followed by healthcare and terrorism.

The poll was conducted between September 18 and 24—a time when news reports were dominated by allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh—which may have boosted the court’s standing in the eyes of voters, the researchers said.

Another three-quarters of registered voters say that healthcare is “very important” in the latest Pew poll, followed by 74% for the economy, 68% for gun policy, 67% for Medicare, 66% for Social Security, 66% for taxes, 65% for immigration, 65% for the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, 63% for the environment, 62% for terrorism, 60% for the federal budget deficit, 55% for trade policy, 53% for abortion, 53% for drug addition; and 47% for the treatment of gay, lesbian, and transgender people.

Pew made the distinction that its pollsters do not “usually” ask about the Supreme Court in these surveys. The only other time Pew has added Supreme Court appointments into the mix of issues was in June 2016, when 63% said it was very important to their vote in November, compared to the 76% now.

The reason: In June 2016, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland had been waiting three months for the Senate to review his nomination. No hearings were held before Obama left office in January 2017.

More Democrats (81%) view Supreme Court appointments as an important issue for their vote than Republicans (72%). The most-referenced important issue for Republicans was the economy, which drew 85% of their registered voters. Eighty-eight percent of Democrats said that healthcare was the issue most on their minds, while 60% of Republicans agreed.

Research contact: bjohnson@pewresearch.org