What to know about filing for unemployment benefits after a layoff

Iryna Imago | Istock | Getty Images

A wave of companies, including Amazon, Google and Spotify, have announced deep cuts to their head count, leaving former employees without a paycheck.

Fortunately, the unemployment insurance program, created in 1935, offers support to certain people who have lost their job. The federal program is administered by states, and the rules vary based on where you live.

In a handful of states, employees and employers pay into the unemployment insurance program, said Michele Evermore, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. In the bulk, only employers pay into the program, but it’s a benefit workers have earned, she said.

As a result, she said, laid-off workers shouldn’t be shy about applying for the aid.

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How soon after a layoff can I apply for unemployment?

“As soon as you leave your job, you should be on your way to the unemployment insurance office,” Evermore said.

In some states, it can take weeks for your claim to be approved, so the sooner you file the better.

While most states have a one-week waiting period before they can start paying you benefits, you don’t have to wait to request the relief, Evermore said.

The Week That Was: Tech layoffs hit Microsoft and Alphabet

Where do I apply for unemployment?

Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?

Generally, to be eligible for unemployment benefits, you have to have been laid off through no fault of your own, Evermore said. Maybe the job just wasn’t a good fit for you, or your company was downsizing.

But it doesn’t hurt to apply even if you’re unsure if you qualify, Evermore said. Many people prematurely exclude themselves from the program, she said: “There’s a lot of mythology around who qualifies.”

People may be surprised to learn, for example, that in some cases they can qualify for unemployment benefits even if they quit, Evermore explained.

For instance, in some states you’re eligible for the benefit if you made the choice to leave your job after your employer asked you to transfer to a location where your commute would be too long, or if you had to leave your job because your partner’s employment was relocated.

What are the requirements of the program?

To receive and keep receiving unemployment benefits, you have to be able to work and actively be seeking new employment, Evermore said.

States have different ways of making sure you’re looking for work, she added. In some cases, you’ll be responsible for keeping a log of work search efforts on your own, and in other states, you’ll have to call in to the state unemployment office and share what jobs you’ve applied to on a regular basis.

“In some states you may also report work search online,” Evermore added.

When you apply for benefits, make sure you learn about how to fulfil any requirements in your state.

Are unemployment benefits taxable?

Prapass Pulsub | Moment | Getty Images

Yes, Evermore said. The benefits are subject to federal taxes and most states take them, too.

When you start to get unemployment payments, your state will typically give you the option to have taxes withheld.

“I’d always take that option,” Evermore said. “You could be in for a long spell of unemployment and then get hit with a big tax bill.”

What is the typical weekly benefit?

How long can I get the benefit?

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I received unemployment benefits during the pandemic. Could I qualify again?

It’s possible, Evermore said.

Workers are typically eligible for unemployment benefits for a certain amount of weeks per benefit year. Depending on how long has passed since your last period of joblessness, and how many weeks you previously received the benefits, it’s possible you could qualify again after a follow-up job loss for at least some more weeks and possibly another full duration.

I received severance pay. Will that affect my unemployment benefits?

In most states, if your layoff included severance pay, your unemployment benefits will likely be reduced for the period in which you’re still receiving payments from your former employer.

But, again, that depends on your state. In some cases, your severance package will have no impact on your unemployment benefits, Evermore said.

Clarification: In a handful of states, employees and employers pay into the unemployment insurance program. In the bulk, generally employers only pay into the program, but it’s a benefit workers have earned. An earlier version didn’t draw that distinction.

Jeff Ubben speaks with Salesforce CEO as more activists target the software giant

Signage on a Saleforce office building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Jeff Ubben of Inclusive Capital had talks with Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, according to sources, CNBC’s David Faber reported Monday.

Inclusive Capital has a stake in the CRM giant. It’s unclear what Ubben’s presence will mean for the cloud-based software company.

Salesforce has also attracted activist investor Elliott Management’s interest, which made a multibillion dollar investment, the Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday. In October, Starboard Value announced an undisclosed stake in Salesforce, saying the company was suffering from a valuation discount due to a “subpar mix of growth and profitability.”

Salesforce is in the middle of restructuring amid slowing growth and recession fears. Earlier this year, the firm said it planned to cut jobs by 10%, or 700 employees, and close some offices.

Salesforce said it expects its employee restructuring to be complete by the end of the 2024 fiscal year and real estate restructuring to finish in the 2026 fiscal year.

The company had expanded rapidly during the pandemic and the years before as cloud adoption skyrocketed. It also completed large acquisitions such as Slack and Tableau.

The company’s share price has climbed 17% this year but is off nearly 30% in the past year as of Monday’s close.

Clarification: Jeff Ubben had previously disclosed his stake in Salesforce.

Supreme Court punts on Texas and Florida social media law cases

The Supreme Court of the United States building are seen in Washington D.C., United States on December 28, 2022.

Celal Gunes | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Supreme Court delayed a decision on whether to take up a pair of cases challenging social media laws in Texas and Florida that could upend the way platforms decide which posts they remove and which ones they promote.

On Monday, the court asked the U.S. solicitor general for input on the cases, which were both filed by tech industry groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Assocation (CCIA). The groups argue that the laws violate the First Amendment rights of companies to determine what speech they host.

Republican leaders in Texas and Florida have promoted the legislation as a way to counteract what they call unjust censorship of conservative viewpoints on social media. Major platforms have maintained that they simply enforce their terms of service.

NetChoice and CCIA warned that if allowed to take effect, the social media laws would force platforms to keep messages even if they make false claims on very sensitive subjects. Examples include “Russia’s propaganda claiming that its invasion of Ukraine is justified, ISIS propaganda claiming that extremism is warranted, neo-Nazi or KKK screeds denying or supporting the Holocaust, and encouraging children to engage in risky or unhealthy behavior like eating disorders,” the groups wrote in an emergency application seeking to block Texas’ law from taking effect.

The Supreme Court had ruled in favor of the temporary block on the Texas law, without ruling on the merits of the case. An appeals court also temporarily prevented Florida’s law from taking effect. The laws remain in limbo pending a high court decision on whether to take up the cases.

The court is scheduled to hear two other cases next month that could also alter the business models of major platforms. One in particular, Gonzalez v. Google, looks directly at whether algorithms that promote and organize information on websites can be protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online services from being held liable for their users’ posts. If the court decides websites should be more responsible for how third-party messages are spread, social media companies could alter the way they operate to reduce their legal exposure.

NetChoice and CCIA said the court’s request for input is a good sign.

“We are excited that the Supreme Court is seriously considering taking up our cases and is asking the Solicitor General for its take on the cases,” NetChoice Counsel Chris Marchese said in a statement. “We expect the Solicitor General will recognize the First Amendment rights of websites and to call on the Supreme Court to take up the cases and find for NetChoice and CCIA.”

CCIA President Matt Schruers agreed that the request “underscores the importance of these cases.”

“It is crucial that the Supreme Court ultimately resolve this matter,” Schruers said. “It would be a dangerous precedent to let government insert itself into the decisions private companies make on what material to publish or disseminate online. The First Amendment protects both the right to speak and the right not to be compelled to speak, and we should not underestimate the consequences of giving government control over online speech in a democracy.”

Representatives for the Texas and Florida attorneys general’s offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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M&Ms pulls ‘spokescandies’ in the wake of right-wing outrage

Actor Maya Rudolph to replace M&Ms spokescandies.

Source: Mars (L) | Getty Images (R)

Candy maker Mars said Monday it is replacing its M&Ms “spokescandies” with actress Maya Rudolph after facing right-wing criticism over its mascot makeover.

The spokescandies are a team of cartoon M&Ms mascots that have represented the brand in commercials and other marketing materials since 1960. Early last year, the candy brand updated the cartoons and its marketing, rebranding each mascot with a new backstory, clothing and personality to be more inclusive.

The green M&M, for example, had previously drawn criticism for being marketed as too sexy, so the company switched out her knee-high heeled boots for sneakers and put more emphasis on her feminist values. “Orange” became a mascot riddled with anxiety, and the company added a new purple M&M, which was designed to represent inclusivity.

The rebrand caught the eye of conservatives, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, at the time of the update and again in recent weeks, with some claiming the makeovers were another example of a liberal agenda gone too far.

“In the last year, we’ve made some changes to our beloved spokescandies. We weren’t sure if anyone would even notice. And we definitely didn’t think it would break the internet,” M&Ms said in a statement Monday on Twitter. “Now we get it — even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing … Therefore, we have decided to take an indefinite pause on the spokescandies.”

M&Ms did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

Rudolph will take the place of the iconic mascots just ahead of the key Super Bowl advertising event: “I am a lifelong lover of the candy, and I feel like it’s such an honor to be asked to be part of such a legendary brand’s campaign,” she said in an interview Monday with NBC’s TODAY.

Representatives for Rudolph did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mars in December announced it would make its return to the Super Bowl advertising slate with a 30-second spot during the game Feb. 12. The company teased the commercial with an image of its seven M&M characters, silhouetted on a football field.

“The latest campaign extends our purposeful work over the last year but is rooted in a new creative territory, and we can’t wait for our fans to see what’s about to unfold,” Chief Marketing Officer Gabrielle Wesley said in a statement at the time.

Correction: A photo caption in this story has been updated to correct the spelling of Maya Rudolph’s name.

Former FBI agent McGonigal arrested for Russia sanctions violations

The former top FBI agent in New York for counterintelligence was arrested with an ex-Russian diplomat and charged with violating U.S. sanctions on Russia after he left the FBI by trying to help the oligarch Oleg Deripaska get off the sanctions list, federal prosecutors said Monday.

The ex-agent, Charles McGonigal separately was charged Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C., in connection with accepting $225,000 in cash — while working at the FBI — from a person who had business interests in Europe who had been an employee of Albania’s foreign intelligence service.

That other person later became an FBI source in a criminal probe of foreign political lobbying, which McGonigal was supervising, authorities said.

McGonigal, who is charged with making false statements and other charges in that case, also allegedly failed to disclose, as required, that during an October 2017 trip to Albania and Kosovo, he had met with Albania’s prime minister and with a Kosovar politician.

“Mr. McGonigal betrayed his solemn oath to the United States in exchange for personal gain and at the expense of our national security,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway. 

In the case related to Deripaska, a five-count indictment in U.S. District Court in Manhattan charges the 54-year-old McGonigal and Sergey Shestakov, 69, with violating the Russia sanctions, in addition to money laundering.

Shestakov is a former Soviet and Russian diplomat who most recently worked as an interpreter for the Brooklyn federal court and prosecutors there. He has U.S. citizenship.

The Morris, Connecticut, resident is also charged with lying to the FBI during questioning by concealing the nature of his and McGonigal’s relationship with an employee of Deripaska’s who was also rumored to be a Russian spy.

The alleged criminal acts on Deripaska’s behalf began the year after McGonigal, who lives in New York City, retired from the FBI in 2018 after 22 years of service.

But the indictment says he also used his law enforcement connections before his retirement to obtain an internship with the New York Police Department for the college-age daughter of Deripaska’s employee.

McGonigal previously had investigated Deripaska, who made his fortune in Russia’s aluminum industry, while at the FBI.

He was arrested Saturday night at JFK International Airport in Queens, New York, after flying there from the Middle East.

McGonigal and Shestakov, 69, who also was arrested Saturday evening, are due to appear in court in Manhattan later Monday.

The charges against them carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years if they are convicted. McGonigal faces an identical maximum sentence in the criminal case in Washington,

McGonigal’s LinkedIn profile says he most recently worked as a senior vice president at commercial real estate giant Brookfield Properties. A company spokesman previously said he left Brookfield in January 2022.

CNBC has requested comment from lawyers for McGonigal and Shestakov.

The 21-year indictment against McGonigalsays that in 2021 he and Shestakov agreed to and did investigate a rival Russian oligarch of Deripaska in return for concealed payments from Deripaska. Those alleged payments violated sanctions that the United States imposed on Deripaska in 2018, the indictment says.

McGonigal, who was in charge of the FBI’s counterintelligence operations in New York from 2016 to 2018, knew his alleged actions violated the sanctions, having received what was then-classified information about Deripaska being added to the list of sanctioned oligarchs, the indictment says. Those sanctions were imposed as a result of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael Driscoll, in a statement, said, “Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska perform global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are associated with acts of bribery, extortion, and violence.”

The indictment said that McGonigal, while still serving at the FBI in 2018, was introduced by Shestakov via email to an employee of Deripaska, who had been rumored in media reports to be a Russian intelligence officer. That Deripaska employee, identified in the indictment as “Agent-1” also was a former Soviet and Russian diplomat.

Shestakov asked McGonigal to help the employee’s daughter get an internship with the New York Police Department in the fields of “counterterrorism, intelligence gathering and ‘international liaisoning,’ ” the indictment says.

McGonigal agreed to help, and told an FBI supervisor who worked for him that he wanted to recruit the Deripaska employee, the indictment says.

“Through McGonigal’s efforts, Agent-1’s daughter received VIP treatment from the NYPD,” the indictment says.

“An NYPD Sergeant assigned to brief Agent-1’s daughter subsequently reported the event to the NYPD and FBI because, among other reasons, Agent-1’s daughter claimed to have an unusually close relationship to ‘an FBI agent’ who had given her access to confidential FBI files, and it was unusual for a college student to receive such special treatment from the NYPD and FBI.”

In 2019, after McGonigal retired, Shestakov and he introduced the woman’s father to an international law firm in Manhattan, which the Deripaska employee sought to retain in an effort to get sanctions on the oligarch lifted, the indictment says.

During those negotiations, McGonigal traveled to London and Vienna to meet Deripaska and others at the oligarch’s residences, the indictment alleges.

In electronic communications between McGonigal, Shestakov and the Deripaska employee, they did not refer to the oligarch by his surname, but instead used terms like “the individual,” “our friend in Vienna,” and the Vienna client,” the indictment charges.

Deripaska ended up retaining the law firm for work to try to lift the sanctions, at a cost of $175,000 per month, with $25,000 earmarked for “certain other professionals,” according to the indictment.

The law firm retained McGonigal as a consultant and investigator in its work for Deripaska, the charging document says. McGonigal asked the firm to compensate him by transmitting $25,000 to a corporation owned by Shestakov, the indictment says.

The firm’s work for Deripaska was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the oligarch ceased paying the lawyers in around March 2020, the indictment says.

But in the spring of 2021, Agent-1 began negotiating with McGonigal and Shestakov to work directly for Deripaska, without the involvement of the law firm “on a non-legal matter not lawful” under U.S. sanctions.

That project involved the investigation of another oligarch and his interests in a large Russian corporation which Deripaska and the other oligarch were fighting for control of, the indictment says.

In August 2021, the trio drew up and executed a contract that required a corporation based in Cyprus to pay a New Jersey-based corporation more than $51,000 upon execution of the control and another $41,790 per month for “business intelligence services, analysis, and research,” the indictment alleges.

In reality, the indictment says, the payments would be made to McGonigal and Shestakov, neither of whom was named in, or who signed the contract.

The New Jersey corporation was owned by a friend of McGonigal’s who had arranged for him to participate in its business while McGonigal was still serving as special agent in charge for counterintelligence in the New York FBI bureau, according to the indictment. McGonigal had a corporate email account and a cellphone under a false name to conceal his work, the indictment says.

While investigating the second oligarch, the indictment says, McGonigal retained subcontractors to assist in the probe, without telling them the name of the client: Deripaska. One of those subcontractors later informed McGonigal that a third party had found so-called dark web files that could reveal hidden U.S. assets owned by the second oligarch, the indictment alleges.

In late November 2021, McGonigal and Shestakov negotiated Deripaska’s employee to get funds from the oligarch to purchase the dark web files, the indictment says.

“This activity largely or completely ceased on or about November 21, 2021, when special agents of the FBI, acting pursuant to court-issued search warrants, seized the defendant’s personal electronic devices,” the indictment says.

Shestakov met earlier that same day with FBI agents in a Manhattan restaurant, where he tried “to conceal the nature and depth of the relationship between himself, McGonigal and Agent-1,” the indictment says.

FDA says most people probably need only one annual vaccine shot

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration has laid out a road map for what Covid-19 vaccination may look like moving forward.

In a briefing document published Monday, the FDA said the vaccines will probably need an annual update as the virus continues to evolve. The agency would select the Covid strain for the vaccine in the spring so the updated shots could roll out every September in time for a fall vaccination campaign.

Most people would receive one shot to restore their protection against the virus moving forward, according to the briefing document. This would apply to people who have been exposed to the virus’s spike protein at least twice, either through vaccination or infection.

But older adults and people with compromised immune systems may need two doses, according to the proposed vaccination schedule. Young children who have received only one shot previously would also get two doses.

The FDA released the road map ahead of a meeting of the agency’s independent vaccine experts scheduled for Thursday. The expert panel will vote on whether to make all Covid vaccines in the U.S. bivalent shots, meaning they protect against both the omicron BA.5 subvariant as well as the original strain of Covid discovered in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

Currently, only Moderna’s and Pfizer’s booster doses target the omicron variant. If adopted, the primary series would also contain the omicron strain.

The proposed system for updating Covid vaccines resembles how the FDA selects flu shots every year. The agency said it could update and rollout the Covid vaccines without clinical data, which is also the case with the annual process to change the flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday is also expected to provide more information about an investigation into what it has described as a “very unlikely” risk of stroke in seniors who received Pfizer’s omicron booster.

The CDC received preliminary safety concern data from its Vaccine Safety Datalink late last year. A subsequent review for four other major databases did not identify an increased risk for stroke, but the CDC investigation is ongoing.

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GOP Rep. George Santos should resign from Congress, NY voters say

Newly elected U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) stands alone on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during voting for a new House Speaker on the third day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 5, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Scandal-plagued Republican Rep. George Santos should resign from Congress, voters from his own state of New York said overwhelmingly in a new poll released Monday.

Some 59% of registered Empire State voters say Santos, who admitted he lied and is facing multiple investigations, should resign, according to the latest survey by the Siena College Research Institute. Among Republicans, nearly half agreed that he should go.

Just 17% of respondents told Siena they believe Santos should stay in office. The poll of 821 New York state registered voters, conducted between Jan. 15-19, has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

Santos’ favorability rating fared no better, the poll showed: By a more than 3-to-1 margin, 16% to 56%, voters in New York hold an unfavorable opinion of the freshman lawmaker. That minus-40 net favorability rating includes 56% of Republican respondents, along with majorities of Democrats and independents, Siena found.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they didn’t know Santos or had no opinion on him — a smaller proportion than six-term Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who recently became the Democratic leader in the House.

Santos has vowed to serve out his full two-year term in the House, brushing off scorching condemnation from his own fellow Republicans in Long Island, where his congressional district is located.

He has faced constant, intensifying scrutiny after a bombshell New York Times report last month questioned major details of the newly elected congressman’s biography, including his education and professional history.

Santos has admitted to “embellishing” parts of his resume and apologized, though he has not responded to all of the questions surrounding his claims about himself.

He has also denied some of the most damning allegations against him, including that he took off with thousands of dollars that were raised to help fund an operation for a disabled veteran’s dying dog.

Santos has also not explained questions about the source of his apparent wealth, some of which was used to fund his successful congressional campaign.

Investigators at the federal, state, local and international level are looking into Santos.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other top Republicans have declined to join calls for Santos to resign. McCarthy leads a slim GOP House majority, which has already proven difficult to unify after the vote to elect him speaker took 15 tries.

If Santos were to leave office, it would likely trigger a competitive special election in New York for his seat.

Apple looking to boost iPhone production in India to 25%: Minister

Source: Thomas Peter | Reuters

Apple is looking to manufacture 25% of all of its iPhones in India, the country’s commerce minister said Monday.

Piyush Goyal, India’s minister of commerce and industry, called Apple “another success story” as he talked up the business credentials of the world’s fifth-largest economy.

“They’re [Apple] already at about 5-7% of their manufacturing in India. If I am not mistaken, they are targeting to go up to 25% of their manufacturing,” Goyal said at a conference.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment.

Last year, Apple began assembling its flagship iPhone 14 in India. It was the first time the tech giant, based in Cupertino, California, produced its latest model in India so close to its launch. Apple has been manufacturing iPhones in India since 2017, but these were usually older models.

Taiwanese firm Foxconn, the main assembler of Apple’s iPhones, is manufacturing the smartphones at its Sriperumbudur factory on the outskirts of Chennai in eastern India.

JPMorgan analysts said in a note from September that Apple could make 25% of all iPhones globally in India by 2025.

Apple has been looking to diversify production away from China, where it currently makes the bulk of its iPhones. Fragilities in China were exposed last year after a Covid outbreak and worker protests at the world’s largest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, China, which is also run by Foxconn, disrupted production.

Last year, CNBC reported that India is exploring bringing some of Apple’s iPad production to the country from China.

Apple has just a 5% market share in India’s smartphone market, but CEO Tim Cook has long-seen India as a potential area for growth.

Wayfair, Salesforce, Paypal and more

Salesforce signage outside office building in New York.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Check out the companies making the biggest premarket moves:

Advanced Micro Devices — The semiconductor maker rallied nearly 3% after being upgraded by Barclays to overweight from equal weight. Barclays said it sees potential upside from direct-current and generative artificial intelligence. The firm also upgraded Qualcomm and Seagate Technology to overweight from equal weight. Qualcomm and Seagate both gained more than 2%.

Wayfair — The online retailer jumped more than 12% after being double upgraded to overweight from underweight by JPMorgan. The Wall Street firm cited improving market share trends and a better grasp on spending from management.

Salesforce — Salesforce shares gained more than 5% premarket on news that activist investor Elliott Management has reportedly taken a multibillion-dollar stake in the cloud-based software giant.

Shopify — The e-commerce company rose nearly 5% after being upgraded to buy from hold by Deutsche Bank, which said brands are growing increasingly interested in Shopify.

Abbott Laboratories — Abbott Labs lost 2.5% following a Wall Street Journal report Friday that the Justice Department is investigating conduct at its infant-formula plant in Sturgis, Michigan.

CrowdStrike — The cybersecurity company shed nearly 2% after being downgraded to hold by Deutsche Bank, which cited intensifying competition.

PayPal — Shares of the payment company dipped more than 1% in premarket trading after The Wall Street Journal reported that large banks are teaming up to create their own digital wallet. The wallet would be a competitor to PayPal and Apple Pay.

Western Digital — The data storage company rose 4% after a report from Bloomberg late Friday that merger talks between Western Digital and Kioxia holdings are progressing.

Warner Music Group — The music entertainment company dropped 2.45% after being downgraded by Barclays to equal weight. Warner Music’s financial performance has been too volatile to justify a premium valuation, its analysts said.

Tapestry — The Coach and Kate Spade parent slid 1.85% after being downgraded to equal weight from overweight by Barclays. The Wall Street firm’s reasons included inflation creeping to higher household income brackets.

Skechers — Cowen upgraded Skechers to outperform from market perform, saying it remains the No. 2 casual sneaker brand in the U.S. and is gaining preference in its survey. Consensus sales and EPS estimates are too conservative, the firm said. Skechers gained nearly 2% in the premarket.

Zoom Video Communications — Shares of Zoom slipped 0.72% after MKM Partners downgraded the company to neutral from buy, citing slowing growth.

— CNBC’s Jesse Pound, Alex Harring, Samantha Subin, Carmen Reinicke and Michael Bloom contributed reporting.

Energy CEO thinks natural gas will be around for years to come

AES chief says we'll need natural gas for next 20 years

From the United States to the European Union, major economies around the world are laying out plans to move away from fossil fuels in favor of low and zero-carbon technologies.

It’s a colossal task that will require massive sums of money, huge political will and technological innovation. As the planned transition takes shape, there’s been a lot of talk about the relationship between hydrogen and natural gas.

During a panel discussion moderated by CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the CEO of energy firm AES offered up his take on how the two could potentially dovetail with one another going forward.   

“I feel very confident in saying that, for the next 20 years, we need natural gas,” Andrés Gluski, who was speaking Wednesday, said. “Now, what we can start to do today is … start to blend it with green hydrogen,” he added.

“So we’re running tests that you can blend it up to, say 20%, in existing turbines, and new turbines are coming out that can burn … much higher percentages,” Gluski said.

“But it’s just difficult to see that you’re going to have enough green hydrogen to substitute it like, in the next 10 years.”

Produced using electrolysis and renewables like wind and solar, green hydrogen has some high-profile backers.

These include German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has called it “one of the most important technologies for a climate-neutral world” and “the key to decarbonizing our economies.”

While some are hugely excited about green hydrogen’s potential it still represents a tiny proportion of global hydrogen production. Today, the vast majority is based on fossil fuels, a fact at odds with net-zero goals.

Change on the way, but scale is key

The planet’s green hydrogen sector may still be in a relatively early stage of development, but a number of major deals related to the technology have been struck in recent years.

In December 2022, for example, AES and Air Products said they planned to invest roughly $4 billion to develop a “mega-scale green hydrogen production facility” located in Texas.

According to the announcement, the project will incorporate around 1.4 gigawatts of wind and solar and be able to produce more than 200 metric tons of hydrogen every day.

Despite the significant amount of money and renewables involved in the project, AES chief Gluski was at pains to highlight how much work lay ahead when it came to scaling up the sector as a whole.

The facility being planned with Air Products, he explained, could only “supply point one percent of the U.S. long haul trucking fleet.” Work to be done, then.

High hopes, with collaboration crucial  

Appearing alongside Gluski at the World Economic Forum was Elizabeth Gaines, a non-executive director at mining giant Fortescue Metals Group.

“We see green hydrogen as playing probably the most important role in the energy transition,” she said.

Broadening the discussion, Gaines also spoke to the need for collaboration in the years ahead.

When it came to “the resources that are needed to support the green transition, and similar[ly] to the production of green hydrogen,” she argued there was a need “to work closely with government and regulators.”

“I mean, it’s one thing to say we need more lithium, we need more copper, but you can’t do that without getting the approvals, and you need the regulatory approvals, the environmental approvals,” she said.

“You know, these things do take time, and we wouldn’t want that to be the bottleneck in the energy transition, similar to the skills and resources that we need.”

Why cooperation is key to the hydrogen sector's prospects

Kivanc Zaimler, energy group president at Sabanci Holding, also stressed the importance of being open to new ideas and innovations.

“We have to — we need to — embrace, we have to welcome, we have to support all the technologies,” he said. These included both hydrogen and electric vehicles.

Expanding on his point, Zaimler spoke of the need for cooperation, especially when it came to hydrogen.

“We have to bring all the right people around the table — academicians, governments, private sectors, players around the entire value chain.”

This included, “the manufacturing of the electrolyzer, the membranes, the green energy producers, the users.”  

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