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From California to Texas, here’s 10 states that employ thousands in solar power jobs

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Solar power is becoming an increasingly important part of the planet’s energy mix, as evidenced by the recent publication of the Solar Foundation’s 2017 National Solar Jobs Census.

Last year, just over 250,000 Americans were working in solar. While this figure is impressive, it represents a 3.8 percent drop since 2016.

Looking at the bigger picture, however, there are reasons to be optimistic. Over the past seven years, the solar workforce has grown by 168 percent, rising from around 93,000 roles in 2010 to 250,271 in 2017.

The Solar Foundation’s census is based on “a rigorous survey of solar establishments conducted between October and November 2017.” A “solar employee” is defined as person who spends “at least” half their time on work related to solar energy.

Here, Sustainable Energy takes a look at the 10 states leading the way in solar jobs.

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FDA approves J&J’s single-shot Covid vaccine for emergency use

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The Food and Drug Administration has approved Johnson & Johnson‘s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, giving the United States a third tool to fight the pandemic as highly contagious variants start to take root across the country.

The FDA’s emergency use authorization Saturday kickstarts the federal government’s plan to distribute nearly 4 million doses of J&J’s vaccine to states, pharmacies and community health centers across the nation next week. Unlike Pfizer‘s and Moderna‘s vaccines, J&J’s one-dose regimen eliminates the need for patients to return for a second dose and it can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for months.

J&J’s vaccine “makes it operationally easier in lots of contexts,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told the Journal of the American Medical Association during a Q&A event on Friday. “I expect lots of considerations state health departments are having around these vaccines is more about the ease of use of the J&J vaccine and how it might be better suited for some populations.”

Initially, doses would be limited, J&J has said. The company expects to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March, J&J’s vice president of U.S. medical affairs, Dr. Richard Nettles, told House lawmakers on Tuesday. J&J has a deal with the U.S. government to supply 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of June, and U.S. officials say they are working with the company to ramp up supply as quickly as possible.

In recent weeks, U.S. health officials have pushed Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. Officials are growing concerned about new, emerging variants of the virus, particularly the B.1.351 strain, which has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines both on the market and under development. On Friday, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned the declines in Covid-19 cases reported in the U.S. since early January may be flattening as variants spread.

J&J submitted its Covid vaccine data to the FDA on Feb. 4. The vaccine’s level of protection varied by region, J&J said, with the shot demonstrating 66% effectiveness overall, 72% in the United States, 66% in Latin America and 57% in South Africa, where the B.1.351 variant is rapidly spreading. However, FDA documents show the vaccine was 64% effective in South Africa after about a month. The company said the vaccine prevented 100% of hospitalizations and deaths.

Pfizer’s vaccine was found to be 95% effective against preventing Covid-19, while Moderna’s was found to be about 94% effective. Infectious disease experts pointed out that J&J’s numbers can’t be used as a direct comparison to the other two vaccines because it’s a single dose and the company’s trial was conducted when there were more infections as well as new, more contagious variants.

The FDA has indicated it would authorize a Covid-19 vaccine that’s safe and at least 50% effective. The flu vaccine, by comparison, generally reduces people’s risk of getting influenza by 40% to 60% compared with people who aren’t inoculated, according to the CDC.

The FDA authorized J&J’s vaccine for people who are 18 years old and older. It isn’t the same as full approval, which requires more data and can typically take several months longer. J&J, like Pfizer and Moderna, has submitted only two months of safety data, but the agency usually requires six months for full approval. The FDA approved the emergency use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 in March, only to revoke it in June after additional data showed it provided “no evidence of benefit” in coronavirus patients.

The FDA was expected to approve J&J’s vaccine for emergency use.

The agency’s announcement comes after a key panel on Friday unanimously backed the vaccine for emergency use The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee plays a key role in approving flu and other vaccines in the U.S., verifying the shots are safe for public use. While the FDA doesn’t have to follow the advisory committee’s recommendation, it often does.

After the vote, Dr. Archana Chatterjee, an infectious disease expert at Chicago Medical School and a voting member of the committee, said J&J’s vaccine will help “meet the needs of the moment” as states complain there is not enough supply of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines.

“We need to get this vaccine out now,” Dr. Jay Portnoy, a professor UMKC School of Medicine and a voting member of the committee, said after the vote. He added, “we’re in a hurry” as the variants pose a threat to the nation’s progress on the pandemic.

No specific safety concerns from J&J’s vaccine were identified. Headaches, fatigue and muscle pain were some of the most common side effects among people who received the inoculation, according to an FDA report published Wednesday. There were also reports of nausea, fever and pain at the injection site, the report said.

Macaya Douoguih, head of clinical development and medical affairs for J&J’s vaccines division Janssen, told the FDA panel on Friday that two people suffered severe allergic reactions shortly after getting the vaccine. One of the people was participating in an ongoing trial in South Africa and developed anaphylaxis, a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction.

The company has said it plans to ship the vaccine, which contains five doses per vial, at 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored in ultra-cold freezers that keep it between minus 112 and minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit, though the FDA recently allowed the company to store its vaccine for two weeks at temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers. Moderna’s vaccine needs to be shipped at 13 below to 5 degrees above zero Fahrenheit.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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U.S. to provide more detail on actions against Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24, 2018.

Bandar Algaloud | Reuters

The State Department will provide additional information Monday on actions it is taking against Saudi Arabia after a U.S. intelligence report held the crown prince responsible for the brutal 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a White House official told NBC News.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday imposed visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals whom are “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report Friday that found Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation that killed Khashoggi. The report cited the crown prince’s control of decision-making in Saudi Arabia.

However, The New York Times reported Friday that the Biden administration would not penalize the crown prince for Khashoggi’s killing. The White House decided such action would have too high a cost on U.S.-Saudi cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism and confronting Iran, according to the Times.

When asked Saturday if the U.S. would punish the crown prince, Biden said the administration would make an announcement Monday on relations with Saudi Arabia. However, a White House official clarified that the announcement will provide additional details about the actions taken by State on Friday.

“The recalibration of relations with Saudi Arabia began on January 20th and it’s ongoing,” the official told NBC News. “The administration took a wide range of new actions on Friday. The President is referring to the fact that on Monday, the State Department will provide more details and elaborate on those announcements, not new announcements.” 

Khashoggi, a 59-year-old U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, was a critic of the Saudi royal family. He entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, and never left.

Khashoggi was killed, his body was dismembered and his remains were never recovered.

The White House has said it is reviewing relations with Saudi Arabia, which were particularly close under former President Donald Trump. In a diplomatic rebuke to the crown prince, the White House made clear this week that Biden does not view the 35-year-old bin Salman as his counterpart and will instead conduct relations through his aging father, King Salman.

Bin Salman has been the public face of the kingdom since becoming crown prince in 2017.

— CNBC’s Spencer Kimball contributed to this report

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Biden to make announcement about Saudi Arabia Monday

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24, 2018.

Bandar Algaloud | Reuters

President Joe Biden said his administration would announce Monday how it intends to handle relations with Saudi Arabia, days after an intelligence report publicly linked the Saudi crown prince to the death of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Biden made the comments to press on Saturday when asked whether he would be punishing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in the killing of journalist Khashoggi.

“There will be an announcement on Monday as to what we are going to be doing with Saudi Arabia generally,” Biden told reporters. The White House didn’t immediately return a request to provide more detail about the announcement.

Khashoggi, a 59-year-old U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, was a critic of the Saudi royal family. He entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, and never left.

Khashoggi was killed, his body was dismembered and his remains were never recovered.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report Friday that found the Saudi crown prince approved the operation that killed Khashoggi, citing bin Salman’s control of decision-making in Saudi Arabia.

The CIA-led assessment, which had previously been classified, also mentioned the involvement of a key advisor and members of the prince’s protective detail in the operation that killed Khashoggi.

The New York Times reported Friday that the Biden administration would not penalize the crown prince for Khashoggi’s killing. The White House decided such action would have too high a cost on U.S.-Saudi cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism and confronting Iran, according to the Times.

However, in a diplomatic rebuke to the crown prince, the White House made clear this week that Biden does not view the 35-year-old bin Salman as his counterpart and will instead conduct relations through his aging father, King Salman.

Bin Salman has been the public face of the kingdom since becoming crown prince in 2017.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday also imposed visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals whom are “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing.”

When asked why the crown prince was not among those facing punishment, Blinken emphasized the importance U.S. interests and not rupturing relations with Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government, in a statement Friday, said it “completely rejects” the report’s conclusions as unacceptable, claiming the assessment contained inaccurate information.

Riyadh condemned Khashoggi’s killing as an “abhorrent crime” that violates the kingdom’s laws and values, blaming his death on a rogue group.

— CNBC’s Spencer Kimball contributed to this report

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