Mar 7, 2018

Big Oil and OPEC try to seize climate narrative

Photo: Ali Al-Saadi / AFP via Getty Images

Some of the most powerful figures in global energy markets sent a clear signal in Houston early this week: The world will and should move to a lower-carbon future — but on their terms.

What they're saying: OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo, in repeated appearances, has warned against overemphasis on specific energy sources. He instead called for focus on technology that reduces emissions from heavy use of fossil fuels (his members' products) that he says will dominate energy markets for decades to come.

  • BP CEO Bob Dudley, in a major speech in Houston, called for governments to put a price on carbon, and also said that "we need to be agnostic about fuels and focused on a race to lower emissions."
  • “We have never denied the science. We want to debate the policy,” ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance said onstage.
  • Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser offered an extended warning Tuesday against what he called unrealistic expectations about the penetration of alternative energy and electric vehicles (more on that below).

The big picture: Taken together, the speeches at the big CERAWeek conference thus far — and the scarcity of environmental voices onstage — have provided a window into how the oil industry believes energy transition should unfold:

  • Essentially, that's with a slow transition to cleaner technologies over time. But the conference has not featured voices that say far more aggressive policies are needed to avoid the most dangerous levels of warming.
  • A number of the biggest companies, including BP and Shell, have been expanding their investments in areas like renewables and EV charging. But it's still a very small portion of their spending.

Go deeper

America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."