Tuesday's energy & environment stories

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 4, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Elon Musk's Cybertruck escape hatch

Elon Musk at the Kennedy Space Center on May 27. Photo: Saul Martinez/Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to be open to the idea that the blocky, sci-fi looking Cybertruck might not light the pickup truck market on fire.

Driving the news: Musk, in an interview with Automotive News, said building a more conventional-looking pickup is a "fallback strategy" if things don't work out for the Cybertruck that's slated to begin production next year.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 4, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Biden's 100% carbon-free hurdle

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

A new post from UC Berkeley's Energy Institute at Haas looks broadly at Joe Biden's revised climate plan, including the goal of achieving 100% carbon-free U.S. power by 2035.

The intrigue: Flashback for a moment to a June study co-authored by Berkeley analysts that found a cost-effective case for achieving 90% power sector decarbonization by 2035. But, what about the remaining 10%?

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 4, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Low-income households are struggling to pay energy bills during pandemic

Data: The Conversation; Chart: Axios Visuals

A substantial number of low-income households are having difficulty paying their energy bills during the COVID-19 pandemic — with families of color and those with young children especially hard hit, according to recent Indiana University research.

The big picture: YouGov conducted a survey of 2,381 respondents from low-income households in May (overall margin of error is about 2%) and found that 13% had been unable to pay an energy bill during the prior month.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 4, 2020 - Energy & Environment

BP's in the red, slashing its dividend and vowing a greener future

Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

BP posted a $6.7 billion second-quarter loss and cut its dividend in half Tuesday while unveiling accelerated steps to transition its portfolio toward low-carbon sources.

Why it matters: The announcement adds new targets and details to its February vow to become a "net-zero" emissions company by mid-century.

Trump fires Tennessee Valley Authority chair in push against foreign workers

President Trump at the White House on August 3. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters on Monday that he had fired Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) chair Skip Thompson after signing an executive order that targeted the federally owned company for outsourcing jobs to foreign countries.

Why it matters: TVA generates electricity and provides flood control and electricity generation for a region that covers most of Tennessee as well as sections of Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina, AP reports.

In photos: Thousands evacuated as Southern California fire grows

A plane makes a retardant drop on a ridge on Aug. 2 at the Apple Fire north of Banning in Riverside County, which "doubled in size" on Aug. 1, per KTLA. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A massive wildfire that prompted mandatory evacuations in Southern California over the weekend burned 26,450 acres and was 5% contained by Monday afternoon, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The big picture: As California remains an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., some 15 separate fires are raging across the state. About 7,800 people were under evacuation orders from the Apple Fire, about 75 miles east of Los Angeles, as hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze. CalFire said Monday that a malfunction involving a "diesel-fueled vehicle emitting burning carbon from the exhaust system" started the Apple Fire.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Cadillac to unveil the Lyriq, its first all-electric model

Charging port of the upcoming Cadillac Lyriq. Courtesy of Cadillac.

On Thursday night, General Motors' luxury Cadillac unit will unveil the Lyriq, a crossover that marks Cadillac's first foray into all-electric models.

Why it matters: The stakes are high because GM is putting Cadillac at the forefront of its expanding push into electric vehicles.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Global coal-fired power generating capacity sees first half-year decline on record

A field of sunflowers is within sight of the Mehrum coal-fired power station in Germany. Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images

The global amount of coal-fired power generating capacity fell slightly in the first half of 2020 as plant closures outpaced additions, per new data Monday from the group Global Energy Monitor.

Why it matters: It's the first half-year decline on record, Christine Shearer, the group's coal program director, writes in Carbon Brief. Coal-fired power plants are a huge source of global CO2 emissions.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 3, 2020 - Economy & Business

Electric vehicle startup Lordstown Motors going public via SPAC deal

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Lordstown Motors is about to become the latest electric vehicle startup to go public via purchase by a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), the transaction structure that's fast becoming an alternative to IPOs.

The state of play: Lordstown, which plans to build a pickup truck at a former GM plant in Ohio, on Monday announced a merger agreement with DiamondPeak Holdings. The deal will provide $675 million in proceeds to help fund production of the Endurance, a model Lordstown hopes to launch in 2021 aimed largely at the commercial fleet market.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Aug 3, 2020 - Economy & Business

Marathon to sell Speedway gas stations to 7-Eleven for $21 billion

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Refining giant Marathon Petroleum Corp. announced late Sunday that it's selling its Speedway retail gasoline stations and convenience stores to 7-Eleven, Inc. in a $21 billion cash deal.

Why it matters: It's the year's biggest energy deal thus far, the Wall Street Journal notes.

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Aug 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment
Column / Harder Line

How climate and business woes are sinking a natural-gas project

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Trump administration recently touted its approval of America’s first terminal on the West Coast to export liquefied natural gas. There’s just one problem: It probably won’t be built.

Why it matters: The project in southern Oregon faces political and business hurdles serious enough that those who are following it say it will be shelved. Its problems embody the struggles facing a once-promising sector that's now struggling under the weight of the pandemic and more.