May 6, 2019

Axios Generate

By Ben Geman
Ben GemanAmy Harder

Good morning, this is cool --> Axios, HBO and DCTV were commended for the news documentary series "Axios on HBO" at the 10th Annual Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards Friday night. 

And don't forget: Season 2 of "Axios on HBO" airs at 6pm on Sundays next month: 6/2, 6/9, 6/16, and 6/23. 

My latest Harder Line column is reported from recent visits to two college campuses. I'll share a glimpse of that, and then Ben Geman will get you up to speed on other news. 

1 big thing: Climate change focus on campus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

America’s youngest voters are more worried about climate change, more supportive of big government and more likely to identify as Democrats than older generations.

Why it matters: By Election Day 2020, millennials and those in the younger generation known as Gen Z will represent more than a third of eligible voters, according to a recent survey by Harvard University.

  • The poll found that more than 50% of likely voters between 18 and 29 say the government should do more to curb climate change, even at the expense of economic growth.

The intrigue: I found out more during recent visits to two college campuses. I held informal roundtables with about 8 students at Western Washington University, a public university in Bellingham, Washington (my alma mater).

A few days later, I sat down with a similarly sized group at the University of Chicago (where I’m a journalism fellow).

  • The two groups included students studying energy and climate change and also those who aren’t.
  • Of course, this can’t be a comprehensive representation of America’s college students. Both schools likely lean more left politically than other parts of the country, for example. But these exchanges offer a window into America’s emerging generations.

The big picture: My conversations revealed persistent concern about the issue and an attempt to reconcile that with lifestyles dependent on oil, natural gas and coal — the sources of emissions that are fueling the rise in global temperatures.

  • The students were also pragmatic — far more so than our national politics — about how to go about addressing the problem.
  • “My mom says our generation worries too much and is too intense and we just need to relax and have fun. We can’t do that — on climate issues.” says Lexi Bright, a 21-year-old Western student getting a degree in energy policy.

Click here for more snapshots of our conversations on how to live, who to blame and what to do about climate change. 

2. New twists in a high-stakes oil megadeal
Giphy

From the life-moves-pretty-fast file: Last night Occidental Petroleum sweetened its offer to trump Chevron's plan to purchase Anadarko Petroleum.

Where it stands: Occidental changed its $76-per-share offer to be 78% cash and 22% stock, compared to the 50-50 split in their prior bid, as they try and snatch Anadarko away from Chevron, a much larger company.

  • "Our revised proposal represents a premium of approximately 23.3% to the $61.62 per share value of Chevron’s offer as of Friday’s market close," Occidental said in a letter to Anadarko's board Sunday.
  • The letter notes that the revised offer would not require approval from Occidental's shareholders, some of whom oppose the deal.

Why it matters: It's the latest twist in what will be the biggest oil megadeal in years, however it turns out.

  • Late last month Occidental said its total offer, including debt, was valued in the $57 billion range based on its share price at the time.
  • It shows how powerful oil companies are keen to bolster their holdings in the booming Permian Basin region, where Anadarko has significant acreage.

But, but, but: Anadarko said in a statement last night that they're not ready to switch horses, while pledging to carefully review the revised offer.

  • "The Chevron Merger Agreement remains in effect and accordingly the Anadarko board reaffirms its existing recommendation of the transaction with Chevron at this time."

The intrigue: The revised offer arrived just hours after another new wrinkle. Occidental and oil-and-gas behemoth Total announced earlier Sunday that Total would pay $8.8 billion for Anadarko's African assets if the Occidental-Anadarko deal happens.

  • Between the lines: This signals how Occidental is seeking to show that it’s well-positioned to emerge from the expensive transaction in a strong position, even though Chevron has much deeper pockets.
  • That move arrived just days after Warren Buffett pledged to invest $10 billion to help finance Occidental's takeover bid.
3. What they're saying: The Anadarko drama

A few more notes about the latest action...

Occidental CEO Vicki Hollub last night said Total's plan, combined with Buffett's pledge, strengthens the offer.

“The financial support of Berkshire Hathaway as well as the agreement we announced with Total allows us to deliver our balance sheet while focusing our integration efforts on the assets that will provide the most value for us."
— Vicki Hollub, via a statement

Bloomberg reports:

"The Total agreement may ameliorate concerns that Occidental would take on too much debt and shorten the amount of time the company would be out of the market for share buybacks, said Bill Nygren, chief investment officer of Harris Associates LP, which manages $120 billion and owns about 3 percent of Anadarko."

Meanwhile, a new note from Wood Mackenzie explores what the Total's plan to buy Anadarko's African assets (if Occidental wins) means for the France-based super-major, as the deal includes key LNG assets.

"Total will now comfortably be the 2nd largest international oil company (IOC) LNG seller after Shell, and the 4th largest LNG seller after Qatargas, Shell and PETRONAS."
— Nicholas Browne, analyst, WoodMac
4. IEA says renewables growth stalled in '18

"After nearly two decades of strong annual growth, renewables around the world added as much net capacity in 2018 as they did in 2017, an unexpected flattening of growth trends that raises concerns about meeting long-term climate goals," the International Energy Agency said Monday.

Why it matters: The new data underscores the immense challenge of trying to steeply cut global CO2 emissions — which have been rising again in recent years — to avoid high levels of warming while expanding global energy access.

By the numbers: "New net capacity from solar PV, wind, hydro, bioenergy, and other renewable power sources increased by about 180 Gigawatts (GW) in 2018, the same as the previous year," IEA said in releasing new data.

"That’s only around 60% of the net additions needed each year to meet long-term climate goals," the agency said.

5. Solar sector seeks improvement on diversity
Expand chart

Data: U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019; Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

White guys dominate the solar industry's executive ranks, and women and African Americans are underrepresented in the sector more broadly, a new report shows.

Plus, there is also a big wage gap between men and women.

Why it matters: The industry is growing as renewable generation increases, and industry officials are launching new efforts to improve the sector's performance on diversity and inclusion.

By the numbers: The report, issued by the Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association, offers a suite of data showing where the sector is lagging and performing relatively well.

A few snapshots are above. Here are a few more...

  • The senior executive ranks are 88% white and 80% men, and men are also more represented in management overall.
  • The gender wage gap is 26%. Women's median hourly wages are $21.62 compared to $29.19 for men.
  • But, "wage distributions across races or ethnicities appear to be more equitable."
  • 23.4% of employees in the survey identified as part of the LGBTQ community, while representation is even higher in the "manager, director, president" ranks.

What's next: The groups released a "best practices" guide to help companies in the sector. And SEIA, working with other trade groups, has launched a multipronged "diversity challenge," which includes this pledge.

What they're saying: SEIA president Abigail Ross Hopper said the sector needs to create cultural change and address "systemic forces that have allowed discrimination to fester."

  • "We need to take account of our own actions and ask ourselves, are we doing enough? It’s imperative that we take proactive steps to advance these issues, because it isn’t going to happen on its own," she said.
6. House panel to weigh fossil fuel restrictions

The Democratic chairwoman of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Kathy Castor, said the panel will explore proposals to ban new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters.

Why it matters: The panel's work is part of wider Democratic efforts to prepare climate policies that Democrats will try and advance if they also gain control of the White House and perhaps the Senate in the 2020 elections.

  • Elizabeth Warren and several other 2020 White House hopefuls have backed the idea of halting sale of new federal leases for oil-and-gas drilling.
  • The Washington Post takes stock of their positions here, and since that piece ran, Beto O'Rourke has endorsed the idea too.

What they're saying: “We’re going to examine that in the Climate Crisis committee, because what the scientists are telling us now is that we’ve got to cut our carbon pollution dramatically," Castor said in a C-SPAN interview.

  • “It’s an important issue moving forward in the context of how we cut our carbon pollution," she said in the segment that aired over the weekend.

Go deeper: House climate panel will study drilling ban backed by 2020 Dems (The Hill)

Ben GemanAmy Harder