Aug 14, 2019

Axios Generate

Welcome back! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,025 words, < 4 minutes.

Onto music: At this moment 20 years ago, Destiny's Child was enjoying an 8-week run atop Billboard's R&B charts with today's intro tune...

1 big thing: Wind blows past Trump's attacks
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Data: U.S. Department of Energy; Chart: Axios Visuals

President Trump has a dim view of wind power. Analysts for the Energy Department are telling a different story.

Driving the news: Trump used a speech at a Shell petrochemicals plant in Pennsylvania yesterday to revive his attacks against wind energy.

  • He inaccurately bashed "windmills that destroy everybody’s property values, kill all the birds."
  • He claimed that wind's intermittency is causing power outages, which fails to consider that wind is part of a wider resource mix.

Why it matters: Timing! It comes just days after DOE's latest major analysis of wind technology trends.

  • The newest version of the annual report underscores why it has become an increasingly competitive resource, while also offering some warning signs.

What they found: Here are a few big-picture highlights from the granular report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory analysts...

  • New wind power capacity additions were "robust" last year, totaling nearly 7,600 megawatts.
  • Investment in new plants was $11 billion, and there's more bang for the buck. The average per-kilowatt installed cost of wind projects is 40% lower than 2009–2010.
  • Wind power prices are lower than ever. Power purchase deals they analyzed show an average cost below 2¢/kWh, which is less than a third of 2009 prices.
  • Wind now provides 6.5% of U.S. power, and it's over 30% in Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma.
  • Check out the chart above, which shows how the industry has moved to bigger and more powerful designs. The average capacity for newly installed turbines is 239% higher than it was 20 years ago.

But, but, but: That doesn't mean wind isn't facing hurdles. Per DOE, the looming phaseout of federal tax credits for new projects is expected to slow the rate of project growth starting in 2021. Other challenges, per the report...

"Expectations for continued low natural gas prices and modest electricity demand growth also put a damper on growth expectations, as do limited transmission infrastructure and competition from natural gas and — increasingly — solar energy."
2. A collision in crude oil markets
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Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Crude markets are caught between signs of de-escalation in the U.S.-China trade fight and fresh evidence of a global economic slowdown.

Driving the news: That steep upward line in the chart above shows what happened when Trump delayed new tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports.

  • West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude saw steep gains after the news emerged, with WTI settling up 4% to $57.10 per barrel.

But, but, but: Prices are heading back downward sharply this morning (WTI around $55.49), giving up lots of yesterday's rise, as traders absorb less bullish news. Here's Reuters...

"Oil prices fell on Wednesday on weak economic data from China and Europe and a rise in U.S. crude inventories, partly erasing the previous session’s sharp gains after the United States said it would delay tariffs on some Chinese products."
3. Blue states launch suit over Trump's CO2 rule
New York Attorney General Letitia James. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

ICYMI, a group of 29 states and local governments yesterday filed suit against the Trump administration's move to replace Obama-era climate rules for power plants with a more modest alternative.

Why it matters: The litigation, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, sets the stage for a new federal court battle over the scope of regulators' authority and duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

The big picture: In June, the EPA announced final rules that require states to make coal-fired units more efficient over time, but the rules lack binding CO2-cutting targets.

  • Trump's rules replaced a wider 2015 regulation that sought to drive more sweeping changes by enabling states to meet carbon-cutting mandates through lower-emitting and zero-carbon sources.
  • That Obama-era mandate never took effect and was stayed by the Supreme Court.

What they're saying: "My office, and this groundbreaking coalition of states and cities from across the nation, will fight back against this unlawful, do-nothing rule in order to protect our future from catastrophic climate change," James said in a statement.

  • But an EPA statement said, "EPA worked diligently to ensure we produced a solid rule, that we believe will be upheld in the courts, unlike the previous Administration’s Clean Power Plan."

Read more

4. Catch up fast: methane regs, climate, EV charging

EPA: Per Bloomberg, "The Trump administration is readying a plan to end direct federal regulation of methane leaks from oil and gas facilities, even as some energy companies insist they don’t want the relief."

  • The intrigue: Jennifer Dlouhy reports that the move "threatens to undermine the oil industry’s sales pitch that natural gas is a climate-friendly source of electricity."

Climate: "A Washington Post analysis of more than a century of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data across the Lower 48 states and 3,107 counties has found that major areas are nearing or have already crossed the 2-degree Celsius mark," the paper reports.

  • The big picture: "[M]ore than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles," they note.

EV charging: Per Morning Consult, "The International Council on Clean Transportation, in a report released Tuesday morning, said $1.3 billion would be needed to make the necessary additions to home charging for electric vehicles and $940 million for workplace and public charging for the 100 U.S. metro areas with the highest populations."

5. Quote of the day
"People ask how it is possible that America is failing to lead on climate change, even as we rapidly approach a catastrophic transformation of our planet that will wreak irreversible havoc on millions of Americans. The answer: the filibuster."

Who said it: Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, writing in the New York Times.

Quick take: The latest of Reid's new calls to end the filibuster in order to pass climate legislation (and more) could help keep the topic on the agenda in the primaries.

Why it matters: While Democratic 2020 hopefuls are releasing energy and climate plans, they depend in part on passing new laws.

  • But even if Democrats take the Senate in 2020, there's almost no chance of a 6o-vote supermajority needed to beat filibusters.
  • Joe Biden said last week that ending the filibuster would be a "very dangerous move," while a number of his rivals support killing it or are open to the idea.

Go deeper: The Washington Post looks at where various candidates stand.