Good morning! At this moment in 2000, Eminem was atop the Billboard album charts with "The Marshall Mathers LP."
So let's get into the news with this turn of the century track...
Axios' Amy Harder reports ... A bipartisan pair of former congressional leaders, backed by corporate money, are launching a seven-figure advocacy and lobbying group in support of a carbon tax.
Why it matters: It’s a pivotal step bolstering an initiative, first launched last year by conservative leaders from earlier GOP administrations, pushing a carbon tax in which its revenue is returned back to most Americans in the form of dividend checks.
Reality check: Carbon taxes are politically toxic in Washington, and any such policy is unlikely to pass Congress anytime soon, fueled by deep conservative opposition on Capitol Hill and among influential advocacy groups like Americans for Tax Reform.
The intrigue: No oil and gas companies are funding the effort yet, but they’re likely to in the coming months, according to a source familiar with the effort.
Go deeper: Read Amy's full story.
OPEC, part 1: Reuters has the latest from Vienna ahead of Friday's meeting.
OPEC, part 2: As the cartel gathers for its pivotal Vienna meeting, the Wall Street Journal explores the swirl of forces "making the calculations over how much OPEC should boost output particularly tricky."
The big picture: Over at the Council on Foreign Relations, Amy Myers Jaffe looks at OPEC's challenges heading into the Vienna meeting, and plunges into long-term structural problems facing the cartel, including problems at state-owned oil companies.
Don't call it a comeback: Two new items caught my eye which show that despite the oil price revival, some experts believe investment in big, expensive, long-term oil producing projects — stuff like deepwater — may be too low to prevent a supply crunch in the future.
More warnings: This Financial Times piece hits a similar theme, showing how investment on megaprojects has been lower in recent years thanks to a combination of low-prices, investor pressure, and now the prospect of peak demand. From FT:
Yes, but: As I noted a few months ago, experts are split over whether the so-called supply gap problem is really a thing at all.
The federal focus on aiding coal and nuclear plants on the grounds of security "takes attention away from more relevant concerns, such as insufficient distribution grid cybersecurity protections," according to a new post by Christina Simeone, at UPenn's Kleinman Center for Energy Policy. She writes:
"The distribution grid is becoming more digital and dynamic, as smart grid devices enable two-way communications, and customers are increasingly using on-site generation, software-based energy management tools, and a plethora of internet-of-things appliances. This innovation is positive, yet exposes the grid to additional vulnerabilities."
Why this matters now: The Trump administration is weighing plans to prop up economically struggling coal and nuclear plants.
Yes, but: Simeone argues that the distribution grid "may present the easiest 'target' for attackers, given the lack of cyber protection requirements."
The bottom line: "Lower power prices make today the opportune time to embark on these investments, rather than haphazardly devoting precious financial resources to less meaningful distractions (i.e. subsidies for at-risk generation)," she writes.
Announced today: New York-based battery materials startup Conamix has attracted investment from Volta Energy Technologies, a firm working with Argonne National Laboratory to develop and validate promising advances in energy storage.
Why it matters: Conamix says its technology enables production of high-energy batteries with electrodes that don't rely on cobalt — a material with a fraught and expensive supply chain that's also associated with human rights abuses.
One level deeper: It's the second firm to win backing from Volta, a company launched in late 2017 that's led by Jeff Chamberlain, former head of storage programs at Argonne, a federal lab outside Chicago.
The intrigue: Conamix has previously touted a process for high-volume and cost-effective production of silicon nanowires used in battery anodes, a promising but technically challenging way to create higher energy batteries that retain their stability.
Breaking Wednesday: The Wall Street Journal has the goods on a plan by California and other states designed to boost electric vehicle sales even as the White House moves to pare back national mileage and carbon emissions rules for cars. From WSJ...
Speaking of EVs: Uber has a new plan to bolster use of EVs in its network, and the LA Times has a helpful story, including this summary:
There are several new energy-related items in the Axios Expert Voices section. Worth your time...
North Korea: Eurasia Group CEO Robert Johnston discusses how energy could play a key role in talks with North Korea over denuclearization. In his piece, he writes...
[B]ehind the scenes, particularly in South Korea, there is great interest in using energy as a key incentive to nudge Pyongyang toward further concessions.
Utilities: Steve McBee, the former CEO of NRG Home, argues that big utilities facing stagnant demand and new competitors are failing to position themselves correctly for the long term. From his post...
In the face of fresh competition and shifting market requirements, utilities are largely retreating, not repositioning. Despite large cash volumes, utilities have not invested in the technology, systems and talent to seize emerging opportunities. That’s partly a failure of leadership, but it's also a failure of capital structures that value dividend returns over long-term planning.
Solar's resilience: Stephen Comello, director of the Sustainable Energy Initiative at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, says that the U.S. solar sector faces medium-term problems — such as tariffs and tax policy — but looks bright in the long run. He writes:
In some parts of the country, solar farms have already become the lowest-cost electricity source. Given cost-competitiveness, state-level renewable-energy mandates and complementary technology advances, solar power is likely to become even more commonplace.
Axios intern Henrietta Reily reports ... Fueled by cheap battery costs, wind and solar power are poised to produce nearly 50% of the world's electricity by 2050, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report released Tuesday.
Why it matters: Renewable energy is getting cheaper as its technologies reach greater economies of scale. Notable this year are the falling prices for batteries that store energy generated by the wind and sun, which have become cheaper and easier to implement than previously forecast.
Other big takeaways: