Good Monday morning!
Some of you may have noticed criticism I got for my story a couple of weeks ago about America's polarized climate debate. That experience prompted me to write this week's Harder Line column, which delves into the divisions brewing among those on the left pushing action on climate change.
I'll share that below, and then Ben Geman will get you up to speed on the rest of the news.
America’s Democratic Party, environmental groups and clean-energy leaders pushing action on climate change are at odds over how best to address it.
Why it matters: Conflict is erupting over the best technologies and messaging, and experts worry the fighting could stifle progress toward the big thing they agree on — the need to address climate change. The divisions, brewing for years, are escalating in the face of a Republican-run government that doesn’t recognize the issue at all.
The main flashpoint: How large a role renewable energy should play in America’s future energy mix, compared to other low-carbon resources that may not be as politically popular but that most experts say are needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in cost-effective ways.
One vocal faction is pushing for 100% renewable energy — neglecting nuclear power and fighting all fossil fuels, including the infrastructure to move them and the tech to burn them more cleanly. These drastic actions are required given the urgent threat climate change poses, leaders of this agenda say.
Beyond that faction, positions are not as clearly defined or vocal, but the shared theme supports a broader mix of low-carbon technologies cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This includes big increases in wind and solar but also nuclear power and technology capturing carbon emissions from fossil fuels.
What we're hearing: On the sidelines of a climate conference in Bonn, Germany, last November, I asked former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, about these divisions.
“You’re reducing carbon emissions by using natural gas,” McAuliffe says. “We are shutting down coal plants and replacing them with natural gas. That’s a move in the right direction. We can’t go 100% renewables in Virginia. It’s laughable to even discuss it.”
Dive into the divisions in the Axios stream here.
Buckle up: Oil markets will get lots of attention in the next few days. Crude oil is coming off a wild stretch last week in which prices suffered their biggest weekly losses in two years, thanks in part to surging output from U.S. shale that has pushed the nation's estimated oil production past its early 1970's peak.
Why it matters: The price retreat last week signals major headwinds for the two-year old joint effort by OPEC and Russia to tighten global supply levels and prop up prices. It also underscores rising U.S. influence on global markets.
One key data point: "Data released Friday revealed the biggest weekly jump in the number of U.S. oil-drilling rigs since January 2017, contributing to concerns about a surge in U.S. production," MarketWatch notes.
What to watch this week: In addition to the usual Energy Information Administration (EIA) data on stockpiles on Wednesday, this week brings...
Be smart: A weekend piece in Bloomberg's Gadfly analysis section says the "nightmare scenario" for OPEC would be data emerging soon that shows a cut in projected global oil demand growth, which would be the other shoe to drop after surging U.S output.
Quoted, part 1:
“We’re realizing that the Congo is to [electric vehicles] what Saudi Arabia is to the internal combustion engine."— Trent Mell, CEO of the mining company First Cobalt Corp.
Quoted, part 2:
"The new US tax credit for carbon capture, utilisation and storage will provide pivotal support for this critical technology. We welcome US leadership behind this important and significant step in the right direction."— IEA Director Fatih Birol on the expansion of carbon capture incentives in last week's federal spending deal.
Solar trade: A cogent piece Friday from two Brookings Institution analysts is the latest to express deep pessimism that newly imposed White House tariffs on solar panel equipment imports can bolster domestic manufacturing.
EPA: A Washington Post feature on Sunday looked at EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's first-class travel and how much it costs. From their piece:
"Pruitt tends to bring a larger entourage of political advisers on his trips than past administrators. But while the aides usually fly coach, according to travel vouchers through August obtained by The Washington Post separately from the Environmental Integrity Project, he often sits in first or business class, which previous administrators typically eschewed."
Budget politics: The White House will unveil its proposed fiscal year 2019 later this morning, a plan expected to include a steep proposed cut in DOE green energy programs.
One thing we're watching: Whether the plan will again seek to kill off the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the DOE program that supports so-called high-risk, high-reward research into breakthrough energy tech.
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Infrastructure plan: The White House will float its long-awaited infrastructure plan later today, which is designed to leverage $200 billion of new federal spending into a $1.5 trillion infrastructure, officials say.
Reality check: My Axios colleagues Jonathan Swan and Caitlin Owens report that Capitol Hill Republicans have little appetite for the White House plan.
"All that said, it’s certainly plausible Congress could move some hodge-podge of provisions which they could describe as an infrastructure package. It won’t look remotely like Trump’s proposal, but it may give cover for a Rose Garden celebration," they note.
Energy diplomacy: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will meet Thursday to hear from Francis Fannon, the White House nominee for assistant secretary of State for energy resources.
Mining: A House Natural Resources subcommittee meets Thursday to discuss legislation to speed up federal environmental reviews and permitting of mining projects for "strategic and critical minerals."
Power policy: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission meets Thursday with agenda items including regulations on energy storage.