🐣 Good morning! Today we roam from LNG to heat to Wall Street and beyond, all with a Smart Brevity count of just 1,102 words, 4 minutes.

😂 One funny thing: A climate tech VC riff on the classic "Blade Runner" speech.

🚨 Situational awareness: A potent atmospheric river may cause more flooding in L.A. today, after soaking much of the state.

🎹 This week marks 50 years since the late Aretha Franklin released the album "Let Me in Your Life," which provides today's intro tune...

1 big thing: What's new in Biden's LNG battle

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

There are a few developments in the Biden administration‘s pause on new LNG export licenses, which has become a political and energy market lightning rod, Ben writes.

🕰️ White House energy adviser Amos Hochstein tells Al Arabiya English the freeze and review could last 10-14 months, as a ballpark estimate.

  • Where it stands: After that, officials will decide whether to continue the pause, approve some projects, or all of them. "I don't know, we'll have to see what the data is," Hochstein said, and emphasized that U.S. exports will continue surging based on what's already permitted.
  • Why it matters: His comments — in a wider interview on the topic — reinforce expectations that the halt on permitting cargoes to major markets from proposed projects will last beyond the election.
  • Go deeper: Al Arabiya story and rebuttal to Hochstein from a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official.

🔍 RBN Energy zooms in on ways specific North American projects in the pipeline may be affected by the freeze, and new stipulations on license extensions imposed last April.

  • State of play: The firm sees a mix of winners and losers. Existing or under-construction projects — like Sempra Energy's Cameron facility and NextDecade's Rio Grande project — "may well attract more interest from potential offtakers than greenfield projects."

🥊 Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.) came out against the move over the weekend. "I actually don't support what President Biden is doing there," he said on Fox News Sunday.

  • The big picture: "I believe one of the United States' massive strategic strengths is our energy — our clean energy and our fossil fuels," he said.
  • What we're watching: How many Senate Democrats from gas-producing states ultimately line up with or against the policy. Last week's House vote saw only limited defections.

2. Global air and ocean temperatures hit new highs

Daily global average surface air temperature
Data: ERA5; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Record warm global average surface temperatures have continued through mid-February, with no indications of a cooldown, Andrew writes.

The big picture: It is clear that 2024 is starting off right where 2023 ended: in all-time record territory, with global average surface air and ocean temperatures staying even higher than they were in 2023.

Threat level: If these water temperatures don't lessen by the time hurricane season kicks into gear, the 2024 Atlantic season could be a memorable one.

Zoom in: The Atlantic temperature spike is especially concerning to hurricane forecasters because an ongoing strong El Niño event is expected to transition into a La Niña in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

  • This La Niña could emerge by the mid-to-end of the hurricane season, and these events tend to make the overall environment in the tropical Atlantic more favorable for hurricane formation and intensification.

Between the lines: Last year brought record global air and ocean temperatures, with milestone after milestone falling with each passing month.

  • The majority of this was due to human-caused climate change, with a boost from natural climate variability in the form of El Niño.
  • It remains to be seen, however, when the extra warming push from El Niño will lessen, allowing global temperatures to ebb sometime in the coming six to 12 months.

Go deeper

3. Following up: Wall Street's cracks on climate

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

PIMCO is following State Street Global Advisors and J.P. Morgan Asset Management in leaving the investor coalition Climate Action 100+, Ben writes.

What's new: "We have concluded that our Climate Action 100+ participation is no longer aligned with PIMCO's approach to sustainability. PIMCO operates its own portfolio-relevant engagement activities with issuers on sustainability," the asset management behemoth said.

Catch up fast: BlackRock is also leaving the group, which was launched in 2017 and pushes portfolio firms on climate performance. However, its smaller BlackRock International unit will remain.

What we're watching: Keep an eye on whether more U.S.-based firms leave Climate Action 100+ as it moves from a focus on disclosure to "phase 2" — having members push portfolio companies on emissions cuts.

  • For instance, Goldman Sachs Asset Management declined to comment about their status in the group.
  • Financial institutions also remain under pressure from Republicans to scale back ESG affiliations.

Yes, but: Climate Action 100+ said in a statement that it has momentum despite some big departures.

"Last fall alone, more than 60 new signatories joined, and we expect strong interest to continue," a spokesperson said late last week.

4. 🏃🏽‍♀️ Catch up fast on policy: EVs and SEC disclosure

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

🚗 Biden officials may be tapping the brakes on plans to effectively mandate a sharp ramp-up in EV sales this decade, per the NYT and subsequent reports, Ben writes.

  • The big picture: Looming EPA CO2 rules, compared with a 2023 draft, will slow requirements in the early years of the policy that covers model years 2027-2032, those reports state.
  • Why it matters: Transportation is the biggest U.S. emissions source, and it's an election thing too — Donald Trump is vowing to upend Biden-era policies he calls out of step with consumers' mood.
  • State of play: The NYT reports the overall goal of EVs comprising roughly two-thirds of sales in 2032 will remain intact.
  • Of note: The agency did not comment on the reporting, citing ongoing interagency review. But an EPA representative tells Axios it's committed to a final rule that's "readily achievable, secures reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensures economic benefits for families."

👀 Long-long-long-simmering SEC climate disclosure rules could be on the cusp of landing after arriving in draft form two years ago, Politico reports.

  • Why it matters: The rules would put more info in the public realm about companies' emissions and how they view climate risk.
  • Yes, but: Major business groups are pushing back against granular requirements, and any final rule is certain to end up in court.

5. ☀️ Number of the day: 81%

That's solar and storage's combined share of planned U.S. power capacity additions in 2024, Ben writes.

Why it matters: The Energy Information Administration estimate underscores the evolution of the country's electricity mix and grid tech.

Another nugget: Planned gas-fired power additions are the lowest in 25 years at 2.5 gigawatts.

Full EIA primer

6. 💬 Quoted

"I think from an outside perspective these developments could seem ugly, but they are very much needed for the sustainability of the industry."
— BloombergNEF analyst Atin Jain, via E&E News, on U.S. offshore wind project cancellations, joint venture breakups, and new proposals.

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🙏 Thanks to Chris Speckhard and Javier E. David for edits to today's edition, along with the brilliant Axios Visuals team.