May 10, 2019

Axios Generate

Ben Geman

Happy Friday!

This weekend will mark 47 years since The Rolling Stones' released "Exile On Main Street." That random fact is more than reason enough for them to open today's edition...

1 big thing: The state of the Green New Deal
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Data: Reproduced from a Yale Program on Climate Change Communication report; Chart: Axios Visuals

A pair of new polls underscore the Green New Deal's fast rise to political prominence and hint at how it could factor into the 2020 elections.

Why it matters: The separate surveys unveiled yesterday provide a fresh look at opinion ahead of a high-profile moment for the sweeping lefty climate and jobs plan.

  • On Monday Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will headline a Washington, D.C. rally organized by the youth-led Sunrise Movement.
  • Sunrise will "announce a nationwide campaign to make the 2020 election a referendum on the Green New Deal," an advisory states.

By the numbers: A Yale and George Mason University survey shows that political views of the Green New Deal have splintered along partisan lines as its name recognition has increased.

  • 58% of registered voters had heard either "a little" or "a lot" about the Green New Deal in their survey conducted last month, up from 17% in December.
  • Check out the chart above: GOP voters have turned sharply against the proposal while Democratic support remains robust.
  • The growing GOP opposition comes after months of attacks from Republican lawmakers and conservative movement figures.

The intrigue: "[S]upport for the Green New Deal is lower among Republicans who watch Fox News more frequently than it is among Republicans who watch it less often," the report notes.

The April survey showed support for the Green New Deal at just 22% among Republicans who watch Fox more than once per week, compared to 56% among those who watch the network once per week or less.

Now let's turn to a Monmouth University poll of Democratic New Hampshire primary voters released yesterday.

  • 28% of likely voters said it's "very important" that the Democratic Party nominate someone who supports the Green New Deal, while another 36% called it "somewhat" important.
  • More intrigue: Among voters who list it as "very important," 29% back Joe Biden (the clear frontrunner in the poll by a wide margin) and 27% back Bernie Sanders.
  • That's interesting because Sanders backs the Green New Deal while Biden has not weighed in as far as I can tell. Biden is also aggressively courting labor votes and the national AFL-CIO has not gotten behind the Green New Deal.

Go deeper: What Biden and Beto just told us about the 2020 climate fight

Curtain falls on the Anadarko drama

Last night the oil companies Occidental and Anadarko said they've entered into a "definitive merger agreement," a move that came hours after Chevron abandoned plans to buy Anadarko and its prized Permian Basin acreage.

Why it matters: Chevron's decision not to compete with the $76-per-share offer by Occidental — a company one-fifth its size by market cap — completes the picture of the largest oil industry merger in years.

  • Anadarko has a range of assets, but the deal is notable for underscoring how companies are trying to gain an edge in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, the prolific heart of the U.S. oil boom.

Where it stands: Occidental said the cash-and-stock transaction is valued at $57 billion, including debt. The deal does not require approval from Occidental's shareholders, and the companies expect it to close in the second half of the year.

What they're saying: Chevron had the luxury of walking away, according to Greig Aitken, an analyst with the consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

  • "Chevron wields an enviable growth profile among the Majors. It is already a leader in U.S. tight oil, underpinned by its low-royalty, contiguous acreage position throughout the Permian," he said in a note.

But multiple analysts expect Chevron to eye other Permian acquisitions. Per MarketWatch, targets could include Diamondback Energy, Concho Resources, Pioneer Natural Resources and others.

What's next: Occidental's annual meeting is later today. Via The Wall Street Journal...

  • "Occidental must now mend relations with some frustrated shareholders, who were rankled in particular by the company’s decision to raise the cash portion of its offer, thereby avoiding a shareholder vote that would have been triggered by issuing a higher number of shares to pay for Anadarko."
Utilities turn to AI for disaster prep

After decades of neglect, U.S. infrastructure is cracking, sagging and exploding — and pressure on old systems is growing as cities swell and the climate changes, Axios' Kaveh Waddell reports.

The big picture: Power companies, fearful of setting off more disasters like California's deadly wildfires, are hungrily buying up AI systems that can tell them which equipment is the next to rupture or go up in flames.

Why it matters: California's three largest utilities caused more than 2,000 fires in an approximately 3-year span, the L.A. Times reported in January. And gas-line explosions have killed hundreds and injured nearly 1,000 people in the past 2 decades.

Where it stands: The ordinarily conservative utilities are throwing everything they can into reducing these risks, says Otto Lynch, an adviser to the Infrastructure Report Card, a study of U.S. infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

"You do not want to be the person responsible for taking down New York City," Lynch said.

What's new: A spate of new startups selling AI systems to predict oncoming equipment problems have found utilities eager customers.

  • A company called Via uses data from power company equipment inspections, smart meters and environmental factors to figure out if transformers are at risk of disaster.
  • Urbint looks at previous gas problems, plus satellite imagery, soil and weather data, and planned digs near gas lines to map danger zones.
  • Petasense supplies Silicon Valley Power in Santa Clara, California, with sensors that can detect malfunctions in power-generating equipment from minute changes in their vibration.

Go deeper in the Axios stream

Bernie Sanders' climate broadside against Big Tech

Bernie Sanders is going guns blazing after tech giants over their business lines with oil companies — a potential new headache for Big Tech if the 2020 White House hopeful keeps up the attacks.

Driving the news: "At a time when climate change is the greatest crisis facing the planet, Microsoft and Google are making billion dollar deals with the fossil fuel industry," Sanders said via Twitter.

  • The tweet included a video featuring journalist Brian Merchant, who recently wrote for Gizmodo about those companies, Amazon and others providing industry-specific cloud, AI and other services.

The intrigue: Sanders' attack comes as tech behemoths are already under an intense political microscope. Another 2020 hopeful, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, even wants to break up huge companies.

The big question: I'll be watching to see whether Sanders keeps highlighting tech sector relationships with the oil-and-gas industry. His campaign did not respond to inquiries on the matter yesterday.

Go deeper:

Hydropower and the fate of rivers
The Sesan 2 dam in Stung Treng, Cambodia. Photo: Jason South/Fairfax Media/Getty Images

Axios' Andrew Freedman reports on a new study showing that Earth's rivers are increasingly dammed for hydropower and other uses, disrupted by development and fragmented — threatening food and water sources that hundreds of millions of people depend upon.

What's new: A first-of-its-kind study published Wednesday in Nature provides a global census of the world's rivers, and seeks to answer the question of how many are still free-flowing.

By the numbers:

  • 2.8 million: The estimated number of dams constructed worldwide.
  • More than 3,700: Hydropower dams currently planned or under construction worldwide, particularly in Asia.
  • 15 gigawatts: The amount of hydropower capacity added in Asia during 2016 alone. The study also highlights the Balkans, Amazon, China, and the Himalayas as hotspots of hydropower construction.
  • 37%: Share of rivers longer than 1,000 km (about 620 miles) in length that remain free-flowing.
  • 41%: Share of global river volume that still flows freely into the ocean.
  • 77%: Share of rivers greater than 1,000 km in length that have seen the connection from their source region to the sea severed.

The big picture: The study finds large contiguous river networks with intact natural connectivity are limited to places where few humans live, including the Arctic, Amazon Basin, and Congo Basin in Africa.

  • Dams and reservoirs are the top contributors to major connectivity loss of sections of rivers.
  • Consumptive water use and infrastructure development also rank high on the list of river disturbances.

Go deeper

Ben Geman