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1 big thing: CO2 player grows as data demands escalate

Illustration of a ruler with smoke coming out of the top, like a smokestack.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Watershed, a startup that helps companies analyze and cut their greenhouse gases, is acquiring emissions accounting and data firm VitalMetrics, Ben writes.

Why it matters: It's an increasingly competitive space as demands rise on corporations to better track and report their climate footprints and reduce them.

Driving the news: Watershed's announcement this morning calls access to VitalMetrics' "Comprehensive Environmental Data Archive" (CEDA) a major competitive advantage.

"Watershed customers will be able to measure their emissions with new levels of global coverage and granularity, while meeting rising standards for verification and audit," it states.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The big picture: In the U.S., all eyes are on looming disclosure rules from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • More broadly, companies face pressure to track their own emissions and supply chains.
  • That happens via voluntary groups like the Carbon Disclosure Project and European rules.

What we're watching: Whether there will be more consolidation as startups compete with each other and major accounting firms.

Catch up fast: Watershed backers include prominent venture firms Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins, and it counts Walmart, Airbnb, BlackRock and other heavyweights among its customers.

  • The company, founded in 2019, has raised a total of $84 million and claimed a $1 billion valuation in early 2022, when it announced a $70 million Series B round.

What's next: VitalMetrics' president and chief scientist Sangwon Suh โ€” who founded the company in 2005 โ€” will be lead scientist at Watershed, alongside Steve Davis.

  • Both are academics. Davis is a climate scientist at UC-Irvine while Suh's an environmental sciences professor at UC-Santa Barbara.
  • Watershed is making some of the CEDA data available free to academic and nonprofit institutions.

2. Charted: the big driving bounce-back

๐Ÿš— U.S. vehicle miles traveled
Data: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Here's an example of how early COVID-era musings that the pandemic may have a big and lasting effect on oil demand didn't really pan out, Ben writes.

The big picture: U.S. vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2021 and 2022 were "similar to pre-pandemic years despite the increase in the number of people working from home," per the latest entry in DOE's "transportation fact of the week" series.

How it works: "Likely, increased VMT from home delivery (Amazon, UPS, etc.) and separate errands that would previously have been done on the way to or from work offset much of the lost VMT from reduced work trips," it notes.

3. ๐Ÿงฎ Intriguing numbers: Raw materials, shale, EVs

โ›๏ธ 10% โ€” the amount of global exports of "critical raw materials" are subject to some kind of export restrictions, a new OECD paper finds, Ben writes.

  • Why it matters: The multilateral organization warns that trade barriers on materials like lithium and rare earth minerals could slow progress on low-carbon transition. Reuters has more.

๐Ÿ›ข๏ธ 5.8% โ€” the boost in shale producer Pioneer Natural Resources share price after the Wall Street Journal reported Exxon's "preliminary talks" about an acquisition.

  • Yes, but: The story has significant caveats about the possibility of the shale mega-deal coming to pass.

๐Ÿš— 41% โ€” the share of Americans either "very" or "somewhat" likely to buy an EV as their next car, per new polling from AP and the University of Chicago.

  • Yes, but: Costs and charging availability are significant deterrents, the poll shows. AP has more.

4. The price cap on Russian oil seems to work

Data: International Energy Agency; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: International Energy Agency; Chart: Axios Visuals

Russia is still shipping crude, but its oil revenues have plunged, fulfilling the twin goals of the energy price cap the U.S. government devised last year, Axios' Matt Phillips reports.

Why it matters: After it invaded Ukraine in 2022, Russia's position as a major global oil supplier was seen as a constraint on the West's ability to punish Moscow.

  • Now, the price cap may be helping to solve that problem.

The latest: There are fresh signs that Russia's finances are in trouble.

What they did: In December, the EUโ€” long Russia's largest buyer โ€” imposed heavy restrictions on Russian oil.

The big picture: Given the potential loopholes โ€” for instance, people simply lying about paying less than $60 for Russian oil โ€” there was a fair amount of skepticism the cap would work.

  • But early evidence suggests that the cap, alongside other sanctions, has been pretty successful at keeping Russian oil flowing โ€” while reducing the amount of money Russia reaps from its sale (predominantly to China, India and Turkey).

Read more via Axios Markets

5. Why leasing an EV may be the smart move

Illustration of a battery icon with hundred dollar bills as the bars indicating that it's full.

Illustration: Aรฏda Amer/Axios

Federal tax credits for EV purchases are about to disappear for many models under newly released IRS rules, but savvy shoppers are finding a workaround by leasing, rather than buying, their new car, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

Why it matters: President Biden's effort to expand EV adoption through newly revised tax credits is proving to be unworkable for many of today's models, creating confusion and frustration for automakers, dealers and consumers.

Where it stands: Today, 39 of the 91 EVs on the market โ€”ย including plug-in hybrids โ€” are eligible for the full $7,500 tax credit, per the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an auto industry lobby group.

But that number is expected to shrink significantly starting next week under the new rules.

The intrigue: Leasing โ€” rather than buying โ€” an EV is one way around the new requirements.

  • Leased vehicles still qualify for the tax breaks as "commercial" vehicles.
  • When someone leases, the vehicle owner is the bank or finance company. Drivers are merely "renting" for two or three years.
  • Hyundai and Kia are among the companies doing more leasing.

Read the whole story

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๐Ÿ™ Thanks to Lisa Hornung and Javier E. David for edits to today's edition.