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A quick housekeeping note: We'll be off Monday for Presidents Day, but Generate will return Tuesday. Enjoy the holiday!
Onto music. Today marks the 1975 release date of Rush's "Fly by Night," so that brilliant (yup) trio will play us into the weekend...
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
NEWCASTLE, Australia — Coal exports out of this resource-rich nation brought in record-high revenue last year, according to government data released this month, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
The big picture: As concerns about climate change grow, coal is considered on its way out. But for many growing economies in Southeast Asia who are Australia’s biggest coal customers, it’s often seen as the preferred, cheapest electricity option.
Driving the news: Coal exports brought in a record A$66 billion in export value last year, according to data from the government’s Bureau of Statistics released earlier this month.
The intrigue: Earlier this week, I visited coal export terminals in Newcastle, a couple hours’ drive north of Sydney. The collective volume of approximately 160 million tons a year makes the area the single biggest port for coal exports in the world, according to executives at the Port Waratah Coal Services, which runs the largest operation on site here.
Between the lines: The type of coal exported from Newcastle is considered a cleaner type compared to the world’s other big coal exporter, nearby Indonesia. This is why Australia’s coal producers think they can thrive in a world addressing climate change.
A new report this week underscores a wider trend: The Energy Department's data arm and private forecasters alike have consistently underestimated the U.S. crude oil production surge in recent years, Axios' Harry Stevens and I report.
What's new: The EIA's latest monthly forecast sees U.S. crude production, already at record levels, averaging 12.4 million barrels per day this year and 13.2 mbd in 2020. That's a substantial uptick from projections just a month earlier, and if history is any guide, the latest increase won't be the last upward revision.
By the numbers: Harry compared EIA's forecasts in their monthly short-term energy outlook with actual production data. He found...
The intrigue: EIA is hardly alone in low-balling the surge, which saw U.S. output climb 2 million barrels per day last year alone.
Why it matters: There are geopolitical, economic and environmental repercussions from the faster-than-expected growth, which is driven largely by surging output in the Permian Basin region of Texan and New Mexico.
What we're hearing: Analysts offered a suite of reasons why growth has exceeded forecasts, such as the decline in technology costs.
Royal Dutch Shell announced Friday that's its acquiring sonnen, a Germany-based home battery storage company.
Why it matters: The move underscores how Shell and some other majors are increasingly moving into the power and low-carbon energy space, even though it remains a very small part of their portfolios.
Where it stands: Shell had already invested in the company last year through its venture arm.
One level deeper: Via Greentech Media, "Sonnen distinguished itself in the early home storage market, with thousands of units deployed across Germany, and a notable presence elsewhere in Europe, the U.S. and Australia."
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Senate Democrats hope to put Republicans on the record on whether they support the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.
Where it stands: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is bringing up the Green New Deal resolution for a vote soon — a move that shows GOP confidence that it puts Democrats in a political bind.
What's next: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said yesterday that Democrats will push an amendment on acknowledgement of human-driven global warming.
But, but, but: Yesterday brought more evidence that Democrats are not all on the same page when it comes to the GND resolution, which was authored by 2 Democrats, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
What they're saying: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, declined to say how she would vote on the resolution when speaking at an Axios News Shapers event yesterday.
The Tennessee Valley Authority's board voted yesterday to close 2 coal plants in a lopsided decision that thwarted President Trump's pressure to support coal.
Why it matters: The TVA votes underscore the tough economics facing coal-fired power, which is steadily losing market share to gas and renewables despite White House efforts to revive the sector.
The intrigue: The Washington Post's Steven Mufson writes up a good account of yesterday's decisions...
Three of the four people appointed by Trump to the TVA board joined the 6-1 majority voting to close down the Paradise coal unit, and all four joined the unanimous vote to retire Bull Run.
Trump, who vowed during his campaign to help the coal industry, set up a clash with the TVA with his call to keep open the Paradise 3 unit, which buys much of its coal from a mining company chaired by Robert E. Murray, one of the president’s major donors and supporters.