Axios Generate

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March 27, 2017

Good morning and welcome back to Generate. I hope you had a nice weekend. Before we begin, so we can serve you better, I'd appreciate your taking this quick reader survey — just 10 Qs, mostly multiple choice.

There will be big news on the energy and climate policy front this week, but that's not the only thing catching my eye. Here we go . . .

Cars, cars, cars

Some news and notes on the intersection between cars, the environment, and Trump's Washington . . .

Tesla's future: Business Insider has a detailed look at how things could go really well or really poorly for the Silicon Valley electric vehicle and solar energy company, which is facing its "biggest year ever."

  • The company is under pressure to deliver this year on plans to launch its Model 3 sedan, as well as its solar roof product.
  • Risks include a Model 3 delay that pressures revenues, while an on-time rollout "will have huge symbolic effect and could send Tesla shares surging past $300 for the first time."

Tesla's CEO and Trump: The Washington Post reports that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is among the executives working with the Jared Kushner-led "Office of American Innovation" that the White House will unveil later today.

Uber uh-oh: Uber is facing more bad news at a shaky time. The company suspended its pilot program for self-driving cars after a crash in Arizona late Friday. The program has already been "beset by problems," the Financial Times notes.

  • Timing is everything: A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday on self-driving cars. A witness list wasn't available early Monday. The topic of autonomous cars could also surface when the Senate Commerce Committee meets Wednesday for a hearing to vet the nominee for deputy secretary of Transportation.

California confronts Trump: The Los Angeles Times headline puts it starkly — California officials could be heading toward a "full out war with Trump" over carbon emission standards for cars.State regulators voted Friday to maintain strict vehicle emissions rules, but EPA is likely to weaken the overlapping federal mandates for model years 2022-2025. That could create a big battle over the federal waiver that lets California—and a number of other states by extension—impose tougher rules than the federal mandate.

EPA pushed to confront endangerment finding

Below the radar for now: A source tells me at least one conservative group has petitioned EPA since President Trump's inauguration to reopen EPA's endangerment finding. It's the 2009 conclusion that greenhouse gases are a threat to humans, and provides the underpinning for EPA regulations.

Why it matters: During his January Senate confirmation hearing, EPA pick Scott Pruitt said the finding needs to be respected. But in lower profile, post-hearing written answers to senators, he created a little uncertainty (emphasis added by your Generate host):

  • "To my knowledge, there is nothing currently pending before the EPA that would require I take any additional actions on the Endangerment Finding on Greenhouse Gases and if there were, it would not be wise to prejudge the outcome."

Our thought bubble:

The question of whether to revisit the finding is a fault line between some conservative activists and K Street. Industry groups certainly oppose the Obama regulations that Trump and Pruitt plan to undo, but have less appetite for a head-on confrontation over climate science.

Imminent exec order gives GOP some common ground

It's happening! After weeks of delays and rumors, the White House is issuing its executive order Tuesday that will undo — or at least start to undo — a suite of Obama-era climate policies.

What's in it: The centerpiece will be an order to begin the bureaucratic slog of unwinding the Clean Power Plan. That's the sweeping EPA rule, already frozen by the Supreme Court, that mandates cuts in carbon emissions from power plants.

What else is in it: A lot. It's also expected to quickly upend some policies that weren't formal rules to begin with, such as:

  • The Interior Department's freeze on new coal mining leases on federal lands.
  • An Obama-era White House directive that federal agencies should weigh climate change in various permitting decisions and environmental reviews.

But it's even wider! Bloomberg got a look at a draft and has a detailed rundown here.

The politics: This should get the GOP singing off the same song sheet, for a day at least. When it comes to rolling back environmental regulations, there's nothing like the kind of Freedom Caucus—White House—GOP leadership tension that was in ample supply during last week's ugly healthcare debacle.

Trump's frame: The White House said Sunday that Trump will visit the EPA tomorrow to sign the "energy independence" order, claiming it will reduce "unnecessary" rules and "help keep energy and electricity affordable, reliable, and clean in order to boost economic growth and job creation."

The week ahead

Here's a few more things I'm watching on Capitol Hill . . .

Tax policy and energy: Now that attention is shifting from the healthcare debacle to tax reform, what role will energy play? A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee meets Wednesday for a session titled, "Federal Energy Related Tax Policy and its Effects on Markets, Prices, and Consumers."

Cybersecurity and energy: A Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee gathers Tuesday afternoon for a look at cyber threats to the electric grid.

Climate change science:

The House Science Committee

meets Wednesday

morning for a hearing that will give voice to a pair of researchers—Judith Curry and John Christy—who dispute the scientific mainstream on the scope of human-induced global warming. The Washington Post sets the table



It should be quite a week. Please watch the Axios stream for updates, and I'll see you back here tomorrow. Oh, and your tips and feedback are always welcome at [email protected]