Good morning, for those of us under the heat dome, I hope you're staying cool!
For my latest column, I interviewed all 4 commissioners of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about how it's handling natural gas and climate change. I'll share that and then my colleague Ben Geman will get you up to speed on other news.
Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,210 words / < 5 min read.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Regulatory decisions about America’s bounty of natural gas are in the hands of an obscure and understaffed federal agency with a limited mandate to think about climate change.
Why it matters: With America’s production of oil and natural gas soaring and Congress not acting on climate change, the once-sleepy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is finding itself at the center of protests and lawsuits.
Driving the news: Democratic FERC commissioner Richard Glick wants to require companies seeking approval for pipelines and LNG export terminals to offset GHG emissions, similar to the way companies compensate for more traditional environmental impacts like creating wetlands.
The other side: “I just fundamentally disagree with Commissioner Glick on this matter,” said Neil Chatterjee, the panel's Republican chairman. “The approach the commission has been taking is what we are statutorily obligated to do.”
Where it stands: Chatterjee pointed to the commission’s February approval of a gas export terminal, calling it a “breakthrough” because it was the first in two years and because it listed the GHG emissions associated with the project. (Glick dismissed the move as "window dressing.")
“I’ve been out there as a Republican from Kentucky and as a Trump appointee talking about climate change and the need to mitigate emissions. And if we can’t have a rational conversation about the role that U.S. LNG exports have in reducing global carbon emissions, I don’t think we’re ever going to get pragmatic solutions in this area.”— Neil Chatterjee
Between the lines: FERC's relatively limited legal authority is in the economic realm and rests largely on two nearly century-old laws — the Federal Power Act and the Natural Gas Act — that aren't environmentally focused.
What's next: LaFleur is resigning next month, at which point the two GOP commissioners will have a clear majority and be able to approve controversial projects over Glick's opposition.
Go deeper: Read the whole column.
Oil prices are higher following Iranian seizure of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz late last week that escalated tensions around the crucial shipping lane.
But, but, but: They're not that much higher — Brent was trading up roughly 0.64% to $62.87 this morning as we hit send on this newsletter.
The big question: Why aren't markets freaking out over the drama in a region where an amount totaling one-fifth of the world's oil supply passes each day?
What they're saying: Oil analyst Ellen Wald offered me a few reasons.
"Current and potential future weakness in demand is of much bigger concern these days than supply. Macroeconomic indicators and sentiment concerning the U.S.-China trade war are much more potent issues for the market."
She notes that none of the incidents in and around the strait in recent weeks have actually impeded movement of crude oil.
Threat level: The potential for more serious conflict in the region is higher than the market response would suggest, per Richard Nephew, a former State Department official and National Security Council aide.
The bottom line: "Taken in combination with the constant churn of crisis in the region and Iran’s wide array of proxies (some of which may be under greater or lesser Iranian control), this is a combustible mixture," Nephew writes.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Tesla's financial struggles will be in the spotlight this week as the Silicon Valley electric automaker reports Q2 earnings after markets close on Wednesday.
What's next: The company is expected to report a second consecutive quarterly loss despite record deliveries for the April–June stretch.
That brings us to an insightful piece by Axios' Joann Muller, where she reports Tesla is beginning to behave like the Detroit Three carmakers during their most desperate days.
Why it matters: By pumping incentives and slashing prices, analysts say the electric car manufacturer appears to be signaling that it prioritizes vehicle deliveries and cash generation over margins.
What's happening: A dizzying string of recent price adjustments on Tesla cars is a sign of internal chaos over how to deal with shrinking U.S. incentives, aging model lines, and pressure to boost deliveries, Bloomberg reports.
Plus, Tesla has reasons to pump up sales, even if it means sacrificing profits, writes Barclays automotive analyst Brian Johnson in a note to clients.
Breaking Monday: BP and the agribusiness giant Bunge said they're forming a joint biofuels and sugar venture based in Brazil.
What they're saying: "In one step, this agreement will allow BP to significantly grow the size, efficiency and flexibility of our biofuels business in one of the world's major growth markets," Dev Sanyal, CEO with BP Alternative Energy, said in a statement.
What's next: Per the announcement, the new JV called BP Bunge Bioenergia will operate 11 mills in Brazil. The sites will be powered by electricity generated by waste biomass from sugar cane, and surplus power will go to Brazil's grid.
Go deeper: Grain trader Bunge to form bioenergy firm with BP (Reuters)
New CBS News polling of 18,550 registered voters shows that 78% of Democratic voters in 18 early primary and caucus states view climate change as "very important" in the 2020 election.
Why it matters: The findings for the poll, which was conducted July 9–18, underscores how the topic is playing a prominent role early in the 2020 contest.
Where it stands: The views on climate change vary from state to state, and the individual state data is less robust. But with that throat-clearing...