Good morning! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,260 words, 4.7 minutes.
And we're almost exactly 40 years past the release date of The Pretenders' self-titled debut album, which provides today's intro tune...
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Climate change wasn't front and center in last night's Democratic primary debate, but the topic produced some noteworthy moments.
Why it matters: It was the last debate before the Iowa caucuses, and multiple polls have shown that climate is among voters' priorities there.
A brief but telling scuffle broke out when a climate question arrived near the end.
Amy Klobuchar, asked why she doesn't support calls to ban fracking, said natural gas is a "transition fuel" on the path to carbon neutrality by midcentury.
The other side: Bernie Sanders shook his head as she spoke. His plan includes a fracking ban and is generally far more aggressive than Klobuchar's.
Quick take: It highlighted the divide between moderate and left Democrats over the role of natural gas in the energy mix.
The big picture: Several moments captured the way climate is now stitched into the fabric of Democrats' discussion of lots of topics — and why Sanders' approach excites young activists.
Take the moment when Sanders cited the absence of climate provisions to explain his opposition to the USMCA trade deal.
My thought bubble: That view of climate as the mother of all cross-cutting topics is a reason Sanders is so popular in the Green New Deal camp.
1. Candidates knew their audience as they made the case that their plans would help Iowa farmers.
For instance, after frontrunner Joe Biden said, "We're the only country in the world that's ever taken great crisis and turned it into great opportunity," he added:
2. The heat from Australia's fires has made its way into the U.S. contest. Sanders, Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg all cited the fires. "This is no longer theoretical and this is no longer off in the future," Buttigieg said of the effects of climate change.
3. Biden didn't emphasize climate as much as Sanders and Steyer. He stuck to his message of citing his past work (including green energy spending in the 2009 stimulus) and job opportunities from building out climate-related infrastructure.
BlackRock's climate strategy rolled out Tuesday won't leave anyone confusing the asset management giant with Greenpeace, despite the suite of big new pledges.
Driving the news: Take the plan to dump producers of thermal coal — the stuff used in power plants — from their active portfolios.
But, but, but: A new update from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis says BlackRock's coal policy is nonetheless consequential.
The big picture: Most of the trillions of dollars BlackRock manages for clients are in passive funds, which means the company isn't directly picking the investments.
The bottom line: Environmentalists generally applauded BlackRock's moves but also acknowledged their limits.
As the NYT notes, "Because of its sheer size, BlackRock will remain one of the world’s largest investors in fossil-fuel companies."
Go deeper: BlackRock vows focus on climate change
Via Axios' Amy Harder...Wind and solar make up more than three-quarters of the electricity capacity coming online in the country this year, new U.S. Energy Information Administration data show.
Why it matters: These two renewable sources of energy are increasingly becoming cost-competitive, even while government subsidies for them is lessening, compared to traditionally dominant sources, such as natural gas and coal.
Yes, but: This data represents capacity, not actual electricity generated. Because it’s not always windy or sunny, wind and solar have a lower capacity compared to, say, natural gas or nuclear power, which can be turned on and off on demand.
Over a dozen trade groups led by the Consumer Brands Association (CBA) this morning launched a coalition to help craft federal policy that would "fundamentally reimagine the U.S. recycling system."
Why it matters: The coalition includes some prominent K Street players and hopes to create "consistent rules and practices" around what's now a crazy-quilt of recycling systems nationwide.
Where it stands: Other members include the American Beverage Association, the Consumer Technology Association, the National Retail Federation and others.
The big picture: Stasz said companies working to boost the use of post-consumer materials in their packaging are hampered by lack of supply. They also have financial reasons to want more recycling.
Oil and gas: Via Reuters, "Tullow Oil is to take a $1.5 billion (1.15 billion pounds) writedown after cutting its long-term oil price assumptions by $10 to $65 a barrel, a downgrade to reserves in Ghana and disappointing exploration wells, the company said on Wednesday."
Utilities: Bloomberg reports that power giant PG&E appears to be moving a step closer to emerging from bankruptcy.
"PG&E Corp. is nearing a deal with a group of noteholders led by bond giant Pacific Investment Management Co. and activist investor Elliott Management Corp., who’ve repeatedly sought to derail the company’s $46 billion restructuring plan," it reports.
Media: Per CNN, "Rupert Murdoch's son and his wife are lashing out against his father's sprawling media empire for how it covers the climate crisis, especially in light of the fires raging in the family's native Australia."