🥞Welcome back! Today's newsletter has a Smart Brevity count of 1,219 words, 5 minutes.

🎸This week in 1981, Elvis Costello and the Attractions released the album "Trust," which provides today's intro tune...

1 big thing: Energy transition funding spikes

Worldwide clean energy factory investment by technology, 2018–2022
Data: BloombergNEF; Note: Electrolyzers had no investment until 2021; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Spending on the global transition to carbon-free forms of energy totaled at least $1.1 trillion in 2022, a new report found, Andrew writes.

  • This is the first time that funding to deploy technology such as renewables and electric vehicles topped the trillion-dollar mark.

The big picture: The analysis, out this morning from BloombergNEF, shows that while global energy transition investment jumped 31% between 2021 and 2022, it needs to be far higher to get the world on a path to net zero emissions by 2050.

  • To be consistent with a net zero pathway, global annual energy transition funding needs to average about $4.55 trillion from 2023 through 2030.
  • And during the 2030s, annual investment would need to push even higher, to $6.88 trillion.

Zoom in: Renewable technologies attracted the most spending last year, at $495 billion. Electrified transport, which includes EVs and charging stations, is nipping at its heels, having climbed 54% in just one year.

  • China is significantly outspending every other country, at about $546 billion, which is a bit less than half of all global energy transition investment.
  • The U.S. ranks a distant second.

Of note: In 2022, energy transition spending for the first time equaled funding for fossil fuels, the report shows.

  • As recently as 2019, there was a $400 billion gap between the two, with money for deploying new fossil fuel facilities in the lead.

Between the lines: While funding is short of where it needs to be for a net zero scenario, the boost compared to 2021 is significant, especially considering it took place in a year of energy market turmoil due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

  • The conflict incentivized some European nations reliant on Russian natural gas, such as Germany, to seek alternative supplies. This has led to the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure.
  • But the war has also dramatically sped up the European Union's plans to get off fossil fuels altogether just as the U.S. passed landmark policies favoring renewables.

What they're saying: "Our findings put to bed any debate about how the energy crisis will impact clean energy deployment," said Albert Cheung, head of global analysis at BloombergNEF, in a statement.

  • "Investment in clean energy technologies is on the brink of overtaking fossil fuel investments, and won't look back."

2. Chevron's payout and the politics in tow

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Chevron is repurchasing $75 billion worth of shares and raising dividends amid bumper profits, Ben writes.

Driving the news: The U.S.-based multinational giant announced a 6% quarterly dividend raise, it said Wednesday.

  • The new buyback program — which does not have a specific time frame — comes as Chevron is set to end a $25 billion program that began in 2019 on March 31.
  • Chevron's share price is up 3.5% in premarket trading.

The intrigue: Over the past year, President Biden has bashed oil companies over fuel prices, the pace of output growth, and alleged "war profiteering" — a claim the industry has strongly pushed back against.

What they're saying: Hasan Abdullah, a White House spokesman, said "handing out $75 billion to executives and wealthy shareholders" is an "odd way to show" that Chevron's working to boost output.

  • "We continue to call on oil companies to use their record profits to increase supply, and reduce costs for the American people," he said in a statement.

The other side: Chevron did not respond to a request for comment last night. But overall, the oil giant has said it's balancing investment in growth with capital discipline.

  • Its production in the prolific Permian Basin reached a quarterly record in Q3, Chevron said in that period's earnings report.

What we're watching: Chevron's Q4 earnings report Friday, which should continue the oil major's huge profits streak.

3. 🏃🏽‍♀️Catch up fast on policy: SEC and transportation

👀 New filings bring more evidence that the SEC's brewing emissions disclosure rules are a big deal among industry heavyweights wary of prescriptive mandates and NGOs who want granular requirements, Ben writes.

  • Driving the news: SEC chairman Gary Gensler's office and other commissioners have held a slew of new meetings in recent days and weeks, the rulemaking docket shows.
  • Zoom in: The filings show meetings with Goldman Sachs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the liberal Americans for Financial Reform, and a number of other parties.

🚗 The Electrification Coalition, a nonprofit EV advocacy group, is out with an online tool to help navigate the suite of new federal funding programs for boosting EV deployment.

  • Why it matters: The bipartisan infrastructure law, the climate law and other initiatives are providing unprecedented federal support — billions and billions! — but states, cities, businesses and other stakeholders will need help navigating it all.
  • The big picture: The new tool "makes the sometimes complicated matrix of federal funding opportunities easy to access, easy to find and easy to apply," the group said.

4. Making sense of Tesla's earnings...

Tesla profits
Data: FactSet and company reports; Chart: Axios Visuals

The irony! As Tesla CEO Elon Musk draws criticism and investor ire over his unfiltered Twitter behavior, Axios' Nathan Bomey reports that Tesla itself is becoming more like other automakers in some ways.

The big picture: As it becomes a bigger, more mature company, it's increasingly doing things by the book — rather than going against the grain.

Why it matters: Tesla has long stood head and shoulders above the crowd in the electric vehicle industry, effectively directing the current.

  • Now, the company is increasingly flowing with the current — and that means it's looking more and more like a traditional automaker as it grapples with demand headwinds, increased competition and choppy market conditions.

State of play: In its Q4 earnings on Wednesday — Tesla reported record profit and revenue — the company signaled that it's stepping back from some of its high-flying tech company ways:

  • It's juicing demand by lowering prices, not unlike how traditional automakers use incentives to boost sales.
  • It's emphasizing the need for cost prudence, not unlike how mature automakers are constantly looking to trim the budgetary fat.

Read Nathan's whole story

5. ...and a new Tesla challenger called VinFast

The VinFast VF 8. Photo courtesy of VinFast

Axios' Joann Muller has a good look at VinFast, the ambitious Vietnamese startup struggling to gain U.S. traction amid early missteps and an explosive price war.

Why it matters: The EV market is still taking shape, and it's rarely a bad thing for consumers to have more options and competition.

Driving the news: VinFast is the latest in a crop of startups hoping to emulate EV market leader Tesla.

  • But it faces long odds — especially after Tesla, facing its own challenges, recently slashed prices, threatening to stifle VinFast's U.S. plans.

Zoom in: Its first models, the VF 8 and VF 9, have U.S. starting prices of $59,000 and $83,000, respectively. Meanwhile, Tesla's basic Model Y is now $52,990, down from $65,990.

  • And VinFast's imported cars don't qualify for a $7,500 U.S. federal tax credit. That puts them at a further disadvantage against Teslas, which do qualify.
  • Another challenge: the first batch of VF 8s came with a smaller-than-expected driving range of only 179 miles, disappointing some reservation holders.

Read the whole story

6. 💬 Quoted

"The basic issue is that the U.S. has created a business case for investment in green technologies."
— Luisa Santos of of the group BusinessEurope, via the Financial Times

That's a snapshot from the FT's coverage of EU angst over big subsidies in the U.S. climate law for low-carbon energy manufacturing and deployment.

  • Policymakers there are racing to parry the moves as companies announce new U.S. operations in the intensifying competition over clean tech.

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🙏 Thanks to Nick Aspinwall and David Nather for edits to today's newsletter.