๐Ÿ‘‹ Hello again from Houston! We'll get you over the Wednesday hump with a Smart Brevity count of 1,148 words, 4.5 minutes.

๐Ÿš— Situational awareness: EPA will issue final CO2 rules for cars and light trucks today, one of President Biden's most significant โ€” and contested โ€” environmental policies.

๐ŸŽถ Let's keep honoring Texas artists with a stellar tie-up* between Leon Bridges and Khruangbin that's today's intro tune...

1 big thing: COP29 official eyes lean, focused UN summit

COP29 CEO Elnur Soltanov. Photo illustration: Aรฏda Amer/Axios. Photo: Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

HOUSTON โ€” A top organizer of the upcoming United Nations climate summit wants a relatively lean agenda for the late-year event, Ben writes.

Why it matters: New remarks by COP29 CEO Elnur Soltanov offer an early look at Azerbaijan's plans for the critical talks.

What he's saying: "We believe that there is this fatigue, sometimes, regarding how many issues we have," Soltanov told reporters on the sidelines of the CERAWeek by S&P Global conference.

  • It's about "focusing on issues on which we can deliver," said Soltanov, currently Azerbaijan's deputy minister of energy.
  • In similar remarks on a panel, he said the goal is roughly 10+ key topics.
  • Soltanov said he's not trying to prevent stakeholder expression or viewpoints, touting the value of the "global market of green ideas."

The big picture: Goals include "speeding up the response" to the COP28 deal; Among other things, the accord called for "just, orderly and equitable" transition from fossil fuels.

  • Soltanov talked up implementing and building on two key COP28 targets: tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling the pace of efficiency improvements by 2030.
  • He floated extending it to new areas, like adding a grid-scale storage "dimension" to help integrate variable renewables.
  • He's also interested in regional "green corridors" for "green electrons," like connecting the Caspian region to the EU.

Catch up quick: Via S&P Global Platts, COP29 President-designate Mukhtar Babayev said he's already speaking with financial institutions and others on climate finance.

  • And in a Guardian op-ed, Babayev touted his work with the "troika" of last year's host (UAE) and next year's (Brazil). The goal is to ensure COPs move away from "staging grand announcements," and toward "continuity through monitoring and implementation."

The intrigue: Azerbaijan is an oil and gas producer. The choice of a UAE oil exec to lead last year's COP, location of the summit in a far larger producer, and industry involvement all drew criticism.

  • Soltanov sought to reframe the topic. "Every country is an oil country, either on the supply side or the demand side," he told CERAWeek.
  • "We are all together in it. The entire architecture of the global economy needs to transition."

What's next: The Copenhagen Climate Ministerial later this week, featuring the COP28 and COP29 heads, should provide more info about the path ahead.

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2. Dueling climate visions on oil's home turf

Illustration: Aรฏda Amer/Axios

HOUSTON โ€” John Podesta, a top Biden climate aide, is giving the oil industry mixed grades on energy transition, Ben writes.

Why it matters: His remarks highlight wider tension on display at CERAWeek this year โ€” and in past conferences, too.

Inside the room: "They're differentiated by their general commitments to invest in clean resources beyond carbon management, with companies like Equinor having very high targets and others sort of lagging," Podesta told reporters yesterday.

  • But he did give the sector props for working on its own methane emissions.

State of play: Oil titans all say they're committed to climate but dispute the viability of rapid transition from fossil fuels.

  • They point to persistently strong and growing demand, and hurdles to scaling some alternatives like hydrogen and offshore wind.
  • But critics โ€” a muted presence here at best โ€” say the fossil fuels industry is passively responding to market realities and thwarting faster progress, even as the window to meet Paris Agreement goals narrows fast.

Catch up quick: The sharpest comments this week came from Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser.

  • "We should abandon the fantasy of phasing out oil and gas and instead invest in them adequately, reflecting realistic demand assumptions," he said Monday.

Zoom in: Reuters and the NYT have nice looks at this dynamic.

The bottom line: While COP29 brought a delicate consensus on the concept of moving away from fossil fuels, defining what that should look like is another matter.

3. What's next for a buzzy geothermal startup

Fervo CEO Tim Latimer. Photo illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios. Photo: Courtesy of Fervo Energy

HOUSTON โ€” Recent federal policies and growing technology power needs offer tailwinds for Fervo Energy, Ben writes.

Why it matters: Geothermal remains a small power source compared with its potential, but it's getting lots of attention as a favorite of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

  • It has the capacity to provide continuous clean power and overlaps with oil industry skillsets.

The big picture: Fervo recently raised another $244 million. I chatted with Fervo CEO Tim Latimer about the state of play...

๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ He's talking to Big Tech. Fervo already has a project running in Nevada developed with Google.

  • But he's speaking with other tech companies hoping to cleanly meet surging power needs for AI and other data center demand.
  • "It's going to be massive for our business," he told me at CERAWeek, although he didn't name specific companies.
  • "These are not only companies that have massive new demands for growth, but they're also companies that have made the most robust commitments to addressing climate," he said.

๐Ÿ˜ฎ The IRA is a BFD. Biden's climate law provides projects launching over the next 10 years with major tax incentives.

  • Latimer calls that huge for long lead time projects compared with on-again, off-again policies of the past.
  • That "certainty" is attracting private capital and helped expand Fervo's project pipeline, he said.

๐Ÿ˜ฌ Permitting is still a challenge. Latimer said Biden officials have improved permit timelines and boosted resources.

  • But he's hoping to see passage of legislation, like a bipartisan Senate geothermal bill introduced last week that would further speed timelines.

What's next: Latimer said the recent financing round puts them in a "great position" for growth over the next couple of years. And while there are no "active" plans to go public, "there's a really good chance that the best way to finance our business in the medium term would be an IPO."

4. ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿฝโ€โ™€๏ธ Catch up quick: offshore wind, Guyana, EVs

โ†—๏ธ HOUSTON โ€” Senior Biden aide John Podesta said a White House target of 30 gigawatts of U.S. offshore wind capacity by 2030 remains within reach, Ben writes.

  • Why it matters: His cautious optimism comes despite economic and supply chain problems that have delayed or killed some projects, greatly imperiling the target.
  • The big picture: "We think that we can still meet that," he told reporters at CERAWeek, citing his discussions here with companies investing in offshore wind.

๐ŸŽญ Via Reuters, "Chevron was surprised when Exxon Mobil filed for arbitration over Chevron's plans to buy Hess's Guyana oilfield stake, Chevron CEO Michael Wirth said on Tuesday."

  • Why it matters: Exxon's claim of right of first refusal on Hess' stake could imperil Chevron's bid for a huge independent, though Chevron has expressed confidence it will proceed.

๐Ÿ‘€ Via the Associated Press, "Two men are accused of starting a business in China using battery manufacturing technology pilfered from Tesla and trying to sell the proprietary information, federal prosecutors in New York said Tuesday."

5. ๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ Number of the day: $120 million

That's how much the League of Conservation Voters' super PAC plans to spend in the 2024 election cycle, its highest ever, Ben writes.

Why it matters: It's one metric showing that climate groups see extremely high stakes in the White House and congressional races.

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๐Ÿ™ Thanks to Chris Speckhard and Javier E. David for edits to today's edition, along with the brilliant Axios Visuals team.

๐ŸŽฉ *Hat tip to Chris for today's intro tune.