Welcome back. Today's word count is 1,373 words, a 5-minute read.
Situational awareness: World Central Kitchen is working to feed vulnerable people and help the badly distressed restaurant sector at the same time. Donate here.
🎙I joined Axios' Amy Harder and Dan Primack on the Axios Pro Rata podcast to talk oil and COVID-19. Listen here.
🎵And happy birthday to John Oates of Hall & Oates. A lovely song he penned and has lead vocals on takes us into the news...
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Freya Ingrid Morales/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
International Energy Agency executive director Fatih Birol has a tough job these days — responding to an unprecedented crisis now without losing sight of an existential one that must be tackled over decades.
Driving the news: We spoke yesterday about his work to help stabilize oil markets and ensure COVID-19 doesn't sap governments' and companies' work on global warming.
Climate change: Birol says major oil companies, which have recently been expanding their climate pledges and plans, will remain under the microscope.
Oil markets: Birol has been pushing for G20 energy ministers to collaborate on how to handle the shocking collapse in oil demand. That might be bearing fruit. Those officials are now slated to meet remotely on Friday, a day after a meeting of the OPEC+ group led by Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Stimulus plans: Birol has been pushing governments to use their economic response packages to boost investments in renewables, efficiency, batteries and more. He said it's going "very well."
Next week IEA is slated to release a closely watched estimate of how the COVID-19 crisis is upending oil markets — one that Birol says will be shar
Driving the news: The monthly oil market report report coming April 15 will have a sharp revision of how much oil demand will fall this year.
The big picture: “The economic meltdown is not the only, maybe even not the main driver of the huge decline in oil demand. The main driver is the confinement,” Birol said.
Catch up fast: More recent analyses show much larger declines. For instance, the consultancy Rystad Energy on April 1 forecast a 6.4 million barrel per day year-over-year decline (the near-term drop is vastly bigger).
President Trump may have said out loud what's on the minds of people wondering about the prospects for a new international deal to pare back oil production: whether the U.S. could essentially join without a firm commitment.
Driving the news: On Monday evening, Trump said OPEC has not explicitly asked him to press U.S. oil companies to cut production, but added that U.S. output is slated to fall due to market forces as demand collapses.
Why it matters: The comments suggest how the U.S. could offer de-facto participation in a deal, even though top-down mandates are not part of the U.S. market system.
What they're saying: "The G20 forum could provide space for a looser arrangement where explicit U.S. cuts are not necessarily required and market-led decreases in US production can potentially be repackaged as a U.S. contribution," the Eurasia Group said in a note Monday.
Sure, the oil industry is in historic turmoil, but with an entire world gripped by the pandemic, social media users are gravitating to other topics, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
Driving the news: Social media interactions on stories about oil and gasoline prices have consistently ranked relatively low during the past month as the coronavirus crisis choked oil demand and wreaked havoc on the industry, according to NewsWhip data provided to Axios.
The big picture: The pandemic is upending the lives of virtually everyone on Earth and throwing nearly every industry into chaos. Sectors that are more consumer-facing, like restaurants, see the most social engagement online.
The intrigue: One of the direct repercussions of this unprecedented oil-industry turmoil is rock bottom oil — and therefore, gasoline prices. Here’s the rub:
Where it stands: Stories on oil and gas prices saw the highest engagement in early March, right around the time a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia broke out and prompted a big drop in oil prices.
Flashback: Benedict Nicholson, head of research and editorial at NewsWhip, notes that oil news in general received more engagement at the end of July 2019, right when the Green New Deal was receiving a lot of media attention.
Yes, but: Engagement online is just one narrow — but influential — barometer of attention.
ExxonMobil said Tuesday that it's slashing planned capital spending this year by 30%, with the biggest reductions coming in the U.S. shale patch.
Why it matters: It's the latest sign of how oil producers large and small are getting hit by the price collapse and demand cratering due to COVID-19.
Driving the news: Exxon now expects capital spending this year to be roughly $23 billion instead of $33 billion.
The big picture: It follows spending rolled out by Shell, BP, Chevron and others in recent weeks. The announcement adds specifics to Exxon's warning in mid-March that it intended to significantly cut back this year.
The intrigue: Per Bloomberg, "The scope of the cuts exceeded the expectations of some analysts including those at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. who forecast a reduction to $29 billion."