November 01, 2022
👋 Hi November! Today's newsletter has a Smart Brevity count of 1,116 words, 4.5 minutes.
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🎶 At this moment in 1974, Dionne Warwick and The Spinners were #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 with today's intro tune...
1 big thing: Making sense of Biden's oil threat
President Biden is escalating criticism of the oil industry in the closing days of a midterm election season that could diminish his power, Ben writes.
Catch up fast: In remarks from the White House yesterday, he called for new taxes on oil producers if they don't lower fuel prices and boost output. Biden also warned of "other restrictions."
Why it matters: It underscores the importance of the economy and gas prices in the elections, and the political fallout from massive industry profits, capped by Exxon's record $19.7 billion Q3 haul.
What's new: This morning BP beat estimates with an $8.2 billion Q3 profit, its second-highest ever, and announced another $2.5 billion in share buybacks.
Threat level: Biden's comments "must be contextualized within Biden's (and Dem's) larger focus on gasoline prices as a proxy for inflation and economic stress into the midterm election," Cowen Research analyst John Miller said in a note.
A CBS News poll shows that far more voters think gas prices will rise if Democrats control Congress. (Quick reminder: Federal officials have rather limited sway over oil and hence pump prices.)
The big picture: Here are a few things to know about yesterday's brief speech and the response...
- Biden went to 11. It was the most aggressive of his many broadsides against Big Oil in recent months. Biden accused the industry of "war profiteering" and reaping a "windfall from the brutal conflict that’s ravaging Ukraine and hurting tens of millions of people."
- It's a political gamble. The criticisms could deflect voter upset over energy costs and wider inflation that's creating political peril for Democrats — or increase focus on a vulnerability in the closing days of midterm races.
- These taxes probably won't happen. New taxes on oil companies lack enough votes in Congress, and the headwinds will grow if, as appears likely, Republicans regain one or both chambers.
- That "other restrictions" line is intriguing. ClearView Energy Partners called it a "further nod to possible limits on refined products exports" and more broadly a "signal of a tighter regulatory posture."
What they're saying: "Increasing taxes on American energy discourages investment in new production, which is the exact opposite of what is needed," American Petroleum Institute CEO Mike Sommers said in a statement that reflects sentiment from several industry groups.
But some environmental groups cheered. "Big Oil CEOs proved again this quarter that they are willing to do anything to enrich their wealthy shareholders over lowering costs for people," Climate Power executive director Lori Lodes said in a statement.
Bonus: The gas price trajectory
U.S. gasoline prices have come way down from their June peak, but remain elevated.
2. First Look: Verifying carbon removal projects
Carbon180, which works on carbon removal policies, released a new framework, first shared with Axios, it hopes will jump-start a conversation around ways to measure, report and verify project effectiveness, Andrew writes.
Why it matters: Carbon removal is essential to avoid some of the most severe climate change impacts but is not yet capable of operating at scale.
- The nascent carbon removal industry needs to demonstrate its success in taking in CO2 from the atmosphere, without causing negative impacts on ecosystems or leaking emissions over time.
- This, the nonprofit, nonpartisan group believes, would help build trust in the removal sector.
- The industry needs to grow to a gigaton scale by the middle of the century in order to limit the severity of global warming, said Peter Minor, director of science and innovation at Carbon180, in an interview.
- Serious money is now being spent on carbon removal projects, such as the nearly $1 billion commitment by Frontier to spend through 2030.
What they're saying: According to Carbon180, robust MRV is needed for securing community buy-in for building projects, which could affect ecosystems.
- "I think if we don't get this right, if we take too many shortcuts, then this could actually be an existential risk for carbon removal," Minor said.
3. Philanthropic giving to climate mitigation grows
Foundation and individual support for climate mitigation grew by 25% last year, reaching between $7.5 billion and $12.5 billion, according to new research, Andrew writes.
The big picture: ClimateWorks' report released yesterday finds that total giving to limit the severity of global warming still represents less than 2% of global philanthropic giving.
- The report shows clear trends over time, with foundation funding increasing by more than 40% between 2020 and 2021.
- This reflects some of the big pledges made around the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow as well as commitments from new players, such as the Bezos Earth Fund.
Between the lines: The report shows the sectors attracting the most money now reflect recent boosts for forest conservation and carbon dioxide removal technologies.
- Funders are increasingly incorporating equity and justice components into their grant programs.
- Little money is going toward cutting emissions from Latin America and Africa, however, despite Africa's growing carbon emissions.
What they're saying: “It’s striking how little foundation funding is going toward mitigating climate change in many major emerging countries and regions where emissions are increasing,” said Surabi Menon of ClimateWorks and an author of the report, in a statement.
4. 🧮 Need-to-know numbers: deals, oil, earnings
💰 $3.1 billion, the amount the private equity firm Veritas Capital is paying Verisk to obtain Wood Mackenzie, an energy data and research firm whose work often appears in this newsletter, Ben writes.
- Why it matters: The figure shows Veritas' confidence in the expanding market for energy data services, especially related to low-carbon transition.
- What they're saying: Veritas CEO Ramzi Musallam said in a statement that the growing customer base, "from upstream producers who are looking to decarbonize to new energy asset managers who want to optimize their investments."
🛢️ 110 million barrels per day, which is the global oil demand in 2045 in OPEC's new long-term forecast, which sees continued growth through then.
- Why it matters: It splits with new projections from the IEA, which sees demand plateauing in the mid-2030s — and peaking and falling much faster if countries enact tougher climate policies.
💰$42.4 billion, the Q3 profit announced this morning by Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil producer. The Saudi giant's net earnings are 39% higher than in the same period last year. CNBC has more.
🤝 100 gigawatts by 2035, the clean energy deployment goal of the newly announced partnership between the U.S and the United Arab Emirates.
"African nations are going to call out the hypocrisy of Europe securing gas deals in the name of energy security while telling African nations not to develop their resources for baseload energy."— Lily Odarno, head of the Clean Air Task Force's Africa climate program
Via Reuters, she's highlighting one of the fissures expected at the upcoming COP27 climate conference in Egypt.
🙏Thanks to Mickey Meece and David Nather for edits to today's newsletter. We'll see you back here tomorrow!