August 29, 2018

Good morning! We have a few 80's movie references in today's visuals, so please email me at [email protected] if you need help spotting them.

Moving along: Last Saturday marked the 43rd anniversary of Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run." Not his best album start-to-finish, but it has one of his two or three best songs, and that's alright with me...

1 big thing: Eyeing California's power endgame

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California's state assembly passed sweeping legislation last night that would have the massive state obtain 100% of its power from carbon-free sources by 2045.

The bill — now on the cusp of becoming law — also boosts the state's renewables-specific target to 60% by 2030.

Why it matters: California is among the world's largest economies. And, it's perhaps the most powerful sign yet of how states and local governments are pressing ahead with climate initiatives even as the White House backs off Obama-era federal efforts.

What's next: California's Senate has already passed its version, and the measures are expected to be reconciled within days and head for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

  • Brown is expected to sign the measure, according to several reports (although this Wall Street Journal story is a tad circumspect, noting that he expressed concerns about some details in a recent interview).

The big picture: Via the New York Times, "California joins Hawaii, which passed legislation in 2015 calling for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., are also considering such a mandate, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures."

Good point: The WSJ piece notes that the bill could have effects beyond California's borders, noting that last year the state "imported roughly 30% of its electricity generation."

Go deeper: The Los Angeles Times has in-depth coverage here.

2. Petro-notes: What's next for Saudi Arabia

A few items caught my eye on Saudi Arabia, which is an especially interesting topic now that the IPO of state oil giant Aramco is in a deep freeze at best.

Technology: A new Wall Street Journal feature says the company has been looking to transform itself into an "innovation powerhouse" in areas including robotics and carbon-removal tech.

  • Interesting stat: The story notes that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Aramco 230 patents last year, compared to 57 five years ago.
  • "That placed Aramco third among oil-and-gas exploration and production companies that year, far behind Exxon Mobil Corp. but close to Chevron Corp.," they report.

Big picture: Over in Bloomberg's opinion section, Bobby Ghosh has some advice for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amid his rocky social and economic reform efforts. He writes...

The temptation to pin his prestige to a big, showy project — whether a giant IPO or a new desert city — is understandable, especially in a 32-year-old in a hurry to establish his credentials as a ruler.
But the crown prince’s credibility would be better burnished, and his country better served, by directing his attention — and that of the world — on the cumulative impact of less grandiose reforms.

Climate change: Jim Krane of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy has a paper that games out strategies the kingdom might employ to navigate the long-term future of oil markets — including an eventual demand plateau — and global climate policies.

  • The paper is really wide-ranging, but at one point he notes that the Saudis could increase efforts to make the climate case for their oil compared to some other big suppliers.
  • Buzz: "Given such a timely advantage, Saudi Arabia will begin highlighting the low carbon intensity of its crude oil as a marketing strategy," he writes, citing a conversation with an unnamed Saudi official.

3. The latest Apple-could-buy-Tesla boomlet

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The recent state of tumult for CEO Elon Musk and Tesla is spurring fresh chatter about an idea that has been rattling around for a long time.

The big question: Should Apple buy Tesla, or at least acquire a major stake?

  • After all, combining the pioneering companies has a certain appeal, given that Apple has an auto initiative and deep pockets, and Tesla has key electric vehicle tech, vision and expertise.

What they're saying:

Loup Ventures' Gene Munster revived the idea of major equity investment, if only to basically knock it down, in this blog post Monday. If Tesla becomes profitable, which he expects, a merger is "nothing more than a fairy tale." But, he adds...

If we’re wrong, and Tesla fails to reach profitability in the next year, Apple gains the upper hand and becomes the most likely investor or buyer.

Fortune's Kevin Kelleher, even before Munster's post, explored the topic, noting at one point...

Ross Gerber, CEO of Gerber Kawasaki, an investment management that owns Tesla shares, said on CNBC that Tesla’s drop in market value could be [Apple CEO] "Tim Cook’s gift of all gifts."

Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva largely agrees with Munster. She tells me...

Apple would definitely benefit from Tesla's car expertise, which is something it seems to really need given the slow movement on its car project that's had to reconfigure more than once.
At the same time, Apple could help Tesla as far as quality standards, production, operations, which Tesla lacks despite its great visions and similar values such as design.
But I really don't foresee Apple going along with Tesla CEO Elon Musk's unpredictable personality and behavior without having a say over the company (or having to constantly battle with him over every decision) and Musk is never leaving Tesla (at least not on his own accord).

Our thought bubble: It's all a long shot. But one reason it's coming up again is that Tesla's latest problems — the aborted take-private plan, Musk's erratic behavior, the stock price fall — are raising fresh doubts about the long-term viability of Tesla as a stand-alone company.

4. Chinese EV maker NIO files for U.S. IPO

The assembly line of the NIO ES8 electric vehicle at a JAC Motors and NIO plant in China. Photo: VCG/Getty Images

Kia reports ... NIO, a Chinese electric car maker, is seeking to raise up to $1.3 billion from a U.S. initial public offering that would give it a valuation as high as $8.5 billion, according to an SEC filing.

Why it matters: NIO, formerly known as NextEV, competes with Tesla — not to mention the scores of electric vehicle companies in China — and is hoping to go public before it has turned a profit. NIO began delivering its first cars earlier this summer and is planning a second model next year.

Read more of Kia's story to get details of the deal.

5. Number of the day: 11

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That's the partisan split (in percentage points) via this new Pew Research Center poll in a question about whether China's impact on the environment is a very serious problem for the U.S.

By the numbers: 55% of Democrats polled said yes, compared to 44% of Republicans.

The context: It's the only China-related topic in this poll where there's a meaningfully larger share of Democrats who believe China is a serious problem than Republicans. GOP respondents are more concerned about loss of jobs, the trade deficit and other topics related to China.

Why it matters: It's a snapshot of U.S. attitudes toward the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, a country that's also struggling with traditional air quality problems and water pollution.

Go deeper: Young Americans far more likely to view China favorably.

6. 1 fun thing: How the EV industry could evolve

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This item is more than an excuse to make an image with a Terminator reference.

One fun thing: Greentech Media editor-at-large Eric Wesoff wrote a piece that imagines what the 2022 Detroit Auto Show will look like.

Here are some of his snapshots from the imaginary future, in which some big players have consolidated...

  • EVs "routinely boast" 350-500 mile ranges, and electric pickups are a real thing.
  • Every automaker is in the game with multiple models.
  • GM owns Tesla.
  • Apple is an important player, debuting a highly autonomous and futuristic $95,000 luxury sedan (there's "passenger medical data reporting" to comply with the "Beijing-Seoul-Mumbai" codes).
  • Apple is also deep into the profitable production of a $29,000 EV at a Chinese plant, some of which are used by "Apple's Uber group."
  • Chinese EV companies are ready to make inroads well beyond their home country.

The story has some amusing and even absurdist notes. Consider this section about what ultimately sunk Tesla as an independent company...

Despite Tesla's final equity raise, the Christmas Bricking — an incident that took place on Christmas Eve 2018, when a hacker exploited a weakness via the infotainment system, played Azealia Banks at max volume, and disabled every Tesla — was a turning point for the company.

Why it matters: Underlying this thought exercise is an important point — the EV industry could look very different within a few years.