Good morning and welcome back!
Join Axios' Kim Hart this Thursday in D.C. for conversations on the future of transportation in the era of autonomous vehicles with Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio), Global Automakers President & CEO John Bozzella, and SAE International CEO David Schutt. RSVP here.
And happy 45th birthday to Bruce Springsteen's sophomore album, "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle," which provides today's intro tune...
California just made a major move on climate change. But it comes with a big asterisk or two.
Driving the news: Gov. Jerry Brown signed an executive order yesterday aimed at making the entire state "carbon neutral" by 2045 and "carbon negative" thereafter.
That's in addition to signing, as expected, major legislation that would require the state's electricity to come solely from zero-carbon sources by the same date.
Why it matters: California is the world's fifth-largest economy, and the move — just ahead of a major climate summit in the state — is the latest and biggest example of local and regional governments acting on their own.
The intrigue: Executive orders lack the power of new statutes.
“It doesn’t have much enforcement teeth, but it is an important signal — the largest carbon neutral pledge by any economy,” Energy Innovation's Chris Busch tells Axios.
What they're saying: Busch and other sources I touched base with last night pointed out that past governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brown have previously set climate targets by executive order that subsequently became law.
Yes, but: Achieving the target will ultimately rest on the advancement of various so-called negative emissions technologies — such as direct air capture and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage — and other challenges.
There are still major technological hurdles to cleaning up shipping, aviation, long-haul trucking, or other industries, and negative-emissions technologies haven’t been shown to work on a large scale yet.
Go deeper: The San Francisco Chronicle looks in detail at the move here, including this note of caution:
California had previously set a target of cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 — already considered a difficult task.
Early stage venture capital is increasingly flowing into electric vehicle companies, especially China-based firms, the International Energy Agency writes in a commentary.
Key quotes (emphasis added):
By the numbers: Check out the chart above, which shows $3.45 billion of early stage VC money so far this year going into transportation-related startups.
Why it matters: At a time when renewables have become a mainstream electricity source, growing capital invested in the transportation space signals EVs are on their way to eventually becoming more than a niche market too.
Yes, but: This month's IEA commentary by analyst Simon Bennett notes that the money's distribution is limited.
A cable par passes a line of taxicabs in San Francisco. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
University of Michigan's Jonathan Levine writes for Axios Expert Voices ... Conventional bus and train transit excels at moving large volumes of passengers along busy corridors, but struggles to provide cost-effective service in outlying areas, where circuitous bus routes operate with few hourly boardings.
At the same time, on-demand transportation — Lyft, Uber and any of their future self-driving iterations — converges onto those busy corridors and exacerbates congestion. This mix creates unserved “transit deserts" with high need for public transportation but little availability.
Between the lines: A more efficient system would better tailor transit technologies to their environments — with buses and trains on heavily traveled routes and on-demand transportation in low-density areas — and integrate sparse areas with mainline service to overcome transit’s perennial "last-mile problem" at the beginning and end of trips.
Go deeper: Read his full piece in the Axios stream.
Levine is a professor of urban and regional planning at Michigan.
366: As in $366 million, the funding level for the Energy Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy in a wider bicameral funding deal for several agencies that lawmakers announced yesterday.
Why it matters: The fiscal year 2019 "minibus" spending bill provides the agency — which funds outside research and development into next-wave energy tech — with a $13 million boost over current levels at a time when the White House has sought to kill ARPA-E.
By the numbers: The bill also provides a slight boost in funding to DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, again batting aside administration proposals to deeply cut funding and instead providing nearly $2.4 billion.
The Wall Street Journal has a nice wide-angle look at conflicting projections about when global oil demand will peak.
ICYMI: Yesterday we covered a new report from the firm DNV GL that takes a more aggressive view than most forecasts by envisioning a 2023 peak in crude demand.
But they're not alone in the "it's-coming-soon market" this week. WSJ looks a new report on fossil fuel use more widely:
Demand for fossil fuels will peak around 2023, as increasingly cost-competitive solar and wind are buoyed by supportive government policies to displace growth in oil, coal and natural gas, according to an analysis by London-based think tank the Carbon Tracker Initiative.
Why it matters: As the WSJ and others note, the timing of an eventual demand peak has major ramifications for industry planning (and global emissions of course). WSJ's Sarah Kent reports...
Though most forecasts of oil’s demise project a long tail, the estimates put increased pressure on big oil companies to clarify how they intend to confront a looming energy transition.
Quick take: As Generate readers know (and WSJ lays out), projections by major forecasting bodies like the IEA and some big oil companies like BP and Exxon don't see anything like the kind of near-term peak in these new reports.
Policy: Via the New York Times, the Trump administration is on the cusp of two moves aimed at easing restrictions on oil-and-gas industry releases of the potent greenhouse gas methane.
Oil markets: Via Reuters, "U.S. oil exports to Japan and South Korea will rise to record highs this month as Asian refiners take advantage of the steep discounts American sellers are offering after losing Chinese customers amid the trade dispute between Washington and Beijing."
Batteries: Quartz looks at money coming into battery startups, focusing on Solid Power, which just announced $20 million in new funding from backers including Samsung, A123 Systems, and Hyundai Cradle.