πŸͺ Halfway there! Today's newsletter has a Smart Brevity count of 1,025 words, 4 minutes.

🚨 Situational awareness: AP reports Venezuelan President NicolÑs Maduro has ordered "state-owned companies to 'immediately' begin to explore and exploit the oil, gas and mines in Guyana's Essequibo region...that Venezuela claims as its own."

🎢 This week in 1977, soul great Al Green released "The Belle Album," which provides today's intro tune...

1 big thing: Biden's delicate oil-climate dance

Data: Energy Information Administration; FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Energy Information Administration; FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Relative quiet from the White House and repeated GOP attacks on President Biden's energy record are hiding record levels of American oil production, Ben writes.

Why it matters: Don't expect public victory laps from Biden as he navigates the tricky politics around energy and climate change.

What's happening: U.S. oil production, the world's highest, is over 13.2 million barrels per day, nudging past levels seen just before COVID crushed demand and prices.

Zoom in: This petro-power β€” and how to talk about it β€”Β is a delicate balance for a White House that has made climate change an unprecedented policy priority.

The big picture: Biden hasn't played up U.S. oil strength in his re-election pitch. But he does like promoting lower gas prices this supply increase helps enable.

  • A campaign official said that's woven into an economic message that includes efforts like addressing insulin prices. "It fits under that broader umbrella."
  • But Biden's campaign response team has cited U.S. output to parry GOP attacks on his energy record, the official said.

Between the lines: This adds up to a rather muted posture on oil output β€” a topic with political crosscurrents heading into 2024.

The intrigue: Biden's GOP and industry critics say the records come despite White House policies they call a drag on U.S. companies.

  • They want less regulation, and stronger support for drilling on federal lands.

What we're watching: COP28, the big UN climate summit unfolding in Dubai.

  • In a chat with The Financial Times, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry rejected the suggestion that record U.S. oil and natural gas production "made the US position...more difficult in urging other countries to back an agreement for the phaseout of fossil fuels."

The bottom line: The politics of oil and gas were dicey in 2020, and they remain so in 2023.

Read more

2. Bonus petro-notes: Exxon and Russia

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

πŸ‘€ The Federal Trade Commission is probing Exxon's planned $60 billion acquisition of shale giant Pioneer Natural Resources, Ben writes.

  • Driving the news: Pioneer disclosed the review in securities filings Tuesday. Pioneer and Exxon "continue to work constructively with the FTC in its review of the Merger and continue to expect that the Merger will be completed in the first half of 2024," one states.
  • The big picture: Exxon has stressed that even combined with Pioneer it's only about 5% of U.S. production. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and over 20 Senate colleagues have alleged the deal, and Chevron's acquisition of Hess, would harm competition. Go deeper.

🚒 A year after a cap on Russian oil prices was imposed, the Treasury Department says that enforcement is needed to counteract Moscow's growing ability to ship crude, Axios' Matt Phillips reports.

3. A new U.S. electric milestone

U.S. electric vehicle sales, by drivetrain
Data: BloombergNEF; Note: Data for October and November 2023 is preliminary; Chart: Axios Visuals

Annual U.S. sales of purely electric vehicles have crossed the 1 million mark for the first time in 2023, Ben writes.

State of play: The data from the research firm BloombergNEF follows an earlier 2023 milestone.

  • It's also the first year that total U.S. EV sales β€” that is, fully electric and plug-in hybrids combined β€” cleared seven figures.

Catch up fast: Plug-in hybrids are generally lower-range EVs with a gasoline engine that can be switched on; depending on how they're driven, they still use some petroleum.

The big picture: A BNEF release alongside a detailed new report on EV markets pushes back against concerns about a dropoff in U.S. demand.

4. How Al Gore wants to overhaul UN climate summits

Photo courtesy of Linkedin news

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates β€” Former Vice President Al Gore plans to seek changes in future UN climate summits to give less power to petro-states, he told Andrew in an onstage interview Tuesday at COP28.

Driving the news: He said the consensus-based approach gives outsized influence to major oil- and gas-producing countries that favor a slower transition to renewables.

  • Gore specifically pointed to Saudi Arabia, which has a long history of objecting to more aggressive COP decisions.

What we're watching: Gore said he plans to make a push for an overhaul, which would involve altering rules governing how summits are run.

  • "I'm hoping [at the end of COP28] there is enough outrage around the world at the obscene structure" of the conference's decision-making process "with the reported use of the preparatory meetings to sell more oil and gas," Gore said.

That's a reference to a BBC and Centre for Climate Reporting report, published last week, which COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber calls inaccurate.

State of play: Speaking of al-Jaber, Gore bashed the UAE's decision to name the head of state oil firm ADNOC as COP28 leader.

Read the whole story

5. Catch up fast on COP28: hydrogen, cooling, fusion

Illustration: Axios Visuals

πŸ‘‚ Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk told Axios at COP28 that the Biden administration takes industry feedback "incredibly seriously" after a reported leak of draft rules for hydrogen tax credits drew strong pushback. Go deeper.

🌑️ "Sixty nations committed on Tuesday to improve the efficiency of new air-conditioners by 50 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to those cooling machines by almost 70 percent," the New York Times reports on a new voluntary initiative.

βš›οΈ "U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry on Tuesday launched an international engagement plan to boost nuclear fusion, saying the emissions-free technology could become a vital tool in the fight against climate change," Reuters reports.

6. Charted: The economic case for cutting emissions

Image courtesy of the International Monetary Fund

Here's a reminder ☝️ that amid COP28's focus on finding cash for emissions-cutting and adaptation, failing to fight climate change would be even more expensive, Ben writes.

The big picture: "[M]aking an orderly transition to net zero by 2050 could result in global gross domestic product being 7 percent higher than under current policies," the International Monetary Fund said in a new post.

State of play: They analyzed data from the Network for Greening the Financial System, a coalition of central banks. It shows that the savings of avoiding damages from getting to net zero are much larger than costs incurred.

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πŸ™ Thanks to Chris Speckhard and Javier David for edits to today's edition, along with the talented Axios Visuals team.