Good morning and welcome back!
And happy birthday to Ziggy Marley, who shares a birthday with my son (a Ziggy fan!) and has today's kid-approved intro tune . . .
Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images
A big reason for President Trump's accommodating stance toward Saudi rulers in the apparent killing of Jamal Khashoggi is rooted in a simple dynamic: Trump needs them.
The big picture: Rice University energy scholar Jim Krane has a helpful Forbes commentary on the "crude realpolitik" behind Trump's openness to the kingdom's denials of responsibility.
Threat level: In a note this morning, a Verisk Maplecroft analyst looks more broadly at the Saudi posture, including their implicit threat a few days ago to wield oil as a weapon in response to potential punishment over Khashoggi.
The bottom line: The Saudis' defiant responses have raised the stakes of punitive action over Khashoggi, and Trump's posture thus far suggests it's working.
"By affirming King Salman’s denial of any knowledge of the matter an immediate escalation has been avoided," Soltvedt writes.
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P.S.: One frame for looking at who's bailing on the Saudi's upcoming Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference — dubbed "Davos in the desert" — is to see how much risk is involved in the decision.
"Electric auto brand Tesla Inc. says it has secured land in Shanghai for its first factory outside the United States, pushing ahead despite mounting U.S.-Chinese trade tensions," the Associated Press reports from Beijing on Wednesday.
Why it matters: The land procurement signals a concrete step toward moving ahead with plans for a major Chinese factory that Tesla announced with Shanghai officials in in July.
A little more, via AP: "Tesla said earlier that production in Shanghai would begin two to three years after construction of the factory begins and eventually increase to 500,000 vehicles annually."
The Silicon Valley electric automaker ultimately plans to spend around $2 billion to build the Chinese plant, according to press reports.
Screenshot of chart from the Center for Strategic and International Studies commentary titled, "The Center of Coal Demand Keeps Shifting"
The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Nikos Tsafos looked at coal demand trends and comes to a sobering conclusion in a new analysis:
Why it matters: Coal is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel.
The big picture: Tsafos' short paper, based on BP's robust annual energy statistics report, explores how coal demand in Asia goes well beyond China's status as the world's biggest user.
The bottom line: Curbing this coal use in order to meet climate goals is an immense challenge, given the hurdles to switching to gas, while more effort is needed to boost renewables in those Asian regions too, Tsafos writes.
Reuters broke some interesting policy news yesterday, reporting that GOP Sen. Dean Heller has crafted a plan to expand the $7,500 tax credit for purchasing an electric car.
Why it matters: Right now the credit is capped at 200,000 vehicles per automaker and then starts falling in value. Tesla is hitting that cap now and, as Reuters notes, GM is slated to bump up against it later this year.
The intrigue: It's almost a cliche that energy politics are as regional as they are partisan, but it's also true and this is another example — Nevada is home to Tesla's massive gigafactory that churns out batteries for its cars and employs lots of people.
What they're saying: "Republicans are in a tough spot on this one. They don't have the votes to kill the credits, but if they do nothing, they'll soon be in the awkward position of subsidizing foreign automakers but not the biggest domestic ones. This seems like an attempted compromise," noted Bloomberg transportation journalist Tom Randall via Twitter (though his tweets are his personal views).
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Speaking of Congress, The Hill reports Wednesday . . .
"Democrats are unlikely to pursue major climate change legislation if they win the House majority, despite a growing body of evidence suggesting time is running out to address the issue."
The Sierra Club is backing the challenger to Florida GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo in a tight race that reveals a split in green groups' political tactics on global warming.
Why it matters: Curbelo is a high-profile GOP figure on climate and facing a very tough reelection fight. He is co-founder of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and recently introduced legislation to impose a carbon tax.
But your Generate host just learned that a few days ago the Sierra Club, late in the game, endorsed Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.
Where it stands: Here's what other environmental groups are doing . . .
The big picture: The differing approaches highlight a broader divide over how to think about Curbelo and the Climate Solutions Caucus.
What they're saying: NextGen America executive director Heather Hargreaves told Axios' Amy Harder recently that while they would like to see more GOP members like Curbelo, in the end he's helping to keep in power a party that's "enabling the Trump agenda."
Go deeper: GOP congressman introduces carbon tax bill