Good morning and welcome back!
At this moment in 1991, U2 was about to ascend to the top of Billboard's album charts with "Achtung Baby," which provides today's intro tune...
One of the biggest stories in the energy world right now is the fallout after French President Emmanuel Macron caved on new motor fuel taxes, suspending their implementation for 6 months after rioters flooded Paris.
Why it matters: I'm not an expert in French politics and won't pretend to understand all the dynamics at play here. But, the tumult at least partially signals the challenge of carbon pricing and raising fuel costs as a way to combat global warming, even as pricing regimes expand to more places.
Driving the news: There's a race underway to define what just happened — and some misinformation is flying around already.
But, but, but: While Trump is wrong about Macron's posture, it's true that the French mess can't be untethered from climate policy.
Where it stands: Conservatives have seized on the French action as activists on the right celebrate Macron's retreat.
"[T]oday’s carbon prices — while slowly rising — are still too low to have a significant impact on curbing climate change."
What they're saying: "The events in Paris reinforce the importance of rebating carbon fee revenue directly to the public, which is not only the most equitable option, but also the most popular," CLC's Greg Bertelsen tells Axios.
"[I]t’s another setback for any policy that increases energy costs, which unfortunately includes just about every serious climate policy," he said in an email exchange last night.
"The nice thing about carbon pricing is that the revenues can be used to offset these increases in energy costs. But France wasn’t planning to use the revenue for that purpose."
Meanwhile, some experts and advocates are also cautioning against drawing wider conclusions about what happened overseas.
Violent protests in France over a now-shelved plan to raise gasoline taxes highlight the country’s comparatively high pump prices, Axios' Amy Harder notes.
The big picture: People around the world pay vastly different prices to fuel their gasoline-powered vehicles, depending on how the country in which they live subsidizes or taxes the fuel.
The chart above offers a snapshot of 4 countries with different price profiles.
Behind-the-scenes moves are underway ahead of the pivotal Dec. 6–7 OPEC meeting in Vienna.
Where it stands: Via Reuters, "OPEC and its allies are working toward a deal this week to reduce oil output by at least 1.3 million barrels per day, four sources said, adding that Russia’s resistance to a major cut was so far the main stumbling block."
The intrigue: Per Bloomberg, "U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook met with Al-Falih in Vienna on Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the matter."
Electric vehicles: The EV charging company FreeWire Technologies — which builds mobile charging units — said Tuesday that it has closed a $15 million series A funding round from backers including BP and Volvo.
Home energy: Tendril, a data analytics company that works with utilities, said it has secured a majority investment from the private equity firm Rubicon Technology Partners.
The Trump administration is about to unveil its latest move to aid the coal industry, even as more evidence emerges showing why it's such an uphill climb.
Driving the news: Axios' Amy Harder reports that EPA is set to announce Thursday that it's weakening an Obama-era rule that had required costly technology capturing carbon dioxide emissions on new coal plants.
Why it matters: This is the latest regulatory rollback effort by Trump in his attempt to revive America’s coal industry that's declining in the face of cheap natural gas and tougher environmental rules from the last administration.
But, but, but: New coal plants are nonetheless unlikely in the U.S., no matter what Trump does, because of cheap and cleaner-burning natural gas, along with increasingly cheap renewables.
The big picture: News of the upcoming rule is emerging alongside more evidence that the administration hasn't yet succeeded in stemming coal's years-long decline in U.S. power markets.
The latest: The Energy Information Administration, in a short report Tuesday, said that U.S. coal consumption is declining another 4% this year to reach its lowest level since 1979.
Qatari Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi at a Dec. 3 press conference. Photo: Anne Levasseur/AFP via Getty Images
Axios Expert Voices contributor Amy Myers Jaffe writes...
In announcing Monday that it would leave OPEC, Qatar emphasized an intention to enhance its standing as the world’s leading natural gas producer and as “a reliable and trustworthy energy supplier across the globe.”
What's next: The tiny emirate, currently under a Saudi-led blockade, plans to increase its annual production of LNG from 77 million tons to 110 million tons in the coming years.
Why it matters: Qatar’s withdrawal from OPEC is a slap in the face of Saudi Arabia, which plays a leadership role inside the organization. It also reflects changes in global energy markets, where the competition among different fuels — coal, oil, nuclear, renewables and natural gas — is intensifying as major economies seek to decarbonize.
Background: As far back as 1992, Qatar and Saudi Arabia sparred over territorial conflicts. Qatar’s shift to LNG from oil in the 1990s was motivated by a desire to get out from under the geopolitical shadow of Saudi Arabia while simultaneously diversifying its own economy.
The intrigue: The withdrawal comes against the backdrop of Trump's frequent (and legitimate) complaints that OPEC inflates oil prices to the detriment of the global economy, and especially to key emerging-market countries.
What to watch: Qatar has an equity stake in the U.S. Golden Pass LNG export facility, which is expected to receive approval to move forward shortly.
Amy Myers Jaffe is the director of the program on energy security and climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The multi-state power company Xcel Energy says it will provide 100% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050.
Why it matters: It appears to be the first large utility to set a fully emissions-free goal for its generation mix, and Xcel also announced an interim 2030 target of cutting its emissions by 80%.
The big picture: The move is a stark — albeit long-term — sign of the transformation of the U.S. power mix as natural gas and renewables have been shoving aside coal.
Where it stands: Utility Dive looks at the announcement in the context of what some other players in the utility space are doing. From their piece:
"While Xcel is the first large utility to commit to eliminating carbon pollution, a number of smaller, municipally-owned power providers have pledged to move to 100% renewables alongside local policy goals. And the CEO of Southern Co., another large utility, has said his company will be 'low to no carbon' by 2050."