March 23, 2021

Good morning! Today's Smart Brevity count is 1,272 words, < 5 minutes.

🚨 Axios Latino, a collaboration with Noticias Telemundo, launches Thursday. Sign up here for stories that affect the U.S. Latino community on both sides of the border.

🛢️"Oil prices fell more than 3% on Tuesday, hit by concerns that new pandemic curbs and slow vaccine rollouts in Europe will hold back a recovery in demand, while a stronger dollar also weighed." (Reuters)

🎶 And this week marks 35 years since the Pet Shop Boys released the album "Please," which provides today's perfect intro tune...

1 big thing: Here comes Biden's energy infrastructure push

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo Mark Makela/Getty Images

The White House is starting to fill in some of the blanks on plans to push an infrastructure package with climate and energy provisions.

Driving the news: Axios' Hans Nichols and Alayna Treene report...

The White House is considering using budget reconciliation two more times this year to pass up to $3 trillion in spending aimed at core priorities, including infrastructure, climate change, education, taxes and health care.

Why it matters: Biden campaigned on big investments in areas like EV charging, grid modernization and boosting R&D, but specifics of his proposals have yet to emerge.

And my colleagues note that while a legislative strategy is still taking shape, using reconciliation would enable Democrats to bypass Senate filibusters.

Where it stands: Stories yesterday in the New York Times and Washington Post provide some broad-brush numbers on climate and energy pieces of the much wider — and preliminary — White House plans.

Via the Post...

  • "The infrastructure component of the proposal includes $400 billion in spending to combat climate change, including $60 billion for infrastructure related to green transit and $46 billion for climate-related research and development. The plan also would aim to make electric-vehicle charging stations available across the country."

And the NYT notes...

  • "Documents suggest it will include nearly $1 trillion in spending on the construction of roads, bridges, rail lines, ports, electric vehicle charging stations, and improvements to the electric grid and other parts of the power sector."
  • Its story also notes an emphasis on building one million new affordable and energy-efficient housing units.
  • A separate NYT story notes power sector efforts will include a focus on disproportionate air pollution burdens that communities of color face.

What we don't know: A lot at this point! Those known unknowns include the prospects for bipartisan cooperation on grid modernization and other energy topics that have buy-in from both parties.

2. Imagining power sector climate legislation

Reproduced from Rhodium Group; Chart: Axios Visuals

Let's stay on Capitol Hill because new Rhodium Group analysis maps out legislative options it says would steeply cut power sector emissions without hiking consumer bills.

Why it matters: One of President Biden's more aggressive goals is 100% carbon-free U.S. power by 2035, but policy pathways to get there are murky.

The big picture: That chart above shows Rhodium's "investment scenario."

That's a model tax incentive package to accelerate renewables; retain existing nuclear and hydro generation; retire coal- and gas-fired plants; and retrofit remaining gas-fired plants with CO2 capture.

By the numbers: The scenario, which folds in some existing plans rattling around Congress, would curb power sector emissions by an estimated 66%-74% below 2005 levels by 2031.

  • Tack on some new federal regulations and the reductions are somewhat steeper.
  • Rhodium estimates that the legislative ideas would together about double the $10.5 billion in current federal clean-energy tax incentive costs.
  • "We estimate that the average net annual budget outlay from 2022-2031 is $14.9-$20.3 billion depending on technology costs," the analysis notes, adding it doesn't capture other ideas like incentives for building high-voltage transmission.

The intrigue: The analysis says their plan fits under budget reconciliation — the Senate procedure that enables spending and tax provisions to move with a simple majority.

3. 1 fun thing: A prototype electric Jeep

Jeep Wrangler Magneto concept. Courtesy of Jeep

That image above is the Jeep Wrangler "Magneto," an electric concept Jeep's calling a "stealthy, quiet, quick and an unmistakable rock-climbing force."

The details: 285 horsepower and the concept vehicle can go from 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds, Jeep said.

  • It did not offer a mileage range for the vehicle powered by four lithium-ion battery packs.
  • Magneto includes a six-speed manual transmission, which is rare in EVs but might appeal to enthusiasts.
  • The concept is one of the vehicles Jeep is showing off at the upcoming Jeep Safari event in Moab.

What they're saying: "Jeep executives have said every Jeep will offer some form of electrification going forward, but it has not confirmed an all-electric version of the Wrangler," CNBC notes.

  • Via The Detroit News, Jeep design studio head Mark Allen said they plan to test out the vehicle in coming years.
  • "Would it be done like this in production? No, it would be done a different way, but I wanted to get the feeling of a full battery electric," he said.

Why it matters: Automakers are looking to recreation-minded customers.

  • For instance, Rivian is touting planned charging stations near parks for the SUV and pickup they're building.
  • GM, meanwhile, has an all-electric Hummer and plans to provide details early next month.

4. White House: We're "not fighting" oil companies

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President Biden's senior domestic climate official met with top oil-and-gas executives Monday as the industry braces for White House emissions policies.

Why it matters: A White House summary claims they're seeking common ground with the sector.

  • The virtual meeting with top aide Gina McCarthy featured discussion of "shared priorities" around climate, jobs and clean energy, it states.
  • "She made clear that the Administration is not fighting the oil and gas sector, but fighting to create union jobs, deploy emission reduction technologies, strengthen American manufacturing, and fuel the American economy," the White House said.

The big picture: Via Bloomberg, oil execs pledged support for regulations limiting methane emissions and "urged greater government support of carbon-capture and hydrogen technology."

  • Per its piece and the Wall Street Journal, the execs also backed carbon pricing, though my usual reminder that the political pulse for taxes or trading is very faint.

The details: The meeting, per sources and published reports, included CEOs or other top officials from oil majors like Chevron, Exxon and BP, as well as trade groups and large independent producers like Occidental and Devon.

Administration officials included McCarthy deputy Ali Zaidi and Laura Daniel Davis, who is a senior Interior Department official.

The intrigue: The meeting comes ahead of Interior's virtual public meeting Thursday on the department's approach to oil-and-gas leasing on public lands.

  • President Biden has frozen issuance of new leases, drawing strong attacks from industry groups, Republicans, and some oil-patch Democrats.
  • But some green activists and progressive Democrats want to see even more aggressive steps to curb fossil fuel extraction.

What they're saying: The American Exploration & Production Council, which represents large independents, said after Monday's meeting that they want to work with the administration to ensure U.S. production meets global demand.

They back U.S. production at the "highest standards" and want to ensure climate policies "do not shift production and emissions overseas."

5. Climate diplomacy vet joins Biden's team

Elliot Diringer, a well-known figure in climate diplomacy circles, has joined the State Department as the Biden administration looks to step up global collaboration.

Driving the news: Diringer's auto-reply email at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), where he's long been a senior executive, says he began the job on Feb. 18.

Alec Gerlach, C2ES' communications director, confirms that Diringer, their executive VP, has left to join State in a climate-focused role.

Why it matters: He's one of several well-known names who will work on the team led by John Kerry, the former senator and secretary of state who is President Biden's special climate envoy.

  • Diringer also adds to the list of senior energy and climate officials with prior federal government experience.
  • He served in President Clinton's administration, including three years at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

What we don't know: The precise parameters of the gig. State did not comment on Diringer's role specifically.

  • But a spokesperson said more broadly that the administration is looking to strengthen climate capabilities at State and U.S. embassies after the Trump administration "underinvested."
  • "We hope to share more details on the special presidential envoy for climate’s team and its organizational structure soon, after consultations with Congress have concluded," the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, C2ES is adding to its roster. The group is bringing on climate diplomacy veteran Kaveh Guilanpour as its VP for international strategies, Gerlach said.

His many prior roles include, per C2ES, include time as a lead climate negotiator for the European Union and the Alliance of Small Island States, and recently as a senior member of the UN Secretary General's Climate Action Team.