Welcome to week two of Generate! I'm back in Washington after the big CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, and it should be a busy week. But before we dive in, check out Login, our killer new tech newsletter. You can sign up for Login and all the Axios newsletters here. Back to energy—a lot is happening, so let's dive in.
Trump's move against EPA goes into higher gear
After some delays, the White House plans to issue an executive order this week that will begin the long, hard bureaucratic slog of unwinding EPA's Clean Power Plan—that's the sweeping Obama-era regulation to cut carbon emissions from power plants.
Our thought bubble: If the White House indeed plows ahead with the executive order this week (and it has been pushed back before), it shows they're not worried about the fallout from the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's high-profile comments Thursday disagreeing that carbon dioxide emissions are driving global warming.
A different playbook: Pruitt's comments cloud the GOP's messaging a bit, because for a while now the more mainstream GOP critics of Obama's rules have made arguments other than science more prominent, like that the rules will hurt the economy and exceed EPA's reach under the Clean Air Act. Whether he meant to or not, Pruitt has put science front and center in the fight again.
- "I believe innovation is the key, not bigger government and trying to control the economy and limit the growth of our economy and job creation," Majority Whip John Cornyn told reporters in Houston on Friday. Cornyn, to be sure, is skeptical of scientific consensus on carbon's impact himself, but said: "To some extent we are stuck on this whole debate in ways that are not particularly productive."
The half-life of a gaffe:
Speaking of Pruitt's comments environmental lawyers tell me activists will likely use them in legal filings in their battles against the rollback of various climate regulations. "They will be able to use it as additional evidence that whatever the agency's action is, it is based on a profound lack of scientific knowledge," says one veteran Clean Air Act lawyer.
Trump vs. Merkel
Climate change could make it into Tuesday's first in-person meeting between President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has said she wants to chat about the topic with the president. Merkel intends to make climate change a focus of Germany's G20 presidency this year, while Trump's climate agenda is mainly deregulatory, so look for some agreement to disagree.
What we're watching: For any signs emerging of where the White House will go with the Paris climate accord, which candidate Trump pledged to abandon but President Trump has not come to a decision about. A senior administration official told reporters Friday that it could take a while:
- "Internally, the United States is still working on that issue, and that's an issue that still is to be determined and will be discussed, I'm sure, with the Chancellor, but also further clarified in the weeks and months ahead, as we move forward to the G7 and the G20 ministerials and summit meetings."
Worth your time
Oil: We're still swimming in it despite OPEC's production cuts. Prices dropped to a three-month low in trading last week. "The slump in prices has occurred as more rigs are deployed to look for oil in the United States and as crude inventories in the U.S., the world's biggest oil consumer, have surged to a record," Reuters reports.
EVs: The New York Times has an in-depth piece exploring the "quiet state-by-state" fight over electric vehicles. Lawmakers in several states want to end tax credits and push new fees to make up for lost gasoline taxes.
- Tough synergy: "The state actions could put the business of electric vehicles, already rocky, on even more precarious footing. That is particularly true as gas prices stay low, and as the Trump administration appears set to give the nascent market much less of a hand."
Climate: The libertarian think tank Niskanen Center is out this morning with a lucid paper that explains where things stand with climate change and answers some common questions. It's the first in a series of new educational materials from the group. Why now? "The climate science debate in Washington is decades behind the real science and appears to be moving backward," a spokeswoman said.
Some other things we're watching this week ...
Budget: The White House is expected to unveil its proposed fiscal year 2018 spending plan on Thursday, which will seek deep, deep cuts in the EPA budget and probaby target Energy Department renewables R&D programs as well. But it's largely a political document that lays out priorities. Actual spending levels go through Congress.
FERC: Any day now, Trump will nominate two or three people to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The independent agency makes crucial decisions about natural gas pipeline applications, power markets and more, but it has been hobbled by the absence of a quorum since former Chairman Norman Bay left early last month.
Congress: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will meet Tuesday for a hearing on energy infrastructure.
- Why it matters: The hearing could provide hints about how much Republicans will seek to make energy part of the $1 trillion infrastructure plan the White House hopes to steer through Congress. It could also help lay the foundation for committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski's effort to revive a bipartisan energy package — which included lots infrastructure provisions — that cleared the Senate last year but didn't quite make it to the finish line.
A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel, meanwhile, will take a more targeted look at infrastructure on Wednesday with a hearing on "challenges and opportunities" around hydropower.
This is cool (or warm)
The Wall Street Journal reports on technologies that can bring peace to the forever wars over office space temperature. They give individual workers more control over their (very) immediate surroundings.
- "Some of the new technologies seem straight out of science fiction. One building under renovation in Italy is going to provide workers with their own 'thermal bubbles' that can follow them around the building, so workers will each have their own climate-controlled zone."