Good morning and welcome back!
Ok let's dive in . . .
The conventional wisdom quickly hardening around the White House decision to impose four years of tariffs on imported solar panel equipment is that it will likely slow solar power deployment to some degree, but is not nearly as aggressive as developers and their allies feared.
ICYMI: Yesterday the White House announced 30% tariffs on imported solar cells and modules that will decline by 5% annually to 15% in the final year, with 2.5 gigawatts worth of cell imports exempted.
What they're saying: Suniva and SolarWorld Americas, the financially distressed panel makers that petitioned for the tariffs, applauded the move overall even though they're less aggressive than the companies sought.
What we're hearing:
Quick take: The relatively modest penalties are another reminder that President Trump's aggressive rhetoric isn't always fully consistent with the policy decisions that emerge from the administration.
Go deeper: Read our full story here.
Gauntlet thrown: A new research note from Bank of America (BofA) Merrill Lynch analysts predicts that global crude oil demand will peak by 2030 thanks to very fast electric vehicle adoption beginning in the early 2020s.
Why it matters: The timing of the global demand apex — and the rate of decline thereafter — has major ramifications for the finances of oil-producing economies and, more broadly, the earth's climate.
What's new: The BofA report breaks with several major forecasting bodies and analysts, who predict a much later peak.
On the other side: In contrast, the main forecasts from the International Energy Agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and OPEC do not even see a peak by 2040.
To be sure: BofA acknowledges uncertainties in their forecast, especially the known unknowns about EV penetration. But that said, their report is noteworthy because it argues that EVs will curtail the global thirst for oil so much that the decline will outpace other areas of heavy demand — namely petrochemicals and trucking — in the not-too-distant future.
Elon Musk. Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Speaking of EVs, my colleague Shannon Vavra writes Elon Musk has agreed to be CEO of Tesla for the next decade, where he could earn as much as $55 billion in stock awards.
Yes, but: He “will be paid only if he reaches a series of jaw-dropping milestones based on the company’s market value and operations. Otherwise, he will be paid nothing,” NYT’s Andrew Ross Sorkin writes.
Driving the news: Electrify America, Volkswagen's EV charging initiative, has tapped the firm Greenlots to provide the operating platform for all of the expansive U.S. network of charging stations that VW is developing as part of the settlement of its diesel emissions scandal.
Why it matters: The selection of the California-based company marks another step in efforts to expand the infrastructure that will eventually be needed to support much wider consumer EV adoption.
Background: In addition to the newly announced operating platform deal, Greenlots is already one of the firms working with the VW subsidiary on charging network installation at workplaces and residential dwellings in cities including Boston, New York and L.A.
Big picture: Electrify America plans to invest $2 billion over the next decade on electrification initiatives, with the initial stage focusing on deployment of over 2,000 charging stations in California and 38 other states.
BlackRock's activism revisited: An interesting and somewhat skeptical piece in the Harvard Business Review looks at the high-profile open letter to CEOs from Larry Fink, head of investment powerhouse BlackRock. Fink recently warned that societal contribution (on issues including climate change) will be key to getting his company's support.
Corporate sustainability advocate Andrew Winston says Fink is serious, but cautions that there's a "structural problem" in his message. He writes:
Hard truth about EVs: A new blog post at the UC-Davis Institute for Transportation Studies cautions that for all the automaker and policy emphasis on EVs, their research shows that widespread consumer interest remains a missing piece of the puzzle. (Hat tip to the NYT's Brad Plumer for flagging.)
Lobbying: The American Wind Energy Association reported slightly over $1 million in quarterly lobbying, a five-fold increase over the $190,000 spent in Q3 and similar tallies over the last couple years. It's their biggest quarterly tally since 2009. Late 2017 saw frenzied advocacy by the renewables industry over provisions in the tax package.
Partial credit: A new paper by analysts at think tank Resources For the Future says the drop in natural gas prices thanks to the fracking boom has helped the U.S. boost manufacturing employment, but not as much as prior analyses suggest.
Shale boom: A Dallas Fed paper looks at where the booming oil-and-gas sector fits into the larger Texas economy, noting its relative "connectedness" has declined over time.
Put another way, it's still a really big deal, but the ripple effects from the sector's fortunes across the Lone Star State's broader economy aren't what they were in the 80s heyday. That helps explain why the Texas economy slowed but didn't lapse into a recession when prices collapsed in 2014, the authors note.