Welcome back! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,190 words, 4.5 minutes.
And today marks the 1989 release date of the late Lou Reed's "New York," so its lyrical brilliance opens today's edition...
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Two bits of news Thursday illustrate how investment giants are becoming increasingly prominent actors — and targets — in battles over corporate climate policy.
Driving the news, part 1: The behemoth fund manager BlackRock has joined Climate Action 100+, an investor network that pushes fossil fuel companies to make new disclosures and carbon emissions commitments.
Why it matters: BlackRock adds heft to the 3-year-old group, which has already won concessions from companies including Shell, BP and Norwegian oil major Equinor.
One big question: Whether joining Climate Action 100+ changes BlackRock's asset management policies and voting decisions on climate-related shareholder resolutions, which it has rarely backed.
Quick take, per Axios' Felix Salmon: "If this means that BlackRock is going to vote its trillions of dollars worth of shares in support of climate resolutions, that could change corporate governance significantly. But no one yet knows whether it means that."
Driving the news, part 2: BlackRock's addition to Climate Action 100+ happened coincidentally on the same day that activists stepped up pressure on the company.
Where it stands: BlackRock is among the main targets of the mobilization — whose participants include Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, EarthRights and 350.org — that brings together several existing campaigns.
What they're saying: BlackRock called joining Climate Action 100+ a "natural progression" of the work its "investment stewardship" team already does with many companies in their passive and active portfolios.
Go deeper: BlackRock Joins World’s Largest Investor Group on Climate Change (WSJ)
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Power companies are helping cash-strapped school districts replace diesel buses with electric ones that have a secondary purpose: helping to manage electricity demand, Axios' Joann Muller reports.
Why it matters: Electric buses are cleaner, but upfront cost are about three times higher. Using them for energy storage can help close that cost gap and help meet fluctuating demand levels on electric grids.
What's happening: Less than 1% of America's 480,000 school buses are electric today, but that's beginning to change.
How it works: V2G technology is not a new concept, but the economics have been challenging.
"The European Union will unveil next week an investment plan designed to mobilize at least 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) over the next decade for an unprecedented shift to a climate-neutral economy," Bloomberg reports.
Why it matters: The story shows how EU officials are trying to put meat on the bones of the European Green Deal — the recently unveiled array of policy ideas aimed at making the EU a net-zero emitter by 2050.
Where it stands: Their piece on the "Sustainable Europe Investment Plan" reports:
"The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, wants to pull together a set of new policy initiatives with existing tools and ensure a coherent framework that will spur investment from every corner of the EU, according to a draft document seen by Bloomberg News."
But, but, but: The price tag for the envisioned transition is higher, the story notes. The document they obtained states that "more will be needed to master the challenges ahead. Public finance needs to lead the way, but private actors will need to provide the scale.”
An interesting new post makes the case that Russia would emerge as a winner if the U.S.-Iran conflict — which has cooled off — greatly escalates.
The big picture: Anna Mikulska, a senior fellow with UPenn's Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, explores what would happen in the unlikely — but not impossible — event that Iran shut down oil tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz.
The intrigue: If there's a shutdown, "Russia could become a crucial market stabilizer deriving significant financial, strategic, and diplomatic benefits," she writes.
There's a suite of "soft costs" for EV charging infrastructure — think permitting delays, "balkanized" regulations and more — that are a poorly understood barrier to the deployment of the technology, according to a new report.
Why it matters: Hardware costs have fallen a lot in recent years and that's slated to continue, but a report from the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute notes...
"Unlike the trends in hardware costs, soft costs for nonresidential charging stations — such as the costs of acquiring sites, meeting local building codes, and participating in extended processes for obtaining utility interconnections, easements, and local building permits — are not so easily reduced."
"We strongly suspect that soft costs are a big part of the reasons why charger installation costs in the United States are three to five times the cost of the charger itself, a much higher ratio than that seen in Europe."
What's next: The report lays out lots of recommendations for reducing costs, such as grouping more chargers at single sites (which would help spread fixed costs like site prep).
Quick take: This is worth thinking about in an election year, because Democratic White House contenders hope to bolster federal investment in charging infrastructure.
Go deeper: EV Charging Infrastructure Has a Soft Costs Problem (Greentech Media)