Good morning, and thank you for reading! Let's get to it.
My latest Harder Line column seeks to reality check just how pivotal Elon Musk's Tesla is from a climate change standpoint. I'll share that, and then Ben Geman will get you up to speed on the rest of the news.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Elon Musk and Tesla offer a gripping corporate tale and coveted electric cars, but when it comes to climate change, they are a rather minor subplot.
Why it matters: Numerous other factors and technologies influence whether electric cars are actually green. And no matter how green they are, they’re still just one, relatively small part of a many-sided, global problem.
Background: Let's put aside the whiplash news of Musk mulling via Twitter about taking Tesla private and then deciding not to over the weekend. A key number to remember is Tesla announced last month it had passed the 200,000 mark for total vehicles sold in the U.S.
Between the lines: Third Way, a centrist think tank, crunched some numbers for me to put that figure into context. To think of the carbon dioxide emissions avoided by Teslas versus clean sources of electricity, here's some comparisons:
The bottom line: It takes a lot of Teslas to equal the emissions savings of a carbon-free nuclear reactor, and to a lesser extent other clean energy sources.
For the record, a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement: “Tesla exists for one reason: to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy."
Electric vehicles have a green reputation, but an important reminder is that they are only as green as the electricity they are using.
Go deeper: Read the whole column in the Axios stream.
RIP John McCain. We've got several pieces in the Axios stream about his life and legacy. But let's zoom in on McCain's work on global warming.
Why it matters: McCain explored and embraced the science and co-authored early versions of cap-and-trade legislation, working across the aisle.
Flashback: Via Bloomberg BNA, "When McCain won the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2008 to face off against Obama, it was the first time both candidates for the presidency backed legislation to cap U.S. emissions."
Yes, but: McCain grew less involved with the topic as the years went on.
The intrigue: However, in 2017 he cast the decisive vote when the Senate very narrowly rejected a GOP-led move to kill Obama-era regulations to curb methane emissions from oil-and-gas development on public lands.
"McCain can be seen on the floor facing off heatedly against a half-dozen GOP senators who surround and block him before he gestures thumbs-down, a foreshadowing of his later decisive vote against the Obamacare repeal," Inside Climate News reports.
Saudi intrigue: The Financial Times breaks some interesting news this morning about Saudi Aramco...
Discoveries: Per Reuters, "Norway’s Equinor on Monday increased its resource estimate for the Johan Sverdrup oilfield, the North Sea’s largest discovery in more than three decades, while cutting the cost of development."
Exxon: Via Bloomberg, Exxon is seeking solar and wind suppliers for purchase agreements in Texas that could total over 250 megawatts.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
ICYMI over the weekend, we explored the aftershocks of Elon Musk's stunning Friday night announcement that he's abandoning his planning to take Tesla private.
Situational awareness: Tesla stock is down this morning in pre-market trading.
Quick take: Axios' Steve LeVine explains that one nagging question about the buyout plan's demise is whether Musk was ever really serious, or whether he was impulsively trolling the shorts but then had to put on this theater because of the fallout.
Why you'll be hearing about this again: Here are some takeaways, questions and things to watch now that the plan is dead after a head-spinning two weeks...
1. What's next for Musk: Tesla's board, in a statement Friday night, said that "we fully support Elon as he continues to lead the company moving forward."
2. The abrupt end to the plan won't halt concerns about Musk's judgement.
Go deeper: Read the full story in the Axios stream.
What they're saying:
The latest episode of the Experts Only podcast from CleanCapital is an interesting chat with Nancy Pfund, a veteran investor in clean energy companies.
The big picture: The interview ranges from her background in the industry to opportunities for applying advanced grid technologies in Africa.
At one point, Pfund, a founder of DBL Partners, muses about the intersection of clean energy startups and U.S. policy:
"Most entrepreneurs, especially 10 years ago, weren’t really interested in policy. In fact, many of them don’t like it. They are entrepreneurs for a reason — to be unfettered, and go after that marketplace opportunity."
"However, what I have seen and been encouraged by is that the smart entrepreneurs, as soon as they realize that, oh, there is a public utility commission or there is the investment tax credit that gets voted on in Washington, they are quick learners."
"Even though many of them still don’t like it, the best of them embraced it, or hired people that would embrace it, and so it has been an education for many, and for all of us really. We had no idea how politicized this field would become."
Another good listen is this Greentech Media interview with Ryan Popple, CEO of the major electric bus manufacturer Proterra, who was previously with the heavyweight VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
Read more about these podcasts in the Axios stream.