Situational awareness: Crude oil prices are heading back downward this morning. Reuters notes they fell to the lowest point in over a year thanks to "worries about oversupply and the outlook for energy demand as a U.S. interest rate rise knocked stock markets."
Onto music. We're on the 3rd and final day of our Keith Richards' 75th birthday celebration, so the Rolling Stones play us into one more edition this week...
An important new commentary in the journal Nature Climate Change offers a path for quantifying the emissions-cutting initiatives emerging from cities, states, companies and others worldwide.
Why it matters: These efforts are a key part of the climate policy landscape. And that's especially true as these parties respond to the White House abandoning Obama-era initiatives and planning to quit the Paris agreement, and as scientific warnings pile up about the need for steep and near-term CO2 cuts.
What they found: The paper offers a "research roadmap" for getting a better handle on the it, with a suite of ideas around topics such as...
Details: To take just one example, the papers offer guidance for how to weigh different forms of "emissions overlap."
1. One form is geographic, wherein different actors target the same type of emissions source, such as power supply, in a shared region.
2. Another is "supply chain overlap," which "occurs when targeting the same emission source either from a supply perspective (car manufacturers, for example) or use perspective (initiatives to change company vehicle fleets)."
The bottom line: "The ability to ratchet up global climate mitigation relies on all levels of government and various actors, but these efforts must now be matched with solid scientific approaches to assess mitigation effort, document progress and highlight the lessons learned over time," it finds.
More info about House Democrats' plan to create new select committee on clean energy and global warming is emerging — and creating tension between party leaders and insurgent progressives.
Driving the news: Via The Hill, Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, told reporters that the panel is not expected to have subpoena power. A leadership aide confirmed this to Axios and other outlets.
The intrigue: That drew pushback from progressive Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office and youth-led activists pushing for a Select Committee on a "Green New Deal."
Why it matters: The inside baseball reflects broader, more consequential questions and deliberations over how the party should prepare to act on climate policy if a political window for big legislation opens after the 2020 elections.
What they're saying:
"Our goal is to treat Climate Change like the serious, existential threat it is by drafting an ambitious solution on the scale necessary — aka a Green New Deal — to get it done. A weak committee misses the point & endangers people."— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in a tweet
"Subpoena power is granted to committees in the standard [H]ouse rules. ... We are simply asking for what is the usual power granted to all committees."— Saikat Chakrabarti, Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff, via Twitter
The other side: The Democratic leadership aide said the intention not to grant subpoena power reflects how leadership envisions the new panel working with existing committees.
Royal Dutch Shell announced 2 new renewables deals Wednesday, the latest sign that oil-and-gas behemoths — especially the European-based majors — are increasingly moving into the zero-carbon power space.
Driving the news: Shell unveiled a joint venture with EDF Renewables North America, an arm of France-based global power giant EDF Group, to develop a wind energy lease off New Jersey's coast.
The big picture: It comes on the heels of a separate Shell-backed joint venture — this one with Portugal's EDP — submitting a $135 million winning bid Friday for a wind energy tract in federal waters off Massachusetts.
But, but, but: Big Oil's clean energy investments remain a very small part of their portfolios.
The bottom line: For perspective, the amount oil majors as a group have spent on renewables since 2016 represents less than 3% of their exploration and production spending, according to Wood Mackenzie.
The consultancy said in a note this week that they expect renewables spending to grow just slightly in 2019.
"Alphabet Inc.'s secretive X moonshot lab is spinning off an energy-storage project with backing from billionaires including Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates," Bloomberg reports.
Where it stands: The company, Malta Inc., announced $26 million in Series A funding from investors led by the Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures and also including Concord New Energy Group and Alfa Laval.
Why it matters: The need for storage will grow as more intermittent renewables are added to the grid, and it's an important part of scenarios for achieving the deep decarbonization of electricity.
The big picture: Via Bloomberg...
"The money will help Malta further develop a system that uses large vats of molten salt and cooler liquid to store electricity generated from variable sources such as solar and wind. The startup likely will need additional funds to build a full facility, according to Chief Executive Officer Ramya Swaminathan."
On Wednesday, Axios’ Amy Harder wrote about a letter ExxonMobil sent to the EPA calling for it to keep intact and ramp up regulations on emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Where it stands: Now, she reports, at least one environmentalist is saying that’s mostly empty words. Here's more from Amy...
Driving the news: David Doniger, a senior director at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), says one of the last paragraphs of that letter show Exxon still supports scaling back certain requirements of the existing rule affecting new oil and gas wells.
“In the last paragraph, Exxon actually supports EPA’s proposed rollback of the current methane rules. The letter’s vague support for some future federal regulation of new and existing methane sources is similar to its vague support for carbon taxes. We haven’t seen the company put shoulder to the wheel on either subject.”— David Doniger
The other side: On its support for a carbon tax, Exxon has put $1 million into a political advocacy campaign in Washington pushing such a policy. Its critics say that money is too little, too late.
The big picture: Methane is the primary component of natural gas and is sometimes purposefully or inadvertently leaked in the production and transport of the fuel, as well as when drilling for oil. The EPA has been slow in its approach toward rolling back Obama-era methane rules, in part due to industry divisions.
Exxon's response to NRDC: "We are heavily engaged in research and technology development with academia, vendors, NGOs and some other companies to find less costly, yet effective ways of detecting leaks and reducing emissions," spokesman Scott Silvestri said.
Go deeper: Big Oil walks tightrope on methane emissions
Congress: The Washington Examiner reports, "Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Chris Coons, D-Del., on Wednesday introduced a carbon tax bill to combat climate change, just days before the end of the current session of Congress."
States: Two new long-term policy goals emerged this week...
LNG: Via AP, "Poland has signed a long-term deal with a U.S. company for supplies of liquefied natural gas as part of an effort to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, the two sides announced on Wednesday."
Sira Naturals CEO Mike Dundas looks over plants at the Milford facility. Photo: Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Axios Expert Voices contributor Maggie Teliska looks at the energy implications now that Massachusetts opened the state’s first two recreational marijuana stores last month, which sold more than $2.2 million in product on their first day.
The big picture: The state's Cannabis Control Commission’s Energy Working Group (CCCEWG) is concerned with skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions from the cultivating facilities.
How it works: In cultivation facilities, marijuana producers commonly employ dehumidifiers and high-intensity discharge (HID) lights, which use 80 times the energy of a 100-watt LED bulb. HIDs also generate a significant amount of heat, which then requires ventilation and air conditioning to keep the plants at optimal temperatures.
By the numbers: The energy use of a marijuana-growing facility is 8–10 times that of a normal office of similar size.
Where it stands: To curb emissions, cultivation facilities will need to adopt more efficient (and more expensive) LED lighting and building improvements.
What's next: The regulations are spurring innovation in sustainable growing technology, LED lighting and hydroponics, to name a few. While these efforts will initially be used in the cannabis industry, they could also benefit other agricultural industries, especially in areas without stable electricity access.
Teliska is a technical specialist at Caldwell Intellectual Property Law and a member of GLG, a platform connecting businesses with industry experts.