Hi. Lots of car news today.
Oh, and I'm a little late here, but Monday marked the 1984 release of U2's "The Unforgettable Fire." So let's get going with this incredible live version of one of those cuts...
Two big announcements in California yesterday show how the world's fifth largest economy is moving on vehicle electrification with the help of some big corporate players.
Why it matters: California is by far the country's largest auto market and already home to an array of electric vehicle initiatives, such as the California Public Utilities Commission's late May approval of $738 million in electrification projects by state's big utilities.
Driving the news, part 1: Electrify America, a VW unit, announced a $200 million plan Wednesday afternoon to expand EV charging infrastructure in California.
Driving the news, part 2: Shortly before the Electrify America news was the official launch of a non-profit organization called Veloz, which also announced its first project, "Electric For All."
Yes, but: While EV deployment in California is growing, carbon emissions from transportation are still rising in the state.
Breaking Thursday: Toyota and SoftBank announced a joint venture around "mobility services" that has an electric component. The Wall Street Journal's piece on the partnership notes...
Toyota and SoftBank hope to deliver robot-cooked meals or provide medical checkups using Toyota electric vehicles by the latter half the 2020s, they said. The two are also studying other services, such as mobile offices, they said.
Meanwhile, Axios' Joann Muller reports that Honda is joining forces with GM and Cruise on a new autonomous vehicle (AV) to be built and sold in global markets.
What's new: Honda is committing $2.75 billion to the project over the next 12 years, including an immediate $750 million investment in Cruise, GM’s self-driving car unit.
Why it matters: GM has promised a world of “zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion” and sees large-scale deployment of self-driving EVs as the answer. It plans to launch a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EVs in San Francisco in 2019.
Go deeper: Read Joann's full story in the Axios stream.
My thought bubble: AVs, along with greater use of "shared mobility services" like ride-hailing, are expected to help drive the expansion of EVs, which today are a just a tiny share of the global vehicle fleet.
But there are lots of known unknowns around the environmental consequences of ride-hailing and autonomy. There's plenty of concerns that services like Uber and self-driving cars could lead to more overall driving.
President Trump will nominate Bernard McNamee, who is currently a top DOE policy official, to fill the vacant GOP seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Buzz: "If confirmed, McNamee would be the most overtly political person to serve on FERC in decades," E&E News reports.
Why it matters: The conventional wisdom around McNamee is that he'll be an ally of White House efforts to prop up economically struggling coal plants. Via Utility Dive's Gavin Bade...
What's next: The timing for Senate consideration is unclear, but in a note yesterday, ClearView Energy Partners said it could move quickly, especially in the unlikely event that Democrats win back the Senate in November.
Here's the latest on the geopolitical blame game as crude oil prices hover at 4-year highs during election season...
Look over there: Via S&P Global Platts, "As oil prices hit new four-year highs Wednesday, the US State Department accused OPEC of withholding 1.42 million b/d of spare capacity from the world market."
Yes, but: Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed to Trump's reimposition of energy sanctions against Iran, and other U.S. moves, as a key reason for the upward trajectory.
What they're saying: Financial Times energy editor David Sheppard finds himself in reluctant agreement with Putin, writing...
While calls for self reflection from Mr Trump — even from someone the US president once thought might be a friend — are likely to go unheeded, the inescapable conclusion is the US decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran’s energy industry has upended the oil market.
The big question: Traders will be looking to see how much more oil Saudi Arabia and Russia may bring to the market in coming months to compensate for sanctions driving down Iranian exports. Reuters yesterday reported...
Russia and Saudi Arabia struck a private deal in September to raise oil output to cool rising prices and informed the United States before a meeting in Algiers with other producers, four sources familiar with the plan said.
The latest: Also per S&P Global Platts, Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih says that while the kingdom is ready to dip into its spare production capacity if the market needs it, he questioned whether it's necessary.
Per their story Thursday morning, al-Falih says:
"It's not going to be popular for me to say this, but the market is well supplied. Some would even say oversupplied."
Shell's decision this week to green-light a big LNG project in Canada left me wondering whether it might undercut a big export project on the drawing boards in Alaska.
The big question: The move by Shell and its partners comes amid planning for a major LNG project in Alaska — which is not as far along — that would also serve China and other Asian markets.
But for a separate perspective, I asked Wood Mackenzie analysts whether Shell's move will undercut the Alaska LNG project, a joint venture between Chinese energy interests and banks, the state of Alaska and the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.
The short answer is no.
Yes, but: WoodMac analyst Cody Rice tells Axios that there's a different cloud over the project...
"The bigger threat to Alaska LNG is that it is completely dependent on financing from China and we are in the middle of a trade war. Alaska LNG project will be affected if China withdraws financing support."
"However, unless that happens, I expect steady progress towards FID for Alaska LNG, with the recent announcement of ExxonMobil's commitment to sell gas to the project representing the latest step forward."