Welcome back! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,072 words/~ 4 minute read.
Situational awareness: "A massive fire and series of explosions rocked a South Philadelphia refinery complex, the largest on the East Coast, early Friday morning," NBC reports, adding that no injuries were reported.
This week on “Axios on HBO”: An interview with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, how memes may be influencing Andrew Yang’s 2020 bid, plus the inequities of marijuana legalization. Tune in Sunday at 6 pm ET/PT.
Onto music. At this moment 40 years ago, Anita Ward was atop Billboard's R&B charts (and would soon be #1 in the Hot 100) with this infectious classic...
Screenshot: Chart in EIA brief, "The Strait of Hormuz is the world's most important oil transit chokepoint"
Crude oil prices surged yesterday and are heading upward again this morning amid escalating tensions in the Middle East.
Why it matters: The upward moves show how geopolitical conflict is at least temporarily in the driver's seat in oil markets, after weeks of humdrum economic news sending prices largely downward.
What's new: "Brent oil rallied above $65 per barrel on Friday and was on track for a 5% gain this week on fears of a U.S. military attack on Iran that would disrupt flows from the Middle East," Reuters reports.
Where it stands: The New York Times reported late last night that "President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone," but then pulled back.
The big picture: Check out the chart above via the Energy Information Administration. One reason why the U.S.-Iran strife is rattling oil markets is that roughly one-fifth of total demand flows through the Strait of Hormuz each day.
The U.S. isn't insulated from the risks, despite the domestic production boom, declining imports from the Middle East, and the majority of oil that passes through Hormuz heading to Asia.
Axios Expert Voices contributors Richard Newell and Daniel Raimi of the nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future have more on this...
With its acceleration of Prime shipping from two days to one, Amazon established a new normal. Soon after, Walmart and Target came out with their own super-speedy shipping options, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.
Why it matters: Flying, trucking and delivering millions of packages a day comes with a cost. As shoppers demand faster and faster speed, there has been a sharp environmental impact.
The big picture: Consumers have gotten hooked on speed, and the efficiencies that e-commerce injected into retail are getting erased because now there are more deliveries of smaller numbers of packages. With this trend, emissions have grown.
Together, that's equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of just over 7 million cars, per an EPA calculator.
State and national efforts to deeply cut emissions are seeing sharply diverging fates this week. Here are the latest...
Europe: "European Union leaders failed Thursday to back a plan to make the bloc’s economy carbon neutral by 2050 in spite of promises to protesters across the continent to fight harder against climate change," the Associated Press reports.
New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to sign a sweeping bill that cleared both chambers of the legislature this week.
Oregon: Gov. Kate Brown has sent state police to track down Republican lawmakers who left the state Capitol in order to prevent passage of a sweeping cap-and-trade bill, AP and others reported.
Two things yesterday provide a Rorschach test for people looking for signs of real shifts in the GOP position on global warming.
Driving the news: A bipartisan House group called the Climate Solutions Caucus relaunched yesterday after seeing its GOP ranks cut sharply by last year's elections.
But, but, but: Yesterday the vast majority of House Republicans voted for a proposal to hamstring EPA's power to regulate greenhouse gases — including 12 of those 22 GOP climate caucus members.
Quick take: The GOP tally was quite lopsided, but the party's hard line against both emissions regulation and carbon taxes has eroded a little.