Welcome back. Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,370 words, 5 minutes.
Situational awareness: "A new OPEC+ deal to balance oil markets might be possible if other countries join in, Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said, adding that countries should also cooperate to cushion the economic fallout from coronavirus," Reuters reports from Moscow this morning.
🎵Let's just begin the edition with this beautifully written Greg Brown song...
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
One thing to watch once this tragic crisis passes is what forms of enforced behavior stick around by choice after lockdowns end — and what it means for energy use.
Where it stands: Global oil demand has collapsed as lots of air and vehicle travel has stopped, and billions of people worldwide are cutting back or halting their movements.
Energy analyst Michael Liebreich posted a wide-ranging analysis yesterday on the energy dimensions of the crisis.
Climate expert Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, mentions a similar point in this thorough blog post from the university's Earth Institute, saying we're “learning more about how much face-to-face interaction is and is not essential."
But, but, but: Let me clear the decks here. No sane people — and certainly not the two men quoted above — are welcoming the COVID-19 pandemic or calling it anything other than a tragedy.
The bottom line: It's nonetheless worth thinking about how COVID-19 could re-shape people's lives once the crisis is over.
If you have a few minutes, please check out this CNBC interview yesterday with Scott Sheffield, CEO of the big independent shale oil producer Pioneer Natural Resources.
Why it matters: It's a very blunt assessment of the tumult facing the industry as demand and prices collapse, and lays bare internal divisions in the sector too.
Driving the news: Pioneer has floated the idea that Texas regulators should weigh mandatory production curbs — if a wider deal can be struck to dial back output elsewhere too.
The intrigue: “We’ve run into roadblocks. We’ve had opposition from Exxon," he said, claiming that Exxon "controls" the American Petroleum Institute and the Texas Oil and Gas Association.
Where it stands: Sheffield says they've asked President Trump to put "significant pressure" on Saudi Arabia to "stop this price war."
The big picture: Sheffield warns the crisis will decimate independent players.
Oil-and-gas giant Equinor said Friday that it’s leaving the Independent Petroleum Association of America, an industry trade group, due to differences over climate policy.
What's happening: Equinor cited the group’s lack of public support for the Paris Agreement and carbon pricing.
Why it matters: It’s the latest evidence of the emerging divisions in the relationship between European-based energy majors and K Street over climate change.
The Trump administration is on the cusp of finalizing plans that will weaken Obama-era vehicle mileage and carbon emissions rules, per published reports and multiple sources.
Why it matters: Requiring substantially tougher standards through the mid-2020s was a pillar of the Obama-era climate agenda, but Trump officials and a number of automakers called the requirements infeasible.
What's next: "A draft final proposal circulated by the administration this year proposed increase requirements by about 1.5% per year and the final rule is expected to be similar," Reuters reports.
The intrigue: The long-simmering Trump administration plans that will run through model year 2026 have split the auto industry.
What's next: Final rules are expected by Tuesday.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The good news is, climate change is not directly at play with the novel coronavirus. The bad news: we humans are still root drivers in pandemics like this one, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
The state of play: Buying, selling and consuming wild animals, such as at the Wuhan, China, market where this novel coronavirus is believed to have originated, is increasingly spreading deadly infectious diseases, experts say.
How it works: “We know that tropical diseases tend to have wildlife as reservoirs,” said Lee Hannah, a senior scientist in climate change biology with Conservation International.
Climate change has an overarching impact on it all, though it’s a less direct connection than wild animal markets. Some of these indirect links include...
1. Air pollution, largely from fossil-fuel emitting sources that also drive climate change, worsens any given virus’ impact on human health, according to Aaron Bernstein of Harvard's Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment.
2. Increasing temperatures could change the habitat for disease-carrying mosquitoes, such as with Zika, into more northern locales, Bernstein says.
3. Deforestation is linked to increased carbon dioxide emissions and also destroys habitats, which increases the risk of close human-animal encounters, Bernstein said.
EPA says it will exercise "enforcement discretion" around compliance with certain environmental rules during the COVID-19 crisis.
Why it matters: The policy unveiled Thursday shows how the pandemic is upending government operations and, potentially, creating new risks.
Driving the news: EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said the difficulty of protecting workers and the public from the coronavirus "may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements."
Details: The memo issued Thursday states...
The other side: "As the country focuses on protecting public health and safety from COVID-19, Donald Trump and Andrew Wheeler are exploiting this pandemic to make toxic pollution legal," Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said.