Good morning and welcome back!
It's Rod Stewart's birthday, which is more than enough reason to give The Faces today's intro tune...
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
Several new developments in early 2019 provide a glimpse into the next wave of automakers' accelerating preparation for the mainstreaming of electric vehicles.
Driving the news:
The potentially big Ford and VW announcement is aimed partly at managing the costs of EV and AV tech, various reports point out.
Why it matters: Both auto giants have ambitious EV plans — including Ford’s goal of launching 16 fully electric models in the next few years, while VW has been pivoting to EVs in the wave of its diesel scandal.
My thought bubble: Both companies are trying to gain ground on Tesla as well as some legacy automakers in the EV space, so collaboration makes sense as they try and close the gap.
What they're saying: "If VW is able to use Ford’s development in autonomy and if Ford is able to use Volkswagen’s development in electrification, it’s not just the cost savings that is important — and that would be big — but it's getting products to the market much, much faster," auto expert John McElroy tells the Detroit Free Press.
What's next: Look for more EV-related announcements around next week's auto show.
A suite of groups on the environmental movement's left flank are out with a new open letter to House members about their legislative goals around climate change.
Why it matters: The statement endorsed by groups including Friends of the Earth and 350.org is an early sign of efforts to influence the shape of the Green New Deal (and climate policy more broadly).
What they're saying: The letter calls for various aggressive and "visionary" measures they say are needed to hold the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, such as...
The groups behind the letter include the Center for Biological Diversity, the Climate Justice Alliance, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Food & Water Watch, Oil Change USA and more.
The big picture: It's part of a wider effort to both lay down markers and eventually craft policy specifics around the plan, both in Congress and on the campaign trail.
The intrigue: One notable omission from the new letter is a call for carbon taxes or other forms of carbon pricing.
Axios' Amy Harder reports that ExxonMobil is actively considering whether to invest in electric-charging stations, according to an Atlantic Council report published this week.
Why it matters: Other giants like BP, Shell and Equinor have investments in electric-charging infrastructure, but Exxon has been an outlier among its peers in this space.
Where it stands: The nugget is included in a table within the report by senior fellow David Koranyi about Big Oil's diversification strategies.
The big picture: Andrew Logan of Ceres, a sustainable investment advocacy group, says it would be surprising if Exxon invested in EV charging.
An interesting new paper for the Center for Strategic and International Studies by Nikos Tsafos looks at China's strategies for meeting its growing LNG import needs.
Why it matters: China is already the second-largest LNG importer and isn't far from overtaking Japan for the top slot.
The intrigue: There are a lot of good points in the paper, but one part that caught my attention — China is obviously an important player, but they're actually not decisive per se when it comes to determining whether proposed export projects get off the ground.
Threat level: Per the paper...
"[M]ost LNG projects since 2012 have advanced to [final investment decisions] either without Chinese customers at all, or with Chinese buyers accounting for a small share of long-term contracts — this despite China being a major LNG market."
"Chinese buyers are rarely acting as foundational customers for projects to advance, which means that taking FID does not, in practice, mean engaging directly with Chinese companies (although LNG might be resold and delivered to China eventually)."
Crude oil: Via Bloomberg, "Saudi Arabia published the first audit of its vast oil reserves since it nationalized its energy industry about 40 years ago, saying its reserves total 268.5 billion, slightly more than the 266.3 billion figure that the government published previously."
EPA: President Trump has formally sent Andrew Wheeler's nomination for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to the Senate for confirmation, the White House announced Wednesday.
Scooters: E-scooter startup Bird is raising $300 million in new funding led by Fidelity, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports. Bird would maintain its existing $2 billion pre-money valuation, as this is being structured as an extension of its prior round.
ICYMI: Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer is not running for president.
"This change in oil markets that has diminished OPEC has actually enhanced Russian geopolitical power in a way that I don’t think any American strategist foresaw."
Who said it: Harvard University's Meghan O'Sullivan, speaking on the new episode of Resources Radio, a podcast from the think tank Resources For the Future.
Context: O'Sullivan is sizing up one of many — and, in this case, unexpected — ways the U.S. oil boom has reshaped global oil markets and geopolitics.
Yes, but: Overall, she says the U.S. oil-and-gas production surge has been beneficial to U.S. geopolitical interests. It's a topic she explores in her book "Windfall," which we wrote about early last year.
*Editor's note: The top story was corrected to show Reuters reported VW is spearheading a $300 billion spend on EVs (not $300 million).