Good morning. Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,241 words, < 5 minutes.
And Tuesday marked 35 years since rap legends Run—D.M.C released their second album "King of Rock," which provides today's intro tune...
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The flurry of high-profile electric vehicle rollouts lately makes it easy to look past a big problem for the sector: tepid consumer demand means it's unclear when the EV age will begin in earnest, at least in the U.S.
Driving the news: Several recent stories underscore how drivers remain cautious about ditching gas pumps for plugs — even as automakers make big bets on bringing a slew of new models to market.
Why it matters: Year-end sales data tells the story of a sector struggling to find footing once you look past the big year by Tesla (which by the way saw its valuation hit $100 billion in trading yesterday before receding).
This Los Angeles Times story, citing Edmunds data, notes that 325,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, down from 349,000 from 2018.
The intrigue: Bloomberg points out that Tesla saw record sales last year, but cautions that the Silicon Valley company's success isn't spilling over into the wider EV market — yet.
What we're watching: Whether the sluggish sales and policy headwinds in the U.S. and China are enough to substantially change long-term global forecasts.
Breaking Wednesday: Bloomberg reports that big oil CEOs huddled behind closed doors in Davos at the World Economic Forum to discuss adopting more robust carbon emissions targets.
Why it matters: The story says the companies discussed setting targets for emissions from the use of their products in the economy, called "Scope 3."
Separately, Reuters reports this morning that BP is preparing to join the small list of oil giants with Scope 3 targets.
It's part of a wider expansion of climate efforts that incoming CEO Bernard Looney is mulling that could lead to the company "selling its most carbon-intensive businesses such as oil and gas fields in Angola and Canada," Reuters reports.
Cruise Origin, a driverless EV that Cruise plans to use for ride-sharing. (Photo: Courtesy of Cruise)
Cruise unveiled a six-passenger, electric, driverless vehicle in San Francisco Tuesday night, heralding it as the start of a new era of low-cost, shared transportation that will save the average household $5,000 a year, Axios' Joann Muller reports.
Why it matters: With no steering wheel, pedals or gasoline engine, the boxy Cruise Origin, co-developed with Honda, represents "the transportation system you’d build, if you could start from scratch," according to Cruise CEO Dan Ammann, a former president of General Motors.
Yes, but: It's not clear how Cruise — which scrubbed plans to launch a robo-taxi service in San Fransisco in 2019 — would turn that vision into reality, much less a viable business.
The math is a bit sketchy and based on some unproven assumptions, but there are some intriguing nuggets:
The International Energy Agency is a pretty diplomatic bunch, so this relatively blunt assessment of the oil industry caught my attention:
"[O]verall, there are few signs of the large-scale change in capital allocation needed to put the world on a more sustainable path."
Driving the news: That's from IEA's press release for its new report on what large oil-and-gas companies are — and aren't — doing to speed deployment of climate-friendly sources.
Why it matters: The report and its framing of the findings can be read as a shot across the industry's bow.
What they're saying: A note from the research firm ClearView Energy Partners explores IEA's evolving role, in an age of oil abundance, from its 1974 founding as a multilateral oil-security organization.
"[I]n recent years, the IEA seems to have recast itself more as an arbiter of international climate security than of oil supplies."— ClearView Energy Partners
Fourth-quarter filings are showing up in the handy Lobbying Disclosure Act database.
Why it matters: The totals are a periodic reminder of the money going into influencing federal policy and Congress.
The filings, while they vary in detail, often provide specifics on which bills and policy areas the efforts address.
Here are a few totals based on what's available and links to the filings...
The spread of the coronavirus in China and elsewhere could dampen travel — and hence jet fuel demand — enough to cut oil prices by around $3 per barrel, Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note.
What they found: Their analysis uses the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak as a model for how the current illness could affect markets.
The big picture: Nine deaths have been reported in the outbreak of a new coronavirus strain that originated in Wuhan, China, in early January, and several hundred people have become ill there.
CDC officials said Tuesday there's one case in Washington State, and Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Thailand have also confirmed at least one case.