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🥞 Good morning! Today's newsletter, edited by Mickey Meece, has a Smart Brevity count of 1,216 words, 5 minutes. 

💵 Breaking: Private equity giant Brookfield Asset Management said it raised $15 billion for its climate-focused Global Transition Fund. Reuters has more.

🎶 At this moment in 1979, the late disco legend Donna Summer was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with today's intro tune...

1 big thing: Biden needs lots of help on gas prices

Illustration of two gas pump nozzles facing and crossing each other to form an X
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

President Biden's call for Congress to suspend gasoline taxes shows a White House facing tough choices — and long odds — as it struggles to tame politically perilous fuel prices, Ben and Hans Nichols report.

Driving the news: This morning Biden proposed a three-month waiver of the federal 18.4-cents-per-gallon tax and the 24-cent diesel tax.

He also urged more states to suspend levies or find other ways to help consumers. Hans has more.

A few takeaways...

1. It's a long shot. Key Congressional Republicans have previously called the idea a "gimmick," and anyway the GOP is likely in no mood to help the White House as Democrats face political blowback over pump prices before the midterms. Biden can't expect unified Dem support for the holiday either.

2. There are no easy answers. An administration official told reporters a tax holiday "won't fix the problem," but added it gives families "a little breathing room" as they work to bring down prices over the longer term.

  • Biden is also pressing refiners — who will meet with administration officials tomorrow — to boost output. But refineries are already running close to max capacity.
  • Industry officials say they're doing what they can to supply markets but argue Biden's climate policies discourage investment.
  • The White House has already released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and is pushing for more Saudi crude output. "There are no short-term solutions," energy analyst Bob McNally said.

3. Don't forget Russia. The White House doesn't want you to forget a key reason fuel prices are so high — the oil price surge stemming from Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

  • Administration officials, on a call with reporters ahead of the tax proposal, referred repeatedly to "Putin's price hike."
  • Biden and aides have also been criticizing oil companies, alleging they're reaping profits at consumers' expense.

What they're saying: "A federal gas tax holiday is basically a tax cut," said Justin Wolfers, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan. "And is a tax cut what you want to do when you're facing inflation this high?"

Yes, but: Robert Wolf, former CEO of UBS Americas and an Obama economic adviser, said, "Having a federal gas tax holiday along with states following suit could be a 10% savings for hard-working Americans."

Andrew contributed reporting.

2. Drivers absorb pump pain — for now

Data: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Energy Information Administration; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

The rise in U.S. fuel prices isn't yet spurring a major pullback in driving, but that could soon change, a new Dallas Fed analysis finds, Ben writes.

The big picture: Gas demand is historically not very sensitive to prices.

  • But "prices may be closer to consumers’ pain threshold than inflation-adjusted prices might suggest," Dallas Fed economist Garrett Golding writes.
  • If they rise higher, "expect consumers to respond by cutting back on fuel consumption and overall spending sooner than later."

What we're watching: Remote work options could reduce demand, per the report, but it's "too early to fully assess the impact."

And many low-wage workers — the ones most hurt by high costs — lack that choice.

3. Oil giants' uneven clean energy moves

Data: IEA; Note: Includes Shell, Exxon, BP and other major oil and gas companies, ADNOC, CNPC, CNOOC, Equinor, Gazprom, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Lukoil, Petrobras, Repsol, Rosneft, Saudi Aramco, Sinopec and Sonatrach; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios
Data: IEA; Note: Includes Shell, Exxon, BP and other major oil and gas companies, ADNOC, CNPC, CNOOC, Equinor, Gazprom, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Lukoil, Petrobras, Repsol, Rosneft, Saudi Aramco, Sinopec and Sonatrach; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Oil companies have boosted clean energy investment, but it's unevenly spread in the industry and the sector should parlay big profits into more aggressive initiatives, the International Energy Agency said, Ben writes.

Why it matters: "High prices are generating an unprecedented windfall," IEA said in a new report.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for producer economies to fund diversification activities and for the major oil and gas companies to deliver more diversified spending."

Zoom in: Solar and wind have accounted for the largest investments, with Europe-based multinationals steering the most capital by far.

  • More broadly, a number of companies worldwide — both investor- and state-owned — are also boosting investments in hydrogen, carbon capture and other tech.
  • But plans are generally more ambitious than underlying investments so far, IEA said.

The big picture: That's part of a much wider IEA analysis that shows global energy investment — spanning power and grids, efficiency, fuels and more — is set to rise 8% this year.

Nonetheless, "today’s energy investment trends show a world falling short on climate goals, and on reliable and affordable energy."

Read the whole thing.

4. Biden's prominent pick for science adviser

Former DARPA director and OSTP nominee Arati Prabhakar seen in 2016.
Arati Prabhakar at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in 2016. Photo: Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Arati Prabhakar, President Biden’s pick for science adviser, is the former director of DARPA and led the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Andrew writes.

Why it matters: Prabhakar would be the first woman, immigrant or person of color to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy if confirmed by the Senate, per the White House.

Catch up fast: The former science adviser Eric Lander resigned in February after violating workplace policies.

Driving the news: OSTP has expansive responsibilities for coordinating climate research, steering clean energy programs, making advances in quantum computing and artificial intelligence, along with other high-tech topics.

Like Lander, Prabhakar would have cabinet rank.

The big picture: Under Biden, OSTP has staffed up with prominent scholars on energy and climate, including Sally Benson of Stanford University, Woodwell Climate Research Center’s Philip Duffy, former NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco and Carnegie Mellon researcher Costa Samaras.

What they’re saying: "Dr. Prabhakar is the real deal. The first woman to receive a Ph.D. in applied physics from Caltech, she is a pathbreaking scientist, innovator, and leader," OSTP interim director Alondra Nelson said in a statement.

5. Solar players link arms in U.S. supply chain

Illustration of a stack of solar panels with a currency band
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Prominent solar developers and investors are teaming up to boost procurement of domestically produced panels, Ben writes.

Driving the news: The new U.S. Solar Buyer Consortium hopes to purchase over $6 billion worth of panels.

  • The members are AES Corp., Clearway Energy Group, Cypress Creek Renewables and D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments.

Why it matters: AES Clean Energy president Leo Moreno said acting as a consortium can have a major impact on U.S. manufacturing.

"While several different companies are negotiating small agreements with manufacturers, that's not incentive enough for them to open factories, to move large parts of the value chain," he told Axios.

Zoom in: The group is seeking manufacturers to supply up to 7 gigawatts of solar modules annually starting in 2024.

  • For a sense of scale, total U.S. additions of solar power capacity last year were roughly 24 GW, per the industry's main trade group.
  • Moreno said meeting the 7 GW goal would roughly double the domestic manufacturing sector.
  • The consortium hopes to "jumpstart" development, but he adds, "There's more needed."

What's next: The new group just issued a formal "request for proposals" and hopes to select partners in two to four months, Moreno said.

6. Stubborn heat wave slides south

Forecast high temperatures including daily records across the Southeast on June 22, 2022.
Forecast high temperatures on June 22, 2022, boxes indicate daily records tied or broken. (Weatherbell.com)

Record heat shifts today from the Midwest to the Southeast, where heat advisories are in effect, Andrew writes.

Threat level: High temperatures in the upper 90s to low 100s are expected today through Saturday from Atlanta to Birmingham, Tallahassee, New Orleans, Nashville, Baton Rouge and parts of Oklahoma.

  • Daily temperature records are likely to be broken in many locations as temperatures run between 10-20°F above average.

Context: Human-caused global warming is increasing the probability of extreme heat events, causing heat waves to become more intense as well as more frequent and longer-lasting.

What's next: The heat, part of the same weather pattern that began by roasting the Southwest at the beginning of the month, will expand westward as the week goes on, affecting the South as well as parts of the southern Plains, according to the National Weather Service.

  • Temperatures may soar in Texas by the weekend, with most locations exceeding 100°F.

Editor's note: The fifth item has been corrected to reflect that AES is a member of the U.S. Solar Buyer Consortium, but is not leading it.

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