May 11, 2017

Axios Generate

By Ben Geman
Ben GemanAmy Harder

Good morning and welcome back! Good news: Axios is launching two new newsletters soon. One is called Future of Work, and it's where Steve LeVine will bring you the latest on robots, artificial intelligence, jobs, and global economics. The other is Axios Science, where Alison Snyder will report from the frontiers of medicine, space, neuroscience, physics and more. You can sign up here. Ok, onward . . .

A European view: good riddance to U.S. from Paris pact

For all the European diplomatic lobbying for President Donald Trump to stay in the Paris climate pact, the notion that the deal and the planet are better off with the U.S. in the accord is not universally held. Two new opinion — and contrarian — pieces from across the Atlantic make the opposite argument...

Not worthy: Over at Climate Home, Joseph Curtin makes the case that aggressive White House steps to unwind domestic emissions controls leaves the U.S. undeserving of the pro-climate cred that Paris membership provides.

Paris, he argues, should not be a "fig leaf" or a "branding opportunity."

Why it matters: "There is a danger [that] remaining in [the pact] could muddy the waters and allow U.S. citizens [to] believe they are contributing to resolving a global problem, when the opposite is the case," writes Curtin, a senior fellow at the Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs.

Facts on the ground: Former EU climate diplomat Jorgen Henningsen makes a related case in a letter to the Financial Times, arguing that the U.S. has already "de facto left the agreement," given Trump's actions so far.

Go deeper:

He argues that if other nations keep accepting the U.S. as a partner in the deal, it undermines the discussion of strengthening the national commitments needed to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees celsius.

​From Amy's notebook: Timing was key in methane vote

My Axios colleague Amy Harder has a piece in the Axios stream about yesterday's Senate vote on an Obama-era climate change rule. Take it away...

The GOP-controlled Senate's surprise failure to pass a measure repealing an Obama-era methane rule comes down to one simple thing: time.

"I think the worst influential force was time," said one well-connected oil-industry lobbyist who backed passage of the repeal, which had already cleared the House.

Why it matters: Congress can only repeal recently completed regulations within a finite window, and that window was closing Wednesday.

Just days after Trump was inaugurated, the GOP-controlled Congress agreed on several Obama-era rules it would seek to repeal using a law that allows it to overturn recently completed regulations. The methane rule was the very last up to bat, and the Senate didn't take it up until the last minute.

Opportunity knocks: The delay allowed groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and Taxpayers for Common Sense to keep pressing moderate members from both parties on the issue from different angles: climate change and the environment (methane is a potent greenhouse gas) and taxpayer money.

Solar trade fight heats up

There is increasing evidence of pushback against solar panel maker Suniva's big ask for steep Trump administration tariffs on imported modules and cells (more on this petition in this May 5 issue of Generate).

Not mincing words: "[T]he imposition of tariffs on solar cells and panels will significantly harm the U.S. economy by destroying jobs."

That's the residential solar project company Sunnova in a letter to the U.S. International Trade Commission urging rejection of Suniva's petition.

Evidence on the other side: Germany-based panel maker SolarWorld, which has a major U.S. manufacturing operation, said Wednesday that it's insolvent.

Reuters notes it was "defeated" by cheap Chinese panels flooding the market.

  • SolarWorld has praised Suniva's petition and said Wednesday that it's weighing whether its subsidiaries will also declare bankruptcy.

Two levels deeper:

Greentech Media breaks down SolarWorld's insolvency



Tesla starts taking solar roof orders

Raise the roof: The Silicon Valley company has begun taking orders for its much-hyped solar roof, pledging to begin U.S. installations this summer and elsewhere next year.

Why it matters: Bloomberg notes that the pricing is attractive enough that it could expand the U.S. solar market

  • Tesla said the typical homeowner can expect to pay roughly $22 per square foot.
  • "Solar Roof is more affordable than conventional roofs because in most cases, it ultimately pays for itself by reducing or eliminating a home's electricity bill," Tesla said.

The bottom line: The economics of solar is a little complicated because it depends on federal, state and local incentives, and the fact that over time buyers recoup the costs via avoided power bills.

  • You can play with their calculator here.
  • Bloomberg offers one helpful example from Tesla's site: A 2,000 square foot home in New York State, with 40 percent tile coverage and battery backup, would cost about $50,000 and generate $64,000 in energy over three decades.
​Lightning round

Lobbying: The American Wind Energy Association has brought on Amy L. Farrell to be its senior VP for government and public affairs. She comes to AWEA from the American Petroleum Institute, a powerful oil-and-gas industry lobbying group.

  • Farrell brings GOP connections to the wind trade group. She worked in the George W. Bush White House and his EPA. LinkedIn bio here.

Mining: The Wall Street Journal looks closely at the financial performance of mining-and-oil heavyweight BHP Billiton in a piece that explores why being a hybrid company is a challenge.

Offshore drilling: The Interior Department signaled Wednesday that it plans to allow energy companies to conduct seismic surveys for oil-and-gas off the Atlantic coast, reversing Obama's rejection of the permits. AP has more here.

  • Why it matters: The results of the testing could signal how much appetite companies have for seeking development off the East Coast. The Obama administration did not auction off drilling leases there, but Trump's Interior Department has indicated that it will.
Ben GemanAmy Harder

Thanks for reading! Please keep the tips and feedback coming to, and I'll see you back here tomorrow.