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April 18, 2017

Good morning and welcome back to Generate. In a moment, we'll spend some time talking about Americans and Paris, but first, let's look at some Americans in Boston.

Yesterday's Boston Marathon was 41-year-old former champ Meb Keflezghi's curtain call, and it happened with tons of class (as always). Jordan Hasay has found her distance, taking third and running the fastest 26.2 mile debut ever by an American woman, and Galen Rupp took second in the men's race despite a rocky buildup. Non-energy thought bubble: After three marathons in steamy conditions (and those hills in Boston), your Generate host really wants to see how fast Rupp can go on a fast course in cool weather, like Berlin next fall.

Ok, thanks for indulging all that, let's dive in . . .

‘Remain’ camp looks ascendant in Paris climate battle

Senior Trump administration officials will huddle at the White House today about whether to remain in the Paris climate accord, and under what terms. A decision is expected by late May.

Likely outcome: Several industry sources tell Axios that they expect the "remain" camp to prevail in the divided administration.

  • The U.S. would remain a part of the pact but weaken or jettison the Obama-era carbon cutting pledge in the non-binding accord, something effectively already underway anyway as EPA and other agencies unwind Obama policies.

We've got much more on that in the Axios stream. Click here for the full story.

More Paris: In case you missed it, my Axios colleague Amy Harder's debut column yesterday provided a good look at why various sectors of corporate America are in favor of remaining in the Paris deal.

Another voice: The big liquefied natural gas exporting company Cheniere Energy is the latest major energy interest to urge the Trump administration to stay in the Paris deal, making the case that it's good business. Check out their letter to the White House here.

Tech notes

The next grid, part 1: The Rocky Mountain Institute's blog explores the potential for transforming the power grid into a "platform-based" business model, joining other industries that have "reoriented from one-directional pipeline delivery systems to multisided platforms on which information and services flow in many directions between actors."

  • Questions abound, like which entities should run such a model; how the revenues would work; and, what products and services would be transacted over these "distribution system operator" concepts.
  • But there's a lot happening already in states including New York, California, and Illinois. For instance, ConEdison is implementing a "virtual power plant" for 300 homes in New York City and is testing new approaches to aggregate energy resources like solar and storage.

The next grid, part 2: My colleague Shannon Vavra wrote about the battery-gas turbine hybrid system that GE and Southern California Edison cut the ribbon on yesterday.

It's a model that can help smooth the integration of growing amounts of renewable power into the state's electricity system.

Battery rebels: Greentech Media takes a look at alternative battery tech companies trying to compete at a time of lower-than-expected costs for producers of more established lithium-ion products.

  • "These low-cost lithium-ion batteries are spawning major growth in electric cars and batteries for buildings and the power grid. But they are wreaking havoc on the businesses of those that placed bets on the other side of lithium-ion price drop."
  • Some specific companies that make alternatives to lithium-ion, like Eos Energy Storage and Ambri, are pushing forward.

​Hydrocarbon deals

Permian play: The Blackstone Group is buying EagleClaw Midstream Ventures, which operates natural gas pipelines and processing facilities in the Permian Basin, in a deal worth around $2 billion.

  • The private equity group's investment is the latest in a flurry of industry dealmaking in the Texas region.
  • Oil production is surging in the Permian, and Bloomberg's piece on the natural gas deal points out: "While most producers are targeting oil, it often comes mixed with substantial natural gas."

Petrochemicals: Via Reuters: Williams Partners said yesterday it would sell its stake in a unit that owns 88.46 percent of an olefins plant in Louisiana to Nova Chemicals for $2.1 billion in cash, as part of its efforts to focus on natural gas.

From Amy's notebook: Keystone opinions in Obama-world

My Axios colleague Amy Harder passes along this slice of Beltway life . . .

Adam Sieminski, who was administrator of the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration under President Obama, says with a laugh that now he's left the government, he can have an opinion again.

"One opinion I don't have to stifle anymore is that I think the Keystone XL pipeline should have been built," Sieminski told Axios on the sidelines of a Brookings Institution confab Monday of some of Washington's biggest names in energy. He went on to say that pipelines are a safer way to transport oil than rail.

Why it matters now: With Republicans in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, some Democrats might find it more politically possible to take positions that go counter to certain liberal causes, such as opposing fossil-fuel infrastructure like Keystone, which could lead to more bipartisan energy policy.

Our thought bubble:

During the seven-year Keystone XL saga (which ultimately led Obama to reject it in November 2015), many Obama administration officials privately said the fight was a distraction and the pipeline should be approved. In the end though, symbolic climate politics won out over pragmatic energy policy.

Lightning round

Influence: Liquefied natural gas pioneer Charif Souki's firm Tellurian Inc., which formed last year, has tapped Alignment Government Strategies as its first outside lobbyists, a newly posted filing shows.

Polls: The Pew Research Center's latest poll includes a look at how U.S. residents view the two main parties on the environment. Fifty-nine percent see Democrats better equipped to deal with the environment, while 28 percent give the nod to Republicans.

Saudi Arabia: The kingdom aims to produce 10 percent of its power from renewables in the next 10 years "as it pushes ahead with a multi-billion-dollar plan to diversify its energy mix and free up more crude oil for export," Reuters reports.

EPA: Via The Detroit News, the agency is pushing back against a report by a Chicago Sun-Times columnist that it may shutter its Region 5 office, which covers the upper midwest and Great Lakes region.

Cars: A new survey suggests that Americans' interest in electric vehicles has remained steady over the past five years even as gasoline prices have fallen, Fortune reports.

  • "The AAA consumer survey released Tuesday found that 15% of Americans are likely to buy an electric vehicle as their next car — close to the percentage of consumers who plan to buy a pickup truck instead."

Thanks for reading! We'll see you later today in the Axios stream and back here tomorrow morning. And please keep the tips and feedback coming to [email protected].