October 11, 2023
🌻 Welcome back. We're starting with a massive oil deal but have plenty more with a Smart Brevity count of 1,208 words, 4.5 minutes.
1 big thing: Exxon's $65 billion shale bet
Breaking Wednesday: ExxonMobil is buying shale heavyweight Pioneer Natural Resources in a nearly $65 billion megadeal that reshapes the balance of power in the most prolific U.S. oilfield, Ben writes.
Why it matters: The deal, Exxon's biggest since merging with Mobil in 1999, creates a new U.S. petro-giant and could spur more consolidation in the oil patch.
Driving the news: It would more than double Exxon's production in the Permian Basin to 1.3 million barrels of oil-equivalent per day, with expected growth to 2 million daily in 2027.
- The tie-up will merge Pioneer's 850,000 acres in the Permian with Exxon's 570,000, forming the largest producer in the U.S.'s biggest oil hub.
- The proposed deal is a $59.5 billion all-stock merger at $253 per share that rises to a value of $64.5 billion including debt.
State of play: "The combined capabilities of our two companies will provide long-term value creation well in excess of what either company is capable of doing on a standalone basis," Exxon CEO Darren Woods said in a statement.
- Exxon said the deal helps its strategic posture by weighting its portfolio increasingly toward shale, a resource that can be tapped more quickly and flexibly than long-fuse megaprojects like deepwater fields.
- "By 2027, short-cycle barrels will comprise more than 40% of the total upstream volumes, positioning the company to more quickly respond to demand changes and increase capture of price and volume upside," the announcement states.
What we're watching: Whether the deal creates antitrust concerns among Biden administration regulators, and whether it sets other dominoes in motion.
- "We suspect other large-caps that are hungry for inventory would view the deal positively for any efforts to pursue similar deals," Andrew Dittmar, director with Enverus Intelligence, said in a note last week about the then-rumored merger.
The intrigue: The New York Times' Clifford Krauss makes a smart point:
- "By concentrating its production close to home, Exxon is effectively betting that U.S. energy policy will not move against fossil fuels in a major way even as the Biden administration encourages automakers to switch to electric vehicles and utilities to make the transition to renewable energy," he writes.
2. The oil market hive mind in "wait and see" mode
The oil price surge that followed Hamas' attack on Israel has paused for the moment, suggesting markets don't see the conflict immediately spreading or reaching key producing areas, Ben writes.
State of play: Crude remains well off the 2023 highs reached in late September despite the jump when markets opened Sunday (see above).
Why it matters: The price of oil ripples throughout economies. Price movements are also the function of a hive mind assessing variables and evolving info, just like everyone else.
What they're saying: "For oil, we would likely need to see confirmation of Iran's involvement in order to give the market another significant push higher," ING analysts Warren Patterson and Ewa Manthey said in a note.
- "[T]his would provide another boost to prices, as we would expect to see the U.S. enforcing oil sanctions against Iran more strictly," they said.
- "No direct oil supplies are impacted by the conflict at the moment so it's a wait-and-see situation," Again Capital LLC partner John Kilduff tells Reuters.
Yes, but: Oil isn't the only commodity affected. Israel ordered the shutdown of the Chevron-operated Tamar natural gas field off its coast in the Mediterranean Sea.
- That helped fuel a sharp rise of nearly 30% this week in European gas prices — the field supplies Israel but also exports to Egypt, which in turn exports some as liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Threat level: Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a note that curtailment only tightens global gas balances "at the margins" for now.
- But they add: "Going forward, given the uncertainty around the duration of this gas production disruption, as well as with added uncertainty regarding the geopolitical ramifications of the ongoing conflict, we see risks to European gas prices skewed to the upside."
- S&P Global Commodity Insights has more.
3. A pessimistic crystal ball on a big Paris goal
New analysis finds that holding temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels — the Paris Agreement's stretch goal — is "less likely than ever" despite rapid low-emissions energy expansion, Ben writes.
The big picture: It explores how rapid deployment of renewables and other climate-friendly tech is greatly slowing fossil fuel growth, preventing some of the worst future climate outcomes.
- But while coal has leveled off, clean sources have yet to reverse overall fossil growth — let alone start shoving emissions downward fast enough to keep the 1.5°C north star in view.
- "Globally, the energy transition has not started, if, by transition, we mean that clean energy replaces fossil energy in absolute terms," DNV CEO Remi Eriksen said in a statement.
State of play: DNV sees global energy-related emissions peaking in 2024, but falling too slowly to be Paris friendly, with a 46% cut at midcentury.
- Geopolitical risks — notably Russia's attack on Ukraine — have boosted focus on energy security and local supplies.
- "This trend is favouring renewables and nuclear energy in all regions and coal in some regions," the report states.
Threat level: DNV's "most likely" forecast sees temperature rise of 2.2°C by 2100.
- That's far below the catastrophic levels that would be in store, absent steep zero-carbon energy growth.
- But it's still a recipe for intensifying heat waves, storms and other major harms.
The bottom line: Projecting decades ahead is fraught with uncertainty, but even foggy outlooks beat flying blind.
4. 🏃🏽♀️Catch up fast on policy: Hydrogen, oil, litigation
💵 "The Biden administration is expected to announce on Friday the winners of $7 billion in federal grants to build out regional hydrogen hubs," Reuters reports.
🛢️ "The U.S. is preparing to crack down on evasion of its marquee sanction on the Russian oil industry, an attempt to shore up a novel price-cap regime that has seen its effectiveness wane," the Wall Street Journal reports.
⚖️ "The U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal by 12 Republican-led states, refusing to let them challenge the Biden administration's use of estimates for the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions when issuing regulations," Bloomberg reports.
5. Inside Democrats' struggle to sell the climate law
Big climate and infrastructure laws passed in recent years are linchpins of President Biden's 2024 campaign — but educating voters about them is proving tough, Axios Pro's Jael Holzman and Nick Sobczyk report.
Driving the news: Former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer acknowledged Democrats' policies aren't "showing up in the polls" as many people are naturally fixated on gas and grocery prices.
- "Part of our challenge is we did so much and the inclination is to tell people how broad it is, but they, I'm sure, get overwhelmed by this," he told Axios.
State of play: A WaPo-led poll conducted in July found that only 3 in 10 Americans had heard of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Why it matters: Climate law awareness isn't just a political challenge.
- Key programs, such as efficiency rebates and EV tax credits, rely on consumer awareness.
What we're watching: Evolving efforts among lawmakers and outside groups to spread the word.
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🙏 Thanks to Chris Speckhard and Javier David for edits to today's edition, along with the talented Axios Visuals team.