Good morning. Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,262 words, a < 5-minute read.
🎵 And today marks 40 years since Pete Townshend (who moonlights with The Who) released the album "Empty Glass," which provides today's intro tune...
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
U.S. crude oil prices have soared by almost $35 per barrel since the troughs of Monday afternoon, moving all the way back to around, uh, negative $5 this morning as we sent this newsletter.
Why it matters: Those numbers for West Texas Intermediate future prices aren't typos, and they reflect the wider tumult in the oil industry encapsulated in yesterday's first-ever negative futures prices.
The big picture: The historic price collapse reflects two things at the same time.
1. More narrowly, it was about the calendar as the expiration of the May futures contract looms today. Speculative traders and companies were rushing to unload contracts for May delivery, but with the oil unwanted, they had to start paying to get rid of them.
2. Stepping back, yesterday's march into the unknown shows just how much the world's energy landscape has been turned upside down as the pandemic shuts down huge amounts of travel and business activity.
The bottom line: "Some may dismiss Monday’s fall into negative WTI prices as a quirk of the futures market on the last day before a contract ended," IHS Markit analyst Jim Burkhard said in a note.
What's next: Goldman Sachs analysts see price volatility remaining "exceptionally high" in weeks ahead as storage fills up.
The chart above captures the wild day that unfolded as already-low prices went into a free fall — and then kept dropping, plunging to roughly -$40 per barrel at one point.
One thing I'm watching is whether the latest price swings will meaningfully revive White House efforts to aid the struggling domestic oil sector and perhaps affect other nations' policies.
Driving the news: President Trump yesterday said he would consider GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer's call to prevent tankers with Saudi oil from unloading in the United States.
Where it stands: Also yesterday, Trump renewed his push for the government to buy roughly 75 million barrels of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Or, offer part of the SPR as basically a rental storage unit for U.S. companies.
The intrigue: "Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members are considering cutting their oil output as soon as possible, rather than waiting until next month when the group’s recent production agreement with the U.S. and Russia is set to begin," the Wall Street Journal reports.
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Amazon announced this morning that it's putting $10 million into restoring or conserving 4 million acres of forest as part of its 2019 pledge to become carbon-negative within the next 20 years, Axios Amy Harder reports.
Driving the news: This $10 million is the first project from Amazon's $100 million Right Now Climate Fund, which is focused on removing CO2 from the atmosphere via land use.
By the numbers: Amazon said Tuesday’s announcement would, over the next 11 years, result in a net reduction of up to 18.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by restoring or conserving forests, which naturally soak up CO2.
Yes, but: Ensuring the authenticity of these types of emission-reduction methods is tricky because it can be hard to prove the trees would have been cut down absent, in this case, Amazon’s support.
Over 50 scientists, including prominent climate experts, are out with a new open letter endorsing Joe Biden just ahead of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
Why it matters: The letter comes as Biden is seeking to consolidate support among progressives who prefer Sen. Bernie Sanders' more aggressive climate platform.
What they're saying: "We are confident that, unlike President Trump, Joe Biden will respect, collaborate with, and listen to leaders in the scientific community and public health experts to confront the existential climate crisis and other environmental threats," the letter states.
Who they are: Signatories include the prominent Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann and Jane Lubchenco, who ran NOAA under former President Obama.
Catch up fast: Biden yesterday signaled that he plans to expand his climate platform. And Sanders' endorsement of Biden last week included the announcement of plans to form joint policy "task forces," with climate among the topics.
No, negative oil prices don't mean you'll get paid to fill up at the gasoline station, Amy reports.
How it works: Several other layers of costs, including refining, transportation and various state taxes suggest negative gasoline prices are extremely unlikely, per Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.
Where it stands: The price of oil makes up more than 50% of the price of a gallon of gasoline, but it takes several days for changes in the global oil market to make it onto gas stations’ billboards.