Good morning! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,063 words, or ~ 4 minute read.
Wednesday will put a highlighter pen over 2 things: President Trump is swimming upstream in his bid to help coal, and the climate policy stakes of the 2020 election are huge.
Driving the news: EPA is expected to release final carbon emissions rules for coal-fired power plants that are weaker than a big Obama-era mandate (which never took effect).
Why it matters: Trump — as a candidate and then POTUS — has vowed to end what he calls former President Obama's "war on coal."
The big picture: Coal is losing ground thanks to cheap natural gas, renewables, utilities seeing the writing on the wall, state policies, and federal regulations targeting other pollutants.
What to watch: How much the rule, if it survives court challenges, will slow the closure of uneconomic coal-fired units in the coming years. Nearly 14 gigawatts were retired in 2018, per Energy Department data.
But, but, but: The EPA rule is also a 2020 story.
What they're saying: Michelle Bloodworth, head of the lobbying group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, tells Bloomberg that the rule could prevent some closures. "These improvements to coal plant competitiveness will help to increase the longevity of the existing fleet,” she added.
Go deeper: Trump EPA finalizing rule to gut Obama coal plant regulations (Washington Examiner)
The balance of power in the growing residential solar market is shifting at Tesla's expense, a new report shows.
Driving the news: Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables said Wednesday that Tesla fell to 3rd place among solar installers in the U.S. market in Q1.
The big picture: In a separate report yesterday, WoodMac and an industry trade group said total U.S. solar installations (combined utility-scale, residential, commercial and more) in Q1 were 10% higher than the same period in 2018.
Demonstrators against the Trans Mountain pipeline use a mock pipeline to block the Canadian Embassy entrance in London last year. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images
Canada's national government yesterday approved a major pipeline, called Trans Mountain, that would move hundreds of thousands of barrels daily from Alberta to the country's West Coast.
Why it matters: If the expansion project is ultimately built, it will be a win for oil sands producers seeking new avenues to reach global markets and fetch higher prices.
But, but, but: It faces heavy opposition from environmentalists and some indigenous groups, so look for them to launch new protests and other efforts. Yesterday's action is no guarantee it will be completed, says Gavin MacFarlane, a VP with Moody’s Investors Service.
The intrigue: The multibillion-dollar project is politically tricky for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is seeking to show his climate bona fides before Canadian elections while backing the project that aids the carbon-heavy oil sands sector.
The big picture: "After shipments from Burnaby to North American clients in British Columbia, Washington State and California are accounted for, there will be at least 500,000 barrels a day available for export to global markets," the Canadian government said.
Go deeper: Reaction to the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (Vancouver Sun)
Renewables: Bloomberg, summarizing a big new analysis from the consultancy BloombergNEF, reports: "Nearly half the world’s electricity will come from renewable energy by 2050 as costs of wind, solar and battery storage continue to plummet."
Congress: House Democrats unveiled legislation to revive and extend various tax incentives yesterday. It includes provisions on energy efficient buildings and a 1-year extension — until the end of 2020 — on the availability of tax credits for new wind projects.
LNG: Per Reuters, "U.S. energy firm Anadarko Petroleum Corp on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for the construction of a $20 billion gas liquefaction and export terminal in Mozambique."
Attack in Iraq: Via the Associated Press, "A rocket hit an oil-drilling site in Iraq's southern Basra province early Wednesday, striking inside a compound housing energy giant Exxon Mobil and wounding three local workers, one seriously, Iraqi officials said."