Welcome back. Today's Smart Brevity: 1,171 words, < 5 minutes.
ICYMI: Famed oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens died yesterday at 91. Axios' Amy Harder looks at the career of the first person she interviewed on the beat, and the Dallas Morning News goes deep on Pickens here.
And, at this moment 20 years ago, TLC was #2 on the Billboard charts and would soon reach the top with today's lovely intro tune...
If you want evidence that new Saudi Oil Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman faces a challenging job heading OPEC's top producer, the International Energy Agency's latest outlook this morning isn't a bad place to start.
Driving the news: IEA's monthly report explains what's facing OPEC+, the alliance of OPEC and Russia (among others). "The challenge of market management remains a daunting one well into 2020," IEA said.
Why it matters: The Saudis want a tighter market and higher prices to support domestic spending. More broadly, the report signals the ongoing difficulty OPEC faces influencing the market despite the 3-year-old alliance with Russia
Where it stands: Oil prices slid after the IEA report came out, reversing gains earlier in the day. This morning, Brent was trading around $59.54.
The big picture: Oil markets are more broadly caught between competing forces as the week nears its end.
Oil prices plunged yesterday as traders absorbed the Bloomberg report that Trump has discussed easing sanctions against Iran.
Why it matters: Easing sanctions could allow more Iranian barrels onto the market, though it's all super vague right now.
The chart above shows the West Texas Intermediate price movement, and the global benchmark Brent crude dropped sharply too.
Amy reports ... U.S.-based airlines are getting more fuel efficient, but Americans are traveling more and erasing potential gains, according to a study out Thursday.
By the numbers: Fuel efficiency of airplanes increased by 3% between 2016 and 2018, but the miles passengers have traveled increased 10%.
Why it matters: Jet-fueled, commercial airplanes account for just 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, but ICCT says it is set to triple by 2050 as people and goods fly more around the world.
What’s new: Budget airline Frontier took the top spot for the second year in a row as the most fuel efficient U.S. airline. Two other airlines that are considered similarly affordable — Spirit and Southwest — came in tied for second.
One level deeper: The chart above shows the relative efficiency of each airline. For context, the least efficient airline (JetBlue) burns 26% more fuel than Frontier.
BP CEO Bob Dudley said the oil giant may sell some projects and scale back others to make its business consistent with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, Bloomberg reports.
Why it matters: It's the "latest sign climate concerns are starting to impact the investment decisions of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers," Kelly Gilblom reports.
A brief new analysis sees U.S. oil production plunging by 25% if a Democratic president succeeds in banning fracking as part of a wider fossil fuel crackdown.
Why it matters: Late last week Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she would push for a nationwide ban if she was elected president in 2020, while White House hopefuls Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris also support a ban.
Of note: A nationwide ban is impossible without Congress, and that's very unlikely, but with that throat-clearing....
By the numbers: A Rapidan Energy Group note projects that if a ban were imposed on Jan. 1, 2022, U.S. oil production from shale formations would fall by over 3 million barrels per day within a year.
Quick take: It's only a thought exercise because a ban isn't isn't in the cards. But it's nonetheless an interesting look at the potential fallout of the climate policy proposals surfacing in the Democratic primary race.
What's next: Democratic candidates debate in Houston tonight, so I'll be watching for what they say about energy and climate change.
A new IHS Markit forecast projects that U.S. natural gas prices will stay below $2 per million British thermal units next year amid the U.S. production surge.
The big picture: It's the lowest that prices have averaged in real terms since the 1970s, they said.
Where it stands: The report says the "next surge" will come from the Permian Basin in Texas, thanks to rising amounts of "associated gas" from oil wells.
Quick take: They project a slight rebound in 2021. Still, these persistently low prices help explain why coal isn't going to claw back market share.
White House: "A chief critic of climate science in the White House is leaving the administration after failing to convince the president to review mainstream research on global warming. William Happer will leave his post as a senior director on the National Security Council on Friday," per E&E News.
Electric vehicles: The long-promised electric car revolution is finally getting underway this week at the Frankfurt auto show, but a host of industry challenges — both economic and technological — "threaten to wipe out profits and shake it to the core," writes Forbes.
Congress: "The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed two bills banning new offshore oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Gulf Coast of Florida," CNBC reports.