Good morning, and Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there — especially my own!
Today's Smart Brevity count is 1,052 words, ~ 4 minute read.
I'll share my latest Harder Line column, and then Ben Geman will you get up to speed on other news.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The oil and gas industry is ramping up petrochemicals — building blocks of plastics — right as the global outcry intensifies over plastic waste.
Where it stands: China, which had imported around 70% of the world’s plastic waste, has nearly banned all such imports since last year. That move, combined with horrific images of plastic waste circulating social media, has catapulted the world’s plastic problems to the front of people’s minds and politicians’ priorities.
What they're saying: While some experts and industry executives argue that plastic is better than alternatives like glass, environmentalists say industry’s focus on recycling reinforces the world’s plastic dependency and unfairly shifts attention to waste management.
What we’re watching: To what degree oil companies branch out into other technologies aimed at plastic recycling.
Speaking of plastics, Amy and our Axios colleagues ran an eye-opening collection of stories over the weekend, including her story here, about how we've sipped, packaged and played our way into a global plastics crisis.
Go deeper: Read the full Axios deep dive
The weekend brought fresh pledges to protect oil tankers following last week's attacks in the Gulf of Oman, but markets picked up where they left off Friday — reacting more to bearish economic signs than heightened security fears.
Why it matters: Over 18 million barrels of oil per day — nearly a fifth of global demand — pass through the Strait of Hormuz.
Where it stands: The security of oil moving through the strait was prominent at a previously scheduled weekend meeting of G20 energy ministers in Japan, per S&P Global Platts and other reports.
What they're saying: "We always defend freedom of navigation. We are going to work to build out a set of countries that have deep vested interest in keeping that strait open to help us do that," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation," noting Asian nations' reliance on oil moved through the area.
But, but, but: Economic headwinds are checking oil prices despite the rise in geopolitical tensions.
Go deeper: A crude tug of war on the global oil market
This NYT story made the rounds over the weekend...
"The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively."
Why it matters: "Power grids are certain to become a rapidly escalating part of the battlefield for cybersecurity warfare," Jason Bordoff, head of the Columbia University energy think tank, noted via Twitter.
The big picture: The story, sourced to current and former U.S. officials, follows 2018 reports of wide-ranging Russian intrusions into U.S. energy infrastructure. And more broadly, the NYT notes, "Power grids have been a low-intensity battleground for years."
The intrigue: President Trump denied the story over the weekend.
Threat level: Axios cybersecurity expert Joe Uchill notes that tampering with power plants would be a high-risk move by the U.S. — there's no rule saying escalating tensions will be limited to the cyber domain.
Regulations: House Energy and Commerce panels will meet Thursday for a hearing on Trump administration plans to prevent auto mileage and emissions standards from growing tougher after 2020.
South America: Authorities continue seeking the cause of a massive blackout that hit the interconnected grid for Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay over the weekend, affecting tens of millions of people, per the Washington Post.