Good morning! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,254 words, < 5 minutes.
And happy birthday to the late David Bowie, who brings us into today's edition...
Despite rising unrest in the Middle East — including the targeted killing of an Iranian commander — America’s average gasoline prices have remained under $3 a gallon, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
Why it matters: Practically speaking, it’s great for drivers’ pocketbooks — and President Trump’s re-election campaign. It also shows the remarkable cushion created by America's booming oil production, which has doubled over the last decade.
“The U.S. oil boom is the primary reason nobody is seriously discussing triple digit oil prices even with everything that is going on and went on this summer.”— Ashley Petersen, senior oil market analyst, Stratas Advisors
Driving the news: Several events in the Middle East over the last few years, and especially the last nine months, have put the reliability of production in the oil-rich region at risk, including...
By the numbers:
How it works: No country can ever be truly “energy independent” (as the popular political messaging goes) because oil is traded on a global market. But America is as close to it right now as it’s ever been.
Yes, but: Even the best cushion can’t protect against everything. If an extreme (albeit unlikely) scenario were to occur — like Iran blocking the Strait of Hormuz for an extended time — that would likely cause global oil prices to rise substantially and show the limits of America’s plentiful oil supplies.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The Energy Department hopes to better leverage department-wide expertise to spur advances in energy storage, drive them into the market, and ensure U.S. industry reaps the benefits.
Why it matters: Storage improvements are important for bringing high levels of renewables onto power grids and improving the performance and cost-competitiveness of electric vehicles, among other benefits.
Driving the news: Today, the DOE is rolling out the "Energy Storage Grand Challenge," which Secretary Dan Brouillette will talk about in remarks at CES in Las Vegas.
It has five big goals over the next decade:
The other side: DOE and the Trump administration more broadly have sought to bolster federal support for incumbent fossil fuel technologies that compete with renewables and EVs.
Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee are slated this afternoon to unveil a legislative framework for plans to create a "100% clean energy economy" by 2050.
Why it matters: As we reported in yesterday's edition, this is a crucial year for Democrats to figure out what policies can gain traction if a political window for enacting legislation opens after the 2020 elections.
The big picture: The rollout arrives on the same day the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service released data confirming 2019 was the second-warmest year in temperature records that date back to the 1800s.
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Speaking of Congress, the Washington Examiner reports: "Republican Rep. Tom Reed will unveil a bipartisan bill Wednesday to provide federal tax subsidies for 'first-of-a-kind' clean energy technologies for combating climate change."
Yesterday's newsletter barely grazed a new analysis showing that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions ticked down by 2.1% last year, so let's go a tad deeper.
Driving the news: The Rhodium Group analysis tells the story of why the dramatic changes in the power sector are helping to drive down U.S. emissions.
What they found: Carbon emissions from power plants dropped 10% amid the the ongoing decline in coal-based generation that's now at its lowest level since the mid-1970s, the research group said.
The bottom line: "Beyond the year-to-year fluctuations in weather and economic growth, it’s clear that U.S. decarbonization success is still largely limited to the 27% of net emissions that come from the power sector," it states.
The auto industry's two major trade groups — Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — confirmed today that they're merging.
Why it matters: The union comes as the industry is grappling with a suite of headwinds, ranging from sluggish sales to trade tensions to uncertainty about U.S. emissions rules.
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Speaking of lobbying and trade groups, Amy reports that the American Petroleum Institute is coming out swinging against proposals pushed by Democratic presidential candidates to greatly restrict fracking.
Discoveries: "Apache Corp. and Total SA said that they have found 'significant' deposits of oil off the coast of Suriname, fueling investor excitement that it could be the second big discovery in the region recently after a major strike in offshore Guyana by Exxon Mobil Corp.," the Wall Street Journal reports.
Activism: "Barclays is under pressure to stop financing some fossil fuel companies after a group of shareholders filed a landmark climate change resolution for the British bank’s annual investor meeting, thrusting the European financial industry to the centre of the debate on global warming," the Financial Times writes.
Natural gas: "Russia is poised to officially open its TurkStream natural gas pipeline on Wednesday, further diversifying export routes to Europe amid a backlash from the U.S.," per Bloomberg.