Nov 13, 2018

Axios Generate

By Ben Geman
Ben GemanAmy Harder

Good morning and welcome back.

And happy belated birthday to Neil Young, whose home was destroyed by the California fires but whose music is immortal. So, Neil Young & Crazy Horse have today's intro tune...

1 big thing: Oil demand is very stubborn
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Data: International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2018; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Oil is on its way out. Long live oil.

The big picture: The International Energy Agency's newly released World Energy Outlook finds that oil demand for passenger vehicles is slated to peak in the mid-2020s. That's soon!

  • It's due to more efficiency, biofuels, and electric vehicles — they see 300 million EVs on the road in 2040.
  • Of note: That's in their "new policies" scenario, which models not only existing policies but also countries' announced plans and emissions targets.

But, but, but: That projected mid-2020s peak doesn't mean that overall global demand for crude oil is reaching an inflection point anytime soon.

  • That's because other uses — petrochemicals, heavy freight, shipping and planes — remain robust.
  • Add it all up and the report sees global crude oil demand rising slightly to reach 106 million barrels per day in 2040 (it's roughly 100 mbd right now).

Why it matters: The findings underscore that despite heavy and justified attention to electric cars, passenger transport is just one part of the wider equation when it comes to oil.

By the numbers: As the Financial Times flagged here, the report projects that while the numbers of cars in the global fleet would soar 80% by 2040, oil demand for passenger cars, which is over 21 mbd right now, would be around 23 mbd in the late 2020s. But, elsewhere...

  • "Oil demand for trucks grows by 4 mb/d over the period to 2040, even though vehicle and logistical efficiencies avoid nearly 5.5 mb/d additional demand growth in 2040. Oil use in petrochemicals sees the largest growth (5 mb/d) of any sector," IEA states.

Yes, but: The annual report also models a "sustainable development" scenario — a wholly upended global energy system where policy and investment trends are bent to be consistent with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

On the oil side, that means overall demand peaks in almost all nations by 2030. Per an IEA summary...

  • "By 2040, cars that rely solely on gasoline and diesel are 40% more efficient than today; there are 930 million electric cars on the road (50% of the global car fleet); a quarter of buses are electric; and nearly 20% of fuels used by trucks are low or zero carbon."
  • "There are also major changes in most other sectors and as a result, total oil demand in 2040 in this scenario is 25 mb/d lower than today."
2. EPA readies move on truck pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency is gearing up to significantly tighten air-pollution regulations for the first time under President Trump, notes Axios' Amy Harder.

Driving the news: E&E News, citing 3 sources, is reporting that the agency will announce tighter tailpipe standards for big trucks today. An EPA spokesman didn’t respond to E&E's request for comment.

One level deeper: Tuesday’s announcement is expected to preview an update to rules that set the standards for nitrogen oxides, a pollutant that contributes to smog and poor air quality, E&E reports.

  • State and local air agencies petitioned the EPA to tighten these standards for big trucks, including semis, in 2016.
  • These standards haven’t been updated since 2001.

The big picture: The primary focus of the EPA under Trump has been to unravel a series of significant regulations put in place by then-President Obama.

In most cases, the agency is either working to repeal those rules or replace them with far less stringent versions. This rule is likely to be the exception, not the new norm.

3. Petro-notes: falling prices, Exxon, LNG

State of the market: Per Reuters, "Oil prices fell more than 1 percent on Tuesday, with benchmark Brent crude slipping below $70 per barrel and U.S. crude under $60, after U.S. President Donald Trump put pressure on OPEC not to cut supply to prop up the market."

(Potential) shale deal: A $15 billion shale patch deal may be in the offing, per Bloomberg: "Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. are among the companies considering first-round bids this month for closely held oil producer Endeavor Energy Resources LP, according to people with knowledge of the matter."

LNG: Via CNBC, "The liquefied natural gas (LNG) market has massive potential, leading energy executives said Monday, but warned the commodity is still too expensive for many consumers around the world."

4. Tesla and GM push new EV tax credit

Several automakers are joining with electric vehicle charging companies and others in a new coalition urging Congress to expand availability of $7,500 consumer tax credits for buying EVs.

Why it matters: Rollout of the EV Drive Coalition comes as Tesla, GM and Nissan — who are all members — have hit or are approaching the cap of 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer before the credit drops in value and then phases out.

Details: The group's 15 announced supporters also include...

  • Charging networks ChargePoint and Volta.
  • Electric bus maker Proterra.
  • The Christian Coalition of America.
  • The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

What they're saying: The group's broad-brush proposal calls for lifting the per-manufacturer cap and ensuring that "future caps neither penalize market leaders nor shut out later arrivals to the EV market."

  • The proposal "allows the credit to sunset once the nascent EV industry has had additional time to mature and grow," the group's website states.
5. IEA: Clean energy off-pace for CO2 goals
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Data: International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2018; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

A wider-angle look at the IEA report in case you missed last night's story in the Axios stream ...

Projected growth of renewable power, EVs and other low-carbon sources won't prevent levels of global warming that soar past the targets of the Paris climate agreement, the report finds.

Why it matters: The annual report provides a detailed look at global and regional energy demand growth estimates and the projected resource mix through 2040.

The report looks out to 2040 based on 3 main pathways:

  1. Existing laws and regulatory policies worldwide.
  2. A "new policies" scenario that incorporates countries' announced plans and emissions targets, including national pledges under the Paris deal.
  3. A far more ambitious "sustainable development" scenario aligned with the goals of Paris to keep the temperature rise "well below 2 °C."

By the numbers: Under the "new policies" scenario through 2040, the report projects that...

  • Total global energy demand rises by over one-fourth — with electricity demand specifically rising 60% — despite gains in energy efficiency. Demand growth is driven by rising incomes, urbanization and population growth in developing countries.
  • Renewable electricity grows to 40% of the global power mix, largely driven by solar and wind. Coal's share, meanwhile, declines to roughly a fourth.
  • But the whole energy pie has grown, so total consumption of coal, the most carbon-emitting fossil fuel, remains roughly flat, with "declines in China, Europe and North America offset by rises in India and Southeast Asia."
  • Driven by developing nations, oil demand rises slightly to 106 mbd despite the growth of EVs. Oil demand for trucks, planes, petrochemicals and other sectors makes up for barrels displaced by EVs.
  • "Natural gas overtakes coal in 2030 to become the second-largest fuel in the global energy mix [behind oil]," the report states.

The bottom line: "The New Policies Scenario puts energy-related CO2 emissions on a slow upward trend to 2040, a trajectory far out of step with what scientific knowledge says will be required to tackle climate change," the report states.

But, but, but: IEA crunches the numbers on the climate-friendly scenario.

  • They finds that in terms of total investment needed in coming decades, it would require $68 trillion through 2040 compared to $60 trillion for the "new policies" track.
  • But the allotment of that money is different, with more emphasis on areas including efficient transport and buildings.

Go deeper: The huge report is something of a choose-your-own-adventure, so here are some good angles from other outlets...

6. Solar farms on the farm

Solar photovoltaic panels in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

Caldwell Intellectual Property Law's Maggie Teliska writes for Axios Expert Voices ... Development and deployment of solar farms continue to increase across the U.S., driven by tax incentives, falling costs and renewable energy mandates for electric utilities.

Solar farms are built on farmlands that no longer generate enough revenue or have been abandoned, with some farmers entering into leases of 15–20 years with local utilities and others selling the land directly.

The big picture: Farmers who enter such leases benefit from greater revenue and stable income from rents, while utilities and solar companies benefit from access to cheap land. Although this seems like a win-win for all, some neighbors are getting upset at the change in landscape.

The background: Farmlands offer flat, well-defined properties without the risk of floods, making them well suited to solar farm installations.

  • In Illinois, the Future Energy Jobs Act set targets for the state to get 25% of its electricity from renewables by 2025.
  • This has spurred a great deal of interest from private developers both in and out of state.

Yes, but: Residents and landowners around these planned solar farms are expressing concerns.

  • In addition to being unsure about the benefits and long-term impacts, they're worried about the lengthy construction timeframes — some projects will take years to complete — and the reduction in property values that may result in the surrounding land. (Solar farms are not generally considered aesthetically pleasing.)

Similar disputes are occurring in North Carolina and Florida. And in New York, residents are complaining about out-of-state companies applying for permits without the landowners' consent, forcing the state to require that developers show landowner consent as part of the project review.

What’s next: Local zoning and planning boards will typically hear concerns and develop ordinances to establish rules for site acquisition and construction, though it's unlikely they'll be able to satisfy all parties. But despite setbacks and delays, the environmental and financial benefits of solar on U.S. farmlands will most likely lead to more developments.

Ben GemanAmy Harder