Good morning. Much like the novel coronavirus itself, news seems to be changing at an exponential rate.
My latest column is a little different, putting into broader perspective the issues I cover. I share some news from me that's just one small example of the uncertainty from this crisis: I had put plans in motion in January to move next month to Seattle to broaden my Axios coverage and be closer to my family.
Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,300 words, 5 minutes.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Time is what keeps everything from happening at once, someone wisely said.
Yes, but: In once-in-a-lifetime moments when everything does seem to be happening at once, like what’s unfolding with the cascading coronavirus crisis, time is a ruthless prioritizer.
Between the lines: Peter Atwater, a behavioral economist and an adjunct lecturer at William & Mary, has a framework, called the “Horizon Preference,” for how we perceive the world based on our level of confidence. When confidence is high, we have a “us-everywhere-forever” mindset. When it’s low, it’s “me-here-now.”
“Our fixation on climate change, our eagerness to attack it, was a reflection of extraordinary confidence. I think our attention on climate change is going to move immediately from strategically preventing it to how we deal with its adverse consequences.”— Peter Atwater
Where it stands: Climate change and pandemics are both long-term systemic risks society often ignores, but they have vastly different time frames.
The bottom line: “The kind of broad strategic, generational, really forward, futuristic thinking only occurs at extreme peaks in confidence,” Atwater said. “It could be 20, 30, 50 years before we’re back to that sort of intensity on things like climate change.”
The International Energy Agency is urging governments to weave policies that support climate-friendly energy into their economic responses to the novel coronavirus.
"These stimulus packages offer an excellent opportunity to ensure that the essential task of building a secure and sustainable energy future doesn’t get lost amid the flurry of immediate priorities."— Fatih Birol, executive director, IEA
Why it matters: Birol's LinkedIn post Saturday morning warns that COVID-19 and the associated market tumult will "distract the attention of policy makers, business leaders and investors away from clean energy transitions."
Attempts to grasp how the unfolding tragedy of the coronavirus is affecting oil markets tend to get quickly overtaken by events. But here's a quick stab.
Driving the news: Oil prices are dropping sharply again this morning, with the U.S. benchmark WTI falling into the $29-per-barrel range.
The big picture: Analysts are racing to update their understanding of the magnitude of the collapse in oil demand as COVID-19 paralyzes travel and sharply cuts economic activity. Via Bloomberg...
"The growing fear among many traders is that oil demand, which averaged just over 100 million barrels a day in 2019, may contract by the most ever this year, easily outstripping the loss of almost 1 million barrels a day during the great recession in 2009 and even surpassing the 2.65 million barrels registered in 1980, when the world economy crashed after the second oil crisis."
What they're saying: IHS Markit says U.S. crude oil production could drop by 2 million to 4 million barrels per day over the next 18 months, depending on how things play out.
Why it matters: Their analysis sees potential for a much steeper drop in U.S. production than the Energy Department's most recent projection all of five days ago.
Threat level: If there's a "prolonged demand decline," global oil demand could be 5 million barrels per day lower in 2020 than 2019 on a year-over-year basis, they estimate.
Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Getty Images photos: Ethan Miller and Brian Blanco
There was a lot of confusion last night about whether Joe Biden made a big change in his energy platform during his debate with Bernie Sanders. He didn't.
Driving the news: At one point during his exchange on climate policy with Bernie Sanders, Biden said "no new fracking."
The big picture: Biden's overall plan would go much further than Obama-era policies, but it's also less aggressive in scope and cost than Sanders' $16 trillion Green New Deal proposal.
Go deeper: The energy stakes of Bernie vs. Biden
The first White House coronavirus policy response aimed specifically at the reeling U.S. oil sector may not be a sure thing to occur as President Trump envisions.
Driving the news: Late Friday afternoon Trump said the U.S. would purchase enough crude oil to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve "right up to the top."
Where it stands: The Energy Department said Friday it would "immediately initiate an expedited process" to begin purchasing oil.
But, but, but: The research firm ClearView Energy Partners notes that "funding remains unclear" and sees "political headwinds" in Congress to appropriating new money.
What they're saying: Oil analyst Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Group, tells The Washington Post that buying oil at low prices for the stockpile is a good idea.
Saudi Aramco plans to cut 2020 spending by billions of dollars below last year's levels as the spread of the coronavirus craters global oil consumption and pushes down prices.
Why it matters: Aramco is the world's largest oil-producing company. Sunday's announcement underscores how COVID-19 and the oil market's upheaval is affecting producers worldwide, even as it takes an especially tough toll on U.S. shale producers.
The big picture: The company said capital spending this year would range from $25 billion to $30 billion. That's down from almost $33 billion last year and far below the $35 billion to $40 billion previously envisioned for 2020.