Welcome to 2020! Hope you had a nice holiday. Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,107 words, ~ 4 minutes.
And exactly 25 years ago, TLC was #1 on Billboard's R&B charts (and would soon top the Hot 100) with this slice of brilliance...
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
2020 is shaping up as something of a wildcard for electric vehicle markets as automakers face an uncertain policy landscape.
What's next: The number of models available in the U.S. and worldwide is surging, per BloombergNEF.
Yes, but: Global sales have been slowing in recent months and more headwinds loom. In the U.S., the biggest wildcard is the 2020 election.
The European market looks like a different story, thanks in part to new EU carbon emissions rules for vehicles that take effect this year.
China, the world's largest EV market, slashed subsidies midway through last year, which has badly crimped worldwide sales levels.
The big picture: Data compiled by InsideEVs show that 2019 sales ran ahead of 2018 for the first half of the year, but then started dropping a lot.
The bottom line: "While many are hopeful that EV sales could be poised to rebound in 2020, significant costs associated with buying an EV and limited infrastructure remain a barrier to entry for many," S&P Global Platts president Martin Fraenkel said in a recent note.
I'm sure your inbox is filled to the brim with retrospectives on the 2010s, but wait! There's a good one you may have missed that won't take a decade to read.
The big picture: During our newsletter hiatus, Axios' Amy Harder and Andrew Witherspoon offered a smart, graphics-rich look at how the evolution of U.S. energy systems blew up expectations.
Why it matters: They note that it underscores how change can happen rapidly and unexpectedly. The chart above, based on Energy Information Administration data, shows just one of those cases.
Go deeper: Check out the full piece here, and look for Amy's Harder Line column on the year ahead on Monday.
It's almost time to officially conclude that 2019 was the second-hottest year in temperature records that date back to the 1800s.
Driving the news: "It appears nearly certain (>99% likelihood) that 2019 will conclude as the second-warmest year since measurements began in 1850, behind only the exceptional warmth of 2016," the research group Berkeley Earth confirmed a few days ago.
Why it matters: The comment in their analysis of November's temperatures is the latest evidence of the long-term warming trend that stems from human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.
The big picture: "With the decade coming to a close, [it's] clear that the period from 2010–2019 was the warmest decade the world has seen since records began in the mid-18o0s. It was around 0.19C warmer than the 2000s, and 1.1C warmer than the preindustrial period," Berkeley Earth's Zeke Hausfather tweeted on New Year's Eve.
The latest Energy 360° podcast from the Center for Strategic and International Studies is a nice look at 2019 and what's in store this year in energy and climate.
The big picture: CSIS' Sarah Ladislaw points out 2019 saw a surge in huge, youth-led protests on climate change, yet little by way of major new national commitments at UN meetings in September and last month.
Why it matters: She sees a "fundamental question" in 2020, when nations are slated to make new emissions-cutting pledges under the Paris climate agreement.
"Will that dynamic change? Or are we going to just continue to see additional and stronger protests with not a lot of concrete change in terms of the level of ambition we’re seeing delivered.”— Sarah Ladislaw
A new-ish Dallas Fed report helps explain why oil-and-gas producers in the prolific Permian Basin are flaring — or burning — so much natural gas.
What they're saying: Check out the chart above from their survey of executives with companies active in the region. The absence of pipeline infrastructure to move gas that's a byproduct of oil wells is the most commonly cited reason in the report released a few days ago.
Why it matters: Flaring is on the rise, which creates emissions as companies burn up natural gas at the geographical heart of the nation's oil boom.
What's happening: EIA data last month showed that a record amount of gas was released or burned at oil-and-gas well sites in 2018.
Go deeper: A not-so-good milestone for natural gas
Oil markets: Via Reuters, "Oil prices steadied after early gains on Thursday as signs of improving trade relations between the United States and China which eased demand concerns and rising tensions in the Middle East provided support."
Wildfires: "Australian authorities are racing to evacuate thousands of people stranded in the states of New South Wales and Victoria before high temperatures and strong winds return — with the military helping people escape the deadly wildfires by air and sea," Axios' Rebecca Falconer reports.
Solar power: "Federal officials plan to approve a massive solar farm with energy storage in the desert outside Las Vegas, paving the way for a $1-billion project that will provide electricity to Nevada residents served by billionaire Warren Buffett’s NV Energy," L.A. Times reports.