Nov 27, 2019

Axios Generate

Welcome back readers! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,063 words, a 4-minute read. We'll be off until Monday, so have a great Thanksgiving!

And it's been 50 years since the Rolling Stones released "Let It Bleed," their 3rd-best album that provides today's intro tune...

1 big thing: Climate voters ❤️ Mayor Pete (in new poll)


Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg is ahead among Democratic voters who prioritize climate change, according to a Quinnipiac University nationwide poll taken Nov. 21 – 25.

Why it matters: While all the top-tier candidates have wide-ranging plans, he hasn't emphasized the topic as much Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has the most aggressive proposal.

What they found: Here's what the pollsters reported about Democratic voters and independents who lean that way...

"Climate change is a good issue for Buttigieg as he gets 27 percent of those who say climate change is their most important issue, while [Elizabeth] Warren gets 18 percent, Sanders has 15 percent, and [Joe] Biden receives 13 percent."

But, but, but: The survey of those 574 particular voters has a margin-of-error of ±4.9%, so keep that in mind. (The overall survey was of 1,355 self-identified registered voters.)

Quick take: I know. I know! It's one poll. I haven't had time to explore how much other pollsters have asked this question (that's my next project). With that throat-clearing...

  • Maybe there's no reason to assume that climate-conscious voters are by definition the most lefty voters, or want the most aggressive plan.
  • This could be a side effect of Mayor Pete's overall rise, and it was taken right after the most recent debate (where he brought up climate).
  • A FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll that gauged debate reactions showed Buttigieg gained among voters who list climate as their top issue.
  • But that was part of a wider boost. He also gained among those who prioritize health care, the economy, inequality and discrimination.

Catch up fast: Buttigieg's plan calls for net-zero U.S. emissions by 2050, with interim goals such as requiring new passenger cars to be zero-emissions by 2035. It would also greatly boost R&D funding and put a price on carbon.

The big picture: The poll finds Biden leading as the top choice overall at 24%, followed by Buttigieg at 16%. Warren slid a lot since their last poll to 14% and Sanders was at 13%.

Go deeper: Top 4 Democrats way ahead of 2020 rivals in 2 polls, but Warren slips

2. The electric shakeup comes to Audi

More and more automakers are reckoning with the twin forces of a soft global auto market and the need to position themselves for a more electrified future.

Driving the news: Audi said yesterday it's cutting 9,500 jobs by 2025 as it seeks to boost earnings and navigate the "transformation of the automotive industry towards electric mobility and digitalization."

  • Yes, but: It's also adding 2,000 jobs focused on EVs and digital tech. The Wall Street Journal has more here.

The big picture: Audi is not navigating this bumpy transition alone. For instance...

  • Daimler said this month that it's planning over $1 billion in job cuts over the next three years, citing the costs of moving the company toward a more climate-friendly product line and meeting EU emissions targets.
  • As Axios' Joann Muller noted during GM's recent strike, that dispute was in part a sign of how automakers' traditional business models will have to change.

Speaking of EVs, here are a few other things on my screen...

Ford: "A battery-powered Lincoln SUV, due in mid-2022, will be the first Ford Motor Co vehicle built on a custom electrified chassis that resembles a skateboard, which was developed by Ford-backed startup Rivian," per Reuters.

  • Why it matters: Their reporting is filling in the picture of what specifically will come from the collaboration between the two companies. Ford is investing $500 million in Rivian.

California: "Overall registrations for light duty vehicles (cars, pickup trucks and SUVs) dropped 5.1 percent in California through the first nine months of the year compared to the first three quarters of 2018," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

  • "But electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid sales increased to 7.9 percent in combined market share during that time frame."
3. Holiday chart of the day: fuel costs
Expand chart
Reproduced from Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy; Chart: Axios Visuals

Fuel costs are always front-and-center during holiday travel. AAA reports that nationwide average gasoline prices, at around $2.59/gallon, are roughly where they were during last year's Thanksgiving.

The big picture: Stepping back a bit, the DOE chart above shows how EVs have lower fuel costs on an annual basis.

Why it matters: Those annual costs will get more relevant as the upfront costs of EVs move closer to parity with those with internal combustion engines.

4. Climate change is upending home insurance

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Climate change is making home insurance unavailable or unaffordable in the riskiest areas for hurricanes, wildfires and flooding, Axios' Courtenay Brown reports.

Why it matters: As insurance companies pay record amounts to homeowners who have suffered partial or total losses, they retreat from or raise premiums in places where claims are owed.

What's happening: Company payouts for natural catastrophes in 2017 and 2018 stood at $219 billion, the highest ever for a consecutive two-year period, according to Swiss Re, a company that underwrites risks for home insurance and other policies.

  • Insurers continue to write policies in areas prone to disaster, but tend to hike monthly premiums to offset the cost.
  • Every state saw annual premiums rise between 2007 and 2016.

Yes, but: The rise masks that insurers are limiting coverage in areas deemed too risky.

  • The 2018 Camp Fire in northern California was the most destructive in terms of property damage in the state's history.
  • Insured losses topped $13 billion last year, according to the California Department of Insurance (CDOI).

Fearing bigger losses, insurers are pulling back from high-risk areas in California, leaving homeowners scrambling.

  • In the last three years, the counties at greatest risk for wildfires saw the number of new and renewed homeowners’ insurance policies fall by 8,700, per CDOI.

In Florida, homeowners have seen insurance costs rise in areas considered more at-risk by insurers.

Keep reading

5. Catch up fast: OPEC, Aramco, renewables, Bloomberg

Crude oil: Via CNBC, "OPEC and Russia are likely to extend their oil production deal at least through midyear, but if they were to cut more output, as some speculate, it would blindside what has become a complacent market, analysts said."

Aramco IPO: Bloomberg reports that "Abu Dhabi is planning to put as much as $1.5 billion into Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering, as the oil giant taps friendly neighbors to prop up a deal that’s so far failed to draw foreign investors, people with knowledge of the matter said."

Renewables: Per Greentech Media, "European utility giant Enel has committed half of its total investment over the next few years to decarbonization, part of a new strategic plan revealed on Tuesday."

Politics: The publication Earther digs into Mike Bloomberg's online strategy to reach voters interested in climate change.

  • "Data provided to Earther by an SEO professional who asked to remain anonymous shows that Bloomberg is targeting more than 840 search terms that specifically reference climate with hundreds more that reference climate-adjacent terms," they report.