Welcome back! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,271 words, < 5 minutes.
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🎵 And we're three days from the 1994 release date of the Beastie Boys album "Ill Communication," which provides today's intro tune...
The COVID-19 pandemic is slowing growth of wind and solar electricity projects, but the renewables sector is "more resilient than other fuels" and slated to bounce back quickly, the International Energy Agency said.
Why it matters: It's on track to be the first year-over-year decline in 20 years, IEA said in a report that offers their downward revision in expected 2020–2021 capacity growth.
It's something of a glass half-full for people fearful that the crisis will hinder efforts to fight climate change.
Driving the news: "The decline reflects delays in construction activity due to supply chain disruption, lockdown measures and social-distancing guidelines, and emerging financing challenges," the report states.
One level deeper: Solar photovoltaics and wind are expected to provide the vast majority of global capacity additions this year, but their growth is forecast to be respectively 18% and 12% lower than last year.
Of note: IEA actually sees renewable power generation growing a bit this year despite pandemic-related declines in overall power demand.
Pandemic-related lockdowns cut global CO2 emissions by 17% in early April compared to average 2019 levels as the crisis "drastically altered patterns of energy demand around the world," a new study concludes.
Why it matters: The paper in Nature Climate Change provides a fine-grain look at the unprecedented drop-off, which saw average peak declines of 26% in individual countries, and a broad look at the immense difficulty of achieving sustained cuts.
What's new: It's the "first-ever attempt to quantify CO2 emissions on a daily basis, for the world and for 69 individual countries, in close to real time," Carbon Brief reports.
What they found: The peer-reviewed study is roughly in line with prior estimates about the expected annual emissions decline, which the authors project will be in the 4.2%–7.5% range (although there's a much wider band of uncertainty).
The big picture: The study underscores how the world is nowhere near on track to achieve the most ambitious goal of the Paris climate deal.
Why you'll hear about this again: The analysis illustrates how major policy shifts — not lockdowns occurring for tragic and scary reasons — are needed to drive sustained future cuts.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Google says it will no longer develop new artificial intelligence tools to help oil and gas companies extract crude, Axios' Orion Rummler reports.
Why it matters: The tech giant is breaking away from Microsoft and Amazon, both of which have also developed AI in recent years to expedite oil production and make services more efficient for companies like Chevron and GE Oil & Gas.
What they're saying: Google Cloud "will not, for instance, build custom AI/ML algorithms to facilitate upstream extraction in the oil and gas industry," a Google spokesperson told Axios on Tuesday. OneZero first reported the move.
Of note: Google's announcement dropped alongside a Greenpeace report released Tuesday that detailed cloud computing and AI contracts that Google, Microsoft and Amazon have with oil companies.
Between the lines: Microsoft and Amazon have said that working with the oil industry isn’t at odds with their climate commitments. In some cases, they're working with Big Oil on clean energy plans — like BP giving AWS renewable power.
What we're watching, via Amy: It's too soon to tell whether Google proves to be an outlier, but one thing is clear — environmentalists will boost pressure on other tech giants and companies in other sectors to cut ties with the oil industry.
The history of low oil prices juicing the U.S. economy was broken during the pandemic-fueled price collapse, Dallas Fed economists argue in a new commentary.
Why it matters: "[O]n balance this oil price decline has weakened rather than strengthened the U.S. economy, making this event different from past episodes of falling oil prices," they write.
What they found: Normally, low gasoline prices stimulate help the economy because people have more money to spend on other things, while high prices act as drag on growth.
The big picture: These tragically strange circumstances followed more structural changes over the last decade as U.S. production soared and petroleum imports declined.
The bottom line: "In the current environment, the sharp reduction in capital expenditures by oil companies explains why this oil price decline, on balance, actually hurt U.S. investment spending — and hence, economic growth — not only in oil-producing regions, but overall."
Tesla: "California Gov. Gavin Newsom told CNBC on Tuesday that he is 'not worried' about Tesla CEO Elon Musk moving the company’s operations out of the state." (CNBC)
Technology: "General Motors Co. is 'almost there' on developing an electric vehicle battery that will last one million miles, a top executive said on Tuesday." (Reuters)
Manufacturing: "The prospect of the first gigafactory in Britain has moved closer after two battery startups signed a deal to work together, while considering an initial public offering to fund their multibillion-pound initiative." (Financial Times)
"This is the global awakening of, 'We’ve been making it way more complicated to work than it has to be.'"
Who said it: Darren Murph, head of remote work at GitLab, the world's largest all-remote company, in an interview with Axios' Erica Pandey.
The context: He's discussing big companies' moves to allow permanent telework even after stay-at-home restrictions end.
Why it matters: The stickiness of remote work is among the many forces that will influence the post-pandemic future of oil consumption.
Check out Erica's weekly newsletter, Axios @Work, here.