πŸ₯ž Good morning! We're no Kansas City-style football dynasty, but we're speedy if any teams come calling β€” today's edition is a quick 1,201 words, 4.5 minutes.

🎢 The new nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame include the amazing Mary J. Blige, who has today's intro tune...

1 big thing: America's air quality "climate penalty"

Estimated days with unhealthy air quality, 2024
Data: First Street Foundation;Β Note: Maximum count of days with unhealthy air quality from anywhere within each county; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

After decades of progress in the U.S. toward cleaner air, climate change-related extreme events and overall trends will cause a steady deterioration through 2054, Andrew writes.

Why it matters: An increase in large wildfires in the West, along with heat waves and drought, are already yielding a growing "climate penalty" to air quality, a new report finds.

  • The effects of this penalty are not evenly distributed around the country, however.

Zoom in: Research from the nonprofit First Street Foundation is part of a hyperlocal air quality model showing shifts down to the property level between 2024 and 2054.

  • Its conclusions flow from methods contained in three peer-reviewed studies published by the coauthors. The report itself is not peer-reviewed, however.
  • The study finds that climate change is increasing the prevalence of two of the air pollutants most harmful to human health: particulate matter, commonly referred to as PM2.5, and tropospheric ozone.
  • PM2.5 are tiny particles emitted by vehicles, power plants and wildfires. They can get lodged in people's lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing or exacerbating numerous health problems.

What they found: Through the use of air quality observations and the development of the new model, First Street's researchers found that the West will be particularly hard hit by increasing amounts of PM2.5 emissions, as wildfires become more frequent and severe.

  • Already in California, the number of "green" and "yellow" days on the air quality index has decreased, with significant upticks in more harmful days.
  • California's number of days with hazardous air quality (maroon) has increased by more than 1,100% since 2000.
  • EPA data shows that in the West more broadly, orange air quality days exploded by as much as 477% between 2000 and 2021.

Of note: The research flags cities like Fresno, Sacramento, San Francisco and Seattle as being poor air quality hot spots related to wildfires and tropospheric ozone pollution.

The intrigue: The population exposed to "dangerous" days on the air quality index is likely to grow to 11.2 million between 2024 and 2054, an increase of about 13%.

  • While the West, particularly Washington, Oregon and California, are projected to see some of the worst air quality impacts, chiefly from wildfire smoke, other parts of the country are also vulnerable from heat-induced jumps in ozone concentrations.

What they're saying: "The climate penalty, associated with the rapidly increasing levels of air pollution, is perhaps the clearest signal we've seen regarding the direct impact climate change is having on our environment," Porter said via email.

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2. πŸ‘€ Solar heavyweight strikes recycling deal

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The big solar manufacturer Qcells just unveiled a deal with Solarcycle to recycle panels from installations that use Qcells products, Ben writes.

Why it matters: It's the "first-of-its-kind partnership between a large solar manufacturer and an advanced solar recycler in the United States," they said.

  • A third of current U.S. residential panels are from Qcells β€” which also serves utility-scale and community markets β€” they said.

State of play: Solarcycle, which operates in Texas and Arizona, extracts aluminum, silver, copper, silicon and more from panels.

  • Some material reenters the solar supply chain but has other uses too, like aluminum alloys in electric vehicles, Solarcycle tells Axios.
  • "We want our solar panels to not only help our customers cut costs and carbon, but also to be a part of building a more sustainable clean energy industry," Qcells sustainability head Kelly Weger said in a statement.

The big picture: Panels last well over two decades. But limited numbers are damaged in manufacturing, installation, or rough weather.

  • Solarcycle CEO Suvi Sharma notes the "law of large numbers" β€” a small percentage of a huge total is still lots to recycle in the near term, in addition to growing end-of-life volumes down the road.
  • There are over a half-billion operating today, with hundreds of millions more in coming years, he said in an interview.

Catch up fast: Qcells is a growing player in the U.S. manufacturing market.

The bottom line: Low-carbon energy and the circular economy are increasingly intertwined.

3. The next big shale merger is here

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

The rapid consolidation of producers in America's most prolific oilfield is rolling on in 2024, Ben writes.

What's new: Diamondback Energy is acquiring privately held Endeavor Energy in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $26 billion, including Endeavor's debt, they said Monday.

  • Together their largely adjacent holdings in Texas will span roughly 840,000 acres and provide around 816,000 barrels of oil-equivalent daily output, they said.
  • They see $550 million in annual synergies.

Why it matters: It's the latest of several massive deals that are bringing more Permian Basin production under a smaller number of giants.

  • The combined firm would be the third largest producer in the Permian, per Reuters.

Catch up fast: Last year brought Exxon's deal for Pioneer Natural Resources in a nearly $65 billion tie-up, while Chevron is snagging Hess in a $60B deal (both including debt).

  • Oh and don't forget smaller (but still very big!) deals, notably Occidental snapping up CrownRock in a $12B union.

State of play: Companies are scrambling to snap up remaining prime acreage.

The WSJ notes: "Endeavor has the largest remaining inventory of top-tier oil acreage of any private Permian company, according to energy-analytics firm Flow Partners."

What we're watching: How the Federal Trade Commission, which has been aggressive under President Biden, views the supermajors' deals individually and all the consolidation in sum.

The bottom line: Very large dominoes have fallen, but there's likely more to come.

4. Bonus petro note: Saudi official explains Aramco's big decision

The Saudi government is finally offering a reason why, exactly, state oil giant Aramco backed off plans to raise its max output capacity to 13 million barrels per day.

What they're saying: Per Bloomberg, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a conference in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia:

  • "We are transitioning and transitioning means that our oil company, which is a hydrocarbons company, now is becoming an energy company, with investments that go into all areas like oil, gas and petrochemicals and others."

5. πŸƒπŸ½β€β™€οΈ Catch up fast on policy: Heat, FERC, China, minerals

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

πŸ₯΅ Attorneys general from 10 states and D.C. are petitioning the Labor Department for an "emergency temporary standard" to protect farm and construction workers, Ben writes.

  • State of play: They're also urging Congress to mandate permanent rules to protect outdoor workers and seeking White House support for both avenues.
  • Why it matters: Global warming is bringing higher average temperatures and more heat extremes, which imperils workers in multiple industries.

⚑ President Biden officially named Willie Phillips chairman of the powerful Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a role he's held on an acting basis for the past year.

  • Meanwhile: Politico reports commissioner Allison Clements, another Democratic appointee, will leave FERC.
  • Why it matters: Depending on timing, it might leave FERC without a quorum, which could "potentially shut down one of the White House's best avenues to push its green policies," the site reports.

πŸ”‹ Reuters reports that Duke Energy, facing Capitol Hill pressure, will decommission batteries from China's Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL) at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base, and "phase out CATL products" elsewhere.

6. 🏈 One fun thing: Super Bowl climate memes

Image via X

The instant meme-ification of a signature Super Bowl moment didn't spare climate and weather, Ben writes.

Readers: Please let us know of anything good that we missed!

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πŸ™ Thanks to Chris Speckhard and Javier E. David for edits to today's edition, along with the brilliant Axios Visuals team.