Good morning from nearby San Francisco, where I’m filling in for Ben while also at a conference hosted by The Breakthrough Institute to moderate a panel on carbon capture technologies.
Situational awareness: We have a late send today while we wrap up the latest OPEC news, where ministers agreed in principle to raise production.
U.S. oil production has more than doubled over the last decade, but American drivers haven't always reaped the benefits.
Why it matters: U.S. gasoline prices are priced largely on the global oil market, where America's oil boom has been one of many complex factors affecting prices over the last several years. Casual observers may link our increased oil production with what they pay to fill up their cars' tanks, but they shouldn't, experts say.
"It illustrates how the U.S. is part of a larger global system and how U.S. production levels are only one variable among many that affect the final price of gasoline."— Jonathan Chanis, senior vice president of policy, Securing America's Energy Future
One level deeper: U.S. gasoline prices are perched at the end of a long pendulum of global oil prices swinging back and forth.
Go deeper: Who's to blame for high gasoline prices.
A bipartisan House caucus on climate change has added four new members, bringing its total to 82, nearly 20% of the House of Representatives.
The big picture: The caucus, whose stated mission acknowledges climate change and works to address it, has grown significantly under President Trump, whose administration mostly dismisses climate change as an issue. Of the 82 members, 70 have joined since Trump's election.
Details: It’s a “Noah’s Ark” caucus, meaning members must join in bipartisan pairs. New members, per each lawmaker's office:
Between the lines: Critics say the caucus is mostly an empty effort giving political cover to Republicans without pushing substantive policies. That overlooks a significant, albeit subtle, shift in Washington’s gridlock in this space — the sheer fact Republicans see a need or desire to join an effort supporting, not opposing, climate change. That’s notable given the party as a whole has dismissed or denied outright mainstream climate science for most of the past decade.
What we're hearing: Danny Richter, VP for government affairs at Citizens' Climate Lobby, an advocacy group supporting the caucus, said Republicans are joining the policy group because their constituents are asking them. "It's up to those constituents to help them grab the next rung, which is to sponsor meaningful legislation," Richter said.
Photo: Andy A. Widmer/EyeEm via Getty
Axios' intern Henrietta Reily reports ... As America's power mix undergoes big changes, a new trend is taking off: microgrids.
Why it matters: Microgrids are what their name indicates — small, mostly isolated and equipped with their own power supply. This technology has the potential to make electricity more flexible and resilient, as intermittent renewable energy becomes more widespread and weather becomes more extreme.
What we're hearing: Mike Gravely, a top official at the California Energy Commission, has developed microgrids around the Golden State for more than a decade. He spoke to Axios about where the industry is going.
Three highlights, and click here to go deeper into each:
What's next: Gravely and his team plan to release a report in the coming months that will help other states learn about investing in the structures.
Excess natural gas is burned off in a process known as "flaring." Photo: Robert Daemmrich/ Photography Inc/Corbis/Getty
Axios' science editor Andrew Freedman reports ... A new study out yesterday in the journal Science finds that methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas industry are nearly 60% more than current EPA estimates.
Why it matters: With natural gas now the dominant fuel for generating electricity in the U.S., determining its environmental footprint is crucial. Although burning natural gas for energy emits fewer long-lived greenhouse gases, it does release considerable amounts of methane — a potent, short-lived global warming agent.
The background: During the past decade, as the U.S. energy market has increasingly favored natural gas as a power source over coal — think of the "fracking" boom that transformed the landscape in several states — numerous studies have attempted to estimate its climate change ramifications.
What they found: Using ground-based measurements as well as data gathered from aircraft, researchers found that the current leak rate from oil and gas operations in the U.S. is 2.3%, compared to the EPA's estimate of 1.4%.
The big picture: Methane can have more than 80 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide during the first 20 years after its release, though it declines after that.
Drill down: Read the rest in the Axios stream here.
The Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Amy Harder/Axios
I mentioned at the outset I'm here in California (that's my Golden Gate Bridge running photo above!) to moderate a panel on carbon capture technologies at a conferenced hosted by The Breakthrough Institute.
Driving the news: I asked the five panelists the following question: On a scale of one to 10, 10 being absolutely yes and one being absolutely not, how essential is technology capturing carbon emissions to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to the level scientists say is needed?
The bottom line: The experts generally agreed the technology is proven to work, but political and economic hurdles loom large. One point that kept coming up in the discussion is how carbon can be used as a product so there's an economic incentive to suck it out of the air. "Carbon is the new black," Friedmann said, noting that carbon can be used in fuels, concrete, clothes — even diamonds.
Since the news broke earlier this week that a new political group, Americans for Carbon Dividends, formed to push for a carbon tax, I've gathered more intel on what might be next steps.
Driving the news: Americas for Carbon Dividends, which is backed by energy-industry money and pushed by former Republican lawmakers, is going to lobby Washington to support a carbon tax whose revenue is returned to most Americans in the form of a dividends check.
On the one side: Former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), one of the co-chairs of the group, says he’ll seek meetings with the White House and former colleagues on Capitol Hill, including Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who holds a leadership position in the House.
On the other side: Americans for Tax Reform, an influential conservative group whose pledge of not raising taxes has the support from most congressional Republicans, is planning an off-the-record summit on this topic in Washington this summer for an “invited group of influential college and young political leaders,” according to a spokesman.