Welcome back. Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,385 words, 5 minutes.
🎵 And on this date in 1981, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released the album "Hard Promises," so we'll open the edition with a track for our times...
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Here's a wild but no-longer-unthinkable idea: Is it possible that global oil demand will never exceed pre-pandemic levels again?
Why it matters: The timing of peak demand has big implications for carbon emissions, oil-producing nations and the industry.
Driving the news: “Will demand ever go back to where it was? That is hard to say,” Shell CEO Ben van Beurden told Bloomberg late last week. He also said the odds of demand peaking this decade have risen.
Where it stands: Until recently the world used roughly 100 million barrels per day of oil.
What they're saying: BNP Paribas Asset Management analyst Mark Lewis believes 2019 may have been the peak.
Meanwhile, CNN reports that while the consultancy IHS Markit sees demand coming back to 2019 levels by 2022, they've also modeled a scenario in which a second virus wave leads to demand never coming all the way back.
The intrigue: The idea that peak demand just happened is not the mainstream view, though Bloomberg notes a "growing minority" are speculating about it.
What we're watching: How the next round of detailed projections account for the pandemic and its aftershocks.
A scenario in which oil demand never fully recovers, or at least stops growing, would involve pandemic-fueled structural forces pushing in the same direction.
Those forces include...
What they're saying: Veteran oil analyst Amy Myers Jaffe talked about that last point on the latest S&P Global Market Intelligence "Energy Evolution" podcast.
But, but, but: Oil demand is a pretty resilient thing, especially as oil-reliant activity expands in developing nations.
The bottom line: I know this is a lame cliche, but ... stay tuned.
A new working paper finds that trade barriers worldwide are generally lower for carbon-intensive goods than cleaner products, creating a large "implicit subsidy to CO2 emissions."
Why it matters: UC Berkeley economist Joseph Shapiro pegs this "subsidy" at $550 billion to $800 billion annually, making it harder to fight climate change.
How it works: The paper explores tariffs (shown above) and other import penalties on a vast array of goods.
The bottom line: "The resulting change in global CO2 emissions has similar magnitude to the estimated effects of some of the world’s largest actual or proposed climate change policies," Shapiro writes.
Why you'll hear about this again: The EU is planning "carbon border adjustments" to keep domestic industries from being undercut by competitors in nations without climate policies.
The powerful American Petroleum Institute and GOP senators are attacking big banks’ financial restrictions on Arctic oil drilling — and mulling ways to go beyond just verbal pushback.
What they’re saying: “We don’t think it’s appropriate for banks to discriminate against fossil-fuel communities,” API president Mike Sommers tells Axios' Amy Harder.
Why it matters: The growing number of banks vowing not to stake Arctic projects is another hurdle in front of White House plans to enable drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Where it stands: The administration may try to use coronavirus relief policies as leverage to compel major U.S. banks to drop recent restrictions they’ve placed on Arctic oil and gas financing, per Sommers and President Trump himself.
Meanwhile, Politico reports that GOP lawmakers plan to launch a "pressure campaign" against the banks.
Catch up fast: In just the last few months, five out of six of America’s biggest banks have announced new restrictions, Bloomberg reports.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Total, the French multinational oil-and-gas giant, said Tuesday it hopes to reach "net zero" emissions by 2050, joining European peers including Shell and BP in setting ambitious mid-century targets.
Why it matters: Total’s plan includes targets for Scope 3 emissions — that is, emissions from use of its products in the economy that comprise by far the largest share of total CO2 linked to the industry.
The big picture: The plan calls for increasing the amounts of climate-friendly energy in its product mix, including a vow to double the share of its capital spending devoted to low-carbon power to 20% by 2030.
Reality check: Plenty of details remain to be filled in when it comes to how exactly these behemoths will meet these long-term goals and even interim targets.
One level deeper: Shell said when unveiling its plan last month that it would involve working with customers on their emissions-cutting efforts.
Of note: The plan arrived on the same day that Total posted a 35% decline in Q1 profits compared to the same period a year earlier, as low prices bite. CNBC has more.