May 3, 2019

Axios Generate

Happy Friday!

Just over 35 years ago (in mid-March, but I didn't get the communique), the great Dire Straits released the live album "Alchemy."

So one of those tracks takes us into the weekend...

1 big thing: Jay Inslee's energy plan
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democratic White House hopeful Jay Inslee unveiled a plan this morning that requires all U.S. electricity to be "carbon-neutral" by 2030 and mandates all new car and light truck sales to be zero-emissions vehicles by the same date.

  • The plan also calls for all new residential and commercial buildings to be zero-carbon by 2030. Power, transportation and buildings together account for roughly 70% of U.S. emissions, it notes.

Why it matters: It's the first detailed policy plank from Inslee, the Washington State governor running on the untested theory that a campaign devoted to fighting global warming can gain traction in national politics.

But, but, but: Big portions of the proposal would require legislation, including new mandates, investments and tax credits, clouding its prospects.

  • Inslee has been outspoken in calling on Democrats to kill filibuster rules if they regain the Senate.
  • But it also notes that much can be carried out with executive power. (Think stuff like tougher Clean Air Act rules and stronger appliance efficiency rules.)

The big picture: Inslee's overall goal is for the U.S. to have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions "as fast as possible" but no later than 2045, while cutting emissions in half by 2030.

  • Friday's proposal will be followed by subsequent plans for sectors including agriculture and industry, as well as details on investment policies, an aide said.
  • Other planks will address working with communities of color, providing a "just transition" for workers, ending fossil fuel tax incentives, and more.
  • The intrigue: Inslee's campaign has not taken carbon pricing off the table, but it's not part of today's rollout.

Between the lines: The former congressman has been working on energy and climate for decades.

  • But the proposal also has language that echoes the Green New Deal in calling for a "10 year mobilization" even as it touts Inslee's work as governor.

Thought bubble: Yes, yes, it's early days, but I'll be watching to see if Inslee, who is far down in the polls, can seize on voters' interest in climate change that's been apparent in some recent surveys.

  • A CNN poll Tuesday showed that 96% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say it's very or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to promise aggressive action on climate change.
  • The poll's sample was small so the margin of error was large, but that said it clearly showed climate among the topics that Democrats care most about, noted Axios' David Nather's story on the poll.
Bonus: A little more on Inslee's big reveal

Here's just a few snapshots of how the wide-ranging proposal addresses different sectors...

For power, it calls for a national "Clean Electricity Standard" that would require utilities to provide all "carbon neutral" power by 2030 and completely "clean, renewable and zero-emissions" generation by 2035.

  • It effectively seeks to nationalize a version of laws emerging in several states including Washington State.
  • The plan steers clear of mandating technology-specific generation sources, which leaves room for nuclear and carbon-capture alongside renewables.
  • It includes refundable tax credits for not only renewables but also storage, smart grid, transmission and other tech.

For transportation, the plan requires that all new light- and medium-duty vehicles and buses will be zero-emissions by 2030.

  • Why it matters: Transportation is now the largest source of U.S. carbon emissions.
  • It calls for expanded tax credits and a "clean cars for clunkers" program that would provide rebates to help defray the cost for consumers' replacing guzzlers with zero-emissions cars.
  • Other portions include tougher federal emissions regulations, and working with states, local governments, tribes and utilities on a "massive investment" in charging infrastructure.

For buildings, it calls for a Zero-Carbon Building Standard by 2023 and working with cities and states to fold it into their codes. Other provisions include:

  • Using the tax code to incentivize efficiency and electrification in new homes and commercial buildings.
  • "Dramatically" boosting access to federal financing for retrofits and new construction for schools and public buildings.
2. Tesla sees mineral supply risk — eventually


A Tesla official said Thursday that a shortage of key minerals used in electric vehicle batteries could emerge years in the future absent more investment in mining projects, according to reports in Reuters and Bloomberg.

Why it matters: Growing demand for EVs will require higher volumes of lithium, copper (more on that below) and other materials.The topic was discussed at a closed-door meeting in Washington yesterday that included U.S. officials and mining industry, per the outlets.

What they're saying, via Bloomberg...

  • "Prices for some of the minerals, which include graphite, cobalt, lithium and nickel, could increase as a result of the high demand and the limited supply, Tesla global supply manager of battery metals Sarah Maryssael said in a closed-door presentation Thursday confirmed by the company."
  • "Investment is important to ensure there is sufficient supply for the industry to grow, she said."

Copper is a challenge too, explains Reuters:

"The copper industry has suffered from years of underinvestment, and it is now working feverishly to develop new mines and bring fresh supply online as the electrification trend envelops the global economy," they report.

3. Number of the day: 550 million

Speaking of raw materials for low-carbon energy, Axios' Amy Harder has some key numbers:

  • In the last 5,000 years, about 550 million tons of copper have been produced.
  • The world will need about that same amount of copper in the next 25 years to meet global demand for the world’s clean-energy transition.

The context: That stat comes to me from this infographic by the World Bank, which announced Wednesday a new initiative on minerals and clean energy.

Driving the news: The Climate-Smart Mining facility is what the World Bank describes as the first-ever fund dedicated to making mining for minerals that are key to clean energy sustainable — so the process to make clean energy is itself not too dirty.

  • The Bank is targeting a total investment of $50 million, to be deployed over a 5-year timeframe.

Where it stands: Copper is key to the entire clean energy transition because it’s used in so many different technologies: solar and wind are the main users, but copper is also needed for batteries, hydro, geothermal and a couple others, per the Bank.

By the numbers: If the world follows through with the ambitions of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the clean energy transition will significantly increase demand for minerals across the board, per the World Bank.

  • 965% for lithium
  • 383% for graphite
  • 108% for nickel
4. Asian banks back away from new coal plants

Axios Expert Voices contributor Justin Guay writes that in the first four months of 2019, four major financial institutions headquartered in Asia have announced restrictions on the financing of new coal plants — a noteworthy shift within the region.

Why it matters: Until recently, such restrictions came largely from Western financial institutions. But the majority of planned new coal plants are being built in just four Asian countries — China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia — and increasingly underwritten by Asian financial institutions.

Where it stands: More than 100 of the global financial institutions with at least $10 billion in assets under management have announced coal finance restrictions, according to the Institute for Energy Economic and Financial Analysis. These restrictions are gaining new momentum in Asia.

Yes, but: Loopholes remain a problem. The Van Phong plant in Vietnam will still be financed and constructed, and OCBC and DBS will likely finance two other plants in Southeast Asia that would similarly undercut these new policies.

Justin Guay directs global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project and advises the ClimateWorks Foundation.

5. Lightning round: Drilling, Paris vote, batteries

Offshore drilling: The Interior Department yesterday unveiled final rules that scale back some requirements imposed by the Obama administration in response to the 2010 BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • The bottom line: Via Politico, "The new rule, which takes effect in 60 days from Friday, reduces the frequency of tests to key equipment such as blowout preventers, which sit at the wellhead at the ocean floor and are the last-ditch defense against massive gushers."
  • "It also allows drillers to use third-party companies instead of government inspectors to check equipment and gives them more time between inspections, among other things," they report.

Climate change: "The House passed a bill on Thursday that would block President Trump from abandoning the Paris Agreement on climate change and require his administration to devise a plan to cut America’s greenhouse gas emissions," The New York Times reports.

  • Why it matters: The bill has no chance of advancing in the Senate, let alone winning Trump's signature. But the symbolic vote shows how Democrats are emphasizing the topic ahead of the 2020 election cycle.
  • The NYT's Lisa Friedman reports that Democrats hope to isolate Republicans "on an issue they believe is resonating strongly with voters." Three Republicans broke ranks and Democrats in support.

Batteries: The Associated Press reports on a French-German effort to put Europe at the forefront of the battery industry.

  • "French Economy minister Bruno Le Maire said about 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) are to be invested in the Franco-German project, including 1.2 billion euros of public subsidies," they report.