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Data: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Chart: Axios Visuals

2021 can't be worse for oil companies than 2020, but wow is that a low bar, and a new survey shows that executives see a mixed picture ahead.

Driving the news: U.S. prices hit their highest levels since February early today before receding.

  • But, zooming out to global production, Reuters reports most "OPEC+ countries would like to postpone a planned increase in oil output from February due to weakening fuel demand amid new global lockdowns to stop the spread of the coronavirus, three OPEC+ sources said on Monday."

The big picture: A Dallas Fed survey of companies in the heart of the U.S. oil patch finds that activity "jumped" in the year's final quarter. The poll of companies in the district, which includes the prolific Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, also finds...

  • Employment continued to decline in Q4, though layoffs "abated somewhat."
  • Half the nearly 150 companies (a mix of producers and oilfield service contractors) plan to keep their belts tight after 2020's cutbacks.

Why it matters: The surveys provide a window onto how many companies see the near- to medium-term future after COVID-19 caused a historic collapse in demand and prices.

What's next: 2020 saw a wave of consolidation and bankruptcies, and not everyone thinks they'll be left standing at the end of 2022. The survey asked executives how many of the country's 60 publicly listed independent producers they think will remain by then...

  • 47% think that between 37 and 48 will be left standing.
  • 24% think it'll be between 25 and 26, while another quarter think more than 49 will survive.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden to sign major climate orders, setting up clash with oil industry

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden will sign new executive actions today that provide the clearest signs yet of his climate plans — elevating the issue to a national security priority and kicking off an intense battle with the oil industry.

Driving the news: One move will freeze issuance of new oil-and-gas leases on public lands and waters "to the extent possible," per a White House summary.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.