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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The oil industry is facing an immense amount of uncertainty, even for a sector that bobs along in the currents of global markets and geopolitics despite its enormous power.

The big picture: As Democrats hold their convention this week, seeking a boost for Joe Biden heading into the heart of the 2020 campaign, the election is unfolding against another huge source of uncertainty for the industry: the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of play: Biden's platform calls for major new restrictions and regulations on oil-and-gas development, as well as steps to greatly speed deployment of electric vehicles and renewables.

  • It's a stark departure from Trump administration practices. And Biden is also hoping to use diplomacy and trade policy to pressure other countries to move faster on climate.
  • Biden's platform would also go much further than anything proposed — let alone implemented — during the Obama years that saw rapid growth of domestic production.
  • “It’s hard to overstate how far Joe Biden’s Democratic party has shifted on fossil fuels, especially natural gas, in just four years,” Robert McNally of the Rapidan Energy Group tells the Financial Times.

COVID-19 and its unknown trajectory create big new question marks around future oil demand for at least three big reasons...

  1. Nobody really knows when the pandemic will be brought under control in the U.S. or worldwide, and vaccine timing and distribution are mysteries too.
  2. The long-term stickiness of pandemic behaviors, especially working from home, is unclear as well.
  3. How much governments worldwide use economic recovery packages to invest in low-carbon energy is also an unfolding story.

The intrigue: Some of the world's largest companies like BP and Shell are accelerating their moves to diversify away from their still-dominant fossil fuel businesses and into areas like renewable power and EV charging.

What we're watching: How much space the prime-time convention speakers — including Biden and VP pick Kamala Harris — devote to their energy agenda.

  • It's an early — and, admittedly, imperfect — hint at how much political capital they might deploy if they win (and if Democrats also gain Senate control).

Go deeper

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The top Republicans who have acknowledged Biden as president-elect

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Some elected Republicans are breaking ranks with President Trump to acknowledge that President-elect Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

Why it matters: The relative sparsity of acknowledgements highlights Trump's lasting power in the GOP, as his campaign moves to file multiple lawsuits alleging voter fraud in key swing states — despite the fact that there have been no credible allegations of any widespread fraud anywhere in the U.S.

Mike Allen, author of AM
7 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Charles Koch's course correction

In his first on-camera interview in four years, Charles Koch told "Axios on HBO" he's disillusioned with the results of his network's massive political spending, but is optimistic about what he believes will be a less divisive strategy.

Why it matters: Koch — chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, which Forbes yesterday designated as America's largest private company — has been the left's favorite face of big-spending political action.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

What overwhelmed hospitals look like

A healthcare professional suits up to enter a COVID-19 patient's room in the ICU at Van Wert County Hospital in Ohio. Photo: Megan Jelinger/AFP

Utah doctors are doing what they say is the equivalent of rationing care. Intensive care beds in Minnesota are nearly full. And the country overall continues to break hospitalization records — all as millions of Americans travel to spend Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Why it matters: America's health care workers are exhausted, and the sickest coronavirus patients aren't receiving the kind of care that could make the difference between living and dying.