Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Convulsions in global oil markets are creating new wildcards for efforts to rein in carbon dioxide emissions and boost climate-friendly energy.

The state of play: In the abstract, cheaper energy makes cutting consumption more difficult, something to watch if low prices outlast the coronavirus outbreak. Lower revenues could also potentially hinder oil giants' investments in low-carbon tech and startups.

  • This price collapse is coinciding with a public health emergency that's wreaking economic havoc, which could cut nations' bandwidth to focus on the various climate goals set in recent years.
  • The economic fallout is also slashing CO2 emissions over the near-term, but for tragic reasons nobody should want replicated.

But, but, but: There's also reason to think the price crash could be irrelevant or even supportive of clean energy, in part because it's part of a wider economic shock.

  • Consider that it shrinks oil majors' gap between returns on oil production vs. renewable energy projects, which are less lucrative but more stable.
  • On the "irrelevant" side, consider that the relationship between driving levels and gasoline prices in the U.S. is actually not especially strong.
  • Also, lower prices make it easier to reform fossil fuel subsidies, which are quite large globally and climbed in 2016–2018 after years of declines.

What they're saying: The oil price collapse "will definitely put downward pressure on the appetite for a cleaner energy transition," International Energy Agency head Fatih Birol tells the FT.

  • Bloomberg columnist David Fickling calls the effects of the oil crash "nuanced" but adds that overall they're "positive for decarbonization" — and he doesn't think emissions will be set to bounce back again after this downturn the way they have in the past.

Go deeper: OPEC-Russia oil price war escalates as Saudi Aramco announces supply increase

Go deeper

Supreme Court rejects GOP push to cut absentee ballot deadline in N.C.

Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an attempt by conservatives to shorten North Carolina's deadline for mail-in ballots from nine to three days.

The big picture: This is the latest of a series of decisions over mail-in ballot deadlines in various states.

Hurricane Zeta makes landfall on Louisiana coast as Category 2 storm

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Hurricane Zeta made landfall along the southeastern coast of Louisiana as a Category 2 storm on Wednesday, bringing with it "life-threatening storm surge and strong winds," per the National Hurricane Center.

What's happening: The hurricane was producing maximum sustained winds of nearly 110 mph and stronger gusts.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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