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Heisenberg Media / Flickr cc

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a Donald Trump backer and top Silicon Valley confidante, spent about 45 minutes chatting onstage with energy analyst Dan Yergin at a glitzy dinner last night in Houston. Their talk roamed all over the place, but here are some takeaways:

Thiel is still basically a climate skeptic: He has funded alternative energy ventures, but he's tough to pin down on whether he agrees climate change is even a big problem.

  • "I don't know whether I am an extreme skeptic on climate change, but I have my doubts about the extreme way that people try to push it through, and I would say that I would be much more convinced of climate change, of the need to do something, if I thought there was a more open debate in which both sides were given a full hearing."

(By the way, the overwhelming view among scientists is that human activities like burning coal and oil are the primary driver of warming occurring since the mid-20th century.)

He's impressed by fracking: "What's very striking is that on some level I think fracking represents a bigger economic form of progress for our society as a whole than the innovation in Silicon Valley."

Globalization and Trump: The onstage discussion was light on Trump, but Thiel riffed on what he sees as the political forces at play today. "I think the tide on globalization is just going out in a pretty big way," he said, noting trends on immigration policy, trade, and more. Asked if Trump's election was partly a rebellion against globalization, Thiel said he's "definitely inclined to think of it in those terms."

A "bull market in politics" has arrived: Thiel credited a colleague for having that view, and said he's come around to the idea.

  • "I am not sure this is a good thing, but it is a fact that maybe politics is becoming more important and more intense, the range of outcomes is becoming greater."

Go deeper

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 10 mins ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Dominion files $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani

Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines.

Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.