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Adapted from IEA; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

SUVs reached a milestone last year, crossing 40% of worldwide new car sales for the first time, according to newly released International Energy Agency data.

Why it matters: The popularity of big, heavy cars and pickups is one challenge around decarbonizing transportation, even as fuel economy improves and electrics gain a beachhead.

  • Transportation is the largest greenhouse gas source in the U.S. and accounts for roughly a fourth of energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide.

The big picture: SUVs' share of new car sales has doubled over the last decade. There are now more than 200 million on the road and they account for 60% of the increase in the worldwide vehicle fleet since 2010, IEA said.

  • The increase in SUVs' market share accounts for 500,000 barrels per day worth of growth in oil demand for passenger vehicles between 2010 and 2019, per IEA.

The intrigue: Their popularity in the U.S. is well-known, but IEA notes that growth markets include China and other places where "SUVs are often considered symbols of wealth and status."

Where it stands: A number of legacy automakers and startups are bringing new electrified SUVs to market in the coming years. That includes GM's upcoming revival of the Hummer, and the startup Rivian's upcoming release of its SUV.

What we're watching: The fate of U.S. fuel economy standards. The Trump administration has substantially weakened Obama-era mandates that run through the mid-2020s.

  • But Wednesday attorneys general from two dozen states sued to thwart the weakened rules.
  • The election will matter too. The court fight will continue past November, and if Joe Biden wins he'll seek to implement much tougher standards.

Go deeper

Amy Harder, author of Generate
Sep 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Natural gas remains the big question in Biden’s climate change plan

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden has the most aggressive climate-change plan in presidential-election history, but he continues to evade the dicey topic of natural gas.

Why it matters: Natural gas, mostly derived from the controversial extraction process called fracking, is filling an increasingly large role in America’s energy system. It’s cleaner than oil and coal, but is still a fossil fuel with heat-trapping emissions.

Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

oving crates outside Rep. Elise Stefanik's old office Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

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