Susan Walsh / AP; Gobierno Aguascalientes, Heisenberg Media; Cancillería del Ecuador / Flickr cc

The mammoth CERAWeek industry conference is really concentric circles of events. Daniel Yergin chats onstage with heads of the world's most powerful oil companies, government ministers, the OPEC chief and more. Behind the scenes, there's all kinds of exclusive, invite-only events and parties, dealmaking, and candid sideline chatter. A few things and themes I'm watching...

Peter Thiel: The billionaire tech entrepreneur who bucked much of Silicon Valley and backed the Trump campaign speaks Tuesday night.

Russia and Exxon: Energy Minister Alexander Novak will be onstage for the opening plenary session at 1:35 pm Monday, an address that arrives amid intense focus — to put it mildly — on the Trump administration's relationship with Putin's regime. The next big name onstage a half-hour later? Exxon CEO Darren Woods, whose company would benefit if sanctions against Russia are lifted.

OPEC and shale: U.S. shale oil producers are increasing output and adding rigs now that prices have climbed back after the down cycle. But the sensitive markets will be looking for signs of whether the production cutting deal struck by OPEC and some other countries, including Russia, late year will be renewed when OPEC meets this spring. OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo speaks Tuesday.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt: The new EPA chief, an ally of fossil fuel companies, is a late add to the conference schedule. He speaks Thursday, and there's a lot to talk about as Trump seeks to decimate EPA's budget and Pruitt begins efforts to unwind Obama's climate change rules.

Climate change: Patricia Espinosa, the top UN climate official, speaks here Monday facing massive uncertainty about whether Trump will yank the U.S. — the world's second largest greenhouse gas emitter — out of the 2015 Paris climate pact. Some powerful oil companies including Exxon back the deal, but whether we'll see real pressure on Trump to stay involved is something to watch. CEOs of BP and Shell and other big companies are speaking this week.

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Updated 18 mins ago - World

China announces retaliatory sanctions on Rubio, Cruz and other U.S. officials

Photos: Graeme Jennings/Pool/Getty Images; Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images

China's Foreign Ministry announced Monday that it's imposing sanctions on Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), along with nine other Americans, per Bloomberg.

Why it matters: It's a direct response to similar actions by the U.S. that included the Trump administration placing sanctions on officials Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam last Friday over Beijing's encroachment of the Asian financial hub's s autonomy.

Biden’s union push could force showdown with Elon Musk

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Joe Biden wants to go big on climate change and big on unions. Elon Musk leads on the former but lags on the latter.

Why it matters: Musk isn’t uniquely averse to unions, but Tesla is considered a leader on the type of new technologies needed to tackle climate change. Musk’s leadership ethos could be in the crosshairs if Biden becomes president and follows through on his campaign vows.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Police and protesters clash in Belarus after "Europe's last dictator" claims election win

Protesters and riot police clash in Minsk, Belarus, on Sunday during a demonstration against President Alexander Lukashenko's claim of a landslide victory. Photo: Misha Friedman/Getty Images)

Riot police clashed with protesters in Belarus overnight after a government exit poll predicted Sunday President Aleksander Lukashenko, an authoritarian who has ruled the Eastern European country since 1994, had overwhelmingly defeated a pro-democracy opposition candidate.

Why it matters: It's a precarious moment for the former Soviet republic, where decades of repression and a complete disregard for the coronavirus pandemic threaten to topple "Europe's last dictator." Rights groups said at least one protester was killed and dozens more wounded in a "police crackdown," per AP.