Jan 2, 2019

Trump's uphill push for "energy dominance"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Almost two years into his push to unwind Obama-era energy regulations, President Trump's attempt to help the coal industry faces an uphill climb, while separate market forces may ultimately limit his moves to expand the oil boom into new regions.

Where it stands: When it comes to one of Trump's biggest energy pledges — to end what he and other Obama critics called the "war on coal" — the president hasn't turned the tide. The most recent Energy Information Administration forecast shows coal's share of electric power sliding down again to 26% next year, compared to 28% in 2018. The same analysis sees U.S. coal production falling another 3% in 2019.

But, but, but: The sweeping effort to remake regulations — which spans dozens of rules — will have consequences beyond the most high-profile fights.

The odds: It's unlikely the power industry's calculus will be altered greatly once revisions to various pollution rules are complete, although decisions about whether to keep some specific plants running could very well change.

  • "Outcomes in the electricity sector are just dominated by facts on the ground," notes Dallas Burtraw of the nonpartisan think tank Resources for the Future.
  • Burtraw points out that abundant natural gas, as well as renewables, are pushing coal aside.

When it comes to oil and natural gas, the domestic boom that began around a decade ago has continued under Trump, with U.S. oil production now far above record levels at roughly 11.5 million barrels per day.

  • Yet not much of that stems from unwinding Obama-era protections.

Reality check: It's true that the Interior Department is offering more leases on public lands in western states, and the number of drilling permits approved and producing leases has ticked up.

  • But thus far, a limited amount of the production surge is related to speeding up permitting where access is already allowed, much less efforts to expand access to Arctic and Atlantic Coast regions, which remain a work in progress.
  • Instead, the boom remains concentrated in shale regions — most notably Texas — seeing a years-long surge concentrated on state and private lands.

What's next: Several of the biggest moves are at the midway point of the bureaucratic process or tied up in court, so the ultimate result won't be known for years.

Go deeper: Trump team acts to weaken Obama-era coal emission rules

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Coronavirus breaks the telecom bundle

Reproduced from Park Associates "Broadband Services in the U.S." report; Note: 2019 survey was conducted in Q3, with 10,059 respondents and a ±1% margin of error; Chart: Axios Visuals

Consumers are adopting stand-alone broadband services at a much higher rate than just two years ago, and analysts predict that the economic downturn prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak will accelerate the trend.

Why it matters: With a recession looming, consumers may look to cut pay TV service in favor of more robust standalone internet packages once they're free to leave their homes.

America's funeral homes buckle under the coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Morgues, funeral homes and cemeteries in hot spots across America cannot keep up with the staggering death toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The U.S. has seen more than 10,000 deaths from the virus, and at least tens of thousands more lives are projected to be lost. The numbers are creating unprecedented bottlenecks in the funeral industry — and social distancing is changing the way the families say goodbye to their loved ones.

Navarro memos warning of mass coronavirus death circulated in January

Image from a memo to President Trump

In late January, President Trump's economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios.

The state of play: By late February, Navarro was even more alarmed, and he warned his colleagues, in another memo, that up to two million Americans could die of the virus.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health