Monday, June 21, 2021

Notations On Our World (Weekly Edition): Our Weekly "Outsider Wall" On the Week That Was In Our World

It has been quite a week in our World.     We present our Weekly "Outsider Wall" on the Week that was that saw what Iran deemed an Election (and the World thought otherwise--although Syria & Hizballah were one of the first to congratulate the winner), Joe Biden returned from his European Tour after a summit with Vladimir Putin, Nicaragua continued its' path to dictatorship, a new government took charge in Israel, China continued its dominance as it launched its' first crew to its' Space Station, The Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) was affirmed yet again by the US Supreme Court, Afghanistan continued to be even more challenging as the Taliban continue to be dominant,  Juneteeth became the law of the land in America  as the World continues to be as challenging as ever with thoughts courtesy the team at Bloomberg, Washington Times, Haaretz Counterpoint, Late Night with Seth Meyers  & Politico: 


Pennsylvania poised to begin Arizona-style election audit with subpoena power

Pennsylvania poised to begin Arizona-style election audit with subpoena power

Pennsylvania appears to be on the precipice of initiating an Arizona-style audit of the 2020 election.

Read the full story here.

Behind-the-scenes disputes point to trust gap between Biden and 'troublemaker' France

Behind-the-scenes disputes point to trust gap between Biden and 'troublemaker' France

BRUSSELS AND GENEVA — President Joe Biden took office on a mission to rehabilitate the country's ties with Western Europe after the acrimony of former President Donald Trump’s tenure and rally the world’s leading democracies to counter a predatory Chinese Communist regime.

Read the full story here.

How Amy Coney Barrett's vote on Obamacare case proved the Democrats wrong

How Amy Coney Barrett's vote on Obamacare case proved the Democrats wrong

When former President Donald Trump nominated Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court last fall, many Democrats warned she would sink Obamacare.

Read the full story here.


In climate news today...

Akshat Rathi's Net Zero

Increasing pressure on major oil companies has forced many to make promises to reduce the extraction of their main fossil fuel. They also warn that the result may not be a reduction in global emissions.

“Imagine Shell decided to stop selling petrol and diesel today. This would certainly cut Shell’s carbon emissions,” Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden wrote on LinkedIn last week. “But it would not help the world one bit. Demand for fuel would not change. People will fill up their cars and delivery trucks at other service stations.”

It’s not a new argument. Historically, oil demand has only gone up. It’s a trend that the industry has long used to explain why it needs to keep supplying oil even as it transitions to clean energy.

There’s a real risk that the market share ceded by international oil giants such as Shell goes to national oil companies, which are less transparent in reporting emissions and less accountable to private investors. But this time might be different, with a growing number of people convinced that peak oil demand may be in sight.

The business environment also is conducive for cutting emissions. Utilities and automakers are benefiting already from a sustained decline in renewable electricity costs and lithium-ion batteries. Shareholders, like the ones that voted in three climate-minded directors at Exxon Mobil Corp., and courts, like the Dutch one that ordered Royal Dutch Shell Plc to cut emissions 45% this decade, are taking the view that oil and gas companies need to clean up their act to improve profitability and help the world meet climate goals.

That’s why oil companies are taking their argument one step further. “We need to work together, with society, governments and our customers to achieve real, meaningful change in the worldwide energy system,” van Beurden wrote. “And this change must address the demand for carbon-based energy, not just its supply.”

So what can an oil company do to reduce the demand for oil? They have at least three levers: invest in clean technologies, move into clean-energy businesses and lobby for climate policies.

As a share of revenues, the energy industry spends some of the least money on research and development, according to PwC. What’s worrying is that even government spending on energy R&D has not increased substantially, International Energy Agency data shows. Providing funds to speed up innovation could accelerate the energy transition.

Oil companies also can invest in clean-energy businesses, such as renewable electricity generation and distribution, electric-vehicle charging, sustainable aviation fuels, low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.

It’s not a straightforward switch. Take the explosion of electric vehicles, for example. Oil companies ideally would like to make up for the revenue lost from selling gasoline to internal-combustion engine cars by powering EVs instead. The trouble is that fast-charging networks are likely to be responsible for less than half the energy EVs need, according to BloombergNEF’s estimates. Also, because EVs are highly efficient, they need less than half the energy to travel the same number of miles as an ICE car. And the profit margins on electricity are typically smaller than those on fuels, according to BNEF’s Ryan Fisher. That means oil companies are likely to end up supplying less energy per EV and make lower profits on the energy they do supply.

The math may be discouraging, but it’s not all bad. Oil companies that get into EV charging early could end up enjoying a larger share of the market than they did serving fuel to ICE cars. Similar calculations can be made for renewable electricity, which can replace gas power plants, and sustainable aviation fuels, which replace conventional fuels.

Crucially, technologies such as low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture offer new streams of revenue. A steelmaker  replacing coal with hydrogen is a potential customer for an oil company. A cement company needing help to transport and bury carbon dioxide is a business opportunity. Yet these industries are nascent or don’t exist yet. That’s where oil companies will have to use their lobbying power to push for policies that will create those businesses, said BNEF’s David Doherty.

The history of major oil companies has shown that they can successfully lobby governments to slow down regulations to cut emissions. It’s not hard to imagine they could do the opposite, says Mark van Baal, who founded the activist-investor group Follow This. “People don’t want fossil fuels,” he said. “People want energy, and increasingly clean energy.”

Akshat Rathi writes the Net Zero newsletter, which examines the world’s race to cut emissions through the lens of business, science, and technology. You can email him with feedback.


DeSantis and Abbott take the lead in battle to inherit Trump's mantle

DeSantis and Abbott take the lead in battle to inherit Trump's mantle

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have both been on a tear lately with new conservative and populist initiatives, creating the impression they may compete for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in the lane dominated for years by former President Donald Trump.

Read the full story here.

Trumpism after Trump

The Donald’s successes and failures leave lessons for his successors.

Read the full story here.

Read more from Opinion

June 18, 2021

Author Headshot

By Ezekiel Kweku

Politics Editor, Opinion

President Biden and Congress moved quickly this week to make June 19 a federal holiday, an action that corrects the absence of a national holiday to commemorate the end of slavery. It nationalizes Juneteenth, a celebration of the news of the Emancipation Proclamation reaching Texas, two and a half years after it was declared. At its heart, Juneteenth is a holiday for Black Texans, which spread to other parts of the country with the Great Migration.

Making Juneteenth a federal holiday effectively makes it everyone’s holiday. For Kevin Young, the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, it is right for all of us, regardless of race, to remember.

“African Americans should not have to bear the burden of this history alone,” Young writes. “Nor should Black achievement be something that only African Americans celebrate.”

But he also argues that the holiday can be good only if it can retain its essential character as a Black holiday: one that is “both serious and playful,” one in which we “cook and laugh while we remember, remaining rooted in tradition while telling the full story of America and Black life in it.”

Kaitlyn Greenidge, an Opinion contributing writer, is more ambivalent about Juneteenth becoming a national holiday. As she points out in her essay today, different parts of the country have their own specific histories of emancipation and their own traditions associated with them. Those histories shouldn’t be forgotten, Greenidge argues, because they “are a reminder that freedom in this country has never meant the same thing to everyone, has definitely never been experienced the same, and has always been conditional.”

Nor should the myriad traditions of emancipation, the source of a “sense of self and solidarity,” be traded for a co-opted and corporatized version of it.

Both Young and Greenidge bring context and nuance to what some are treating as an unambiguous good, a symbol of progress. I hope you get a chance to sit with these essays this weekend, either before or after your cookout.

Things have changed

Mostly for the worse, but a little for the better?

A lot can change in a year. Just take a look at a smattering of headlines from June 17, 2020: 

Here Are the 100 U.S. Cities Where Protesters Were Tear-Gassed

U.S. Stockpile Stuck with 63 Million Doses of Hydroxychloroquine

George Floyd Protests: Who Are Boogaloo Boys, Antifa, and Proud Boys?

Florida, Arizona, and Texas Set Records for New COVID-19 Cases

Polls suggest Joe Biden has a shot at winning Texas. How he fares here could reshape the state’s politics.

In general, I’m pretty bearish on the state of the country, the world, and humanity. Since those headlines were published, we’ve had a huge spike in crime rates, an attempted coup, and an insurrection.

But I’d be lying if I said things hadn’t gotten better in some respects. On June 17, 2020, the U.S. recorded about 71,000 new coronavirus cases (that’s the official count; the real number is probably much higher) and more than 900 deaths. Yesterday, we recorded fewer than 400 deaths and fewer than 13,000 new cases. Both of those numbers are still too high, but the trend is in the right direction.

There are other reasons to feel relieved. The president met with allies and they worked together. He met with Putin and they didn’t work together. Biden lost his temper a little bit at a reporter, and then immediately apologized.

Just because we’re in the darkest timeline doesn’t mean that you can’t sometimes get a glimpse of light.

Glimpse the light

Getting better is hard work—whether it’s losing a few pounds or being more patient with people or being a better citizen. Mostly, I bet on people being too lazy to get better. And usually I’m right. But not always.

Just kidding, I'm always right

To a person, the people who have become members of Bulwark+ are people who are willing to do the hard work that it takes to make the country better. We’ve got to listen to people we disagree with. We’ve got to wrestle with facts we’d rather ignore. We’ve got to work in good faith, even—especially—when others don’t.

Sometimes putting in the work to make the country better isn’t fun. It’s never easy. But take a look at where we were last year, imagine where we could be a year from now, look me in the eye, and try telling me it’s not worth it.

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