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The end of the ICE age: Eyeing the demise of gas-powered cars

Gasoline-powered carsmay be going the way of the woolly mammoth, even if it will take decades to replace them and seems hard to fathom today.

The big picture: Internal combustion engines (ICEs) have powered automobiles for more than 100 years. But the shift to electric vehicles, slow to materialize at first, is now accelerating due to tightening government policies, falling costs and a societal reckoning about climate change.

Driving the news: California said this week it plans to phase out sales of conventional new cars by 2035 in favor of zero-emission vehicles that run on electricity.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order no doubt faces a giant legal fight and could depend heavily on the election outcome and the shape of the Supreme Court, Axios' Ben Geman explains.
  • The rest of the world is far ahead, with at least 15 countries already banning new gasoline cars and others adopting strict policies to spur EV adoption.
  • “Europe and China have woken up to the fact that [the combustion engine] is dead,” Arndt Ellinghorst, automotive analyst at Bernstein Research, told the Wall Street Journal. “Now, it looks like the U.S. is waking up.”

Automakers are already pivoting, investing some $200 billion on EV technology over the next five years, per AlixPartners.

  • “We have to realistically believe that around 2035 there will be a serious discussion about banning the internal combustion engine, and not just in California,” Volvo Cars CEO Håkan Samuelsson told the Journal.

Why it matters: Climate change is here and eliminating emissions from cars and trucks is front and center in efforts to curb CO2 emissions.

  • Urban planners aim to redesign cities around people, not automobiles, by investing in walkable neighborhoods instead of suburban freeways.
  • Until that happens, people will keep driving, warns Brookings fellow Adie Tomer.
  • "Metropolitan America is stuck with driving for the time being so we have to electrify the fleet immediately," he told Axios.

Where it stands: Fewer than 2% of U.S. cars today are electric (and barely 6% in California).

  • Even if every state followed California's lead by 2035, it would be decades before all gasoline vehicles disappeared from American roads.
  • BloombergNEF sees EVs growing to 58% of new car sales worldwide by 2040, but still only 31% of all cars on the road.

Even so, investors are already amped up: Stocks of EV and renewable energy companies have been soaring, even those that haven't yet produced any vehicles.

  • Shares in little-known SPI Energy jumped by as much as 4,000% Wednesday after the company announced it was getting into the EV business.

Yes, but: There are serious hurdles that must be overcome before EVs are affordable and convenient for everyone, including lower-cost batteries and more widely accessible charging infrastructure.

What to watch: Tesla this week laid out a road map for cheaper batteries with higher energy density and the goal of selling a $25,000 EV. But CEO Elon Musk acknowledged that milestone is still a few years off.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen thinks it has the right formula with its new ID.4, unveiled this week.

  • VW is offering three years of free charging and an attractive price — $39,995— on the ID.4, which is aimed at the heart of the compact SUV market.
  • With a $7,500 federal tax credit and potentially thousands more in state tax rebates, the ID.4 could well undercut gas- and hybrid-powered competitors like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

Trump applies extreme pressure on Bill Barr to release so-called Durham Report

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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CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.

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Obama: Broad slogans like "defund the police" lose people

Former President Barack Obama told Peter Hamby on the Snapchat original political show "Good Luck America" that "snappy" slogans such as "defund the police" can alienate people, making the statements less effective than intended.

What he's saying: "You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you're actually going to get the changes you want done," Obama told Hamby in an interview that will air Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. EST on Snapchat.

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Nasdaq's ultimatum to America's most powerful corporations

New diversity and inclusion rules are on the table for some of America's most powerful corporations, courtesy of one of its most powerful stock exchanges.

What's new: Nasdaq is threatening to delist companies that won't move toward having at least one woman and at least one underrepresented minority of LGBTQ person on their corporate boards.

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Latinos make up nearly 18% of the U.S. labor force but occupy just 4% of executive roles

Latino professionals have the widest gap between representation in the labor force and executive positions — bigger than that of any other minority group.

Why it matters: Latinos will make up a quarter of the U.S. population by 2050, and scores of U.S. firms profit off of Latino consumers, but this group is absent from the business world's highest and most impactful decision-making positions.

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Salesforce will buy Slack for $28 billion

Salesforce on Tuesday afternoon said it will pay $27.7 billion in cash and stock to buy workplace collaboration platform Slack.

Why it matters: This is the largest software merger since IBM agreed to buy Red Hat in late 2018, and creates a cloud giant that can better compete with Microsoft.

Go deeper: Salesforce rolls the dice on Slack

McConnell circulates revised GOP coronavirus stimulus plan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell circulated a new framework for coronavirus stimulus legislation to Republican members on Tuesday that would establish a fresh round of funding for the small business Paycheck Protection Program and implement widespread liability protections, according to a copy of the plan obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: The revised GOP relief draft comes after McConnell's meeting with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, during which they went over in detail what provisions would get backing from President Trump.

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