Shifting the Cost of Pollution

by Debra Fiakas CFA The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to review the recently enacted MATS Rule  -  Mercury & Air Toxics Standards that went into effect at the end of 2011.  At least two dozen states and forty utility companies have filed suit against the EPA over the rule, which is intended to cap mercury and other toxic emissions as well as particulates.  The rules particularly impact power plants that use coal-fired boilers to generate electricity.  The EPA provides an interactive map to see where these plants are located.  They are predominantly in the eastern half...

Why We Need More Energy in the Economy But Less in the Atmosphere

Garvin Jabusch Preface: As per my usual, this post is more or less a narrative, and is definitely not math-centric. But, still, nothing quite conveys the stark reality of a thing like its governing equation.  So, two of those found their way in here, but both are short and explained in English. With that, let’s look at why energy is so good. And bad. Any system in nature, including the human economy, is bound by a simple fact: it can only thrive and grow in proportion to the energy inputs it has access to. Energy equals growth. In economic...

Two Numbers: One Matters, the Other Gets All the Attention

Garvin Jabusch This morning, in the realm of those who follow such things, the world became aware of two newsworthy numbers, 69,000 and 400.  The former number is how many jobs were added to the U.S. economy in May according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); the latter is how many parts per million (ppm) in our atmosphere are represented by carbon.  You can guess our opinion: 400 parts per million is a far more significant milestone than the apparent ‘bad news’ of America adding 69,000 more jobs. The jobs number is, at best, banal ephemera....

Tariffs on Chinese Solar Are Bad for Us All

Garvin Jabusch Trade War photo via Bigstock The United States Department of Commerce Thursday, and of all things at the behest of a German-owned company, SolarWorld AG (SRWRF.PK), imposed extreme tariffs on China-made solar panels and modules of between 31% and 250%, making them much less affordable for U.S. consumers. Commerce took the additional extraordinary step of making the tariffs retroactive for 90 days to prevent U.S businesses and homeowners from getting a decent price on the basis that their local...

A Portfolio Risk Wall Street Ignores at Its Peril

Garvin Jabusch At Green Alpha, we believe in investing in the scientifically objective world, and not an ideologically skewed version of it, so I’m often amazed at the attitudes and behavior of many of our colleagues in the financial services industry. For a group that’s supposed to be practicing objectively quantified decision making, finance-types can be remarkably motivated by ideology. Especially where a particular ideology is being promoted by the largest and richest industry in the history of civilization, fossil-fuels, whose representatives will stop at nothing to convince us that their product is safe, causes no warming, and will...

Here comes the sun….not

Marc Gunther   Germany, once the world’s leading market for solar power, is pulling back its subsidies. Q Cells (QCLSF.PK), once the world’s largest solar company, just went bankrupt. This isn’t happy news. If the country that birthed the Green Party cannot sustain its support for solar, what does that tell the rest of us? It should tell us that it’s time (actually way past time) to get serious about energy and climate policy. This week, as I followed the news from Germany, I talked with a couple of energy-policy experts who I respect–Jesse Jenkins of the...

A Cleantech VC Who is Unconvinced of Man-Made Climate Change

David Gold Go ahead call me a hypocrite.  I claim to be a cleantech venture capitalist yet I tell you here and now that I am not convinced of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change (aka global warming).  And I will audaciously tell you that my convictions on climate change in no way run contrary to my strong belief in the need for a cleantech revolution Many supporters of clean technologies make it seem as though anthropogenic climate change is an absolute fact.  To some of them anthropogenic climate change is almost like a religion where any debate...

Overcoming Hurdles to Clean Energy Commercialization

by David L. Levy In the absence of a global framework for regulating emissions, the future of the planet largely rests on choices by private firms and investors regarding which technologies to pursue and commercialize. Despite the mounting evidence of severe climate change, there is a funding crisis for potential solutions. The Department of Energy released data at the beginning of November showing that global emissions of CO2 rose 6% in 2010, despite the ongoing economic recession. This trajectory is higher than the worst case projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in it’s 2007 Fourth...

Trick and Treat: Energy loans under review, as Hallowe’en looms

Jim Lane The Obama Administration got tricked, and handed out some bad energy loan candy. Turns out that the Washington press corps, and House Republicans, were asleep on the job, too. Until the money ran out, that is. We’re not sure if there’s been any more perfect timing for an Obama Administration announcement, than the news that it will start up an investigation of the DOE loan guarantee program just as Hallowe’en weekend got underway. Hallowe’en, is of course, the time of disguise, the celebration of the macabre, and the ghostly return of the...

Obama Cleantech Stimulus: Bad Policy, Bad Politics and Bad for Cleantech

David Gold The Solyndra debacle is no surprise to this cleantech venture capitalist. The inherent conflict between trying to get money out of the U.S. Treasury as quickly as possible to stimulate the economy and, at the same time, have government agencies that are ill-suited at making business decisions do just that was nothing other than a recipe for disaster. Anytime a government program is giving money to the private sector with the intent of getting the money back, the program is doomed to failure.  Bureaucracies, politics and the lack of a profit motive simply...

Occupy Wall Street and the Next Economy: Clamoring for Solutions

Garvin Jabusch The Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS), now in its fourth week, is getting a lot of media attention. Opinions are divided. By and large, conservatives represent the protesters as 'a mob' (a notable exception is former governor of Louisiana and current GOP presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, who said on MSNBC that "politicians need to listen to these young people, it could change America"). Meanwhile, progressives view them as a justifiable, if not inevitable, reaction to the social inequity that results from a system rigged in favor of the ultra-wealthy. In their foundation document, the ...

The Microeconomics of Green Jobs

Tom Konrad Ph.D. CFA Much fuss has been made about green jobs. Do they exist, and are more “brown” jobs displaced for every green one? Given all the political rhetoric, it’s not surprising that there is also considerable confusion about green jobs. There should not be. While pinpointing the actual number of jobs created or destroyed by any particular policy will always be fraught, the underlying microeconomics are rather simple, and understanding those microeconomics can make it clear if a given policy will be a net creator or destroyer of jobs. While there are many considerations that should be...

EVs, Lithium-ion Batteries and Liars Poker

John Petersen Last week I stumbled across a link that led to a 2010 report from the National Research Council titled "Hidden Costs of Energy, Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use." This free 506-page book takes a life-cycle approach – from fuel extraction to energy production, distribution, and use to disposal of waste products – and attempts to quantify the health, climate and other unpriced damages that arise from the use of various energy sources for electricity, transportation and heat. After studying the NRC's discussion of the unpriced health effects, other nonclimate damages and greenhouse gas...

Aggressive New CAFE Standards; The IC Empire Strikes Back

John Petersen Last Friday President Obama and executives from thirteen leading automakers gathered in Washington DC to announce an historic agreement to increase fleet-wide fuel economy standards for new cars and light trucks from 27.5 mpg for the 2011 model year to 54.5 mpg for the 2025 model year. While politicians frequently spin superlatives to describe mediocre results, I believe the President's claim that the accord "represents the single most important step we've ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil" is a refreshing example of political understatement. After three decades of demagoguery, debate,...

Foundations don’t practice what they preach

by Stephen Viederman   Philanthropic foundations are like old-fashioned slot machines. They have one arm and are known for their occasional payout. Although the term “mission-related investing” found its way into the lexicon of philanthropy decades ago, the finance committees of most foundations continue to manage their endowments like investment bankers. Their portfolios give no hint that they are institutions whose purpose is the public benefit. There is a chasm between mission – grantmaking – and investment. The logic of a synergy between the two has yet to take hold. For example, number of reports circulated in the US...

Our Energy Bubble

Tom Konrad CFA Our energy policy looks like a bubble.   Bubbles are a social phenomenon at least as much as they are a financial phenomenon.  At the top of bubbles, participants ignore glaringly obvious risks.  In October 2007, Meredith Whitney pointed out the almost glaringly obvious fact that Citigroup was paying out more in dividends than it was earning in profits (i.e. it was being run like the US government, but without a friendly Federal Reserve to bail it out by printing money.)  She said that Citigroup would need either to raise capital,...