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...

The Utility Death Spiral: Beyond The Rhetoric

by Lynne Kiesling Unless you follow the electricity industry you may not be aware of the past year’s discussion of the impending “utility death spiral”, ably summarized in this Clean Energy Group post: There have been several reports out recently predicting that solar + storage systems will soon reach cost parity with grid-purchased electricity, thus presenting the first serious challenge to the centralized utility model. Customers, the theory goes, will soon be able to cut the cord that has bound them to traditional utilities, opting instead to self-generate using cheap PV, with batteries to regulate the intermittent...

Is The Big Win For The Liberals In Canada Also A Big Win For...

Jim Lane Liberals sweep to victory in Canada; Trudeau to become Prime Minister, pledging sharp increases in infrastructure investment and a renewed focus on clean technology. In Canada, the Liberal party, under the leadership of 43-year old Justin Trudeau, swept to victory in the Canadian federal elections. As of 6am Eastern time, the Liberals have won 184 seats 14 seats more than needed to form a majority government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party won in 99 ridings, a loss of 60 seats, while the New Democratic Party has reeled in 44 seats, a...

What’s In Store For Alternative Energy With Obama’s Cabinet?

As the Obama inauguration nears and his cabinet picks are made public, the impact of his presidency on the alternative energy sector is becoming more tangible. During the campaign, we heard plenty on Barack Obama's views on environmental regulation, climate change and alternative energy. But what about the people who will be advising him day-to-day on these matters, and who will be ambassadors both inside and out of the country for the administration's policies? One thing is for certain: Obama's picks so far for positions with influence on energy and environmental matters mark a clear break from...

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....

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...

Obama’s New Energy and EPA Appointments

Jim Lane   Ernest J. Moniz is the nominee for US Secretary of Energy In Washington, President Barack Obama nominated MIT professor Ernest J. Moniz as US Secretary of Energy, replacing Steven Chu, and nominated Gina McCarthy as EPA Administrator. Moniz is currently serving as the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, as well as the director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) and the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. He was formerly undersecretary of Energy and associate director of the White House office...

Alt Energy & Obama’s Inaugural Address

Most people have probably seen and/or listened to Barack Obama's inaugural speech by now. In the second presidential debate, Obama ranked energy as his top priority (the choices offered by the moderator were: healthcare, entitlement reform and energy). As I pointed out earlier this week, the President picked an inner energy and environment circle that is heavily tilted in one direction: combating climate change and promoting alternative energy. We were thus very interested to see if Obama would place a strong focus on energy issues in his inaugural speech given the precarious economic environment. After all, that...

Obama’s Climate Plan

James Montgomery Yesterday President Obama spoke at Georgetown University about his plans to broadly address climate change. Ahead of his actual talk, the White House released the gist of what he would propose. The EPA, working with states, industry, and other stakeholders, will establish new carbon pollution standards. "Tough new rules" will be established similar to those that exist for toxins like mercury and arsenic. These new rules, as anticipated, will target existing power plants as well as new ones. The federal government will make available up to $8 billion in loan guarantees for "advanced...

350.org’s Smart New Campaign

Garvin Jabusch Many parallels exist between the college campus divestiture campaigns of the 1980s and today. Both were/are seeking to apply intense student and community pressure to persuade boards of trustees to get endowment monies out of investments in businesses or locations perceived as undesirable. In the '80s it was South Africa and Apartheid that students objected to. Back then, one could almost conceive of college students versus a beleaguered South African government as something of a fair fistfight between entities with comparable chances of winning popular opinion and thus investment dollars to their side. And indeed the students...

Why America Must Focus On Domestic Energy Solutions Instead of Imports

John Petersen On September 17th, the White House released a report titled, 100 Recovery Act Projects That Are Changing America. Since the report included eight companies that were awarded a total of $1.1 billion in ARRA battery manufacturing and vehicle electrification grants in August 2009, I created the following table to summarize the first tier job creation impact. As I pondered over the relatively high cost per first tier manufacturing job, I decided it might be better to look at the overall value chain including second tier job creation impacts (new jobs in companies that...

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...

Renewable Energy Standards: Savvy or Silly?

David Gold State renewable energy standards have gained momentum over the past decade with 29 states having put in place various types of standard mandates and five more having implemented voluntary standards (34 total).  Now the federal government is looking to get into the game with a bi-partisan bill (S. 3813) aiming to set a minimum national standard. Renewable energy standards certainly feel good, but do they really provide the best path for achieving their goals?  The existing renewable energy standards are savvy in finding a way to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions while simultaneously being...

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...

Election Does Not Spell Cleantech Doom

With the recent “shellacking” (as President Obama referred to the election results) of the Democratically controlled Congress, much of the buzz in the cleantech space has been doom and gloom.  Is cleantech doomed to a new dark age?  I do not believe so. Energy policy is one area where there is an overlap of goals between the parties.  Members of both parties largely agree that energy is critical to our economic and national security.  And most Republicans do not dismiss out of hand the risks of global warming. I suspect that energy policy will be...