Business & Technology

Hurricane Wall Street, part II

Still trying to make environmental sense of the massive bailout now underway

I like to think of myself as a reasonably cynical person, at least in matters of finance. When I started reporting on Mexico’s markets in 1998, Russia had just defaulted in billions of debt. Russia and Mexico had virtually no direct financial or trade relationship, yet large investors punished Mexico anyway. (To be fair, Mexico still hadn’t recovered from its own financial meltdown of a few years before.) The peso plunged against the dollar, sparking something close to hyper inflation. I watched in awe as working people’s real wages — my own included, since I was paid in pesos — …

Immelt: yay RPS!

I’m on a conference call, listening to Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, chat with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, about energy. I don’t have a recording, but I tell you, Immelt sounds more and more like a standard greenie — he’s stumping for a national RPS, 10-year extension of renewable tax credits, and a price on carbon. And he keeps insisting that it’s not particularly political. “Energy is easy,” he says. Then again, Al Gore (who apparently is also in the room) asked him directly about what’s blocking this stuff in Congress, and he basically dodged. “Partisanship,” blah blah. There’s …

Financial crisis, meet climate crisis

Will New York Gov. Paterson gut the regional northeastern-state carbon cap?

New York State relies heavily on Wall Street as an economic engine. With the financial-services industry in its deepest funk since the Great Depression, New York politicians are extremely skittish about the state’s economic prospects. That’s why Gov. David Paterson has been scrambling to help prop up AIG, the wobbly New York-based insurance behemoth. And that’s not all he’s doing in response to a possible economic slump for his state. According to The Daily Green, the governor is also prepared to gut the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an alliance among ten northeastern states to cap carbon emissions. The RGGI (known …

Student activist gets Phoenix buzzing with green biz expo

Chris Samila Age: 23 School: Arizona State University Sometimes people do things because they don’t realize they can’t. If this makes no sense to you, you haven’t met Chris Samila, a (permanent, as he jokingly puts it) senior at Arizona State University in Tempe, where he had some epiphanies, founded a business (Green Summit Inc.), and somehow managed to pull off a wildly successful green business expo on campus. With no experience. And no real cash. And about five volunteers. “We had no idea what we were doing,” Samila says. “There were so many nights where I was like, ‘Oh …

'A bit anarchic'

Lehman quietly shuts down its carbon-trading desk

I have no idea how to parse the long-term implications of this: Lehman Brothers shut down its carbon emissions trading desk after the bank filed for bankruptcy protection, a source close to the company told Reuters on Monday. The "source close to the company" declared the sudden stoppage "a bit anarchic." I agree! Lehman had announced that it would keep all operations going as it went through bankruptcy. Guess not. Any comment on this development, Adam Stein?

GM unveils Chevy Volt ‘production model’ at 100th birthday celebration

Chevy Volt. Photo: gmeurope At its 100th birthday party on Tuesday, General Motors unveiled its oh-so-close-to-production model of the Chevrolet Volt –a plug-in hybrid that the automaker swears will be on sale by the end of 2010. GM has been plagued by massive financial problems lately caused mainly by its heavy focus on SUVs, which have largely fallen out of favor with consumers due to sustained high gas prices. In an effort to turn the automaker’s fortunes around, GM has promised big things from the Volt, including an advanced lithium-ion battery (that doesn’t quite exist yet) that GM says will …

Hot, flat, and badly reviewed

Gregg Easterbrook still knows nothing about global warming — and less about clean energy

Slate magazine is seen as liberal, but is in fact just another status quo publication promoting a do-nothing policy on clean energy and global warming. Why else ask for a review of Tom Friedman’s new call to action, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, from the American Bjørn Lomborg? And I don’t mean that in a good way. I’m speaking about Gregg Easterbrook, well-known fountain of climate and energy misinformation. I’ve already commented on Friedman’s must-read book here. This post will focus on the three biggest energy and climate whoppers in the Slate review. Whoppers Nos. 1 and 2: Wherein Easterbrook reveals …

Hurricane Wall Street has its own Brownie

The SEC chief fiddled while Wall Street exposed the public to billions in bailout funds

Remember the Securities Exchange Commission? The SEC got its start in the 1930s, when dodgy dealing on Wall Street triggered that massive economic meltdown now known as the Great Depression. The idea was that the SEC would impose transparency on stock markets and make sure that people actually knew what they were buying or selling. Well, the current financial meltdown is all about transparency — or, more precisely, its opposite. In short, there are literally trillions of dollars in securities washing around our financial system that no one has any idea of how to value. And now everybody’s trying to …

The (renewable) electron economy, part 12

How do we build (energy) infrastructure?

The enthusiasm for unregulated markets in the last 30 years of American public policy has obscured how large pieces of infrastructure get built. Unregulated markets, to work according to their ideal, require economic actors to be able to create competing offers which are judged by consumers or buyers according to the total value they represent. Infrastructure, by its nature, involves building structures so massive that competition is considered economically inefficient, if not socially undesirable (two roads or bridges that “compete” with each other would be an eyesore and end up being much more expensive for society). Power plants, inclusive of …

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