Business & Technology

Follow the money

Carbon costs and energy prices, NC edition

As the most ardent Gristophiles know, this site is hosting a lively debate over the degree to which prices imposed on carbon emissions will impact energy costs. To recap, if prices do impact costs, then a carbon tax provides an investment incentive. If they don't, then we need some carrots to go with the stick of a tax. Hot off the presses comes this bit of news from Greenwire ($ub req'd): Duke Energy Ohio is asking federal regulators to approve the transfer of its Ohio power plants to companies owned by North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp. whose rates are set in a competitive market instead of by state regulators. Why, you ask?

Small cars gaining popularity in U.S. amid high fuel costs

High gasoline prices and other economic woes have driven car-buyers in the U.S. to purchase smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles lately. Last month, sales of compact and subcompact cars made up about 20 percent of total sales; in the mid 1990s, small cars accounted for only about one in eight cars sold in the country. Sales of vehicles with four-cylinder engines also outpaced sales of six-cylinder cars. “It’s easily the most dramatic segment shift I have witnessed in the market in my 31 years here,” said a Ford sales analyst. Meanwhile, sales of SUVs and trucks are seeing a sharp downward …

When $10.9 billion is just not enough

ExxonMobil’s profits huge; shares fall anyway

You know we're living in strange and perverse times when ExxonMobil can post a $10.9 billion quarterly profit and still fall short of expectations. This past quarter marked the second most profitable quarter ever for the most profitable company in the history of the world -- a 17 percent increase in year-on profits. And like its competitors at BP and Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon managed to increase its profits despite no increase in production. (Funny what happens when the price of oil literally doubles.) Nevertheless, Wall Street was disappointed and the company's shares fell sharply in early trading yesterday.

Thought of the day: Social engineering and climate chaos

Social engineering can’t be avoided; why make it benefit only the rich?

There is passionate opposition in some circles to combining "social engineering" with fighting climate chaos. But the fact is, an emissions cut is social engineering. To cut emissions, we are trying to make some of the biggest changes in individual and social behavior ever. Putting 100 percent of that change on the backs of ordinary people by giving away emissions permits that are then sold and incorporated into the prices of consumer goods is also social engineering -- social engineering that transfers income and wealth from ordinary people to the wealthy.

Private equity firm and green group partner up

The Environmental Defense Fund has struck a first-of-its-kind “green portfolio” deal with gigantic private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. The partnership plans to develop tools to measure and improve the environmental performance of KKR’S U.S. companies, with metrics including energy efficiency, greenhouse-gas emissions, water consumption, and toxic waste. KKR has more than $185 billion in revenue and owns 46 companies, including Toys “R” Us, U.S. Food Service, Sealy, Nielsen, and Energy Holdings (formerly TXU); EDF and KKR were involved in brokering a 2007 buyout of TXU that resulted in coal plants being canceled, and the transaction spurred partnership talks between …

Passing on taxes

Empirical data and theory both show that emissions taxes get passed to consumers

Sean asks, "If you put a price on GHG emissions, will it raise the cost of energy?" and answers, "Mostly, no." I wish he were right, because I really dislike carbon taxes and was only gradually convinced to support them by overwhelming evidence. But pretty much every empirical study that has ever been done about sales tax and other broad-based taxes on gross revenue shows that such costs do get passed along.

Green strings

Let’s make all jobs greener with ‘climate quality standards’

Good Jobs First held its first national conference May 7 and 8, 2008, near Baltimore. ----- "Green my job." As I track the emerging "green jobs" debate about renewable energy, energy independence, and green pathways out of poverty, I am struck by how disconnected it seems from progressive tax policy. There are some large "policy forks in the road" being taken, although environmentalists seem unaware they are making choices. As an antidote, I offer two observations and a trial balloon. Observation #1: Some new energy proposals are corporate copycat Some green-jobs policy proposals call for new economic development subsidies to promote the construction of manufacturing facilities for making renewable energy products. However, the average state already has more than 30 different economic development subsidy programs, and companies routinely get 8 or 10 subsidies in a single deal. Manufacturing has long been the most coveted kind of jobs investment. Build a windmill gearbox factory in a major industrial state in America today and it will be showered

One hand clapping

Economic naïvete on carbon prices

If you put a price on GHG emissions, will it raise the cost of energy? That question goes to the core of carbon policy. Unfortunately, many people inside and outside the environmental community consistently get it wrong, with potentially disastrous results. Consider: if the answer is yes, then we don't need any incentives for GHG reduction. The costs of carbon-intensive energy will rise, giving we energy users the incentive they need to lower consumption. But if the answer is no, we will find ourselves with a tax on dirty energy but no incentive to reduce its use. That is, we will end up with a greenhouse-gas policy that fails to do the one thing it's supposed to do above all else: lower our greenhouse-gas emissions. The answer, more often than not, is no.

Food prices are high, and so are Big Ag’s profits

Food prices hitting you hard in the pocketbook? Agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland feels for you, it really does — but gee, its profits jumped 42 percent this quarter, so it can’t really empathize. ADM’s grain-processing division is doing lively business keeping up with the bumper corn crop. And, they’ll have you know, high food prices are due to high oil prices, not to the ethanol push. Backing away from biofuels would be “foolish,” “dangerous,” and an “empty gesture,” says ADM CEO Patricia Woertz, adding, “It won’t fill anyone’s stomach. It won’t fill anyone’s gas tank.” It won’t fill ADM’s …

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