carbon credits

California’s crazy cap &trade scheme

The California Air Resources Board has imposed a limit on carbon dioxide emissions on California businesses.  The limits will be lowered each year until 2020.  Industries can obtain carbon credits, initially free but which later must be purchased, in order to emit more carbon dioxide than the regulations decree.  See more of the story from the San Francisco Chronicle here.

These regulations will increase the cost of energy, hence the cost of doing business.  These costs will be passed on to consumers.

The carbon credits can be bought at auction and traded.  Experience in Europe and in other markets  in the U.S. shows that these schemes are ripe for fraud.  Back in 2010 it was found that 90% of the carbon trading volume in Belgium was due to fraudulent activities.

The U.S. used to have a climate exchange but that collapsed, see Carbon Credit Trading Collapses in US.  In 2010, The Chicago Climate Exchange saw prices of carbon credits go from $7.50 per ton to a nickel per ton before it ceased operations.  The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a consortium of ten Northeastern states, also collapsed last year.

Carbon trading is a wholly artificial market created by government edict rather than any real need for the product. Unlike traditional commodities, which sometime during the course of their market exchange must be delivered to someone in physical form, the carbon market is based on the lack of delivery of an invisible substance to no one.   And it may have contributed to the current financial crisis.  Major financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, Barclays, and Citibank hosted carbon-trading desks.

The alleged rationale behind this scheme is that it will forestall global warming.  But observational evidence shows that carbon dioxide has no significant effect on global temperature.  Take a look at the graph below from a 1988 prediction made by climate guru James Hansen (h/t to Steve Goddard):


For more on Hansen and his predictions see: “Climastrologist” James Hansen versus reality

I predict  businesses that can, will leave California.  That will help reduce emissions.  This will be an interesting experiment; one whose negative impacts will perhaps show the foolishness of imposing a national cap & trade scheme.

See also:

A Perspective on Climate Change a tutorial

Carbon Credit Trading Collapses in U.S.

Last February I speculated: Carbon Credit Trading, the next financial bubble to burst? That has now come to pass for U.S. markets with the collapse of the Chicago Climate Exchange.

Carbon credits allow industries to emit carbon dioxide above any cap & trade regulations imposed. The carbon market exists as a commodity only through the decisions of politicians and bureaucrats, who determine both the demand, by setting emissions limits, and the supply, by establishing criteria for offsets. It was a bubble waiting to burst. Unlike traditional commodities, which at sometime during the course of their market exchange must be delivered to someone in physical form, the carbon market is based on the lack of delivery of an invisible substance to no one.

Since 2005, when carbon trading was one of the fastest growing commodities, there was speculation that if the Obama administration passed cap & trade legislation, the market would grow to $3 trillion.

According to Businessweek, “The Congressional Budget Office estimated that under a cap-and-trade plan, the U.S. market for the permits, which companies would need in order to emit CO2, could be worth as much as $300 billion by 2020.”

“The Chicago Climate Exchange (CCS aka CCX), once billed as a Nasdaq for CO2, saw carbon prices drop to a nickel per ton before announcing on Nov. 17 that it would cease operations at the end of the year.”

In the Spring of 2008, carbon credits were selling for about $7.50 per ton.

“Some 450 companies, including DuPont, Honeywell, and several utilities, signed legally binding contracts to reduce their emissions. Those who succeeded in cutting CO2 could sell their credits to others that were having a harder time complying with CCS emission targets.”

“Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported on Oct. 1 on the “collapse” of trading in another U.S. market, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a consortium of ten Northeastern states that joined together to cap and trade greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The RGGI’s stated goal: cutting utility emissions by 10 percent by 2018.”

The Chicago Climate Exchange was sold earlier this year for $600 million to the New York Stock Exchange-listed Intercontinental Exchange, an electronic futures and derivatives platform based in Atlanta and London. Oops.

Earlier this year, Australia dumped its plans for a carbon trading market.

Unlike the voluntary U.S. market, the European Union market is alive and growing, due to mandatory carbon caps of the Kyoto Protocol (the U.S. never signed the protocol), but that market has been racked by fraud. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. If some new agreement is not reached, the European market will probably collapse also.

That’s why the carbon trading lobby is at the Cancun climate conference desperately trying to get an accord. According to the London Telegraph: “None of the lobbying has been more telling than a statement issued by 259 investment organizations, controlling ‘collective assets totaling over $15 trillion’ – including major banks, insurance companies and pension funds. These are the bodies calling most stridently for ‘government action on climate change’, because they are the ones who hope to make vast sums of money out of it. They are desperate for a treaty of the type they failed to get at Copenhagen – even more so since the collapse of the US cap and trade bill – because they see their chance of turning global warming into the most lucrative fruit machine in history dwindling by the month.”

Kerry-Lieberman Bill Bad for Consumers

The so-called American Power Act combines useless pork-barrel spending with just about all the bad ideas of previous Cap & Tax bills. The bill creates 60 new agencies and projects. You can read the 987-page sleep-inducing bill here.

The bill seeks to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions according to a schedule: 17% below 2005 emissions levels by 2020, 42% below by 2030, and 83% below by 2050. Those goals are similar to the Waxman-Markey bill of last year. The senators say those reductions are necessary to forestall global warming, even though there is no evidence that carbon dioxide significantly drives temperature. The possible effect on global temperature is negligible, too small to measure. Some estimates, based on UN’s climate models, place the potential temperature reduction at 0.043°C (0.077°F) by 2050 and 0.111°C (0.200°F) by 2100. I think those estimates are much too generous. To see why read my post: Your Carbon Footprint Doesn’t Matter.

To aim for a reduction in emissions of 83% by 2050 is completely absurd. That would be equivalent to U.S. emissions in 1910 according to Department of Energy historical statistics on energy consumption. Then, the U.S. population was about 92 million people. By 2050, the Census Bureau estimates the U.S. population will be 420 million. That means by 2050 the per capita emissions will have to be reduced to one-quarter the per capita emissions in 1910 and take us back to the economy in about 1875.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that imposition of carbon reduction schemes would result in fewer net jobs in the coming decades. They also said, “The increases in prices caused by a tax or a cap-and-trade program would cause workers’ real (inflation-adjusted) wages to be lower than they would otherwise be.”

Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, said that this bill “will make it virtually impossible for energy companies to cut costs and create new jobs. Instead, they will have no choice but to raise prices for consumers who, in many cases, already find their energy bills unaffordable. Simply put, this bill is a time bomb wrapped in a nice bow. Over time, costs will explode through the roof and when it becomes too expensive for the industry to absorb the new fees and taxes created by this legislation, the consumer will be stuck holding the bill.” The “time bomb” refers to the fact that restrictions will be phased in over time for various industries. The Institute for Energy Research think tank said, “Two things are certain if this bill becomes law: energy prices will skyrocket, and jobs will be shipped overseas.”

Several large energy companies have come out in support of Kerry-Lieberman. That’s were the pork comes in. An analysis by the Competitive Enterprise Institute says, “Environmentalists know it will have no discernible impact on the climate, but it will reward favored companies with massive windfall profits.” “Cap and trade regulation, far from disciplining the energy sector, is poised to become one of the greatest wealth transfers from consumers to private corporations in the nation’s history.” “General Electric, Exelon, BP, Goldman Sachs, and Duke Energy will make out like bandits because of provisions they have written. That’s not democracy or capitalism. It’s political corruption and crony capitalism.”

We will have to learn newspeak. Gasoline taxes are now “linked fees.” “Cap and trade” is now “emissions reduction targets.”

On the plus side, the legislation would authorize $54 billion in federal loan guarantees for new nuclear plant construction, which should be enough to support 12 new reactor projects. On the minus side, the bill also offers $2 billion a year for the commercial-scale deployment of technology that captures and stores carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. To see why carbon capture is a bad idea see my post: Clean Coal, Boon or Boondoggle .

President Obama said energy prices will “necessarily skyrocket.” That’s because of two factors. First, producers will have to purchase emissions permits or credits, adding to the cost of doing business, a cost that will be passed on to the consumer, and second, these producers will be forced to buy the privilege of continuing to produce, from the Chicago Climate Exchange, which will raise the cost of doing business even more. Again this will be passed on to the consumer. According to an article in the Cyprus Times, Texas, The Chicago Climate Exchange will be the only exchange for trading these credits and will make hefty commissions buying and selling these credits. I wonder if that deal is a payoff.

The carbon credits will become a new commodity to trade, but unlike gold or pork bellies, carbon dioxide emissions are not something tangible. There will be great opportunity for fraud as has happened in the European market (see here and here ).

The Kerry-Lieberman Cap & Tax bill establishes a price range for CO2 emissions indulgences with a floor of $12 per metric ton (increasing annually by 3% + inflation) and ceiling of $25 (increasing annually by 5% + inflation). According to the EPA, US emissions of CO2 in 2009 were 5787 million metric tons. Thus if, eventually, the legislation is applied to all US emissions, the cost would be $69 Billion (floor) to $145 Billion (ceiling) annually, increasing ~6 to 8+% each year forever. European carbon trading last year was valued at $125 billion. I wonder if there could be a more constructive use for that money instead of buying air?

For some background on global warming science see my blogs:

Natural Climate Cycles, and A Basic Error in Climate Models

Carbon Credit Trading, the next financial bubble to burst?

What would happen if a $300 billion commodity market were to suddenly evaporate? Of all the vested interests promoting the carbon cult of global warming, carbon credit trading is probably the largest and has the most to lose if the world comes to its senses.

An article in Harper’s magazine titled “Conning the Climate, Inside the carbon-trading shell game” by Mark Shapiro, a senior correspondent at the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, California, takes one through this game.

“Carbon trading is now the fastest-growing commodities market on earth. Since 2005, when major greenhouse-gas polluters among the Kyoto signatories were issued caps on their emissions and permitted to buy credits to meet those caps, there have been more than $300 billion worth of carbon transactions. Major financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs, Barclays, and Citibank now host carbon-trading desks in London; traders who once speculated on oil and gas are betting on the most insidious side effects of our fossil fuel–based economy. Over the next decade, if President Obama and other advocates can institute a cap-and-trade system in the United States, the demand for carbon credits could explode into a $2- to $3 trillion market.”

“…unlike traditional commodities, which sometime during the course of their market exchange must be delivered to someone in physical form, the carbon market is based on the lack of delivery of an invisible substance to no one.”

“Indeed, carbon exists as a commodity only through the decisions of politicians and bureaucrats, who determine both the demand, by setting emissions limits, and the supply, by establishing criteria for offsets.”

Many studies have found that projects ostensibly designed to qualify as carbon offset programs fail to produce the amount of emissions reduction promised.

If governments come to their senses and embrace the fact that there is no evidence that human carbon dioxide emissions are producing harmful climate change, these markets will evaporate along with the value of carbon credits. Will there be another bail-out?

Read Shapiro’s article here: