Many of the “man-made” global warming crowd like to point out that Exxon has spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions to help fund groups who are skeptical of anthropogenic global warming. While I’m no defender of Exxon, what these people fail to do is follow the money trail within their own ranks which could easily make Exxon’s few million dollars look like pocket change compared to what Al Gore and the carbon credit trading firms will make.
The Money and Connections Behind Al Gore’s Carbon Crusade
Al Gore’s campaign against global warming is shifting into high gear. Reporters and commentators follow his every move and bombard the public with notice of his activities and opinions. But while the mainstream media promote his ideas about the state of planet Earth, they are mostly silent about the dramatic impact his economic proposals would have on America. And journalists routinely ignore evidence that he may personally benefit from his programs. Would the romance fizzle if Gore’s followers realized how much their man stands to gain?
…To resolve the “climate crisis,” Gore wants to put a cap on the production of greenhouse gases. He calls for an immediate freeze on U.S. emissions, a ban on new coal-fired power plants, tough new fuel-economy and energy-efficiency standards, renewable energy mandates, carbon taxes and mandatory targets and timetables for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Those emissions consist mostly of carbon dioxide (CO2), the byproduct of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas, which supply 85% of all U.S. energy. Gore’s blueprint to save the planet moves the United States towards a command economy in which government regulators hold sway over what kinds and amounts of energy will be made available to the private sector. His principal regulatory tool is what’s called carbon-credit trading.
Under a so-called “cap-and-trade” system, government places a ceiling or “cap” on private-sector emissions of CO2 and other “greenhouse gases.” Each sector, industry or business is allocated a fixed quantity of carbon credits that allow it to emit specific quantities of greenhouse gases. As an example, one tradable carbon credit might permit the emission of one ton of CO2. If a business emits more tons of CO2 than its supply of credits allows, it has the option to buy surplus credits from other firms — or it will have to pay a fine in proportion to the amount of the excess emission. By contrast, businesses that emit less than their allocation can sell their excess credits.
This system, which may sound market-friendly, is something only a bureaucrat could dream up. The twist is that the carbon market exists only because the government’s imposition of a cap creates an artificial scarcity in the right to produce energy. In a cap-and-trade system, buyers will purchase their offsets from a broker or through an electronic trading platform. In Europe, carbon trading is already a reality. Since 2005, carbon offsets have been traded electronically on the European Climate Exchange (ECX).
…Carbon offsets provide even more opportunities to cheat. For example, some aluminum companies claim they deserve credits just because they recycle aluminum for a living — recycling being less energy intensive and thus generally cheaper than making the stuff from scratch. The most popular activity for generating offsets is planting trees. But this method of storing carbon takes years and the long-term results are uncertain. If the trees die and decay, or are burned to clear land for agriculture, there is no net emission reduction. The net carbon reduction from tree planting may not materialize for decades, but the offsets are given out now.
To critics on both the free-market right and the environmentalist left, carbon offsets are no more than a marketing gimmick. Some describe the fanciful device as akin to medieval indulgences that were sold in a cleric-run market to regulate the remission of sin.
…Al Gore is chairman and founder of a private equity firm called Generation Investment Management (GIM). According to Gore, the London-based firm invests money from institutions and wealthy investors in companies that are going green. “Generation Investment Management, purchases — but isn’t a provider of — carbon dioxide offsets,” said spokesman Richard Campbell in a March 7 report by CNSNews.
GIM appears to have considerable influence over the major carbon-credit trading firms that currently exist: the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) in the U.S. and the Carbon Neutral Company (CNC) in Great Britain. CCX is the only firm in the U.S. that claims to trade carbon credits.
…CCX also has “participant members” that develop the carbon-offset projects. They have names like Carbon Farmers and Eco-Nomics Incorporated. Still, other participant member groups facilitate, finance and market carbon-offset projects to “sequester, destroy or displace” greenhouse gases. CCX aspires to be the New York Stock Exchange of carbon-emissions trading.
Along with Gore, the co-founder of GIM is Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson. Last September, Goldman Sachs bought 10% of CCX shares for $23 million. CCX owns half the ECX, so Goldman Sachs has a stake there as well.
GIM’s “founding partners” are studded with officials from Goldman Sachs. They include David Blood, former CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM); Mark Ferguson, former co-head of GSAM pan-European research; and Peter Harris, who headed GSAM international operations. Another founding partner is Peter Knight, who is the designated president of GIM. He was Sen. Al Gore’s chief of staff from 1977-1989 and the campaign manager of the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign.
Like CCX, the ECX has about 80 member companies, including Barclays, BP, Calyon, Endesa, Fortis, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Shell, and ECX has contracted with the European Union to further develop a futures market in carbon trading. What’s in it for the companies? They will benefit either by investing in carbon credits or by receiving subsidies for doing so.