Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Divestment and Dilberto si



The encyclical emphasizes a moral element to the climate debate that the drier analyses miss. I wrote previously that a bishop flubbed a response to a Foxquestion about whether we shouldn't do other things to help the poor instead of reducing our precious carbon emissions. He said the encyclical invited people to a dialogue to figure out what to do, so let's just sit down and talk.

The best answer is that Fox is referring to a Lomborgdeception, a study artificially minimizing the impact of climate relative to other impacts, but we might not expect the bishop to know that. The next best answer he should say, however, is that moral questions can have strict answers. If a particular action you're doing is harming someone else, you may prefer to continue harming that person while making it up to them in other ways, but the decision is not up to you. If Lomborg et al. want to persuade the most-harmed that there's a better deal for them, the inactivists can try, but I don't think Australia is where you want to go for that. 

The moral case the Pope emphasizes is that GHG emissions harm the poorest, and the same logic works on divestment. The only reason to invest in fossil-fuel companies at their current price levels is because they make the poor pay a significant portion of the cost of their product, and are offering to pass on part of the resulting profit to you, the investor.

The issue of divestment and the Catholic Church hasn't escaped the notice of many other people, although what's unclear to me is whether much anything is happening within the official church hierarchy, let alone action to reduce the Church's own GHG emissions. Hopefully the encyclical teaching will move to the next steps of action on divestment and on emissions as models that the Church can point to as models for the rest.

41 comments:

Russell Seitz said...

"The moral case the Pope emphasizes is that GHG emissions harm the poorest, and the same logic works on divestment. "


The actuarial statistics suggest otherwise- the Least Emitting Nations combine the worst quality of life with the shortest life expectancies and rates of capital formation too low to support alternative energy .

Fernando Leanme said...

The church should divest from ownership in Saudi Aramco, PDVSA, Iranian National Oil Company, Rosneft, Gazprom, and Nigerian National Oil Company. Afterwards, they can move to smaller fish.

Tom said...

Divestment is a shallow feel good play--unless you divestment has a different meaning than 'sell.'

Mal Adapted said...

Tom, without justification: "Divestment is a shallow feel good play--unless you divestment has a different meaning than 'sell.'"

Well, if I think FF assets are going to become stranded soon, but I find a buyer willing to pay an acceptable price for my FF equities now, I've recovered at least some of my investment and the buyer is the one who's going to be left holding the bag. Divestment sounds like a good strategy for me.

Susan Anderson said...

Fiore

Fiore today is pretty good:

[wormy stilted voice]

Before there was the Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change, there was . . .

The Gospel of Denial. From the Republican Disciples of Fossil Fuel.

In the First Book of Denial, Republicans walk on oil-slicked water— thanks to the miracle of oil viscosity!

Lo, then the Messiahs provide oil-soaked loaves and fishes to the impoverished masses . . . giving them combustible fuel so they may fire factories and prosper by their very bootstraps!

The most-denying Republicans demonstrate their power to raise the dead so that they may ascend to the heavens— and wrap the world in the loving embrace of Holy CO2.

The Disciples of Fossil Fuel know that among the twenty or so, there is a Judas!

Who will poll exceedingly low by the time the cock crows three times.

Verily, the Gospel teaches us that if we have undying faith in Denial and follow our Fossil Fuel Fathers (never mind the ninety-seven percent), we will be rewarded in this life . . . with eternal profits.

This, is the Word of the Oil.

Aaaamen.

Brian said...

Russel - I don't hear you denying what the Pope is saying. And as for whether they can afford renewables, they have trouble affording any energy, but renewables are becoming a very good deal, especially if you're just trying to get some lighting and power cell phones.

Fernando - divestment includes not buying bond and note issuances, and the nationals do those all the time. I thought people understood this by now.

Tom - tell it to retired apartheid supporters nursing their grudges in South Africa, and they might disagree with you.

John said...

The issue is NOT that the rich should help the poor but, rather, that the rich should stop making & maintaining the poor.

John Puma

Fernando Leanme said...

Eli, most nationals don't issue debt because they need it. OPEC countries have investment funds invested overseas, the only exception is PDVSA, which uses Chinese loans because its bonds are junk. Gazprom and Rosneft are hybrids, but they too can easily swing huge funding deals from the Chinese and other entities.

As Tom wrote, divestment is a feel good action.

Hell, let me give you a tip: if you want to use divestment as a weapon (weak as it is) you should aim at the service company sector, the drilling companies and the others which provide high technology to the OPEC NOCs. You won't achieve much (the NOCs will buy that stock as you sell it), but it sure makes more sense to go after the outfits with the largest oil and gas reserves.

I wonder if your fixation is really caused by a subs conscious leftist desire to get at private versus publicly owned outfits? Are you a Red Rabbet?

Nigel Franks said...

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/04/former-shell-chairman-advocates-fossil-fuel-divestment

Fossil fuel divestment is rational, says former Shell chairman...

Barton Paul Levenson said...

FL: I wonder if your fixation is really caused by a subs conscious leftist desire to get at private versus publicly owned outfits? Are you a Red Rabbet?

BPL: Believe it, folks! Anyone who believes in AGW is a COMMIE!

Bernard J. said...

Moral aspect aside for the moment, the Dutch have brought a legal imperative to the table:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-24/dutch-court-orders-state-slash-greenhouse-emissions/6571328

Cue shrill squawking from the Denialati.

Jim Eager said...

Tom and Fernando still just don't get it.

Divestment is primarily a public education tool.

What bugs Tom and Fernando is that it works.

Mitch said...

I would argue that divestment is also a personal economic tool. The fact that oil from tar sands is economic tells you the state of finding new product--bad. Outside of the Arctic most oil has been found. Also, OPEC countries have an incentive to lie about their reserves.

If you are putting coal or oil stocks into a retirement account, you should think carefully about what the stock will be worth in 20 years.

Russell Seitz said...

Brian;
I don't see the pope denying that the actuarial statistics speak for themselves:

lLfe expectancy in the Least Carbon Emitting Nations remains decades shorter than in those of ordinary energy intensity today, and approximates the lifespan of Americans circa 1875.

Is that a price you are willing to pay ?

Mal Adapted said...

Tom and FL seem to think anyone who divests from fossil-fuel-related issues wants to punish FF companies. But those equities are going to be worthless when energy from renewable sources becomes price-competitive with energy from FFs, and the sooner you dump them from your portfolio, the better off you'll be.

FL: "I wonder if your fixation is really caused by a subs conscious leftist desire to get at private versus publicly owned outfits? Are you a Red Rabbet?"

Good grief, Fernando, where have you been? Don't you know that Communism capitulated to Capitalism 25 years ago? And what do you call the current practice of privatizing the benefits of producing fossil fuels while socializing the climate-change costs? What about the $100s of billions in subsidies governments give annually to FF producers (and you of course know that any subsidy to consumers means producers can charge higher prices than they would otherwise)?

In any case, the quickest, most efficient way to mitigate AGW is increase the prices consumers pay for fossil fuels, until they are close to those for alternative energy sources, then let market forces drive the development of renewable capacity and infrastructure, until renewables are as cheap as fossil fuels are now. That's the market-oriented solution to AGW. What's "Red" about it?

It will take government action to change the price ratio of FFs/alternatives. For governments to simply abolish subsidies would be a big step in the right direction. Is that communism? And what about those fossil-fuel externalities? Privatizing costs that are currently socialized isn't communism either!

When you talk nonsense, Fernando, don't be surprised if you get scorn in response.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

RS: lLfe [sic] expectancy in the Least Carbon Emitting Nations remains decades shorter than in those of ordinary energy intensity today, and approximates the lifespan of Americans circa 1875.
Is that a price you are willing to pay ?

BPL: Fallacy of bifurcation. The Third World can achieve a high standard of living with other energy sources than fossil fuels.

Tom said...

BPL: "Fallacy of bifurcation. The Third World can achieve a high standard of living with other energy sources than fossil fuels"

When?

Russell Seitz said...

BPL:

Wishful thinking : The actuarial stats are a real time body count.

RIP, Laudatio Si from the folks who brought you Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

RS: Wishful thinking : The actuarial stats are a real time body count.

BPL: Show your work. There's no reason to think solar and wind development in Africa wouldn't save a lot more lives than coal and oil.

Matt M said...

RS: lLfe [sic] expectancy in the Least Carbon Emitting Nations remains decades shorter than in those of ordinary energy intensity today, and approximates the lifespan of Americans circa 1875.
Is that a price you are willing to pay ?

BPL: "Fallacy of bifurcation. The Third World can achieve a high standard of living with other energy sources than fossil fuels"

Tom: When?

We could start now. The richer nations could help subsidise clean energy for the poor, but it doesn't seem like the "what about the poor ppl" mitigation skeptics consider this a price they are willing to pay. As one of these skeptics said when asked how should we help the poor - "status quo, baby".

Tom, I do think the poorer nations will be worse of in the short term by restricting their choice of energy
supply. I doubt anyone will disagree (hmmm....). But I think in the long term, the net effect of not internalising the externalities will prove to be worse. By a considerable margin if we are talking global BAU.

Fernando Leanme said...

Mal adapted: I am observing committed Marxists destroy Venezuela, with significant help from the Castro family dictatorship. I live in Spain, where a party led by committed Marxists has reached significant power in recent times. This party's leadership has ties to Syriza, a party led by committed Marxists which seems to be destroying the Greek economy. The Spanish Marxists are partially financed by the Venezuelan regime. I see a clear and present danger that Marxism will emerge as a dominant force in countries they proceed to abuse and destroy. I'm a refugee from a communist dictatorship, and I don't wish a life under communism for anybody, except for the deeply religious who wish to follow the Red Pope.

When you have my background and experience and observe committed leftists selectively attacking private enterprise it's fairly easy to see the attack has a dual purpose. Face it, most activist environmentalists" are pretty good watermelons.

Tom said...

BPL, I am happy to see renewables take over the planet. But I am not content to leave people energy starved until it happens.

There is a natural pace to energy transformation. It is 50 to 75 years. Let the poor burn coal until it is time to change. Let us help them transition. Let us give them scrubbers for their coal plants. Let's use solar for rural electrification programs where villages are beyond the reach of the grid. Let's follow the example of Bangladesh where they have more than a million solar water heaters and are putting up more every day. Let's help China build the 180 hydroelectric facilities throughout the developing world that they have contracted to build. Let's build modular nuclear power plants and ship them where they will do the most good.

To do otherwise is monstrous.

Matt M said...

> there is a natural pace to energy transformation (50-75yr).

Is not recognising externalities what you mean by "natural"?

Barton Paul Levenson said...

FL: I don't wish a life under communism for anybody, except for the deeply religious who wish to follow the Red Pope.

BPL: He's not "Red" in any meaningful way. A genuine anti-Communist, like myself, fights Communism, which is a bad thing. A crackpot anti-Communist fanatic, like you, fights everything he dislikes and calls it all "Communism" with no knowledge of what the term really means.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

T: BPL, I am happy to see renewables take over the planet. But I am not content to leave people energy starved until it happens. . . . There is a natural pace to energy transformation. It is 50 to 75 years. Let the poor burn coal until it is time to change.

BPL: If we go on burning coal for another 50 years, civilization as we know it will collapse, gone, dead.

T: To do otherwise is monstrous.

BPL: Fallacy of bifurcation. The world needs fossil fuels to run present infrastructure. There is no need to build more when all new infrastructure can be renewable. It is NOT harmless to burn more fossil fuel, it is devastatingly harmful. It will kill a lot of people. THAT would be monstrous.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

FL: most activist environmentalists" are pretty good watermelons.

BPL: Most anti-Communist fanatics like you are pretty good crypto-Nazis.

There, how do you like it?

Jim Eager said...

Barton, don't let FL pull your chain so easily. Just click on "said."

chek said...

Cor Blimey, do us a favour guv, that Ferdi Leanme, eh? Eh?
'E's like a little one-man Heartland Institute, in't'e, eh?
Coca-Cola - symbol of Free West!
Eh, Ferdi?

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Thanks, Jim. I should know better by now, I guess.

Hank Roberts said...

> CocaCola

Remember, we have the boycott of Cuba's sugar to thank for our corn-sweetened Coke, and the price supports to thank for our corn sugar aristocrats. Or do I mean commissars?

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/29/opinion/america-s-sugar-daddies.html

Hank Roberts said...

> all the major oil and gas companies divested
> their considerable coal operations in the 1990s.
> “It was a perfectly rational decision.”

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/04/former-shell-chairman-advocates-fossil-fuel-divestment

Thank you Nigel.

Hank Roberts said...

Ezekiel 16:49-50:
"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

Mal Adapted said...

FL: "most activist environmentalists are pretty good watermelons."

Is this something you've confirmed empirically? Have you submitted your thesis to, say, Psychological Science?

It's hardly worth the trouble to mock you anymore, Fernando.

Russell Seitz said...

BPL--6-26:
RS: Wishful thinking : The actuarial stats are a real time body count.

BPL: Show your work. There's no reason to think solar and wind development in Africa wouldn't save a lot more lives than coal and oil.


I posted the stats in question a week ago :
http://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-green-banner-of-islam.html

adelady said...

"Russel - I don't hear you denying what the Pope is saying. And as for whether they can afford renewables, they have trouble affording any energy, but renewables are becoming a very good deal, especially if you're just trying to get some lighting and power cell phones."

Affording energy? It's remarkable how much of their unbelievably small incomes poor people spend on stuff like kerosene.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/25/science/earth/25fossil.html?_r=0

"Since Ms. Ruto hooked up the system, her teenagers’ grades have improved because they have light for studying. The toddlers no longer risk burns from the smoky kerosene lamp. And each month, she saves $15 in kerosene and battery costs — and the $20 she used to spend on travel."

I know plenty of reasonably well off people who'd be quite happy with a $35 per month or $100+ per quarter reduction on their power costs.
Let alone when that reduction in cost is accompanied by such important benefits to families - safety for the littlies, better education for the students, more time at home for a parent and cash in your pocket. What's not to like?

Most importantly, people are getting the small amount of power they need and can afford - right now - without having to wait for governments or businesses to set up centralised generation nor for poles and wires to get to their rural or remote locations nor for additional income to afford any power that might be supplied by such an arrangement. The great advantage, of course, is that no one can be disconnected from a service because of inability to pay accounts. Once the panels are set up and working, they're paid off. In this arrangement it's within 3 or 4 months, other arrangements elsewhere it might be a year or more. Whatever, once in and paid for, it's free power forever.

MinniesMum

hypergeometric said...

+Russell Seitz
Regarding "... and rates of capital formation too low to support alternative energy", surely, if the rates of capital formation are too low for alternatives, it is too low for fossil fuels. That is because fossil fuels rely on extensive and elaborate networks to import, and distribute them, and these networks demand capital to build and (often) defend as well as simply burning the fossil fuels. These are often neglected in assessments of how inexpensive fossil fuels are. In contrast, local wind and local solar need no such networks, since these people and countries don't have the expectation of uninterrupted power as do OECD peoples. I think imposing such models upon poor, developing nations is another example of what used to be called "colonialist thinking". All that they actually need is to leapfrog the mistakes of historical OECD development in the same way they did with cell phones. Ontogeny need not recapitulate phylogeny.

Russell Seitz said...

Is Brian looking to revive lead mining ? The reality of Alt Energy is that lead auto batteries are the cheapest storage medium for wind and PV electricity-- lithium or nickel are out of reach for a billion people.

The sort of artesanal frakking that lit parts of ancient China with natural gas could be in for a revival too-- not good for the CH4 flux!

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Energy can also be stored by pumping water uphill and letting it run down through turbines--such "pumped hydro" is already a decades-old, multi-billion dollar industry. Then there are flywheels, compressed air, etc. Solar thermal plants store excess heat from the day in molten salts, then use that heat to run the turbines at night and in cloudy weather. Some STEC plants have already achieved better on-line time than neighboring coal-fired plants.

hypergeometric said...

+Russell Seitz A very recent MIT study found storing solar energy as heat, either in molten salt of some kind, or in inverted kilns which give up heat to generate electricity over long periods, based upon ceramics, could be among the most efficient. These could be combined with, say, specially designed wind turbines to trap the highest wind energy for long term use.

No doubt some kind of storage would make the problem of intermittency easier. However, I think we are thinking too one dimensionally about this. In particular, we know that wind tends to be anti-correlated with solar, as a power source. Also, if collection is done over a greater spatial extent, especially combining both onshore and offshore sources, it is unlikely all collection points in a region are going to be down all the time and at once. Thus, if a different kind of grid were used, one with lateral distribution, and smart controls (see http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/RecentIssue.jsp?punumber=5165411), especially ones which use deep statistical models of local conditions to anticipate wind and weather as some can, all it would take is sufficient overbuilding of collectors to suit the typical power needs of a region. The cost per kilowatt-hour of land wind turbines is among the lowest, competing favorably with the cheapest and dirtiest of natural gas.

I can't price in NIMBY factors. Natural gas energy plants and pipelines seem to have the right henchmen to overcome those kinds of things.

Brian said...

Russell - yes to lead acid batteries in rural villages, for now. Watch that space though. And you don't need many to run lights for part of the night.

Russell Seitz said...

Brian , I have spent my entire life waiting with bated breath in Cambridge for my ten cubic foot , ten kwh ten thousand dollar antimony trichloride/ bromide cycle/ sodium-sulfur/ air-zinc / superionic liquid battery.

Now you tell me the future will emerge from Al's lead-zinc lease in Tennessee?

Oh the humanity !