Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Can we trade carbon credits on non-existent methane emissions?

Rt.Hon. David Miliband MP,
Secretary of state,
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Nobel House,
17, Smith Square,
London. SW 1P 3JR.

16, May 2007.

Dear Secretary of State,

My friend who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs " business....

More, from Ethical Corporation

Third Sino-Brazilian EO Satellite To Be Launched By October

The Chinese are not fooling around when it comes to resources.

China's National Space Administration announced on Sunday that China would launch the third Sino-Brazilian earth resources satellite in September or October.

...The previous sino-brazilian satellites have produced more than one million earth images, 180,000 of which have gone to more than 1,200 Chinese users, ranging from agriculture, forestry to mining, environmental surveillance and other areas.

From SpaceMart

Consultancy warns of possible gasoline glut by 2010 as biofuel use grows

Again (see post below), from the IHT:

Gasoline prices could decline by 2010 amid a "potential oversupply" of oil products, even though U.S. refining capacity will be expanded less than previously thought, according to a new report by Edinburgh, Scotland-based consultancy Wood Mackenzie LTD.

Despite lagging refinery expansion and growing demand, the report suggests that new biofuels, natural gas liquids, and liquefied petroleum may replace some conventional fuels, resulting in a potential oversupply that depresses prices at the pump.

The central conclusion — that a glut of fuel supply from outside the conventional refining system could depress gasoline prices — differs from the consensus of many energy experts, which holds that the supply impact from biofuels and other sources will be limited between now and the end of the decade. The report comes amid an industry-wide reevaluation of refinery expansion projects that were once considered likely to be online by 2010....

Summer rains in Iowa, Illinois push corn prices down, ethanol makers' prospects up

CHAMPAIGN, Illinois: Corn farmers in the United States are not the only ones who have been thankful for rain in the last few weeks.

Ethanol producers are also happy that the rain helped the corn — their main ingredient — rebound from what was shaping up to be a mediocre growing season.

Rain has fallen off and on through most of July in parts of the central and eastern Corn Belt, just as the crop started pollinating. The rain has improved the health of the crop and, to the delight of ethanol makers, driven down corn prices.

"This has really helped to increased the profitability for ethanol producers," said Rick Kment, an ethanol analyst with DTN, an agricultural market information company based in Omaha, Nebraska....

From the IHT

On the other hand:
The corn gamble: It's the crop of the year -- but will it make it?

DANE -- The corn soars head-high on Ripp's Dairy Valley here north of Madison.

Green leaves flutter in the breeze as dairyman Chuck Ripp surveys his fields on a humid July morning.

But looks don't tell the story. A lack of significant rain this month -- Thursday and Friday's was spotty -- has farmers worrying.

"The corn is really tall but that's kind of deceiving," said Ripp. "We're getting into a real critical time."...

From the Madison Capitol Times

Peak Soil: Why cellulosic ethanol, biofuels are unsustainable and a threat to America

That's the headline from Culture Change. I don't always agree with their editorial slant, exemplified by this note on the homepage:

Editor's note: There is a whole, sinister cultural context for growth and economics. Western industrial culture must reward -- and defend with deadly force -- exploitation for private gain. This has been institutionalized and codified, with economists as high-level priests and lackeys.

I know a few economists (academic, tenured) who think of themselves on the Archbishop level, minimum, but none who are lackeys. That said, I think this piece has an interesting take on something that is a very big problem:
Strip-mining our top-soil.

Part 1. The Dirt on Dirt.

Ethanol is an agribusiness get-rich-quick scheme that will bankrupt our topsoil.

Nineteenth century western farmers converted their corn into whiskey to make a profit (Rorabaugh 1979). Archer Daniels Midland, a large grain processor, came up with the same scheme in the 20th century. But ethanol was a product in search of a market, so ADM spent three decades relentlessly lobbying for ethanol to be used in gasoline. Today ADM makes record profits from ethanol sales and government subsidies (Barrionuevo 2006). More

From the King of the Rent-seekers, a press release:
Archer Daniels Midland Reports Record Annual Results

Forbes is underwhelmed when they parse the numbers.

No Kernel Of Good News For Archer Daniels Midland

Companies That Rely on Renewables May Need to Hedge Their Bets

Companies investing in renewable energy may begin asking a familiar question following FPL Group Inc.'s second-quarter results: What happens when the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine?

Though the utility company's earnings rose 72 percent to $405 million, and analysts are still saying "Buy," according to Thomson Financial's consensus estimates, FPL faced the worst weather conditions in 13 years for its wind-energy division. The wind factor cut FPL's profit by $50 million.

"The only real negative in the quarter was the poor wind resource," said FPL Chief Financial Officer Moray Dewhurst during a conference call.

Instead of taking that to mean wind may not be the best way to go, FPL said it would add between 8,000 and 10,000 megawatts of wind power to its portfolio by the end of 2012.

The company is hedging its bets against the unpredictable by diversifying its wind portfolio geographically, said spokesman Steven Stengel.

From Canadian Business

In the post immediately below I was spitballing doing an ad.

I'm glad we didn't call the agency before we did this post on redundant systems.
With a couple avatars, Bloggengeezer and Klimatar, I might actually get some work done.

An Oil Trader Speaks Truth

The WSJ's Energy Roundup had an interesting comment from an oil trader:

There is something very strong holding this market up, it’s giving very little back,” said Tony Rosado at IAG Energy Brokers in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Rosado said a lot of traders are baffled at the strength of crude’s move higher and how little it was dipping on down days lately.

No spin, no made up reasons, that guy's a pro, I'd hire him just on the basis of that observation.

In the meantime I'm on the sidelines, just watching.
Maybe we should do an ad.
"Here at Voyeur Management we believe..."
You know how they sound.
If not, here's First Citiwide Change Bank.

Green effort key to future of officials

This is China but could just as well be Brussels.

The central government is setting up an accountability system under which officials' career paths will be tied to their performance in environment protection and energy efficiency.

From People's Daily

From Ethical Corporation:

Chinese pollution - Internal displacement is the new game in town

The incentives are all wrong in China when it comes to the environment, hence this latest phenomenon....

...So they are trying to do things – carbon trading, eco-cities, shutting bad steel mills and chemical plants, issuing edicts, even shooting the odd official. But, China is still China.

So, now we are increasingly hearing about internal pollution displacement (a term we admit we have invented). When bad polluters are shut down in one province by Beijing’s fiat, so other provinces, hungry for investment and jobs, jump in to offer a bolthole....

Do It For The Cows

I know a securities salesman who uses what he calls "the all-purpose turnaround".

If he's hustling new business and a county says "We don't need no interest rate swaps" his response is "That's the beauty of it".
In the middle of a negotiation with a current customer (a gold miner) on adjusting their hedge book, they want clarification on exposure in the mark-to-market, "That's the beauty of it".

When I first heard his all-purpose turnaround I thought it was genius; if needed, it put a crowbar into the gears of the discussion, setting a new zero point.
Later I realized he would use it when he couldn't think of anything else to say, akin to the politicians who blather "Do it for the children".

I'm tired of "Do it for the Children". Don't misunderstand, I like kids. Kids like me. So do dogs. And lunatics.
On the street there can be a thousand people and I'm the one the deranged want to share their RFID, 50USCode, carrier group theories with.

So. I like kids, I don't like politicians who say "Do it for the children" more than, oh, once a year.
I have decided to mentally substitute "Do it for the cows" when a politician's lips start move.

This has mental effects. Because you see what you look for, I am more attuned to stories of the bovine persuasion, I have a greater appreciation of those who ruminate and am a ready audience for any ten-year-old with a cow joke.

I can appreciate Fat Knowledge's borderline DSM-IV obsession with Bovinae.

AltEnergyStocks has a post up, A Modest Proposal: Cellulosic Beef, which displays a profound understanding of the hoof-ed ones (although why he didn't sniff "Let them eat grass", je ne comprends pas):

...Let Cows Eat Grass

Cows evolved to eat grass, including proposed energy crops such as switchgrass, which is already used as forage for livestock, and the more productive mixed prairie plants (including grasses.) We don't have to wait until the technology for converting grass into ethanol becomes economic to use grass to increase ethanol production: Instead, all we need to do is to supply the grass to the cattle, and use the corn that they would have eaten instead to produce ethanol.

Feedlot operators will doubtless protest at the massive logistical problems of bringing hay, rather than corn, to feedlots where cattle are fattened. However, these logistical problems seem to me to be on the same order of magnitude as supplying that same grass to cellulosic ethanol plants, if it is too much to ask of the cattle industry to let the cattle "harvest" the grass themselves by grazing....

Worth a read. Do it for the cows.

Best Hurricane Commentary, Ever

Margie Kieper is filling in for Jeff Masters at Wunderground:

Another news trend cropped up the last part of July: fearful the public might forget about the danger of hurricanes making landfall during the hurricane season, rather than just remind us regularly during the off-season, it’s now become vogue to remind us periodically during the season.

So, for anyone who hasn’t yet heard this several times recently: a slow July is normal, and doesn’t mean we’re not in for an active season. August starts the day after tomorrow, and it’s going to be active. Or busier than average. Or above normal. Maybe not as many storms as predicted in May, but still more than normal. Certainly more than the old normal. Possibly more than the post-1994 normal.

July to August, as far as hurricanes are concerned is, apparently, like getting in a car with your grandmother behind the wheel, put-putting along slowly in the right lane, then, just as you’re about to doze off, suddenly realizing that she’s put on some pre-1930s-trendy aviator goggles, is laughing maniacally, and you’ve swerved into the fast lane, in some crazy freewheeling Fear-and-Loathing road trip.

And that's the weather.
Here's the blog

Global Warming? Sell Ice to Dubai

...Iceculture Inc., known for manufacturing and selling ice blocks and sculptures, has carved out its biggest single contract ever: $400,000 to build an all-ice restaurant, called Chillout, in Dubai, the first of eight projects the family-run company will produce for Sharaf Group, a Middle East consortium. "This is the single-largest, most lucrative project we have ever undertaken," says Iceculture owner Julian Bayley, a former Fleet Street journalist.

This is Yeti size carbon footprint stuff:

The ice for the Chillout restaurant will be shipped in freezer trucks from Hensall, about an hour's drive north of London, Ont., to freezer containers aboard ships in Montreal that will embark on Feb. 3 on a 6,500-nautical-mile voyage to Dubai. In total, four containers, each holding about 23,000 kilograms of Ontario-made ice, will set sail to the Middle East. It will take nearly a month to get there, and the $150,000 worth of ice will take eight Iceculture workers about seven days to assemble into an 1,800-square-foot eatery that will open in the first week of March.

From Canadian Business
iceculture home

Monday, July 30, 2007

EU Emission Caps, Kyoto and Three Ancient Civilizations

Arcelor Mittal, the world's biggest steel company, has warned that a blitz of planned investments in Europe to meet booming demand is threatened by strict new EU caps on greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

At the opening of the group's new $381m (£188m) hot strip mill in Krakow, Michel Wurth, board member in charge of flat products in Europe, said: "By cutting the allocation of CO2 quotas, the European commission will limit our growth possibilities in Europe and encourage a surge of imports from countries unaffected by such controls."

Do you think Mittal might think twice before creating another job in Europe? My bets would be India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia or just about anywhere south of Kyoto.

There is no perfect answer but Kyoto wasn't even close.

The Europeans thought they were gaming the "Cap" by backdating the start date.
The Americans thought they were gaming the treaty by insisting on "Trade".

The Indians and Chinese said "Sure, send us the money".

The Westerners thought they would out-negotiate people who've been negotiating for 5000 years.

As a side note, in December 1979, as silver was making its historic run, an old Jewish trader told me he was lightening up on Ag.

When I asked why he said "I hear the Indian ladies are taking their bracelets off and they've been trading it longer than I have".

From the Guardian

Don't Mess With Pagans

Updated: 08:50, Tuesday July 17, 2007

Pagans have pledged to perform "rain magic" to wash away cartoon character Homer Simpson after he was painted next to their famous fertility symbol - the Cerne Abbas giant.


Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK

Torrential rain hits Dorset towns

Severe flooding has hit roads in several residential areas throughout Dorset causing drivers major problems.


Is Russia One Of The Richest Countries

...According to the forecast, if the country shifts its economic orientation from raw materials to innovation, its gross domestic product will grow by an average of 6.7% a year, putting the Russian economy into the world's top five. At that rate, the country's economy will grow two-and-a-half times by 2020, giving it an annual per capita GDP of $30,000 - no less than Western Europe and North America.

Some experts smirk at the forecast for its starry-eyed idealism-but Russia's present-day and recent economic growth rates back it up. GDP has been adding almost 7% annually for the last eight years, exceeding the most optimistic projections of government experts and other analysts. The Economic Development and Trade Ministry has forecast a 6.5% growth rate for this year. It will certainly be greater than that-the Kremlin and the Cabinet expect 7-8%.

... Academic economists are even more optimistic in their forecasts. They expect GDP growth to stay within a range of 7.9-8.3% in 2007-30. They see only one drawback in the development strategy: it does not specify the factors that will bring about this huge economic growth.
From SpaceWar

Thieves steal solar panels; Wine Fine

For our friends at the Energy Roundup, news from wine country.

Thieves made off with approximately $30,000 worth of solar panels from the Sonoma Valley County Sanitation District on Eighth Street East Wednesday night under cover of darkness and as of Monday morning, there are no new leads.

The 1,042-kilowatt solar energy system in Sonoma encompasses five acres of land and uses 5,200 solar panels that were built to meet at least a third of the sewage treatment plant's power needs.

From sonomanews

But you may not want to go real long the California sparkling wine:

Grapes for bubblies may come in by early August

...For right now, however, the overcast mornings, cool nights and bright, sunny days are ideal weather conditions, said Mumm Napa winemaker Ludovic Dervin. There were almost no frost issues this year, he said, and the lack of spring rains meant there was little early risk of mold or crop loss due to heavy storms pounding on budding vines. "It's perfect right now," said Dervin during an early morning visit at the Mumm vineyards south of Napa, where the harvest could begin in early August, about two weeks earlier than expected.

From the Napa Valley Register

And the big news in wine:

Bordeaux vineyards lose 90% of crop as rain and rot threaten French harvests
...Problems have also been reported in Beaujolais, the Loire and the Rhône valley.

From decanter.com

Possible Investment Strategy (read the comments):

Figaro: Bordeaux 2006 could be the new 1982
Leading French magazine Le Figaro has said that Bordeaux 2006 vintage could be as 'sublime' as the great 1982 vintage.

Apparently flying in the face of most advice from the world's wine critics, in an article entitled 'Bank on the 2006 primeurs', the figaro.fr website and Le Figaro magazine advises its readers to invest in the 2006 vintage.

In 1982, 'few people banked on the vintage', the article says, and 'for collectors, it's a strong bet that 2006 will follow this tendency. In 10 years, this vintage will be recognised as sublime.'

From Le Figaro via decanter.com

Finally the supposed raison d' etre of this blog (again from decanter.com)
Screwcaps produce the largest carbon footprint compared to synthetic closures and corks says research conducted for a French closure company.

The production of screwcaps gives off over 10kg of CO2 per tonne compared with 2.5kg of CO2 per tonne for corks, according to tests conducted by Cairn Environment for Oeneo Bouchage in France.

The composite DIAM closure fell between the two, with a carbon footprint of 4.3kg of CO2 per tonne.

Stock Tip Blogger Detained in China

...Changchun Municipal People's Procuratorate will lodge a lawsuit to the municipal people's intermediate court against Wang Xiujie, known to his readers as "Big Brother Leader 777", over running an unlicensed business....

Boasting that his predictions had a 90 percent accuracy rate, Wang labeled himself the "patron saint" of individual investors. His blog received more than 30 million hits as more speculators rushed to cash in on the bull market...

These guys are all the same, doesn't matter where, what language, scum.

From Peoples Daily

Ethanol boom is killing off shrimping

U.S. farmers this spring planted the most acreage with corn since 1944, after demand for ethanol pushed the grain's price to a 10-year high in February. Scientists blame farm waste flowing into the Mississippi River basin for creating a pocket along the Louisiana coast where shrimp and other sea life can't survive.
The Gulf of Mexico's so-called Dead Zone is expected to be a record 8,543 square miles this year and stretch into waters off Texas, said Nancy Rabalais, chief scientist for a study team at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium....

From the Salt Lake Tribune

Canada-Capacity constraints coming says NEB report

Press release from the National Energy Board:

Canadian crude oil pipelines could be facing a transportation bottleneck this fall says a new report released by the National Energy Board (NEB) today.

According to An Assessment of the Canadian Hydrocarbon Transportation System, there will likely not be enough pipeline capacity this fall to ship the surge of crude being pumped from Alberta’s oil sands. By the fourth quarter of 2007, western Canadian oil pipelines could be facing periods of apportionment – a situation in which available pipeline space is “apportioned” or shared among shippers. With no significant additions to the Canadian pipeline system planned before 2009, apportionment could be in place for up to 18 months.

They've got the full report here:

An Assessment of the Canadian Hydrocarbon Transportation System [PDF 4167 KB]

Planktos-Oh Now What?

Well, they've got China blaming the United States for allowing this for-profit geo-engineering. I know you're busy this morning, I'll do some emboldening. Don't miss the special proposition at the end of the post.

From Peoples Daily:

Ecuador rejects U.S. experimental project in Galapagos

Ecuador said on Friday it rejects a U.S. experimental project to eliminate carbon dioxide from Galapagos Island's ocean waters.

The U.S. Planktos Inc. company, which is headquartered in California, proposed the experimental project to disseminate 80 tons of iron particles350 miles (560 km) west of Galapagos Islands' coasts, Ecuador's Foreign Ministry said in a communique on Friday.

What do you think the official house organ is trying to say?

As you know earnings reporting season is in full swing. It's been my experience, watching operations like Planktos that they try to file their 10Q's at the close on the last day possible.

However this year, Aug. 14 is a Tuesday and they might not want to leave that high hanging curveball just sitting out there for someone to tee up. Friday the 10th after the close maybe?

I'm thinking of having some Climateer mugs made up for future quiz shows, if anyone guesses time and date I'll put them on the list, or we could trade; I'd like another House of Reps. and a swap with Threadneedle St. would work for this counterparty.

Thanks for visiting, everyone; I hope the first half of this lyric line is true, I know the second half isn't:

I know I keep you amused but I feel I'm being used

Russia Leads Race for Arctic Oil

In the darkest depths of the Arctic Ocean a new Cold War is brewing. American and British nuclear submarines lurk in the shadows, preparing for company.

'Why has Britain been sending submarines into Arctic waters?' asked Rob Huebert, associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies in Calgary. 'Because it wants to retain its capability to deal with the Russian threat.'

...'The Arctic is Russian,' Chilingarov told the media scum. 'We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian coastal shelf. Of course, [the expedition] is important in terms of science, but also in terms of geopolitics as well.'

...'The Russians are rebuilding their navy,' Huebert said. 'They've just launched a submarine for the first time since 1987 and they've placed orders for three more.'...

From the Guardian

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Worry About Bread Not Oil

I guess we can ignore the oil post below, at least according to Niall Ferguson:

...The price of a loaf of bread rose by 88 per cent in 1789 as a consequence of similar lousy weather. Historians of the Left like Georges Lefebvre used to see this as a prime cause of Louis XVI's downfall.

..."The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation," wrote Malthus in an especially doleful passage of the first edition of his Essay. "They are the precursors in the great army of destruction; and often finish the dreadful work themselves.

See Malt Liquor post below.

The real question is whether we could now be approaching a new era of misery. Even at an arithmetic rate, the United Nations expects the world's population to pass the 9 billion mark by 2050.

But can world food production keep pace? Plant physiologist Lloyd T Evans has estimated that "we must reach an average yield of four tons per hectare… to support a population of 8 billion". But yields right now are, as we have seen, just three tons per hectare. And a world of eight billion people may be less than 20 years away.

...Some people worry about peak oil. I worry more about peak grain.

The fact is that world per capita cereal production has already passed its peak, which was back in the mid-Eighties, not least because of collapsing production in the former Soviet Union and sub-Saharan Africa. Simultaneously, however, rising incomes in Asia are causing a surge in worldwide food demand.

Already the symptoms of the coming food shortage are detectable. The International Monetary Fund recorded a 23 per cent rise in world food prices during the last 18 months. Maybe you've observed it yourself. I certainly have.

...For a long time we have deluded ourselves that "illimitable improvement" was attainable. As the world approaches a new era of dearth, expect misery - and its old companion vice - to make a mighty Malthusian comeback.

Toga party? How 'bout a big concert?

From the Telegraph

Mexican Company Predicts End of Oil

From Prensa Latina (Cuba):

Mexico, Jul 27 (Prensa Latina) Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) announced that oil reserves may run out in seven years.

"Supplies of this economically exploitable resource are running out," informed a report sent by the state owned company to the United States stock market.

Until December 31, 2005 the report says proven reserves were about 8.978 billion barrels, while yearly production was 1.322 billion tons. If this rhythm continues oil will run out in the time stipulated..

El Universal newspaper reports that experts of the PFC Energy Advisory company based in Washington pointed out that investments for PEMEX exploration is also running out of time.

Even if heavy investments were made now, new oil fields would take from six to eight years to be ready and, consequently, Mexico may have to import oil to satisfy the internal market, it warned.

The newspaper quotes Carlos Ramirez, PEMEX spokesman as saying that if necessary investments were made, this would provide another 2.9 more years to what is foreseen with the proven developed reserves.

The director of the state owned company, Jesus Reyes, insisted that these are difficult moments due to a reduction of production in Cantareli, the main oil field in the country.


Motives for malt liquor consumption in a sample of community college students

This seems to be off-topic day.
And, I am in the wrong business day.

Research on malt liquor use is, however, very limited (!), leaving unanswered questions about what strategies may effectively prevent this use. This study employed qualitative and quantitative research methods with ethnically diverse college samples to explore and identify motives associated with consumption of malt liquor. Of the motives examined, those representing social facilitation and mood enhancement were the most important predictors of malt liquor use. Anticipation of quick intoxication and economic considerations were also uniquely associated with increased consumption of malt liquor...

See Post Below

From ScienceDirect
HT: Economist's View

Subprime could create global crisis, economist says

From MarketWatch:

...In a note to clients on Wednesday, Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius said the housing correction could be less than half over, if history is any guide.

  • Home prices will fall 10% from the peak nationally, more in the bubble regions in California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Washington, D.C.
  • Home sales could bottom later this year, home construction could bottom early next year, and house prices could bottom late next year. It'll be 2010 before the housing market could be termed "normal."
  • About 17% of total mortgage debt is at risk, totaling about $2.5 trillion in subprime, Alt-A and jumbo debt. About $1.4 trillion is at serious risk of default. Investors will lose about $113 billion as $460 billion worth of mortgages default.
  • About 20% of the subprime loans written in the last half of 2006 will fail, with the peak of the defaults not coming until 2011. A "significant number" of these borrowers never made a single payment.
  • More than 2.5 million first mortgages will default this year and next year. Subprime borrowers will experience significant financial distress.
  • The U.S. economy will grow less than 3% annualized through the middle of 2009. A healthy job market should prevent a recession, although the jobless rate will likely rise to 5% from 4.5% by the end of the year.
  • Consumer spending has already slowed and will slow further.

How Not To Do Journalism (Slightly Off-topic)

BBC to teach its stars honesty

John Humphrys and Jeremy Paxman will be required to join Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, on a mandatory new training programme to teach honesty to BBC staff.

From the Telegraph

And a reprise of one of my favorites; from the Ottawa Citizen:

“The Ottawa Citizen and Southam News wish to apologize for our apology to Mark Steyn, published October 22nd. In correcting the incorrect statements about Mr. Steyn, published October 15th, we incorrectly published the incorrect correction. We accept and regret that our original regrets were unacceptable, and we apologize to Mr. Steyn for any previous distress caused by our previous apology.”

HT: Jay Leno

Come on folks, it's not rocket surgery.

Solar ovens

Solar ovens aren’t a new phenomenon, but with the worldwide interest in alternative energy growing, new attention is being focused on them.

NGOs are distributing them to impoverished villages where deforestation and desertification are a problem, and they’re also popular in places where fire risk is extremely high (for instance, with campers inside particularly dry national parks).

One interesting fact about solar cookers is that many of them use the greenhouse effect to cook food: solar rays are reflected and concentrated inside a glass box, which traps increasingly hot air inside. As the temperature builds, your food cooks, and even the humblest of solar ovens can reach 350 degrees in about 30 minutes.

The main problem with these contraptions is that they function best during the hottest parts of the day — when people are the least likely to want a hot meal. But a Colorado company has found an ingenious way to use the midday cooking power of the sun to their advantage: by roasting coffee....

From Mental Floss
Here's a 1959 model at Bizarre Labs
Here's the list of partners working with Solar Household Energy, Inc.
Solar Cookers International's list of projects
The Cornell Solar Cooking Team: Design for Solar Ovens For Use in the Developing World 14 page PDF
Lastly, SolarCooking.org

One of the Futures for Solar Energy

From the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), collaborating with Innovalight, Inc., have shown that a new and important effect called Multiple Exciton Generation (MEG) occurs efficiently in silicon nanocrystals. MEG results in the formation of more than one electron per absorbed photon.

Silicon is the dominant semiconductor material used in present day solar cells, representing more than 93 percent of the photovoltaic cell market. Until this discovery, MEG had been reported over the past two years to occur only in nanocrystals (also called quantum dots) of semiconductor materials that are not presently used in commercial solar cells, and which contained environmentally harmful materials (such as lead). The new result opens the door to the potential application of MEG for greatly enhancing the conversion efficiency of solar cells based on silicon because more of the sun’s energy is converted to electricity. This is a key step toward making solar energy more cost-competitive with conventional power sources....

From the NREL

Innovalight is private with these VC backers:

ARCH Venture Partners
Apax Partners
Harris & Harris Group, Inc.
Sevin Rosen Funds
Triton Ventures

Innovalight Home

Saturday, July 28, 2007

U.N. aims to set example in carbon neutral push

The United Nations wants to make up for lagging behind others' initiatives by setting a high standard in plans to go carbon neutral within a few years...

And here is one of my pet peeves-

...Meanwhile regulated offsetting under the U.N.-sponsored Kyoto Protocol has focused very much on lucrative emissions-cutting projects to destroy potent greenhouse gases called HFCs from big industrial enterprises, instead of supplying "green" energy to poor communities.

... The U.N.'s entire annual greenhouse gas emissions could be of the order of 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, he said.

From Reuters

Friday, July 27, 2007

Green-Conscious GE Develops Hybrid Lightbulb

FAIRFIELD, CT—One year after pledging to develop more energy-efficient products, General Electric Co. unveiled a product it is calling its most eco-friendly lighting source to date: the first-ever gasoline-electric hybrid lightbulb.

"With the price of gas escalating as its supply dwindles, now is the perfect time to introduce innovative lighting technology that only relies on this fast-depleting, nonrenewable resource for a portion of its power," GE chairman Jeff Immelt said in a statement released Monday.


HT: ecotality blog

Diesel: The Engine Behind Atherosclerosis?

The combination of cholesterol and particles from diesel exhaust can harden arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes, according to a new study. The two factors together appear to be much more harmful than the effects of soot containing diesel particles or cholesterol alone, the researchers found.

From Science

In 12 million years, we're dead

Hey! You know the difference between a bond and a blogger?
A bond matures.

Thank you, thank you; I'll be here all weekend.
Try the specials on the menu, be sure to tip your server.

From Scientific American:

...Like Baltimore, St. Louis or (insert economically depressed city here) writ large, the galaxy has a good side of town and a bad side. Keep this in mind the next time you're piloting a faster-than-light spaceship home after a few too many: The bad side of the Milky Way is the north side.


Assessment of U.S. Cap-and-Trade Proposals

For my weekend reading I pulled this from the link-vault.
Feel free to join me.
71 page PDF from MIT

We like Matt Chambers on Oil

I've never been good at trading a market in backwardation so I usually stay away.

For the last week though I've had a nagging suspicion that oil was lulling the bulls into a false sense of security, sucking in the hedgies (who aren't), come on in the water's fine. And silliness like this:

For the past few years, a vicious contango in the energy markets has made investing in commodity futures mostly a losing game. Investors in the new and popular commodity-focused exchange-traded funds, such as the iShares S&P GSCI Commodity-Index ETF (AMEX: GSG), have watched in consternation as their investments lost money despite the surging bull market in spot commodity prices.

The reason, still poorly understood by many investors, is that the primary driver of the value of a commodity futures investment is not the spot price of the commodity. Rather, commodity futures investments are driven by three factors.

1) Changes in the spot price

2) Interest income: You only have to put up a small fraction of your money to buy futures, and the rest can be invested in Treasuries.

3) The roll yield: Futures contracts expire each month, and you must sell the expiring contract and buy the next month's contract when that occurs. If the next month contract is priced higher, you lose money: that's contango. If it's priced lower, you make money: that's backwardation.

Historically, the roll yield has been the most important factor in long-term commodity returns. For the past few years, it has been viciously negative. That's the reason the United States Oil Fund (AMEX: USO) has lost 16.4% of its value since launching in April 2006, despite record oil prices. Similarly, the aforementioned GSG is down 10.6% despite a raging bull market for a broad range of commodities.

So why get excited now? Because the vicious contango(!) appears to be abating.

When I think I know what's going on I have to consciously remind myself of General Custer's comment as he rode into the valley of the Little Big Horn, variously reported, here's Time's version:
"Hurrah, boys, we've got them! We'll finish them up and then go home."

DJ's Matt Chambers wrote for the wire:

...“Anyone who bought in at this price last year got absolutely slaughtered,” said Walter Zimmerman, vice president of United Energy in Jersey City, N.J. “The market is remembering what happened a year ago” when prices crashed in early August as a severe hurricane season that was predicted failed to emerge.

...While that might seem a positive factor, to cancel the bet or lock in profits, traders need to take a short position, essentially a bet that prices are likely to fall. Many analysts are concerned that once selling starts, the funds will cancel bets quickly, exacerbating the decline. The ability of the crude market to fall from its lofty levels was shown early last August, when prices fell $20 a barrel, or 25%, from near-record levels in a little more than a month.

Speculators with long bets “need a hurricane or some other supply problem” to keep prices going higher, Zimmerman said. “If that doesn’t happen, there is the potential for a reversal” as traders sell to close out long positions, he said.

We like Matt Chambers, here's today's WSJ Online uptick update.

Vanna, I'd like to buy a clue please.

Update: I see that as I was noodling, the WSJ's Energy Roundup posted a note from Mr. Chambers on today's action.
I'd still like to buy a clue.

First Solar (FSLR) Thin Film's Time in the Sun

From the MIT Technology Review:

The low manufacturing cost of photovoltaics that employ thin films of cadmium-telluride semiconductor have long been seen as having the potential for lifting solar power from its niche status as a very expensive power source, delivering less than a twentieth of 1 percent of U.S. electricity.

Now, after two decades in which cadmium-telluride technology was dogged by low power output and reliability problems, it's suddenly elbowing its way into renewable-energy markets and competing with today's dominant solar technology: silicon solar panels. The company behind this technology turnaround is Phoenix-based First Solar, which says that the technology could eventually be cost competitive with conventional fossil-fuel sources of electricity.


EU backs cutting duties on Chinese light-bulbs

...While he declined to say which countries wanted to keep the duties, Power said that German lightning company Osram, a subsidiary of Siemens, had sought a renewal.

Although Osram itself produces some light-bulbs for the European market in China, it sought to have the duties renewed because they hit Dutch rival Philips even harder since it has more production in China.

And that, gentle reader, is how the world works.

Wait till we go into that smoky room to divvy up cap-and-trade.
Little piggies at the trough.

From EU Business

There is a low IQ (my favorite kind) play here, as we said in Green Business Opportunity

"The Arctic is Russian,"...

...expedition leader and parliamentary deputy Artur Chilingarov told Russian television. "We are going to be the first to put a flag there, a Russian flag at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, at the very point of the North Pole."

The Akademik Fyodorov research ship, which set sail Tuesday from the northern port of Murmansk, resumed its voyage Thursday after a bad engine forced a day's delay. Joining it is the Rossiya nuclear-powered icebreaker.

Russian scientists aim to find evidence that the North Pole sea bed is geographically linked to Russia and thus part of its territory.

I don't think so, eh?


Russell Seitz in the Running..

For Climateer Quoted quote of the Day:

“Meanwhile, Seela’s tusks have filled out nicely, and the boys are taking notice,”


Hurricane Watch

Nothing now.
Models are hinting at possible developments off West Africa Aug. 10-12.

Greenpeace Predicts Rain

Greenpeace release

Can 'green chic' save the planet?

Green, it seems, has gone mainstream. Magazines like Elle, Fortune, and Vanity Fair have published "green issues" in the past year, and the Academy Awards were carbon neutral. The Vatican recently announced plans to offset its 2007 emissions, while Costa Rica pledged to arrive at "net zero" by 2021.

Green has also gone trendy. Last week, Whole Foods Market released a limited edition, $15 cotton bag with "I'm not a plastic bag" emblazoned on its side. When the bag went on sale at outlets in Taiwan, a stampede followed. In Hong Kong, throngs shut down a shopping mall. In New York City last week, lines formed at dawn. Later that day, bags were offered on Craigslist for between $200 and $500. "These bags are walking billboards," says Isabel Spearman, a spokeswoman for the bag's designer, Anya Hindmarch. "You do have to make something trendy, and it becomes a habit. That's the whole point."

...The manifest value of a canvas bag, for example, is to carry things without using plastic. The latent value of a Whole Foods-issued, $15 Anya Hindmarch-designed bag emblazoned with "I'm not a plastic bag" – echoing surrealist artist René Magritte's famous "this is not a pipe" painting – is almost entirely unrelated to this manifest utility.

"You're trying to present a certain image of yourself where you're someone who cares about the earth, shops at a [certain] store, and someone who's up on a particular trend," Professor Henke says. "But in the end, if it's just another thing people will grab and use for a month, then it is kind of a waste."

...So while faddism may influence people's marketplace choices, many still ask the million-dollar question: What will happen when the canvas bag-toting, hybrid car-driving, "green" credit-card-wielding (GE just announced a card with carbon footprint-reducing rewards) consumer goes to the polls?

From the Christian Science Monitor

Cashing in on carbon

A quick overview from the Times of India.

... Wondering, how the Kyoto protocol spells a business opportunity? Commonly referred to as carbon trading, it is a system whereby countries or individual companies are given emission targets. The protocol under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change primarily assigns mandatory emission limitations for the reduction of GHG emissions to the signatory nations.

It is because of Kyoto protocol that countries across Asia are promising sweeping action, from cleaning up concrete plants, to sowing new forests that absorb carbon dioxide, to harnessing methane from landfills to generate power. And the list is increasing as the threat looms larger than ever. The system is helping foster green investments in countries that are home to some of the world's biggest polluters.

According to a World Bank study, while the global carbon market tripled in 2006 to $30 billion from $10 billion in 2005, carbon emissions trading in Asia reached a volume of $21.5 billion from January to September 2006, more than doubling the total volume for 2005.

Yates with Gates in green fund

FORMER Allco Equity Partners chief Peter Yates has entered into a partnership with one of the world's richest men, US billionaire Bill Gates, with plans to set up a E400 million ($650 million) carbon trading fund in China.

Under the partnership, Mr Yates will be a non-executive director of the fund's management company Peony Captial and will also take a small share of about 2 per cent.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust will be an "anchor shareholder" in the fund, with a E100 million investment -- about 25 per cent.

...The fund is evaluating a large number of projects in areas such as waste heat recovery, wind farm power generation, energy efficiency, coal mine methane, landfill management and small scale hydropower. Carbon emissions saved are deemed to have created a carbon credit, which Peony on-sells to buyers in industrialised countries in the form of tradable Certified Emission Reduction certificates.

The Beijing-based fund is about to complete the first of several large carbon reduction projects in China. It involves two large fuel-switching projects at one of China's largest power generators.

Peony Capital says those two projects are forecast to lead to the abatement of about 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and 2012. "That is the equivalent of the amount of CO2 created by a quarter of Australia's cars in one year," it says.

From the Australian

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sarkozy under fire for nuclear deal to secure nurses’ release

Nicolas Sarkozy faced a barrage of criticism yesterday for agreeing to build a nuclear reactor in Libya as concern grew over the price extracted by Colonel Gaddafi for the release of five Bulgarian nurses this week.

From the Times of London

Trust Libya with nuclear power, says Sarkozy

President Nicolas Sarkozy urged the West to trust Arab countries with nuclear technology yesterday as he signed a deal that could see France supplying Libya with a new reactor.

From the Telegraph

The Subprime Mess (Off-topic)

Three months ago in "Allen Greenspan, Worth Civils and the Wall Street Journal.com Energy Roundup"

We made this statement:

If I could ask Mr. Civils one question, with his sources, resources and insight, it would be: what does he make of Allen Greenspan's Feb. 23, 2004 speech at the National Credit Union Association in which, as Chairman of the Fed., Greenspan said:

"American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage. "


"Indeed, recent research within the Federal Reserve suggests that many homeowners might have saved tens of thousands of dollars had they held adjustable-rate mortgages..."

This one has stumped me for three years.

Thanks for the blogroll Worth.

Investing isn't brain surgery.
I have no idea what Bear Stearns et al were thinking and I'm as mystified as ever as to the purpose of Greenspan's comments.

Maybe Congress can get me an answer

Amaranth: In All Fairness...

Nick Maounis of Amaranth got taken, deep.
But it was his fund, his trader.

I once knew a guy who lost retail clients a bunch of money in a deal in which the manager also had some skin. His legal team brought this up repeatedly in court.

Finally the judge got tired of the B.S. and said:
"I am not allowing the stupidity defense".

At that point one of the spectators on the rail said
"Billy, you done bammed your last boozle".

Even the judge couldn't keep a straight face and the defense attorney was giggling as he asked for an immediate mistrial.

Mr. Maounis sent this three page letter to the Amaranth investors yesterday.

The CFTC today commenced a cease and desist action against Amaranth Advisors L.L.C. and Amaranth Advisors (Calgary) ULC (collectively, “Amaranth”) and Brian Hunter.1 In its action, the CFTC has alleged that Amaranth and Mr. Hunter attempted to manipulate the NYMEX natural gas futures market on two specific days in 2006 and that Amaranth inaccurately described its trading activities to the NYMEX. Although Amaranth has cooperated fully and voluntarily with the CFTC’s investigation, the CFTC did not propose any settlement or offer to entertain settlement discussions prior to bringing this action. We are disappointed that the CFTC has chosen this path and intend to defend the action vigorously.

The highlighting is mine, the sinking sensation is theirs. The letter goes on to say:

The CFTC did not allege that Amaranth manipulated the natural gas futures market on any date. In fact, CFTC Director of Enforcement Gregory Mocek explained in a press briefing this morning that the two alleged attempts to manipulate natural gas futures prices addressed in the complaint were “unsuccessful” and did not create an artificial price.
The CFTC did not allege that Amaranth’s trading in any way created artificially high prices. In fact, the central allegations in the complaint were that Amaranth unsuccessfully attempted to reduce natural gas futures prices.
• The CFTC did not allege that Amaranth manipulated, attempted to manipulate or otherwise “propped up” summer/winter spreads or any other natural gas futures prices other than two specific contracts on two specific dates.
• The CFTC did not allege that Amaranth engaged in “excessive speculation,” that it “dominated” the markets or that its positions were otherwise too big for the market.
• The CFTC did not make any allegations relating to the losses experienced by Amaranth in September 2006 or profits made earlier in 2006. In fact, the CFTC does not allege that Amaranth profited in any way from its supposed attempt to manipulate the market, which the CFTC has admitted was unsuccessful.
• The CFTC did not present any “smoking gun” or other direct evidence that any Amaranth personnel intended to manipulate the market. Rather, the CFTC relies on inferences that certain trading conduct can only be understood as an attempt to manipulate.
• The CFTC did not allege that Amaranth was in violation of applicable position limits on the two trading days addressed in its complaint.
• The CFTC did not name the Amaranth Funds as defendants in the action, nor has the CFTC indicated that it will seek disgorgement of profits from the Amaranth Funds—to do so would obviously be highly inappropriate.

The CFTC did not allege Crimes against Humanity, Desecration of a Corpse, Public Lewdness or Jaywalking.
So what's your point.

HT: Naked Shorts

Linking could cause carbon price to plummet

Linking the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to other trading schemes under development around the world could cut the price of carbon dramatically, according to the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW).

ZEW, based in Mannheim, Germany, ran simulations of a number of scenarios, positing that by 2020 countries such as Japan, Canada, Russia, the US and Australia will develop domestic ETSs and link them to the EU’s scheme.

Without any linking, ZEW predicts that the price for a tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) will reach more than €26 ($36) on the EU ETS by 2020. If Canada and Japan link to the EU ETS, the report suggests that “relatively generous” allocation of allowances to industry would cause prices across the schemes to drop to €21.17/t. If Russia joined, prices would fall further to €14.27/t.

If Australia and the US, neither of which are signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, also link domestic ETSs with the EU, prices could sink to €8.24/t. If all ETSs allow the use of credits from Clean Development Mechanism projects, the international value of CO2 drops to between €4.32 and €3.87, according to ZEW.

From Carbon Finance

HT: Environmental Finance

The Stock Market and the Battle of Jutland

"There's something wrong with our bloody ships today, Chatfield"

The words of Admiral David Beatty to his flag captain after HMS Queen Mary blew up.

16:00 hrs-16:05 hrs, Indefatigable explodes leaving two survivors.
16:25 hrs, Queen Mary disintegrates, nine survive.

Wikipedia entry

13:38 hrs, DJIA down 291.82 not quite the tragedy it might feel like.

Could climate restrict flying to emergencies?

Walk the walk. Literally.

The IHT's Business of Green blog raises a question that cuts right through the B.S. of the eco-hypocrites.
Private planes? Ground 'em. Period.
Commercial? I'll think about it.
It's good to be king.

FERC seeks $291 mln for Amaranth manipulation

From Reuters:

...Former Amaranth trader Matthew Donohoe was also charged with wrongdoing.

... The commission recommended penalties of $200 million and giving up $59 million in unjust profits for Amaranth, $30 million for Hunter and $2 million for Donohoe.


Amaranth: Hunter Planning Career in Stand Up Comedy

From the National Post:

...Mr. Hunter sought a temporary restraining order on Monday to block the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) from taking legal action against him,af ter the agency notified him on Friday it was preparing to file civil charges. The regulator has been investigating Amaranth’s collapse and is due to make an announcement related to the investigation today.

Mr. Hunter’s filing in the federal district court in Washington says
if FERC proceeds with its “unlawful action,” it will hurt his reputation, damage Solengo’s ability to raise funds and possibly prevent Solengo from registering as an investment advisor in Alberta,or register certain Solengo-managed funds in the Cayman Islands


Attention Attorneys: Green Business Opportunity

How's the world's first trillion dollar mass tort grab you?

The manipulation of energy markets has cost my mom a minimum of thirty bucks a month for the last three years and I'm pissed.

In the post "Levin ain't Playing Pattycake" I pointed you to the Senate Investigations Subcommittee's reports on manipulation in the gas markets and the oil markets.

Last year's oil report estimated that "speculators" were costing American consumers $20 per barrel. We used 20,588,000 barrels per day last year. Do the math. That's just oil. This is as big as it gets.

Here's Ray Learsy over at HuffPo:
...But then again there is the case of Sherlock Holmes's dog not barking. By that I mean the price behavior of crude oil. Yesterday's weekly oil stats came out and showed a decrease of crude oil inventory of 1.1 million barrels, a drop less than what had been anticipated. If you are not going to use up your oil inventory at the height of the driving season, when then? And more pointedly, oil inventories are up over five percent from last year, and that doesn't even count the more than 700 million barrels we have in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (I know, its sacrosanct and we shouldn't use it until...? But it's there nonetheless). And so, what happens. The price of crude oil goes up by some $2.50 a barrel. No shortage here, in fact ample supply, and yet we see a price popping past $76/bbl. on the trading exchanges.

...It stands to reason if you are an oil producer or a hedge fund trading in oil, you have a major stake in how oil is priced. If you can push up its price by simply taking a position in exchange traded derivatives and thereby setting a market recognized price level favorable to your interests, without directly confronting or having to deal with your long term customers or spot buyers on this issue, well you have found nirvana. All the while your trades can be executed anonymously and without oversight (Amaranth did much of its trading on London's 'ICE" exchange to circumvent US constraints), and the public and your customer base is made to believe that the escalating prices of oil is the work of the 'invisible hand of the market". The temptation to play the market in this way would be enormous. This especially if your means, as with OPEC producers, are almost limitless and no matter how big or wide the market may be, it could not withstand the power of the resources at your disposal. This is all hypothetical. Of course!

In actuality the prospect is not at all that far fetched as shown with the CFTC's filings against Amaranth alleging manipulation in the trading of natural gas contracts. The time has come for the CFTC to redouble its attention to the oil markets as well. They must try and get behind the major trades; who is buying or selling. To bring as much transparency to this commodity's trading as we have for stocks and bonds. To cooperate and persuade the non American exchanges to share information, and to be wary of producers trying to fix prices through the clandestine world of futures trading. Amaranth has taught us how one trading house can lose billions in trading. The CFTC must be equally vigilante to the possibility of those making excessive and unearned billions by rigging the game of oil trading at enormous expense to the public at large. With the disappearance of the commercial traditions and discipline that once existed between buyer and seller, the CFTC is our only line of defense and it must be given the tools by Congress to police the energy markets in the United States, most especially the electronic trading platforms. It must be given the mandate to cooperate and persuade offshore exchanges to jointly achieve transparency and to establish rational position limits that can no longer distort the free functioning of the trading markets. The unconsciousable transfer of wealth to oil interests must stop.

Do I have to run a 96-point ad?

NYMEX Issues Statement Regarding CFTC Enforcement Action Against Amaranth Advisors and Brian Hunter

These boys have a potentially really big problem.

...As also set forth in the complaint, following the initiation of a NYMEX inquiry into Amaranth's trading activity, the CFTC has alleged that Amaranth provided material misrepresentations to the Exchange, thus frustrating NYMEX's ability to obtain all relevant information for its inquiry.

From CNN Money

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Charges Hedge Fund Amaranth and its Former Head Energy Trader, Brian Hunter, with Attempted Manipulation of

...February 24, 2006 was the last day of trading (“expiry day”) for the March 2006 NYMEX natural gas futures contract and April 26, 2006 was the expiry day of the May 2006 NYMEX natural gas futures contract. The settlement price of each NYMEX natural gas futures contract is determined by the volume weighted average of trades executed from 2:00-2:30 p.m. (the “closing range”) on the expiry day of such contracts.

The Complaint alleges that, for each of the expiry days at issue, the defendants acquired more than 3,000 NYMEX natural gas futures contracts in advance of the closing range, which they planned to, and for the most part did, sell during the closing range. The Complaint also alleges that defendants held large short natural gas financially-settled swaps positions, primarily held on the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE). The settlement price of the ICE swaps is based on the NYMEX natural gas futures settlement price determined by trading done during the closing range on expiry day. The Complaint alleges that defendants intended to lower the prices of the NYMEX natural gas futures contracts to benefit defendants’ larger swaps positions on ICE and elsewhere.

Excerpts from the Amaranth Complaint:
On February 23, 2006, Defendant Hunter told another Amaranth natural gas trader in an instant message to “make sure we have lots of futures to sell MoC [market on close] tomorrow;”

Defendant Hunter disclosed part of his scheme to a trader at another firm just before the last half hour of trading, saying to that trader, that it was a “bit of an expiriment [sic] mainly;”

CFTC Release
Complaint 43 page PDF
HT: Risk OTC

From Bloomberg:

Amaranth's $6.6 Billion Slide Began With Trader's Bid to Quit

Nicholas Maounis, founder of the Amaranth Advisors LLC hedge fund, made a decision in April 2005 that eventually cost him his firm. His promising natural-gas trader, Brian Hunter, had been offered a $1 million bonus to join Steven Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors LLC. Maounis, who had built his Greenwich, Connecticut-based fund to $6 billion in assets, didn't want Hunter to go. Convertible bond and equity prices were falling and oil and natural gas prices were increasing, making Hunter's expertise more valuable. So Maounis named Hunter co-head of the energy desk and gave him control of his own trades. Hunter, within 17 months, would be responsible for $6.6billion in losses, detonating the biggest hedge fund implosion ever. Since Amaranth's sudden collapse, investors have questioned the unusual trust Maounis put in his star trader, now 32. They say Maounis gave Hunter too much latitude and that Hunter,trading more than half the firm's assets, was blinded by a bet that had worked like a charm for two straight years. ``Amaranth's demise is not due to some complicated quantitative reason -- it's about human failing and frailty,''says Hank Higdon, who runs New York-based Higdon Partners LLC, a recruiter for hedge funds and other money-management firms. Hunter declined to comment for this article when contacted Dec. 4, and Maounis, 43, declined to comment through a spokesman.

Billions Lost

Tallying the final days of Amaranth involves huge sums:During one week in September, Hunter's bet on natural gas lost about $4.6 billion. By month's end, the losses totaled $6.6billion, or 70 percent of Amaranth's assets. At least one investor saw serious warning signs about the big energy bets and pulled out before the collapse. Some former employees -- who, like others familiar with Amaranth's unraveling, spoke on condition of anonymity because the fund is a private company -- also say they raised questions about the extent of that wager. When an abrupt market reversal left the fund facing enormous losses, it was too late to unload positions.

The rest of a pretty amazing story

Betting on Droughts I: A Little Science

This is going to take a couple posts, so get a feel for where this might be going.

First from TerraDaily:

La Nina Pattern Likely To Play Havoc
With Global Weather

The UN's weather agency on Friday said a disruptive La Nina climate pattern was taking shape in the Pacific, raising the prospect of an active Atlantic hurricane season and strong monsoons in Asia. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said in a statement that the development of La Nina in the second half of 2007 was now "more likely than not" after an initial hesitation in the past two months.

"Now things seem to be on track for the development of La Nina, but it is likely to be a weak La Nina event rather than a strong one." More

Warning: Anthropogenic Causation Skeptics Ahead

From CO2 Science, a discussion of U.S. drought history:

"Recent advances in the reconstruction of past drought over North America," in the words of Cook et al., "have revealed the occurrence of a number of unprecedented megadroughts over the past millennium that clearly exceed any found in the instrumental records." Indeed, they state that "these past megadroughts dwarf [our italics] the famous droughts of the 20th century, such as the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s, the southern Great Plains drought of the 1950s, and the current one in the West that began in 1999," all of which dramatic droughts fade into almost total insignificance when compared to the granddaddy of them all, which they describe as "an epoch of significantly elevated aridity that persisted for almost 400 years over the AD 900-1300 period."

Our little friend makes another appearance:

...Of central importance to North American drought formation, in the words of the four researchers, "is the development of cool 'La Niña-like' SSTs in the eastern tropical Pacific." Paradoxically, as they describe the situation, "warmer conditions over the tropical Pacific region lead to the development of cool La Niña-like SSTs there, which is drought inducing over North America."

...In further explaining the mechanics of this phenomenon, on which both "model and data agree," Cook et al. state that "if there is a heating over the entire tropics [our italics] then the Pacific will warm more in the west than in the east because the strong upwelling and surface divergence in the east moves some of the heat poleward," with the result that "the east-west temperature gradient will strengthen, so the winds will also strengthen, so the temperature gradient will increase further ... leading to a more La Niña-like state." What is more, they add that "La Niña-like conditions were apparently the norm [our italics] during much of the Medieval period when the West was in a protracted period of elevated aridity and solar irradiance was unusually high."

If I should forget to follow up on this in the next weak or so send an email with your favorite memory-enhancing pills, potions or programs. For now take a look at the hurricane futures and go to bed thinking about oil being in backwardation.

Coal's Doubters Block New Wave Of Power Plants

A very good overview by Rebecca Smith on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
It serves Climateer Investing's purposes as a follow-up and exposition of yesterday's post on John Hill's across the board downgrade of the coal group.

From the WSJ:
...If significant numbers of new coal plants don't get built in the U.S. in coming years, it will put pressure on officials to clear the path for other power sources, including nuclear power, or trim the nation's electricity demand, which is expected to grow 1.8% this year. In a time of rising energy costs, officials also worry about the long-term consequences of their decisions, including higher prices or the potential for shortages.

...That puts the focus on natural gas. "Gas is the bridge fuel" that will step in if coal stumbles, says Marc Spitzer, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, regulator of the nation's wholesale gas and electricity markets.

Currently, clean-burning gas provides roughly a fifth of the nation's power needs. But the nation's gas production has been flat, and other industries are increasingly using it as a fuel or raw material. Mr. Spitzer says that the nation needs more facilities to accept liquefied natural gas, which is gas cooled into a liquid that can be imported from overseas.

There it is. I set the text color as black as blogger allows.

I'm Not Fat. I'm Sequestering Carbon*

*Aaron putting words into Michael Moore's mouth.

The post below got me wondering who else had commented on the NewScientist obesity/GW article.
Aaron is our Climateer Line of the Day award winner.

Critics say farm bill subsidizes obesity

I'm back. I like getting out on the street. A couple weeks ago I saw a man with a white cane pick a quarter up off the sidewalk. Somehow made me think of the farm bill.

From InsideBayArea:

... But the debate is not limited to what we eat. Growers of biofuels are major players for the first time. Last week, Environmental Defense released the results of a study showing that shifting subsidies earmarked for Midwest corn growers to conservation programs would benefit farmers in the districts of 36 out of 55 freshman lawmakers, including Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton.

Here's the Environmental Defense Inc. press release, it reminds me of Finley Peter Dunne's line, "Politics ain't beanbag":

Shifting subsidy payments to voluntary U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs that provide cleaner air, energy and water would support more farmers in 36 of the 55 districts represented by freshmen members of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to an analysis by Environmental Defense."

I bet that got their attention.

You've probably seen the story, the Feds sent over $1,000,000,000 to dead farmers. If not here's the WaPo version: Deceased Farmers Got USDA Payments

Here's EWG passing on Oxfam's farm bill thoughts:

Sounds like that tent's almost big enough to hold the new, larger size, American electorate.

and to be self-reverential, this post from three weeks ago:
How the obesity epidemic is aggravating global warming

How To Hedge A Hurricane

Who needs Foxwoods?

...Hurricane futures, which were introduced on the Merc in March, will allow energy traders to hedge risks in their positions and allow speculators to bet on the potential impact Atlantic storms will have. Eventually, reinsurers might be attracted to them as another way to offset risks in their portfolios.

...Suppose the storm starts out at medium strength and many think it's going to strengthen before it makes landfall. A trader who pays $2,000 for a futures contract on a size 2 storm stands to profit $2,000 if the storm makes landfall as a size 4 storm on the scale, or lose the cost of the contract if the storm peters out.

In the same vein, a trader who doubts the storm will keep its strength could sell (or short) the futures contract on a size 2 storm and profit $1,000 if it makes landfall as a size 1 storm.

From Forbes

Reduce CO2: Cut trade with China

Media folk, listen up.

BEIJING, July 23 (Xinhua) -- China's propaganda departments on Monday reiterated that all media staff must "strictly follow news ethics" and persist with the "authenticity of journalism"

..."The fabricated report about the cardboard buns, produced by the Beijing TV's Life Channel and carried by many other media, has had an extremely bad influence on society,"...

...The Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, and General Administration of Press and Publications reminded state media and provincial-level publicity departments in charge of local media to "brush up on journalistic ethnics" and "maintain the image and social credibility of the Chinese media"....

"The head of Beijing Television Station was publicly reprimanded and the editor-in-chief was given a warning. One deputy editor-in-chief was given a demerit, said the statement.
All three were asked to compose self-criticisms.
Police arrested the reporter."

From Xinhua
HT: The Flack

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. And speaking of China, I don't understand why the unions aren't:

a) Standing up for their Chinese brethren. 4700+ coal miners killed last year. Big ol' WTF!

b) Counting in Wal*Mart's carbon footprint the excess of CO2 emissions caused by their buy Chinese policy.

And put out the damn coal mine fires too. Jeesh. 3% of the world's total CO2 emissions from coal mine fires. Al Gore, there's an investment for GIM.
Maurice Strong, Mark Malloch-Brown, George Soros, where the hell have you been on this?

Are green-minded folks getting their money's worth?

Kathy Frisinger is funny. How's this for a lead:

1. Fill up Prius. Check.

2. Buy compact fluorescent bulbs for bathroom. Check.

3. Remember to bring cloth bag to farmers market. Check.

4. Buy TerraPass. ... TerraPass? Huh?

Planktos got mentioned in the fourth paragraph and deeper into the story is this quote:

And Romm says he believes that a program like the Planktos plan to seed water near the Galapagos with iron to encourage the growth of plankton, which in theory would draw carbon from the air, is particularly worrisome.

"The CEO is a very earnest guy who cares deeply about forests and life in the ocean, so I can't fault him for that," Romm says. "But we don't know with any certainty that it would reduce emissions. We don't know with any certainty that it wouldn't do more harm than good."

I see Planktos' stock got spanked this morning but is coming back.

As always I am reminded of something else, this time a line I think I read about Hanover Sterling. One of their stocks was dropping and the Mafia sales manager gets up on a desk and screams
"Nobody's gettin' out!
In fact, you're all doubling up!".

The "...Money's Worth" story is from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

A Very Nice Email From Environmental Defense, Inc.

In response to my post
"Business Roundtable Climate Change Statement"

About your Tuesday post...

Kira Marchenese
to me

I can understand why it looks like Environmental Defense is working with businesses to rake in the money. But if you dig a little deeper, you'll see that's not actually the case.

From our page about where the money goes (and comes from):

    Environmental Defense receives less than 1% of its financial support from corporate donors. We accept no payments from our corporate partners (such as McDonald's and FedEx). Generous individuals and foundations fund our corporate partnership work to ensure its independence and public credibility.

    Full page: http://www.environmentaldefense.org/page.cfm?tagID=369

And a bit more specific to funding for our corporate partnership work: http://www.environmentaldefense.org/partnerships.cfm?subnav=partnerships_advice

This policy is pretty buried on our Web site -- but we know how important it is to our credibility and are working on highlighting it more clearly.

Kira Marchenese
Director, Internet Communications
Environmental Defense

I responded:
"Thanks for the clarification. It is buried, I looked and did not find. Look for a post next week"

and she emailed back:
"Thanks -- like I said, our bad for not having things organized better. We're working on it!"

They are however continuing to accept tobacco money.

Just kidding Kira.
ED got a grant from the Doris Duke Foundation:

New York, NY – In the first round of grants from its $100 million Climate Change Initiative, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) today announced support for six organizations that will evaluate and develop policies that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions and address other aspects of the regulatory frameworks needed to reduce the threat of global warming.

The foundation awarded grants totaling $3.6 million to researchers from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as four nonprofit organizations: Environmental Defense, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Resources for the Future (RFF), and the World Resources Institute (WRI). Press Release

I am posting this clarification because it is important to know when these big NGO's make an effort to avoid even the appearance of greenwashing.
ED's approach is in marked contrast to the WWF (How much is that Panda in the window....I do hope that Panda's for sale), and should be acknowledged.

Now if I could only convince ED to throw their weight behind Sky Trust or Cap-and-Share...

Cap-and-Trade Quote of the Day

...The economic theory of regulation asks us to consider the political arena as a marketplace where favors are bought and sold. Interest groups that have the most to gain or lose will bid the highest prices for favors.

Politicians dedicated to preserving their jobs, and needing large amounts of campaign funds, auction off the favors. Under this theory, if carbon emissions are to be controlled, the politician will seek the group with the largest economic stake in the outcome (and therefore presumably the most generous with campaign funds) and favor that group.

Competing groups will attempt to outbid the winner. Usually, the smaller the group, the more each member can gain by crafting regulatory rules. The larger the group, the less likely that each individual member will have a strong reward or heavy burden as a result of the rules. So small special-interest groups usually are the most actively involved in the negotiations.
Bruce Yandle; 2001

Yandle is interim dean of Clemson University's College of Business & Behavioral Science and professor of economics emeritus at Clemson. He is also a faculty member with George Mason University's Capitol Hill Campus. He has served as executive director of the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. He was a visiting professor at the Montpellier University Law School in France and has lectured in Germany and Italy. PERC.org
Bio at Clemson University