Monday, November 16, 2009

From Copenhagen to Nopenhagen (BRK.A; BNI; DUK; EXC)

Commentary from MarketWatch:
Nothing to do with the global talks to reduce greenhouse emissions is straightforward.

Over the weekend, global leaders including President Obama, abandoned any pretense that next month's long-hyped gathering in Copenhagen would yield meaningful results, instead pushing the deadline for a global agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions into 2010, or beyond.

For true believers this is blasphemy. Last-ditch efforts at lower levels to salvage something out of the talks immediately resumed on Monday.

But however frustrating -- or amusing -- the bureaucratic setback may be, it could prove just as problematic for some U.S. utilities that had been planning to cash in big time on cap-and-trade credits.

After all, with the pressure off on Copenhagen, Congress will be free skip a cap-and-trade vote and focus its attention elsewhere, say on healthcare "reform."

If that happens, big U.S. utilities with politically correct power generation facilities such as hydro -- and, yes, in this case, nuclear -- won't get their windfall from selling federal carbon credits on the open market to companies with bigger carbon footprints

So for PGE Corp. (PCG 42.66, +0.73, +1.73%) , Obama-hometown power provider Exelon Corp. (EXC 47.17, +0.56, +1.20%) and Duke Energy (DUK 16.17, +0.13, +0.81%) , the latest developments are a real financial disappointment.

And suddenly, Warren Buffett's big bet on coal, shown in his decision to buy up Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. (BNI 98.00, +0.03, +0.03%) two weeks ago, looks just that much more prescient.