Monday, January 18, 2010

That's the Last Time I Look to 'Rolling Stone' for Climate; Investing Advice: "The Climate Killers: #1 Warren Buffett" (BRK.A; BRK.B)

What a bunch of moron poseurs.
From the link in our August '07 post "Jann Wenner Eco-Hypocrite; Rolling Stone, Right on Ethanol" on Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner:

Wenner's Gulfstream jet has an optimal cruising speed of around 493 nautical miles per hour. (That figure, and the ones that follow, are based on calculations for a Gulfstream IIB, Wenner's longtime ride. In fact, according to sources, these days he may fly the slightly larger Gulfstream IV; a Wenner spokesman did not reply to calls for comment.)

...I thought this was an insightful quote ..."Lending out the jet is a huge part of Jann's starfucking," says an insider. "It's half the reason he has the plane." says an insider.
and included it in our last post on Mr. Wenner.

This seemed downright silly:
"And Wenner isn't much better when he's in town, where he has a chauffeured Mercedes to shuttle him the 15 blocks or so between his apartment and his office. Even more wasteful is his lunch routine: a private chef prepares his meal at home, then staffers drive it down to the office, don black-and-white uniforms, and serve it to him on his personal china. "It's like a scene from Gosford Park,"...
For some reason I'm reminded of the quote attributed to G.B. Shaw:
"We've already established what you are, ma'am. Now we're just haggling over the price"
Here's Rolling Stone on Warren Buffett, I'll have a comment at the end of it.

Meet the 17 polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb global warming

Page 1 of 16

The Profiteer
Warren Buffett
CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

Despite being a key adviser to Obama during the financial crisis, America's best-known investor has been blasting the president's push to curb global warming — using the same lying points promoted by far-right Republicans. The climate bill passed by the House, Buffett insists, is a "huge tax — and there's no sense calling it anything else." What's more, he says, the measure would mean "very poor people are going to pay a lot more money for their electricity." Never mind that the climate bill, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, would actually save Americans with the lowest incomes about $40 a year.

But Buffett, whose investments have the power to move entire markets, is doing far more than bad-mouthing climate legislation — he's literally banking on its failure. In recent months, the Oracle of Omaha has invested billions in carbon-polluting industries, seeking to cash in as the world burns. His conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway, has added 1.28 million shares of America's biggest climate polluter, ExxonMobil, to its balance sheet. And in November, Berkshire placed a huge wager on the future of coal pollution, purchasing the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad for $26 billion — the largest acquisition of Buffett's storied career. BNSF is the nation's top hauler of coal, shipping some 300 million tons a year. That's enough to light up 10 percent of the nation's homes — many of which are powered by another Berkshire subsidiary, MidAmerican Energy. Although Berkshire is the largest U.S. firm not to disclose its carbon pollution — and second globally only to the Bank of China — its utilities have the worst emissions intensity in America, belching more than 65 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2008 alone.

As a savvy investor, Buffett would only buy a coal-shipping railroad if he felt certain that Congress will fail to crack down on climate pollution. "Whatever hurts coal also hurts the railroad business," observes Peter Gray, a corporate climate attorney at the international law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge. "Mr. Buffett must believe that efforts to adopt cap-and-trade legislation will fail."

That's a strange position for the billionaire to take, given that he's promised to donate more than 80 percent of his fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "As someone who is giving so much money to international development, Buffett ought to know better," says Joe Romm, who served as an assistant energy secretary under Bill Clinton. "He ought to have spent a great deal of time considering the greatest threats to developing countries — which would have quickly educated him about climate change."

I'm not sure what the author is measuring with the line "its utilities have the worst emissions intensity in America, belching more than 65 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2008 alone." because they list total emissions and not an intensity number.

According to the CARMA database The Southern Company ranked fourth in the world in terms of total emissions:


With American Electric Power and Duke Energy both in the top eleven.

If they are talking about tonnes CO2 per megawatt, Georgia Power (sub of SoCo) produces more electricity than MidAm at a higher CO2/MW. NRG has a higher intensity with a slightly lower electricity production.

Brown University's power plant produces triple the CO2/MW that MidAmerican does. The CARMA database is three years old but you get the picture.

Here's Mr. Buffett talking to some Rice University students last November:

...Buffett told him that in 20 years, he believes all the cars on the road will be electric. He's already invested in a Chinese company working on the technology to make it happen....
-Houston Chronicle Nov. 21, 2009
Buffett was responding to a question from Jan Goetgeluk, the president of Rice business school’s Finance Club
Of course Warren was referring to MidAmerican Energy's $230 million investment in BYD Co.
The RS writer also fails to mention MidAm's wind power generation, the largest utility-owned wind operation in the country.

Also unmentioned was PacifiCorp's hydro generation, over 1000 megawatts, although that will be dropping because of the Klamath Agreement in Principle settling lawsuits brought to keep the salmon happy. Cool by me, a happy salmon is a tasty salmon.

Rolling Stone omitted any reference to MidAmerican's 17,000 miles of natural gas pipeline.

Finally here's one of our BRK annual meeting 2009 posts "
Berkshire Hathaway's Munger on Cap-and-Trade ("Monstrously Stupid Right Now...Almost Demented"); Warren and Charlie on Wind and Solar (BRK.A)":


A shareholder says he has seen windfarms in Iowa made by MidAmerican Energy and when will there be a return on investment for that. Buffett says wind cannot be counted on for a baseload of electricity, but Iowa has been receptive to wind energy and MidAmerican has been happy to cooperate with that. Buffett says a return on wind energy investment is being had, part of it is a tax credit given to anyone in the country who develops wind power generation. Buffett says we love the idea of putting in more wind. Buffett says one advantage Berkshire has is it is a big taxpayer, so the tax credit is certain to help. Munger says anything that make sense for a utility, MidAmerican will be involved. Buffett says Berkshire will be involved in more utilities, and would have cut the Constellation deal. Buffett says a phone call at noon or 1 p.m. one day turned into a firm deal by 5 p.m. frrom Berkshire to Constellation in Baltimore that same day. Buffett says that kind of dealmaking ability will help Berkshire in the future, even though that particular deal did not get closed for Berkshire. Buffett says Berkshire always has the money, and it has the managers who can deliver on the property. He says that is a "huge, huge advantage."


A shareholder asks what questions about the world economy Buffett and Munger ask each other. Buffett says the world always has problems but unfortunately it is the only world we have. Buffett says over time, the United States has a great system and people will be better off in the future compared with the present. Buffett says the system unleashes human potential. Buffett says China went for a long time with a system that didn't unleash human potential. Buffett says that has changed, and China's system does unleash human potential. Buffett says capitalism always will have bad years. Buffett says overall the world moves ahead and really it is at a pretty rapid rate. Munger says the closer he moves to death the more cheerful he feels about the world's potential. Munger says harnessing the sun's power and changing sea water to fresh, other changes are for the better. Munger says he sees very good things for the future, including enough energy generation to solve a lot of other problems along with it.

I have no interest in defending Warren, BRK or MidAmerican. They are a capable bunch.
It's just that over the years I've wasted too much time listening to people who don't know what they're talking about.

If I can save you, gentle reader, some of the most precious asset we have, that's a good thing.