Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Berkshire Hathaway's MidAmerican Energy on Waxman-Markey: "We Don't Much Care For It" (BRK.A)

MidAmerican Energy (a Berkshire Hathaway company) has the largest portfolio of utility-owned wind power assets in the country. Their PacifiCorp subsidiary has over 1000 megawatts of hydro capacity. These folks are some of the smartest operators in the country.
Here's the press release via BusinessWire (a Berkshire Hathaway company):

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company Opposes Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill
MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company Chairman David L. Sokol said today that H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act introduced by Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), will impose prohibitive rate increases for customers of MidAmerican Energy Company and PacifiCorp, and that MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company will oppose the bill in the House of Representatives.

“The Waxman-Markey bill is a cap and trade program that will force our customers to pay two expensive costs,” Sokol said. “First, they will pay the cost of emissions allowances purchased on a complex auction market that will do nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and second, they will pay the cost of replacing our existing fossil-fuel generation facilities with low-carbon alternatives.”

As a result, Sokol said MidAmerican could not join the Edison Electric Institute in endorsing Waxman-Markey. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce began legislative consideration of the measure today. “Cap and trade will have a profoundly negative impact on people who are struggling to make ends meet in an economy still in distress,” Sokol added.

Sokol said MidAmerican supports carbon emission reductions and believes the electric sector can achieve the 83 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 called for in the Waxman-Markey bill while avoiding the costs of emissions allowances.

“We will, therefore, continue to work with Congress on an alternative compliance mechanism to be enacted for the states that will reach the same greenhouse gas emission goals in Waxman-Markey,” Sokol added.

MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company, based in Des Moines, Iowa, is a global provider of energy services. Through its energy-related business platforms – PacifiCorp, MidAmerican Energy Company, CE Electric UK, Kern River Gas Transmission Company, Northern Natural Gas Company and CalEnergy – MidAmerican provides electric and natural gas service to more than 6.9 million customers worldwide. Information on MidAmerican is available on the Internet at www.midamerican.com.

I bolded one paragraph for comparison with a couple comments, the first at Environmental Capital, January '08:

9:36 am January 22, 2008

Climateer wrote:

    • The carbon traders put together a new special interest group “Coalition for Emission Reduction Projects” to lobby for inclusion of CDM projects in any U.S. legislation.
      Just one problem. If the utilities spend our money doing efficiency projects in China because it’s “cheaper” than making the changes in the U.S., what are they going to do when the caps ratchet down?
      They’ve just thrown the ratepayers money away, China says thank you, the traders pocket 15% and the U.S. consumer gets screwed.
      Cap-and-auction with per-capita rebate. Let the EU send their money to China.

and at Climateer Investing, January '09:

International Carbon Trader Advises Obama: "Trade Carbon Internationally"

The problem with buying Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) carbon credits from developing nations is not the documented, multi-billion dollar CDM frauds, it is the fact that using the so-called cheaper alternative to meet a cap means that American ratepayers will be building infrastructure in China and then, as caps ratchet down, have to build infrastructure all over again in the U.S.

Oh, then there's the fact that hiring carbon traders as mercenary tax collectors means that up to 20% of the cash flows will go to them.

On top of the fact that on some CDM projects 60% of the proceeds go to the middlemen, developers, verifiers, bureaucrats, traders, promoters ad nauseum.

Here are Mr. Sokol's partners on Cap-and-Trade:

Berkshire Hathaway's Munger on Cap-and-Trade ("Monstrously Stupid Right Now...Almost Demented"); Warren and Charlie on Wind and Solar (BRK.A)

Warren Buffett on Cap-and-Trade (BRK.A)

Here is Mr. Sokol's OpEd in today's Washington Post (a Berkshire Hathaway company [18%]):

Let's Have Cap and No Trade

The adage that everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die is on display again as the House considers a massive 932-page climate-change bill, introduced by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), that would establish a "cap and trade" system for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Its sponsors say it will keep low- and middle-income consumers whole while the United States cuts emissions 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 and transitions to a clean-energy economy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

On paper, the Waxman-Markey bill puts a cost on carbon dioxide by imposing a ceiling, or cap, on greenhouse gas emissions and then setting up a market for regulated industries -- such as the electric power sector -- to buy and sell allowances to pollute under that cap. As the cap is reduced each year, market participants will exchange allowances in a complex auction market.

If you liked what credit default swaps did to our economy, you're going to love cap-and-trade. Just read Title VIII of the bill, which lets investment banks, hedge funds and other speculators participate in the cap-and-trade market. They don't have emissions to cut; they have commissions to make.

The real hidden catch of the cap-and-trade system, though, is that it will require consumers to pay twice: first for emission allowances and then for the construction of new low- and zero-carbon power plants.

Congressional estimates of government revenue from the sale of cap-and-trade allowances range from hundreds of billions to trillions of dollars. Contrary to assurances from the bill's sponsors that utility customers wouldn't have to pay these costs for the first decade, some coal-dependent utilities would be forced to purchase more than half of their allowances when the program is scheduled to begin in 2012. Would these allowances reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? No; that would come when consumers footed a second bill -- for the cost of their utilities either to retrofit coal and gas plants to capture carbon -- something that cannot be done today on a commercial scale -- or to shut them down and build non-carbon-producing nuclear plants and wind farms instead....MORE