Counterparties: Less is more green

February 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

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America is producing less of something, and for once, that’s good news: US carbon emissions are at their lowest level since 1994.

A decrease in emissions is definitely welcome, given the undeniable reality of global warming. And America did a bit more than just cut emissions. As a report from Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance details, the US invested $44 billion in renewables in 2012. That’s an 11% decline from the year before, but there’s still more money going into renewable energy than into any other energy source. Overall, US clean energy capacity is largely stagnant, while energy use has declined 6.4% since 2007.

America cut its carbon output without any help from federal legislation, and despite a largely symbolic energy secretary. Economics is taking the place of legislation: energy production from natural gas, wind, and solar is getting cheaper, and saving energy is easier than ever. New Energy Finance notes that gas consumption has dropped 5.7% since 2007, and buildings use 40% less energy per square foot than they did in 1980. US manufacturing is doing well (take a look at the latest ISM and GM sales numbers), so you can’t simply chalk up America’s carbon reduction to structural changes in the economy.

America is also burning less coal, which is terrific. Coal isn’t just carbon intensive: mining it destroys mountains, burning it is terrible for human health, and the ash is converted into a particularly toxic slurry.

A more mixed development is America’s increasing reliance on natural gas. That means lower emissions  compared to coal or oil, but fracking has plenty of environmental problems that we know about, and likely still more to be uncovered.

The bad news, as ever for the environment, is China, which remains an economy powered by coal. As China’s skies show, throwing large amounts of money towards renewable energy can’t offset an addiction to coal. China might not be able to get its act together, but as Cass Sunstein smartly pointed out, that’s all the more reason for the US to do so. — Ben Walsh

On to today’s links:

JPMorgan’s London Whale trader tried to warn his bosses about his “scary” trades – WSJ

Former mayor Ed Koch dies, he is “survived by New York City itself” – NYT
Koch on the suburbs: “It’s sterile. It’s nothing. It’s wasting your life.” – Business Insider

Primary Sources
US adds 157K jobs in January — as revisions reveal 400k+ jobs we didn’t know existed – BLS

Popular Myths
Debunking the myth of the “hidden prosperity of the poor” – Tom Edsall

Amazon, Apple and the simple genius of a low margin business – Eugene Wei

Deutsche Bank will cap (immediate) bonuses at $400,000 – Bloomberg
Deutsche’s strange, lonely fight with the Fed over bank capital – Peter Eavis

Quote of the Week
“Facebook is a large, inefficient engine for transforming electricity and programmers into a down-market place to sell low-value advertising” – Christopher Mims

Financial Arcana
Relax, banks’ risk measurements are rarely off by much more than a factor of 10 – Matt Levine

We’re maybe, possibly entering an era of new American progressiveness – Jeff Sachs

Obama’s Jobs Council disbanded, after possibly accomplishing some stuff – WSJ

Consumer Electronics Association cuts ties with CNET – Brian Stelter

Herbalife’s 10-K actually doesn’t say that it’s a pyramid scheme – Grumpy Old Accountants
The only thing markets have to fear is lack of fear itself – Bloomberg

Since December 2012, Goldman Sachs has been 100% less Fab – WSJ

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