Investing 'Ethically'? Prepare to Lose Your Shirt

It’s starting to look as if the world is emerging, albeit slowly and reluctantly, from the utopian dream of halting and reversing climate change by policies based on almost exclusively on mitigation rather than on adaptation. These two approaches have always been the practical choice between real-world alternatives. A mixture of the two leaning mainly towards adaptation is probably the best approach since the costs of mitigation—as in achieving Net-Zero carbon emissions—are huge and its benefits either modest or unachievable.

For reasons outside the scope of this short commentary, however, the world’s governments and global agencies have placed all their money on the mitigation approach. I write carelessly “their money.” It is, of course, other people’s money. And we are gradually discovering just how much of other people’s money they are investing in climate change mitigation. Prepare to be shocked.

Recently the Financial Times reported as follows:

Thirty of the world’s biggest asset managers, which collectively oversee $9tn, have set a goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions across their investment portfolios by 2050 in a move expected to have huge ramifications for businesses globally. The group, which includes Fidelity International, Legal & General Investment Management, Schroders, UBS Asset Management, M&G, Wellington Management and DWS, said they would work with their clients to cut emissions across their investments.

That attracted the attention of National Review’s Andrew Stuttaford (full disclosure: an old friend) who devoted his regular weekly column on finance to examining how and why Wall Street decided to plunge so wholeheartedly into green ink investments. It’s a real humdinger of a column because it solves a financial mystery.

Nowhere to go but down.

After all, the purpose of investment institutions is to deliver the best return on the money that they are lent by savers and pensioners. If an investment house says that it intends to make mitigating climate change one of its main aims, it’s also telling you that your money will be getting a lower rate of return than it otherwise might. That’s a clear betrayal of the fiduciary duty that agents owe to their principals—unless they level with them and admit the likely loss.

That’s exactly what happens with other ESG funds, and I’ve no doubt that this admission will appear in the middle of the voluminous fine print which warns purchasers that socially conscious investments are likely to perform less well than the average. At the same time all the great and the good of the financial, political, and regulatory world from Al Gore to Mike Bloomberg to Mark Carney are bent on assuring nervous investors that they are making a prudent decision in going green.

Their argument boils down to claiming that any investor risks from green investments are trivial compared to the risks of investing in fossil fuels which are likely to prove unprofitable investments in a world moving towards Net-Zero and which might make those companies vulnerable to expensive lawsuits and regulatory restrictions.

The fallacies embedded in that argument were challenged by me in February last year in the first column I wrote for The Pipeline—which was a criticism of Mark Carney’s strident advocacy of strong measure of financial regulation to direct investors into the “right” green companies.

Yet if these climate forecasts are either exaggerated or simply uncertain [as they are], what is the test which would tell us with some reliability that the market demand for fossil fuels is likely to fall along with the value of companies that extract them. It cannot be the additional stress tests or capital requirements that regulators may want the banks to impose on energy companies, for then the regulators would be using their own interventions as the justification for intervening. As yet, however, non-official market participants can’t seem to see spontaneous causes for this threat to the energy sector.

But my tentative point is made more vividly and powerfully by the economist John Cochrane (quoted by Stuttaford) in an address to the European Central Bank in a reply to one of its senior executives:

Let me quote from ECB executive board member Isabel Schnabel’s recent speech. I don’t mean to pick on her, but she expresses the climate agenda very well, and her speech bears the ECB imprimatur. She recommends that,

‘First, as prudential supervisor, we have an obligation to protect the safety and soundness of the banking sector. This includes making sure that banks properly assess the risks from carbon-intensive exposures. . . .’

Let me point out the unclothed emperor: climate change does not pose any financial risk at the one-, five-, or even ten-year horizon at which one can conceivably assess the risk to bank assets. Repeating the contrary in speeches does not make it so. Risk means variance, unforeseen events. We know exactly where the climate is going in the next five to ten years. Hurricanes and floods, though influenced by climate change, are well modeled for the next five to ten years. Advanced economies and financial systems are remarkably impervious to weather. Relative market demand for fossil vs. alternative energy is as easy or hard to forecast as anything else in the economy. Exxon bonds are factually safer, financially, than Tesla bonds, and easier to value. The main risk to fossil fuel companies is that regulators will destroy them, as the ECB proposes to do, a risk regulators themselves control. (My italics.)

“A risk regulators themselves control.” I hesitate to accuse a former governor of the Bank of England, a former Vice President of the United States, and a former Mayor of New York of financial legerdemain, but I think there are laws against stock manipulation of that kind—though I doubt legislators ever envisaged fraud on the scale of nine trillion dollars.

My own advice to investors and pension fund managers is to fight shy of the “watermelon investments” recommended by the great and good. They are written in Green ink today, Red ink tomorrow.

Consider tobacco companies instead. They survived the legal and regulatory onslaught, and today they’re nice little earners.

Keystone Pipeline Firm Sues Feds for $15 Billion

Back when Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline, we mentioned the possibility that TC Energy, the Canadian energy firm which owned and operated Keystone, might ultimately sue the U.S. government for damages. Well it looks like they're going to do just that:

In a statement on July 2, [TC Energy] said it had filed a notice of intent with the State Department to begin a legacy North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) claim under the U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement. The company said it aims to “recover economic damages resulting from the revocation of the Keystone XL Project’s Presidential Permit,” adding that it suffered a loss of more than $15 billion “as a result of the U.S. Government’s breach of its NAFTA obligations.”

Killing the XL has meant the loss of thousands of jobs on both sides of the border; it has meant that oil and natural gas is now being transported by rail, which is both more dangerous and more carbon intensive, and now it might end up costing American taxpayers a few billion dollars. Who, exactly, has benefited from this idiotic move?

Oh, right -- the activists.

 

The Pot Calling the Anthracite Black

What a dilemma for the flower children! A recent study has determined that "legal cannabis production in Colorado emits more greenhouse gases than the state’s coal mining industry."

Hailey Summers and her colleagues at Colorado State University have quantified and analysed the greenhouse gas emissions produced by cannabis growers. They found that emissions varied widely by state, from 2.3 to 5.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per kilogram of dried flower produced. In Colorado, the emissions add up to around 2.6 megatonnes of CO2e, which is more than that from the state’s coal mining at 1.8 megatonnes of CO2e. “The emissions that come from growing 1 ounce [of cannabis] ... is about the same as burning 7 to 16 gallons of gasoline,” says Summers.

Environmentalists have no qualms about calling for the destruction of whole industries for even the remotest potential environmental benefit, but something tells me that they will allow the burgeoning legal pot regime off without even a slap on the wrist. It's a hot industry right now -- a researcher for the above mentioned study points out that "the profit margins [for legal cannabis] are so huge that you don’t have to be making super energy-conscious decisions” -- and it wouldn't be surprising to find that a lot of the people who pump money into radical environmentalism are also heavily invested in pot.

Making green from green for green, you might say.

There might be another cost/benefit calculation to their reefer madness of course. After all, without legions of stupefied youths, would the environmentalist movement exist at all?

SPECIAL REPORT: Third-Party Spending in Canada's 2019 Election

Our crack team of researchers have been at it again, this time compiling a report laying out the financial returns of third parties during Canada's most recent federal election last year.

The 2019 Canadian federal election (formally the 43rd Canadian general election) was held on October 21, 2019, to elect members of the House of Commons to the 43rd Canadian Parliament. The writs of election for the 2019 election were issued by Governor General Julie Payette on September 11, 2019.

The Liberal Party, led by incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, won 157 seats to form a minority government and lost the majority they had won in the 2015 election. The Liberals lost the popular vote to the Conservatives, which marks only the second time in Canadian history that a governing party formed a government while receiving less than 35 per cent of the national popular vote. The Liberals received the lowest percentage of the national popular vote of a governing party in Canadian history.

Elections Canada defines a third party as "a person or group that wants to participate in or influence elections other than as a political party, electoral district association, nomination contestant or candidate." Any third party that wishes to engage in regulated activities (which includes most public partisan activities, like advertising or promoting a candidate or party) during the pre-election or election periods is required by law to register with the Federal Government once it incurs more than $500.00 in expenses. That registration includes declaring where that money is going, and following that money trail -- be it in greenbacks, loonies, or pounds sterling -- is a central part of our project here at The Pipeline.

Of the top ten spenders, eight of them are leftist groups, one (the Canadian Medical Association) a centrist, and only one -- Canada Proud ("Working to defeat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the 2019 federal election") -- is on the right. That adds up to $5.5 million Canadian on the left versus $360,000 on the right -- $671,000 if you add in the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which comes in at number 11.

Here's the full report:

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And here is a break down of that spending:

Special Report: Major Environmentalist Organizations and their Funders

A few months ago we highlighted an article written by Heritage Foundation visiting fellow (and occasional economic adviser to the Trump Administration) Stephen Moore in which he discussed an appearance he'd made on CNN which provoked more hate mail than he had ever previously received.

What topic of discussion could have inspired such vitriol? None other than the massive amounts of money raked in by what he called the "Climate Change Industrial Complex.”

I noted that “in America and around the globe governments have created a multi-billion dollar Climate Change Industrial Complex.” And then I added: “A lot of people are getting really, really rich off of the climate change industry.” According to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Federal funding for climate change research, technology, international assistance, and adaptation has increased from $2.4 billion in 1993 to $11.6 billion in 2014, with an additional $26.1 billion for climate change programs and activities provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.”

He went on to point out that this "doesn’t mean that the planet isn’t warming. But the tidal wave of funding does reveal a powerful financial motive for scientists to conclude that the apocalypse is upon us."

But why, one wonders, does this kind of observation arouse so much rage? The answer is that environmentalists -- like so many other activists -- have courted an image of being men and women indifferent to their personal interests, who've given themselves wholly over to the cause. And, for their part, their biggest fans are happy to be taken along for the ride, and unhappy about the intrusion of "filthy lucre" spoiling their reverie.

Well, tough.

Environmentalists have a massive influence on our society, from their lobbying for laws and regulations to coerce compliance with their beliefs, to their educational efforts which persuade (or, occasionally, indoctrinate) children from a very young age. When they are doing that with tax money, or money from tax exempt donations, us tax-payers deserve to know something about it.

That being so, our crack team of researchers here at The Pipeline have spent the past month combing through publicly available documents and taking note of the major donors to some of America's most influential environmentalist groups for your information and edification.

So break out your green eyeshade, and enjoy:

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Click on the links below to read the rest of our research:

Money makes the world cool down.

Earthjustice Majors Funders

Greenpeace USA Major Funders

Natural Resources Defense Council Major Funders

Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future Major Funders

Ohio Citizen Action Major Funders

As Deep Throat said during Watergate, "Follow the money."

Beware the Environmentalists' False Flags

You're probably familiar with the phrase "false flag operation." Referring originally to a ship's flying the flag of a different nation than that with which it was aligned in order to deceive the enemy, it has come to refer to any such misrepresentation, particularly those with the intent of casting one's opponents in a negative light.

The thing that makes false flag operations so effective is that it is often impossible to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one has actually taken place. Absent an admission of guilt, all one can do when investigating the circumstances is to lay out the facts and let the jury decide.

I bring this up because I've recently stumbled upon two stories which have the appearance of false flag operations. The first is by Jazz Shaw, who reports on the attempt to build what's being billed as the next generation of nuclear power plant in Idaho. The plant would serve roughly 720,000 homes in that state and in neighboring Utah. Communities in both states which would benefit from this project have already signed on, but one group of activists have made it their mission to convince all involved that it's a bad deal.

The group is called the Utah Taxpayer Association, and their principal argument is that the project is a waste of taxpayer money and (because the technology is still being developed) is likely to fail and lead to higher electricity prices.

Well, as a conservative, fiscal responsibility arguments always get my attention. But Shaw points out that there is something fishy about the organization making the argument:

As to the “fiscal conservative” group trying to get municipalities to pull out of the project, the Utah Taxpayer Association is being fronted by The Hastings Group. One look at their client list at that link will give you an idea of their general ideological makeup. They include:

Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists
Green America
National Resources Defense Council
Renewable Nation
Union Of Concerned Scientists

The Utah Taxpayer Association has also enlisted anti-nuclear power advocate Peter Bradford as a spokesperson. The list of their association with green energy and environmentalist groups goes on.

Shaw doesn't mention this, but along those same lines, the website of The Hastings Group is full of boasts about their "18-month push" to pressure the Trump administration to stop off-shore drilling and their "12-year campaign to shift media attitudes about socially responsible/sustainable investing," the latter being code for divesting from fossil fuels.

Judging by these relationships, it seems unlikely that the Utah Taxpayer Association is the confederation of Goldwater Republicans that its name and rhetoric would lead you to surmise. It's rather more likely that some textbook Greenies, aware that their normal pitch would have less purchase in rural mountain states, decided to attack the problem from a different angle, hoping that cost-conscious conservatives would miss the lefty agenda behind the scenes.

And what is that agenda exactly? After all, as Shaw notes, nuclear power is effectively zero carbon, so you'd think that anti-carbon emissions activists would be on board with this project. Their opposition reveals their true colors -- for a lot of them, at least, it isn't the carbon they care about so much as limiting the competition for their so-called renewable energy projects.

The second potential false flag is rather more complicated, and has to do with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a planned project which was principally owned by Richmond, Va., based Dominion Energy. It was meant to move natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia through Virginia and then down to North Carolina. Had the pipeline gone through, it is probable that Dominion would have built a second natural gas liquefaction terminal, likely in the Newport area, to complement the one it already owns in Cove Point, Md., creating lots of well-paying jobs for Virginians and allowing the company to export significantly more natural gas overseas.

"Was" is the operative word here, however, because in July it was announced that Dominion is cutting its losses and pulling out of the $8 billion project, citing "the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States." This is being spoken of principally as a victory for the environmentalist groups which have been trying to kill the project since it was launched, with Michael Brune of the Sierra Club crowing,

Dominion did not decide to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—the people and frontline organizations that led this fight for years forced [it] into walking away.

However, journalist and Virginia native Arthur Bloom is skeptical. As he put it in a recent podcast appearance, "the death of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has sort of been heralded by activists as this big win, this is the new Virginia, pushing back on decades of probably-racist Republican rule. Virtually none of that is true."

Bloom has written a detailed piece at The American Conservative in which he attempts to connect the dots to discern what really happened here. The thing is, Dominion is not only pulling out of the Atlantic Pipeline, it is, as the Wall Street Journal reports, "selling the rest of its natural-gas transmission and storage network to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for $9.7 billion," a deal which includes a 25 percent stake in its Cove Point liquefaction facility. As he investigated the "various interests that were publicly opposed to the construction of the pipeline," Bloom was struck "quite forcefully [by] how many of them were connected to Berkshire Hathaway."

One of those interested parties was Michael Bills, a Virginia billionaire and chairman of the board of environmental lobbying group Clean Virginia, who has waged a war against Dominion for the past several years, even offering to max out donations to any political candidate in the state who pledged not to accept any money from the company. Bloom points out that Bills is the former business partner of Berkshire Hathaway executive Ted Weschler, who is frequently mentioned as a potential replacement for Warren Buffet, as Berkshire's CEO. That doesn't prove anything, but it is a connection, and a high level one at that.

Bloom also details the political opposition to Dominion from the state's ascendant Democrats, a more important part of the story than the legal and regulatory hurdles to the project. (Indeed, the project had recently won big at the Supreme Court). Of course the state Democratic ascent has been funded in large part by Berkshire money too. Bloom notes that "the largest single donor to the Democratic Party of Virginia in 2015 was the son of Buffett partner Charles Munger, Jr, whose money supplied more than half of their funds for statehouse races that year."

And then there's the fact that, in Bloom's words,

Berkshire also owned most of the newspapers in western and central Virginia until March, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Free Lance-Star, the Culpeper Times-Exponent, the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, the News Virginian in Waynesboro, and the Roanoke Times, giving them almost complete control of the pipeline narrative in the parts of the state where it mattered.

Be sure to read the whole piece to get into the real nitty-gritty of the thing, but Bloom makes a compelling case that everything is not as it seems. As he makes clear in the interview cited above, there is something a little too convenient about the fact that Dominion was the focal point of so much environmental activism, which had the effect of depressing the stock price of the company, allowing a massive financial firm -- which had deep ties to the environmental activists -- to swoop in "and [scoop] up their assets on the cheap." Meanwhile the environmentalists are able to claim the scalp of a major pipeline project while ignoring Berkshire Hathaway, this despite the fact that the company's anti-union history makes it likely that the unionized workers in Dominion's natural gas sector might soon be out of a job. Unions are less important to the left these days than wealthy environmentalists.

False flag operations are difficult to prove, but Shaw and Bloom argue persuasively that alliances and the money trail constitute a preponderance of evidence in their respective cases pointing to real deception on the part of the interested parties. Read and judge for yourself.

Tides Canada Rebrands as 'MakeWay'

I actually LOL'd when I read this article announcing that the "progressive" environmentalist organization, Tides Canada, is "rebranding" as MakeWay.

The Vancouver-based non-profit group, which took its name from the American Tides Foundation 20 years ago, funds hundreds of charities across Canada in the area of environmental and social justice. But in recent years, its association with the Tides Foundation and its participation in the Tar Sands Campaign... placed it in Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s crosshairs....

“Smear campaigns about Tides Canada have repeatedly misconstrued the purpose of [our] international philanthropic funding and have also conflated it with the U.S.-based Tides Foundation,” the organizations states in a press release.

Wow, so Jason Kenney (boo! hiss!) unjustly roped Tides Canada into his inquiry into foreign funded anti-Albertan oil campaigns just because they borrowed the name of an American foundation which they totally have nothing to do with today?!?! Outrageous!

Or else, you know, extremely misleading.

It may be true that people reading Vivian Krause's indispensable reporting (which influenced Kenney's inquiry) on the millions of dollars both the Tides Foundation and Tides Canada have spent keeping Canadian oil in the ground might have trouble tracking which seven or eight figure donation came from which organization. But the suggestion that its inclusion is unjust is ludicrous, as Krause makes plain in her call for Tides Canada to be investigated, published back in 2011:

Since 2000, Tides Canada has gone through $200 million. That's a lot of cash and it raises a fair question: Where did all that money come from, and what has Tides Canada accomplished with it? .... U.S. tax returns and on-line records show that since 2000, Tides Canada has been paid nearly $60 Million by American foundations.

Perhaps its not so shocking that they've ended up in "Jason Kenney's crosshairs."

The truth is, organizations like Tides Canada prefer it when regular people have never heard of them. It allows them to operate with minimal scrutiny, make powerful contacts without triggering anyone's spidey sense, and serve as a launchpad into politics for activists, as when Tides Canada VP Sarah Goodman was tapped as Justin Trudeau's climate policy director. The inquiry makes it harder to do those things, hence the rebranding.

Here's hoping that, if they keep doing what they've been doing, Krause and Kenney can make "MakeWay" just as toxic.

Wanna Manufacture a Consensus? It'll Cost You

I recently stumbled upon a Stephen Moore piece on the Heritage Foundation's blog from back in 2018 which touches on an important topic for us here at The Pipeline, one which doesn't get enough attention. I'm speaking of the massive amounts of money behind the environmentalist movement which has made it so effective at indoctrinating ordinary people (especially children), pressuring politicians, and manufacturing what they like to refer to as the scientific "consensus."

Shortly after the latest Chicken Little climate change report was published last month, I noted on CNN that one reason so many hundreds of scientists are persuaded that the sky is falling is that they are paid handsomely to do so.

I noted that “in America and around the globe governments have created a multi-billion dollar Climate Change Industrial Complex.” And then I added: “A lot of people are getting really, really rich off of the climate change industry.” According to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Federal funding for climate change research, technology, international assistance, and adaptation has increased from $2.4 billion in 1993 to $11.6 billion in 2014, with an additional $26.1 billion for climate change programs and activities provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.”

This doesn’t mean that the planet isn’t warming. But the tidal wave of funding does reveal a powerful financial motive for scientists to conclude that the apocalypse is upon us. No one hires a fireman if there are no fires. No one hires a climate scientist (there are thousands of them now) if there is no catastrophic change in the weather. Why doesn’t anyone in the media ever mention this?

But when I lifted this hood, it incited more hate mail than from anything I’ve said on TV or written. Could it be that this rhetorical missile hit way too close to home?

As the vitriolic response to Vivian Krause's work exposing the foreign funding of Canadian environmentalist groups demonstrates, they really dislike it when you even ask where their money comes from. They prefer regular people to see them as disembodied spirits with no need for food or shelter who, like the teenage heroes on Captain Planet, have dedicated their lives to using the power of heart to combat those villains who despoil the environment just for kicks.

In reality, they are just like everyone else, with true believers mixed in with the cynics, and people from both of those groups eager to make a few bucks, and often more than a few. How much exactly? Well:

Surprisingly, no one seems to be keeping track of all the channels of funding. A few years ago Forbes magazine went through the federal budget and estimated about $150 billion in spending on climate change and green energy subsidies during President Obama’s first term.

That didn’t include the tax subsidies that provide a 30 percent tax credit for wind and solar power — so add to those numbers about $8 billion to $10 billion a year. Then add billions more in costs attributable to the 29 states with renewable energy mandates that require utilities to buy expensive “green” energy.

Worldwide the numbers are gargantuan. Five years ago, a leftist group called the Climate Policy Initiative issued a study which found that “global investment in climate change” reached $359 billion that year. Then to give you a sense of how money-hungry these planet-saviors are, the CPI moaned that this spending “falls far short of what’s needed” a number estimated at $5 trillion....

The entire Apollo project to put a man on the moon cost less than $200 billion. We are spending twice that much every year on climate change.

Of course, as Moore discusses, in order to get a piece of this enormous pot, you have to deliver the right lines. Or, as he puts it, "you’re probably not going to do your career any good or get famous by publishing research [saying] that the crisis isn’t happening. But if you’ve built bogus models that predict the crisis is getting worse by the day, then step right up and get a multi-million-dollar grant."

Which is how you manufacture a consensus -- first you make it advantageous to hold to one opinion for long enough that (eventually) it becomes disadvantageous to hold any other. So, when a critical mass of scientists sign on the dotted line, not signing makes one essentially unemployable. Men like Freeman Dyson, who have been around long enough and whose achievements are monumental enough that they can contradict the party line, get harder and harder to come by.

In the end, Moore points out that, despite this enormous amount of money, environmentalists are constantly telling us that no progress has been made. "The latest reports by the U.S. government and the United Nations say the problem is getting worse not better and we have not delayed the apocalypse by a single day." Which ought to make you wonder if saving the world is really their primary motivation.

Maybe they're more invested in a different type of green.