This week we dig into the Wall Street Mess. Are we headed into the next Great Depression? We’ll talk to a Finance Campaigner at the Rainforest Action Network, to see how they fought some big bankers, and won. That interview with Matt Leonard of RAN is only available in the audio program.
But first, Wall Street needs to dig themselves out with a new bubble scam. Why not use our concern about climate change. If a new American Administration takes on carbon emissions, they may hand out billions in new wealth, as tradable pollution credits. In just a couple of minutes, we’ll talk with an anonymous Wall Street insider, about the big banker’s plans to get rich, on climate change.
There are lots of clips from the recent Bear Stearns debacle, to similar stuff from 1929. About 8 minutes of multimedia audio in the show.
But for blog readers, let’s get into Warren Buffett. (And incidentally, DNA tests have shown he is no relation to the singer Jimmy Buffett…)
What does the world’s richest man say about climate change? Can the multi-billion dollar empire of Warren Buffett help prevent the catastrophe?
At the age of 77, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway is listed by Forbes magazine at the top of the capitalist heap, with 62 billion dollars at his command.
Buffett says he is not as good at giving away money, as making it. So, he has an agreement to steer countless billions from his estate, 83 percent of it, to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That Foundation may be one key in the future fight against climate change, but not yet.
Gate himself has said precious little about climate change. The Foundation is immunizing and helping poor African kids, but is apparently not yet tuned into the changing winds that stripped North Africa of its annual rain. We can only hope that the Arctic Ice melt last year, and continued storm damage in the United States and elsewhere, will melt the hearts of Bill and Melinda, so they begin to tackle climate change with the billions at their command.
Meanwhile, there is gigantic cult of following Warren Buffett’s investments, and his sayings. Whole books are devoted to being like Buffett. And the man has some common sense, without a doubt. Here is what Buffett said about the current economic debacle, on CNBC March 4th, 2008.
[clip on Wall Street bankers drinking their own cool-aid]
I’ve done an exhaustive search of the Net, and various media archives, and here is Buffett on climate change:
That’s right. Nothing, nada. Is is possible this old-world man of sensible plaid shirts, and down-to-Earth companies, hasn’t heard we are in trouble? While companies all over the globe are publishing advertising, about their new committment to saving the world, and themselves, from wrenching climate change, Mr. Buffett is Mr. Invisible. Why?
I’ve been wondering why Buffett is misssing in action, and words, for years. But our guest today, the proprieter of the Climateer Investing blog, pointed out that Buffett’s company reporting for 2007, which included a long philosophical report from Chairman Buffett, says absolutely nothing about climate change.
It’s not that Buffett companies are not agents of climate change. He owns many polluting industries. He also owns companies with major exposure to global warming, especially his massive holding of insurance companies. Every other big insurance company, companies like All-State and Munich Re, have acres of reporting on their exposure to climate change damages. The series of big Florida hurricanes, followed by Katrina, topped off their years of research showing an increase in catastrophic climate-related events, around the world, since the 1980’s.
Well, let’s talk about Warren Buffett.
Warren does not have a limousine. He drives himself in his own Cadillac, and is a big supporter of General Motors. He is known for his frugality, rather than the usual conspicuous consumption of other billionaires. Buffett has lived in the same small house for the past 50 years.
The richest man does know about climate change. In a letter in 1993, he told investors that possible global warming indicated that, quote, “catastrophe insurers can’t simply extrapolate past experience.”
“If there is truly ‘global warming,’ for example, the odds would shift, since tiny changes in atmospheric conditions can produce momentous changes in weather patterns.” The question was still “if” back then.
However, even more recently, he seems still on undecided about climate science. Buffett doesn’t actually say that storms are impacted by ““atmospheric, oceanic or other causal factors.” Its just the huge insurance losses have caused him to be more cautious. Hardly an endorsement of climate change, from the head of the third largest insurance company on Earth.
In an article in 2006, Al Gore said: “The best long-term investors, including Warren Buffett, now realise that climate change can materially impact company returns.” But there is litte on the Net to indicate that Gore and Buffett are close friends, or anything like that. However, Buffett has come out in support of the Democrats for 2008. He is on the record as unhappy with the Bush administration management, if it can be called that, of the economy.
Inevitably, some of Buffett’s subsidiaries are involved in climate change mitigation, one way or another. For example, PacifiCorp, a utility owned by the Berhsire Hathaway empire, will make a joint feaibility study in Wyoming, with a coal-fired power plant using Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC). That could be called a kind of carbon capture tech. The EPA, and the Electric Power Research Institute are looking at this technology, which gasifies coal, makes electricity, and then grabs the carbon for sequestration, as a way to keep coal plants working, without wrecking the climate. We shall see.
NetJets Europe, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, is hoping to develop a plan to offset, or otherwise remediate, its carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, other parts of the empire churn out planet-destroying levels of CO2. His companies make giant recreational vehicles, are involved in the trucking industry, and his utilities emit lots of carbon. For example, Buffett bought over $2 billion of the debt issued by the gross polluter TXU, the Texas utility. Berkshire Hathaway also ownd MidAmerican Energy Holdings, another utility conglomerate. One of those subsidiaries is Yorkshire Electricity and Northern Electric, with 3.8 million customers, making it the UK’s third largest electricity producer.
His subsidiary Northern Natural pipelines reportedly carries about 8% of the natural gas used in America. But MidAmerican also has wind farms, as we will hear in a moment.
Buffett’s recent investment in the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp, 10 percent of the railroad giant, has to be seen as climate friendly, considering the much greater efficiency of rail travel. Of course, the company should be moving to more electric rail power. And yet, at least 20% of Burlington Northern’s business is just hauling coal from Wyoming to big power plants in the Midwest. Dirty fingerprints, there.
And Buffet is a big supporter of the Canadian Tar Sands. Here is a clip from the National Post, February 7th, 2008:
If Warren Buffett refuses to comit himself publicly to the reality of climate change, and ignores it in his annual company reports, he isn’t so shy about Peak Oil. Let’s listen to this interview on CNBC in March of 2008.
My thanks to the Climateer Investing blog for some of these tips. Find at climateerinvest.blogspot.com. His entry for February29th is Who Cares What Warren Buffett Thinks About Global Warming?
Well, I do, and you should too. If this seemingly amiable man at the top of the heap doesn’t get it, we are all in trouble. This is no place to hedge bets. This is a planet that needs leadership, and so far, Mr. Buffett has failed to provide it, and that is damaging.
That’s my opinion, I’m Alex Smith, for Radio Ecoshock.