Opinion | The Way the Senate Melted Down Over Crypto Is Very Revealing – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“For months, there’s been a debate over what should count as infrastructure. Roads and bridges, sure. But what about preschool and health insurance and child care? Democrats say yes, Republicans say no. With the exception of broadband access, however, there’s been almost no discussion of the infrastructure underpinning the digital economy. But right at the end, that changed, when a meltdown over cryptocurrency regulation almost derailed the bipartisan infrastructure bill’s passage in the Senate.

I’m going to try to do a few things here. First, I want to explain why crypto matters, even if you think Bitcoin is just goldbuggery for nerds. The technology is evolving to be much more than a digital currency, and Silicon Valley sees it as the digital infrastructure atop which the next internet will be built. Then I want to trace the fight that consumed the final days of the bill, because this was just an early skirmish in what will be a much longer campaign.”

This piece by Klein is pathetically vague, but the comments are not.

Here are the top two comments I recommended:

dave
pennsylvania43m ago
Times Pick

I’m no closer to understanding crypto currencies, but this article made the associated problems wonderfully clear. What it did NOT do was point out that in our current environment, anything that burns as much electricity as Indonesia should either be shutdown or construct its own solar/wind power source. The notion that someone somewhere is burning coal so these “whiz kids” can avoid the banking system is unacceptable. Climate change is 1000 times more important than more “digital innovation”…

12 Replies696 Recommended

Michael
Toledo, Ohio, USA43m ago
Times Pick

As a retired computer engineer in his mid-seventies, I hope to die before I have to understand and deal with cryptocurrencies, blockchains, etc. Regrettably, my children (in their forties, more or less) won’t be so lucky. For what it may be worth, to me Bitcoin looks a lot like gold: it has to be “mined,” with substantial expense and environmental damage; it has no intrinsic value; and it is little more than a medium for speculation.

7 Replies487 Recommended
Ann
Upstate. y7h ago

I live in the Finger Lakes, an area full of farms, wineries, rolling hills and lakes. We are working hard to end out reliance on carbon. On Seneca lake, a crypto mining facility is spewing enormous amounts of carbon into the air to run the computers. Crypto now uses as much carbo energy as Argentina. This industry does not belong in a world where dealing with the carbo emergency is paramount. The neglect to mention this reality makes this piece worthless. Everything should be now be studies through the lens of the climate emergency.

6 Replies281 Recommended
 As I might sing in my concert on the environment, Noah’s New Ark,
This will change with a carbon tax.

Paul Krugman | Climate Denial, Covid Denial and the Right’s Descent – The New York Times

Opinion columnist

“Before the right embraced Covid denial, there was climate denial. Many of the attitudes that have characterized the right-wing response to the coronavirus pandemic — refusal to acknowledge facts, accusations that scientists are part of a vast liberal conspiracy, refusal to address the crisis — were foreshadowed in the climate debate.

Yet from the response to Covid-19 among Republican officials — especially the opposition to lifesaving vaccines — it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the paranoid, anti-rational streak in American politics isn’t as bad as we thought; it’s much, much worse.

On Monday the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report. The conclusions won’t surprise anyone who has been following the issue, but they were terrifying all the same.

Major damage from climate change, the panel tells us, is already locked in. In fact, it’s already happening, as the world experiences extreme weather events, like heat waves in the Pacific Northwest and floods in Europe, that have been made far more likely by rising global temperatures. And unless we take drastic action very soon, catastrophe looms.”

Here is the most popular comment, which I endorsed:

Yuriasian
Bay Area Aug. 10
Times Pick

The most pernicious word in any language is freedom. Pernicious because it has no meaning beyond subverting any notion of personal or collective responsibility. Gov DeSantis says Florida is a free state — folks can decide for themselves if they want to contract Covid or infect others (but businesses aren’t free to do business only with vaccinated customers because that would be a violation of freedom). Abbott in Texas says freedom is carrying a concealed weapon with absolutely no restriction. Sen Josh Hawley believes a mob attack on The Capitol is an exercise in freedom. GOP state legislators say they defend freedom by making it impossible for some to vote. A majority of Supreme Court Justices define freedom as telling woman they have no reproductive choices. For decades driving a Chevrolet (or more likely a 300 horsepower pickup) to see the USA was freedom at its gas guzzling best. America is the land of the free. Responsibility, consequences, that’s socialist talk. The want to take away our guns, monster trucks, smokes, even our burgers and steaks. What’s not free? Education, healthcare, equality, childcare, the right to vote, decent housing, livable wages. Covid, Climate Change are just socialist conspiracies against American freedom. Republicans love to say vigilance is the price of freedom. That’s a lie. The real price of freedom is responsibility, personal and collective. Most Americans have yet to earn their “freedom.”

59 Replies2802 Recommended

The Little Hedge Fund Taking Down Big Oil – The New York Times

  • Audio Recording by Audm  Listen 34:47

“On the day the little investment firm Engine No. 1 would learn the outcome of its proxy battle at Exxon Mobil, its office in San Francisco still didn’t have furniture. Almost everyone had been working at home since the firm was started in spring 2020, so when the founder, Chris James, went into the office for a rare visit on May 26 this year to watch the results during Exxon Mobil’s annual shareholder meeting, he propped his computer up on a rented desk. As an activist investor, he had bought millions of dollars’ worth of shares in Exxon Mobil to put forward four nominees to the board. His candidates needed to finish in the top 12 of the 16 up for election, and he was nervous. Since December, James and the firm’s head of active engagement, Charlie Penner, had been making their case that America’s most iconic oil company needed new directors to help it thrive in an era of mounting climate urgency. In response, Exxon Mobil expanded its board to 12 directors from 10 and announced a $3 billion investment in a new initiative it called Low Carbon Solutions. James paced around the empty office and texted Penner: “I was doing bed karate this morning thinking about how promises made at gunpoint are rarely kept. Exxon only makes promises at gunpoint.”

Federal Judge Says Biden Cannot Pause New Leases for Drilling on Public Lands – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, in the first major legal roadblock for President Biden’s quest to cut fossil fuel pollution and conserve public lands.

Judge Terry A. Doughty of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday against the administration, saying that the power to pause offshore oil and gas leases “lies solely with Congress” because it was the legislative branch that originally made federal lands and waters available for leasing.

Judge Doughty also ruled that 13 states that are suing the administration over its temporary halt to new leases “have made a showing that there is a substantial likelihood that President Biden exceeded his powers.” “

Thomas L. Friedman | The ‘Mean Greens’ Are Forcing Exxon to Clean Up Its Act – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Since the 1990s, the wisest oil-producing countries and companies have regularly reminded themselves of the oil patch adage that the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; it ended because we invented bronze tools. When we did, stone tools became worthless — even though there were still plenty on the ground.

And so it will be with oil: The petroleum age will end because we invent superior technology that coexists harmoniously with nature. When we do, there will be plenty of oil left in the ground.

So be careful, wise producers tell themselves, don’t bet the vitality of your company, community or country on the assumption that oil will be like Maxwell House Coffee — “Good to the last drop” — and pumped from every last well. Remember Kodak? It underestimated the speed at which digital photography would make film obsolete. It didn’t go well for Kodak or Kodachrome.

Alas, though, not every oil company got the memo.

One that most glaringly did not is the one that in 2013 was the biggest public company in the world! It’s ExxonMobil. Today, it is no longer the biggest. As a result of its head-in-the-oil-sands-drill-baby-drill-we-are-still-not-at-peak-oil business model, Exxon lost over $20 billion last year, suffered a credit rating downgrade, might have to borrow billions just to pay its dividend, has seen its share price over the last decade produce a minus-30 percent return and was booted from the Dow Jones industrial average.  . . . “

Climate Change Activists Notch Victory in Exxon Mobil Board Elections – The New York Times

“HOUSTON — Big Oil was dealt a stunning defeat on Wednesday when shareholders of Exxon Mobil elected at least two board candidates nominated by activist investors who pledged to steer the company toward cleaner energy and away from oil and gas.

The success of the campaign, led by a tiny hedge fund against the nation’s largest oil company, could force the energy industry to confront climate change and embolden Wall Street investment firms that are prioritizing the issue. Analysts could not recall another time that Exxon management had lost a vote against company-picked directors.

“This is a landmark moment for Exxon and for the industry,” said Andrew Logan, a senior director at Ceres, a nonprofit investor network that pushes corporations to take climate change seriously. “How the industry chooses to respond to this clear signal will determine which companies thrive through the coming transition and which wither.”

The vote reveals the growing power of giant Wall Street firms that manage the 401(k)s and other investments of individuals and businesses to press C.E.O.s to pursue environmental and social goals. Some of these firms are run by executives who say they see climate change as a major threat to the economy and the planet.   . . . . “

David Lindsay

tfJuusrodsSplton shnorteodw  · The New York Times  · Shared with Public

I have opposed divestment from the oil and gas companies for many years, arguing that persuation from within is as important as legislation and pressure from without. It appears that yesterday, folks like me had a good day. I was extremely proud to have voted my small batch of Exxon Mobil shares for all four of the new sustainability board members, and for the the two biting resolutions that passed, requiring transparecy of all money to politics, and to evaluate such donations against the goals of the Paris Climate Accord goals.

‘Climate Change Is Not a Subjective Thing.’ — NYT Video

How Does the U.S. Approach to the Environment Look From Abroad?Video by Chai Dingari, Adam Westbrook and Brendan Miller

 
 
“The United States has a schizophrenic relationship with the environment.
It boasts a spectacular system of more than 400 national park sites; a robust environmental lobby; and strong federal environmental law, including the landmark Endangered Species Act, which is credited with saving the bald eagle and the grizzly bear from extinction.
Yet it also harbors a dark side, including an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels; a longstanding romance with behemoth, gas-guzzling vehicles; and perhaps the highest per capita generation of plastic waste in the world.
For the video (below), we collated data and other information about America’s posture on the environment and presented them to people from other countries that, in some ways, have made the United States, the wealthiest country in the world, seem like an environmental laggard.”
Opinion | ‘Climate Change Is Not a Subjective Thing.’ How Does the U.S. Approach to the Environment Look From Abroad?
 
NYTIMES.COM

 

 
Opinion | ‘Climate Change Is Not a Subjective Thing.’ How Does the U.S. Approach to the Environment Look From Abroad
 
Source:

 

Big Oil laggard Exxon faces a new climate threat from Wall Street

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KEY POINTS
  • Exxon Mobil has been a laggard in the oil and gas sector and has seen its market value decline by hundreds of billions of dollars.
  • Pension giant CalSTRS is supporting a new activist fund effort to replace Exxon board members.
  • Activists see this as a perfect time to seek short-term value creation in a better run company as well as more long-term support from investors if the company becomes clearer about its climate plan.

In this article

VIDEO05:41
CalSTRS’s Chris Ailman on calling for company overhaul at Exxon Mobil

Exxon Mobil is poised for a new role in a changing world it doesn’t want: target and test case for a new form of combined attack from activist hedge funds and long-term impact investors focused on sustainability and climate change. A newly formed activist investor group, Engine No. 1, announced plans on Monday to seek four board seats at the oil and gas giant, and underlying the effort are both short-term and long-term goals to change the way Exxon approaches the energy business at a time of rapid transition forced by fears about carbon emissions.

The activist firm — which includes founders from successful activist hedge funds including Partner Fund Management and JANA Partners — thinks the time is ripe for an overhaul of Exxon’s management. The market stats cited in its letter to Exxon’s board highlight a significant drop in operating performance and “dramatic” decline in Exxon’s stock value in recent years as many investors have lost faith in the company.

Source: Big Oil laggard Exxon faces a new climate threat from Wall Street

Ezra Klein | Texas Is a Rich State in a Rich Country, and Look What Happened – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Mark Felix/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“A few months back, because I really know how to live, I spent a night reading “The Green Swan: Central banking and financial stability in the age of climate change.” The report, released in January 2020 by the Bank for International Settlements, argued that central banks, concerned as they are with the stability of prices and financial systems, were negligent if they ignored climate change. The economies we know are inseparable from the long climatic peace in which they were built. But that peace is ending. There are no stable prices in a burning world.

This is one of those papers where the measured language preferred by technocrats strains against the horrors they are trying to describe. What emerges is almost an apocalyptic form of poetry. One line, in particular, has rung in my head for months. “Climate-related risks will remain largely unhedgeable as long as systemwide action is not undertaken.” If you know anything about financial regulators, you know the word “unhedgeable” is an alarm bell shrieking into the night. Financial systems are built to hedge risk. When a global risk is unhedgeable, the danger it poses is existential.

The point of the report is simply this: The world’s economic systems teeter atop “backward-looking risk assessment models that merely extrapolate historical trends.” But the future will not be like the past. Our models are degrading by the day, and we don’t understand — we don’t want to understand — how much in society could topple when they fail, and how much suffering that could bring. One place to start is by recognizing how fragile the basic infrastructure of civilization is even now, in this climate, in rich countries.

Which brings me to Texas. Two facts from that crisis have gotten less attention than they deserve. First, the cold in Texas was not a generational climatic disaster. The problem, as Roger Pielke Jr., an environmental analyst at the University of Colorado at Boulder, wrote in his newsletter, is that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ worst-case scenario planning used a 2011 cold snap that was a one-in-10-year weather event. It wasn’t even the worst cold Texas experienced in living memory: in 1989 temperatures and electricity generation (as a percentage of peak demand) dropped even further than they did in 2011. Texas hadn’t just failed to prepare for the far future. It failed to prepare for the recent past.

Second, it could have been so much worse. Bill Magness, the president and chief executive of ERCOT, said Texas was “seconds and minutes” from complete energy system collapse — the kind where the system needs to be rebuilt, not just rebooted. “If we had allowed a catastrophic blackout to happen, we wouldn’t be talking today about hopefully getting most customers their power back,” Mr. Magness said. “We’d be talking about how many months it might be before you get your power back.”

This was not the worst weather imaginable and this was not the worst outcome imaginable. Climate change promises far more violent events to come. But this is what it looks like when we face a rare-but-predictable stretch of extreme weather, in a rich state in a rich country. The result was nearly 80 deaths — and counting — including an 11-year-old boy found frozen in his bed. I can barely stand to write those words.” . . .

Thomas Friedman | Can You Believe This Is Happening in America? – The New York Times

” . . . What’s going on? Well, in the case of Texas and Mars, the basic answers are simple. Texas is the poster child for what happens when you turn everything into politics — including science, Mother Nature and energy — and try to maximize short-term profits over long-term resilience in an era of extreme weather. The Mars landing is the poster child for letting science guide us and inspire audacious goals and the long-term investments to achieve them.

The Mars mind-set used to be more our norm. The Texas mind-set has replaced it in way too many cases. Going forward, if we want more Mars landings and fewer Texas collapses — what’s happening to people there is truly heartbreaking — we need to take a cold, hard look at what produced each.

The essence of Texas thinking was expressed by Gov. Greg Abbott in the first big interview he gave to explain why the state’s electricity grid failed during a record freeze. He told Fox News’s Sean Hannity: “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. … Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis. … It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary.”

The combined dishonesty and boneheadedness of those few sentences was breathtaking. The truth? Texas radically deregulated its energy market in ways that encouraged every producer to generate the most energy at the least cost with the least resilience — and to ignore the long-term trend toward more extreme weather.” . . . .