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.  . . . “

Lithium Mining Projects May Not Be Green Friendly – The New York Times

Ivan Penn and 

“Atop a long-dormant volcano in northern Nevada, workers are preparing to start blasting and digging out a giant pit that will serve as the first new large-scale lithium mine in the United States in more than a decade — a new domestic supply of an essential ingredient in electric car batteries and renewable energy.

The mine, constructed on leased federal lands, could help address the near total reliance by the United States on foreign sources of lithium.

But the project, known as Lithium Americas, has drawn protests from members of a Native American tribe, ranchers and environmental groups because it is expected to use billions of gallons of precious ground water, potentially contaminating some of it for 300 years, while leaving behind a giant mound of waste.

“Blowing up a mountain isn’t green, no matter how much marketing spin people put on it,” said Max Wilbert, who has been living in a tent on the proposed mine site while two lawsuits seeking to block the project wend their way through federal courts.  . . . “

A Bet 20 Years Ago Made It the Exxon of Green Power – The New York Times

“MADRID — In the winter of 2015, three directors of a Connecticut electric company met with a potential acquirer: a determined Spanish utility executive named José Ignacio Sánchez Galán, who surprised them with a bold vision for America’s utility industry.

“He was very clear then that he saw the U.S. as having enormous potential in renewable energy,” said John L. Lahey, who was chairman of the company, United Illuminating. “This guy six years ago was already way ahead of where the U.S. was.”

Mr. Galán clinched that deal for United Illuminating for $3 billion. His company, Iberdrola, is now poised, with a Danish partner, to begin constructing the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the United States, in waters off Massachusetts. Over all, Iberdrola and its subsidiaries reach 24 U.S. states and have investments in countries from Britain to Brazil to Australia.

For the past 20 years, since he took over Iberdrola, based in Bilbao with 37,000 employees, Mr. Galán has been on a mission to upend the electrical utility industry, a fragmented collection of companies tied to aging coal- and oil-burning generators.  . . . “

Tesla’s Latest Solar Stumble: Big Price Increases – The New York Times

“On an October evening five years ago, Elon Musk used a former set for “Desperate Housewives” to show off Tesla’s latest innovation: roof shingles that can generate electricity from the sun without unsightly solar panels.

After delays, Tesla began rolling out the shingles in a big way this year, but it is already encountering a major problem. The company is hitting some customers with price increases before installation that are tens of thousands of dollars higher than earlier quotes, angering early adopters and raising big questions about how Tesla, which is better known for its electric cars, is running its once dominant rooftop solar business.

Dr. Peter Quint was eager to install Tesla’s solar shingles on his 4,000-square-foot home in Portland, Ore., until the company raised the price to $112,000, from $75,000, in a terse email. When he called Tesla for an explanation, he was put on hold for more than three hours.

“I said, ‘This isn’t real, right?’” said Dr. Quint, whose specialty is pediatric critical care. “The price started inching up. We could deal with that. Then this. At that price, in our opinion, it’s highway robbery.”  . . . :

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

Exxon faces proxy fight launched by new activist firm Engine No. 1 | Reuters

“(Reuters) -A new investment firm is taking aim at one of corporate America’s most iconic brands, pressing energy giant Exxon Mobil Corp to overhaul itself by focusing more on clean energy to improve its financial performance.

Engine No. 1 is being supported by pension fund California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) as it pushes the battered energy company, valued at $176 billion, to spend its cash better, preserve its dividend, and refresh its board.

“The industry and the world it operates in are changing and … Exxon Mobil must change as well,” Engine No. 1 wrote to Exxon’s board, adding “given the company’s long-running underperformance and the challenges it faces, it is time for shareholders to weigh in.”

Exxon is reviewing the hedge fund’s letter, an Exxon spokesman said.

The U.S. oil company this year reversed course on a massive oil and gas expansion program, cutting 30% from its spending plan and proposing a budget next year that is $4 billion to $7 billion below its outlays this year. It also plans to reduce its workforce by 14,000 people over the next two years as losses this year reached $2.37 billion.

Engine No. 1 faces a tough road. Exxon has beaten back past activist efforts to change its climate stance and to split the roles of chairman and chief executive.

But industry analysts also said the time may be right for traditional activists’ interest to overlap with climate activists’ interest and force Exxon to act. “There is a need for a fairly active reset right now,” said Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres, a non profit organization that works with institutional investors and companies. “Everyone starts at the bottom of the hill with Exxon but Engine No. 1’s director nominees is not a list of flaky people.”

The activist investment firm, launched last week by two hedge fund industry veterans, said it plans to nominate four directors to Exxon’s 10-person board who have expertise in clean technology and running energy companies: Gregory Goff, Kaisa Hietala, Alexander Karsner, and Anders Runevad.

“Exxon’s refusal to adequately address climate risk is of serious concern to many shareholders and is a sign of significant governance issues. The company’s board needs overhauling. We’re looking forward to reviewing the slate of new directors,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, whose fund owns a roughly $300 million stake, according to Refinitiv data.” . . .

Source: Exxon faces proxy fight launched by new activist firm Engine No. 1 | Reuters

Electric Cars Are Coming. How Long Until They Rule the Road? – The New York Times

“Around the world, governments and automakers are focused on selling newer, cleaner electric vehicles as a key solution to climate change. Yet it could take years, if not decades, before the technology has a drastic effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

One reason for that? It will take a long time for all the existing gasoline-powered vehicles on the road to reach the end of their life spans.

This “fleet turnover” can be slow, analysts said, because conventional gasoline-powered cars and trucks are becoming more reliable, breaking down less often and lasting longer on the road. The average light-duty vehicle operating in the United States today is 12 years old, according to IHS Markit, an economic forecasting firm. That’s up from 9.6 years old in 2002.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Great piece of writing. Thank you. Yes, and, there is a story to review on how the Japanese upgrades their auto fleet in the 1950’s and 60’s. They wanted to develop their auto manufacturing, and so they passed laws of some kind that made it almost impossible for an older car to pass inspection, forcing the entire population of car drivers to get new cars, which because of tariffs or restrictions, had to be Japanese. They forced their people to buy new cars if I recall correctly.

What Caused the Blackouts in Texas? – The New York Times

“The outages and the cold weather touched off an avalanche of failures, but there had been warnings long before last week’s storm.

After a heavy snowstorm in February 2011 caused statewide rolling blackouts and left millions of Texans in the dark, federal authorities warned the state that its power infrastructure had inadequate “winterization” protection. But 10 years later, pipelines remained inadequately insulated and heaters that might have kept instruments from freezing were never installed.

During heat waves, when demand has soared during several recent summers, the system in Texas has also strained to keep up, raising questions about lack of reserve capacity on the unregulated grid.

And aside from the weather, there have been periodic signs that the system can run into trouble delivering sufficient energy, in some cases because of equipment failures, in others because of what critics called an attempt to drive up prices, according to Mr. Hirs of the University of Houston, as well as several energy consultants.

Another potential safeguard might have been far stronger connections to the two interstate power-sharing networks, East and West, that allow states to link their electrical grids and obtain power from thousands of miles away when needed to hold down costs and offset their own shortfalls.

But Texas, reluctant to submit to the federal regulation that is part of the regional power grids, made decisions as far back as the early 20th century to become the only state in the continental United States to operate its own grid — a plan that leaves it able to borrow only from a few close neighbors.

The border city of El Paso survived the freeze much better than Dallas or Houston because it was not part of the Texas grid but connected to the much larger grid covering many Western states.” . . .

7 Tips for Operating Your Mini-Split Heat Pump in the Summer

“If you own a mini-split heat pump system, you probably already know about the benefits of efficient heating and cooling, zone temperature control, and quiet operation. Mini-splits require little maintenance and are easy to operate. To get the most out of your mini-split heat pump system, check out these seven tips to maximize it’s efficiency, lower energy costs, and enhance your comfort during the summer months.

 

Choose your comfort level.
Don’t get hung up on the number. When choosing the temperature setting on the remote for your mini-splits, you may discover you need to set it higher or lower than you would expect. Part of this is due to the fact that the temperature is measured at the level of the indoor air handler unit, which is typically 7-8 feet off the ground. Find a setting your most comfortable with and stick with that.

 

Let your system run continuously.
Set it and forget it. A mini-split system uses less energy and keeps temperatures most consistent when it runs continuously, as in, 24/7. You also don’t need to turn the units on and off or adjust temperature settings when you’re away like you might with a central heating and cooling system controlled with a thermostat.”

Source: 7 Tips for Operating Your Mini-Split Heat Pump in the Summer