Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Windfall Profits: Gaming the Carbon Markets

According to a recent WSJ article, a French chemical firm, Rhodia SA, has about a billion green reasons to fervently believe in anthropomorphic global warming. Rhodia SA manufactures the adipic acid used in nylon, and was not a particularly successful business. But they also destroy the byproduct nitrous oxide - (laughing gas). Since their managers realized that they were able to cash in on global warming, Rhodia SA hit the jackpot selling pollution "credits". In this article, 'French Firm Cashes in Under U.N. Warming Program', Charles Forelle of the WSJ , reports that the company

"is reaping a potential billion dollar windfall under a United Nations program intended to spur climate friendly investment in the developing world, highlighting the challenges of using market forces to tackle global warming."
You might think that those "challenges" involve the fact that it isn't the developing world that's reaping the cash. Or that attention is being drawn to the fact that a French company can get rich (again) gaming a U.N. program. But that's not all.
Rhodia's experience shows that even a major Western industrial company can cash in on the pollution-trading program. The Rhodia factory in Onsan alone is slated to bring in more money, under the U.N.-administered program, than all the clean-air projects currently registered on the continent of Africa.
Get that? More money than all the clean-air projects currently registered on the continent of Africa. Kieth Johnson at the WSJ blog Environmental Captial sums it up this way:
So this is the Kyoto Protocol in action: A marginally-economical chemical factory in an industrial superpower finally installs 1970s-era technology to clean up its act, and as a result makes 30 times more money by selling “carbon credits” to fight global warming than it makes by selling chemicals.
Amazing. This might even beat the oil-for-food . But, as Charles Forelle pointed out today:
Some also question the logic of paying hundreds of millions of dollars to Rhodia for installing pollution-control equipment that cost a bare fraction of that, about $15 million or so, to install. Simply paying for the installation of the equipment "could have done this an awful lot more cheaply," says Patrick McCully of International Rivers, an environmental group.
If you believe - despite mounting evidence to the contrary - that carbon is the cause of global warming, and humans are the culprits, wouldn't it make more sense to push that money directly into solving the problem? Especially since the carbon credit system doesn't solve the problem. Again, Charles Forelle of the WSJ:
The U.N.'s pollution-trading system doesn't directly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted to the atmosphere, since each ton of carbon dioxide cut in a developing country allows someone in an industrialized country to pollute that same amount. Rather, the idea is to transfer money to poor countries to encourage construction of environmentally sensitive factories and spur alternative-energy use.
Ah. The old eco-redistribution of wealth, and a U.N. program that makes the wrong people rich. Guess this isn't news, after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We love to hear your thoughts! However, comments containing profuse profanity, inane insults (unless they're entertaining), or anything else that makes us cranky may disappear.

Related Posts with Thumbnails