Walmart, Exxon, BP, and 25 Other Companies Put A Price On Carbon

by Guest Contributor Jeff Spross

Image Credit: Walmart image via vvoe / Shutterstock.com

Originally published on Climate Progress.

It turns out the White House and major American businesses may be converging on how to assess the damage greenhouse gas emissions do to the global climate.

According to a new report by the environmental data company CDP, in 2013 at least 29 companies either based or operating in the United States factored a price on carbon into their long-term business planning. And in 2010, the Obama Administration released the government’s estimates for that same price, to be used as a factor in rulemaking decisions by federal agencies.

The global warming driven by human-caused carbon emissions will come various results, including droughts, floods, heat waves, shifting weather patterns, stronger storms, disrupted food supplies and rising seas. The purpose of the price in both instances is to quantify the economic costs of those effects.

Significantly, the companies using an internal carbon price include the five oil giants — ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP, and Shell — along with other notables like Google, Microsoft, General Electric, Walt Disney, Wells Fargo, DuPont, and Delta Air Lines.

The specific prices they estimated were also striking: $40 per ton of carbon emissions for BP; $60 for ExxonMobil, and $40 for Shell. Xcel Energy pegged it at $20, Walt Disney at $10 to $20, and ConocoPhillips’ estimate ran anywhere from $8 to $46 depending on various factors. The U.S. government’s midline estimates were $37 and $57 for 2015. CDP also reviewed the carbon prices already in place in other countries around the world, which generally fell into the same range — and in a few instances much lower and higher.

Currently, the United States does not put any price on carbon. The International Monetary Fund estimates that failure effectively subsidizes fossil fuels to the tune of $502 billion annually — the biggest of any country in the world. The result is a massive market distortion, because the costs of climate change are not being factored into the daily decisions and transactions of everyone in the economy. The most direct way to place a price on carbon is either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system like the one Congress considered in 2009 and then abandoned. But the regulations to cut carbon emissions from power plants would implicitly, if not directly, place a price on those emissions as well.

Of course, the businesses’ use of an internal carbon price is an act of self-interest rather than advocacy. CMS Energy Corporation, for instance, noted it factored into its decision to start up a natural gas power plant, and to begin shuttering several coal-fired ones. And the CDP report quotes many of the companies emphasizing the price’s use as a guide in investment and other decisions.

“It’s climate change as a line item,” Tom Carnac, North American president of CDP, told the New York Times. “They’re looking at it from a rational perspective, making a profit. It drives internal decision-making.”

Publicly, some of these companies — ExxonMobil in particular — have been long-time skeptics of climate change, and have financially supported efforts to beat back the policies aimed at addressing it. Many of those companies are also regular contributors to the Republican party, which opposes efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and has sought to derail the White House’s carbon price. Consequently, many observers on both sides of the issue see the companies’ internal use of a carbon price as a significant break between business’ practical self-interest and the ideological position of the GOP and its conservative supporters — a sign the concrete financial infrastructure that supports opposition to climate policy is simply tiring out.

Across the financial world, there’s growing concern that massive amounts of money are invested in fossil fuel reserves that can never be exploited. Bloomberg LP recently released a financial tool to help investors calculate their carbon risk, while movements across the United States and other countries are pushing institutions to disentangle themselves from fossil fuel production. Various carbon-pricing mechanisms are already operating in numerous countries, and the growth of renewable energy continues to rocket upwards. In other words, the need to account for carbon emissions’ climate damage is no longer seen as a mere internal question of government policy — it’s taking on a collective life of its own.

Being hard-nosed business leaders, Exxon Mobil, BP, Google, and all the rest of them are simply acknowledging that reality.

This article, Walmart, Exxon, BP, Walt Disney, & 25 Other Top Companies Put A Price On Global Warming Pollution, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

US Navy Triples Funding For Clean Energy In Hawaii

by Tina Casey — Special to JBS News

The US Navy has just pumped $30 million into the Energy Excelerator, a funding agency for renewable energy start-ups in Hawaii. That triples the agency’s operating funding over the past three years, and it gives the ol’ Bronx cheer to certain legislators in Congress who have tried to cut funding for the Navy’s ambitious alternative fuel initiatives. Even at the relatively modest initial funding level, the program has already raised follow-on investments from the private sector totaling more than $38 million.

The Energy Excelerator, which also receives funding from the Department of Energy and other partners, has 17 success stories under its belt, and with this new round of funding the ripple effect could be huge. In addition to potential application elsewhere in the US, companies that get under way with help from the Energy Excelerator have the whole Asia Pacific island nation market at their feet.

Hawaii, The US Navy And Clean Energy

Hawaii has a twofold, urgent motive for weaning itself from fossil fuel dependency: extremely high prices (quadruple the national average) and long supply lines. Both are intertwined with the state’s importance to the US Navy, most famously in the form of Pearl Harbor, which also explains why the Department of Defense has been adopting renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Hawaii hand over fist.

US Navy invests $30 more in Hawaii clean energy startups.
USS Carl Vinson (cropped) courtesy of US Navy.

Aside from major solar installations, which have become ubiquitous at DoD facilities throughout the US, the DoD’s energy and conservation projects in Hawaii include a first-of-its-kind military collaboration between the Army and GM on a fuel cell vehicle fleet (which is part of a larger fuel cell infrastructure project), a full scale rainwater harvesting system at an Army barracks, an experimental renewable energy microgrid system, and a grid-connected wave power system that also serves as a shared test bed for private sector wave power development.

The Hawaii Energy Excelerator Portfolio

At just a fraction of its new funding level, the Excelerator has already established a solid track record. The 17 companies in its portfolio have garnered $18 million in revenue over the past three years.

The projects represent a wide range of renewable energy, alternative transportation and energy efficiency systems.

Some of the standouts include Conscious Commuter Corporation’s e-bike sharing system and Sopogy Inc.’s micro-concentrating solar collectors, a renewable natural gas project from Hawaii Gas, desalination systems powered by renewable energy from a company aptly named Renewable Water Technologies, and Hnu Energy’s “smart” storage solutions for smoothing out spikes in solar availability.

Of particular note is at least one algae biofuel project by the company Kuehnle Agrosystems, which interestingly enough doubles as a water and air pollution remediation system for a local Chevron refinery.

The company was recently recognized by the US EPA for its innovative algae biofuel and industrial carbon capture system, but we’re more interested in the idea that the Kuehnle investment represents yet another end-run by the Navy around partisan opposition to its biofuel initiatives, particularly algae biofuel.

Though key federal legislators including Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) have repeatedly attempted to torpedo the Navy’s biofuel initiatives, so far the Obama Administration has managed to deploy its executive authority to keep the programs humming along.

That includes biofuel research partnerships between the Navy, Agriculture and Energy as well as ample funding for private sector biofuel projects.

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This article, US Navy Triples Funding For Clean Energy In Hawaii, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Tina Casey Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.