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.

Less than 1% of tar-sands environmental infractions are penalized

 By Kevin Grandia – Special to JBS News

By Jungbim (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Photo: Jungbim

A new report out today finds that enforcement of environmental infractions by companies in the Alberta oil sands are 17 times lower than similar infractions reported to the United State’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The report [PDF], authoured by the environmental non-profit Global Forest Watch, looked at more than 15 years of data on recorded environmental mishaps by oil sand companies, tracking the follow-up actions taken and the final verdict on fines.

The findings are shocking and come at a very inconvenient time for government and industry supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline project that would greatly increase tar sands processing and shipments to the United States.

Of the more than 4,000 infractions reported, less than 1 percent (.09 to be exact) received an enforcement action (that would be less than 40 of 4,000). Compare this to the EPA, which has an enforcement rate of 16 percent for similar infractions by companies under the Clean Water Act.

Global Forest Watch also found that the median fine for environmental infractions in the oil sands over the past 16 years was $4,500. If you were an oil-sands player like ExxonMobil, who reported a profit last year of $44.9 billion, would you change your ways over a $4,500 fine?

Royal Dutch Shell Oil’s CEO, another big player in the oil sands, probably spent $4,500 on golf and dinner yesterday.

TransCanada, the company trying to convince President Obama to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, was out last week touting Canada as a world leader in environmental protection.

TransCanada wrote in the Globe and Mail

The only relevant question is whether the U.S. wants to source its heavy oil from Canada, a friendly and stable ally with strict environmental standards, or from other suppliers whose interests are not aligned with those of the United States and have limited or no environmental standards.

Relevant question indeed, and here’s the answer: Canada does not have “strict environmental standards” at all and this report puts even more pressure on President Obama to not approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Kevin Grandia is a researcher and writer on environment and human rights issues. He is the president of Spake Media House Inc., a consulting firm that brings online power to non-profits, campaigners, and advocacy groups. His article appears in JBS News with the kind permission of the authour.

Fascinating Political and Energy Read by Oilprice.com

Republished for your information (with the kind permission of James Stafford of Oilprice.com) is the always fascinating Oilprice.com newsletter — complete with an informative article about the recent scientific, political and economic progress of algae-sourced biofuel in the United States.

I highly recommend you visit and bookmark oilprice.com as it publishes information ahead of the mainstream media, it has excellent links and is a respected source for up-to-date information about the energy industry and the politics surrounding it. Visit oilprice.com here…

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Dear OilPrice Reader,

Energy Intelligence Report                   Newsletter #130  /  4th August 2012

Like Oilprice.com Intelligence Report: Algae Growing on Investors as Technology Advances on Facebook

Greetings from London.It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in the energy world with yo-yoing oil prices, increasing geopolitical tensions, India’s power cut and a host of other topics keeping our editorial team on their toes.We have put together an interesting investment report for you below that takes a look at the advances made in the algae biofuels sector and why recent technical advances and strategic partnerships have made this an area investors should start paying attention to.But before we get to that here is what’s been happening in the energy world:This week was a busy one for US energy policy, and renewable energy tax credits were the focus of legislative battles and Obama-Romney campaign rhetoric. Republicans in the Senate dealt Romney a blow when the Senate Finance Committee passed a one-year extension of the wind energy tax credit. The deciding factor was when Republican Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa—where wind energy creates thousands of jobs—threatened to side with the Democrats if Team Romney insisted on removing the $3.3 million tax break.Also included in the tax break package is a proposal that would boost development in the biofuels sector and include algae among the lists of biomass for biofuels production for the first time. On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee submitted a proposal to extend the $1/gallon biodiesel tax credit and to include algae, extending the tax credit for another year after its expiration on 31 December 2013 and retroactively to 31 December 2011.The tax package passed the committee on Thursday in a 19-5 vote. When the Senate returns in September, this will be a top legislative priority.Solyndra was also a major feature of this week’s DC energy news, with the release of a House GOP report on the government’s backing of the failed solar firm. The report details what it calls a “cautionary tale” of political pressure and misguided policy that cost taxpayers half a billion dollars. The report, the result of an 18-month investigation, failed to find concrete evidence to support GOP allegations that Obama administration officials funded Solyndra in return for campaign donations.Elsewhere in the world, the geopolitical energy dynamic that is culminating in a fast-moving showdown between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq deserves particular attention. The mainstream media is just now catching up to this development, which Oilprice.com has covered extensively over the past couple of months. Notably, since ExxonMobil provoked the ire of Baghdad in October by cutting a deal with the KRG and bypassing the Iraqi central government, the past couple of months have seen this trend increase greatly in momentum, with Chevron, Total and Gazprom Neft following in ExxonMobil’s footsteps.This is the number one geopolitical game to monitor at present. Baghdad is attempting to regain the advantage by banning oil companies working with the KRG from involvement in Iraqi national oil ministry deals. So far, this threat has not proved a sufficient deterrent. This is a dangerous geopolitical game on the part of the oil majors and particularly the US and Turkey, which are supporting this maneuvering, the implications of which will have long-term consequences.That’s it for the news this week.I wanted to take the opportunity to mention our forum again which is growing very quickly with more industry professionals, investors, traders and energy news enthusiasts joining on a daily basis. Please do take a moment to stop by and join in the conversation. Click here to visit the forum.I hope you enjoy this week’s report below and have a great weekend.James Stafford
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Algae Growing on Investors as Technology Advances

It’s been a long and challenging road, but algae biofuels are finally at the point where investors should take notice as technology advances and variety of strategic partnerships—from oil and gas to power utilities, agricultural processes and chemical plants–are replacing subsidies to eventually make the industry commercially viable on its own merits.

Algae produces some carbon dioxide when burned, but it takes the same carbon dioxide in to grow. So when algae farms grow massive quantities to be turned into biofuels, the end result is that they actually suck greenhouse gas out of the air. It also has other advantages over biofuels from corn or soybeans, in that it does not require soil or fresh water to grow. It also has the potential to produce more energy per hectare than any land crop.

Currently, high cost of capital and operations limit bio-based materials and chemicals to a few facilities located where corn and cane are plentiful and cheap. Algae can change that.

All that’s been missing is the necessary technology to harness mass production.

A recent study put out by the respected energy research firm SBI predicts a compound annual growth rate of 43.1% and a $1.6 billion market in 2015 for algae biofuels. That is double digit growth for the emerging industry, which is receiving a sizable development boost as strategic partnerships are gradually replacing the millions in loans from the US Department of Energy since 2009.

SBI’s “Algae Biofuels Technologies: Global Market and Product Trends 2010-2015” specifically points out that the production of algae for biofuels is the “most viable and attractive” of biofuels because of its high yield per acre and minimum environmental impact.

“Strategic partnerships from ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Dow Chemical, Desmet Ballestra and many others will drive the investment needed to successfully commercialise algae biofuels. Private investment and venture capital will also provide funding through 2015,” according to SBI.

One particular area of promising investment is the technology being developed to harness algae’s potential.

One example is the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Labs (INL) purchase order of two test-scale units for dewatering algae and removing contaminants from frack water from Origin Oil, Inc. The significance of this is that it boosts algae technological development as Origin Oil focuses both on cleantech processes for oil and gas and for harvesting algae.

INL is optimistic that the new equipment would significantly reduce the algal dewatering barrier, which in turn would allow for the dewatering of larger quantities of algae for use in the production of feedstocks blended from algae biomass. A key problem contributing to costs is the quick evaporation of pond water, which is expensive to continually replenish.

This is a strategic partnership between OriginOil and the INL, via a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). Specifically, OriginOil’s Algae Appliance Model 4 can continuously concentrate up to four liters of algae production per minute. OriginOil also has a joint venture in Ennesys, in Paris, where it is testing algae in urban energy generation also using the Algae Appliance Model 4.

Another boost to the industry is the 2 August Senate Finance Committee mark-up of the Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012, which contained a proposal to extend the $1/gallon biodiesel tax credit and make algae eligible for the credit. The proposal extends the tax credit for another year after it expires on 31 December 2013 and is effective retroactively to 31 December 2011. In addition, the algae tax credit will apply to producers who sell their fuel to refineries for further processing, rather than only to producers selling for end use as a fuel. This is a significant point and a significant victory for the biofuels industry.

There are plenty of naysayers, particularly when it comes to the current cost of using algae in biofuels production. According to Lux Research, right now algae is a “cost-intensive loser”. Lux analysts claim that algae cultivation yields a 48% loss because of the high capital costs for growing algae at an industrial scale. They put the price at about $202,000 per hectare.

The costs are high for the time being, but we view investment from a development perspective and we see forward movement in this emerging industry and are particularly upbeat about the shift away from energy department loans to strategic partnerships that will work to tap the vast potential of algae for biofuels production and render it commercially viable. Getting in now on the technology will translate into an advantage.

Check out the 6th Annual Algae Biomass Summit in Denver, Colorado from 24-27 September for more insight into technological advances and how innovators are working to unlock the full potential of algae as a feedstock for fuel, food and other co-products.

By. Oilprice.com analysts