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How the Cap and Trade Works in Practice
Old 12-08-2009, 04:15 PM   #1
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How the Cap and Trade Works in Practice

The EU has an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that serves as a trading mechanism for carbon credits. With the ruling today by the EPA that CO2 is an "endangering pollutant", and with the Copenhagen talks beginning, some retirees might be wondering how best to invest to take advantage of the changes that are coming.

Here's a story from the UK that shines a light on how it works. The Redcar plant is in the UK.

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The EU's emission trading scheme (ETS) may have been the deciding factor in the closure of the Corus Redcar steel-making plant – reported last week , giving the company a windfall bonus of up to £1.2 billion from the plant closure – on top of other savings.

Earlier this year, Corus – part of the Tata Group Europe - disclosed that its UK steel inventory was "close to exhaustion" and analysts are expecting improved earnings from second-half trading as production is increased to meet a rebound in demand.

Mothballing the efficient Redcar plant (with no expectations of its re-opening) thus fails to make obvious commercial sense, especially as Tata bought the plant only in 2007 as part of its strategy to give it better access to European (including UK markets).


. . . For Corus, the current value of its windfall is £100 million and, with an increased carbon price and its additional allowances, the asset value of its holdings could amount to £400 million.

To make up for accumulated and expected losses, though, the company says it is has identified £600 million "in savings and cash benefits" from its UK operation through to next March.

With redundancy and decommissions costs, very little of that can actually come from the process of closing down the Redcar plant. But, with a capacity of 3,000,000 tons of steel, closure of the plant will deliver further "savings" over 6 million tons of carbon dioxide, worth an additional £80 million per annum at current rates but around £200 million at expected market levels.

This, even for a company the size of Tara steel, is a considerable windfall, over and above the money it will already make from the EU scheme. But, with a little manipulation, the company can still double its money. By "offshoring" production to India and bringing emissions down – from over twice the EU level - to the level currently produced by the Redcar plant, it stands to make another £200 million per annum from the UN's Clean Development Mechanism.

Thus we see Indian plants being paid up to £30 a ton for each ton of carbon dixoide "saved" by building new plant, while the company which owns them also gets gets paid £30 for each ton of carbon dioxide not produced in its Redcar plant. That gives it an estimated £400 million a year from the closure of the Redcar plant up to 2012 – potentially up to £1.2 billion. And that is over and above benefitting from cheaper production costs on the sub-continent.
. . . Nevertheless, all is not lost. In May last year, the local paper was parading the "green" credentials of the plant. The company's 3,000-acre site at Redcar, it said, was "also home to wild flowers and wildlife and the land borders a site of special scientific interest."

It looks as if Redcar is about to gain a whole lot more wild flowers and wildlife.
So, an efficient English factory will be closed, for which the British government and/or the EU will pay the company hundreds of millions of dollars (equivalent). The same amount of steel and the same amount of pollution/CO2 will still be produced, but in India.

I think I understand why the developing economies are in favor of this. Now, how to profit from the lunacy . . .?
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Old 12-08-2009, 04:59 PM   #2
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Another thing to look at would be the SOx emissions permit market, which frequently impacts trade in the US coal market.

I think the most obvious beneficiary is natural gas. Way more CO2 efficient than oil, coal, etc.
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Old 12-08-2009, 07:19 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by samclem View Post
The EU has an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that serves as a trading mechanism for carbon credits. With the ruling today by the EPA that CO2 is an "endangering pollutant", and with the Copenhagen talks beginning, some retirees might be wondering how best to invest to take advantage of the changes that are coming.

Here's a story from the UK that shines a light on how it works. The Redcar plant is in the UK.

So, an efficient English factory will be closed, for which the British government and/or the EU will pay the company hundreds of millions of dollars (equivalent). The same amount of steel and the same amount of pollution/CO2 will still be produced, but in India.

I think I understand why the developing economies are in favor of this. Now, how to profit from the lunacy . . .?
But Sam you are missing an important benefit for closing the plant. You see that evil nasty CO2 will not be produced in clean, green, England. So Europeans can feel good about themselves for lowering their carbon footprint.

Unfortunately, I don't have enough capital for this idea,although collective perhaps the board does. I think we should look for closed heavy industry plants in our area, preferably something that is a big polluter, so refineries, steel, aluminum, and chemical plants are all good candidates. We pool enough money to open the plants (and of course get stimulus money from state, local , and federal for creating manufacturing jobs). Issue lots of press releases about how we are improving capacity. Then when Cap and Trade is enacted close the plants and collect and sell our carbon credits.

Maybe we can even make enough to rent a Gulfstream (you certified for jet's Sam) to fly to the next Climate Change Conference and talk about how to be Green in retirement.

BTW, Great if completely depressing story. Actually, my guess is the plant in India will be less CO2 efficient than the closed one in England.
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Old 12-08-2009, 08:27 PM   #4
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But Sam you are missing an important benefit for closing the plant. You see that evil nasty CO2 will not be produced in clean, green, England. So Europeans can feel good about themselves for lowering their carbon footprint.
That sounds like the “green” PV panels. They make them over seas ship them to the US to be installed when 90% of them never replace there carbon foot print but it’s still green.
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Old 12-08-2009, 08:45 PM   #5
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That sounds like the “green” PV panels. They make them over seas ship them to the US to be installed when 90% of them never replace there carbon foot print but it’s still green.
Not true according to Sustainable Energy:Without the Hot Air

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Mythconceptions
False. The energy yield ratio (the ratio of energy delivered by a system
over its lifetime, to the energy required to make it) of a roof-mounted,
grid-connected solar system in Central Northern Europe is 4, for a system
with a lifetime of 20 years (Richards and Watt, 2007); and more than 7 in
a sunnier spot such as Australia. (An energy yield ratio bigger than one
means that a system is A Good Thing, energy-wise.) Wind turbines with a
lifetime of 20 years have an energy yield ratio of 80.
While it is good to be skeptical of the green claims, not everything they do is bunk. Now outside of places like the SW or Hawaii the payback for PV panels, it is pretty dubious that they are economically good investment.

On the other hand given my choice between importing oil from Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela and PV panels from China... I'll take the PV panels every time.
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Old 12-09-2009, 07:25 AM   #6
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I’m talking about the carbon foot print of a PV panel not the energy to make it.

I have been off grid for 8 years.
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Old 12-09-2009, 07:38 AM   #7
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NOTICE: We have removed a number of posts on this thread discussing the politics of cap and trade. If you want this thread to remain open for discussion, please be sure your comments are related only to the economic, investment or other non-political aspects of this subject.
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Old 12-09-2009, 09:07 AM   #8
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Clifp
I’m talking about the carbon foot print of a PV panel not the energy to make it.

I have been off grid for 8 years.
I don't understand the distinction, aren't they very closely related? The energy it takes to make the panel (and ship and install it) would relate to the the carbon footprint of the panel. would it not?

As clifp points out from his reference, it takes about 5 years for a properly situated panel to generate the energy it took to make it, and about 3 years in sunny AU. Now, solar panels for iPods (that sit in a purse 90% of the time), or a car-top solar panel will probably never re-coup their energy content, so I don't think of those as 'green' - but maybe a convenience.

I doubt that the shipping and installation are major energy factors, PV production itself is a very energy intensive process. But that energy payback of 3-5 years is still very good. I just wish they were cheaper, so I could justify them on economics alone (and if I could, I'm sure my utility would jump at it, it would make more sense on their scale).

I'm not sure that being "off grid" is really equating to a lower carbon footprint in and of itself (depends on the situation) - if that means a battery bank, the grid might provide a more efficient storage. If you produced more net energy from renewables on site, you wouldn't really "use" any net grid power, but you used it as a cheap storage/buffer. That usage might have a lower carbon footprint than a battery bank.

As far as Cap & Trade itself - I think it can be an excellent and efficient means to limit whatever we might want to limit. But it has to be structured properly. If that can happen, and if we should limit certain things are really getting into the political realm, so I'll stop there on that line of thought. But I think it could be interesting and non-political to talk about the mechanics of how a Cap & Trade program could be structured, and how we might profit from it.

As far as an individual profiting from C&T, I think that there will be too much uncertainty surrounding the implementation and timing for anyone to do anything without also taking a lot of risk that things may not turn out as you thought. But I'm all ears.

-ERD50
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Old 12-09-2009, 09:12 AM   #9
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Unless this is done on a level playing field globally, those nations which voluntarily tax themselves to limit their carbon footprint are slitting their own throats economically.

If you think jobs are being sucked away from the developed world into the "emerging markets" now, just wait until the developed nations have to abide by costly regulations that the emerging markets get to ignore.
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Old 12-09-2009, 09:53 AM   #10
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I don't understand the distinction, aren't they very closely related? The energy it takes to make the panel (and ship and install it) would relate to the the carbon footprint of the panel. would it not?
That's my understanding of "carbon footprint" too - the energy and resources used to produce/ship/install/use a given product. I've sometimes seen this referred to as "embodied energy". For example, it's often "greener" to keep driving an older, lower mpg vehicle because of the embodied energy used to build the vehicle in the first place. I would think the bulk of a PV panel's CF would be in the pre-installation state. Once installed and harvesting energy, I'd think it to be nearly zero.

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I'm not sure that being "off grid" is really equating to a lower carbon footprint in and of itself (depends on the situation) - if that means a battery bank, the grid might provide a more efficient storage.
FWIW, I took a little "fun" workshop (here at work) last year on determining your carbon footprint. The instructor provided a spreadsheet where we could enter various values based on our fossil-fueled lifestyles. Everybody got all excited because one guy said he had no furnace in his house - it was one of the first solar homes in the area, large sand and masonry foundation to hold/release heat that worked in reverse in the summer. Very green, right? Problem is, he lives so far out in the boonies (though I'm not sure he was off grid) that his carbon footprint was twice mine (with a conventionally cooled and heated home) because he spent so much time driving to everywhere.

BTW, the guy said he had a very difficult time getting a mortgage. IIRC, he went to 20+ banks before he found one with a loan officer willing to visit the house and see that it was indeed "heated".
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Old 12-09-2009, 09:53 AM   #11
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As far as Cap & Trade itself - I think it can be an excellent and efficient means to limit whatever we might want to limit. But it has to be structured properly. If that can happen, and if we should limit certain things are really getting into the political realm, so I'll stop there on that line of thought. But I think it could be interesting and non-political to talk about the mechanics of how a Cap & Trade program could be structured, and how we might profit from it.
I thought C&T might work ("market based", freedom to buy and sell credits so the best bang-for-the-buck things get done first, etc) , but the more I see of it, the less I think it is the best approach. Problems stem from a single source: The carbon is a "negative market," it's not something anyone actually wants. So, to make a market work, the governments have to put in place all kinds of mechanisms to create a need to buy the credits. This involves all manner of artificialities. Examples:
- Who are the players that have to submit to the "game?" For example, we talk about big industrial companies or sites having to buy and sell carbon credits--but why not states and cities? All those people living in NYC and Chicago are certainly exhaling, and it is the same amount of carbon as some industrial sites. Who decides who has to pay for that carbon? In a real, authentic market no one has to artificially decide these things--the entities decide for themselves if they need to purchase a good or service.
- Paying people not to produce CO2 has all kinds of inherent flaws. If, in 2020, neither Acme Steel nor Samclem are producing CO2 as neither one produces 100 tons/steel per day, why does Acme Steel get a bunch of credits to sell and Samclem doesn't? We never did get the US agricultural crop price support system (paying farmers not to grow certain crops) to function rationally, and the size and complexity of carbon cap-and-trade would make the crop programs look tiny (and fair).
- There will be tons of political tinkering for favored industries, constituents, etc because it is, ultimately, a government run market. It would be like playing Monopoly, but each player gets a wildly different amount each year when they pass "go."

Subject to the caveats ERD50 gave (i.e. if CO2 limitation is really an issue worthy of expenditure of scarce resources, and if there's an international consensus on this), then a tax on the sources of carbon pollution (e.g. fossil fuels) is probably the least damaging means to achieve reductions. Such a tax merely assures the buyer pays the "full freight" for externalities that are presently (according to some people) being paid by others. Such a tax could also, in theory, be revenue neutral if it reduced other taxes. There'd be a lot less bureaucracy than with a cap and trade scheme
The only downside is that a tax on carbon fuels would not effectively "reward" carbon sequestration activities. We'd need to think of some other means to encourage that (again, if doing so is in our interest).

I agree that it will be difficult to profit from any government-induced price inefficiencies that cap-and-trade might bring.
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Old 12-09-2009, 11:41 AM   #12
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I am pretty pessimistic...thinking of investing in the houseboat industry
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Old 12-09-2009, 02:04 PM   #13
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I thought C&T might work ("market based", freedom to buy and sell credits so the best bang-for-the-buck things get done first, etc) , but the more I see of it, the less I think it is the best approach.


.... (i.e. if CO2 limitation is really an issue worthy of expenditure of scarce resources, and if there's an international consensus on this), then a tax on the sources of carbon pollution (e.g. fossil fuels) is probably the least damaging means to achieve reductions. ....

The only downside is that a tax on carbon fuels would not effectively "reward" carbon sequestration activities. We'd need to think of some other means to encourage that (again, if doing so is in our interest).
Yes, I think C&T has worked well in some specific cases, but it seems to fall apart and get bogged down when you go across industries, across borders, etc, like a global CO2 reduction would seem to require. There was a thread on this a few months back, and I just didn't have time to research and respond to the degree I wanted, and the thread died out, but it really does get complex when you start talking about CO2 per country, per acre, per person, per GDP, across different climates.... Lots of ways to look at it, and I'm not sure any of them are "right" or "wrong". But they all have some real tough societal implications.

Actually, accounting for sequestration of carbon wouldn't be all that cumbersome. Let's say you used 1000 tons of coal, and sequestered 80% of the carbon that would have been produced. You should be able to apply for a rebate on 80% of the "carbon tax". Not super-simple, but not unworkable, I would think. As we've said before, the good thing about a tax is it drives an unlimited number of ways to conserve the taxed item (whatever it may be). It drives competition for ways to conserve.

I see that CA is going to ban sales of TVs that use X amount of watts. I think that is a bad way to do it - it is a cap with no trade. Once a mfg hits X watts, there is no incentive to drive the power consumption lower. And nothing to encourage users to conserve after the initial purchase, like a tax on electricity would. Silly law, IMO.

-ERD50
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Old 12-09-2009, 02:13 PM   #14
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PV panels are mostly made of silica sand witch is non recyclable and dose not biodegrade. Some installations are better than others and have a better payback. But we should also look at the amount of panels that have the wrong facing, wrong angles, to close to the roof, and are not kept clean.

I do not feel that me living off grid lowers my carbon foot print. We do produce more power then we use, but all properly sized systems do also. Using the grid as a battery is more complicated then it seams at first.

When I built my house there were no power lines 4 miles of my house. It would have cost twice as much to get the power to my house as it did to install my power system. So far no major changes to our system.

I also don’t feel that PV or wind is the way to lesson or energy needs.
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Old 12-09-2009, 04:39 PM   #15
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PV panels are mostly made of silica sand witch is non recyclable and dose not biodegrade. Some installations are better than others and have a better payback. But we should also look at the amount of panels that have the wrong facing, wrong angles, to close to the roof, and are not kept clean.

I do not feel that me living off grid lowers my carbon foot print. We do produce more power then we use, but all properly sized systems do also. Using the grid as a battery is more complicated then it seams at first.

When I built my house there were no power lines 4 miles of my house. It would have cost twice as much to get the power to my house as it did to install my power system. So far no major changes to our system.

I also don’t feel that PV or wind is the way to lesson or energy needs.
I am no expert on PV panels, but the guy who wrote the book is an Oxford physics professor and was very careful and doing his calculations, including the impact of not keeping the panels clean. He just got appointed because of his book as Britain's energy scientist. So I tend trust his numbers in the absence of some strong data showing that he is wrong.

Still you have practical experience in living off the grid, so you obviously aren't making this stuff up. I am curious why you say that neither wind or PV is way to reduce our energy needs?
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Old 12-09-2009, 07:02 PM   #16
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Did his study talk about the harvesting and transporting all the raw materials, production and assemble of all the components, shipment of the final goods, and there end life? The link that you posted did not go right to the info that you talked about and I didn’t find it after a few minutes of looking.

But there have been other studies that just looked at the production and the end life of silica biased panels and it would take 20 years for most panels to recover just that part of there foot print. I’ll see if I can find the book marks for them on my desk top.



The problem I see with the larger wind turbines is they have to keep moving. They have a motor in them to turn the blades when the wind is to slow to do it thus using power from the grid.


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I also don’t feel that PV or wind is the way to lesson or energy needs.
The stability of the power gird relies on there being power when it’s needed. This means that quite often there are power plants in idle at all times that are wasting fuel so they can come on line at a moments notice or we will have brown outs and black outs.

You can not replace a 10,000KW PV system with a 10,000KW power plant. “It’s raining today in DC so no one in Richmond can run there AC”.
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Old 12-10-2009, 05:22 AM   #17
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Jessy,

You bring up good points - there are many pieces in the puzzle of infrastructure and the delivery of energy to the infrastructure. In my understanding, it is the distribution and logistics costs that end up being the large part of most endeavors. Your case of having the energy available until needed is so true - how can that energy be stored, what are the physics of that storage? Many times pieces are added to the systems to smooth out the amplitudes of delivery cycles. It's not as simple as taxing something here and re-distributing it there. None of the reading I've done regarding the cap and trade addresses the above - it just assumes if there is a revenue distribution, then the behaviors will change. AND it assumes that those who aren't taxed or are involved will change their behavior, too. I don't see it happening that way. I'm reminded of a cartoon in which a man is up to his ass in alligators and the caption is he just wanted to drain the swamp.

Frankly, god help us and our country if we hobble ourselves like we seem to be doing lately. Charging ourselves much more for energy and then refusing to take advantage of our own resources is cutting our throats. If there is a collective desire to change, then go about it smartly and convert slowly the infrastructure to ensure access to the different types of energy over the long-term with a transition period. Price the energy according to its costs of production and have those costs transition as the market and technology affects them. We don't need to become a third-world country in a desire to become 'green.'
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Old 12-10-2009, 07:32 AM   #18
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I have a handy link that has a map of the power gird and I think it’s worth the time to look at it.
Visualizing The U.S. Electric Grid : NPR

I would love to see a study that goes in to detail for nuclear power, gas, and coal that looks at the by products (co2/radioactive waist) compared to a VA that it produces.

It will not be but a few years till residential power goes to “time of use billing” or “demand billing”. When it happens things will start changing.
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Old 12-10-2009, 01:02 PM   #19
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linking behavior to actual cost, all negative externalities in, would be helpful to slow things down.

the problem is that I don't see any force that will counter the compulsion to use the oil and gas that is in the ground until it is used up. Whatever is done, cap and trade or any other interventions, the more successfull we are at suppressing GHG generating sources, the lower the price will go for conventional energy, and no force in the universe will be able to stop its use by developing or rogue nations...until it is gone.

another angle is that all that oil that is remaining underground will be very valuable some day when the Russians and Arabs run out of THEIR oil first.

focusing on North America short-term, we could regulate geothermal for new home heating systems which actually will pay back over the life of the house, combined with sensors that focus heat on the room you are actually in, combining with ultra high R factors etc, changing the culture to wear long underwear, sweaters and use of electric blankets.

and with cars converting to electric (even with gas backup for long distance), we focus energy generation at the plant level which opens up nuclear, charging at off peak, natural gas which is cleaner and domestic, large scale scrubbing of fossil fuels etc and cars with big batteries can be used to store solar (integrated car solar roof panels) or wind generation, and provide backup household power when the grid goes down or feed back into the grid.

So that covers heating and car gas. For cooking and laundry drying, switch to natural gas or propane...or hang the laundry on a line. Heat water with a rooftop solar heater, or natural gas. Start switching back to smaller 60s size type fridges/freezers and buy natural gas/propane. Most of that stuff in the fridge is unhealthy food anyway.
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Old 12-10-2009, 01:32 PM   #20
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focusing on North America short-term, we could regulate geothermal for new home heating systems which actually will pay back over the life of the house, combined with sensors that focus heat on the room you are actually in, combining with ultra high R factors etc, changing the culture to wear long underwear, sweaters and use of electric blankets.
This may be of interest: Passive House Institute US
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