Friday, July 10, 2009

Obama Gore & Goldman - Alchemists - Turning Green into Greenbacks


Have we been Gored?

At what point does it become obvious that our political leaders have sold out the interests of public policy for personal profit? Politicians always seem to back certain causes which often appear to benefit the public but when does the motivation change from being "for the public good" to being for the personal pocketbook of the politician?

Ever since his run for the presidency after serving the Clinton Administration as vice president Al Gore has been an advocate of global warming and the seeming push for carbon reductions and the greening of America. On the surface it seems to be a rather safe platform.

While controversy remains concerning the fear of global warming, there is no doubt humans are contributing to the problem. However, as I pointed out in previous articles, global warming is a natural cycle that takes place whether there are humans or not. Our Earth goes through thousands of years of warming and cooling in a continuous cycle to purge and revitalize the earth, with or without humans.

At best we may have a minimal impact on the environment but little impact is probably better than none. However, it is a global power and if there is not global participation the efforts we make can seriously effect our ability to compete in the world marketplace.

As we learned once again, the USA and Europe have a sense of how they can contribute to reducing the carbon emissions through the Obama "cap and trade" legislation making its way through Congress with the strong support of Gore. What is cap and trade, just another method to allow unscrupulous financial manipulators to create a new commodity market outside government jurisdiction to raise the cost of carbon based production with penalties that will be passed on to the consumer.

Sound familiar? It is the same type of federal action that led to the sub-prime mortgage market and was followed by the oil futures derivatives that nearly bankrupted the world economy while making the Wall Street insiders billions of dollars profit. Previous articles in the CPT have detailed how Goldman Sachs was behind the regulatory loopholes adopted to enable that last two scams and used them to wipe out most of the competition in the process.

Listen to what other people are saying about Al Gore and his conversion from conservationist to big money capitalist.

The Great American Bubble Machine
Matt Taibbi on how Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression

In Rolling Stone Issue 1082-83, Matt Taibbi takes on "the Wall Street Bubble Mafia" —investment bank Goldman Sachs. The piece has generated controversy, with Goldman Sachs firing back that Taibbi's piece is "an hysterical compilation of conspiracy theories" and a spokesman adding, "We reject the assertion that we are inflators of bubbles and profiteers in busts, and we are painfully conscious of the importance in being a force for good." Taibbi shot back: "Goldman has its alumni pushing its views from the pulpit of the U.S. Treasury, the NYSE, the World Bank, and numerous other important posts; it also has former players fronting major TV shows. They have the ear of the president if they want it." Here, now, are excerpts from Matt Taibbi's exploring the key issues.

The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

Any attempt to construct a narrative around all the former Goldmanites in influential positions quickly becomes an absurd and pointless exercise, like trying to make a list of everything. What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain — an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.

They achieve this using the same playbook over and over again. The formula is relatively simple: Goldman positions itself in the middle of a speculative bubble, selling investments they know are crap. Then they hoover up vast sums from the middle and lower floors of society with the aid of a crippled and corrupt state that allows it to rewrite the rules in exchange for the relative pennies the bank throws at political patronage. Finally, when it all goes bust, leaving millions of ordinary citizens broke and starving, they begin the entire process over again, riding in to rescue us all by lending us back our own money at interest, selling themselves as men above greed, just a bunch of really smart guys keeping the wheels greased. They've been pulling this same stunt over and over since the 1920s — and now they're preparing to do it again, creating what may be the biggest and most audacious bubble yet.

Fast-forward to today. It's early June in Washington, D.C. Barack Obama, a popular young politician whose leading private campaign donor was an investment bank called Goldman Sachs — its employees paid some $981,000 to his campaign — sits in the White House. Having seamlessly navigated the political minefield of the bailout era, Goldman is once again back to its old business, scouting out loopholes in a new government-created market with the aid of a new set of alumni occupying key government jobs.

Gone are Hank Paulson and Neel Kashkari; in their place are Treasury chief of staff Mark Patterson and CFTC chief Gary Gensler, both former Goldmanites. (Gensler was the firm's co-head of finance.) And instead of credit derivatives or oil futures or mortgage-backed CDOs, the new game in town, the next bubble, is in carbon credits — a booming trillion- dollar market that barely even exists yet, but will if the Democratic Party that it gave $4,452,585 to in the last election manages to push into existence a groundbreaking new commodities bubble, disguised as an "environmental plan," called cap-and-trade. The new carbon-credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that's been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won't even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance.

The Money and Connections Behind Al Gore’s Carbon Crusade
by Deborah Corey Barnes
Ms. Corey Barnes is a freelance writer and blogger for the Polireport in Washington, D.C.

Al Gore’s campaign against global warming is shifting into high gear. Reporters and commentators follow his every move and bombard the public with notice of his activities and opinions. But while the mainstream media promote his ideas about the state of planet Earth, they are mostly silent about the dramatic impact his economic proposals would have on America. And journalists routinely ignore evidence that he may personally benefit from his programs. Would the romance fizzle if Gore’s followers realized how much their man stands to gain?

Earlier this year Gore experienced a notable public relations debacle. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a state think tank, revealed that he was an energy hog. Public records show that Gore’s Nashville mansion used in one month more than twice the electricity the typical American household uses in a year: His average monthly electric bill was more than $1,359. Moreover, Gore’s household energy use increased after An Inconvenient Truth, his film about global warming, was released to ecstatic reviews.

Never mind that the scientific community is divided over what causes global warming, how bad it is and how to deal with it. Gore plays Chicken Little to the media’s applause, insisting that the world is warming dangerously and that he has the solution.

The ‘Cap-and-Trade’ System

To resolve the “climate crisis,” Gore wants to put a cap on the production of greenhouse gases. He calls for an immediate freeze on U.S. emissions, a ban on new coal-fired power plants, tough new fuel-economy and energy-efficiency standards, renewable energy mandates, carbon taxes and mandatory targets and timetables for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Those emissions consist mostly of carbon dioxide (CO2), the byproduct of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas, which supply 85% of all U.S. energy. Gore’s blueprint to save the planet moves the United States towards a command economy in which government regulators hold sway over what kinds and amounts of energy will be made available to the private sector. His principal regulatory tool is what’s called carbon-credit trading.

Under a so-called “cap-and-trade” system, government places a ceiling or “cap” on private-sector emissions of CO2 and other “greenhouse gases.” Each sector, industry or business is allocated a fixed quantity of carbon credits that allow it to emit specific quantities of greenhouse gases. As an example, one tradable carbon credit might permit the emission of one ton of CO2. If a business emits more tons of CO2 than its supply of credits allows, it has the option to buy surplus credits from other firms -- or it will have to pay a fine in proportion to the amount of the excess emission. By contrast, businesses that emit less than their allocation can sell their excess credits.

This system, which may sound market-friendly, is something only a bureaucrat could dream up. The twist is that the carbon market exists only because the government’s imposition of a cap creates an artificial scarcity in the right to produce energy. In a cap-and-trade system, buyers will purchase their offsets from a broker or through an electronic trading platform. In Europe, carbon trading is already a reality. Since 2005, carbon offsets have been traded electronically on the European Climate Exchange (ECX).

Most carbon cap-and-trade programs also allow regulated entities to earn credits by taking actions that supposedly reduce emissions outside of the firm’s facilities or operations. In one popular version of the carbon-offset concept, firms earn credits by buying seedling trees for planting in less-developed countries. Supporters claim the CO2 intake of the trees will balance out the carbon emissions of the sponsoring firm’s industrial activity. Despite its public relations value, scientists scoff at the notion that it’s possible to plant enough trees to balance out man’s production of CO2. But carbon-offset projects are popular in the environmentalist community.

More Chances to Cheat

However, the most radical environmentalists reject cap-and-trade. They say it allows polluters to continue to pollute by purchasing carbon credits. That is true but irrelevant. A ton of CO2 emitted in Beijing has the same climatologic effect as a ton emitted in New York. The real problem is that every country’s government has an incentive to cheat on behalf of its domestic producers. This has been the European Union’s (EU) experience with the Emissions Trading System (ETS) that the EU established to implement the Kyoto Protocol. In just about every EU country except Britain, the credits allowed exceed the corresponding tons of emissions.

Carbon offsets provide even more opportunities to cheat. For example, some aluminum companies claim they deserve credits just because they recycle aluminum for a living -- recycling being less energy intensive and thus generally cheaper than making the stuff from scratch. The most popular activity for generating offsets is planting trees. But this method of storing carbon takes years and the long-term results are uncertain. If the trees die and decay, or are burned to clear land for agriculture, there is no net emission reduction. The net carbon reduction from tree planting may not materialize for decades, but the offsets are given out now.

To critics on both the free-market right and the environmentalist left, carbon offsets are no more than a marketing gimmick. Some describe the fanciful device as akin to medieval indulgences that were sold in a cleric-run market to regulate the remission of sin.

The truth is that almost every productive human action requires the use of natural resources, and nothing is pollution free. Even something like wind power requires windmills, which, according to environmentalists such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., may visually “pollute” the natural landscape. Kennedy, head of the green group Riverkeepers, says he supports wind power -- except when the windmills are in the waters off Cape Cod.

Whatever its impact on the environment, the cap-and-trade carbon scheme is sure to boost the economic and political prospects of people and groups that are behind it. Before the company collapsed under the weight of financial scandal, Enron under CEO Ken Lay was a key proponent of the cap-and-trade idea. So was BP’s Lord John Browne, before he resigned last May under a cloud of personal scandal. In August 1997, Lay and Browne met with President Bill Clinton and Vice President Gore in the Oval Office to develop administration positions for the Kyoto negotiations that resulted in an international treaty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Gore’s Circle of Business

Al Gore is chairman and founder of a private equity firm called Generation Investment Management (GIM). According to Gore, the London-based firm invests money from institutions and wealthy investors in companies that are going green. “Generation Investment Management, purchases -- but isn’t a provider of -- carbon dioxide offsets,” said spokesman Richard Campbell in a March 7 report by CNSNews.

GIM appears to have considerable influence over the major carbon-credit trading firms that currently exist: the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) in the U.S. and the Carbon Neutral Company (CNC) in Great Britain. CCX is the only firm in the U.S. that claims to trade carbon credits.

CCX owes its existence in part to the Joyce Foundation, the Chicago-based liberal foundation that provided $347,000 in grant support in 2000 for a preliminary study to test the viability of a market in carbon credits. On the CCX board of directors is the ubiquitous Maurice Strong, a Canadian industrialist and diplomat who, since the 1970s, has helped create an international policy agenda for the environmentalist movement. Strong has described himself as “a socialist in ideology, a capitalist in methodology.” His former job titles include “senior advisor” to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, “senior advisor” to World Bank President James Wolfensohn and board member of the United Nations Foundation, a creation of Ted Turner. The 78-year-old Strong is very close to Gore.

CCX has about 80 members that are self-confessed emitters of greenhouse gases. They have voluntarily committed themselves to reduce their emissions by the year 2010 to a level 6% below their emissions in 2000. CCX members include Ford Motor Company, Amtrak, DuPont, Dow Corning, American Electric Power, International Paper, Motorola, Waste Management and a smattering of other companies, along with the states of Illinois and New Mexico, seven cities and a number of universities. Presumably the members “purchase” carbon offsets on the CCX trading exchange. This means they make contributions to or investments in groups or firms that provide forms of “alternative,” “renewable” and “clean” energy.

CCX also has “participant members” that develop the carbon-offset projects. They have names like Carbon Farmers and Eco-Nomics Incorporated. Still, other participant member groups facilitate, finance and market carbon-offset projects to “sequester, destroy or displace” greenhouse gases. CCX aspires to be the New York Stock Exchange of carbon-emissions trading.

Along with Gore, the co-founder of GIM is Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs CEO Hank Paulson. Last September, Goldman Sachs bought 10% of CCX shares for $23 million. CCX owns half the ECX, so Goldman Sachs has a stake there as well.

GIM’s “founding partners” are studded with officials from Goldman Sachs. They include David Blood, former CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM); Mark Ferguson, former co-head of GSAM pan-European research; and Peter Harris, who headed GSAM international operations. Another founding partner is Peter Knight, who is the designated president of GIM. He was Sen. Al Gore’s chief of staff from 1977-1989 and the campaign manager of the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign.

Like CCX, the ECX has about 80 member companies, including Barclays, BP, Calyon, Endesa, Fortis, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Shell, and ECX has contracted with the European Union to further develop a futures market in carbon trading. What’s in it for the companies? They will benefit either by investing in carbon credits or by receiving subsidies for doing so.

Front and Center

Clearly, GIM is poised to cash in on carbon trading. The membership of CCX is currently voluntary. But if the day ever comes when federal government regulations require greenhouse-gas emitters -- and that’s almost everyone -- to participate in cap-and-trade, then those who have created a market for the exchange of carbon credits are in a position to control the outcomes. And that moves Al Gore front and center. As a politician, Gore is all for transparency. But as GIM chairman, Gore has not been forthcoming, according to Forbes magazine. Little is known about his firm’s finances, where it gets funding and what projects it supports.

We do know that Goldman Sachs has commissioned the World Resources Institute (affiliated with CCX), Resources for the Future, and the Woods Hole Research Center to research policy options for U.S. regulation of greenhouse gases. In 2006, Goldman Sachs provided research grants in this area totaling $2.3 million. The firm also has committed $1 billion to carbon-assets projects, a fancy term for projects that generate energy from sources other than oil and gas. In October 2006, Morgan Stanley committed to invest $3 billion in carbon-assets projects. Citigroup entered the emissions-trading market in May, and Bank of America got in on the action in June.

Some environmentalist groups disparage Gore and his investment banker friends. They say the Gore group caters to others who share their financial interest in the carbon-exchange concept. The bulletin of the World Rainforest Movement says that members of a United Nations-sponsored group called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stand to gain by approving Gore’s carbon-trading enterprise. The IPCC has devised what it says is a scientific measure of the impact of greenhouse gases on global warming. In fact, the critics charge, the IPCC sanctions a mechanism that mainly promotes the sham concept of carbon exchange.

The global non-profit organization Winrock International is an example of one IPCC panel member that seeks out groups and individuals with an interest in carbon trading. Arkansas-based Winrock provides worldwide “carbon-advisory services.” Winrock has received government grants from the EPA, USAID and the Departments of Labor, State and Commerce, as well as from the Nature Conservancy (whose chairman used to be Henry Paulson). Winrock argues that cap-and-trade carbon trading is the best way to prevent a climate change crisis. But consider this: When a non-profit group takes money from oil companies and advocates drilling for oil as a solution to energy shortages, it is certain to be attacked as a tool of Big Oil. So far, the groups linked to Al Gore have avoided similar scrutiny.

Then there’s the World Resources Institute (WRI). It was the first nongovernmental group to join CCX as an associate member (a designation for virtuous groups whose greenhouse-gas emissions are negligible). Many of its donors are CCX members or otherwise support carbon exchanges, including the Shell Foundation, Whole Foods Market, the Nature Conservancy, American Forest and Paper Association, and the Pew Center for Climate Change, as well as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Ford Foundation.

Connect the Dots

In June 2006, the World Bank announced that it, too, had joined CCX, saying that it intended to offset its greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing emission credits through CCX. The bank says its credits would contribute to restoring 4,600 hectares of degraded pastureland in Costa Rica. Somehow, CCX has figured out that this is an amount equivalent to 22,000 metric tons of emission that the bank calculates are created by its activities.

A World Bank blog called the Private Sector Development Blog regularly features items touting Al Gore and the concept of carbon credits. Its articles typically announce corporate “green” initiatives in which carbon credits are said to cancel out “bad” CO2 emissions released by a company’s activities.

In fact, the World Bank now operates a Carbon Finance Unit that conducts research on how to develop and trade carbon credits. The bank works with Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain to set up carbon-credit funds in each country to purchase emission credits from firms for use in developing countries. In addition, it runs the Carbon Fund for Europe helping countries meet their Kyoto Protocol requirements. These funds are traded on the ECX (half of which is owned by CCX, itself a creature of Al Gore’s firm, Generation Investment Management). Can we connect the dots?

A website affiliated with An Inconvenient Truth invites concerned citizens to personally fight global warming by offsetting their “carbon footprint.” The ways to do that include changing over to fluorescent light bulbs and turning down your thermostat at home. But the website also urges Americans to offset their personal CO2 emissions by “buying” carbon offsets from a native-American-owned company called Native Energy. Native Energy promotes “renewable” wind energy by buying and selling carbon-emission credits and futures for wind turbine projects on Indian reservations.

What the website doesn’t mention is that that the founder of Native Energy, energy industry veteran Tom Boucher, also founded a marketing company called Green Mountain Energy, a CCX associate partner that describes itself as “the nation’s leading retail provider of cleaner energy and carbon-offset solutions. Green Mountain offers residential, business, institutional and governmental customers an easy way to purchase cleaner, affordable electricity products, as well as the opportunity to offset their carbon footprint.” In other words, Green Mountain sells advisory services to energy users, alerting them to opportunities to contribute to or invest in groups like Native Energy.

So it seems banks and investment houses are going green, eager to enter an emerging emissions market. Meanwhile, environmentalists are discovering new ways to get rich while believing they are saving polar bears and rainforests.

Al Gore Rakes in the Green By: Joseph D'Hippolito | Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Obama administration’s decision this week to introduce stringent new fuel efficiency standards for the U.S. car industry is a testament to the power of climate change hysteria. The lobby goes unchallenged in the corridors of power and will likely incur a disastrous economic and human toll. (For an overview of the probable cost in human lives, see Steven Milloy’s “The Sad CAFE” in this edition of FrontPage Magazine.) It is also a means to gaining political power and, for the former vice president, personal riches.

The potential to cash in on Green hysteria is nicely summarized by a cartoon in the daily Non Sequitur series drawn by Wiley. In the middle of a desert stands a shack, the office of “Global Warming Realty.” The two proprietors flank a sign planted along the road advertising “Ocean Front Lots Available.” “It doesn’t matter what we believe,” one realtor said to the other. “It only matters what they believe.”

The world’s most popular environmental alarmist appears to have taken that advice to heart.

Al Gore – the former vice president, Nobel Prize recipient and Academy Award winner for “An Inconvenient Truth” – has made tremendous money off the global warming hoax. Since leaving office in 2001, Gore’s personal net worth exploded from $2 million to $100 million in 2007, as reported by Investor’s Business Daily.

Moreover, Gore hopes to make further big profits by creating financial vehicles that ostensibly promote investment in renewable energy sources – not that he would want anyone to know that.

On April 24, Gore testified before the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee about pending cap-and-trade legislation. Cap-and-trade policies, which Gore supports, enable businesses to purchase credits for exceeding government-mandated limits on carbon-dioxide emissions, thereby avoiding fines.

During the hearings, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn asked Gore about his involvement with Kleiner Perkins, an environmental venture-capital group that Gore joined as a partner in 2007. Kleiner Perkins, Blackburn said, “invested about a billion dollars in 40 companies that are going to benefit from cap-and-trade legislation that we are discussing here today.

“Is that something that you are personally going to benefit from?” Blackburn asked.

Gore replied: “The transition to a green economy is good for our economy and good for all of us, and I have invested in it but every penny that I have made I have put right into a nonprofit, the Alliance for Climate Protection, to spread awareness of why we have to take on this challenge.”

However, Investor’s Business Daily reported that in March 2008, during a convention in Monterey, Calif., Gore revealed to his audience that he had “a stake” in various environmental enterprises and encouraged investment in them instead of what he called “subprime carbon assets,” tar sands and oil shale.

Two months later, Kleiner Perkins announced that it would invest $500 million in the Green Growth Fund, which specializes in environmental technology – potentially increasing Gore’s stake.

Another congressman, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, told Gore during the hearing, “and I know you’ve got interests with Goldman Sachs.” Steven Milloy, science correspondent for Fox News and author of Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan To Ruin Your Life and What You Can Do To Stop Them, described what followed:

“Gore made facial gestures that implied he had never even heard of Goldman Sachs. Gore then replied, ‘No.’

“Rep. Scalise continued, ‘… well, that’s been reported. If — is that not accurate?’

“Gore replied, ‘No. I wish I did, but I don’t.’

Yet the former vice president has extensive, complex and personal connections with Goldman Sachs.

In 2004, Gore helped found and became the chairman of Generation Investment Management, which participates in cap-and-trade by purchasing carbon credits. Among the founders are three Goldman Sachs officials. Mark Ferguson served as the joint head of European research for Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Peter Harris directed international research for Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

But the biggest name is Henry Paulson – the former Goldman Sachs chairman and Pres. George W. Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury who designed last fall’s massive government bailout of various financial firms.

Serving as GIM’s managing director is David Blood, who once worked as the CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

GIM – and, by extension, Goldman Sachs – are major players in cap-and-trade. Deborah Corey Barnes wrote in Human Events that GIM exercises “considerable influence” over the Chicago Carbon Exchange (CCX) and its British equivalent, the Carbon Neutral Company. Both exchanges transform the carbon credits their members purchase into investments or donations to agencies that produce or promote non-petroleum energy sources.

CCX’s members include Ford, DuPont, Dow Corning and the states of Illinois and New Mexico. CCX also owns 50 percent of the European Climate Exchange, which features such members as Shell, British Petroleum, Barclays – and Goldman Sachs.

In 2006, Goldman Sachs paid $23 million for 10 percent of CCX’s shares. Also that year, Goldman Sachs supplied $2.3 billion in grants to study ways to regulate or reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, and $1 billion to projects designed to generate energy without petroleum.

Gore’s relationship with Goldman Sachs extends even to investing in oil exploration! Kleiner Perkins, where Gore works as a partner, combined with Goldman Sachs last year to invest $65 million in Terralliance, which develops software to make drilling more efficient.

“As a Kleiner Perkins partner, Al Gore must have known, if not approved of the Terralliance deal, and that it involved Goldman Sachs,” Milloy wrote. “At the very least, under partnership law, such knowledge is legally imputed to him as a partner.”

What about the Alliance for Climate Protection, Gore’s non-profit organization? Basically, it’s nothing but a front. As Barnes wrote:

“The group favors more stringent environmental policy regulations on the private sector and especially wants cap-and-trade legislation so that companies will be forced to lower their greenhouse gas emissions and buy carbon credits.”

Naturally, companies would have to join CCX (if they had not already done so) and purchase credits from the organization that Gore and Goldman Sachs helped establish. Those credits, in turn, would help finance projects that could make even more money for Gore and Goldman Sachs.

“Whatever its impact on the environment, the cap-and-trade carbon scheme is sure to boost the economic and political prospects of people and groups that are behind it,” Barnes wrote. “Before the company collapsed under the weight of financial scandal, Enron under CEO Ken Lay was a key proponent of the cap-and-trade idea. So was BP’s Lord John Browne, before he resigned last May under a cloud of personal scandal.”

The global warming hoax not only offers its promoters the opportunity for massive profits. It also provide another rationale for self-benighted elitists to promote their utopian visions of the future – and, like all utopian visions, they are fundamentally totalitarian.

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