Carbon Traders Whine Permits are Too Cheap to Make a Profit


Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t JoNova – carbon traders are complaining that over-issuing of carbon permits, a lack of political will to make carbon trading work, has destroyed investor confidence in the industry.

Tough to Keep the World From Warming When Carbon Is This Cheap

Carbon markets, the free-enterprise solution to saving the world from global warming, are now in danger themselves.

The idea was simple enough: Set a cap on carbon emissions, issue enough permits to allow power plants, refineries and the like to stay within those limits and then shrink the cap over time to achieve reductions. The companies whose emissions fall fastest can sell their permits for a profit to slower responders — call it a reward for good behaviour.

The reality, though, is more complex. Undercut by a lack of political will on the size of caps and overtaken by costly new environmental mandates, carbon markets in the U.S., Europe and Asia are collapsing, with prices so low they’ve become virtually valueless. The credits auctioned in the U.S. Northeast in June, for instance, sold for just $4.53 a short ton, a 40 percent drop from December.

“Climate policy has been muddled and messy,” said Michael Grubb, a professor at University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Resources who has advised the U.K. energy regulator. “Governments have set inadequate targets due to lobbying pressures and because they didn’t think carefully enough about overlapping efforts. That has destroyed investor confidence that carbon prices will rise.

The problem is that the permits are selling at a slower and slower rate. The surplus of allowances is becoming so large in systems run by Europe, California and Quebec — which together account for more than 90 percent of global trading — that by 2022 it could cover the emissions spewing from every car on Earth for a full year, according to estimates by the London environmental group Sandbag Climate Campaign CIC and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

In California’s market, all 23 million allowances sold in an auction in 2014. In May, 7.3 million permits found buyers, only 11 percent of what was put up for sale.

Read more:

What went wrong?

Carbon trading is the only “market” I know of, in which all the players who matter benefit from fraud.

Issuers of carbon credits benefit when they sell fraudulent permits – they are making money for nothing.

Buyers of carbon credits benefit when they buy from a market flooded with fraudulent carbon permits – fraud keeps prices down.

Regulators benefit personally from fraud, when they receive bribes to turn a blind eye to dodgy dealing.

Politicians benefit from fraud, and from overissuing of permits, because it makes them look like they are doing something about CO2, without actually doing anything which might damage their re-election chances, or have a significant detrimental impact on jobs or the economy.

The only people who appear to be suffering are merchant bankers, who can’t find anyone willing to buy and hold carbon credits as an investment, because everyone believes prices are going to continue spiralling down into total collapse. And of course, anyone who was silly enough to believe carbon markets might have an impact on CO2 emissions.

128 thoughts on “Carbon Traders Whine Permits are Too Cheap to Make a Profit

  1. Just wondering – what’s the difference between fraud and short selling that is permitted in most markets?
    The carbon market is also the only market that is solely dependant on government legislation and nothing else.

    • “Just wondering – what’s the difference between fraud and short selling that is permitted in most markets?”
      Short selling is when you want to buy a commodity or a stock and I sell you a contract to deliver what you want. If I currently posses the commodity or stock you have no problem with that apparently. But if I intend to buy the item later to deliver to you — how it that fraud? It is only a crime if I don’t deliver as promised. (He who sells what isn’t his’n, Must buy it back or go to prison)
      Short selling is what makes the commodities market work and it helps the agribusiness companies, large and small, reduce risk and manage their business. After all, there is no market in Orange Juice unless some grove owners sell contracts for delivery at a later date, which is usually harvest time but not always.
      Fraud is a vastly difference thing that selling short on the commodities market. (or stock market for that matter) If you don’t like it, then don’t do it. (can be very, very hazardous to your finances)
      The “carbon market” on the other hand is a fraud in that it is based on buying and selling “carbon credits” to satisfy the mandates of the Government Regulations which are based on whim and nonsense. I would like to buy and sell “MPH Credits” so if I am caught doing 85 mph in a 70 mph zone on I-4, I could then pull out a 15 mph credit to hand to the cop. Why not? Makes much more sense than “carbon credits”.

      • Well, Mark, carbon isn’t the first cap and trade system. The national sulfur cap and trade was a phenomenal success, and there are regional schemes for nitrogen oxides, and in Houston, Highly Reactive Volatile Organic Chemicals.
        It’s that last example which is most relevant to this. In that, the original distribution was far too generous. With a few companies doing basic steps to drop their emissions, the value of the credits plummeted. The TCEQ is currently dropping the total allocations by about 20% over the course of several years, which has allowed the system to actually function.
        The difference between these and the carbon markets is that to get extra credits for any pollutant, you must demonstrate actual reductions of a non-covered source. For example, shutting down a major combustor that was a shade too small to participate in the system. To compare with CO2, building a wind turbine or solar panel generates credits, whether or not something shuts down because of it. In short, pollutant cap and trades generate credits based off reductions from prior emissions. CO2 cap and trade generates credits based off reductions from a theoretical future. In short, CO2 has no cap.

  2. How many “carbon credits” does it cost for one bag of good quality charcoal briquettes for my backyard grill?

      • Why would charcoal be “carbon neutral”? It’s concentrated carbon, with all the volitiles in the original wood offgassed. Do these people even know what’s burning when they burn stuff?

      • Because it was created by baking wood. Over the course of its cycle, the same amount of CO2 is removed and added to the atmosphere (ignoring all the side-emissions from the growing, processing, and delivery system, almost all of which is fossil-fired). Therefore, charcoal is considered “green”

  3. sounds like a personal problem to me…
    markets are generally smarter than any one person or small group of people.
    (assuming, of course, there is little or no governmental interference in how they operate)

  4. In the end you have to shut down U.S., and here in California, all concrete production. The more insane the regulations, the more virtuous people feel, until they have to implement shutdowns of industry sectors. We could go back to making roads and houses out of adobe., but alas, it has stability problems in earthquakes. In the meantime, some are reacting to Trump’s nomination. If he wins, carbon credits are over for the U.S. Only California implemented them in the U.S., which makes the market too small. As product costs go up to pay for credits compared to other states without this market, manufacturing will move out of state. As that starts to occur, the ramping down of available credits will stall. Shipping in concrete from out of state will cause cost of concrete to go orbital. Then all highway construction will go orbital. Oh yeah, state pays for the highways. However, this tax did boost the CA bond rating, which I think is now out of junk status, so politicians are in brief ecstasy over the new income. The trading has one key problem. You can either pay more for decreasing credit pool, or you can move overseas. So industry paying is more of a one time thing. Only stiffing people on gasoline will survive here in CA.

    • What makes you think cement plants won’t get a pass? The British Columbia Carbon Tax was amended to exclude cement plants and a few other key industries. Nothing is ever as it seems – especially in politics.

    • Check out the cap-and-trade agreement situation between California and Quebec as it presently stands in the above Bloomberg article.
      Ontario has also signed on to the above agreement but has not yet implemented this cap-and-trade agreement but is the process of doing so.

  5. California is already way overbuilt. both in terms of concrete and people. Skyrocketing concrete prices in CA would be a significant restriction on growth and repatriate a lot of Silicon Valley money back to the states with more sensible policies.

  6. Bjorn Lomborg’s latest update claims that the fra-dulent Paris COP 21 agreement will cost one hundred TRILLION $ and reduce global temps by 0.17 C by 2100.
    IOW 100 TRILLION $ will be wasted for no measurable difference at all. Why isn’t this fra-d exposed by journalists all around the globe?
    Remember Harry Markopolis exposed the Madoff Ponzi scheme fra-d but couldn’t get the US SEC to take any interest. He worked hard for another 9 years before he was vindicated. He told the US Congress that he was convinced of Madoff’s fra-d after looking at the data for ONLY 5 MINUTES. Unbelievable.
    Of course the CAGW mitigation fra-d infects the entire world and makes Madoff’s crime look like a fleabite. When will they wake up? Here’s Lomborg link.

    • Here’s Harry Markopolis’s quote and the Wikipedia story exposing the greatest Ponzi scheme fra-d in history.
      “Markopolos later said that he knew within five minutes that Madoff’s numbers didn’t add up. It took him another four hours to mathematically prove that they could have only been obtained by fraud.” I wonder what Willis Eschenbach would make of that data?
      Here is the story.

    • They should not have “scorned” Lomborg.
      They have made a powerful enema for themselves.

  7. If you open it to a truly free market, (cost of entry = 0, many parties, interchangeable goods), it doesn’t work, interesting …… then one must conclude that it’s not a real market

    • “then one must conclude that it’s not a real market”
      That’s what I conclude. It looks like more of a scam than a market.

    • that it’s not a real market
      Right, …… and neither are any of the Stock Markets (NYSE, NASDAQ, etc.).
      In actuality, all Stock Markets are nothing more than a gigantic “poker game” whereby the controlling houses (governments) takes a “rake-off” of every hand of poker that is played …. and the stock brokers and “big” money bettors control and manipulate the “bid n’ ask” prices to hedge their own “betting”.

    • It’s a supply and demand economy it seems to me, Pat . . First you supply some “foundation” money, then you can demand more ; )

    • It’s not called a wood stove anymore Gamecock, it’s now referred to as a bio-mass conversion unit.
      Just helping you out.

      • Woodstoves still exist. If you pay for it yourself and receive no subsidy payment for using it. Then it’s still fair to call it a woodstove
        The minute that the state becomes involves – then I’m sure that it becomes a biomass converter/heater/boiler or some such thing.
        The critical difference being that in the second instance other people are charged money when you burn stuff to heat your home or provide yourself with hot water.
        The more heat that you squander – the more money that other people have to pay you.
        I proudly own a woodstove.
        No other party was involved in its purchase, installation or use. Nor in the growing of the trees, felling of trees or seasoning of wood etc.
        I transform sunlight into heat via this simple process.
        No, credits, money, taxes, subsidies, tariffs, regulations, restrictions, obligations etc etc are involved or required.
        I’m probably breaking the law.
        Maybe I should turn myself in.

      • I thought it was only a woodstove if you could cook dinner on top of it. Grandma actually has one of those at her place, although it hasn’t been fired up in decades. Her woodburner on the other hand gets used every winter, just like ours.

  8. One can only wonder what new and insane idea the CARBON DIOXIDE traders (shysters/rent seekers) will come up with to recoup their losses. Solar and wind technologies are already massively expensive proven failures, the mind truly boggles. The only thing certain is that whatever ‘it’ is will cost the taxpayers a lot of money.

  9. The real problem is that the money has to come from two sources, taxpayers or consumers. The greens think of it as magic, the investors think they are going to make a killing with no risk. Two many people thinking magic will overcome basic economics and basic physics of energy production.
    Don’t invest in magic and express opposition every time someone suggests you should pay the greens and/or green power investors. Find groups that work on your behalf and support them instead.

    • Sorry Chris you have the wrong sign on your answer, since CO2 increases Food Production CO2 help Society.

    • Chris July 9, 2016 at 6:37 pm
      “I disagree. $5/t is my estimation for the social cost of carbon.”
      Chris, as a “Carbon Unit” your own body has a CO2 concentration of ~56,000 ppm which must be maintained within a range above even say 28,000 ppm just to keep you alive. And you are not “carbon neutral” given that your growth, physical activity, and the products you use – plastics, concrete, asphalt, medications, communications, recreational and fitness devices, food, etc. – require quite a lot of the eeeevillle fossil fuel-producing CO2 you think is a “toxin” and “pollutant” and has a withering “social cost”.
      Therefore your own message to and about yourself as a “social cost” is as clear as its solution! If not “For the Children, the Planet, Gaia, the Poor, the ‘obscene Inequality between the rich and poor Nations’!” how about “For The Cause!” or “The long Arc of Justice!”?….What, no Conscience?

  10. Industry?
    “Industry is the production of goods or related services within an economy.”
    What goods, may I ask, does this “industry” produce?

  11. Repeated catastrophic collapse of carbon prices
    The problem is not the low price but the repeated catastrophic collapse of carbon prices by political fiat that repeatedly and severely burned “green” investors.
    Once burnt twice shy.
    When you get burnt three times . . . !!!
    Blood And Gore: Making A Killing On Anti-Carbon Investment Hype

    Between May of 2008 and October of 2009 the CCX market value for one metric ton of carbon plummeted from $7 per metric ton to $0.10 along with the shareholders’ investment values. Losers included the Ford Motor Company, Amtrak, DuPont, Dow Corning, American Electric Power, International Paper, and Waste Management, along with the states of Illinois and New Mexico, seven cities, and a number of universities.

    EU’s pilot carbon prices hit over EU30/ton then collapsed to nothing in 2007 from over issuance. Phase II similarly collapsed from > EU30/t to < EU8/t.

    However, pollution trimming in Phase III (2013-2020) is now undermined by the persistent oversupply of allowances and by the fact that the cap is uncertain past 2020. Although the EU has a target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, the current trajectory is too high to meet that goal or the EU’s 2050 Roadmap goals. Although the EU aspires to a permanent cap, its current trajectory is still too high. The current cap reduces at 1.74 percent per year, but to slash emissions to the levels needed in 2050 the cap would need to descend by around 2.4 percent per year.

    PS China also does not play “fair”.

    First Solar Inc., another GIM investment, got squeezed out of the solar panel market by cheaper Chinese products. According to Bloomberg, GIM dumped its last First Solar stock at a $165.9 million loss in 2012.

  12. There is nothing “free market” about carbon credits. They are just another socialist govt failure. Nothing unusual here.

  13. If it were actually warming as fast as the models predicted the stuff would be soaring in price. Nobody wants them because they can look outside and see its not going to be in demand anytime soon. . . .so what else to do? Whine to the government that they are too big to fail!

  14. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww those poor babies! How are they supposed to save the world if we don’t pay them to do it???? 😛

  15. Bunch of scammers. Anyone even remotely connected, politician or otherwise, should be thrown in jail.

  16. Carbon Trading isn’t a market at all . It is an artificial manipulation designed to separate fools from their money . Deregulated energy markets are the elephant and carbon trading isn’t even a fly on that elephants butt . Most countries are not going to give businesses further reason to move to those” have not” countries like China . China must wonder at how incredibly stupid western governments are .

  17. I remember saying years ago that the white shoe boys would be out and about. Problem is they got too greedy and hyper scammed the market. All they had to do was be a bit patient and they all could have pocketed heaps from the gullible alarmists who would have enjoyed the pain (although they would not have actually received the pain – poor old citizen Joe would have copped it big time). The parable of the Old Bull and the Young Bull comes to mind.

    • Our carbon Tax in British Columbia is like a sales tax.
      For my Natural Gas bill it is about 8% which is more than the cost of the natural gas I use (not the distribution fee).
      The carbon tax is just the tip of the iceberg for us taxpayers.
      There are all kinds of levies and fees imposed on various products and services.
      The provincial government of BC raids the coffers of our mandated car insurance ICBC and our hydro electric utility to the tune of about 700 million dollars a year each.

      • And the carbon tax fever is spreading to Alberta and Ontario. Canadian conservative parties must stand up and promise to dismantle and eliminate these fraudulent tax schemes.
        Why do so many Canadian citizens believe that a tax can change the weather anyway?

  18. Of course carbon credits were over-issued. This is the means by which Russia was bribed to sign up to the Kyoto protocol. Without this the Kyoto protocol would have collapsed for lack of signatories. Now we are paying the price.

  19. If we forget about the fundamental flaws for a moment, isn’t low prices for carbon permits a sign of the system overperforming?
    Please correct me if I oversimplify but as I understand it the supply is fixed and demand will vary with CO2 emission. Low prices means low demand means low emissions means world is saved?
    Now what could have happened in a rational and informed market is that CO2 emitting industries relocate their production to areas not affected by CO2 regulation and expecting a profit from lower operation costs and SELLING THE CARBON CREDITS THEY GET FOR FREE DUE TO THEIR TRADITION OF CO2 EMISSION?
    Now if this become common the demand for CO2 permits will drop and and their value too?
    Before we gloat to much over the losses of gullible banks and pension funds remember this is our money lost. The carbon traders that set up this Ponzi scheme have diversified a long time ago and can retire in Gore-style when this bubble bursts.
    Unfortunately that will not mean the end to the AGW juggernaut, it will go on by sheer inertia.
    Probably Anthony will have to run this blog until the next minor iceage.

    • “Low prices means low demand means low emissions means world is saved?”
      Well.. that or the market is flooded with an artificial commodity that has no real value and costs nothing to produce.

    • It’s simply supply and demand, no one wants them. So the price goes through the floor.
      Add in investor concern over the recent reports of billions in Carbon credit fraud in the EU and the fact no one wants them.. unavoidable, plus corporations and investors are far more skeptical of doom claims than average folk, they may make the noises in public but the bets they are making on agriculture it seems is losses to cold weather.
      When money is concerned, screaming activists don’t cut it for financial investors
      Carbon credits are now Zimbabwe dollars

  20. Even if the carbon credit market wasn’t completely rorted, and the premise wasn’t based on massively fraudulent analysis, it has one fundamental failing. It only incentivises DOMESTIC abatement, not global. The EUSSR’s carbon market has achieved only one thing in its sorry 30 year history: Caused emitting activity to move from the EUSSR to somewhere else.
    And indeed the EUSSR has reduced its emissions. So steel is now made in China. During Australia’s disastrous experiment with carbon pricing, much of the aluminium industry closed. And China’s expanded 10% pa those years.

  21. “It’s all connected. You’re seeing the fish flopping, it’s the fish flopping. I’m telling you weird stuff like this happens just before the tsunami. When rivers run backwards that should be a warning sign. Next birds will fly backwards and people will just grunt at it, if tomorrows a decent down day, look out next week. I got a tingly feeling here, tingly like as in people are turning in expectations, this could get ugly…”
    This moment of apocalypse anxiety brought to you by Cadbury’s Smash

  22. The fundamental problem with a carbon trading system is not fraud (although there is fraud here and there). The real problem is the only states and governments that get on board with this system are the ones with surplus credits to sell. The commodity in question (carbon credits) has no value in and of itself (as opposed to oil or gold, for example). This guarantees that the commodity will never climb in value. The only way for credits to go up in value is if people are FORCED to buy them, so no surprise when there’s no political will.

  23. Carbon trading is part of the economic miracle. It provides employment for market traders, IT professionals, consultants, government departments and a whole army of support services.
    It increases world GDP and the benefits of the wealth created flow down through society.
    The only problem is that it clearly does not work, and as far as I am aware a carbon trading scheme has never worked. It needs global buy in to the principles, an absence of corruption and unambiguous parameters to deliver the outcomes desired Without this it is simply a further business issue to be manipulated (like tax) to minimise the impacts.
    Current situation is really just an exercise in excessive futility.

  24. All warmist climate scientists should be paid in carbon credits. Skeptics, in real money. It would be an interesting experiment.

    • Real skeptics would require payment in precious metals.
      I’m pretty sure that no skeptic would consider anything written on paper to be real money. At least, I certainly feel some degree of skepticism regarding the future value of any fiat currency or traded certificate.
      Give me something hard to obtain that has a industrial applications or other utility.
      All contributions of this nature will be welcomed!! Thanks!!

  25. 21st century Tulip-mania. It failed in Europe. It failed in Chicago (and faded quietly away) and now that the insane revived it in the People’s Republic of California, it is soon to fail again, not soon enough after making the poor poorer through too expensive energy.

    • The difference being that SO2 is actual air pollution. But it takes people with at least half a brain to know the difference.

      • The question is about whether a permit and trading scheme can lead to reductions in a gas that is emitted into the atmosphere. The SO2 example I gave showed that it is. I thought even people with half a brain could stay with the topic of this thread, but I guess I was wrong.

    • Oh dear. It appears that even a half-brained one can’t understand the reasons why it worked for an actual pollutant, but can’t for a faked one.

      • Oh dear, I didn’t realize that basic logic skills were so lacking. It is irrelevant whether or not the pollutant is “faked” or not. The question posed was whether a cap and trade system could be effective to reduce a gas which is released into the atmosphere by internal combustion engines. The answer is yes.

  26. Bernie Madoff eat your heart out…………
    Only last year, Goldman Sachs organized it, they even went to the extent of removing two great obstacles to its progress, namely Tony Abbot and Stephen Harper who were two Prime ministers of Australia and Canada in that order and smoothing the way.
    It’s a colourless, odourless, diffused in the atmosphere at very low proportions is almost harmless, and to all plants is a life giving gas and thus is one of the most vital gases on, in and around on the planet. Obama, had it declared a ‘poison’ for goodness sakes but then, what did a human rights activist/organizer/agitator ever know about science and FA is your answer.
    Amorality, investment banking are indivisible, screwing people over is what they’re all about and the best, should I say the most egregious conmen on the planet and best paid btw work in, Goldman Sachs.
    A CO2 emissions limitations treaty was what the boys in GS wanted, in Paris it was signed and supposedly the carbon trading exchanges were going to make GS even richer than Croesus, Midas and the Fed Reserve put together – I mean how much can you dig, Man?
    China didn’t sign, India won’t, Trump is coming, the UK told the EU where to go and one day Goldman Sachs will disappear into a very hot hole in the bowels of the earth and the world will shout THANK ***K for that and HIP BLOODY HOORAY!

  27. It always kills me when politicians talk about “market based solutions.” They think if they can cargo cult the free market they’ll get the great results they’re hoping for (all while helping their cronies). But if they allow too many actual market forces to occur then those market forces will start to drive things toward optimal price and capital structures, etc., basically causing results that the politicians never wanted and that their cronies hate. It never fails.

  28. Of course it’s a fraud. I know somebody who has a natural gas generation system to supply power and hot water to the building, and he gets paid carbon credits for it by the government, and saves himself 40 grand a year on operating costs.

  29. indefatigablefrog
    July 10, 2016 at 6:38 am
    I have three carbon conversion units in my house and fossil fuel free transportation.
    However, my guess is that most people would not be able to supply the fuel for any of these units at the small price I pay for this rather efficient process. 😉
    Carbon Conversion Units:
    Fossil Fuel Free Transport:

  30. I’ll bet trading carbon credits works just great in theory. There is probably a gigantic econometric model that proves it.

  31. I have a proposition, I won’t drive around in limos, own we deal mansions or fly to all these Green conferences for $100,000, then AlFord and Leonarndo can use my share of CO2.

  32. The EPA misled much of the world about CO2. Apparently they were not aware of thermalization (transfer of energy from ghg to non-ghg gases) which explains why CO2 and all other non-condensing ghg have no significant effect on climate. Growing awareness of this is contributing to collapse of carbon credits.

  33. British Columbia’s (BC) carbon tax was imposed and is maintained by a Liberal government. Despite claims by academics that pushed for it BC is increasingly uncompetitive and the tax has zero impact on the earth’s temperature . It is buried in the price of gasoline and in deregulated energy markets it simply gets lost in price volatility noise .Let’s call it what it is .. a politically correct tax grab . Any Province or State that
    imposes it deserves to be thrown out of office . If imposed you can count on routine BS studies by
    professors from places like SFU to chirp how great it is .
    Climate changes and global warming is a very good thing for plants ,trees and animals on earth..
    Killing our own economies so fossil fuels can be used less efficiently and with poor emission controls in those “have not countries “is the real carbon tax legacy .

    • 1) Create a carbon tax, and its image a carbon credit.
      2) define carbon (dioxide) as a pollutant.
      3) Logically it is a pollution tax (or fee) and a pollution credit; Rich entities can buy the luxury of polluting the environment
      4) Ask the Carbon trading advocates if they would be willing to be honest and call it a Pollution Tax & Pollution Credit, and therefore define their trading scheme as a pollution trading market.

  34. I hope they all go bankrupt- every single cheating, thieving carbon “trader”.
    And those that made this fraudulent scam possible- the Climate “scientists” and the grasping politicians should all be in prison.

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