“Today the conservation movement is led by sober business men and is based on the cold calculations of the engineers. Conservation, no longer viewed as a political issue, has become a business proposition…. The old school looked on conservation as a governmental function; the new school believes in entrusting it to the hands of business men and engineers.”
– Erich Zimmermann, World Resources and Industries (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1933), pp. 784–85.
Profit-seeking conservation is nothing new, as economists have noted. So why must we assume that self-interested conservation is a ‘market failure’ requiring government subsidies and mandates? Why is market decision-making with energy necessarily sub-optimal?
And if “market failure” is posited, what must be said about “government failure”? Political processes are human too, and worse, bureaucrats do not have their own hard-earned cash on the line.…
I have previously described Exxon Mobil as the anti-Enron. In an opinion-page editorial in yesterday’s Houston Chronicle, I contrasted the two companies in terms of both energy strategy and public policy.
More could be said than is in the editorial (reprinted below). Enron’s first fraud, engineered by Andrew Fastow, came with the purchase of Zond Corporation, which was renamed Enron Wind Corporation and is now part of GE Energy. (This complicated story about a “qualifying facility” under federal energy law is told in McLean and Elkind’s The Smartest Guys in the Room, pp. 166–67 and Kurt Eichenwald’s Conspiracy of Fools, pp. 142–44.)
“Since 1976, Enron [and predecessor company] employees have been at the forefront of developing air credit trading policies for governments and businesses…. Enron today is the largest and most sophisticated air emissions credit and allowance trading organization in the United States. Since 1990, Enron has participated in over 80 SOx allowance transactions and has also been active in establishing policies for trading NOx in the United States and carbon [dioxide] world-wide.”
– “Enron Corp.’s Participation in Air Trading,” Enron Capital & Trade Resources, November 4, 1996 (copy in files).
“If implemented, [the Kyoto Protocol] will do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative…. The endorsement of [CO2] emissions trading was another victory for us…. This agreement will be good for Enron stock!”
– John Palmisano (December 12, 1997) from Kyoto, Japan.