Kentucky Coal Museum installs solar panels to save on electricity bills

In what it says is a cost-saving move, the Kentucky Coal Museum is moving to solar power, according to the Associated Press. The museum is having 80 solar panels installed, which it expects will cut $8,000 off its annual electricity bill. The Courier-Journal writes that the museum currently spends $2,100 a month on electricity. The Kentucky Coal Museum is owned by Southeastern Kentucky Community and Technical College, which is paying for the solar panels.

— source arstechnica.com

Now Just SIX Men Have as Much Wealth as Half the World’s Population

Yes, inequality is getting worse every year. In early 2016 Oxfam reported that just 62 individuals had the same wealth as the bottom half of humanity. About a year later Oxfam reported that just 8 men had the same wealth as the world’s bottom half. Based on the same methodology and data sources used by Oxfam, that number is now down to 6.

How to account for the dramatic increase in the most flagrant and perverse of extreme inequalities? Two well-documented reasons: (1) The poorest half (and more) of the world has continued to lose wealth; and (2) The VERY richest individuals — especially the top thousand or so — continue to add billions of dollars to their massive fortunes.

Inequality deniers and apologists say the Oxfam methodology is flawed, but they’re missing the big picture. Whether it’s 6 individuals or 62 or 1,000 doesn’t really matter. The data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (GWD) and the Forbes Billionaire List provide the best available tools to make it clear that inequality is extreme and pathological and getting worse every year.

How It’s Gone from 62 to 6 in One Year

As of 02/17/17, the world’s 6 richest individuals (all men) had $412 billion. Tables 2-4 and 3-4 of the 2016 GWD reveal that the poorest five deciles of the world population own just .16% of the $256 trillion in global wealth, or $410 billion. That latter figure is based on mid-2016 data, but since then the status of the bottom 50% has not improved, and has in fact likely worsened, as both global debt and global inequality have increased.

Just a year ago, on 03/01/16, the world’s 6 richest men had $343 billion. They’re the same men today, although slightly rearranged as they play “king of the hill”: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim Helu (with Larry Ellison jockeying for position). The wealth of these six men increased by $69 billion in just one year.

Just a year ago, according to the 2015 GWD, the poorest five deciles of the world population owned much more than today, close to $1.5 trillion. What happened? It’s very clear: the world’s richest 10% (mostly the richest 1%) gained nearly $4 trillion while every other segment of the global population lost wealth.

That’s worth a second look. The world’s total wealth is about $256 trillion, and in JUST ONE YEAR the richest 10% drained nearly $4 trillion away from the rest of civilization.

It’s Not Just the Bottom Half: A 500-Seat Auditorium Could Hold As Much Wealth as 70% of the World’s Population

According to the Forbes Billionaire List, the world’s richest 500 individuals have $4.73 trillion in wealth. Tables 2-4 and 3-4 of the GWD reveal that the poorest seven deciles of the world population own just 1.86% of the $256 trillion in global wealth, or $4.76 trillion. That’s over two-thirds of all the people on earth. That means 5,000,000,000 people — FIVE BILLION people — have, on average, and after debt is figured in, about a thousand dollars each in home and property and savings.

In the U.S., the Forbes 400 Own as Much as 3/5 of the American People

The bottom 60% of Americans, according to Table 6-5 in the GWD, own 3 percent of the nation’s $85 trillion in total wealth, or $2.55 trillion. The Forbes 400 owned $2.4 trillion in October 2016, and that’s been steadily increasing.

So as apologists like the National Review refer to “a growing upper-middle class” of people earning over $100,000 a year, they’re inadvertently offering an explanation for the demise of the middle class: Some are moving up, way up; many others are dropping to the lower-middle-class or below. The once sizable and stable middle of America is splitting into two.

The Deniers Are Lurking

The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby calls the Oxfam analysis “irrelevant.” Reuters contributor Felix Salmon calls it a “silly stat.”

Jacoby’s column includes some stunning assertions. He says, “Just as capitalism made it possible for Gates, Zuckerberg, and the others to reach the highest rung on the economic ladder, it is making it possible for billions of men and women to climb up from the lowest rung. Oxfam’s billionaires are richer than they used to be. So is almost everyone else.” And he quotes writer Johan Norberg: “Poverty as we know it is disappearing from our planet.”

Billions moving up? Almost everyone getting richer? Poverty disappearing?

While we keep hearing about the world “climbing out of poverty,” much of the alleged improvement is due to rapid economic growth in China and creative math on the part of the UN. And yes, many Americans have negative wealth because of debt. A human being doesn’t have to live in a third-world slum to be impoverished.

Yet as inequality ravages the American and world economies, denial grows right along with it. Cato’s Michael Tanner suggests that “even if inequality were growing as fast as critics claim, it would not necessarily be a problem.” George Will, of course, agrees. But like the other deniers, they all protest too much as they try to explain away reality.

— source commondreams.org by Paul Buchheit

Europe’s Largest Pension Funds Heavily Invested in Illegal Israeli Settlements

Europe’s five largest pension funds have €7.5 billion invested in companies with business activities in and around illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. This is at odds with United Nations guidelines, clear warnings from 18 European countries, and undermines the two-state solution, experts warn.

European investors have billions of euro invested in companies with activities in and around illegal Israeli settlements, according to a new investigation from Danwatch that screened the investment portfolios of Europe’s top five pension fund managers.

Statens pensjonsfond utland (Oljefondet) (NO), Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP (NE), Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (NE), Arbejdsmarkedets Tillægspension (DK), and Alecta Pensionsförsäkring (SE) have a total of €7.5 billion invested in 36 Israeli and international publicly-traded companies, most of which have long been under public scrutiny because of their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Hugh Lovatt, expert on Israel and Palestine at the respected think-tank European Council on Foreign Relations, explains the problem with settlements:

“Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal and have led to the dispossession of Palestinians and the fragmentation of Palestinian land. They infringe on Palestinian rights and exploit Palestinian natural resources.”

Business activities in and around settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are not necessarily against the law, but according to the United Nations, investors are obliged to carry out enhanced due diligence and to demonstrate that their activities do not contribute to negative effects on human rights.
Warning from European governments

In addition, 18 European countries warn their citizens and businesses in no uncertain terms against undertaking financial and economic activities that could support illegal Israeli settlements.

“Financial transactions, investments, purchases, tenders, and other economic activities (including services like tourism) in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements are associated with legal and economic risks due to the fact that, according to international law, the Israeli settlements are built on occupied land and are not recognised as a lawful part of Israel’s territory,” wrote the Danish Foreign Ministry in a 2014 statement similar to statements published by other countries.

“One should also be aware of possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights,” the statement warns and refers to OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2011) and United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights (2011).
Undermining the two-state solution

In addition to the “increased risk of adverse human rights impacts”, as the UN puts it, European investors are also actively undermining the official policy of the EU regarding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“When European investors finance, fund or facilitate the settlement enterprise and illegal actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, they are contributing to the undermining of the two-state solution and therefore the undermining of the EU’s own foreign policy objectives,” [said] Policy fellow Hugh Lovatt at the European Council for Foreign Relations states to Danwatch.

“And these investments are illegal under international law – or at least very problematic – and exposes European investors to reputational, financial and legal risks,” says Lovatt.

Investments in companies with business activities in and around settlements tie European investors to potential violations of international humanitarian law and Palestinians’ human rights.

Lars Erslev Andersen, a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), agrees that it is problematic when companies have activities in settlements.

“In my opinion, businesses that have branches or factories in the occupied Palestinian territories help to maintain the occupation and facilitate Israel’s continued construction of settlements, infrastructure and security apparatus in the West Bank,” Andersen tells Danwatch.

“This is problematic, because it undermines the two-state solution, which is gradually becoming an illusion for a great number of people,” [said] Lars Erslev Andersen, senior researcher at DIIS.

Norwegian fund biggest investor

The largest single investor by far is Statens Pensjonsfond Utland, the Government Pension Fund of Norway, with €5.2 billion out of the total €7.5 billion invested in all 36 companies on Danwatch’s list.

This includes €135 million in Caterpillar, which supplies bulldozers for the demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories; €286 million in HeidelbergCement, which has been blacklisted by several other European investors due to exploitation of Palestinian natural resources; and €1.5 billion in Siemens, which has installed traffic systems on Israeli roads in the West Bank and placed bids on projects on occupied territory with Israel Railways.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund also has €233 million in five Israeli banks financing settlement construction and operating in the West Bank in various ways: Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel Ltd, Israel Discount Bank Ltd and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd.

These same banks are blacklisted by Europe’s third largest pension fund Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) (NE) which in 2014 ended several years of dialogue.

“Given the day-to-day reality and domestic legal framework they operate in, the banks have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” wrote PFZW (formerly PGGM) about the decision to divest from Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot because they finance settlements and operate branches on occupied territory.

Danwatch asked The Norwegian Government Pension Fund specific questions about each of their investments in the 36 specific companies, but received no specific reply. Instead the fund answers in general terms about how they expect companies they invest in to strive to observe “the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the UN Global Compact.”

“Our expectations are especially relevant for companies with direct operations, supply chains or other business relationships in high-risk sectors, high-risk geographical areas, or otherwise high-risk operational environments,” they explain.

The Norwegian oil fund’s decisions about excluding specific companies is regulated by an independent council appointed by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance.

New findings will be considered

Of the five largest European pension funds, Denmark’s ATP is by far the smallest investor in companies on Danwatch’s list, with about €1 million in total in Siemens and The Priceline Group Inc, the owner of booking.com, which facilitates hotels in a number of settlements. However, ATP’s publicly available stock portfolio does not include index futures, which amounts to almost 95% of ATP’s entire foreign holdings.

On the two specific investments, ATP explains that Danwatch’s findings includes new information not covered by their external screening partner, and that they will have to consider this before they can answer specific questions.

Sweden’s largest pension fund, and Europe’s fifth-largest, Alecta Pensionsförsäkring, only has investments in one company on Danwatch’s list: Volvo Group. The Swedish industrial conglomerate partly owns Merkavim, which provides armoured busses for Egged bus lines in the West Bank, where Volvo busses are also used for transport. Two Volvo-certified garages operate in the illegal industrial zones of Mishor Adumim and Atarot in the occupied West Bank. Furthermore, Volvo excavators are used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian houses on occupied land, as documented in February, April and October 2016 in the Palestinian villages of Jinba, Halaweh, Um Al Kher and in the Jordan Valley. Danwatch presented these findings to Volvo Group, but received no reply.

On the subject of house demolitions, Volvo Group stated in 2011 that “Volvo neither can nor wants to take a position in international conflicts […] We regret if they are used for destructive purposes, but it does not stop us from believing that our excavators and vehicles largely play a part in making the world a little better.”

Alecta Pensionsförsäkring explains to Danwatch that their due diligence is outsourced to external partner GES, and that GES confirm their knowledge about the issue and have concluded that Volvo Group’s activities is not a breach against international conventions.

“Volvo has limited possibilities to influence how their products are used and we believe that Volvo cannot be directly linked to human rights violations,” Swedish investor Alecta therefore tells Danwatch.

“Alecta has an active and ongoing dialogue with Volvo as well as with our external partner GES and has so far not received any indication pointing towards an exclusion. If necessary we will as a first priority engage further in our dialogue with Volvo to make them comply with international law, rather than exclude them as an investment,” Alecta says.

Danwatch also contacted the two Dutch pension funds Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP and Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW), but received no reply.

— source bdsmovement.net By Mikkel Bahl, Hanan Chemlali & Kristoffer Marslev

Raytheon Stocks Surge After missile Attack, Personally Benefiting Trump

the stocks of the military contractor Raytheon surged following the missile attack, which used 59 of the company’s Tomahawk missiles, estimated to cost $1.4 million apiece. As stocks surged, Raytheon added about $1 billion to its market value Friday morning. According to financial disclosure filings, President Trump personally invests in Raytheon, meaning he profited directly from the attack.

— source democracynow.org

The Establishment is in denial

der Freitag

Mr Varoufakis, the current unemployment rate in the Eurozone is at 9,8%, the lowest since July 2009. One could get the impression things are getting better…

It is, I grant you, still perfectly possible for those who wish to remain in denial to read the data in a manner that allows them to remain in denial – to their own detriment and to the detriment of Europe. But for those who want the unembellished truth, the Eurozone’s state can only be characterised in two words: stagnation and disintegration.

Let us begin by looking at the Eurozone as a single economy. There are 6 million fewer people in full employment today than when the euro crisis began and around 3.5 million more people claiming unemployment benefit. Total income (GDP) is today at the level it was in 2007, to be shared amongst more citizens (thus pushing GDP per capita well below the 2007 level). Investment in the real economy is running 11.7% lower than it was at the beginning of the crisis.

Far worse is the picture that emerges when you look at the Eurozone’s constituent parts: A savage depression in countries like Greece and Portugal, an unsustainable Italy, a Spain that is boosted only by new private debt, a French national budget out of control, banking systems that are effectively insolvent, and capital flows that continue to create a desert in the periphery as they rush into the banks of surplus countries like Germany and the Netherlands.

Mario Draghi has lately extended the ECB’s quantitative easing and announced to slow it down a tiny bit. How do you read that?

Mr Draghi is in dire straits. His recent decision demonstrates that he is caught between a rock and a hard place. The reason is that his quantitative easing program has reached its limits, and is facing considerable opposition from Germany, well before it has achieved its aims. So, on the one hand, he began ‘tapering’ his quantitative easing program while, on the other hand, he is stretching it into the future. This is an act of desperation due to the competing demands upon him: Germany demands that its pension funds be protected through ending quantitative easing. And the rest of the Eurozone demands that quantitative easing is continued in order to keep Italy, Spain etc. in the Eurozone.

In more detail, three are Mr Draghi’s great problems: First, to buy more Italian, Spanish and Portuguese bonds (in order to fight deflation there and keep these countries in the euro) he is forced (by political and legal constraints) to buy a lot more German bunds, thus crushing German pension funds and Germany’s smaller banks. Secondly, he is not allowed to channel the money the ECB prints every month into sufficient quantities of bonds that feed directly into productive investments (e.g. that European Investment Bank bond issues to fund large scale green energy or infrastructural projects). Thirdly, he is facing rising interest rates from the United States, due to the Trump-effect, at a time when investment in Europe is at its lowest level when compared to the level of savings.

When it comes to the European governments actually being responsible for doing the job the ECB is somehow doing: Mr Schaeuble and some media in Germany consider the country’s temporary policy as shaped by growing public investment.

Europe’s political class has created a trap, the austerity trap, and fallen in it, subsequently blaming it on the ECB. The level of public investment, especially in Germany, is the lowest since 1950. For years now German infrastructure was abandoned by a government that could borrow at zero cost. The fact that a few more billions are now being spent is too little too late. This is a scandal that the German people have a duty to hold their government accountable for. Dr Schäuble should be censured for dereliction of his duty to Germany’s future.

How much of your time you spend in Greece these days?

Greece has been home to us ever since we moved from the United States to contest the January 2015 General Election. Danae and I do not plan to leave again. However, as our Democracy in Europe Movement, DiEM25, places great demands on all those who have committed to make it grow, I do spend a lot of time in airplanes.

What can you say about the current situation in Greece which is out of the European spotlight nowadays – compared to your time as Minister of Finance?

Tragically, Greece is today worse off than it was in early 2015. It could not be otherwise given what the 3rd ‘bailout’ agreement imposed: higher sales and corporate tax rates, new cuts in the lowest pensions, 50% non-performing loans in the banking sector (that are now sold to vulture funds) and next to no investment, as investors are deterred by the imposed primary surplus targets which mean one thing: even higher taxes and lower demand in the following years.

I am often asked why, given that things are now worse, Greece is not in the news today as it was in 2015. The answer is clear: In 2015 we staged a rebellion in the debtors’ prison called Greece. Prison rebellions, as you know, are newsworthy. But once the rebellion was crushed by the Eurogroup-troika coup d’ etat in June-July 2015, and the Greek people returned to quiet suffering, we lost our newsworthiness.

You’ve, e.g. in the interview with the New Statesman, described the setting at Eurozone meetings in detail. How have you perceived other members of the group describing the six-months-showdown when it was over?

They had participated in a violation of basic rules of economics and basic principles of European democracy, to their own detriment also as subsequent events show (e.g. Brexit, the Italian referendum). After that they indulged fully in ex-post rationalisation, which involved my demonisation. It was not without cause that, in my resignation letter, I stated that I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride.

There is a quantitative study, done by researchers of the University of Wuerzburg, about German media coverage of the “Greek crisis”: For example, they looked at TV news clips with political valuations in the two main German news programs (Tagesschau/ARD and heute/ZDF – page 67). According to that, at least at Tagesschau you had less negative valuations then Mr Schaeuble (3,9% – 4,8% of all clips in 2015). Does that fit your memory of the experience with German media?

The question is whether it fits your memory of how the German media behaved toward their own audience during my ministry. Being harshly critical of what I was saying would be not only fine but also the German media’s duty. But distorting massively what I said, or not reporting my proposals while claiming I had none, was a sign of a degenerate media wounding German democracy.

How do you remember the “treatment” you experienced by Guenther Jauchas the moderator of the talk show you were party of as a guest?

At the time I agreed to participate in that program I was literally run off my feet and had initially turned the invitation down. But then Mr Jauch’s producer reached me on the telephone with a plea: Minister, because much animosity is being cultivated between the German and the Greek people, I beg you to come to the program. For we know that you are a friend of Germany and that you have been warning for years that the Greek bailout would turn the Greeks against the Germans and vice versa. Will you please come to the program? We want it to work as a friendship bridge between the two peoples.

It was on that basis that I accepted. Anyone who watches the recording of that program can see that I had been set up: The promise of a bridge building exercise was just a cynical ploy to cultivate more hatred between the Greeks and the Germans, while boosting ratings. It was utterly disgraceful.

Coming back to “within” the Eurogroup: You described the attitude towards you there as one of silence and ignorance. So, did wrong figures, false theses etc. not even play a role?

They could not have played a role because all my figures were entirely accurate, the macroeconomic analysis was correct and, most importantly, the other Eurogroup members never even read or considered any of my proposals, facts, figures or analyses. I challenge them, or anyone else, to present one figure or piece of analysis which I presented that the Eurogroup considered factually or analytically wrong. And this is what you and your readers should be very concerned about: Whether you agreed with my analysis, politics or policy proposals or not, you should be angered that, first, the proposals of the finance minister of a desperately bankrupt nation were never read and, secondly, that you were told naked lies (e.g. that I had presented false figures or poor analysis). Even more worrying should be the cause of their lack of interest: they were only interested in dismissing our proposals so as to demonstrate to the people of Spain, Portugal, Italy, France etc. that if they dare elect people that Berlin and Brussels do not want to see elected, they will get crushed. When Europe resorts to this type of postmodern gunboat diplomacy, it loses its integrity and begins to collapse.

Mr Schaeuble described you as a professor trying to teach the other ministers as if they were your students. Was it naive to think you could have macroeconomic debates in such a body?

I confess. Yes, I used the language of macroeconomics to address macroeconomic questions on whose correct answer my people’s lives hinged. It happened when Wolfgang asked me: “If you think that 4.5% primary surplus is too much, what number do you counter-propose?” Tow which I answered: “To come up with a credible primary surplus target, we need to, first, agree on the investment policy in export oriented firms since the primary budget balance by definition equals the sum of the country’s excess savings (savings minus investment) and excess exports (exports minus savings). So, I think I can deliver a higher surplus as long as we have a sound policy for investment in our exporters.”

At this point, allow me to ask you a question: Are you not worried that your economic circumstances are determined in a Eurogroup in which macroeconomic decisions are made by ministers who are considered rude if they use sound macroeconomic analysis? Might this not be the explanation of the Eurozone’s never ending crisis?

How do you see your own role within the development towards the media treatment of your person as a marketable character more than a content-related and political coverage? (Our edition with you on the cover for example was the best-sold of that year, whereby we also focused on the content and the politics very much…)

I dislike it and never had anything to do with it. Every time I became the centre of the ‘story’ I knew the result was that the issues that mattered to Europeans were shoved under the carpet.

When it comes to the Brexit vote or Trump, many blame the power of social networks and fake news for the outcomes. True? Overrated?

First the establishment practised denial. Then when its inept handling of the crisis bred monsters (e.g. Brexit, Trump, the AfD) it blamed technology. Anything to avoid taking a good look at the mirror. Of course this is not to deny that the social media amplify the toxicity of today’s nationalist revival. But to think of them as the cause would be laughable if it were not so dangerous.

Why seem nationalist, racist, sexist outsiders to gain so much more ground these days compared to critics of the status quo coming from the left?

Go back to 1930. Now you have your answer!

Whenever a financial crisis leads to the fragmentation of capitalism’s monetary circuits and then the establishment forces the economic costs on the weakest of citizens, two things happen: xenophobia and the rise of authoritarianism. This translates into quasi-fascism, patriarchy and, ultimately, the celebration of misanthropy.

In Germany, a gap of ideas, the missing of a promising narrative were considered as constitutive for the “loss” of the fight over the interpretation of Euro crisis, debt, fiscal policy. True? How to fill it?

There was never a gap of ideas. What there was, just as in the 1930s, was a social democratic party too keen to ingratiate itself with the establishment and a deep division between good, decent people – between liberals, Marxists, feminists, greens etc. Whereas the bigots unite behind toxically simplistic stories, progressives tend to fight against one another and thus fall prey to the Nationalist International.

Can a movement like DiEM25 really fill it? How are you trying to fill it?

If it cannot Europe is finished. For what we are trying to do is both modest and essential: to reach out across national borders, political party division lines and even ideological boundaries to put together a coalition of democrats (of the left, the centre, liberals, greens, independent thinkers, progressive conservatives even) who agree on basic humanist principles and forge a common internationalist, progressive agenda for Europe. Our first major challenge is the compilation of our European Green New Deal Policy Paper, which DiEM25 will be presenting in Paris on 23rd, 24th and 25th February 2017. This is meant as a first step toward a comprehensive progressive agenda for Europe that acts as the magnet for Europeans fed up with the incompetent establishment but also determined to end the rise of the Nationalist International that is today undermining European civilisation and unity everywhere.

So far, I perceive DiEM25 as having some affinity and reception with places like Berlin – urban, progressive, international. But so far totally out of reach of the majority of places and people, on the country-side, in the periphery etc. Do I only have that impression because there’s going on so much, sorry, shit out there in the world now, so that I lack the time so far to focus on what I’d been planning for long as a journalist: taking a cole look at the movement you people are trying to create?

All progressive movements begin in cities. Politics was born in the… polis – the city. But, you are right, it is also true that unless DiEM25 can get its message out of the polis and into the countryside we shall not succeed. It is early days yet. We have much to do.

Sorry to ask with reference to your book Time for Change, but tell me: what does your daughter say today about Europe, politics, economics and the defeat-for-the-moment in July 2015?

My daughter is determined to deny me the pleasure of thinking that my writings are important enough for her to care! It is the price I must pay for having a daughter with a personality mightier than mine…

— source yanisvaroufakis.eu

Fossil fuel industry spends $115 million annually to avoid climate regs

ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, along with three oil industry trade groups, spend close to an estimated $115 million annually to obstruct policies that would address climate change around the world, according to a report released by Influence Map, a British nonprofit that conducts research on how corporations influence political inaction.

The report shows the American Petroleum Institute as the clear heavyweight spender, followed by ExxonMobil, Shell, the Western States Petroleum Association, and the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association.

But the $27 million Exxon spent, for example, was just a drop in the bucket compared to the company’s annual earnings of $16 billion last year (which technically was a bad year; Exxon earned double that in 2014).

Using guidelines set out by the United Nations on climate lobbying practices, Influence Map combed through lobbying registers, Internal Revenue Service documents, and annual financial reports to find how much these groups devoted to opposing climate policy. The report, which is not peer reviewed, counts spending on lobbying, political contributions, and advocacy in its overall number, but it’s probably an underestimation: It does not include dark money spent on outside organizations.

Still, $115 million is already a lot more than what the other side is spending to push through pro-climate reform. The researchers estimate that climate-advocacy investor groups have spent less than $5 million. But their pro-climate campaign to reform fossil fuel companies from within has picked up momentum all the same. In 2016 alone, oil and gas shareholders have filed 45 resolutions related to climate change, many of them demanding that major energy companies disclose how it will impact their business.

— source grist.org

Wind Energy Now Directly Competing With Coal On Cost

Last week, Xcel Energy announced a multi-state wind capacity project, anticipated to be the largest in the United States. Spanning seven states, the project covers eleven new wind farms and would generate 3280 MWs at a cost of $3.5-4.4 billion. In its announcement, Xcel emphasized the cost-savings attached to wind power, arguing that it would save Xcel customers in the Midwest $7.9 billion over thirty years. This, rather than the environmental benefits of renewable energy, drove the company’s mission statement: wind was cheap, not just clean.

Moody’s Investor Services now estimates that the falling costs of wind power directly threatens 56 GW of coal power, out of 87 GW surveyed. Moody’s report estimates the MW-hour cost of wind in the Great Plains region at around $20, while coal comes in at $30.

— source oilprice.com