David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - Energy

    Changes in the global value of ecosystem services

    This report from Elsevier may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    3. Valuation is not privatization It is a misconception to assume that valuing ecosystem services in monetary units is the same as privatizing them or commodifying them for trade in private markets (Costanza, 2006; Costanza et al., 2012; McCauley, 2006; Monbiot, 2012). Most ecosystem services are public goods (non-rival and non-excludable) or common pool resources (rival but non-excludable), which means that privatization and conventional markets work poorly, if at all. In addition, the non-market values estimated for these ecosystem services often relate more to use or non-use values rather than exchange values (Daly, 1998). Nevertheless, knowing the value of ecosystem services is helpful for their effective management, which in some cases can include economic incentives, such as those used in successful systems of payment for these services (Farley and Costanza, 2010). In addition, it is important to note that valuation is unavoidable. We already value ecosystems and their services every time we make a decision involving trade-offs concerning them. The problem is that the valuation is implicit in the decision and hidden from view. Improved transparency about the valuation of ecosystem services (while recognizing the uncertainties and limitations) can only help to make better decisions.

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    Email of the day - on returning customers

    Dear Eoin and team, I would like to thank you very much for the big difference you have made to my confidence in advising my clients, since I re-joined the service. If only I could find a way of explaining the benefit to my professional contacts! All the very best

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    Shale Driller Devon to Pay Biggest Dividend In Its History

    This article by Joe Carroll and Rachel Adams-Heard for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    The debt buybacks will target an amount equivalent to about half of Devon’s outstanding net debt, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Devon stock was the best performer in the S&P 500 Index, rising 7.8% to $11.95 at 9:33 a.m. in New York after earlier climbing 8.3%.

    Devon’s special payout and debt-reduction targets are the most aggressive efforts yet as shale explorers grapple with a virus-induced demand collapse and tumbling energy prices.

    “These shareholder-friendly initiatives demonstrate our commitment to a new E&P business model, which moderates growth, emphasizes capital efficiencies, generates free cash flow and returns increasing amounts of cash directly to our shareholders,” Devon Chief Executive Officer Dave Hager said in the statement.

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    The Baupost Group Letter

    Thanks to a subscriber for this letter by Seth Klarman and team. Here is a section focusing on appetite for risk:

    Fed policy has been magnificently successful in achieving its objectives not only of lifting securities prices but also of altering investor behavior. The Fed wanted to influence buyers of securities to be bolder in their pursuit of return. The head of a major pension fund recently authored a piece describing how the fund had responded to lofty markets and low yields on safe debt instruments. Their reaction was not to lower the fund’s currently aggressive 7% risk-adjusted return objective to a more realistic threshold, but instead to direct more assets into “lower volatility” private investments while leveraging the portfolio. Private investments, of course, have the same underlying risk and inherent volatility as public investments – though because they are not publicly traded, their intermittent and privately determined appraisals may make them appear to be less volatile. And as for the choice to leverage up, we can only note that leverage is a double-edged sword that enhances returns in good times while sinking them in down markets. If markets falter, this fund will have not solved its problems but rather have multiplied them.  

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    Conoco Plunge Shows U.S. Oil Struggling to Exit Crisis Mode

    This article by Kevin Crowley for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    On the bright side, Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said he’s encouraged by low premiums for shale acquisitions, citing Chevron’s recent agreement to buy Noble Energy.

    When asked if Conoco also looked into buying Noble, Lance said “we did look,” but he was worried that Noble’s Israel assets might have been the source of political tension, since Conoco operates in other areas of the Middle East.

    “The gem is certainly the Middle Eastern gas position,” he said. “With some of the other things we’re doing in the Middle East, that creates maybe a little bit of an issue and problem for us politically.”

    Conoco’s earnings miss followed reports from three shale-focused explorers on Wednesday that signaled a grim rest of 2020 for the broader U.S. oil industry. QEP Resources Inc. cut its production outlook, WPX Energy Inc. further reduced its capital spending budget, while Concho Resources Inc. stuck with plans to keep crude volumes flat from 2019 levels, ending years of growth.

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    Once-Unpopular Carbon Credits Emerge as One of the World's Best Investments

    This article from the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    “It’s attracting hedge-fund speculators,” said Norbert Rücker, head of economics at Swiss private bank Julius Baer. “With this move, carbon has really come back to life this year and it’s attracted a lot of interest—we have clients reaching out to us asking about it.”

    The resurgence in carbon-credit prices began in mid-2017 when EU policy makers agreed to sharply reduce the number of available credits. That has pushed up prices and allowed the carbon market to help fulfill its purpose of punishing excess polluters. With the market set up to constrict credit supply, prices should rise further still, analysts say.

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    Tesla's $200 Billion Question Remains Unanswered

    This article by Chris Bryant for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    And yet the earnings call — where Musk has in the past ranted about “fascist” virus lockdowns and attacked analysts for asking “boring, bonehead” questions — was a bit of a snooze. It even featured a long discussion about insurance and Musk’s appreciation for the actuarial profession.

    In the current economic environment, such steadiness is an achievement. Most car companies will probably suffer huge losses because of the recent closures of factories and showrooms, even if things won’t be quite as bad as feared initially. By contrast, Tesla reported $104 million of net income in the April to June period, bringing its total profit over the past four quarters to $368 million.

    Still, these are modest amounts for a company that’s valued at an inexplicable 800 times trailing earnings, giving it a $295 billion market capitalization. 

    The profits are also more than accounted for by $1 billion of regulatory credits that Tesla sold to other carmakers during the 12 months to June, including $428 million in the latest quarter. It’s only able to earn this income because rivals haven’t gotten their act together yet on building enough electric vehicles and have to buy credits from Musk’s company to satisfy emissions regulators. Tesla acknowledges this good fortune won’t last forever.

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    The Big Cycle of the United States and the Dollar, Part 2

    This latest chapter of Ray Dalio’s book includes a number of interesting titbits to chew over. Here is a section:

    The US dollar accounts for over 50% of reserves held and has unwaveringly remained the primary reserve currency since 1945, especially after it replaced gold as the most-held reserve asset after there was a move to a fiat monetary system.  European currencies have remained steady at 20-25% since the late 1970s, the yen and sterling are around 5%, and the Chinese RMB is only 2%, which is far below its share of world trade and world economic size, for reasons we will delve into in the Chinese section of this book.  As has been the case with the Dutch guilder and the British pound, the status of the US dollar has significantly lagged and is significantly greater than other measures of its power.

    That means that if the US dollar were to lose its reserve status and significantly depreciate in value it would have a devastating effect on the finances of those countries holding those reserves as well as private-sector holders of dollar-debt assets.  Who would be the winners?  Those with dollar-debt liabilities and those with non-dollar assets would be the big winners.  In the concluding chapter, “The Future,” we will explore what such a shift might look like. 

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    Frackers Are in Crisis, Endangering America's Energy Renaissance

    This article by Bryan Gruley, Kevin Crowley, Rachel Adams-Heard and David Wethe for Bloomberg. Here is a section:

    Texas oil people who’ve lived through past busts remain resolute. This spring the Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates the oil industry, considered limiting crude production in the hope of bolstering prices amid the Saudi-Russia price war. Some Texans reacted with disdain. “Texas, out of all states, represents a humble, steadfast resolve that refuses to sacrifice its principles due to foreign influence,” David Dale, a Houston-area land manager for oil and gas producer Ovintiv Inc., wrote to the commission. Troy Eckard of Eckard Enterprises LLC in Allen, Texas, told regulators that Russia and Saudi Arabia are “terrorists” whose “game of supply hostage is not the time to bow down and sell out. Let the weak go broke. Let the overpaid, poorly run private equity-back[ed] companies fall by the wayside. Leave us to our own free-market solutions.” The commission stood pat.

    As oil historian Daniel Yergin has observed, companies go bankrupt, rocks don’t. Assuming prices slowly recover, producers will begin to turn wells back on—a process that’s never been tried at this large a scale—and maybe drill some new ones. Whether they start paying pumpers better remains to be seen. Opportune LLP, a Houston energy advisory firm, says pumpers and other service companies face “a test of survivability, not profitability.” Consolidation seems likely, with producers themselves possibly acquiring the smaller service companies on the cheap.

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