Archive for December 2015
I have always believed what my father told me. “Just because it says ‘Duty Free’ does not mean it’s Profit Free.” The Guardian has an article that shows how duty free shops in England have been pocketing much of the VAT rebate that people travelling to places outside the EU should be getting.
Practice varies in other countries, but at least many airports now offer free wifi. So if you are whiling away the time and find the Duty Free shop to be a relief from the crowded departure lounge you can at least check on prices back at BC Liquor stores of things you might want to buy. On our last trip back through Kingsford Smith (that is the name of the Sydney International Airport SYD) I was pleasantly surprised to find Australian vintage port. This, of course, is not on offer here. But it was attractively priced compared to what is – and it tastes remarkably good. Equally Dalwhinnie 15 year old single malt was on sale, and at a price for one litre what we pay for 0.75 litre here.
BUT the price of a bottle of alcohol in any retail store is still mostly tax and markups of various kinds. There is some analysis on this page but it is in Euros and is a bit out of date. But the principle holds. There is a direct correlation in the mind of the consumer between quality and price: if it is that cheap, there must be something wrong with it. For many consumer items, price is used as an indicator of quality and this is also the case in Duty Free shops!
As an aside, I do want to praise YVR for changing their policy. At one time, whenever on my way to visit my family in England I was disappointed to find that the shelves in the international terminal duty free shop did not carry BC wines. There was Canadian wine, but it came from the Niagara region of Ontario. That is no longer the case, perhaps because enough people like me complained.
This post is comprised of information that came into my email inbox as a press release. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been increasingly critical of Christy Clark’s claims about LNG and how it is a “cleaner” fuel than coal. The problem is that fracking for gas releases a lot of methane – a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 – and the companies responsible for that are less than forthcoming about how large the problem is.
Since a few, no doubt industry sponsored, trolls now pop up whenever I mention fracking, I thought I would let them have something to chew on. You, of course, have already divested from fossil fuels, so you don’t really need this.
BOSTON, MA///December 17, 2015///The 2015 edition of an annual investor scorecard ranking the 30 largest oil and gas companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” finds improved risk disclosure by a few companies, even as 70 percent of the energy companies continue to get failing marks.
Available online at www.disclosingthefacts.org, the third annual Disclosing the Facts report from As You Sow, Boston Common Asset Management, and the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN) gauges how well the oil and gas companies do in providing information so that investors can accurately assess how, or whether, these companies manage key risks of fracking, including use of toxic chemicals, water consumption and water quality, waste management, air emissions, methane leakage, and community impacts.
Eight oil and gas companies made substantial progress in their 2015 disclosures, spurred in part by the earlier scorecards as well as by shareholder engagements involving a wide range of investors. BHP Billiton emerged as the highest-scoring company for the second year in a row — almost doubling its 2014 score from 18 to 32 points, out of a possible 39 points. Hess (2nd), Apache (3rd), and Noble (tied for 4th) built on their leadership positions from 2014, disclosing information for about half of the scorecard indicators. Also tied for fourth, CONSOL nearly quadrupled its 2014 score, jumping from five to 19 points by securing third-party certification for compliance with the best practice standards of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development.
In addition to the top five companies, three other companies — Southwestern Energy Co. (6th), Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (tied for 7th), and QEP Resources, Inc. (tied for 7th) — made substantial gains in 2015.
Exxon Mobil, the largest of the companies scored, earned 4 points, placing it in the bottom third of the industry.
The new report also scores companies on their disclosure of methane leakage, a key concern because methane is far more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2). For the second year in a row, most companies failed to disclose their methane leakage rate or how often they monitor for leakage. In 2015, just five of 30 companies disclosed their methane emission rates from drilling and other operations. Not a single company reported establishing public methane emission reduction goals.
“The results of the 2015 scorecard show that corporate disclosure efforts have increased among a core group of industry leaders, despite enormous financial write-offs by the industry,” said Richard Liroff, executive director of IEHN. “A handful of companies have clearly responded and risen to our challenge. Unfortunately, reporting on many of the key metrics is still absent for most companies, making it difficult for investors and the public to assess and compare performance. Methane reporting, in particular, is almost non-existent among the companies we surveyed.”
“It is encouraging to see a new company—CONSOL– jumping into the top five in this year’s scorecard. But we need to see a bigger commitment from the industry in general,” said Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow. “While progress has been made, companies must improve their local disclosures — their social license to operate is often determined by local concerns such as land and water use, air and water pollution, and nuisances such as noise, light pollution, traffic, and road damage.”
“The report shows that several good practices are becoming more widespread. We see companies continue to pursue operating innovations that not only save money but also yield environmental benefits. These include, for example, substituting pipelines for trucks to move water and waste water, enhancing leak detection and repair efforts, and using less, but safer and more cost-effective chemicals,” said Steven Heim, managing director of Boston Common Asset Management. “Absent greater disclosure on things like methane, other air emissions, and growing concerns around induced seismicity, investors have no way of crediting those companies making meaningful efforts to adopt best practices and mitigate their impacts on communities and the environment.”
This 2015 scorecard benchmarks the public disclosures of 30 companies on 39 key performance indicators. It distinguishes companies disclosing more about practices and impacts from those disclosing less. The scorecard assesses five areas of environmental, social, and governance metrics emphasizing, on a play-by-play basis, quantitative disclosures for: (1) toxic chemicals; (2) water and waste management; (3) air emissions; (4) community impacts; and (5) management accountability. It relies solely on publicly available information companies provide on their websites or in corporate financial statements or other reports linked from their websites.
The five most widely reported indicators include: substituting pipelines for trucks to transport water for fracturing (23 companies); declaring a practice to use non-potable water instead of fresh water for fracturing whenever feasible (19 companies); avoiding use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing fluids (16 companies); relying on independent third-party databases to screen potential contractors (16 companies); and linking compensation of senior management to health, safety, and environment metrics (15 companies).
The complete ranking of the 30 companies is as follows:
COMPANY* SCORE (OUT OF POSSIBLE 39 POINTS)**
|Company and Ticker Symbol||2015 Score||2014 Score|
|BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP)||32||18|
|Hess Corp. (HES)||21||17|
|Apache Corp. (APA)||20||13|
|Noble Energy, Inc. (NBL)||19||13|
|CONSOL Energy Inc. (CNX)||19||5|
|Southwestern Energy Co. (SWN)||16||2|
|Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC)||15||8|
|QEP Resources, Inc. (QEP)||15||1|
|EQT Corp. (EQT)||14||16|
|ConocoPhillips Corp. (COP)||11||5|
|Range Resources Corp. (RRC)||11||9|
|Royal Dutch Shell plc (RDS)||11||9|
|Occidental Petroleum Corp. (OXY)||10||7|
|Penn Virginia Corp. (PVA)||10||9|
|BP plc (BP)||8||6|
|Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG)||8||8|
|Encana Corp. (ECA)||8||15|
|EOG Resources, Inc. (EOG)||8||9|
|Exco Resources, Inc. (XCO)||7||7|
|Devon Energy Corp. (DVN)||7||5|
|Newfield Exploration Co. (NFX)||6||4|
|Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK)||4||7|
|Chevron Corp. (CVX)||4||6|
|Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)||4||5|
|Pioneer Natural Resources Co.* (PXD)||3||—|
|Ultra Petroleum Corp. (UPL)||3||9|
|WPX Energy, Inc. (WPX)||3||3|
|Continental Resources, Inc. (CLR)||2||2|
|Whiting Petroleum Corp. (WLL)||2||3|
|Carrizo Oil & Gas, Inc. (CRZO)||0||0|
*For the 2015 scorecard, Pioneer Natural Resources was substituted for Talisman Energy, Inc., which was acquired by Repsol, S.A. **2014’s scorecard had a total of 35 possible points.
The three most significant scoring changes on indicators between 2014 and 2015 were for: play-by-play reporting of the types of water sources used for fracturing activities (from one to six companies); percentages of wastewater reused for fracturing (from two to seven); and addressing naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs) (from six to 12).
ABOUT THE GROUPS
As You Sow (http://www.asyousow.org/) promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. Its efforts create large-scale systemic change by establishing sustainable and equitable corporate practices.
Boston Common Asset Management, LLC (http://www.bostoncommonasset.com/) is a sustainable investment firm dedicated to generating competitive financial returns and meaningful improvements in corporate performance on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. We are long-term investors. We believe that markets typically misvalue the timing and magnitude of risks and opportunities presented by ESG factors. Therefore, our investment strategy is to build and grow diversified portfolios using the high-quality but undervalued sustainable stocks that our integrated investment research identifies. As part of this, we look to add value through targeted company and industry engagement efforts.
The Investor Environmental Health Network (http://www.iehn.org) is a collaborative partnership of investment managers and advisors concerned about the impact of corporate practices on environmental health.
Robert Stavins thinks it is a Good Foundation for Meaningful Progress and provides a good analysis of his reasons.
On the other hand both Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein are not impressed, although I seem to recall seeing reports they had each decided that before the final agreement was announced. Klein has a really nice turn of phrase
“It’s like going: ‘I acknowledge that I will die of a heart attack if I don’t radically lower my blood pressure. I acknowledge that in order to do that I need to cut out alcohol, fatty foods and exercise every day. I therefore will exercise once a week, eat four hamburgers instead of five and only binge drink twice a week and you have to call me a hero because I’ve never done this before and you have no idea how lazy I used to be.'”
UPDATE David Roberts on VOX explains why the Paris treaty is about as good as the UN can manage – which may or may not be enough to start the process of change – which depends on the nations not UNO
There are fewer of the traditional printed, through the mail Christmas cards every year. This one arrived from England recently. It is, of course, covered by all sorts of copyrights and so on, so I risk all sorts of penalties by copying it and posting it here. It ought to be a familar view but it seemed wrong to me. It says Westminster Abbey on the back. Then I took a closer look at the buses. Naturally. There are still a few of these Routemasters running on special tourist routes. But none were ever built with cabs on the left hand side and open platforms to the right. That would put passengers off into the moving traffic after all.
It is not unusual for photo editors to flip pictures around to “improve” the composition, but that is what has been done here. I don’t think that does Medici Cards or MacNeil Studios any credit. I also get the distinct impression that the original was probably a photo that has been altered to give it sort of painterly look. I suppose that also avoids issues with the products that would have been advertised on the sides of the buses.
So I have scanned the card and then used my editting software to at least put it the right way around. And to wish you, faithful reader, the compliments of the season, and trust that you enjoy whatever you call these holidays in your own way.
I think the usual greetings are inoffensive myself but then I am an atheist and regard the whole thing as a social occassion with all sorts of traditions. In fact tonight we will be doing our regular visit to St Andrew’s Wesley for the VSO Traditional Christmas. Yesterday CBC Radio 2 did the Child’s Christmas in Wales, which was good but not a patch on the Clutch’s Dylan Thomas. Was that last year?
And this morning, with utter predictability there was an agreement signed in Paris which is either a triumph or a disaster – or perhaps both at the same time. Once upon a time this blog would have weighed in, but no longer. I don’t feel as much need to pontificate about the Compass Card, the new fares policy or the municipal share of transit funding either. I feel as though I have said all that needed to have been said at least once if not many times already. But thank you for following. I will not predict yet what will happen to this blog next year. Probably not very much. Unless something turns up that needs to be put the right way round.