Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Richard Sandor "The Carbon King" strikes gold

It is always interesting to read about "economists" making millions (usually from some sort of convoluted hedge fund deal) but it would be remiss of me not to cover a "economist makes millions" story that involves environmental economics.

One impressive quote is that Richard Sandor, an economist remember, is labeled as "gregarious". Not a term often employed to describe economists.

This is a long article that is worth reading. Some of the more salient quotes are included below.

Economist Strikes Gold In Climate-Change Fight [Wall Street Journal]

LONDON -- The planet is getting warmer. Richard Sandor, a 66-year-old economist, is getting wealthier.

His company, London-based Climate Exchange PLC, has carved out a key role in Europe's booming trade in "carbon permits" -- essentially, buying and selling the right to pollute. Since 2005, the European Union has required major polluters to either cut the amount of carbon dioxide they spew, or buy pollution credits in the open market.

A big chunk of the action occurs on an exchange founded by Mr. Sandor, a one-time Berkeley professor who has morphed into a gregarious climate-change entrepreneur.

It all seems so simple. Why didn't I think of it (given I was teaching this stuff).

Yesterday, Climate Exchange's stock jumped 16% after the firm reported a tripling in 2007 revenue to £13.6 million, or about $27 million. That gives the company, which handles about 90% of the trading on carbon exchanges, a market capitalization of roughly $1.31 billion. Mr. Sandor's 20% stake is worth more than $260 million on paper.

Sander's take on this is spot on. This "bold" quote applies to environmental economists in general (but not ecological economists).

It's an unusual mix of markets theory and environmentalism. "The right wing always suspects you of being a tree-hugging environmentalist and the left wing accuses you of being a money-grubbing capitalist," says Mr. Sandor, who back in the 1990s developed a markets-based system to cut down on pollutants causing acid rain.

Sander does not have it all his own way however. With the current financial crisis "financial wizards" are getting a bad press. This is a valid criticism.

Other criticisms of carbon trading focus on the financial wizards -- such as Mr. Sandor -- who design and run the markets. "Financial resources are being redistributed to the banks and traders rather than paying for technological innovations to cut emissions," says Carlo Stagnaro of the Italy-based economic think tank Istituto Bruno Leoni, who just published a paper on the European Union's emissions-trading system.

Robert Stavins (a well respected and well published environmental economist) gets in on the act:

Robert Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, agrees Europe's carbon market isn't perfect, but defends the role of financiers. "The only way we can fight climate change is if there is an opportunity for businesses and individuals to make a fortune off of it," he said.

That's what Mr. Sandor has done. "I am a capitalist who runs a business and has to deliver value to shareholders," he said during a recent interview at the Ritz Hotel in London. "I consider myself to be an environmentalist, but I divorce those sentiments from my day job."

It is good to see that making a fortune is consistent with being an environmentalist although I am not sure that the "only way" to fight climate change is to ensure a select few individuals become multimillionaires.

A little background on Sander for economists out there:

Mr. Sandor, a dapper professor in close-cropped hair and tailored suits, started his career teaching economics and finance at the University of California, Berkeley, where he developed ideas for trading intangible things, like interest rates or mortgages, on a market.

He later made a name for himself at the Chicago Board of Trade where he did leading work on developing financial futures markets in the U.S.

As a final note I am still not convinced of the current business model of Sander's company. As an AIM quoted stock it is lightly regulated and is susceptible to political shocks. There are far better AIM investments out there at the moment.



Anonymous said...

Dr.Sandor---- btw
and yes,he does bank an enormous amount of green,but...he is the only human being who has the wherewithall to start up a voluntary regulatory commission and the compassion to stay with the CCX. Can
You say that of anyone else? are envious and jealous of his stature and his distinguished Economic and Environmental endeavors. Dont're not the only one with mixed emotions..

,Sherry Sandor

mockbadoc said...

Sounds like you may have hit a nerve, there, mate. Hilarious.

How incredibly "compassionate" to create a way to personally benefit from the altruism and misguided intentions of increasing millions of people.

Keep up the good work.