Equilibrium & Sustainability

Equilibrium/Sustainability — Tesla stocks end flat after Semi debut

The logo of Tesla model 3 is seen at the Auto show on Oct. 3, 2018, in Paris. Tesla delivered its first electric semis to PepsiCo Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, more than three years after Elon Musk said the company would start making the trucks. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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Tesla stocks ended relatively flat on Friday after the release of the company’s new freight truck the previous night.

Company share prices remained largely unchanged following Tesla’s announcement that it would begin delivering its new Semi to corporate customer PepsiCo.

Pepsi ordered 100 of the trucks back in 2017, when Tesla first announced the new vehicle, Reuters reported at the time.

Tesla says the Semi will be able to travel 500 miles on a charge and while pulling up to 82,000 pounds of freight, Reuters reported. 

The company has also said the Semi battery can be charged to 70 percent within half an hour. 

“If you’re a truck driver and you want the most bad-ass rig on the road, this is it,” Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said Thursday. 

But the event was short on key details about a number of important features. Musk didn’t disclose the vehicle’s price or the company’s production capacity, per Reuters. 

He also didn’t disclose actual charging time, or how much an unloaded Semi weighs — making it unclear just how impressive Tesla’s 500-mile achievement is, Reuters reported. 

That range is “not very impressive – moving a cargo of chips (average weight per pack 52 grams) cannot in any way be said to be definitive proof of concept,” Oliver Dixon, senior analyst at consultancy Guidehouse, said of Tesla’s 500-mile record.  

Tesla’s presentation came among serious concerns about the viability of the company’s approach. Many much-touted new company products — like the Roadster and Cybertruck — have been repeatedly pushed back, Investor’s Business Daily reported. 

Tesla shares fell about 45 percent in 2022, losing nearly $700 billion in market value — the equivalent of three times the value of Disney, according to Yahoo Finance. 

In broader terms, the freight industry remains uncertain about whether the added weight of batteries will make electric tractor-trailers unworkable, Reuters reported. 

Welcome to Equilibrium, I’m Saul Elbein. Today we’ll review why proudly pro-labor President Biden signed a bill blocking a possible rail strike and why Florida just pulled its money out of BlackRock. Then: How Hurricane Ian has driven a spike in financial losses from climate-linked disasters. 

Biden signs bill forcing end to railroad labor dispute

President Biden signed a bill on Friday forcing a labor deal between rail unions and workers to be implemented, adverting a potential strike over more sick time.

  • The president’s signature came after the Senate voted 80-15 on Thursday to force four rail unions to accept the White House-brokered deal. The House had voted 290-137 earlier in the week to avert a strike.
  • The Senate voted down a second bill guaranteeing workers a week of paid time off, as our colleagues Alexander Bolton and Karl Evers-Hillstrom reported. While a majority of senators voted for that measure, it failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to pass.

Keeping the trains running: The White House described Biden’s decision to sign the bill as a necessary step to avoid economic catastrophe, our colleague Alex Gangitano reported. 

  • At a signing ceremony, the president pointed to the delivery of chlorine to municipal water supplies, and of farm produce to markets, as services that stood to be interrupted in the event of a strike.
  • “We have averted those catastrophes, and ensured that workers would get a historic 24 percent wage increase,” Biden added.

Biden said he would keep fighting for increased sick leave.

“I didn’t commit we would stop just because we couldn’t get it in this bill,” he said. 

Next steps: For now, the deal will go forward with workers getting just one additional paid day off.

They will also get three days for scheduled medical appointments, although these must be planned months out and can only be scheduled for mid-week.

Union resignation: In a statement released after the last votes Thursday evening, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation workers (SMART) — one of the country’s largest rail unions — appeared to admit defeat.

  • SMART leaders thanked Democratic leadership “for their support at the negotiating table and on the floors of Congress in an attempt to achieve more for our members.”
  • But they excoriated the 43 senators — all Republicans, except Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — who voted against including the paid sick days. 

What the unions are saying: SMART said in a statement that new, lean staffing measures that have made railroad companies record profits have “forced [members] to work more hours, have less stability, suffer more stress and receive less rest.”

The letter framed the debate in the context of a sustainability crisis in the workforce that keeps America’s trains running. 

  • “No American worker should ever have to face the decision of going to work sick, fatigued or mentally unwell versus getting disciplined or being fired by their employer.
  • “Yet that is what is happening every single day on this nation’s largest freight railroads,” the statement added.

The 43 senators who opposed the measure “all have paid sick days, as do their staff,” SMART noted.

PROGRESSIVE PUSH AND LINE-CROSSING CONSERVATIVES

Before Thursday’s votes, progressives had expressed hope they would be able to pass both the measure forcing through the agreement and a complimentary one forcing companies to grant a full week of sick days.

  • “This is not a radical idea. It’s a very conservative idea. And it says if you work in the rail industry, you will get seven paid sick days,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said before the vote. 
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said many Democrats expressed “frustration … with this multibillion-dollar industry that has made money hand over fist and continues to treat workers like they are just widgets to be moved around.” 

Crossing lines: Six GOP senators — Mike Braun (Ind.), Lindsay Graham (S.C.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) — voted for the measure.

Florida exits BlackRock over ESG 

Florida has ramped up its campaign against socially responsible investing by pulling $2 billion in state assets from asset-management giant BlackRock. 

  • The divestment comes as part of a broader Republican campaign against environment, social and governance (ESG) investing.
  • Florida’s move follows similar divestments by GOP leaders in states like Texas.

In dueling statements, each side accused the other of putting politics over financial performance.

Reason for divestment: The conservative politicians have accused asset managers like BlackRock — who have made statements about the importance of decarbonization while continuing to invest in new fossil fuels — of putting progressive politics over financial returns.

  • “I need partners within the financial services industry who are as committed to the bottom line as we are – and I don’t trust BlackRock’s ability to deliver,” Florida Chief Financial Officer Patronis Jimmy Patronis said in a statement. 
  • “Using our cash … to fund BlackRock’s social-engineering project isn’t something Florida ever signed up for,” Patronis added.

What kind of social engineering? Patronis cited a January open letter that BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink wrote to CEOs laying out his views on the importance of “stakeholder capitalism.”

Fink described this as capitalism that gains more sustainable returns by spreading the benefits from a company wider along the value chain, helping to “shape society.” 

  • “Stakeholder capitalism is not about politics. It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not ‘woke,’” Fink wrote. 
  • “It is capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers, and communities your company relies on to prosper.”  

Carbon considerations: In the letter, Fink rejected the idea of divesting from the fossil fuel sector — but identified sustainability as the most likely source of the next generation of significant economic growth and creation of new businesses. 

  • “The next 1,000 unicorns won’t be search engines or social media companies, they’ll be sustainable, scalable innovators – startups that help the world decarbonize and make the energy transition affordable for all consumers,” he wrote. 
  • BlackRock focused on “sustainability not because we’re environmentalists, but because we are capitalists and fiduciaries to our clients.”  

‘Run for office’: Florida’s Patronis described this line of thinking as an attempt “to avoid dealing with the messiness of democracy.” 

  • “I think it’s undemocratic of major asset managers to use their power to influence societal outcomes,” Patronis wrote. 
  •  “If Larry, or his friends on Wall Street, want to change the world – run for office. Start a non-profit. Donate to the causes you care about.” 

What did BlackRock say? Company representatives called the move by the state politically motivated. 

  • “We are surprised by the Florida CFO’s decision, given the strong returns BlackRock has delivered to Florida taxpayers over the last five years,” BlackRock representatives said in a statement, according to Fast Company. 
  • The company said it was “disturbed by the emerging trend of political initiatives like this that sacrifice access to high-quality investments and thereby jeopardize returns, which will ultimately hurt Florida’s citizens.”

Hitting back: In a mirror to Patronis’s accusations, BlackRock representatives added that “fiduciaries should always value performance over politics.” 

Natural disaster losses above $100B for second year

Widespread damage hurricanes drove global insured losses from natural disasters above $115 billion, a new study has found. 

  • That number — which covers just the first 10 months of 2022 — is substantially higher than the 10-year average of $81 billion, according to reinsurance giant Swiss Re. 
  • Hurricane Ian alone caused $50 billion to $65 billion in insured losses, per the report. 

As insurers to the insurance industry, reinsurance providers are at the bleeding edge of financial risk from climate. 

No. 1: Even before Hurricane Ian, the U.S. led the world in dollar-amount damage from weather disasters, according to a mid-year report from reinsurance providers Munich Re. 

Not just hurricanes: “Secondary losses” led to a further $50 billion in insured losses, Swiss Re reported.

  • 2022 was also the second consecutive year to see insured losses above
    $100 billion. 
  • That is part of the continuing trend that sees damages going up 5 to 6 percent per year. 

Growing threat: “When Hurricane Andrew struck 30 years ago, a USD 20 billion loss event had never occurred before,” said Martin Bertogg, Head of Catastrophe Perils at Swiss Re. 

  • “Now there have been seven such hurricanes in just the past six years,” Bertogg added.  
  • He blamed the rising costs on “urban development, wealth accumulation in disaster-prone areas, inflation and climate change.

What about uninsured losses? Damage covered by insurance is just a small part of a larger pattern of rising destruction from natural disasters.

  • About 82 percent of global losses from flood damage between 2011 and 2020 were uninsured, according to a September report from Swiss Re. 
  • 2021 saw at least $329 billion in climate and weather disasters — 62 percent of which was uninsured, according to a report from financial services firm Aon. 
  • Uninsured losses from Ian alone could top $17 billion, according to CNN. 

How to increase wind energy health benefits fourfold

Health benefits from wind power could more than quadruple — without the need for new infrastructure, a new study has found.

  • The effect of wind power in replacing more polluting sources saved $2 billion in health costs in 2014, according to the study published on Friday in Science Advances. 
  • These savings could reach $8.4 billion if operators turned off more polluting sources when excess wind power was available. 

There’s a catch: The electricity industry would have to spin down the most polluting plants at times of high wind-supply — rather than their most expensive ones, the researchers found. 

  • Also, only about 30 percent of the health benefits from reducing reliance on polluting power stations went to disadvantaged communities.  
  • “Prioritizing health is a great way to maximize benefits in a widespread way across the U.S., which is a very positive thing,” said MIT data and atmospheric scientist Noelle Selin. 
  • “But … it’s not going to address [social] disparities,” Selin added. 


Follow-up Friday

Ford claims an electric vehicle industry (EV) milestone, the EU passes a price cap on Russian oil and how China evaded U.S. taxes on solar imports. 
 

Ford is a distant second to Tesla on EVs 

  • Tesla announced a redesigned version of its signature Model 3 sedan this week. On Friday Ford announced it had beaten out Hyundai for a No. 2 rank (behind Tesla) in the U.S. EV market, according to CNBC. But at about
    7 percent market share to Tesla’s estimated 65 percent, Ford has a long way to go, CNBC reported. 

EU announces oil price cap 

  • The European Union this week asked member-states to approve a $60 cap on the price they would pay for Russian oil. That deal, whch would hold Russian crude prices at roughly their current level was approved by the union on Friday, the Associated Press reported. “It is no secret that we wanted the price to be lower, [but] this is the best compromise we could get,” said Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. 

Chinese solar firms evaded U.S. tariffs

  • We reported on how U.S. crackdowns on forced labor in Chinese solar panel supply chains have led to a gigawatt of potential solar capacity stuck in ports. Such firms routed shipments and production through Southeast Asia to get around U.S. tariffs, The Wall Street Journal reported. Four Southeast Asian countries represent 80 percent of U.S. solar supply, according to The Journal. 


Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for more. We’ll see you next week.

Tags Biden Blackrock Elon Musk Elon Musk esg flood insurance insurance premiums Larry Fink Tesla
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