By Ben Strubel
This week’s Dumb Investment of the Week is commodity funds. Commodities are physical products such as corn, oil, or sugar. Commodity investments only used to be a way that Wall Street parted institutional investors from their money, but over the past decade banks have been increasingly targeting individual investors either directly or through financial advisors, brokers, and mutual fund companies.
Prior to 2000, commodity markets were strictly regulated. Then, in 2000, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed which, among other things, did away with position limits in commodities markets. While commodity index funds have existed since 1991, it wasn’t until recently that they became popular and could handle large inflows of funds. In 2003, several academics published research showing that commodities did not have strong correlations with other asset classes like stocks, bonds, or real estate. Wall Street, never having met a fee-generating idea it didn’t like, seized on this research and began creating and selling commodity index funds to retail and institutional investors. Over the better part of the next decade, $350B flowed to newly created commodity funds.
By Michael Hoexter
[Part I] [Part II] [Part III] [Part IV]
7. Outline of An Actually-Effective Climate Policy
Actually-effective climate policy, which might be called a comprehensive climate and energy policy, then has the following components:
1) National Carbon Mitigation Plan: National carbon mitigation plans (reduce emissions of greenhouse gas emissions to zero or below) commissioned by individual governments that outline the high-level designs of a zero-net-carbon infrastructure for projected 2050 energy and transportation demand in a particular nation. Such plans should assume no technological breakthroughs but deployment of existing technologies or foreseeable successor generations of these technologies. For each nation these plans will look quite different depending on existing infrastructure, natural resources, cultural preferences, and geography. The plan will include targets for carbon mitigation via land use changes and energy conservation. Such climate plans should include alternative technological and land-use scenarios which would also estimate the carbon emissions required to build those various scenarios. A scenario with the highest likelihood of success (defined below) would be chosen first with regular check-points built-in for progress as well as preparation for fall-back scenarios in case of bottlenecks closing down paths and new developments opening up new paths. Such a plan will need to be built around durable social values, ensuring its resilience to both natural and man-made challenges and changes. In-built into planning would be a “no-regrets” policy, if in the face of well-tested innovations, substantial changes will yield a better social and environmental outcome. However, implementation of the plan cannot be shelved or delayed on the basis of speculative claims of improved outcomes by pursuing new and untried innovative technologies.