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Author: emschulze Big gold star, 5000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 2247  
Subject: Re: Oil & gas companies CAN be green Date: 12/24/2000 8:32 AM
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The premise of SRI, as I understand it, is that investors, as they lend their weight to various enterprises, are in a position to affect the course of history and that they should be aware of their influence when making investment decisions. I don't question that premise. Instead, I question the manner in which many investors go about the task. responsible.

You say that you do not have a huge problem with Enron. The obvious inference is that you have a small problem with it. This illustrates my primary point – there's a lack of proportionality on the part of many SR investors – a giving of undue weight to certain factors and a discounting of certain other factors.

Let's look at the basis of the small problem you have with Enron. You're concerned about Enron's role in making Houston the city with the worst air quality in the country. Houston sits aside one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the world – one in which virtually every large petrochemical company (XOM, Phillips, Dow, BP, Shell, Chevron, etc.) is involved – one that had long been in existence (since the '40's) before Enron came into existence in the '80's. Enron's primary involvement in that complex is as a marketer of natural gas and power. Other than the methanex facility (now, history), it has never been a processor of refined products. So, yes, it is fair to characterize Enron as having a role in the petrochemical complex – it is a major supplier of ingredients (gas and power) utilized in the complex. But, if you condemn Enron to your blacklist because it supplies gas and power, then your blacklist should also include every corporation that uses gas and power; i.e., the list would become so long as to be virtually meaningless.

Another aspect of your small problem with Enron is founded upon the allegations and concerns of various axe-grinding groups. I ask you this: If there were a factual basis for these assertions, why do they persist as only assertions? How long have these assertions been lingering? How long must they linger before you recognize them for what they are – the dissemination of clouds of concern, the slinging of mud in hope some of it sticks ( i.e., propaganda)?

And, the other aspect of your small problem with Enron is its practice of making political contributions. Isn't there a contradiction here? On the one hand, you, as a socially responsible investor, expect the companies in which you invest to exhibit responsible citizenship, but on the other you blacklist Enron for playing a financial role in the political process. From my perspective, Enron's involvement in the political process has been tremendous – it has been a primary mover in the reform of the natural gas industry over the past decade. Here's what the Department of Energy, this past week, had to say about that industry:

The restructuring of the natural gas industry has been effective, leading to open competition in the industry and to a much healthier market that is driven by supply and demand forces rather than by regulation. The market has grown steadily since 1986, with both production and pipeline deliverability showing significant increases. Natural gas is now perceived as an abundant, reliable resource that is expected to fuel an increasing share of domestic energy consumption well into the future.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/issues.html

Now, Enron is turning its attention to restructuring the electric power industry. Here's a letter recently written by its CEO to FERC:

http://www4.enron.com/corp/pr/James-Hoecker103100-LTR.pdf

Certainly, there is legitimate debate about the manner in which political campaigns should be financed, but it seems illegitimate to me to blacklist a company because it plays by the existing rules. To do so is to expect corporations to tie one hand behind their backs while their competitors (like the incumbent utilities in the power industry) pour millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of politicians who will promote their interests (leading to messes like the current one in California).

John Quixote, in his piece on green O&G companies, clearly exhibited a profound grasp of the need for proportionality – that's why he has my respect.
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