Outlook overshadows strong quarter at Coca-Cola
Thursday, February 14
ATLANTA (AP) — Coca-Cola posted solid quarterly profit and revenue numbers, but the strong dollar could slow sales in the coming year.
The headinwinds overshadowed a respectable fourth quarter, and shares slid almost 3 percent before the opening bell Thursday.
Coca-Cola Co. reported net income of $870 million, after a loss in the same period last year.
The company has been able to energize sales with new flavors and drinks as more people put off soft drinks.
Sales of tea and coffee rose 3 percent in the quarter, driven by new product launches in Japan and China, while sales of water and sports drinks rose 1 percent.
But sales of sparkling soft drinks fell 1 percent. Sales of juice and plant-based drinks dropped 2 percent, partly due to smaller package sizes in North America.
Per-share earns for the Atlanta company were 20 cents, or 43 cents when adjusted for one-time costs and gains. That was in line with Wall Street’s forecast. Revenue of $7.06 billion was also in line with analysts’ projections, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.
For 2019, the company said currency will be a significant headwind. It forecast full-year earnings per share should be between negative 1 percent and positive 1 percent, compared with 2018. The company earned $2.08 per share for the full year in 2018, up 9 percent from the prior year.
Portions of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on KO at https://www.zacks.com/ap/KO
How energy efficiency delivers green dividends in red and blue states
February 14, 2019
Author: David Cash, Dean, John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston
Disclosure statement: David Cash is a member of the board of E4TheFuture, an organization that funds clean energy research and projects, and published one of the reports cited in this article.
Partners: University of Massachusetts provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
The Green New Deal, a bundle of proposed policies that would combat climate change, create green jobs and address economic inequities, is eliciting the usual partisan debate over what to do about global warming.
But one humble and noncontroversial way to reduce carbon pollution has been gathering steam in red and blue states alike: energy efficiency. Policies like those that encourage the retrofitting of low-income homes in Texas with insulation and provide cash incentives for new homes in Vermont that generate as much power as they consume are reducing carbon emissions and pollution while creating jobs. Some 2.25 million people are working in the swiftly growing sector.
Although it gets much less attention than other clean-energy industries, like wind and solar power and electric vehicles, efficiency is booming. The electricity these improvements save grew by 50 percent between 2013 and 2017. In 2017, the U.S. conserved the equivalent of all the energy Denmark produced.
As a scholar of energy and environmental policy, who spent a decade working for the Massachusetts state government, I believe that because of its environmental benefits and job growth potential, energy efficiency will be the bedrock of both national and state energy policy, regardless of which party controls statehouses, Congress or the White House.
Why? Because, the policies that support energy efficiency expansion are those that can be embraced by conservatives and progressives alike, whether they are cast as buttressing a “green new deal,” “energy independence” or “workforce development” strategies.
Energy efficiency helps keep your beer cold, work spaces well-lit and clothes clean for a fraction what it would cost to build a new power plants of any kind. It also tends to be uncontroversial because it does not require the construction of big new industrial infrastructure.
Although you might associate the concept with setting thermostats uncomfortably low or mindfully turning off lights in empty rooms, current energy efficiency improvements generally don’t force anyone to change their habits. While reducing pollution and sparking innovation and entrepreneurship, they save money for customers and businesses, and are especially beneficial for low-income households, whose energy costs take up a large portion of their budget.
Until recently, it has been hard to directly track energy efficiency job growth, though. The federal government and most states did not even try until 2017, when the Energy Department began to release national energy jobs report. In addition, E2 and E4TheFuture, two nonpartisan and nonprofit groups that advocate for policies that are good for the environment and the business world, create state-by-state assessments.
With 2.25 million workers, the sector now employs twice as many as all fossil fuel sectors combined, according to the federal energy jobs report. And energy efficiency accounted for half of all energy job growth in 2017, according to E2’s report on energy efficiency jobs.
Virtually all energy efficiency jobs are local by definition, although manufacturing of energy efficiency products can happen overseas. Thus, these jobs are generally immune to outsourcing since they have to be done on-site. Yet that is not necessarily true for all energy efficiency employers.
An estimated 350,000 businesses, ranging from local startups to large multinationals, conduct energy audits and make efficiency upgrades in homes and commercial and industrial buildings. They manufacture and install high efficiency systems, windows, LED lighting and insulation, upgrade and repair HVAC and water heating equipment, code operations software, and design and construct high-performance buildings.
While the Trump administration continues to dismantle policies that advance clean energy, many states are stepping up their efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
I consider Massachusetts a good example. It has made energy efficiency a high priority since 2008, when a law called the Green Communities Act transformed rules and introduced energy efficiency incentives.
In the 10 years since its enactment, annual investments by utility companies in statewide energy efficiency programs rose from about $125 million to more than $700 million. That investment provided a nearly 4.5-to-1 return in terms of energy savings that created more than 84,000 new jobs.
The climate change benefits were significant too. By reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 1.8 million metric tons over the most recent three-year reporting period, the program achieved the equivalent of taking 390,000 cars off of Massachusetts roads.
Experts like the energy analyst Hal Harvey and the Tufts University scholar Gilbert Metcalf have documented these kinds of cost savings and emissions benefits for years, as have government authorities and utilities.
Energy efficiency is popular in states led by Republicans and Democrats alike.
Efforts by the Democratic strongholds known as “blue states” to encourage energy efficiency have paid off for states like California, New York and Oregon. All three are among the 10 best in terms of carbon dioxide emissions per capita, energy expenditures per capita and energy use per capita.
But even in Republican-led “red states,” such as Texas, South Carolina, Missouri and Utah, energy efficiency is beginning to take off. For example energy efficiency construction jobs make up between 10-24 percent of all construction jobs in those states.
While energy efficiency is on the rise across the nation, there are still critiques of the policies encouraging these efforts. Such arguments center around regulatory overreach, the upfront costs of such programs and the potential loss of revenue for utilities. Amid concerns about the quality of some technologies, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, the Trump administration is trying to roll back a mandate to make all lighting more energy-efficient.
But there are many examples of where energy efficiency policies have succeeded in tandem with technological innovations.
Near-term federal action on the Green New Deal’s stated rationale, “addressing the existential challenge of climate change,” currently appears highly unlikely given the lack of support from Senate Republicans and the White House.
However, like some observers, I suspect that Congress may consider less comprehensive energy legislation before long. Because there is much to gain on both sides of the aisle by lowering constituents’ utility bills and growing jobs in a sector that has demonstrated potential, energy efficiency could be at the center of new energy politics and policies.
Tripp Tucker, logged in via Twitter: Electrical energy efficiency will green up the New Green Deal when the transition to clean electricity also includes a transition away from nonunity power factor, harmonic pollution, and phase imbalances. Power electronics have evolved and some are greener than others of the past.
What Green New Deal advocates can learn from the 2009 economic stimulus act
February 15, 2019
Author: Joseph Aldy, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Disclosure statement: Joseph Aldy receives or has received funding related to the topics addressed in this article from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Taubman Center for State and Local Government, BP, the Progressive Policy Institute, Resources for the Future, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Aldy also has affiliations with Resources for the Future, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Congressional Democrats have introduced a “Green New Deal” proposal that calls for a 10-year national mobilization to curb climate change by shifting the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels. Many progressives support this idea, while skeptics argue that a decade is not long enough to remake our nation’s energy system.
The closest analog to this effort occurred in 2009, when President Obama and Congress worked together to combat a severe economic recession by passing a massive economic stimulus plan. Among its many provisions, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided US$90 billion to promote clean energy. The bil’s clean energy package, which was dubbed the “biggest energy bill in history,” laid the foundation for dramatic changes to the energy system over the last 10 years.
I am an environmental economist and worked with Congress as a member of the Obama presidential transition team to negotiate the energy package. Then I oversaw its implementation as a White House official in 2009-2010. Based on my experience, I believe this effort holds several key lessons for a Green New Deal and other policies the new Congress will consider.
A lower-carbon economy
The 2009 Recovery Act focused on four major categories of energy-related investments: Energy efficiency, the electric grid, transportation and clean energy. Major targets included about $25 billion to promote renewable electricity generation through investment grants, production tax credits and loan guarantees. Another $20 billion funded energy efficiency and conservation through tax credits, rebates and block grants to state and local governments.
About $10 billion supported investments in smart electric meter and smart grid technology and long-distance transmission lines. The bill provided $5 billion for advanced vehicle technologies, such as electric battery manufacturing subsidies and heavy-duty diesel retrofits. It also included $2 billion to develop carbon capture and storage technologies for coal-fired power plants.
These investments catalyzed rapid growth in renewable power. Since 2008, wind power has more than tripled and solar power has increased 80-fold. This wind and solar investment significantly outpaced new investment in natural gas power plants over the past decade.
The largest years of wind power investment occurred in 2009 and 2012 – the first and last years of Recovery Act support. More recent growth in solar across the country, as utilities and homeowners alike have adopted it, reflects significant drops in the cost of solar panels, which were enabled by generous investment subsidies in previous years.
In March 2017, monthly electricity generation from wind and solar power exceeded 10 percent of total electricity generation in the United States for the first time.
This renewable energy surge has played a key role in cutting carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. electric power sector by 28 percent since 2005. In 2017, renewable power and power from cheap natural gas were nearly equally responsible for these emission reductions.
Even though the U.S. population has grown about 8 percent and our nation’s gross domestic product has risen more than 20 percent since 2008, residential electricity consumption was lower in 2017 than in 2008. This decrease reflects long-term energy savings benefits from Recovery Act investments in high-performance windows, insulation, high-efficiency furnaces and water heaters and advanced lighting. Electric vehicles make up a growing share of the U.S. car market which was aided by Recovery Act investments in advanced battery manufacturing facilities.
Not all programs yielded such impressive returns. Although the federal government invested $2 billion in FutureGen, a decade-long effort to capture carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and store them underground, this effort failed to attract enough cost-matching investments from private utilities. As a result, it never moved forward to test carbon capture and storage at commercial scale.
The Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program awarded about $2 billion to guarantee $16 billion in loans at 25 companies investing in solar, wind and geothermal power and clean energy manufacturing projects. It produced a small pipeline of innovative energy projects and imposed burdensome requirements that undermined its effectiveness. Ultimately the program became a political liability when Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer, defaulted on a federally guaranteed $535 million loan.
Lessons for a Green New Deal
This record offers valuable lessons for policymakers who want to catalyze further progress toward a clean energy economy. Critically, the main reason to spend public money in the energy sector is to drive changes in investment. Businesses already have plenty of incentive to invest in energy; the challenge is getting them to invest in socially preferred areas, such as lower-carbon energy sources.
Taxpayer dollars are limited, so well-designed policies should deliver results at the lowest possible cost. The Obama administration needed to implement the Recovery Act quickly in 2009 because the economy was in a tailspin, so some energy stimulus programs failed this test by awarding subsidies that didn’t do much to change household and business energy choices (although they delivered economic stimulus). For example, about 90 percent of families that received rebates for buying EnergyStar-rated refrigerators likely would have done so without the Recovery Act appliance rebate program.
Another key lesson is that when policies are designed to be simple and transparent, it is easier for businesses and households to understand them. Complex, opaque processes create opportunities for crony capitalism that may undermine program goals and attract political criticism. Solyndra’s default led to a four-year federal investigation and charges of political favoritism in awarding the loan guarantee.
Congressional and FBI investigations into the Obama administration’s support for Solyndra provided ammunition for critics of energy stimulus investments.
Today, with the emergence of big data and advances in analytical methods, managers can design and implement programs in ways that make it easier to measure their performance. Designing such reviews at the start would facilitate low-cost evaluation after programs go into effect. The need for speed during the Great Recession precluded such planning, but the next stage of clean energy policies can be designed to enable this kind of learning, which can then inform thoughtful policy updates and reforms.
Finally, the Obama administration saw government spending on clean energy as a complement and stepping stone for a more ambitious, economy-wide carbon pricing policy. In 2009 President Obama supported a cap-and-trade program to cover America’s carbon dioxide emissions. More recently, some experts have called for carbon taxes to drive deep, cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Just as we economists believed in 2009 that an economy-wide market-based approach would be the most effective way to combat climate change, it still holds true today. The Green New Deal resolution does not address carbon pricing, but I believe that an ambitious carbon tax could promote broad and deep economy-wide emission reductions today and the far-reaching innovation necessary to transform the energy foundation of the U.S. economy.
Is love losing its soul in the digital age?
February 13, 2019
Author: Firmin DeBrabander, Professor of Philosophy, Maryland Institute College of Art
Disclosure statement: Firmin DeBrabander does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Instagram users have taken to issuing “weekiversary posts,” where they diligently mark the duration of their romances. An article in The New York Times explained how weekiversary posts have the unintended – or very much intended – consequence of shaming people who are not in love.
The article also noted that this phenomenon makes some doubt the intensity of their own relationship. They wonder why their partners are not similarly starry-eyed and gushing online. Some even admitted that this phenomenon prompted them to stay in relationships longer than they should have: they go on celebrating their weekiversaries, just to keep up appearances.
In truth, this could apply to any of the social media platforms, where people increasingly feel the need to act their lives in real time in a public format, documenting every event and incident, no matter how remarkable or mundane.
As a philosopher researching the topic of privacy, I found myself thinking about the brave new culture of digital sharing.
What does it say about love, that many are compelled to live their romances aloud, in detailed fashion?
Why display your love?
On one hand, there is nothing new here. Most of us seek the approval of others – even before our own, sometimes. Others’ approval, or their envy, makes our joy sweeter.
Philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau recognized something like this when he distinguished between “amour de soi” and “amour propre” – two different forms of self love. The former is love that is instinctual and not self-reflective. Rousseau sees it in presocial man, who is unconcerned with what other people think of him. Largely, he loves himself unconditionally, without judgment.
Society, which complicates our lives irredeemably, introduces amour propre. This is self-love mediated through the eyes and opinions of others. Amour propre, in Rousseau’s view, is deeply flawed. It is hollow, flimsy, if not downright fraudulent. The opinions and judgment of others change rapidly and do not make for a firm foundation for honest, enduring, confident self-love and any emotions related to or rooted in it.
This suggests an unflattering view of weekiversary posts. Are they just one’s way of satiating the need for amour propre – meeting the approval, and stoking the envy of online witnesses? Are they for one’s lover at all? Or, are they for public affirmation?
Curating our life stories
Is there a more positive way to make sense of weekiversary posts?
Philosopher Paul Ricoeur argued that humans have an inherent need to view their lives in a narrative fashion. This is a prime way in which a person makes sense of his or her world.
Specifically, one aims to project a narrative structure onto life, and give it a beginning, a climax and, hopefully, a fitting conclusion. The individual also wishes to situate his life story within a greater narrative, be it social, historical or cosmic.
Social media, I believe, gives us newfound powers to curate the story of our lives, and if need be, change characters, dominant plot lines or background themes, how and when we like. In documenting everyday events and occurrences, we could even elevate them and lend them a degree of significance.
So, it might seem perfectly natural that people would like to narrate their budding romances.
I am now long and happily married, but I remember how first love is both exhilarating and confusing. It’s a mess of emotions to work out and understand. Among the many mixed messages issued by family, society and the media, it is often difficult to know how best to navigate romance and determine if you are doing things right – or if you have found “the one.”
In fact, I sought to get a handle on it all by writing down my many thoughts. This helped give me clarity. It objectified my thoughts – I literally projected them on paper before me, and could better understand which were more resonant, powerful and pressing.
Love and insecurity
Social media, on the other hand, is not designed for introspection or soul-searching: Posts must be relatively short, eye-catching and declarative. Twitter emissions only tolerate 280 characters.
Ambiguity has no place there. Social media isn’t the place to hash through a host of conflicting emotions. You are either in love, or you are not – and if you are in love, why declare it if it isn’t blissful?
As Facebook discovered, negative posts tend to lose followers – and many people want to keep up their viewership. The legal scholar Bernard Harcourt argues that social media sharing evokes the great American tradition of entrepreneurship. From this perspective, in issuing weekiversary posts, individuals are creating an identity and a story – they are generating a brand that they can market widely.
It’s hard to see how this phenomenon contributes to or makes for lasting and fulfilling relationships. If, for example, as Ricoeur says, social media effusions are an attempt to elevate the mundane, the simple, the everyday, and lend it special meaning, it begs the question: Why might one feel the need to do this repeatedly, persistently?
I would argue that it betrays an air of insecurity. After all, at some point, all the affirmation one needs should come from your lover.
There is an understandable need for young lovers to pronounce their joy in public. But love, when it matures, does not live publicly.
Loving couples are not necessarily easy to pick out in public. I think of my parents, and my in-laws, married for nearly 50 years. They can sit with each other in comfortable silence for long periods of time. They can also communicate with each other without saying a word.
Love is largely a private relationship, and demands intimacy. Only in intimacy does the inherent ambiguity or complexity of love emerge. Only in intimacy are you and your partner fully seen and known, with all your shortcomings or contradictions – and they are forgiven.
It is in these intimate moments that lovers learn to tolerate ambiguity, negotiate differences and endure.