Washington Advocacy Trip: Part 1

I arrived in Washington DC last week to join 20 other business leaders as part of E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) advocacy week. This was a very dynamic and accomplished group and I was honored to be a part it.

They broke us up into teams and again, I was amazed at the quality of individuals they had assembled. My team included:

  • Marc Boom, the E2 Director of Advocacy
  • Mark Bauhaus, a technology veteran from silicon valley, and partner at JustBusiness
  • Ethan Garber, CEO of IdleAir
  • Norm Seip, USAF Lieutenant General (Ret), national security consultant
Our team in the Russell Senate Office Building

Our team in the Russell Senate Office Building

We had multiple objectives for our meetings:

  • Demonstrate to legislators and the administration the importance of marrying economic and environmental interests.
  • Establish relationships with legislators on both sides of the aisle.
  • Discuss our policy agenda which include
    • The importance of incentives and renewable energy tax credits
    • Clean energy financing opportunities
    • Climate Change legislation and rules
    • The EPA Clean Power Plan
    • A Transportation Bill that is sustainable both financially and environmentally
    • Continued support for the military’s research into renewable energy

A couple of very busy days awaited of us after our briefing on Monday night. Part 2 will go over our first day of advocacy…

Preparing to Meet Lawmakers

Melissa and I arrived safe and sound in DC this morning. I’m very much looking forward to heading to Capital Hill tomorrow morning with my colleagues from E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs).

We are divided up into several groups. My group will include two other green entrepreneurs and a retired General. Our first day will include meetings with nine Senators (or their staff.) Our second day we’ll be meeting with five House Members plus a couple folks from the Administration.

As I was spending the last couple of hours researching the different Senators and Representatives, I find it so amazing the wide variety of “opinions” on economic, environmental and energy issues. Even within parties!

Our goal is to educate on the importance of legislation designed to foster green economic growth, reduce emissions and make our transportation system as efficient and safe as possible. I look forward to the opportunity!

Mr. Krull Goes to Washington

I am looking forward to heading to Washington, DC on April 27th as part of a coalition of environmental-based entrepreneurs meeting with lawmakers and administration officials. The trip is being organized by E2, Environmental Entrepreneurs, a non-partisan community of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity.

Krull & Company has been a member of E2 since early 2014 and has taken an active role in encouraging lawmakers to adopt environmentally responsible policies and laws.

On this trip, we will be focusing on three issues:

  • Supporting clean energy policies and programs in upcoming energy bills and tax reform
  • Supporting and defending the implementation of policies to reduce greenhouse gases in an economically beneficial way (Clean Power Plan)
  • Supporting a new transportation bill that prioritizes innovation, lowers environmental impacts and increases economic efficiency.

What does this mean for you?

All of these issues affect our clients in some way – from renewable energy tax credits to more efficient forms of transportation. They also are relevant to our strategies of investing in sustainable companies and divesting from fossil fuels.

I will keep you up to date on the results.

Pete Krull

Duke Energy Misses an Opportunity to Do the Right Thing

60 Minutes aired an investigative segment on Duke Energy and their Dan River coal ash spill. Leslie Stahl did a very good job of asking tough questions, but gave Duke CEO Lynn Good more than enough opportunities to be proactive and change the direction of the company. Good did not embrace the opportunity.

Instead, she blamed industrial practices of the past and called for more studies on how to handle the coal ash problem. In essence, just buying more time for another coal ash disaster to occur. If I were a Duke Energy investor (which I am not), I’d be concerned about this attitude. As CEO, Good has a fiduciary responsibility to reduce the company’s risk, not just increase shareholder value. Her actions (or lack thereof) call into question her handling of shareholder risk. If I’m an insurer, I am having a hard time underwriting the risk posed by these coal ash ponds and probably I’m raising their premiums substantially!

What Good could have done is make a bold statement: Duke Energy is going to be proactive about coal ash and is currently making plans to remove all toxic coal ash from it’s facilities within the next 24 months. In addition, we are announcing an unprecedented investment in renewables and energy efficiency: from solar to wind to geothermal, we intend to put fossil fuels behind us and become a world leader in showing how a company can move forward do the right thing.Instead of creating a company of the future, Good is giving us more of the same: excuses and pollution.

Click here to watch the story

David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy sees things very differently. In a letter to shareholders, Crane sees the need for energy companies to move forward, “There is no Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google in the American energy industry today. There is no energy company that relates to the American energy consumer by offering a comprehensive or seamless solution to the individual’s energy needs. There is no energy company that connects the consumer with their own energy generating potential. There is no energy company that enables the consumer to make their own energy choices. there is no energy company that empowers the individual wherever they are, whatever they are doing for however long they are doing it.”

This idea of putting the consumer first is important – it is Duke’s consumers who have to deal with the effects of the energy company’s polluting ways. Crane points to future generations who will have to fix the mistakes of this one,“As we forge ahead, I am mindful of the fact that the next generation of Americans – the generation around my soon-to-be adult children – is different from you and I. Somehow, some way, the next generation of Americans became “all in” in their commitment to sustainability, in every sense of the word, including clean energy. With them, it is built into their DNA, not just learned behavior as it is for us.

And make no mistake about our children. They will hold all of us accountable – true believers and climate deniers alike. The day is coming when our children sit us down in our dotage, look us straight in the eye, with an acute sense of betrayal and disappointment in theirs, and whisper to us, “You knew… and you didn’t do anything about it. Why?” And for a long time, our string of excuses has run something like this: “We didn’t have the technology…it would have been ruinously expensive…the government didn’t make us do it…”

And while I do not agree fully with Mr. Crane, especially on the use of nuclear, he is making an effort to take the lead and be a change maker – something we at Krull & Company and our clients can applaud.

This time, CEO Good missed her chance to make positive change.   However, each day provides her a new opportunity to shift Duke Energy away from primitive industrial waste practices.  Let’s hope she seizes the next opportunity to do the right thing.

Click here to read Mr. Crane’s shareholder letter

Thoughts on Low Oil Prices

We’ve seen a precipitous decline in the price of oil over the past several months. Market analysts and economists have been chiming in with their opinions on the effects. Here is ours based on our socially & environmentally responsible strategies…

First and foremost we see low oil prices as a tremendous threat to the environmentally unfriendly practice of fracking and even worse, tar sands. These forms of extraction are already on economic thin ice and low prices may push these companies into financial trouble. Several use low quality (and high interest) debt to fund their operations. An extended period of low oil prices may put them under.

In addition, it makes the Keystone XL pipeline basically moot. If it is economically unfeasible to produce tar sands oil, then the pipeline isn’t needed.

From our environmental perspective, this is all very good. The disaster we see in Alberta tar sands needs to be limited to what they have done so far – no more! Fracking may continue because of the natural gas uses, but again, an extended period of low oil prices will test the market. It may also give scientists more time to gain the evidence needed to limit it’s use.

Because global markets still, for the most part, run on fossil fuels, low oil prices are good for the economy. This may continue to be a driver for growth as transportation and raw material costs should go down. This may drive stock markets to even higher highs. Beware if prices rise, however, causing unexpected higher expenses for businesses.

A negative from our environmentally responsible perspective is that low oil prices may inhibit the growth of alternative fuel vehicles and energy production. Low gas prices makes the premium paid for electric and hybrid vehicles less palatable. Nevertheless, there is continued momentum in these markets, and we don’t see much of a slow-down.

We are especially happy to see that the price of alternative energy generation is basically at par with dirty fossil fuel generation as reported in the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/24/business/energy-environment/solar-and-wind-energy-start-to-win-on-price-vs-conventional-fuels.html

Overall, we are happy to see low oil prices, despite the potential negative effects on clean energy development. We view the low prices as the effect of global inter-industry competition (OPEC vs North America) resulting in the potential for an industry implosion. Only time will tell.

Neill Yelverton Becomes Partner

We are pleased to announce that Neill Yelverton, a financial advisor at the firm, has become an equity partner.

“Neill has been with us for over a year and has proven to be a tremendous asset. His dedication to social and environmental issues, his drive and work ethic, and his desire to provide first-class client service fits very well with the mission of Krull & Company. I am excited to have him as a business partner,” Krull & Company President and Founder Peter Krull said. 

Yelverton hold a B.S. in Wildlife Science from North Carolina State University and a M.B.A from Western Carolina University where he completed independent study in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability in Business. He is currently working on completing his Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation.

“What a great opportunity to be a partner in this amazing firm,” Neill Said. “Every day I get to help clients be changemakers with their investments – it’s something that I’m proud of and truly believe in.” 

Neill is currently accepting select new individuals, trusts, non-profits and business retirement plans as clients.

Living Well

I had a great opportunity this week to be interviewed on the Living Well radio show here in Asheville. The host, Dr. Bob Hanna, a local psychologist is genuinely interested in “living well,” and that includes investing.

In the many years that I’ve been helping people invest with their values, the biggest challenge/opportunity has always been simply education. Getting the word out that you can invest with your values, avoid polluters and other offenders, make a difference with your money, and get a competitive return.

What I have found is that many folks silo their money and investments. They may recycle, buy organic food, drive a hybrid, etc. But when it comes to investing, the old see no evil, hear no evil speak no evil philosophy comes out.

So, when I have the chance to talk about responsible investing with someone like Bob, I try to stress that responsible investing really is about “living well” as the name of the show suggests. It’s not something that should be set aside, but something that should be integrated into your overall life philosophy.

Click here to listen to the interview

Pete Krull

Always, Get a Second Opinion!

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Advisor vs. Broker

In this video blog, Neill Yelverton explains the difference between Advisors and Brokers.  Many people do not know there is a difference.  That difference matters.  At Krull and Company we empower you with knowledge.

What if it’s all a hoax?

This is one of my favorite cartoons from Joel Pett. He offers a great question, what if it’s all a hoax?

Personally, I do not believe it’s a hoax because the data supports scientists’ claims of man-made climate change. So, I guess it’s not that I “believe,” it’s that the hypothesis has been validated by the vast majority of scientists (around 97%.)

Admiral David Titley expresses the same sentiment in an article I read this morning, “People ask me if I ‘got religion,’” Titley said. “No, I don’t ‘believe in climate change – I’m convinced by the evidence.” Read the article

But to go back to the original cartoon, what if it’s a hoax? Some claim that proactively addressing the issue will ruin the economy, but the World Bank has shown those claims to be untrue and even said that tackling climate change would grow the global economy. Read the article

Furthermore, studies continue to show significant clean energy jobs growth. Our friends at E2 are keeping on top of this. More information

So again, what if it’s a hoax and all of these scientists are wrong? Well, unless you’re the CEO of a fossil-fuel company whose very existence (not to mention multi-million dollar compensation package) is in jeopardy, there’s really not much to complain about:

       Energy independence

       Preserve rainforests

       Sustainability

       Green jobs

       Livable cities

       Renewables

       Clean water & air

       Healthy children

       Etc, etc

So let’s focus on the positives, nurture the opportunities and make the world a better place – together.

Peter Krull is President and Founder of Krull & Company, an Asheville, NC-based socially and environmentally responsible investment management firm. For more information, visit www.investwithyourvalues.com