Monday, February 21, 2011

When chaos rules

The Ghastly Guardian is reporting that the European Union "faces legal and political challenges" over its handling of the recent carbon markets crisis, when some markets had to close hurriedly after thieves had made off with rather large quantities of carbon allowances.

What is entertaining – although not in the least surprising – is that the markets remain in chaos. The novelty comes with EU officials due in a Belgian court today to answer a demand to name companies in possession of stolen allowances. This follows a legal challenge by TCEI of Italy, a holding company for trading house, The Cube Energy, which is hoping to recover 267,991 allowances that were stolen.

Not least of the problems that the parties are trying to resolve, it seems, it who currently owns what, after stolen certificates were bought unwittingly by innocent traders. No one seems to know who should take the loss – buyer, seller, or issuing governments. TCEI is hoping that transfer of the stolen allowances will be frozen until this is sorted out, allowing recovery action to be taken.

On the other hand, the EU seems confident it will win its case, and withhold the information asked for, a move which might not exactly inspire future confidence in the system.

The EU's committee on climate change, meanwhile is looking to reassure national governments and carbon exchanges that the EU has the right level of security in place, while energy minister Greg Barker is endearing himself to the Euroslime by demanding that standards be raised to UK levels "to prevent further thefts". You can almost predict the glee when the UK gets turned over by hackers.

The obvious lesson, though, escapes the "colleagues" – the very obvious lesson that, if you start selling something of no greater substance than moonbeams, someone, somewhere is going to get ripped off. So far, it has been taxpayers and energy consumers, so no one is going to lose much sleep over a few traders on the slab. In fact, in certain quarters, there might even be the occasional smile.