ExxonMobil Scrambles, GDP Isn’t an Ideal Measure, and Hotels Go Green

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Photo: Lippincott

The ExxonMobil Truth Commission
ExxonMobil may be moving toward as reasonable a climate policy as we can expect from a massive oil company. It supports a carbon tax (unlike many politicians) and its greenhouse-gas policies are improving. It certainly wasn’t always that way and the oil giant is struggling to avoid paying the price for its past behavior. The company is alleged to have suppressed for many years internal research that recognized the dangers of climate change while publicly creating FUD around climate science. And now it’s scrambling to contain a climate crusade (Politico). It’s not just green activists that have ExxonMobil nervous: fraud cases are working their way through the courts (ExxonMobil is fighting them using the same sort of arguments that Big Tobacco used) and some senators are “urging DOJ to consider bringing civil racketeering cases against oil companies.” Yes, the company’s practices and positions have changed, in some cases dramatically so. But cutting up the credit cards doesn’t mean your debt goes away.

Measuring the Value of a Measure
The primary statistic used to measure a country’s economy is the gross domestic product, a measure of output, income and spending all at the same time. Yet The Economist lays out why GDP is a poor measure of progress. The article argues that GDP was an adequate way to measure growth when “the economy was still mostly farms and factories,” but it’s less good for measuring service economies. Consumption is easy to count. Quality of consumer experience? Not so much. The post does a good job of outlining GDP’s shortcomings but doesn’t suggest what might work better in today’s information-driven world. Calling Bhutan …

Green Hotels Win
The first major move hotels made to be sustainable — giving guests the opportunity to not have their sheets replaced or towels refreshed — came across more as cost-cutting gestures than real approaches to the problem. But now U.S. hotels are becoming more hospitable to energy-saving systems (NYT). The switch is happening both because it’s the right thing to do and because more rigorous building codes are spreading. Whether it’s key cards to control lights, the ability to control temperature more effectively, or the ability to sense when a room is occupied and moderate the air conditioning when it isn’t, more and more hotels are implementing more and more ways to save resources and money.

Consultancy That Sells Drone Services Predicts Success of Drone Services
A new report from the Polish arm of consultancy PwC titled “Clarity from Above” estimates that drones could replace $127 billion worth of human labor and services “in the very near future.” The report emphasizes the outsized role drones will play in infrastructure, with more than one-third of the $127 billion shift due to that industry. Agriculture comes in second. The 40-page report is full of bromides — “Drone application in capital projects as a vital step in designing, constructing, operating and maintaining infrastructure assets” — but not one mention of how businesses or governments might deal with the potential human cost associated with the rise of drones.

Online Lending’s Growing Pains
The resignation of Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche got all the attention yesterday, but Recode’s Noah Kulwin goes wide and considers the problems facing all online lenders. Citibank has pulled back on buying loans from peer-to-peer startup Prosper, competitors like Avant and On Deck Capital are reporting “either slowing investor demand for loans or a drop in lending volume this year,” and regulators are taking an increased interest in the industry. Like other Internet disruptors, online lenders are finding they have to play by more of the same rules of the businesses they sought to disrupt.

When Ride-Hailing Companies Face Surge Pricing
Speaking of online disruptors learning they have to play by the rules, Uber and Lyft say they’re technology companies. So why aren’t they investigating technology solutions to the fingerprinting problem that they say is driving them from Austin, TX? Because they think it’s too expensive, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“No Economic Justification” for Tax Havens
That’s the argument in a big open letter (Bloomberg) organized by NewCo Oxfam. Signatories include Nobel laureate Angus Deaton, bestselling author Thomas Piketty, former IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard, Columbia University Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs, and 300 other economists. The letter is intended to greet policy makers gathering in London for anti-corruption talks. Are companies like Apple (The Conversation) and Uber (Fortune) listening?

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