Sunday’s massive climate march in New York was followed on Monday by the less coherent Flood Wall Street effort. Lots of people protested outside the New York Stock Exchange, and scores were arrested, including a guy wearing a Polar Bear suit. (Bulls are welcome on Wall Street, bears not so much.) The general complaint was that the engine of capitalism is killing the environment, especially the climate, and that it should be shut down immediately.
For most of its history, Wall Street was no great friend to the environment. America’s capital markets gained critical mass in the late 19th century by financing railroads and providing capital to steel and oil industries, earning enormous fortunes for John D. Rockefller and his fellow Robber Barons. The nation’s first mega-deal came in 1901, when J.P. Morgan bought out Andrew Carnegie’s steel company for $480 million, thus forging U.S. Steel.)] And of course the world’s coal mines, oil and natural gas wells, timber, chemical, and other environmentally unfriendly endeavors couldn’t function largely if not for global finance.
Here’s the thing, though. One of the possible solutions to global warming and climate change is a rapid scaling up of technologies that allow humans to go about their business while emitting less carbon dioxide, or no CO2 at all. And increasingly, Wall Street wants to be in on the green rush. Tesla Motors, for example, which now enjoys a $30 billion market capitalization thanks to bullish investors. Launched in 2009, it received a $465 million government loan which it paid back years ahead of schedule. But that same year it also rasied nearly $300 million in venture capital. The next year during its initial public offering, it raised another $226 million in private money. Then another $200 million more in stock in late 2012, in an offering underwritten by Goldman Sachs. The company returned in May 2013 to Wall Streetto raise $600 million in debt and another $312 million in stock. Yes, Nevada is helping to fund Tesla’s giant new battery factory, but Wall Street will provide most of the funds necessary to construct it.
More articles from The Daily Beast:
- Why Libertarians Love ‘South Park’
- Why the Rockefellers Rejected Big Oil
- Stop Scapegoating Teach for America
© 2014 Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC
PHOTO: Getty Images