Image: Maintenance work is done on a Vestas wind turbine (R) at a wind energy park near Heide, Germany, September 9, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Charisius/File Photo
By Alister Doyle and Meredith Davis
MARRAKESH, Morocco/CHICAGO (Reuters) – The prospect of an abrupt shift in U.S. climate policy under President-elect Donald Trump lifted the shares of U.S. mining equipment giant Caterpillar Inc, North American railroads and other companies tied to fossil fuels, and slammed shares of renewable energy firms.
Trump has called climate change a hoax, said he would rip up the Paris climate treaty and promised to revive the U.S. coal sector. His victory caused dismay at a climate policy conference in Morocco on Wednesday.
In the United States, the prospect of a sharp turn in U.S. environmental policy helped boost Caterpillar shares by more than 7 percent on Wednesday on hopes that a Trump administration would reinvigorate coal mining and investment in infrastructure. A mining slump has depressed Caterpillar’s profits and forced rounds of layoffs.
The Obama administration has pursued emissions rules designed to discourage coal-fired power plants, while Trump has said he would revive the coal industry and roll back regulation.
“There is bountiful evidence that free trade, tax reform, infrastructure investment and smart regulation are critically important to manufacturers’ success,” Caterpillar said in a statement.
Shares in farm and equipment maker Deere and truck makers Paccar Inc and Navistar International Corp also rose, as did oil stocks.
Railroads Norfolk Southern Corp and Union Pacific Corp rose 3.3 percent and 4 percent respectively. U.S. railroads have suffered as coal shipments have declined.
“Obviously this is good news for fossil energy and coal in particularly,” said National Mining Association spokesperson Luke Popovich. “We will have a profound shift in policy. And hopefully spur development in low emission and higher efficiency technologies which make coal cleaner to use.”
Regulation and federal policies are not the only challenge for coal.
“A new administration may result in less regulatory pressure for utilities, the competition offered by natural gas doesn’t change,” said Michael Trevino, spokesman for No. 2 U.S. railroad BNSF, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton cast a dark cloud over delegates attending a 200-nation meeting in Marrakesh being held from Nov. 7-18 to celebrate the start of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming last Friday.
Some delegates expressed concern that Trump could cause other nations to reconsider their position on global warming. Trump has said climate change was an invention by China and wants instead to promote jobs in the U.S. fossil fuel industry.
“We will have a lot more hurdles,” said Ian Fry, head of the delegation of Tuvalu, a Pacific island state which fears rising sea levels, adding Trump’s victory could have a “domino effect on other nations”.
The Paris Agreement allows all nations to set national targets to slow climate change and some could scale those back. There are no sanctions for non-compliance. Many nations vowed to push ahead despite Trump with the sweeping plan to phase out net global greenhouse gas emissions between 2050 and 2100 by shifting from coal and oil to cleaner energies such as wind or solar power.
Still, Trump’s victory drove down renewable energy stocks. Shares in Vestas, the world’s biggest wind turbine maker, were down 6.2 percent in mid-morning, while German peer Nordex traded 6.6 percent lower.
In the United States, Silicon Valley electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc sank 3.4 percent to its lowest price since February. Tesla benefits from federal tax breaks for electric vehicles and selling credits generated under a California electric vehicle policy.
Other renewable shares were also hit. Spain’s Gamesa, which is being merged with Siemens, and Portugal’s EDP Renovaveis traded 2.4 and 5.2 percent lower, respectively.
Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, a European forum for 128 investors with more than 13 trillion euros in assets, said changes towards greener growth were “irreversible”.
“Renewables have already overtaken coal as a global power source, electric vehicles are the growth segment of the auto industry and jobs are being created in clean energy sectors faster than any other,” she said.
(Editing by Joseph White and Andrew Hay)
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