Friday, March 13

The Future Is Here

Photo of an electric-car charger on Berkeley Square, which is the most expensive commercial real-estate in London and home to Blackstone, HarbourVest and other private equity and hedge funds (pssst: rates are coming down).

Owning an electric avoids London's £8 congestion charge and carbon-emission tarrif which can surpass £500 per year depending on car-class. Is this enough to get rid of the Range Rovers, unaffectionately known as "Chelsea tractors" used to shuffle kids back and forth from primary school or road-hogs yapping on their mobile whilst driving? Probably not, but a start anyway. Former Mayor Ken Livingston wanted to charge £25 per day for high-emission cars like the SUV but Boris has shied away from something so politically unpopular. Oh well, I'm left to curse under my breath (full disclosure: on holiday I get the biggest damn car I can drive in America and love it).

I have breakfast with Brad who visits London from Chapel Hill to talk to oil and gas guys and investors in his gas-renewables project. Brad is partnered with all kinds of heavy weights like Siemens and ExonMobil and if anybody can make a buck while energy prices down, it is him. And I expect him to retire when rates up, as is inevitable. Brad and I met early last year while he and his family in London and he running $billions for Babson Capital (Mass. Mutual); we enjoy each other's company - Brad rather formal and a converted Republican - and his sense of humour allows us to joke around the edges and appreciate each others views. He's also a maths genius and a John Motley Morehead Scholar at Univ. of North Carolina where he got his BA and JD. I now envy his suburban lifestyle complete with barbecue grill and UNC basketball games. Since the Tar Heels ranked #1 I am told in good faith that getting tickets requires $25,000 donation minimum to the athletics department. This season sounds like a bargain. Says Brad: "reality is the yellow line in the middle of the road" which I think applies to many a thing.

Here's another nice reason to love W. Bush: The Federal Reserve reports today that U.S. households lost $5.1 trillion in the final three months of 2008. What American family would ever have voted for the Iraq war knowing the disastrous return on our investment in this silly, ill-planned and unnecessary war? Sure, I buy that the 50 leverage cycle unravelling but recall, Dear Sir, that 50% of the run-up occurred from 2004 squarely under Bush's watch - a president, BTW, who promoted asset ownership, primarily property, whilst the market flooded with cash thanks to Greenspan's low interest rates and failure to understand anything at all about the economy. And who could forget el President's "this sucker could go down" on September 28, 2008? At least Super Gee has not hit the panic button and seems to understand Britain and the world's troubles. As does Obama I feel, though I am sometimes worried that he is giving attention to plans outside the critical-path of banking and liquidity - afterall, if we don't get the economy's heart pumping you can say goodbye to education, welfare and all that.