U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions rising

The United States has been one of the few bright spots for climate-change policy in recent years. Thanks to the recession, improved efficiency measures and the shale-gas boom, the nation’s carbon-dioxide emissions from energy fell 12 percent between 2005 and 2012.

But the party’s officially ending, at least for those worried about global warming. In an early estimate, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions from energy sources increased 2 percent in 2013:

What happened? The big story here, as usual, involves coal and natural gas. Namely, U.S. electric utilities burned a bit more coal and a bit less natural gas in 2013. And since coal emits more carbon when burned for electricity, that increased emissions.

Energy analysts were predicting coal’s rebound in March, and it all comes down to prices. The shale fracking boom had pushed natural-gas prices to unsustainably low levels — down to a dirt-cheap $2 per million BTUs in 2012. As a result, electric utilities have been quickly switching to natural gas since 2006.

But prices crept up again this year past $4 per million BTUs, thanks to colder winters, higher demand for heating fuel, scaled-back drilling and new storage facilities that are preventing a glut of gas on the market. As a result, some electric utilities found it economical to shift back to coal, increasing emissions.

— Brad Plumer

U.S. charges 3 with Yen Libor rigging

Three former traders at Dutch lender Rabobank were charged by the United States with engaging in a five-year scheme to manipulate Yen Libor in a conspiracy beginning in 2006, prosecutors alleged in a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.

Paul Robson of the United Kingdom, Paul Thompson of Australia and Tetsuya Motomura of Japan were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, as well as two counts of wire fraud. None of the men are in U.S. custody, a court official said.

From about May 2006 to January 2011, the three men and unidentified “others” at the bank “agreed to make false and fraudulent Yen Libor submissions for the benefit of their trading positions,” according to the government.

The U.S. alleged that they traded in derivative products that referenced Yen Libor. Rabobank on Oct. 29 entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department as part of its investigation in benchmarks including Libor, the London Interbank Offered Rate, and agreed to pay a $325 million penalty. In the New York case, each defendant faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of each charge.

“These three traders — working from Japan, Singapore and the United Kingdom — deliberately submitted what they called ‘obscenely high’ or ‘silly low’ Libor rates in order to benefit their own trading positions,” Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Mythili Raman said in a statement.

— Bloomberg News

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