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Crude Oil Prices; Green Cars; Green Mutual Funds; Black Monday
Aired October 21, 2007 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WHITFIELD: The governor wants the feds to stop releasing water from Georgia reservoirs to Alabama and Florida.
And a happy ending for this Michigan family, a baby found safe and sound in his crib after his home was wiped out from a tornado. Now he's safe in his mother's arms. The 14-month-old got tossed about 40 feet when this tornado ripped apart his family home. And he was found ten minutes later under a pile of debris. He had been protected by the mattress from his crib.
A new threat to Iran to what it's calling enemy positions, the threat coming from Iraq's top military commanders. He says Iran is prepared to fire 11,000 rockets in less than a minute's notice, if it is attacked. The U.S. has not ruled out using force to stop Iran's nuclear program.
And in the Philippines, police in Manila says a bomb is to blame for an explosion at a shopping mall. Nine people are dead and more than 90 injured. The national police chief says it is likely the work of terrorists.
And the curfew has been lifted in Myanmar, it's the latest sign that officials have put an end to demonstrations against the military' run regime. People are being told they can come out of their homes and are, once again, permitted to gather in small groups.
And a pretty scary scene in British Vancouver, British Columbia. A small plane crashes into a 15 story apartment building. It happened shortly after takeoff and the pilot was killed and at least two people in the building were injured. No word on what exactly caused that crash.
We'll update the top stories at the bottom of the hour. Now time for YOUR MONEY.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Welcome to YOUR MONEY, where we look at how the news of the week affects your wallet. I'm Ali Velshi.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. Today, we're focusing on the link between the environment and your cash. Coming up, cars that have gone green without cutting back on performance.
VELSHI: Plus, to buy or not to buy. See if products that are claiming to be eco-friendly actually live up to the sales pitch.
ROMANS: And high-tech office gear that could keep you from burning jet fuel. We'll hear that from Microsoft's boss, Bill Gates.
VELSHI: Talking about fuel, crude oil topped $90 a barrel for the first time ever this week. And that has some people predicting it could actually wind up hitting triple digits, $100 a barrel or more.
ROMANS: Since we depend on oil for everything from driving to heating and even the plastic in that television set you're watching right now, when the price jumps, you pay.
VELSHI: And that got us wondering whether heftier cost per barrel is actually ratcheting up interest in alternative energy, not to mention conservation. Peter Beutel is going to tell us about that. He's the president of the energy risk management firm, Cameron Hanover.
Peter, good it see you again.
PETER BEUTEL, PRES, CAMERON HANOVER: Thank you.
VELSHI: First of all, I mean, the No. 1 question on people's minds when they see oil topping $90 a barrel is it's 10 bucks from 100. Are we going that way before we're going back down again?
BEUTEL: Well, it does looks like it's certainly a lot more possible than it was earlier in the year. I'd have to say, yes, it is possible. It looks like this market is on a collision course with the economy. Until we get a solid sign that the economy is headed towards a recession and that the fed will let it go into a recession, I don't think this market is going to stop moving higher.
ROMANS: Peter, are we going to see this at the pump in the near future?
BEUTEL: Yes, we're going it see it next week. So, if you haven't seen any increase at the pump already, you will see 20 cents coming this next week. If you've seen a nickel already, say in the last week, then you've got 15 cents coming. But a total of 20 cents so far in the last nine days is what we've seen.
VELSHI: Wow. A whole lot of people out there will say bad news, there might be a contingent of people who say good news because the argument is only when gas prices get to a certain level do Americans think again about conservation. I don't know what I believe any more, Peter. We had this discussion in the past. What is it going it take to have people conserve?
BEUTEL: Well, I'm shocked that it hasn't happened already. Every penny increase costs Americans $4 million per penny, per day. So, just in the last nine or ten days we're spending $80 million a day more on gasoline than we were 10 days ago. I don't know where this money is coming from and I honestly thought we were going to going to have resistance to this a long time ago. It hasn't happened. I have a feeling when it does happen it's going to happen all at once and with a deal a vengeance in it, as well.
ROMANS: Peter, when you look at what it is going to heat our homes three times more than it was five years ago. You're talking about $3,000 for the winter for some households. Where are normal working Americans going to get that money to pay for that difference?
BEUTEL: Well, this is the question I've been asking because that's for a small house. You know, people who use 1,000 gallons a season, which is a normal season, say in New York, lower Connecticut, New Jersey, you know, that was $1,000 five years ago and now it's going to be $3,000. If you've got a big house, you could be talking $4,000, $5,000 and I don't know where working class, middle class, the young or some of the people who have retired are going to find this kind of money.
ROMANS: Now, a guy like you, you say you put on a sweater and turn on the thermostat, you -- when you have to go teach a class or whatever, you do your -- you piggyback your shopping on top of that. Should more people be doing that and will these prices force more people to do it?
BEUTEL: I think they've got to, I don't see how people can't start thinking about it and playing this game smart because the price is getting so high that, really, it's starting to interfere with anything else people are trying to do, eating, you know, the things that you need to keep living, mortgage. I mean, I honestly expected some people may have trouble picking this winter between heating their home and keeping their home or paying the mortgage on it.
VELSHI: You make a good point, you got mortgages, you got gas prices, you got heating oil, you have all of these things and it's got people thinking particularly in a week where we've seen a market perform differently than we have in the last couple months. Can this cause a recession? So many of the last several spikes in oil have resulted in a recession, is that a danger for us?
BEUTEL: I think it is. You know, a lot of people tell me I'm wrong and so far I've got to admit, I've been premature. We have not seen one and I thought we would. But every other time that we've tripled or quadrupled, we have had a recession within about two years.
So, I think at some point when you take that much money out of people's buying power, you know, it has to have an effect somewhere. You know, if you're spending $2,000 more to heat your home this winter than you were five years ago, that's $2,000 you don't have for presents for the holidays, for a vacation, for eating out, movies. I don't see how it can't have an impact, I really don't.
ROMANS: You know, Peter, like solar panels it was more of a statement than anything else some people were putting solar panels -- and when we're talking about prices like this...
VELSHI: That statement becomes more practical.
ROMANS: It really narrows the gap when maybe a solar panel starts to pay off.
BEUTEL: Well yes, and I expect that we are going to see a lot more of that because the cost of electricity has pretty much doubled in the last five years. So, if you can have solar panels where you're actually even having a little excess, in some cases you may be able to sell it back to the grid. That makes a huge difference. You know, that could be $200, $300 a month for some families. That could make a big difference.
VELSHI: A money making opportunity when prices for energy are going up. Peter, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for being with us.
ROMANS: All right, up next on YOUR MONEY, cars that get more than 40 miles per gallon. We'll tell you about hot wheels that will burn less cash and produce less carbon.
ROMANS: If going easy on the environment isn't enough for you to think of switching to a hybrid car, maybe this week's record-high oil prices is enough to think about switching.
VELSHI: You know, gas prices haven't fully moved up, but as we heard from Peter Beutel, you can expect prices to go up with oil having crossed $90 a barrel. Hybrids aren't the only choice, though, for people who want to ease the burden on the planet. Mike Quincy is going to run through some of the options. He's the automotive content specialist for "Consumer Reports," and a good friend of the show.
And we have the age-old question, Michael; can you be green with your car and save some money at the same time?
MICHAEL QUINCY, CONSUMER REPORTS: Sure, you can. I mean, you don't have to necessarily run out and buy a new hybrid just to save money. There's very simple things you can do with the car you own such as checking your tire pressure, taking all the excess weight out of your car.
ROMANS: That really makes a difference, actually.
QUINCY: Oh sure, all those pounds adds up.
VELSHI: I'm the biggest excess weight in my car. Let's talk about the hybrids for a second, then. I mean, we know that they sell for a premium. They cost more to get the hybrid model of the car, than not. Let's take the Prius or the Honda Civic hybrid. These are some of the more popular ones, the ones that have been around the longest. Is there a gain? Do I actually in the end save money if I buy one of these cars? If I pay extra to buy one of them because of the gas saving that I get?
QUINCY: In a word, no. You really have to drive the car maybe 15 years, 20 years, something like that, before you're ever going to recoup that savings when you compare the price of a Honda Civic hybrid and a regular Honda Civic. The price premium, you're almost never going to see that.
But, a lot of people don't necessarily buy that and "Consumer Reports" has talked about this for years, ever since the first hybrids came out. And what you're getting, really, is you're burning less gas. When the hybrid comes up to a stop light, the engine shuts down. So, there are no tail pipe emissions. You buy a hybrid because you care about the environment. You buy a hybrid because you want to burn less gas, but unless you're coming out of a big V8 SUV, you're not going to see big gas savings, per se.
ROMANS: Right, your conscious will cost you.
QUINCY: Right. But this is what people say, I'm not buying it for the money, I'm buying it because I want to be green.
ROMANS: You guys think about, OK, the Prius and the Civic hybrid, you always hear about the Prius, my apologies to Honda, but hear about the Prius. Prius is the one that's sort of like the L.A., I'm going to make a statement about my personality by driving this car.
VELSHI: Because you can't make the statement with the Honda version or with the Ford Escape or anything like that because they look exactly the same.
QUINCY: Exactly. I think any auto company that's really thinking about the future, when they're developing hybrid cars, they better take a page from Toyota's playbook, and that is, make your environmental car different looking. The Prius is very distinctive in the way it looks and that's why it's caught on so well. The Honda Civic hybrid, really good car, great fuel economy, excellent reliability in "Consumer Reports" surveys, but it looks like any other Honda Civic. You're not making the same statement as you're making with the Prius.
VELSHI: Now, you point out that without going that hybrid route and paying the premium, there are a few cars that you could think about buying that just are fuel efficient.
QUINCY: Sure. Again, you don't have to necessarily pony up the extra dollars for a hybrid model. "Consumer Reports" is really big on some of the smaller cars.
VELSHI: You mention the Toyota Rav 4.
QUINCY: The Toyota Rav 4. For a small SUV, this is...
ROMANS: No wait, fuel efficient SUV? Can we use that in the same sentence?
QUINCY: That's a good point. When people say I want a fuel efficient SUV, you think, well, gee, why are you even bothering? But the Toyota Rav4 in the four cylinder and V6, versions did very well in "Consumer Reports" tests, excellent in our reliability surveys and actually you're only giving up about one mile per gallon when you go from the four cylinder to the V6. The V6 is actually a lot of fun to drive.
ROMANS: What about some of these mid-size SUVs, I mean, there's a Lexus RX400H. Tell me about that one. QUINCY: That's the hybrid version of the upscale Lexus car-based SUV. "Consumer Reports" has tested the 400H as well as the RX350, the normal one, and we found about one mile per gallon increase in the hybrid. It went from about 22 to about 23 more or less.
So, again, you're not blowing the doors off of the fuel economy numbers, but what you're getting is Toyota has taken that electric propulsion from the hybrid system, they're combing it with the power of the gasoline engine. You're getting wicked acceleration.
ROMANS: The acceleration. This is a guy who drives cars for a living. Wicked acceleration.
VELSHI: But that's what people thought, that if you get a hybrid you lose the power.
QUINCY: Right, right. There's some performance-based hybrids, like the RX400H and there are more economy-based hybrids like the Prius. The 400H just scoots away from a red light, it's kind of like having a green turbo. You're getting all this extra power without the guilt.
ROMANS: A green turbo.
VELSHI: What about this Honda Fit.
QUINCY: The Honda Fit is an excellent car, done very well in "Consumer Reports" tests. About 34 mile per gallon overall, that's combined highway and city. To put it in comparison, the Prius is about 44 miles per gallon overall. However, the Honda Fit is about $10,000 cheaper, still reliable, four-door practicality.
VELSHI: What is that, a car a...
QUINCY: It's like a five-door hatchback, but is has a very reasonable back seat, it has good cargo area, it has excellent safety features and, again, very fuel economy, 34 miles per gallons with the manual transmission version, in "Consumer Reports" testing. I mean, it's just as, in some ways, environmentally friendly as a hybrid with the exception of the engine doesn't shut off at a stoplight.
ROMANS: Great advice for a car culture that we certainly are, a car culture that is getting a little more green, so we need to know all this information. Michael Quincy, "Consumer Reports," thank you, sir.
VELSHI: Wicked acceleration.
Coming up after the break, you can actually help the planet by carefully choosing how to invest your money and you can make money that same time. So, stay with us, we'll show you how to do that when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VELSHI: Those record oil prices we told you about topping $90 a barrel helped drag down Wall Street's performance this week and that's after the markets hit a record high the week before. But if you're concerned about the environment, you don't have to just be in the market to make money.
ROMANS: Pick what's known as a green mutual fund and you're betting on a payoff for the planet, as well as yourself. Michael Herbst is a mutual fund analyst with Morningstar. He's going to tell us what a green fund can offer you and what it invests in exactly.
Michael, welcome to the program.
MICHAEL HERBST, MORNINGSTAR: Many thanks.
ROMANS: OK, there's a couple of ways that I kind of see this, there green in that you can invest in fuel cell technology and the green technologies and there's green in that you can invest in companies that are doing their part to try to address climate change and their impact on the environment, is that right?
HERBST: That's true. We've seen two basic approaches to the area and you actually hit a key issue right on the head, which is how does the manager define green? Everyone has their own definitions. And as you've mentioned, what we've seen are two basic approaches. One we kind of view as a best in breed approach where a manager is trying to sizing up the environmental credibility of companies, say Toyota versus GM.
And the second bucket, which to myself is a little bit more interesting is managers who are investing directly in companies that provide services or goods related to areas like alternative energy, clean technology and energy-efficiency.
VELSHI: Let's take a look at some of the companies that you brought to our attention. One is calls the Winslow Green Growth Fund and it falls into the category that you said you are interested in, a manager who actually looks for alternative energy investments.
HERBST: That's correct. Here, managers, Jack Robinson and Matt Patsky kind of dip into both buckets, so that is you'll see companies like solar panel manufacturer, First Solar, in the portfolio next to Mexican restaurant food chain, Chipotle restaurants.
In our view, that kind of diversification, and I should stress that they also invest in software companies and healthcare companies, as well. That means that it might give investors a little bit of a buffer in case issues sock the energy sectors.
ROMANS: A buffer, indeed, as we saw from the performance beating the markets over the past few years, although, of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results as they always say on Wall Street. OK, but let's look at new alternatives. NALSX, tell us about that one.
VELSHI: Talk about beating the market. HERBST: This is another, the New Alternative's Fund is another fund that we would look to in terms of manager experience. Here Maurice and David Shonewald have been investing in green companies since 1982, probably earlier than that even. I'd stress here that manager experience is one of the key things that investors should dig into when they're looking at these funds. The reason I say that is most of the companies within this area, those investing, those producing goods or services for energy and energy efficiency, those typically are smaller and mid-cap companies, which come with their own set of risks.
VELSHI: Let's take a quick look at something called the Calvert Global Alternative Energy Fund which I suspect from the name means it invests in alternate energy companies?
HERBST: That's correct, this is a fund that recently launched, It's sub-advised by KBC Asset Management, out of Europe, I bring attention to that fact because Europe, both in terms of the regulatory environment and the business stage amenities companies is a few steps more advanced than here in the states.
I would say that the regulation component here is also key in terms of looking at the funds because the regulatory environment, particularly in Europe, but I'd expect to see it more in the states in the next couple years -- their regulatory environment could have a huge impact on the success or failure of the companies that these managers are investing in.
ROMANS: Right, there are risks in some of these areas in deed. Another market vector is environmental services, tell us quickly about that one. It hasn't had the returns of some of the others that you pointed out.
HERBST: Sure, that fund is actually an exchange-traded fund and I should say that of the roughly a dozen "green" oriented ETFs that we've seen, more than three quarters of those have launched over the last year. And I guess what I would stress here is not every ETF is the same. And the one that you mentioned, I would bring to your attention because here you have a portfolio that's extremely concentrate with only 24 stocks, more than 20 percent of assets are dedicated to three stocks, which, from my standpoint is a pretty risky proposition.
ROMANS: So, when you look at some of the rurns in the last couple in particular there, it's a little tougher there because they don't have the track record, I guess. So, fascinating. Michael Herbst, thank you so much from Morningstar. Thank you.
HERBST: My pleasure.
ROMANS: All right, this week marks the 20th anniversary of Black Monday, the day the Dow Industrials plunged more than 22 percent.
VELSHI: In a day. Could it happen again? Susan Lisovicz joins us from the New York Stock Exchange with a look at the lessens that we've learned in the 20 years since the stock market crash of 1987. Hey Susan, I mean, can this kind of thing that happened in 1987 happen again on the Stock Exchange?
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Ali, one of the really scary things is that there are so many similarities in '07 as to what happened in '87. First of all, the dollar is really weak. There's a lot of instability in the Middle East. There are concerns about the foreign trade deficit and the federal budget deficit and, most importantly, human psychology, human nature hasn't changed at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ART CASHIN, DIR FLOOR OPERATIONS, NYSE: The human emotion is a very, very powerful force. And if there is great concern, then people will behave irrationally. You know, we talk about irrational exuberance on the upside, well it can be irrational panic to the downside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LISOVICZ: The good news, Christine, is that there are some things that have happened since then. And one is that there are mechanized curbs that are in place and, in fact, only once since then, that was also in October, 10 years ago, in 1997, where trading was actually halted.
So, there will be halts to trading so that people can get a chance to catch their breath. But, guess what? For there to be a halt at these levels, there would have to be a drop in the Dow of 1,350 points. And there's one other important thing, too, Ali. And I'm sure this will really resonate with you. And that is the fact that so many stocks now are multi-national companies. For instance, we got Caterpillar, the big construction equipment company, today it brought its numbers down for the year, but, guess what, there's a lot of strength overseas. And that's what you're seeing. There may be weakness in North America or in the U.S., but there is strength overseas in other pockets of the world.
VELSHI: Good point, Susan, although one thing Caterpillar also said, and you're seeing this effect in the market, this week. There's this talk of recession again, are you hearing that stuff on the floor? Are people actually worried that we could be headed to a recession?
LISOVICZ: Oh, I think that there is no question about it and I think that's why the federal reserve acted as aggressively as it did. Whether that would trigger a big wave of selling, how the fed acts, what we're seeing as we get these numbers and these forecasts from corporate America. I mean, it all contributes. But, yeah, I think there is definite concern and I think you're seeing it play out. I mean, oil's going high, the dollar is very weak and this week the stocks have been hit hard.
VELSHI: Susan, good to see you, thank you so much.
LISOVICZ: Likewise. VELSHI: Something Susan will remember, you will rember, I will remember, we were all covering markets on September 17, 2001, when markets opened after the attacks of 2001. Big losses that week and within one month, the markets were back to where they were. After all, it took one month to recover from the attacks of 2001. So, markets are remarkably resilient and people do invest. So, it doesn't mean that you should invest without regard to where markets are going, where the economy is going, but you should keep your money working for you.
ROMANS: All right, so coming up, see what's more environmentally friendly, buying so-called green products or just sticking with the stuff you've already got.
Plus, hear from Bill Gates about his plan to get rid of business travel and help the environment at the same time.
VELSHI: If the show is looking a little green to you, don't adjust the TV set. The green is the new black. We're talking about everything green today to do with your $$$.
ROMANS: Buying everything from organic cotton jeans to shower heads, it's all the rage, but is it the best way for you to make a difference when it comes to climate change. Jen rogers takes a look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give it a try, see how it works for you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I appreciate it.
JEN ROGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shop and save the planet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I try and buy like recycled toilet paper, recycled printing paper. Just getting into getting like better light bulbs.
ROGERS: Not just for tree huggers and hippies, eco chic is becoming a bigger part of our consumption culture.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I buy a lot of hemp clothing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I try to buy organics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Environmentally friendly cleaners for the house, dishwasher liquid, stuff like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: GE is starting a credit card I might get where every purchase will contribute an environmental cause.
ROGERS: To Wal-Mart to Home Depot, corporate America is making it easier than ever to go green.
RON JARVIS, HOME DEPOT: Each consumer can make a difference. Even if you don't want to save the world and save the environment, you can save yourself a lot of money.
ROGERS: But all this shopping may be creating lazy environmentalists, more interested in spending than sacrifice.
LISA WISE, CENTER FOR THE NEW AMERICAN DREAM: We're asking people to think about whether they need something in the first place.
ROGERS: Lisa Wise, with the Center for the New American Dream, works to promote environmentally sustainable consumption.
WISE: Sometimes the best choice is not making any, any purchase at all.
ROGERS: Home Depot and other retailers argue, consumers are going to buy anyway, so why not give them greener choices.
JARVIS: With eco options, we want to bring products to our consumers that makes it easy for them to walk down the aisles and pick between products that have less of an impact on the environment every day of the week.
ROGERS (on camera): Want to be more environmentally friendly yourself, but not ready to retire the credit card? Conservation advocates say limit shopping to quality goods that will last. Oh, don't forget to bring your own reusable bags.
Jen Rogers, CNN, New York.
ROMANS: Did you hear what that woman said?
VELSHI: I wrote it down.
ROMANS: Sometimes the best --
VELSHI: Sometimes the best choice is making no choice at all.
ROMANS: Ali Velshi --
VELSHI: Jennifer -- it's too bad she's not with us right now, because that's not a choice. That's not an option, not one that any of you use. Unbelievable.
ROMANS: Ali doesn't want to deny himself anything. He's going to go green as long as he's not going to deny himself.
VELSHI: It's our viewing public -- it is the consumers of America, who don't need high oil prices or high interest rates to stop them from spending, they need both hands and legs tied behind their back. They are not going to do it. There's a lot of shopping that goes on out there. What we can do, Christine, is we can help our viewers understand a little bit about how to make better choices for the environment.
ROMANS: Ali has laid down the gauntlet -- he is not going to slow down on his spending.
We're going to talk about how to decide what to do, what to buy --
VELSHI: There may be some help here.
ROMANS: A non-profit group aims to put all this information in your hands. It's called Climate Counts, and it rates nearly 60 companies on their eco-friendliness. Is that a word? Eco- friendliness?
VELSHI: Now it is.
ROMANS: That is the brain child of Gary Hirshberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Farms, the world's biggest organic yogurt company.
Thanks for joining us.
GARY HIRSHBERG, CEO, STONYFIELD FARM: My pleasure, glad to be here.
ROMANS: Ali is not going to cut back on any of his spending. What kind of companies are more green than others, where he should be spending his money.
VELSHI: And who to believe.
ROMANS: Sometimes I worry that some of these companies are turning green in their marketing only. That they found out that people will pay up a little bit for something if they think it's environmentally friendly so they say, hey, we're environmentally friendly. How am I supposed to know and navigate that?
HIRSHBERG: It's a great question and we call it green scamming on the consumer product side. We created Climate Counts. Ali can go to climatecounts.org and pick up a little brochure like this or see it online. We've actually rated 56 companies in eight consumer sectors.
The measurement that we took was very simple. We set benchmarks, have companies measured their climate impacts, have they taken meaningful steps to reduce their climate footprints, have they taken a positive or negative position on climate policy, and then have they disclosed their result, their climate actions, to consumers and other stakeholders.
What this does, it allows the consumer, on a scale of 0 to 100, to know right away if the companies are, in fact, committed to the stuff that they're talking about, if there talk/do ratios are low.
ROMANS: Right down to food services -- you could make a choice what kind of fast food you're going to get. And there are some big differences between a hamburger at one place versus a hamburger at the other place, based on how these companies rank for their green friendliness.
HIRSHBERG: Again, this is a scale of 0 to 100 measuring commitment by looking at these criteria. McDonald's got a 22. Now, I tell my children if they came home from school with a 22 on their report card they would be grounded for months. But on the other hand, Burger King got a zero. And so what we are doing we are giving McDonald's and Burger King a chance to annually be rescored. In McDonald's case, they are measuring their impact, they are reducing their energy use, they're supporting the development of clean fuels.
And Burger King has shown absolutely no efforts to measure or reduce impact and we think it is very, very easy for McDonald's to grow their score and very easy for Burger King to get their score up there, as well. This gives businesses a very simple guideline for kind of a road map for what they can do to make a meaningful difference.
ROMANS: Ali and I talked about this over and over again, we can talk about wearing a sweater and turning down the thermostat and not driving the extra three trips a week, and all these other things, but if we all did that together, it would have a marginal impact on the environment. It would have an impact, but a marginal impact when you compare it with what companies can do. They are the ones that are really driving this.
HIRSHBERG: This is a way that consumers can have an impact by simply telling business, This matters to me. You know and I know, when you buy something, you're voting. And you also know that corporations like my own spend billions of dollars tallying those votes every year. We spend enormous amounts of money to know what consumer trends are.
As you're covering in this entire program today, it's obvious that industry understands that green is good, green is where the green is. This just provides a credible and objective way that consumers and business can be part of the problem. We call it the carrot and stick. Obviously, the carrot to industry is, go where the consumer wants. The stick is, if you don't, maybe you won't get as much sales.
ROMANS: Gary, if your kid came home with a 63, they'd be in trouble too. There you are in food products, behind Unilever. Stonyfield Farms has a little bit of work to do, although you're near the top of the list.
VELSHI: Gary, thanks a million for joining us. Gary Hirshberg is the chairman of ClimateCounts.org. He's also the CE-Yo -- and not everybody thinks that's as funny as I do --
ROMANS: I think it's hysterical.
VELSHI: -- of Stonyfield Yoghurt. CE-Yo, Y-O.
Coming up next on YOUR $$$, new technology could mean the end of business travel. Hear all about it, next, from Bill Gates himself. Stay with us.
ROMANS: It could be tough to be a green business traveler because you're flying all over the place.
VELSHI: You're burning a lot of fuel every time you're in a plane.
ROMANS: A lot of folks feel there is nothing as good, in the business world, as a face-to-face meeting. You just can't beat meeting face-to-face.
VELSHI: I feel that way because I do this when I talk and I carry on, but what if you could have that same level of efficiency and effectiveness without actually having to travel? Bill Gates says the next generation of software for workers actually makes that easier and as effective as being there in person.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Courtney Puckett (ph) and I'm on (INAUDIBLE).
BILL GATES, CHMN, MICROSOFT: All the people around the table are -- you can see them, even if you're not in the meeting itself.
VELSHI (voice-over): It's called Microsoft Roundtable, a new video conferencing camera. It's just a part of Microsoft's push into the future of how we work. Using this camera and Microsoft's next generation of office software, people in different places can see each other and collaborate on projects.
(On camera): Most of you have seen video conferencing before. Here's what you probably haven't seen. Watch this -- as I walk around the room, this camera will follow me. For a video conference experience, it makes it richer and helps me keep the audience engaged.
What is also new is that we can collaborate at the same time on some sort of decision. In this case, whether the people on this conference want to go with a suite of software or a product. We're seeing how they're voting right now.
(voice-over): Because the system is connected to the Internet, the camera and the software will cost a fraction of traditional video conferencing systems, and anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection can join the call and share information that's on their computer.
JEFF RAIKES, PRES. MICROSOFT BUSINESS DIVISION: While I'm talking to you, I might say, Ali, I want to look at this year's budget and I immediately share my desktop with you so that you and I are looking at m my, at my screen at the same time. I can pass control over to you so that you can actually, from your computer, be manipulating my spreadsheet. VELSHI: Bill Gates says the sense of presence this new system provides, as well as the ability to share, see and change things simultaneously, means it could be faster and cheaper to develop even complex things like cars.
GATES: So we provide the common layer where car engineers, car planners, car advertisers, people supplying parts -- we're making it easy for all those people to come together.
ROMANS: Are they pushing it as green? Is it something --
VELSHI: No, this is just the future. This is the way it work. This is the actual little camera. It looks like the Starship Enterprise, and it's a few thousand bucks. A lot less money than a traditional video conferencing unit. Their sales pitch isn't necessarily that it is green, but if I could give up a few flights to have a conversation in person woth the same textureas being there --
ROMANS: Not to mention the productivity. Video conferencing has already raised people's productivity because you haven't had to run to all these different towns. There are some people who, no matter what, are still going to want to meet face-to-face.
VELSHI: When we report a story, we have to go to the place where the story is. For a lot of people it could save a lot of money and it could save the environment a little bit.
ROMANS: Coming up next on YOUR $$$$, desperate measures to help the housing market, and why you won't be able to find a certain type of TV at one major electronics chain.
VELSHI: Welcome back to YOUR $$$$. Jennifer Westhoven is joining us now, and something very interesting has developed this week, in that we all knew there was a housing crisis, but some things happened that made some people say, this might be getting worse before it gets better.
JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN: Yes. In fact, they're thinking this is maybe -- some economists think we could be in a second leg down for the housing market. That means more people may be facing trouble here, facing foreclosures.
We already have the number of people losing their home in foreclosure at the highest level since the Great Depression. This week Congress may just take some action. Now first, the House Judiciary Committee -- if your mortgage company won't help you renegotiate, maybe a judge could, some day. A measure would let bankruptcy judges change your mortgage agreement. So, possibly, keeping your rates down, maybe making the difference whether you keep or lose your home. And then, over in the House Financial Services Committee, Representative Barney Frank -- he is expected it to introduce some measures that would crack down on the lending practices, criticized as lax, that got so many Americans in over their heads in the first place. The mortgage industry, as you might imagine, is fighting some of these new measures -- they have some powerful lobbyists.
ROMANS: Because when you talk about a bailout, in any form, even if it's allowing a judge to get protections in for people, you have to make sure that the wrong people, people who made mistakes for the wrong reasons, are bailed out.
VELSHI: This isn't a way out of making bad decisions. Ben Bernanke said that on Monday, to say, the Fed can help the economy, it can't save people from bad investment decisions or bad choices or bad lending decisions or bad buying decisions. This is the fine line that we're walking.
WESTHOVEN: One area that they're smelling closely is, there are mortgage brokers who get paid more to put you in a higher interest loan, a loan you're more likely to default on.
VELSHI: Because someone makes more money on it if you don't default.
WESTHOVEN: There is your broker acting like, this is a great mortgage, and it's not. Something they'll look closely at.
ROMANS: What were some of the loans that people were taking out, the ninja loans?
WESTHOVEN: No income, no job, no assets.
ROMANS: Someone who took out a loan like that, I'm a little concerned if a bankruptcy judge will help them out.
VELSHI: Can't make that mistake twice.
Speaking about -- we want to update you on a story. Remember my TV made its way to Jennifer a couple months ago.
ROMANS: That's right, Ali got a new --
VELSHI: Jennifer ended up without a TV, in the end -- that TV didn't have much life in it. Apparently I gave her a dud.
WESTHOVEN: It fizzled. That's okay, because apparently I would have need a new one anyway.
VELSHI: That one might have handled it, but if it were an analog, if it were a little older, you're going it be out of luck soon.
WESTHOVEN: It's going to be difficult to see us. At Best Buy they are taking all the analogue TVs off the shelves. They are going the way of the dinosaurs. Digital and high def only in the future, but that's because they're going to be going extinct. You're not going to be able to use them.
If you're one of the 60 million people with analog TVs, you'll have to buy a converter if you want to keep watching us on that set in 2009. That's the date the federal government said all stations have to switch to digital only. There will be coupons for these converters and where else can you use them? Places like Best Buy.
VELSHI: How convenient.
ROMANS: I can't believe you gave her a television that broke.
VELSHI: I can't believe I gave her a television that broke.
ROMANS: It probably wasn't even worth the cab fare to get it home.
WESTHOVEN: He worked so hard to bring it over.
VELSHI: That was an effort, my parents were involved. Very sad that TV didn't work out. We're still friends and it's all good.
WESTHOVEN: I think it's on the curb right now.
ROMANS: Jennifer Westhoven, thank you very much.
For Steve Hindy, every day is happy hour. Following a 15-year career as a journalist in some of the most dangerous regions in the Middle East, Hindy's life took a very different turn.
VELSHI: In 1987, Hindy launched the Brooklyn Brewery. Now, over the last two decades, his business has soared. Equally as eye-opening as his profits, though, is the way he chose to power his dream.
VELSHI (voice-over): Beer, wonderful beer -- brewed with hops, barley barley and wind. What does wind have to do with beer?
STEVE HINDY, FOUNDER, BROOKLYN BREWERY: It's really easy to convert to wind power. Most utilities and our utility here in New York has a division that enables you to sign up for green power.
VELSHI: This is Steve Hindy. He's the owner of New York City's Brooklyn Brewery, which is 100 percent wind-powered. His path to wind power began in the big Northeast blackout of 2003.
HINDY: 2003 was the year there was a big blackout in New York. These tanks you see behind me are all temperature controlled. And the refrigeration units are powered by electricity. It was very warm and the temperature started rising in those tanks. We were looking at the possibility of losing a few hundred thousand dollars in sales and it gave us a lot of time to think about electricity, where it's coming from, what the future of our power supply is.
VELSHI: Luckily for Steve and for drinkers of his beer, the power came on before the beer spoiled, but Steve wasn't taking any more chances, so he signed up with community energy, a Pennsylvania utility which provides power generated by wind farms.
BRENT ALDERFER, EXEC. VP, COMMUNITY ENERGY: The wind turns the rotor and then at the top of the tower is a large generator. And that electricity is fed down through the tower, underground, into the electricity grid. So, when the wind's blowing, that generation goes directly into the electricity grid that serves all of our homes.
VELSHI: And businesses. But there's a catch.
HINDY: It was kind of a intriguing idea. We felt that it would say something about our company if we were buying our power from wind mills. But it came with a price tag. It cost about 10 percent to 15 percent more than our regular electric bill, here in New York City.
ALDERFER: What we've done at Community Energy is given customers a choice to agree to pay a little bit more at current prices so we can put the wind farms up now. Once they're up, this is a pure capital investment. There's no fuel. The fuel is the wind, so the fuel is free.
VELSHI: Is it worth it?
HINDY: I at one point said, well, I'm not so sure it means we will sell a lot more beer, but it is the right thing to do, and that's why we're doing it. And I got between 80 and 100 e-mails and letters saying, You're wrong, you are going to sell more beer, because I will only drink Brooklyn Beer from now on -- I'm really proud of you for switching to wind power.
It had a positive effect on our business that we didn't really anticipate.
ROMANS: I guess that's green beer.
Stay with us, we'll be right back.
VELSHI: You might be wondering why we're doing all this green -- well, there's a big event this week on CNN.
ROMANS: Join CNN's Anderson Cooper, chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin for the four-hour documentarym, "PLANET IN PERIL."
VELSHI: It's airing this Tuesday and Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. It's really worth the watch and we hope we've helped you, at least, relate some of the environmental concerns to your pocketbook.
ROMANS: Thanks for joing us on this edition of YOUR $$$$.
VELSHI: You can catch Christine later today at 6:00 pm Eastern on "LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK."
ROMANS: And you can see Ali every weekday morning on "AMERICAN MORNING." We'll see you back here next week.
VELSHI: Saturday at 1:00 and Sunday at 3:00. Have a great day.
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