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If the U.S. regulates carbon emissions, would your portfolio take a hit?

A discussion with Dan Bakal, director of electric-power programs for Ceres.

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For years, investment experts have warned about the financial risks industries face if the United States regulates greenhouse gases. Now, they're getting specific – focusing on which companies face the most risk under what legislation. Ceres, a Boston-based network of investors, environmental organizations, and other groups, has published an in-depth report on how electric utilities might fare under two carbon-regulation bills. The Senate began debating one of them on Monday. The Monitor's Laurent Belsie talked recently with Dan Bakal, the group's director of electric-power programs, about the findings. Here is an edited transcript of their conversation: Would carbon regulation wallop the electric-power industry?

Mr. Bakal: It certainly will have a significant impact. And I would say both positive and negative. So it will wallop maybe some companies. But it doesn't necessarily wallop the industry overall.

What's the negative impact?

A lot of it depends on what happens in Congress.... At a basic level, the companies that emit the most CO2 will be certainly impacted as you put a cost on CO2 emissions, which is what any regulation is going to do. That does have an impact on the biggest emitters. And those tend to be the biggest coal-fired generators, meaning they use coal to produce electricity.

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