If you’ve been paying any attention to the deliciously dramatic market-manipulating Robin Hood fantasy (the real one, not the app one) playing out under the GME ticker in the past week or so, you likely have been asking yourself: if a bunch of GED-holding, basement-dwelling Redditors can upset the trajectory of the stock market and bring down hedge fund managers in the course of a few days of a whole lot of tweeting and upvoting, what else can they accomplish? Could they, perhaps, change the financial world in a way that matters a whole lot more than the market cap of GameStop? Let’s back up. If you haven’t been paying attention to Reddit’s occupation of Wall Street, here’s what happened in a nutshell: small-time traders on the subreddit r/wallstreetbets have made a hobby of organizing to buy up stocks of certain selected companies, creating a phenomenon now known as meme stocks. In the last couple of weeks, meme stocks went from being an internet inside joke to reaching headlines across the world as the subreddit’s users coalesced to buy up stocks in the ailing video game retailer GameStop, knowing that many hedge funds had shorted GME. The idea was to inflate the stock value of GameStop to such a degree that these hedge funds would take a huge hit and have to sell off at a higher price to mitigate the damage. And it worked to a stunning degree–for a while. GameStop’s stock value rose by a whopping 1,600% before plummeting back down.
But while GameStop’s rally didn’t last (although it was cut short to a degree by a trading freeze imposed by the popular amateur trading app Robinhood), the story continues to capture the public imagination. It has all the trappings of the kind of David-versus-Goliath empowerment story that you can’t help but love. And it raises all kinds of essential questions about the ephemeral and constructed nature of the stock market and financial instruments that have never been more timely in an era that so many people are out of work and struggling to make ends meet while the stock market continues to rise, and rise, and rise. In the United States alone, 8 million people have fallen under the poverty line since summer at the exact same time that the “soaring stock market has created a club of centibillionaires.”
So it’s no wonder that many of those watching the r/wallstreetbets saga unfold are eager to know what’s coming next, and whether the next target might be something a little bit more impactful than the video game store going out of business at a mall near you. Already, Redditors have refocused their attention on AMC and then on something a little more tangible by pushing up the value of silver. Already, the wild swings seen in the case of GameStop and, to a lesser degree, AMC are tapering off. While renegade investors managed to bump the price of silver up by 11.5 percent to reach its highest level in eight years, the rise lacked the staying power and the gravitas of earlier meme stock escapades. Related: Canada Oil And Gas Deals Surge 468%
This isn’t to say, however, that something like GameStop couldn’t happen again, and happen for longer–and many people are hoping that’s the case. This week one such person wrote into environmental news media outlet Grist to ask if meme stock activists could use their power for good to boost clean energy stocks. It’s a good question, especially when you consider that so many Redditors are bullish on clean energy stocks. The answer, as you may imagine, is a 1,300-word version of “it’s complicated.” For one thing, unlike Gamestop or AMC, the vast majority of renewable energy companies aren’t shorted. In fact, they’re doing pretty well on their own. And then there’s the fact that Wall Street is not real life–GameStop has pretty well proven that. Investing in climate initiatives and raising the value of BlackRock’s clean energy ETF is not the same as furthering clean energy initiatives. “I’m not arguing that money doesn’t matter;” Grist’s Clayton Aldern wrote to the green-stock questioner, “rather, Reddit probably won’t save the day on climate change by staging a guerrilla takeover of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor. A Green New Deal (in whatever form it might take) probably comes with a heftier price tag than, you know, the market cap of Bed Bath & Beyond.”
But, by all means, r/wallstreetbets users would do well to keep buying into renewable energy stocks. Even if their actions aren’t the catalysts to fight off climate change, they’ll almost certainly make them money. And the old adage is true that we do, to a certain extent, vote with our dollar. Buying into clean energy en masse and making renewables the new meme stocks could send a strong and timely message to the market at large.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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