Q. What do Osama bin Laden and Al Gore have in common? A. They both are opponents of global warming.

Q. What do Willie Sutton, the notorious 1920s-1930s bank robber, and modern day computer hackers have in common? A. Willie is famously quoted as saying he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” Criminal computer wizards have apparently discovered a gold mine in stealing carbon trading credits. Best of all, they don’t have to wield a gun to get the money.

In the latest rant attributed to Osama, mastermind of the 9/11 atrocities, the bearded one criticizes the U.S. for not signing the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gas emissions, terms climate change “not an ideological luxury, but a reality,” and says, “All the industrialized countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility for the global warming crisis.”

He also threw in advice on monetary policy, saying the world “should refrain from dealing in the U.S. dollar and should try to get rid of this currency as early as possible.”

While Osama hides away in Afghanisan or Pakistan or who-knows-where, computer hackers, in hideaways as yet undetermined, managed to get security codes for the German Emissions Trading Authority and are reported to have made millions by transferring emissions trading certificates to accounts elsewhere and then selling them on the open market.

Trading of emissions credits on the European Union Emissions Trading System (ETS), the world’s largest exchange for trading in carbon credits, was halted for several days.

Europol, the European law enforcement agency, said in December that fraudulent trades on the ETS over the previous 18 months had resulted in losses of nearly 5 billion euros ($6.88 billion) in national tax revenues for several EU nations, and that in some EU countries “up to 90 percent of the whole market volume was caused by fraudulent activities.”

That’s just the amount of taxes that would’ve been due on the trades — no estimate was given of the value of the trades. EU authorities fear similar attacks could be launched in other trading markets, particularly gas and electricity.

Half a world away, computer criminals thought to be controlled by Brazilian logging and charcoal operations, have been hacking into government logging databases to subvert the permit process to allow illegal timber cutting in the rain forests. Estimated losses: nearly $1 billion.

Hackers aside, there are many who contend that trading of carbon credits is itself a massive scam, with potential for an eventual disaster on the scale of the derivatives trading that sent U.S. and world economies into freefall.

Matt Taibbi, in an in-depth article for Rolling Stone, “The Great American Bubble Machine” (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/29127316/the_great_american_bubble_machine/7), plumbing the machinations by Goldman Sachs that contributed to the economic crash, writes that carbon trading, fueled by get-rich speculators, could reach $1 trillion annually — a game, he says, that’s “rigged in advance.”

email: hbrandon@farmpress.com