Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Latest in Climate Change Capitalism's Brilliant Public Deception: The Breakthrough Energy Coalition

Today I received an listserv email from a natural gas cheerleader promoting  Bill Gate's "Breakthrough Energy Coalition."
The is absolutely nothing but a placating cover for a "coalition" whose singular objective is to cash in on the last gasps of fossil fuel extraction and/or cash in on climate change. That their board of directors includes a few billionaire philanthropists cannot possibly make up for the fact that it also includes companies who stand among the most vile human rights abusers on the planet, especially with respect to the exploitation of the developing world and indigenous peoples. 

And nowhere on their website are we told two fundamental truths:

1. If the wealthy North continues to consume at the rate it now does, there will be no technology that can save us--any of us--from the consequences of climate change, including desertification, deforestation, pandemic disease, war, and terrorism.

2. If we continue to consume animal bodies, especially but not exclusively those who've lived out their short and miserable lives on factory farms, we might as well just commit collective suicide now because we're condemning our children and grandchildren to a planet so despoiled by climate change that words like "mitigation" will become the taglines of dark satire and even darker jokes.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition isn't interested in any more than cosmetic fashion about either of these two truths, and in fact, would convince us that we really can have it all--loads of material wealth, lots of bacon-burgers--and a clean beautiful plaanet.

Ain't gonna happen.

In fact, the only thing "transformative" about this ugly ensemble is their transformation of the planet into their off-shored bank accounts, and their ability to convince us that they're acting in our interests.

it's hard to imagine a more cynical bastardizing of the term "philanthropic" than The Breakthrough Energy Coalition. 

Here's their mission statement: 

The world needs widely available energy that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon. The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible instuments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix. Breakthrough Energy Coalition
We at BEC will exploit any form of energy we can, and like our fellows over at Exxon or Chevron, we'll call it "responsible," and we'll get away with that because the governments of the countries that fly our flags are only to happy to let us write their environmental regulations, lease us access to their rain forests, their labor pools, and their minerals. 
"Dramatically scaled up public research" is best for our companies since, as is our tradition, we'd like tax-paying citizens to fork over for the research that we'll then exploit to enhance our revenue streams. 
"New energy mix" means that whatever the technologies taxpayers help us develop will make us money--that is, so long as you all keep up the consumption.
Whatever this group's stated commitment to the "Green Energy Revolution" (Mission Innovation | Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution), we can be certain of one thing:

Their first priority is to transform climate change into climate cash, and if we think that has anything to do with social justice, preserving species from extinction, narrowing the gap between the wealthy North and the struggling South--or, God forbid, reducing consumption, we are fools.
The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is a textbook example of how multinational capitalism postures itself to:
a. Cash in on climate change.
b. Make itself look like it cares about the world's vulnerable people all the while it continues business as usual.
c. Insure the longevity of capital accumulation any way it can.

For just a tiny few substantiating examples that make it abundantly clear that it is woefully irresponsible to promote this group, please consider just a smidgeon sample from its its board of directors:

MUKESH AMBANI--Reliance Industries Ltd, India--among other highly polluting interests, petrochemical company:…/mukesh-ambanis-reliance-industries…
"Mr. Thakurta’s book [GAS WARS], which argues that Reliance tried to influence the previous government to raise the price of natural gas by leaning on favorably inclined politicians and officials, is yet another blow to Mr. Ambani’s image — not only for what it says but also for the fact that Mr. Ambani’s threat of legal action against the authors if the sale of the book is not stopped has been laughed away by them."

Reliance has also been found guilty of human rights abuses in the already highly threatened Amazon:…/recommendations-from-2010-2012-and-…/:

"On 1 December 2010 the Council on Ethics recommended the exclusion of the companies Repsol YPF (now Repsol S.A) and Reliance Industries Limited from the Government Pension Fund Global. The companies were partners in a joint venture which was conducting oil exploration activities in Block 39 in the Peruvian Amazon. Repsol was the operator of the joint venture. Block 39 is located in an area which is thought to overlap the territories of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. In the Council’s view, the exploration activity undertaken by the companies in Block 39 would increase the risk that any indigenous peoples who may be living in voluntary isolation within the block would come into contact with outsiders, leading to potentially serious consequences for these peoples’ life, health and way of living. This would constitute an unacceptable risk of the companies contributing to serious and systematic human rights violations."

AILKO DANGOTE--Dangote Industries, Nigeria:

9 % Investment in Block I in Joint Development Zone ( JDZ ) of Nigeria Sao-Tome along with Chevron Texaco and Exxon Mobil

Dangote, in other words, is in league with three of the top human rights abusers on the planet--especially in Nigeria, and especially concerning torture: 

"In 1999, a group of Nigerians of the Niger Delta region, where Chevron engages in oil production activities, brought a lawsuit against Chevron in US federal court. The plaintiffs allege that they suffered human rights violations, including torture and summary execution, at the hands of the Nigerian military and police acting in concert with Chevron to suppress the plaintiffs’ protests against Chevron’s environmental practices in the Niger Delta. The claims against Chevron are based on two incidents. First, two protestors were shot by Nigerian military and police allegedly recruited by Chevron at its Parabe offshore platform. Second, two Nigerian villages, Opia and Ikenyan, were attacked by Nigerian soldiers using helicopters and boats allegedly leased and/or owned by Chevron, and these attacks allegedly caused the death and injury of a number of villagers."

Dangote has its own deeply troubling history:…/169022-nigerias-human-right…:

"PREMIUM TIMES had on June 30, exposed the massacre of seven youth at Mr. Dangote’s multi-billion naira cement factory after demonstrators gathered to protest the shooting, by a soldier, of 19 year-old Terhile Jirbo.
Mr. Jirbo was attacked for relieving himself near the cement factory and refusing to pack the waste with his mouth when a soldier ordered him to do so.
Mr. Jirbo survived the attack but the bullet tore his mouth apart and left him permanently disfigured.
Villagers, who responded after the shooting by staging what several witnesses said was a peaceful demonstration to the Dangote factory, met a bloody pushback by the troops.
Hours after the protest, the soldiers opened fire, killing seven of the protesters including a woman, who was shot in the head at close range.
The 19 year-old woman, Doose Ornguze, a resident of Tsekucha, near Mbayion, survived the first shot at her, and was trying to crawl to safety before a soldier walked up close and fired into her skull."
JOHN ARNOLD: (John D. Arnold - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)  "is an American billionaire and former hedge fund manager who specializes in natural gas trading. His firm, Centaurus Advisors, LLC, was a Houston-based hedge fund that specialized in trading energy products."

And from a Rolling Stone expose:

In 2011, Pew began to align itself with a figure who was decidedly neither centrist nor nonpartisan: 39-year-old John Arnold, whom CNN/Money described (erroneously) as the "second-youngest self-made billionaire in America," after Mark Zuckerberg. Though similar in wealth and youth, Arnold presented the stylistic opposite of Zuckerberg's signature nerd chic: He's a lipless, eager little jerk with the jug-eared face of a Division III women's basketball coach, exactly what you'd expect a former Enron commodities trader to look like. Anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning documentary The Smartest Guys in the Room and remembers those tapes of Enron traders cackling about rigging energy prices on "Grandma Millie" and jamming electricity rates "right up her ass for fucking $250 a megawatt hour" will have a sense of exactly what Arnold's work environment was like.
In fact, in the book that the movie was based on, the authors portray Arnold bragging about his minions manipulating energy prices, praising them for "learning how to use the Enron bat to push around the market." Those comments later earned Arnold visits from federal investigators, who let him get away with claiming he didn't mean what he said.

As Enron was imploding, Arnold played a footnote role, helping himself to an $8 million bonus while the company's pension fund was vaporizing. He and other executives were later rebuked by a bankruptcy judge for looting their own company along with other executives. Public pension funds nationwide, reportedly, lost more than $1.5 billion thanks to their investments in Enron.

In 2002, Arnold started a hedge fund and over the course of the next few years made roughly a $3 billion fortune as the world's most successful natural-gas trader. But after suffering losses in 2010, Arnold bowed out of hedge-funding to pursue "other interests." He had created the Arnold Foundation, an organization dedicated, among other things, to reforming the pension system, hiring a Republican lobbyist and former chief of staff to Dick Armey named Denis Calabrese, as well as Dan Liljenquist, a Utah state senator and future Tea Party challenger to Orrin Hatch.
Soon enough, the Arnold Foundation released a curious study on pensions. On the one hand, it admitted that many states had been undercontributing to their pension funds for years. But instead of proposing that states correct the practice, the report concluded that "the way to create a sound, sustainable and fair retirement-savings program is to stop promising a [defined] benefit."  

Had enough?
How about PATRICE MOTSEPE--African Rainbow Minerals:
"The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) deems the relocation of a Limpopo community to make way for a platinum mine as “adversely affecting” the communities concerned. The world’s largest platinum-mining company, Anglo Platinum (Angloplat), relocated the communities that surrounded its Potgietersrus platinum mine in Mokopane."

"Villagers say that in 2000, Motsepe’s people offered them an 8.5 percent stake in the Modikwa platinum mine on credit, promising to develop schools, hospitals, homes and roads in the hills of Limpopo province. While Motsepe today is a billionaire, the 80,000 community members still collectively owe about 158 million rand on their share. “They promised to develop the village,” Moime said in front of her crumbling home, where a row of bricks serves as a kitchen surface. “Houses were never built. Roads weren’t built properly. We’re not happy at all....Almost 14 percent of South Africa’s 53 million people live on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank. Black citizens on average earn a sixth of what their white counterparts do and 1.9 million households have no income, census data shows...Motsepe is worth $2.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. His 40.7 percent stake in African Rainbow is worth $1.39 billion and a share in financial services group Sanlam Ltd. is worth $597 million. He also has about $200 million in cash and is the board chairman of Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd., in which African Rainbow has a 14.6 percent stake."

The charity run by Bill and Melinda Gates, who say the threat of climate change is so serious that immediate action is needed, held at least $1.4bn (£1bn) of investments in the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, according to a Guardian analysis of the charity’s most recent tax filing in 2013.
The companies include BP, responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Anadarko Petroleum, which was recently forced to pay a $5bn environmental clean-up charge and Brazilian mining company Vale, voted the corporation with most “contempt for the environment and human rights” in the world clocking over 25,000 votes in the Public Eye annual awards. 

VINOD KHOSLA, Khosla Ventures: Khosla Ventures:
Included in his portfolio is 
Ciris Energy develops technology for the production of electricity from buried coal and other hydrocarbon deposits. Their technologies, ISBCTM and ESBCTM, share a common component: the microbial bio conversion of carbon. The ISBC technology process is conducted below ground in coal seams where indigenous microbes convert coal to methane. The ESBC technology is conducted above ground after coal has been mined and combines a low cost thermochemical pretreatment of coal with engineered microbes to convert coal to chemicals and methane.
 GreatPoint Energy:GreatPoint Energy produces clean, low cost natural gas from coal, petroleum coke and biomass utilizing its bluegas™ catalytic hydromethanation process.
And, last but not least, The Climate Corporation, owned and operated by Monsanto: Monsanto Acquires The Climate Corporation

Well, not quite last--if you think Mark Zuckerberg is some awesome philanthropist, you should review that assessment:

How Mark Zuckerberg’s Altruism Helps Himself - The New York Times:

Mark Zuckerberg did not donate $45 billion to charity. You may have heard that, but that was wrong. 
Here’s what happened instead: Mr. Zuckerberg created an investment vehicle.Sorry for the slightly less sexy headline. Mr. Zuckerberg is a co-founder of Facebook and a youthful megabillionaire. In announcing the birth of his daughter, he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, declared they would donate 99 percent of their worth, the vast majority of which is tied up in Facebook stock valued at $45 billion today. In doing so, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Chan did not set up a charitable foundation, which has nonprofit status. He created a limited liability company, one that has already reaped enormous benefits as public relations coup for himself. His P.R. return-on-investment dwarfs that of his Facebook stock. Mr. Zuckerberg was depicted in breathless, glowing terms for having, in essence, moved money from one pocket to the other. An L.L.C. can invest in for-profit companies (perhaps these will be characterized as societally responsible companies, but lots of companies claim the mantle of societal responsibility). An L.L.C. can make political donations. It can lobby for changes in the law. He remains completely free to do as he wishes with his money. That’s what America is all about. But as a society, we don’t generally call these types of activities “charity.”
 Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Chan are simply sheltering their money, and making you think they care about you.

Bull shit.

That these companies also dabble in sustainable energy, food production, etc. should not be taken as anything like a commitment to a sustainable world. They're simply diversifying their portfolios to make as much as they can under the current circumstances.

And that's all--except for that they'd like you to believe they're interested in you and the planet.

Of course, there are the easy invite me to your next party Big Green Corporations like the Sierra Club who trip all over themselves to get photo ops with the Breakthrough Boys:

Michael Brune, executive director of the environmental group, the Sierra Club, said clean energy was already "winning the fight" against fossil fuels. "Now, these incredible public or private commitments, which are historic, essential, and timely, show that the nations of the world-- as well as many of the world's leading visionaries and philanthropists--are committed to making clean energy even more widespread, even faster," he said. "What's now clearer than ever is that our future will be 100 percent clean energy, and that dirty fossil fuels are merely riding out their final wave."

 Were this not so tragically wrong, it would almost be funny. "Riding out their final wave"? Absolutely--right on the backs of the world's poorest peoples in places like Nigeria.

So, no, it's not funny.

And this isn't really about the Sierra Club, EDF,, or any of the other  Big Greens who are already so compromised it's hard to distinguish their donor lists from the boards of directors at Shell or Monsanto or Exxon.
Photo: Carley Aurora Lee-Lampshire
Kolkata, India 2009.

Breakthrough may dwarf them all--and the cost of this latest play to sucker us into believing we can continue to consume at ever increasing rates--that there are no limits to growth with the right technologies?

Us. Or rather, the most vulnerable among us--just like always.

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