Category Archives: Energy and Environment

Incovenient truth: Al Gore’s Current TV to Qatar

Since 2006, Al Gore, former US Vice-President under Bill Clinton, managed to gain major publicity and notoriety by lobying for renewable energy in Washington and all around the world. The documentary film «An Inconvenient Truth», directed by Davis Guggenheim, was aimed at educating citizens about global warming and was a box-office success, winning two Academy Awards in the process and a Nobel Prize for its mentor.

Not bad for a professional politician and even though rumours about Al Gore playing the activist while pursuing its own personal agenda were always around, they just never managed to gain momentum. At least until now.

Yesterday, Al Gore and his partners concluded the deal that sold Current TV, yes, the progressive media channel, to the Qatar-financed Al Jazeera. Qatar, it is well known, makes living from selling fossil fuels to the world. Not only has it made Qatar very, very rich as also the country with the largest per capita footprint around the globe.

According to a press release announced by Current TV’s staff, we can read that «as you may know, Al Jazeera is funded by the government of Qatar, which is the United States’ closest ally in the Gulf Region, and is where the United States bases its Middle East Air Force operations». No reference to oil or gas business and, (pam!) negative points, reference to military warfare.

Besides environmental issures, incovenient may have been the timing of the deal. According to some sources around the web, Al Gore, a Democrat who was supposed to stand by Obama’s administration policies, wanted the deal concluded before the end of 2012, for tax reasons. Decent rich folk also have to make money, I suppose.

Despite the bads, we should stick to the positives. Al Gore did a stupendous job at raising awareness for the climate challenges ahead of us, regardless of his real intentions. In the process, he managed to get people and, more specificaly, the youth, involved, militating against big oil business and environmental deterioration.

The «An Inconvenient Truth» motion picture and, most importantly, its message, remain urgent. The content of the expositions presented is overall accurate and must not not lose any type of credibility with such business practices: the message must prevail. Now, as it was before, it is up for the people to pursue the objective of environmental respect and clean energy.

Moreover, I think Al Jazeera has earned its space in today’s global media panoram as a respectable news agency with great regional insights.

The real problem here is the lack of coherence and responsability shown by a Nobel Laureate who offered himself to be the face of one of the most crucial causes of modern times.


Some thoughts on US upcoming elections

I’m no expert in none of the topics below. However, and since there is a widespread disbelief about the importance of next American elections, I felt like pointing out a couple of points I believe to be worthy of consideration for non-American citizens. It isn’t like we have a voice but, in the age of globalization, we sure could use some.

First of all, America’s approach to economic policy remains very influent, while setting the tone for economic policy worldwide. As Stiglitz points out:

(…) Romney has not really distanced himself from the Bush administration’s policies. On the contrary, his campaign has featured the same advisers, the same devotion to higher military spending, the same belief that tax cuts for the rich are the solution to every economic problem, and the same fuzzy budget math.

Therefore, if you are not exactly in line with “austerity politics” or, more broadly, with “structural adjustment” and economic contraction, then Romney’s not your guy. While we global citizens are trying to make the push for the implementation of adjustment policies more prone to economic growth, job creation and to overcome deprivation, we can use some support from a candidate like Obama, more keynesian-oriented, than the righ-winged, business as usual, Reagan-inspired Romney.

In fact, the area where we can express greater praise for Obama is precisely in fighting deprivation – health deprivation, to be concise. As the The Economist explains:

The other qualified achievement [of Obama’s Administration] is health reform. Even to a newspaper with no love for big government, the fact that over 40m people had no health coverage in a country as rich as America was a scandal.

Obama deserves praise not only for doing the right thing, building capabilities for the more vulnerable american households, but also for the example Obamacare represents for all the developed states, urging to get rid of their social responsabilities in favor of budget consolidation. I’d like to see similar commitment to providing better education for the very same vulnerable households, in a country where the poor get poor health, poor education and very poor opportunities.

However, there’s a major challenge in chasing such noble social goals: America cannot continue to tax like a small government while spending like a big one. Some adjustments are necessary and they need to be done as soon as possible and in a way that reduces the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Additionaly, environment and climate change cannot be ignored no more. While both Romney and Obama did not pay great attention to this issue during the campaign – at least before “Sandy” crushed in – Obama is more likely to do something about it than the very skeptic market-solves-all-bads Romney, trapped in a party of “climate deniers”.

Regarding trade, well, we don’t need a trade war between America and China at this point of our lives. We really don’t, Mr. Romney. Obama wins again.

Is is also commonly accepted today that balanced regulation enables markets to operate better, not the contrary, as some highly iluminated minds around Romney seem to believe. Even though Obama has not excelled on his trade and commerce policies, it is hard to imagine how Romney could even do better.

Said this, Obama has not been perfect. Far from it. As strange as it may sound, it was during Obama’s mandate that China overtook the US as Africa’s largest trading partner. Quoting from Reuteurs:

In 2009, China overtook the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner. According to the Brookings Institution, President Hu Jintao of China has made up to seven trips to Africa, five as head of state, and has visited at least 17 countries. In contrast, Obama’s 20-hour 2009 sojourn in Ghana has been his only trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president.

“We would have expected to see more American involvement instead of a retreat. If you go to many countries and ask them about who is doing more, they will tell you China,” said Mwangi Kimenyi, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

In my personal opinion, Obama’s lowest point was reached in the day America got their public enemy number one, Osama Bin Laden.

I did appreciate the departure from the previous approach to the «War on Terror», sustented on “all muslims are suspects of terrorrism and all suspects of terrorrism can die and suffer if for the good of National Security”. Obama has managed to focus on terrorrists, dropping religion.

Anyway, war is still war, an invasion is still an invasion, aggression is still aggression and I still don’t understand why the Americans forced the occupation of  Afghanistan andI still don’t like OTAN and what it represents. It just doesn’t make sense in today’s world, I have expressed it before.

I must say I was extremely disappointed with Obama the day I saw him celebrating cheerfuly the murdered of another human being, even though it was for the good of National Security (or was it revenge?). Osama Bin Laden was a criminal and I do not support criminals; however, criminals belong to justice, not to graveyards. Martyrs belong to graveyards, and, as I see it, we sure didn’t want any more of those.

Four years ago, I had great expectations for Obama. I’ve spent Election’s night celebrating his announced victory. We all thought he could make the difference in a increasingly multipolar and globalized world. He proved he cannot do such thing, at least alone. He proved to be a lot weaker than we thought, in a variety of topics.

But Romney just shouldn’t represent a viable option in today’s world.

Professor Bhagwati on corporations social responsability and Rio+20

The flavor of the week in Rio is “sustainability indexing” for corporations, by way of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Such indexing is being compared to accounting standards. But the latter are “technical” and gain from standardization; the former are not and must reflect variety instead.

Corporations can, of course, be asked to conform to a “don’t” list – don’t dump mercury into rivers, don’t employ children for hazardous tasks, etc. But what they practice as “do’s” by way of altruism is surely a matter of what they consider virtuous to spend their money on.

The notion that a self-appointed set of activists, in conjunction with some governments and international agencies, can determine what a corporation should do by way of CSR contradicts the liberal notion that we should ask for virtue to be pursued, but not in a particular way. At a time when the world is emphasizing the importance of diversity and tolerance, it is effrontery to suggest that corporations should standardize their notion of how they wish to promote good in the world.

Jagdish Bhagwati in Rio’s Unsustainable Nonsense

Yeah. Variety. Diversity. Tolerance. Liberty. For whom, may I ask?

To answer Professor Bhagwati, one of the most preeminent schoolars of our time, I could emphasize the gains deriving from cooperation, deriving from the alignment of social responsabilities in order to create a new kind of social responsability, the kind capable of achieving greater, more effective results (results which, by the way, the current system has proven unable to deliver). Cooperation equilibria. Externalities. Economies of scale. Synergies. Spillovers. I could. But I’m not qualified to do it properly. And I would fail the point anyway.

I could also go another other way, and talk about moral commitment, social justice or equity. Philosofical stuff, I mean. I’m not the right person to do it either, at least at my current level of knowledge and experience.

I could even affirm that Corporations are embedded in social and natural contexts they must preserve in order to promote their agenda and achieve their objectives. Natural and social contexts that, simultaneously, depend on and influence corporations activies and results.

But, Professor Bhagwati, I will only say it in one word. This word that seems to be erased, forever, but erroneously, from the modern liberal vocabulary. There’s this word, Community. As I see it, the first liberals used to call it Fraternity. I belive it is a lot like being part of a team, working together towards a common goal: the sustainability of our economic systems and of our economic activities. And you don’t do that without coordination. Without direction, without sacrifice. Without specific roles. Without some degree of standardization. But nobody expects such a notorious liberal to consider that, of course. Old habits are hard to change.

Community. Model that.


Green Week 2012 – Every Drop Counts

Green Week 2012 – Every Drop Counts

Unfortunately I will not make it to the EC’s Green Week this year due to other professional responsabilities. However, I’ll keep a close eye on it and so should you! The central issue this year is «The Water Challenge» but other environmental, demographic and energetic concerns will as usual remain on the table for detailed discussion. I expect the (not so) recent changes in food and other primary product prices to deserve some attention again; it will be interesting to learn about the adjustments the EU is willing to make on its agricultural policy (including water tariffs and prices in rural areas) for the years to come, in an economic world system in rapid adjustment. Water tariffs will be, in general, an appealing subject in the event’s agenda. Additionally, energy and resource efficiency appear to be, in this time of crisis, a possible way to boost and sustain an economic recovery.

This is the time of the year when the Green occupies a central place in the EC’s political activity so if you have something to say, make sure you don’t let the opportunity pass by!

The best of lucks to the organization, it was a great time last year.