C197: Corporate States of America

Our economy cannot stand 10 more years of sending $2 billion every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil. And our soldiers and their families cannot take another 10 years of repeated troop deployments to dangerous regions that just happen to have large oil supplies." Al Gore, Netroots Nation speech on July 17, 2008.

The call by Gore for 100% renewable energy by 2018 is stirring. I join millions in finding the US status quo totally unacceptable. In the time it takes me to type this sentence, how many thousands are dying around the world for this American empire to hold the world hostage for its oil and other precious resources?

First I am excited about Al Gore challenging the netroots to a 10 year goal and delighted that billions are being spent on wind energy by billionaire T. Boone Pickens. The few internet sites I read and generally respect have scrambled to support Gore and Pickens. Treehugger, Grist and Earthfamilyalpha are just three.

But, I have a nagging sense of dread that comes whenever old white men with money and a platform are central to problem’s solution. It just can’t be that good for the rest of us. Okay, maybe I overstate to make a point. My point is first and foremost about the goals. Pickens states outright that this is a business venture for him to make money.

"Don't get the idea that I've turned green," Pickens tells the Guardian in the Dallas offices of his new venture Mesa Power. "My business is making money, and I think this is going to make a lot of money."
Gore keeps with the political phrasing for justifications (like using the moon challenge as the hook). His WE website lists Pickens’ privately owned wind farm as a success within his organization. Al is a player to be sure.

My gut is saying these boys and their boys and grandboys will be set for a century or two in the new power and wealth structure brought to you by the newest versions of patriarchal entitlement to empire.

A Guardian article gives this about Pickens, who bankrolled 3M for the Swift Boat Veterans attack on Kerry in ‘04,
There is also a political edge to his obsession. Politics and Pickens go together, as is obvious from the walls of his offices, lined with photographs of him with world leaders. One shows him with the Queen, Prince Philip and George HW Bush; another is with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan; a third shows him on board Air Force One with the current President Bush. There is a signed calendar from Arnold Schwarzenegger on the table.

My instincts are sound. This post in Agora financial publications reports as T. Boone Pickens, the oil man turned wind tycoon sought the water rights to the Ogallala Aquifer.

Pickens wants to take the water from the Ogallala Aquifer and pump about 200,000 acre feet of groundwater annually to El Paso, Lubbock, San Antonio or Dallas-Fort Worth - for a price, of course.
This price would depend on how far the water needs to go. El Paso would pay around $1,400 per acre foot, while Dallas would pay $800 and San Antonio more than $1,000.

An Acre foot, by the way, is a common industry metric. Basically, an acre foot of water is the amount of water required to flood a plain of 1 acre to a depth of 1 foot. Generally speaking, 1 acre foot of water can support two families of four for one year.

Pickens has no qualms about charging people for water and has a ready quip for those who think it wrong to do so. "I know what people say - water's a lot like air. Do you charge for air? 'Course not; you shouldn't charge for water," says he. "Well, OK, watch what happens. You won't have any water."
Notice how his response completely ignores the role a responsive government as advocate for the public good might act in this scenario of water (or wind, or solar, etc.) For Pickens it is either private ownership (read: profit motive) or loss. Up, down - no blending, no grey, no mix.

With Gore’s plans or Pickens plans are there any public conversations about any transformative economic underpinnings like public good, nationalization of energy, free energy, decentralized, government monitoring? *Crickets*

As I googled to read if others speak to my visceral response to the Gore and Pickens bandwagons. I stumbled upon a brand new IPO (initial public offering) being created. I swear I am not making this up, Brand Energy. Jeebus.

The company is a provider of multi-craft services for the downstream infrastructure space. Some of the offerings include: insulation, corrosion protection, weatherproofing, specialty coatings and so on. What's more, there are four major focuses: refining, Canadian Sands, petrochemical and power generations.

Brand Energy certainly has a sterling customer list, which includes biggies like BP (NYSE: BP), ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM), Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX).

Goosebumps here, for me anyway. What kind of a 'fuck you is' that name? Not even a pretense of purpose, only commerce. And in case there are any doubts about this incestuous clusterfuck by-product:

The lead underwriters on the IPO include Goldman, Sachs & Co. (NYSE: GS), UBS Investment Bank (NYSE: UBS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS). You can also locate the prospectus at the SEC's website.

On the other hand, there is the beginning of talk about a different approach. This would be a baby step between the corporate landscape we have now and true democratic restructuring. This baby step is the b corporation.

As small, socially responsible businesses gain attention, some large corporations start to take notice, and in some cases take over (See, for example, Ben & Jerry’s, Tom’s of Maine and Burt’s Bees.)

To help companies maintain their morals in the face of corporate takeovers, and to attract socially responsible investors and consumers, a nonprofit called B Lab has created B Corporation, where the 'B' stands for beneficial (to the business, public and environment).

B Corporation is a certification for business that are “purpose-driven” and that want to create benefits for all stakeholders (employees, the community, the environment, etc.), not just shareholders. And in a time when every business wants to at least look like they’re going green, this certification could be essential for socially responsible investors and consumers who are trying to differentiate “good companies” from “good marketing.”

The certification was created to help companies interested in the triple bottom line have the best of both –profit worlds. As a “for-purpose” business, B Corporations can reach beyond the capital limitations of the nonprofit world, and also the constraints of having to appease shareholders or investors as a for-profit.

This is a start. At least bring this to the table when discussing new energy and sustainable plans like the Pickens’s wind farms or Gore’s 100% zero-carbon electrical in 10 years.


MeadowLark said...

I have issues with the "Don't bother conserving, I've got a plan that will save us" attitude of the Pickens Plan.

And please don't get me started on water rights. It totally burns me up. I ranted and raved about that over at my place. GRRRRRR.

katecontinued said...

Agreed. I went to your place and read. Too true.