Posts filed under ‘Energy’
This is a screen-grab from an episode where Homer Simpson wears this t-shirt in Brazil. It is a very graphic image of evil gluttony with a challenging “Try and Stop US” bumper sticker caption. Sometimes, even Simpsons crew draw realistic depictions.
Apparently, one Hashim Adil of Hyderabad shares my concern. In a letter today, he says that the advertisement justifying the hike in prices of LPG cylinder (this is wrong for it is liberalization which has inevitable led to a price hike) is ridiculous. It compares the prices of the commodity in neighbouring countries to make us believe that we are paying less. However, 577 Pakistan Rupees is equal to Rs 311 in India, 537 Bangladeshi Taka equals Rs 355 in India and 822 Sri Lankan Rupees equals Rs 333 in India. LPG costs more in India than in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
There are a number of issues here. First and foremost is very publication of an advertisement by ministry to justify a decision it took without any regard to previous commissions and opposition. Second, the accuracy of the advertisement has been called into question and there is no one exploring. Where is the so-called hawkish factual rigour in reporting that people are giving and getting awards for? (which seems to be all the time). Is anyone looking deeper if the prices published are normalized to cylinder volumes and currency? I certainly do not hear any newsbytes. Third, comparing prices of other washed-out hopeless countries that surround this pathetic excuse of a nation is just giving excuses and betting on sadistic catharsis in the misfortune of others. So, some poor sod in Bangladesh is paying more for LPG and Kerosene. This proves what exactly? Why some stupid government in some idiot country charges what for some commodity is a matter of some policy and some arrangements they have with some oil producing nations and some oil company. What does that have to do with prices in India? But wait dear reader, the main analysis of my gut feeling and discomfiture is that the whole premise of the advertisement is wrong because it was designed to mislead people into thinking that the government is still doing a better job than the governments of genocidial poverty-ridden violent terrorist failed states. Is this the company we want to compare ourselves with? Why is the comparision not made to fuel prices of the USA where petrol costs half than what we pay at the bunk? The use of media and the English language is just an icing on the cake to prove that we live in a very controlled and suggestive society. The only people who can read and understand this silly advertisement in the first place are the urban middle-class who have some swing and make noises. By satisfying this no-good rubric, the ministry has a free pass.
I hope am not being Chomskyish here and shouting some conspiracy because Jayati Ghosh in her editorial today titled, Dripping Economy gives many points to ponder about the very timing and necessity of “freeing” the price of petroleum products in the midst of almost unprecedented food and generalised inflation. I could not believe that Capsicum is 90/- a kilo…
oil is a universal intermediate (which enters directly or indirectly into all other prices) this necessarily means a further rise in inflation. This is a move that is inexplicable from the point of view of general economic policy. Global prices of petroleum products in the past three years have been marked by the most extreme volatility, more than doubling and then falling to nearly half within a period of 18 months. The fluctuations hardly reflect “economic fundamentals” which have not changed much in the past few years; rather they show the impact of global speculative forces on fuel prices
UPA government has been trying for some time to decontrol oil prices, despite the global volatility in these prices and the lack of convincing arguments in favour of such deregulation. The Rangarajan Committee on the pricing and taxation of petroleum products was set up in the hope that it would recommend such a move. But that report did not really point to this conclusion, so the government, not to be thwarted in its desire, set up yet another committee. This time it was an Expert Group chaired by former Planning Commission member Kirit Parikh, with the more or less explicit mandate to recommend wholesale liberalisation of the pricing of petroleum products. The Expert Group duly did just that, and the government has been quick to accept its recommendations
official reason for this move is that it is necessary to stem the “losses” being suffered by the oil marketing companies. But this argument misses the point that all of these companies deliver a range of products and services, the prices of all of which are not controlled. In fact, profits after taxes of the most important oil companies have remained positive and often quite substantially so in the past 10 years. The oil refineries and governement also get a huge pay-off from taxes and levies but they are not willing to budge. Current strategy is one that puts the entire burden of irrational shifts in the international prices of oil on the consumer, even if the burden sharing involved is extremely regressive and unjustified
So, there you have it. The most obvious reason for the deregulation or price hike or whatever you want to call this scum scam, seems to be that the government has chosen to favour the private companies that have been allowed to enter and expand in this sector. This has encouraged the government to take a measure that will cause great harm to most of the population so as to bring in more profits to a few large and powerful companies and of course itself. It also gives people a chance like Andhra Pradesh CM to be a hero by giving statements that the state will buffer the poor from the price increase. This brings to mind popular adage: “Either the government owns the oil companies, or the oil companies own the government.”
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- Scrapping of Fuel Regulation to Boost India Refiners (businessweek.com)
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In 1776, Adam Smith’s famous and still widely quoted passage in the “Wealth of Nations” noted that ‘It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. More recently, the more famous quotation was probably that of Gordon Gekko, the fictional hero of the 1987 film “Wall Street”, ‘Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms — greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind’. The proof is out there for all to see – well, to someone looking. A series of corporate scandals and failures rocked the US economy in 2001 and 2002 – from Enron and WorldCom to Adelphi and even one of the “Big Five” accounting firms, Arthur Andersen. It turned out that much of the much-hyped growth and profits were clearly illusory, based on fraud and data manipulation, or simply put, lies. Two points that emerged then are still relevant today. First, such scams are not new nor unexpected; in fact they are part of capitalism’s normal functioning. Only most naive interpretations of the history of capitalism would leave out the crucial role played by fraud, deceit and open crime in the accumulation of capital and its subsequent use. While many of the financial malpractices continued for several years, they were exposed only when economic slowdown and the stock market bear trend fed into each other. Yet another (policy created) bubble in the US — this time directed to the housing market and financial proliferation — once again diverted attention and brought back the glory days for risk-loving CEOs of large companies, especially financial firms. The period 2002 to 2007 thus became, in the US and globally, a repeat of the earlier 1990s process on an even larger scale. It was the same dance, to just a slightly different tune, and joined by many more economic agents all over the world. Greed and boundless market optimism were back in fashion again. And the current crisis is not over yet. The major imbalances that were at the heart of the crisis still persist: the imbalance between finance and the real economy; the global macroeconomic imbalances; and ecological imbalance resulting from the pattern of growth. This cycle will repeat for eternity.
When Deccan Chronicle asked me to draw up a list of the 10 biggest scams of the past decade, I didn’t realise there were so many over the last two years alone. I gave up counting. A group of bleeding-heart do-gooders by the name of ‘Transparency International’ ranked India at the 85th position out of 179 countries in its annual “corruption perceptions index” in 2008. In fact, India’s score improved dramatically from 2.7 (out of 10) in 2002 to 3.4 in 2008. Does it mean that corruption has become better or that India is more transparent in its corruption today than before? Everybody accepts it as a way of life. Of capitalism and bureaucracy taking its charted path. We draw distinctions between the more corrupt and the less corrupt, the corrupt-but-efficient and the corrupt-and-inefficient – “that fellow accepts bribes but still refuses to do his job”. We are a nicely nuanced lot. But as a majority is so poor, none of this actually affects them. They have their own fish to fry (this is figurative because there aren’t enough fish to feed all the ugly masses). Scams therefore, escape our scrutiny for the same reason. Harshad Mehta, former employee of the New India Assurance Company who became a notorious stockbroker by presiding over a financial scandal involving Rs 4,000 crores. Byrraju Ramalinga Raju, who headed Satyam Computer Services confessed that he cooked the books of account of his flagship firm to the tune of Rs 8,000 crores. Ketan Parekh is a pale shadow of his former cocky self and few remember C.R. Bhansali’s claim to infamy. The IPO scam involving India Bulls and stock-broking firm Karvy is a distant development. And, have you recently heard anything about Abdul Karim Telgi who started life as a fruit and vegetable seller before he decided to bribe his way into the Nashik security printing press and forged wads of stamp paper? Madhu Koda started off as a labourer in a mine and a window-grill fitter before a small-time flunky in the BJP to a big-time beneficiary of the vagaries of coalition politics. He reportedly almost bought up a couple of uranium mines in South Africa before celebrations abruptly ended. But Koda’s shenanigans faded into insignificance before the occurrence of the “biggest” scam in independent India, namely, allotment of electro-magnetic spectrum to a clutch of mobile operator telephone companies at prices that were at least one-seventh their true market value. What was the loss to the nation? Only Rs 50,000 crores! This is India, after all, the world’s greatest democracy, where sibling rivalry can paralyse the working of the government. Imagine a tycoon splurging on front-page advertisements in dozens of newspapers to tell the world how the Union ministry of petroleum and natural gas was depriving the exchequer of huge amounts by favouring a fraternal company by agreeing to pay a higher price for natural gas taken out of the bed of the ocean in the Bay of Bengal. More than 250 aircraft and helicopters valued at not less than Rs 16,000 crores that were imported into the country between May 2007 and July 2008 by more than 70 companies controlled by some of the country’s most prominent industrialists after evading customs duty worth Rs 4,000 crores. Noteworthy that most of these private aircrafts were used not merely by corporate honchos, family members and business associates but also by “politician friends” during their election campaigns.
All said and done, capitalism works because it is first and foremost a monopoly – only because of a failure (and propagandic annihilation) of other systems to catch on, rather than any strict opposition or fair-play – because our pathetic little brains and genome vessels cannot think beyond self-preservation. During the cold war, the East looked in jealousy at West for the goods they have in their supermarkets. But now, the East which still suffers from poverty inspite of capitalism, looks in despair and hopelessness at the West for the debt-ridden luxury consumption that is the driver of growth more than industry. After all, we are animals who like cuckoos value trinkets like some yellow metal (read, gold) and pressurized rock (read, diamond) in high regard than that of the life of a fellow human and would be willing to commit unspeakable actions to the pursuit of stuff – white solids or black liquids or green paper or blue powder – that has absolutely no real tangible value if one really spends enough time to think and ponder about this madness.
This is getting boring, isn’t it? If one were to start chronicling the stories of human greed, it would take a million lifetimes. The MD of Alcatel-Lucent India, Vivek Mohan spoke, “It is high time for India to move on from ‘Copy the West’ phenomenon and develop innovative, India-specific stuff. I strongly believe that India is home to the best entrepreneurial talent and Indians have innovation in their DNA”. It is so very true. We are innovators in corruption and scams today after successfully imitating the West at a scale that boggles the mind. It is in our blood to be apathetic and suffer. Connection between capitalist greed and scams and the nexus between business and evil politics is neither new nor unique. What’s a few billions among friends, eh? Let’s talk about the weather instead. Oh wait, there is a scam brewing here too. Of railroad engineers, Pachauri and failed Presidential candidates, Gore who could be the first carbon billionaires if not already, which would be even cooler – paradoxically – to cash-in on the haze of mitigating/combating global warming.
As a card holding member of the species, I am the first person to agree that if the accusations of bad science are true to any infinitesimal degree, it is unforgivable and blamed scientists have to explain themselves to the world and if not cleared of misconduct, should be suspended of duties or even barred from academia and ongoing discussion. No half measures and sympathizers should bay for the bad blood. Here is my take on the respective quotes of Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intercontinental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) and US Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in, “Top UN Scientist: What Climategate?” by Martin Andersen –
I think this [hacking of emails] is an illegal act. The only issue that has to be dealt with as far as this occurrence is concerned is to find out who is behind it. One can only surmise that those who have carried out this act have done it with the very clear intention as to influence the process in Copenhagen
Disagree. I think of the hackers as journalists and if his argument is taken seriously then we should arrest all journalists who bring out the truth and breaking stories and no, we don’t question their methods. In fact, the dirtier, the closer they are to a Pulitzer. The irony of Pachauri statement is that the greens do not want to play dirty and are afraid of getting soil in their hands. Even with surface analysis, scientists have been found out like deers in headlights. If emails reveal errors and cock-ups, accept them and remedy the situation. Stop playing the victim card. Crack the whip and bring the publications into open access for sake of transparency. Get tough.
Nothing that has come out in the public as a result of the recent email hackings has cast doubt on the basic scientific message on climate change and that message is quite clear – that climate is changing much, much faster than we realized and we human beings are the primary cause for the mess
Agree. We humans have been abusing and raping the earth to the point of no return. No matter how wrong the science, it is fairly evident and obvious that this cannot continue any longer. The planet is not a giant dustbin (hey, a nice cartoon idea) which can take uncontrolled pollution, toxic emissions and horrific beatings. Whether one takes it on faith or rationale or scare or fandom, climate change is real and there is no reason to blame all the pioneering work done by genuine scientists and use the word conspiracy and put the whole field on shaky ground. Think of it this way. If we find that the 1979th decimal of Pi was somehow computed wrong by some black sheep somewhere, we would not stop doing math and derail it from the academic curriculum. Mistakes have been made. Shit happens. True truism. But we should all see the COP15 for what it is. An opportunity to set the wrongs right and work towards the creation of a better, cleaner and energy efficient world.
If that is not unfair, I dont know what is. Given that per-capita income is inexplicably linked to per-capita emissions (higher income, higher pollution, duh?), it means that rich countries will get richer (but slower) and the poor countries will get poorer (and faster) if this policy or protocol or poo-poo is implemented. It seems to be more like arm-twisting to me. The irony is not the 25% or whatever arbitrary number but the gal to demand the world to forget the damage that has already been done and brandishing an air of superiority that it is the poor countries who have to take the initiative to save themselves. There is no fine being slapped because no one is asking. No technology transfer because no one is giving. No pledge to remedy the mistakes because no one is apologising. I will tell you what is binding. Rice. Ha ha.
Simply put, what is going to happen on and after the summit is that things will be the same and only get worse. Thank universe for entropy. The rich nations (I make it a point not to call them by misnomers of ‘developed’ or ‘civilized’ or ‘industrialized’ for many reasons least of all, decadence, immorality/brutality, laziness) who are the ones mostly responsible for the mess and 80% of the emissions even today with their meagre 20% rudderless population, are depicted as well, greedy capitalistic pigs. All this talk and noise of “climate change” even if it is made out to be a hoax thunderstorm with striking lightning, will be like raindrops on thick skinned pigs. Ergo, no effect at all. These pigs will be munching the worlds poor without a care in the world. After all, pigs apparently are the best beasts to dispose of with human bodies as this character in “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrells” confirms –
You’re always gonna have problems disposing of human bodies. They are heavy and smelly. Apparently the best thing to do is cut up a corpse into six pieces and pile it all together. And when you got your six pieces, you gotta get rid of them, because it’s no good leaving it in the deep freeze for your mum to discover, now is it? Then I hear the best thing to do is feed them to pigs. You got to starve the pigs for a few days, then the sight of a chopped-up body will look like curry to a pisshead. You gotta shave the heads of your victims, and pull the teeth out for the sake of the piggies’ digestion. You could do this afterwards, of course, but you don’t want to go sieving through pig shit, now do you? They will go through bone like butter. You need at least sixteen pigs to finish the job in one sitting, so be wary of any man who keeps a pig farm. They will go through a body that weighs 200 pounds in about eight minutes. That means that a single pig can consume two pounds of uncooked flesh every minute. Hence the expression, ‘greedy as pigs’ (and ‘capitalist pigs’).
If a pig is fed, it will feed. It is free food on a platter. What does it gotta lose? What concerns me is to see about the hand that is feeding the pig. Sadly unsurprisngly enough, it is the subservient poor countries who will have no qualms nor presence of the mind nor common sense of the future nor the grey matter of what this slavery is doing to their own nations. They will feed the pig everything, the earth, the forests, the minerals, the blood – and will do so collaboratively with one country supplying the fuel, another the timber, another to puff at the fire – without even knowing that they are but feeding, nay, disposing their fellow live humans for short-term foriegn currency reserves which at any point can lose in value. It is wrong at so many levels.
Think about it, today, if someone in the USA buys a bloody sneaker, the chain of the production is completely outsourced. Everything except the design is produced in some poor country by some underpaid malnourished chimp sweaty ugly hopeless illiterate sick bastard. The shoe might be priced at say, 100$, earning a profit of 90$ to the shoe company based in Europe which has an operating expense of 5$ tops for chaining the natives but what the poor country gets is far less than what it loses in the bargain in both monetary and resource terms. The actual cost of the shoe is not 5$ because the cost of the raw materials is heavily subsidized by nature (or externalities as economists would say) and in some cases, the government. In the end, the poor country might be getting 5$ but it is actually losing a lot more in the bargain because of depletion of resources, pollution caused, toxic waste generated and indisposed of, loss of freedom/opportunity and gross violation of human rights. By manufacturing and selling the shoe, the poor country is actually losing – a lot. It can be called a lose-lose situation if there ever was one. So, the idiots who run poor countries (democratic or communist or monarchial or theocracy or dictatorship or terrorist or military) who show so-called strides in development with skyscrapers, roads, statues, fly-overs, cars, middle-class et al. combinedly are fattening the pig with illusions of grandeur. No wonder the pig is drunk with power and has absolute disregard of an ailing planet. What fools, we humans can be. How did we get to this fucking world order? Oh wait, it was with invention of dynamite. And who pioneered that? Alfred Nobel no less. Kinda makes the peace prize hara-kiri to war mongering US presidents (can you believe there are oddly 4?) fathomable. It is a wow moment.