Corporate Colonialism – They are carving up Africa again

When are the poor countries of the world going to catch a break. First they are conquered by the countries of Europe. Then they are handed over to corrupt and inept “local” leadership. Finally they are bought and paid for by the new corporate elites. This is just to0 nasty for words. But this is humans finest hour.

Africa: The New Land Grab in Africa – An Alarming Scramble for the Continent Is On

Agazit Abate

3 November 2011

Multinational corporations are buying enormous tracts of land in Africa to the detriment of local communities. Agazit Abate warns that the land grab puts countries on the path to increased food insecurity, environmental degradation, increased reliance on aid and marginalisation of farming and pastoralist communities.

The recent phenomenon of land grab, as outlined in the extensive research of the Oakland Institute, has resulted in the sale of enormous portions of land throughout Africa. In 2009 alone, nearly 60 million hectares of land were purchased or leased throughout the continent for the production and export of food, cut flowers and agrofuel crops.

Land grab was in part spurred by the food and financial crisis of 2008 when international bodies, corporations, investment funds, wealthy individuals, and governments began to re-focus their attention on agriculture and food as a profitable commodity. As outlined in the reports, the consequences of land grab include increased food insecurity, environmental degradation, community repression and displacement, and increased reliance on aid.


While media coverage has focused on the role of countries like India and China in land deals, the Oakland Institute’s investigation reveals the role of Western firms, wealthy US and European individuals, and investment funds with ties to major banks such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Investors include alternative investment firms like the London-based Emergent that works to attract speculators, and various universities like Harvard, Spelman and Vanderbilt.

Several Texas-based interests are associated with a major 600,000 hectares South Sudan deal which involves Kinyeti Development LLC, an Austin, Texas-based ‘global business development partnership and holding company’ managed by Howard Eugene Douglas, a former United States Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Refugee Affairs. A key player in the largest land deal in Tanzania is Iowa agribusiness entrepreneur and Republican Party stalwart, Bruce Rastetter.

US companies are often below the radar, using subsidiaries registered in other countries, like Petrotech-ffn Agro Mali which is a subsidiary of Petrotech-ffn USA. Many European countries are also involved, often with support provided by their governments and embassies in African countries. For instance, Swedish and German firms have interests in the production of biofuels in Tanzanian. Addax Bioenergy from Switzerland and Quifel International Holdings (QIH) from Portugal are major investors in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone Agriculture (SLA) is actually a subsidiary of the UK based Crad-1 (CAPARO Renewable Agriculture Developments Ltd.), associated with the Tony Blair African Governance Initiative.


I just wanted to post the villains. For the rest of the analysis, go there and read that. More tomorrow.


Transition Communities Up North – Get going Canada

I love Brit speak. Some groups are not undecided they are mulling things over. Anyway there is a great list at the end of this article so go check it out.

Canada’s Transition Communities

23 Sep

No 67 Posted September 23, 2010

IMPORTANT UPDATE, Jan. 7, 2011: Ten *NEW* communities added to the List of Canadian Transition Communities (below).

What is a Transition Community?

The following text is excerpted and adapted from Ball’s research paper, Transition Towns: Local Networking for Global Sustainability?

The Transition Movement, promoting an action-based approach to (local) sustainability, has in the past four years grown to incorporate a large network of individual Transition Initiatives. Informed by ideas and values within environmental organizations, yet, in its practical organisation it is distinct from past models of sustainability by incorporating broad grassroots support in a diverse range of places within the framework of a coherent networking model.

Sustainability challenges the dominant, market-based capitalism of industrial society, on economic, social, environmental and ecological grounds, citing devastating ecological and environmental exploitation. Sustainability, in contrast, calls for production and consumption within long-term ecological limits.

While local sustainability has become a politically important goal, in practice neither top-down government nor grassroots community models have gained widespread uptake or success: the former have failed to connect with or involve a grassroots public; the latter generally have few resources and limited capacity.

The Transition Model, a non-governmental community-led model, advances an action-based approach. With its fast-growing network of Initiatives, the Transition Movement is akin to a non-profit franchise operation, combining the advantage of a centralized support base with the capacity and resources of a decentralized networking organization.

The Transition concept, co-founded by Rob Hopkins, who has a background in permaculture, builds upon a core thesis: that the modern industrial capitalist economic and social system, based upon cheap oil and resources, is unsustainable, making a major restructuring of economy and society imperative, and inevitable. Transition contends that citizens and communities need to act proactively and positively at the local scale, in a process of ‘Transition’ and ‘Powerdown’ to build localized and resilient communities in terms of food, energy, work and waste. The vision holds that decarbonized local communities will be resilient in their capacity to “hold together and maintain their ability to function in the face of change and shock from the outside.” Transition is modelled to be a self-organizing community-led model, for people to “act now and act collectively.”


More tomorrow.


Energy Home Team – Pretty informative articles for the homeowner

I don’t always agree with these folks. Some of their comments on windows for instance leave a little to be desired but still it is a great place to start. Here is a taste.

Most Popular Articles


Home Performance Teams: Working Together to Maximize Energy Efficiency

“No one can be an expert at everything. The best results come from specialists working together for a common goal.”

Industry News

5 Low-Cost, Energy Efficient Home Improvements that Increase the Value of Your Home

August 11th 2011

You want to make your home more energy efficient, but you don’t want to spend a lot on home improvements.

Schell Brothers, LLC Commits to Marketing the HERS Index of all Their Homes – First Delaware Builder to Make Commitment

August 11th 2011

Schell Brothers, LLC, a Rehoboth Beach, Delaware based homebuilder has entered into an agreement with the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) to provide new home buyers an important measurement of long-term energy performance of each new home the company builds.

Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, Michigan Commits to Marketing the HERS Index of all Their New Homes – First Habitat for Humanity Affiliate to Make Commitment

August 10th 2011

The Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, Michigan has entered into an agreement with the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) to provide new home buyers an important measurement of long-term energy performance of each new home the organization builds. The intent of the agreement is to raise consumers’ knowledge of new home energy performance by using RESNET’s HERS Index.

Quail Homes Commits to Marketing the HERS Index of all Their Homes Built in Oregon and Washington

August 10th 2011

Quail Homes, a Vancouver, Washington based homebuilder has entered into an agreement with the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) to provide new home buyers an important measurement of long-term energy performance of each new home the company builds.

Replacing Windows for Energy Efficiency?

August 10th 2011

Think Again. There are better options.

TriState Habitat for Humanity Commits to Marketing the HERS Index of all Their Homes Built In Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio

August 10th 2011

TriState Habitat for Humanity has entered into an agreement with the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) to provide new home buyers an important measurement of long-term energy performance of each new home the company builds.

Heartland Builders Commits to Marketing the HERS Index of all Their Homes Built in Western Michigan

August 3rd 2011

Heartland Builders, a Grand Rapids, Michigan based homebuilder has entered into an agreement with the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) to provide new home buyers an important measurement of long-term energy performance of each new home the company builds.


More tomorrow.


Protest Ameren Rate Hikes – Email the ICC and tell them to cut rates

As I said yesterday, I went to the rate hike hearing for Ameren and it was a joke. The room was packed with suits and special interests and only three of us spoke. Residential occupants are currently paying between 13 and 12 cents per kilowatt for electricity. This is outrageous. I only found one website with a clear statement about this and it was:

There is a place where you can go to lodge a protest.

The docket numbers for the electric and gas rate hikes are 11-0279 and 11-0282 respectely. Please go there and tell them that in this economy a rate CUT is the only thing that makes sense. Thanks

Oh, you type the docket number into their e-docket finder blank at the top right of their page and when the docket comes up their is a tab for comments. Fill that form out and hit submit and you are all done. Spread the word. The more people that comment the greater the impact.


More tomorrow.


ICC Hearing A Joke – 15 minutes, 3 speakers and it was over

OK so it wasn’t really the Commission or the Commission Staff’s fault. Not even AARP’s,  though I was surprised that only 2 of their people spoke. I think it was their regional Director who is in Chicago and then what I took to be one of their local members. She ended up talking to the AARP  National Gazette reporter that was there so I split. But still, I got up as the third speaker and gave my classic “times are bad for people and the rates should be cut” spiel.  I was out the door in 15 minutes and arrived late. The ultimate blame falls on the poor people who have been crushed into submission. Unless they rise up and speak nothing will happen. Turn off their power at the same time or something like that, as a protest then utility companies will continue to roll.

August 22, 2011                                                                                      Contact:   Beth Bosch



ICC Sets Public Hearing On Ameren Rate Increases

For August 30

The Illinois Commerce Commission has scheduled a public forum Tuesday, August 30 to gather comments on Ameren Illinois’ proposal to increase rates for the delivery of natural gas and electricity to its customers.

The forum will be held at 1 p.m. in the Commission’s main hearing room, 527 E. Capitol Ave., Springfield.

Ameren proposed increasing rates for gas and electric delivery service to generate an estimated $110.5 million in new annual revenue.  Ameren proposed increasing electric rates for CIPS customers by appropoximately 11 percent, CILCO customers by 16.5 percent and IP customers by about 2.5 percent.  The company proposed increasing gas rates for CIPS customers by approximately 15.5 percent, CILCO customers by 24.0 percent and IP customers by 14.5 percent.

Oral and written comments will be accepted at the meeting.

Ameren Illinois’ rate case proposals are available on the ICC e-docket system.  To access all documents filed in the cases, enter the case numbers in the box on the front page of the ICC website at .   The docket numbers are 11-0279 (electricity) and 11-0282 (natural gas).

Comments may also be filed anytime on the Commission’s website under public comments.

# # #


More tomorrow.


Compare Electricity Rates – Another request for links and guest post

This is probably something like an advertising/actual content/simple search engine site. I make no claims about the sites CES links with. I got no legitimacy meter. This was not the article they wanted me to use but this one seemed a little more in line with the type of stuff I post. I would add two things to this list if you are capable of them, turn off your water heater and your air condition if it is in the summer and if if it is winter, dial back your heat dramatically.

Attributed to:  Katherine Tworsey

Planning a vacation, time to get away from the hustle and bustle of life is fun and exciting, and if you remember to turn off these 10 things before you go on vacation, you will worry less about what’s going “on” at home and really enjoy your vacation!

  1. Lights: It might seem obvious to turn off the lights while you are away, but some people completely forget. You will save a bundle in electricity costs. Do consider, however, one or maybe two lights on a timer switch in a front room or bedroom, so it looks as if the lights are going on and off throughout the evening. Homes are less likely to be broken into if someone is home.
  2. Your coffee pot: don’t just turn off your coffee pot, and other small appliances, but unplug them completely. Many small appliances continue drawing electricity even when not in use. By unplugging them, you will be saving electricity as well as preventing a possible fire.
  3. Computer: Generally speaking, it is not good to have a computer sit idle, but when you are away from home, you must take extra care to protect your computer and files it contains. Unplug it from both the electrical service and disconnect it from the internet. Be sure to back up all your files before you leave either using an online service or external hard drive that is stored away from your computer.
  4. Wall Warts: Those little transformer boxes that charge electronic devices, cell phones, lap-top computers, etc; take a walk around your house and see how many chargers are plugged into electrical outlets with the other end open and waiting for some device to get charged up. Unplug them all before you leave!
  5. Garage door opener: Unplugging the motor of your garage door opener will ensure that no one will find a compatible opener and get your door open. Leave an extra key to the walk-in garage door with a trusted neighbor, so you won’t have any problems getting in when you get home.


More tomorrow.


Another 20 Ways To Save Energy List – Cool name though EcoMall

As I have pointed out in the past, these lists are pretty much all the same. Plus they usually don’t mention the bigger items like taking windows out of service (alternatively applying low e film) or blocking off unused space but, the name is really cool.




Whenever you save energy, you not only save money, you also reduce the demand for such fossil fuels as coal, oil, and natural gas. Less burning of fossil fuels also means lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary contributor to global warming, and other pollutants.

You do not have to do without to achieve these savings. There is now an energy efficient alternative for almost every kind of appliance or light fixture. That means that consumers have a real choice and the power to change their energy use on a revolutionary scale.

The average American produces about 40,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year. Together, we use nearly a million dollars worth of energy every minute, night and day, every day of the year. By exercising even a few of the following steps, you can cut your annual emissions by thousands of pounds and your energy bills by a significant amount!


Home appliances



  • Turn your refrigerator down. Refrigerators account for about 20% of Household electricity use. Use a thermometer to set your refrigerator temperature as close to 37 degrees and your freezer as close to 3 degrees as possible. Make sure that its energy saver switch is turned on. Also, check the gaskets around your refrigerator/freezer doors to make sure they are clean and sealed tightly. 

  • Set your clothes washer to the warm or cold water setting, not hot. Switching from hot to warm for two loads per week can save nearly 500 pounds of CO2 per year if you have an electric water heater, or 150 pounds for a gas heater. 

  • Make sure your dishwasher is full when you run it and use the energy saving setting, if available, to allow the dishes to air dry. You can also turn off the drying cycle manually. Not using heat in the drying cycle can save 20 percent of your dishwasher’s total electricity use. 

  • Turn down your water heater thermostat. Thermostats are often set to 140 degrees F when 120 is usually fine. Each 10 degree reduction saves 600 pounds of CO2 per year for an electric water heater, or 440 pounds for a gas heater. If every household turned its water heater thermostat down 20 degrees, we could prevent more than 45 million tons of annual CO2 emissions – the same amount emitted by the entire nations of Kuwait or Libya. 

  • Select the most energy-efficient models when you replace your old appliances. Look for the Energy Star Label – your assurance that the product saves energy and prevents pollution. Buy the product that is sized to your typical needs – not the biggest one available. Front loading washing machines will usually cut hot water use by 60 to 70% compared to typical machines. Replacing a typical 1973 refrigerator with a new energy-efficient model, saves 1.4 tons of CO2 per year. Investing in a solar water heater can save 4.9 tons of CO2 annually.


    I gave you the first 5. You have to go read the rest yourself. More tomorrow.


    Saving Energy Contest In Upstate New York – It is great to be a loser

    This is what can happen when the entire energy related sector cooperates. Too bad it doesn’t happen everywhere.

    The Biggest Losers win in Home Energy Efficiency Contest in Saratoga Springs

    PostDateIcon February 14th, 2011 | PostAuthorIcon Author: admin

    The Biggest Losers Win
    A Sustainable Saratoga Campaign to Promote Energy Efficiency and Conservation.

    (Saratoga Springs, NY)  — The local Biggest Loser Energy Challenge sponsored by Sustainable Saratoga came to a close last week as a group of Saratoga Springs neighbors representing ten households sallied forth in sub-zero weather to focus an infrared camera on their houses in the last educational activity of the contest. As participants each looked at their houses on the camera screen, tell-tale glowing lights signified heat escaping into the cold night air. The infrared camera visually demonstrated where heat losses were the greatest, and gave opposing team members ammunition for teasing owners about missed opportunities to make their homes more energy efficient.

    After the chilly outing, participants compared the final tally of their energy consumption over a six-month period to see which group had managed to cut energy use and waste by the largest percentage over the same period last year. Although both teams were happy “losers”, one group did reduce more than the other.

    The participants encountered some surprises.  First, it was interesting to see energy use trends over time as there were unexpected spikes and dips in therms (gas) and kilowatts (electricity). Several people who halved their electricity usage speculated in hindsight how they did it. One had unplugged her clothes dryer and used line drying in her basement instead. Another had purchased a new refrigerator that replaced a 30 year old one, exchanged an old cable box for a new one and put the flat screen TV on a plug that could be turned off in order to prevent the significant stand-by energy these modern TVs burn, as well as the hole in our pockets.


    Please go there and read more.


    More tomorrow.


    Home Energy Audit – You can’t save energy until you know where you are using it

    Trying to save energy (re: money) without knowing where you are using it is like assembling something without reading the instructions. Sometimes it works but most times it doesn’t.



    Getting to the Bottom of Home Energy Use



    In 1949, according to DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), residential electricity consumption was 5% of total residential energy consumption. By 2009, it was 40%. This rise is attributable to many factors—appliance and equipment saturation, innovations in electronic technology, larger houses, and greater disposable income, among others. According to DOE, end-use electricity consumption will continue to grow as a percentage of total household energy consumption. As electricity consumption grows, so does base-load household electricity consumption—that year-round electrical load upon which seasonal electrical loads, like air-conditioning and space heating, are stacked. Water heating, refrigerators and freezers, lighting, laundry and kitchen appliances, electronics and entertainment devices, pumps, and miscellaneous plugged-in loads are common base-load end uses. All additional electricity use—from occasionally used devices, tools, or equipment; visitors; short-term construction jobs; and so on—is consumed on top of base-load use. And the fervent appetite for new and as-yet-unimagined appliances and electronic devices is expected to climb. Growth is why base-load end use is an important topic.
    Subscribe to the magazine and read the rest.

    More next week.