Privateering the Commons

Karl FitzgeraldCommentaryLeave a Comment

Commercialisation for whom?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Peter Blanchard

Renegade Economists Podcast 88

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As broadcast on the almighty on Wed May 6th.

This week we discuss the frontiers of privatisation – from DNA to deserts to even the use of words! We also interview Mark Wakeham (EV) & Peter Campbell (Green Living Pedia) about Victoria’s pathetic solar feed in tariff. The protection of monopolists must stop!

Show Notes

Private v Public rights – how it deters effective policy making
We’re ‘labor’ing for polluters, we’re labouring for waste, we’re labouring to reward speculative largesse.

Solar Gold Rush
Overall, there are 107 solar energy project applications for BLM land in California.

The federal Bureau of Land Management has seen a 78% jump in the number of solar energy project applications since it reversed a controversial decision in July, 08 and started to accept applications again.

The Southwest desert’s real estate boom
Just 20 months ago only five applications for solar sites had been filed with the BLM in the California Mojave. Today 104 claims have been received for nearly a million acres of land, representing a theoretical 60 gigawatts of electricity. (The entire state of California currently consumes 33 gigawatts annually.)

It’s not just a federal-land grab either. Buyers are also vying for private property. Some are paying upwards of $10,000 an acre for desert dirt that a few years ago would have sold for $500.

Meanwhile, the land rush is setting the stage for a showdown between solar investors and those who want to protect a fragile environment that is home to the desert tortoise and other rare critters. The Southwest is on the cusp of what could be a green revolution. And the biggest obstacle of all may be … environmentalists.
Solar Investments – front for Goldman Sachs’s (GS, Fortune 500) solar subsidiary.
Solar Investments filed its first land claim in December 2006 and within a month had applied for more than 125,000 acres for power plants that would produce ten gigawatts of electricity. Many of the sites lie close to the transmission lines that connect the desert to coastal cities. (Goldman has also staked claims on 40,000 acres of the Nevada desert.) **

Such is the land frenzy that farmers in Arizona were paid $45 million for 1,920 acres by Spanish solar company Abengoa so that it could build a 280-megawatt power plant; the land had an assessed value of a few hundred thousand dollars. The company also plunked down $30 million for 3,000 acres in the California Mojave that had traded hands for $1.25 million nine years earlier. That prompted developer Scott Martin to put his adjacent 300-acre parcel – land he had bought only a few months earlier for $457,500 – on the market for $3 million. Also for sale: a $15 million, 3,000-acre tract near Palm Springs, which Martin began shopping around to solar executives like Ausra’s Perry Fontana.

**** But yet they blame the environmentalists as threatening solar farms – nice diversionary tactic.
Why not the higher/ more unaffordable energy prices due to the speculative land pressures?

Land Grabbing by Foreign Investors in Developing Countries ‘politically unacceptable‘
The land acquisitions have the potential to increase investment into agriculture and rural areas in developing countries, but they raise concerns about the impact on small-scale farmers.

Higher agricultural prices generally result in higher land prices, because the expected returns to land increase when profits per unit of land increase.

In 2007 alone, farmland prices jumped by 16 percent in Brazil, by 31 percent in Poland, and by 15 percent in the Midwestern United States.

Gene patents subject of Senate inquiry
When the human genome or genetic blueprint was mapped in 2003 scientists hoped the information would revolutionise the treatment of incurable diseases. What many didn’t expect was that genetic sequences would be patented just like inventions. A senate inquiry is now looking into the looming clash between private property and public interest.

….an American company called Myriad held the patent on the genes. It had granted an exclusive licence covering Australia and New Zealand to a Melbourne company called Genetic Technologies.

Last year, Genetic Technologies threatened legal action against the Peter McCallum Cancer Institute unless it stopped performing the diagnostic test for the two crucial genes.

ANNA LAVELLE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, AUSBIOTECH: People own their own genes. They can’t give ownership away of their own genes. So that really is not at risk. What is under discussion here is the intellectual property system and how it has developed over the last 25 years.

GRAEME SUTHERS, ROYAL COLLEGE OF PATHOLOGISTS: It is absolute nonsense to consider that the gene could be patented. It’s a naturally occurring substance. It would make as much sense to patent a gene as it does to patent the moon.

ECIS Provides A History of Microsoft’s AntiCompetitive Behavior
“Embrace, extend, extinguish”

To any who might be tempted to imagine there is a “new” Microsoft, I would like you to read this sentence from the section on WordPerfect:

Microsoft also used its monopoly power to control industry standards, thus requiring WordPerfect to implement proprietary technology or risk incompatibility with Windows.

Sinclair Davidson & the Henry Tax Review
Just read the article

First home buyers slugged
RISING house prices in Melbourne’s most affordable suburbs have effectively wiped out the Federal Government’s cash hand-outs to first home buyers, new figures show.

New figures from property analysts Residex, obtained by The Sunday Age, show that 57 per cent of suburbs with average house values below $350,000 experienced a price increase of more than $7000 in the six months to March.

Average prices soared by $30,500 in Werribee South, $26,500 in Kilsyth South, and by $24,000 in Broadmeadows and Albion — all of which are suburbs with house prices at the lower end of the market favoured by first home buyers.


Double Dee and Steinski – Who Owns Culture Pt2

Almost got to this…

David Spratt – the author of Climate Code Red states in his email –
For the record, the changes to the proposed scheme also:

* delay its introduction for a year to 1 July 2011 and set a nominal price of $10 a tonne with unlimited number of permits till 1 July 2012, so there will be NO effective action for another three years;
* increase the permits to the biggest polluters in the first year from 90% to 95% and from 60% to 70% (so that in the first year the biggest polluters will be effectively paying 50 cents per tonne to pollute, as Environment Victoria noted);
* keeps the provision for unlimited outsourcing of Australia’s national responsibilities by allowing the purchase of permits from overseas without limit, so that the scheme has NO MECHANISM for ensuring that Australia’s emissions (as opposed to domestic permits) will drop by even one tonnne by 2050;
* fails to deal adequately with the question of additionality / voluntary action. As Environment Victoria notes: “The fix to recognise household and business voluntary action through GreenPower is welcome, but the mechanism is awful. By only recognizing additional GreenPower purchases above 2009 levels the Government is guaranteeing the collapse of existing GreenPower customer purchases and therefore jeopardizing the whole program. Furthermore the Rudd Government has failed to recognise the benefit of all other types of voluntary emissions reductions or additional action, which, like GreenPower, can be accounted for.”
* will not, contrary to back-slapping comments by the ACTU, produce an avalanche of “green jobs” because it is not designed to close down the brown jobs. Instead of building a clean, renewable-energy economy and technological capacity, Australia will continue to stumble at the back of the pack.

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