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Archive for May 2021

Private Equity Exacerbates the Climate Crisis

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The following is a Press Release from the Private Equity Stakeholder Project. If you are unfamiliar with Private Equity and how it works I suggest you read Cory Doctorow on the subject.

Pension Forum Investigates the Role Private Equity Plays in Exacerbating the Climate Crisis

The University of Washington’s Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies hosted a forum Wednesday that explored the relationship between pension funds and other institutional investors, the climate crisis, and the impacts on communities and the environment. Trustees and representatives of dozens of investors with more than $10 trillion in assets combined participated in the forum.  

Moderated by Michael McCann, the University of Washington Gordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship, panelists spoke of the growing urgency to interrogate the role private equity plays in exacerbating the climate crisis, often using pension fund capital. 

Treasurer of the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union Paul Finch said at the forum, “What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get managed. And we need to better understand what the risk is and we need better measurements of investment risk. We need less blind trust of investment agents. We need to appoint more critical thinkers to these pension boards who are equipped and educated with the tools to be able to understand the risks that exist.” 

Panelist Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) – Gidimt’en Checkpoint Spokesperson on Wet’suwet’en Territory, British Columbia, said, “Our resistance creates huge instability and risk to investors. We know that [KKR’s] Coastal Gas Link project has been delayed for at least one year and many seasons due to direct action and the requirement of added infrastructure throughout the pipeline route. 

“We will never stand down and will continue to resist this project and others like it that do not gain consent from our people. It is a bad investment that will never see the returns that pensioners deserve.”

Participants discussed how labor unions, pension fund trustees, and Indigenous rights and grassroots organizations are working to encourage climate-safe investment practices and explore avenues for further collaboration. 

Finch said, “What we found is that if people don’t have the tools to properly measure what’s happening in the markets, then they’re not able to make informed decisions in the best interest of their members or their beneficiaries. Across the board, the risks associated with these [fossil fuel] investments are not being properly analyzed or understood. Since divesting [from fossil fuels] our union has approximately earned, net of fees, 12.5 percent on the market, on average, every year.”

Even as the US has rejoined the Paris Agreement, and the Biden Administration is advocating for greater investment in clean energy infrastructure, and as publicly traded companies begin to commit to net-zero emissions, private equity firms – such as the Blackstone Group, KKR & Co., and the Carlyle Group – continue to acquire fossil fuel assets, contributing to the climate disaster we are experiencing. 

Earlier this week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a groundbreaking report that stated that in order to achieve a net zero energy system by 2050, from today, there should be “no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants.”

Private Equity Stakeholder Project Climate Director Alyssa Giachino told forum attendees, “There is a universe of economic actors outside of the public markets – like private equity — that are finding buying opportunities in assets shed by publicly traded companies. Absent pressure and real accountability, private funds managers will continue to invest institutional investors’ capital in oil and gas despite the risks. The public needs real information to hold private equity accountable to the impacts they have already had on the environment and marginalized communities.”

Mitch Vogel, Trustee of the Illinois State Universities Retirement System and Eileen Moran, member of the Environmental Justice Working Group of the Professional Staff Congress – CUNY also participated on the panel.

You can watch the recording of the forum here.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 21, 2021 at 8:52 am

Is the Shine Starting to Come Off Bill Gates’s Halo? A ‘Nation’ Investigation

The rest of this post comes from a Press Release from The Nation. There are three articles in the links below but fortunately if you are not a Nation subscriber you can have three free articles. I think you will agree when you have finished reading them that this is a very worthwhile use of your time. And, if you have not been paying attention, go read Cory Doctorow’s latest on his blog

The Nation’s Tim Schwab—whose incisive three-part investigation into the Gates Foundation won a 2021 Izzy Award for independent media—is out with a new deep dive into Bill Gates’s opposition to patent waivers on Covid vaccines: A stance that isn’t just ideological, but could be linked to the Gates Foundation’s co-ownership of a vaccine company—and likely a vast trove of intellectual property:

Is the Shine Starting to Come Off Bill Gates’s Halo?

The billionaire’s role in perpetuating vaccine apartheid in the name of protecting intellectual property rights has begun to draw criticism.

Amid a growing chorus of criticism for Bill Gates’s role in the unfolding vaccine apartheid around the world, Schwab reports that many have understated the full scope of the Gates Foundation’s interests in this debate—including the sprawling array of intellectual property the charity has acquired access to through its grants and investments. And the fact that the foundation co-owns a vaccine company. It is increasingly urgent to ask if Gates’s multiple roles in the pandemic—as a charity, a business, an investor, and a lobbyist—are about philanthropy and giving away money, or about taking control and exercising power—monopoly power.

ABOUT: Tim Schwab (@TimothyWSchwab) is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., whose sweeping three-part Nation investigation into The Gates Foundation was part of a 2019 Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship.

The first installment uncovered the historically opaque operation’s two billion dollars in ‘charitable’ donations to private businesses, documenting how their endowment generates far more income than it gives away. The second part unearthed the foundation’s hundreds of millions invested in companies working on Covid-19, putting it in a position to generate windfall revenues, which Gates himself has failed to disclose publicly. The third piece offered damning criticism of the foundation’s highest-profile research project, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which holds near-monopoly power over global/public health. It exposed a welter of financial conflicts of interest and other irregularities at The Lancet, a leading journal that publishes much of IHME’s work.

Representingthe first substantive investigation into the Gates Foundation in 15 years, Schwab provided readers with a singular narrative about how the super-rich transform money into power and wield a devastatingly undemocratic hold over public policy.

Founded by abolitionists in 1865, The Nation has chronicled the breadth and depth of political and cultural life from the debut of the telegraph to the rise of Twitter, serving as a critical, independent, and progressive voice in American journalism.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 10, 2021 at 11:52 am

Posted in Pandemic

Tagged with ,

Don’t get scammed

with 3 comments

I am pretty sure that you must see the same kind of adverts that I see. Every so often I see something that seems like a Good Idea. Unfortunately I seem to be a bit gullible. I tend to trust people. They tell me they have something that will be useful, and present some details, and I think that I would like that. On this blog I documented the great electric bicycle wheel disaster. You would have thought that would have inoculated me to some extent. But I have also fallen for the fake nutritional supplement scam – and more than once.

I saw an advert for a device that said you could reduce your electricity bills “Stabilize Your Current, Remove Dirty Electricity, Slash Your Power Bill Today!” The device is sold as Voltex. It comes with a 60 day money back guarantee.

I bought two devices and neither of them actually works. When plugged into a live receptacle they are supposed to light up a Green LED. Neither of these actually managed that.

As you can see there is a green plastic track across each device, and that dull green line is supposed to light up when there is power present.

When it did not light up I did what I should have done before sending them my credit card information. I did a Google search and the first hit was this one “Is Voltex a scam?” on reddit. From that I found links to two YouTube videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD7M_tJ-SwM

I must warn you that Voltex continues to advertise on the internet. I have seen ads that pop up when playing games. The claims made in these advertisements are unsupported by science. As those two videos above demonstrate Voltex cannot do what they say it does.

I went to the Voltex site to find out about returns. There is also a contact page.

This is the reply that I got

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for getting back to us and sorry for the disappointment you have with our product. I understand how frustrating it must be.

I’d love to help you out with this. I just need a little more information before you can return the product back to us.

Before we go ahead and arrange a return, could you please send us some clear photos of the entire item along with the packaging, if possible? Could you also let us know the reason you’re returning the item?

In order to be eligible for a refund, you have to return the product within 30 calendar days of your purchase. The product must be in the same condition that you receive it and undamaged in any way.

Once we receive more details, we will be in touch with you shortly to discuss further steps.

We do not require an RMA number upon returning the unit. Please email us a photo of the postage receipt or the tracking number once you drop the package.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please let me know. I’m here to help.

Thank you so much for your patience.

Best,

Connie ll Customer Service
Representative

——

Did you notice how the 60 day guarantee on the ad has now shrunk to 30 days?

I sent her the same picture that I used for the top of this post. Then I repacked the bag it came in and took it to UPS.

Here is the second email I received after I had supplied the picture

——–

Hi Stephen,

Thank you for sending the photo and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.

In order to solve this issue, we have a few options we can offer:
1.    According to our Returns Policy, we do not provide a return slip, and all of the costs of returning the product(s) have to be covered by the buyer. To avoid this, we would like to offer you a CA$62.00 discount and you can keep the product(s) that you bought.
2.    If that is not an option and you would like to get a full refund, you will first have to send the item(s) back to our returns center.

Here is the return’s address the item should be shipped to:

Returns Depo
451 Mirror Ct. Ste 106
Henderson NV 89011

After you ship the products, please don’t forget to send us a receipt with a tracking number. Once the parcel is delivered, we will refund you within 3-5 business days period.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

——-

I looked up the cheapest way of shipping that would still get delivered in the now 29 day period which appeared to cost ~$20.

I must admit that I was a bit surprised at the address given in that last email since the package it came in had a return address in Burnaby. My partner suggested I take it there myself, but of course that would void the conditions laid out. I also called the number on my credit card: I was told to return the unsatisfactory items but to make sure I got a tracking number for the parcel. In the event that I do not get my refund, the credit card company will use the tracking number on the shipping receipt as evidence that the charge on my card should be reversed.

Below is the product information supplied with the device.

On the other side of the document photographed below it states:
ELECTRICITY SAVING SPIKE BUSTER

Adopt the latest and high-efficient technique of Germany to save electricity

*save energy sources efficiently environmentally friendly stabilize the current

*source stand current waveform protect devices

*prolong the life of the electric devices easy

*usage no need maintenance

UPDATE May 20, 2021

I got my VISA statement today which shows a refund from the vendor which was posted on May 10.

So yes I did get back what I paid, except that I had to spend money and time shipping back the nonworking product sent to me. Sometimes when I see ads during games there is a way to block them – for example Google ads have a little device in the top right corner of the ad where you can ask for that ad not to be shown. But there seems to be no way to complain about downright fraudulent claims. And obviously Voltex manages to find enough people who don’t bother with trying to get a refund that they can afford to buy more ad time. So this is the best I can do to try and get the message across. See title at top of page.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 5, 2021 at 12:25 pm

Posted in energy

Tagged with