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June 22, 2010

SecEnergy Stephen Chu (Who By The Way Has a Nobel Prize In Case You Haven't Heard): BP Is Going To Help Us Save The World
Update: The Pretendustrial Revolution

In 2007.

Beyond Petroleum, baby. This is about a BP venture called "Energy Biosciences Institute."

Amazing what happens when a company starts diverting precious resources of money, attention, and IQ to projects beyond its core competency in order to placate fantasists who think we shouldn't be using oil.

Birgeneau: In the previous segment I talked to Beth Burnside and Dan Kammen about the new Energy Biosciences Institute, and I’m really interested to hear your opinion of the impact that this is likely to have both on and off the campus. What are we looking forward to?

Steve Chu: This is a great opportunity. There’s been a lot of excitement that’s been growing over the last several years and now partnering with BP we will have the resources to actually carry out some of the things that we want to do in order to help save the world.

Birgeneau: And so how are we going to save the world?

Chu: We’re going to save the world, in part, by doing something about the energy problem. This impacts national security, this impacts economic prosperity, and most important for me, this impacts stewardship of the environment. And in this creating alternative to transportation fuels — alternatives for gasoline — this will go a long way to helping this problem.

BP seems to be buying political goodwill by ponying up a lot of money to trendy political causes. That's not their fault, exactly; idiocy so compels them.

But it seems to me this might have three bad effects (beyond mere waste and bribery):

1. They get a lot of latitude in their actual petroleum operations, because, hey, they're beyond petroleum and stuff.

2. There is a diversion of precious intellectual capital and capital-capital away from the dirty, unsexy, and un-saving-the-world business of drilling for oil.

3. It creates a moral hazard within the company whereby they don't have to sweat such stuff as safety in their drilling because they have these other small-potatoes operations out "saving the world" and stuff. (Last one suggested by a commenter.)

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I wish Beyond Petroleum had actually ceased petroleum operations when it decided it was too good for petroleum.

By the Way: This sort of corruption is always going on, whereby politicians strongly suggest to corporations that they start diverting money away from their actual operations into ultra vires (beyond the corporate charter's stated goals) flights of fancy. It's akin to bribery, except instead of paying off a politician with cold hard cash they pay him off in political capital.

A Stephen Chu or President Present is thus enabled to avoid making realistic choices based on real life information -- decisions he doesn't want to make, like accepting petroleum is the economic lifeblood of the world and will be for another 40 years, at least -- because it gives them some bullshit-bullshit cover. They can say they're permitting BP to do drilling because, oh, look, the Energy Biosciences Institute.

I guess this is part of the reason I'm not as bothered by the $20 billion shakedown as many are -- I see this happening all the time. Not to the tune of $20 billion dollars, of course, but every day a corporation is plainly indulging in politician-mollification through crap like this.

Buying "goodwill," the lawyers call it, justifying the use of corporate money for ends not really specified as the goals of the corporation. Paying off the government mob, in other words, same as you'd pay some mobsters a tax to get your trash hauled away.

The Department of Pretendustry: Suggests garrett.

We should create a full cabinet-level department for pretendustry, because plainly we're a world leader in pretendustry. Certainly we're losing all desire to compete in dirty, filthy industry.

But we remain the most pretendustrious nation in the world. Our gross pretendustrial output is rising every year.

The Limits of the Pretendustrial Revolution:


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posted by Ace at 05:56 PM

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