Siemens: Los Angeles Must Transform Energy, Transit Systems To Hit Sustainability Goals

Siemens is a main driver and global leader in Smart City technology. So, Siemens tells Los Angeles what its problems are (energy, transit) and then proceeds to sell solutions that will ‘fix’ the problems, ‘helping’ the city meet its United Nations-imposed Sustainable Development goals. ⁃ TN Editor

Today, Los Angeles reports a use of 33% renewable energy and 14% transit and active transport, making the city’s 2050 goals fairly aggressive. While the city was able to reduce its GHG emissions by 20% from 1990 to 2013, efforts for continued reductions are growing increasingly challenging as the city’s population approaches 4 million people.

One of the most challenging aspects of these targets will be the reduction of citywide car usage from 86% to 54.5% by 2050. In February, Los Angeles topped the Inrix annual list of the world’s most gridlocked cities for the sixth year, noting that the average driver spends 102 hours in traffic during peak hours in the city. Los Angeles’ transit and active transport target calls for a significant increase in metro rail and bus usage to alleviate car dependency, but the city will need to work diligently to promote and incentivize these services in order to draw in more passengers.

For Los Angeles to reach 100% renewables, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will need to reassess how it operates. Spencer Fields, Synapse Energy Economics associate, told sister publication Utility Dive that reaching 100% renewables “does not require any more renewable generating capacity [in Los Angeles] … They just need to adjust to a new system operating paradigm.”

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Technocracy In India: Corporate Technocrats Infiltrate Government Structures

The source of Technocrats are corporations: “The hold of corporate power on public policy in India has many other manifestations, from the plunder of public sector banks to the appropriation of land, water, minerals” ⁃ TN Editor

Today, corporate power has not only grown to unprecedented levels, its muscular arms also reach far and wide. Representatives of private businesses sit on all sorts of government committees.

Among other major developments in Indian society and politics during the last twenty-five years or so is the steady growth of corporate power. It is not that corporate interests were devoid of influence earlier – India’s leading business houses, like the Tatas and Birlas, have had a cosy relationship with the government for a long time.

Even Dhirubhai Ambani, the icon of Indian entrepreneurs, made his fortune on the back of the Licence Raj (e.g. by getting hold of valuable import permits), with a little help from pliable bureaucrats and politicians.

In those days, however, there were some boundaries – real or pretended – between the corporate sector and state policy, and the state sometimes took decisive action (for better or worse) against corporate interests, such as the nationalisation of banks and the coal industry. Further, the concentration of wealth was still at an early stage.

Today, corporate power has not only grown to unprecedented levels, its muscular arms also reach far and wide. Representatives of private businesses sit on all sorts of government committees, oblivious of conflicts of interest.

The Sensex, tensely watched by the Finance Ministry, pronounces instant verdicts on economic policy. State governments are competing to enhance their ranking in terms of the “ease of doing business”. Public–private partnerships give private business wide powers to invade the earlier realm of the public sector with full state support. The magnitude of corporate scams (such as the 2G scam or the coal scam) keeps breaking new records. India’s largest corporate houses are also bankrupting its public-sector banks by saddling them with billions of rupees of “non-performing assets”.

The largest of them all, Reliance (headed by Dhirubhai Ambani’s sons, Mukesh and Anil), has so much power that, as India Today once put it, “when they don’t like policy, they change it”. Corporate interests increasingly drive not only the traditional areas of business but also urban planning, academic research, communications, sports, entertainment, the mass media, and much more. India is in danger of becoming a “business-driven society”, as Noam Chomsky aptly describes the United States.

We had a bitter taste of the invasion of public policy by corporate interests in the context of child nutrition programmes, especially school meals and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). With millions of children covered, a contract to supply ready-to-eat food to them under these programmes, instead of cooked food prepared by local women, can be very lucrative.

India’s food industry has not lost sight of this business opportunity, and it has persistently lobbied for the replacement of cooked food with branded products in the midday meal scheme and ICDS. One example is the biscuits industry’s attempt, in 2008, to persuade the Ministry of Human Resource Development to replace cooked midday meals with biscuits. That particular attempt was defeated, but there have been many others since, and some of them have succeeded, at the state level if not at the national level.

The hold of corporate power on public policy in India has many other manifestations, from the plunder of public sector banks to the appropriation of land, water, minerals, and (until recently) spectrum at throwaway prices. Another example is technocracy, in the broad sense of an over-influence of technology experts on public policy. Technological innovation, of course, is very important and has often made major contributions to more effective social policies.

For instance, the NREGA’s web-based monitoring and information system (MIS) has become a model of pro-active information disclosure for all government programmes in India. Sometimes, however, technology seems to become an end in itself, driven by hidden interests at the expense of the public.

There is a strong element of technocracy in India’s unique identity (UID) project, also known as Aadhaar. The project was sold to the public by claiming, firstly, that Aadhaar was a “voluntary facility”, and secondly, that its main purpose was to remove corruption from social programmes.

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It Begins: Government Drone Spying On Sacramento Neighborhood

The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency is not a law enforcement agency, and yet it is spying on local citizens with a sophisticated drone. The City Council has the power to stop this cold in its tracks with a simple binding resolution, and citizens are bringing pressure. ⁃ TN Editor

Neighbors say they’re furious over a drone that’s flying over the neighborhood, and we’ve found out it’s tied to a government agency.

The mysterious drone has been spotted during late-night hours, hovering over residential neighborhoods and looking down on homes.

ohn Mattox first spotted the mysterious drone about a month ago.

“The drone would fly over here, come over my neighbor’s house, fly over our house right here,” he said. “You come home from work, it would be operating, go to bed it was still operating, and this would repeat day after day.”

His neighbors in Sacramento’s upper Land Park neighborhood wondered what it was doing.

“It just doesn’t feel good,” said Ben Allen. “It hovers around. You don’t know what they’re looking at and monitoring.”

Neighbors say they’ve heard the drone flying in the early morning hours, well before sunrise.

This week, they learned it’s being flown by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. It manages two nearby housing communities, Alder Grove and Marina Vista. Those complexes have seen serious crimes, including a fatal shooting in January and a triple homicide in 2016.

“We initiated the drone program in order to enhance the safety and security of our residents,” said LaTanna Jones, SHRA’s assistant director.

She says the five-foot-long aircraft operates between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and has already spotted illegal dumping and trespassing. Pilots have established a protocol to protect privacy.

“The drones are programmed so that they do not catch any footage until they get to about 200 feet in the air,” Jones said.

The housing authority says the program is legal, but some neighbors have doubts, saying their privacy is being invaded and the technology doesn’t belong in a residential community.

“This is not an appropriate way to police the community,” Mattox said.

The drone is part of a 90-day pilot project that costs about $20,000. Opponents are asking the Sacramento City Council to step in and cancel the program.

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