The big news that came out of Obama’s recent trip to Africa was the announcement of his “Power Africa” initiative. The initiative has been praised and criticized, but I’ll just note the last few paragraphs of the White House Fact Sheet that discuss transparency — almost as an afterthought:
Transparent Natural Resource Management
The recent discoveries of oil and gas in sub-Saharan Africa will play a critical role in defining the region’s prospects for economic growth and stability, as well as contributing to broader near-term global energy security. Yet existing infrastructure in the region is inadequate to ensure that both on- and off-shore resources provide on-shore benefits and can be accessed to meet the region’s electricity generation needs.
Although many countries have legal and regulatory structures in place governing the use of natural resources, these are often inadequate. They fail to comply with international standards of good governance, or do not provide for the transparent and responsible financial management of these resources.
Power Africa will work in collaboration with partner countries to ensure the path forward on oil and gas development maximizes the benefits to the people of Africa, while also ensuring that development proceeds in a timely, financially sound, inclusive, transparent and environmentally sustainable manner.
Obama 2012 is not Obama 2008. Divided U.S. Gives Obama More Time, says the New York Times in an article about his “narrow victory”. Early this morning Obama told the crowds in Chicago that “the best is yet to come,” but we all know that — even with the best of intentions — he faces a bitterly divided government, a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the toxic influence of corporate money on U.S. politics.
But keeping the Romney-Republican agenda out of the White House is significant. Romney had promised to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform that includes the important sections 1502 and 1504 that address the use of conflict minerals and oil and gas transparency, respectively. Sections 1502 and 1504 have already helped advanced similar legislation in Europe. And Romney repeatedly attacked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and pledged to undo coal and fuel-economy regulation.
Forget the hope and change stuff, forget your disappointment with Obama — it’s time to get real.
For those in the U.S. who are not going to vote because they’re disillusioned or believe they must take a stand and vote for the Greens, this is the moment to swallow the bitter pill of realpolitik. Third party votes to the left of Obama will help Romney. Not voting will help Romney.
Go to the polls, cast your vote for Obama and then pledge to start fighting for real change on November 7th.
Obama and Romney have been competing for the title of “Fossil Fuels’ Best Friend,” but it’s not really a contest. The GOP has repeatedly shown it’s the party of deregulation, climate change denial and Big Oil. The Democrats may not be much better, but at this point we have to take what we can get and go from there.
I’m going to post some additional information on the recent spill in the Ahanta West District, where local communities have more or less finished cleaning their beaches, themselves, without any information from authorities about the source or size of the spill.
In the meantime, in response to massive protests against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Obama has decided to…study an alternative route. Decision delayed until after the election: It’s hard not to see this as anything other than pure political calculation.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration makes no mention of global warming in the decision to delay the decision.
The town of Campo is located about 80 km (50 miles) south of Kribi, just north of the border with Equatorial Guinea. On paper, the road from Kribi to Campo is paved — it is, after all, an international highway. Of course what’s printed on the map and the reality on the ground are often two very different things. The road, in fact, is unpaved and in terrible condition. At the end of the rainy season the drive from Kribi to Campo took longer than three hours. Along the way we encountered several big trucks stuck in the mud, their drivers sitting on the roadside. They were waiting for the sun to dry the mud enough for the trucks to move again. A wait that could last several days…
For me Campo was a stop on the road to the Campo Ma’an National Park. To access the park by land, you have to travel another two and a half hours east along what used to be a logging road. Now it’s more of a path, barely wide enough for a car to pass. The forest ranger who accompanied us to the park said that on average the road gets used once every two months, just enough to keep the forest from completely reclaiming the land.
At the last settlement before the park entrance, we encountered a Bagyeli man in an Obama t-shirt. “The first African president,” he said. Obama t-shirts weren’t unusual; I also saw a few cars, buses — even bars — named Obama. But this t-shirt was special. It was so worn and so far from any town or city; it really seemed to sum up the symbolic importance of Obama here. The first African president.
Now with 2010 just around the corner, let’s remember Obama’s declaration: “Africa doesn’t need strongmen. It needs strong institutions.” He pronounced those words in July while in Ghana. I hope that in this coming year Obama will be more than the symbolic first African president, that he will take actions to show his commitment to the continent and its peoples is real.