Hot Commodity

Down the drain.
I'm sure you're familiar with the food crisis going on in many parts of the world, the current rising oil prices here in the US, and the rise in gold prices. Hopefully you're aware that all these are primarily a result of commodities trading.

"The sheer amount of investor money flooding into commodities markets is overshadowing any supply and demand numbers."

Whether this is good or bad is a topic for another discussion. The topic here is the growing trend of privatizing our world's water supply and the future of our most precious and essential natural resource becoming a commodity which is traded on Wall Street.

First, the problem:

Everyone agrees that we are in the midst of a global freshwater crisis. Around the world, rivers, lakes, and aquifers are dwindling faster than Mother Nature can possibly replenish them; industrial and household chemicals are rapidly polluting what’s left. Meanwhile, global population is ticking skyward. Goldman Sachs estimates that global water consumption is doubling every 20 years, and the United Nations expects demand to outstrip supply by more than 30 percent come 2040.

Yes, I made Goldman Sachs bold because I think it's important to highlight the fact an investment bank of is tracking these issues.

Now, the solution... if you want to call it that:

Proponents of privatization say markets are the best way to solve that problem: only the invisible hand can bring supply and demand into harmony, and only market pricing will drive water use down enough to make a dent in water scarcity. But the benefits of the market come at a price. By definition, a commodity is sold to the highest bidder, not the customer with the most compelling moral claim.

Who is buying up our water supply? You'll recognize these names I'm sure:
"Back in September 2010, J.P. Morgan purchased SouthWest Water, a large national water company. The Carlyle Group announced it plans to purchase the Park Water Company, which owns water systems in California and Missoula, Montana."

Yup, the most powerful companies on the planet are buying up our water supply and as the crisis worsens, these will be the companies deciding on prices and availability. Some things are worth more than money. To a moral human being this means it should not be a for-profit commodity. To a corporation, this means it's worth more than all the money in the world.

The reasons why our local governments are selling their water utilities are varied but much of it is due to immediate financial troubles being "fixed" by selling off these public utilities - just as we've seen with prisons, schools and about everything else. Why fix our budgets when we can just pawn off our resources? That works, right? Everyone knows people who pawn off their possessions are making sound financial decisions.

One thing to note is that this privatization does not result in better access or prices, it is often worse and much more expensive. Here's a few links to browse:

Under the plan, the combined monthly wastewater and water bill for the average residential user would climb from the current $63.29 to $117.67 in 2013

Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens is about to make a killing by selling water he doesn’t own.

Aqua America - Strategies of a Water Profiteer

1 comment:

  1. There's a very good chapter about this sort of privatization in Greg Palst's nook The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. He talks about the "IMF riots" that are factored into these plans.