Blue Skies (BS) Thinking Comes With Lashings Of Greenwash In Sarawak

These days every ‘bright idea’ is promoted in the same way, especially in Sarawak.

Each money-spinning project is now championed as ‘holistic’, ‘sustainable’, ‘clean’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘renewable’, at least according to the BS Greenwash that wraps around every destructive, dirty, greedy idea designed to enrich the few and do nothing for anyone else.

On the slightest examination, these claims have nothing to do with reality in most cases. Too often, the truth is frighteningly the opposite. Anyone reading the PR material for Samling, for example, might gain the impression that company has existed to promote the natural living heritage of Southeast Asia rather than to feast off its destruction.

However, the most enthusiastic proponent of ‘Green Blue Skies Thinking’ would appear to be the present self-declared ‘Premier’ of Sarawak, Abang Jo.

Barely a week goes by, it seems, without a new pronouncement in the Borneo Post (still owned by timber barons) or the Sarawak Tribune (still owned by the filthily corrupted Taib family) or the Dyak Daily (run by parties in GPS) about some new initiative promoted by foreign opportunists keen to exploit what’s left of Sarawak’s fast dwindling resources, and then taken up by Abang Jo.

Here are just a few:

Carbon Capture

Shell has got the would-be businessman premier (in the tradition of ‘CEO Taib Mahmud’) excited about so-called Carbon Capture Storage technology.

This is the proposed pumping of the carbon belched out from their petroleum gas flares back into the now emptied oil and gas chambers under the sea bed. This is massively ‘green’ they claim, despite the fact that if they hadn’t burnt those fossil fuels there would be no excess carbon in the first place.

So, Abang Jo has raced to declare Sarawak (once again) to be at the cutting edge of global technology, planning to pour vast investment into this jolly plan in order to profit magnificently from resulting ‘Carbon Credits’. What could go wrong?

The first Red Flag for any seasoned observer of state controlled investments in Sarawak/Malaysia is leakage. Not carbon leakage, which is indeed a major problem (see below) but money.

The state has just emerged from its latest two week bi-annual assembly, held to rubber stamp a budget that no one has more than the slightest information about. There remains no more transparency than there ever was about where money is being raised or spent or how it is being invested – or lost. Too often, major cutting edge projects with very inadequate oversight have resulted in the latter, as Sarawak Report has endlessly reported.

The usual scenes took place this year as last, as a few opposition politicians were railroaded out of the Assembly or simply silenced for raising basic points over accountability, transparency and good governance in general.

The opposition leader is still being sued by the state government for criticising exactly this lack of basic information, on the grounds he has defamed it by failing to accept that all is well without evidence to prove it.

So, it goes without saying, that the normal processes of consultation, debate and legislative approval have not taken place for this Carbon Capture Storage scheme nor, indeed, any of the other ‘visionary’, ‘blue skies’ and, it goes without saying, ‘green’ proposals that have been simply announced by the executive authorities in Sarawak in recent months as decided on.

Indeed, thanks to the chaos of poor governance, there is perhaps no individual on earth with as much unguided power to manage (or rather mismanage) such a vast chunk of one of the world’s most richly resourced territories as the newly self-designated ‘premier’ of Sarawak.

Like a child with a fantasy board game, Abang Jo can, like his predecessors, simply sit in his residence, receive businessmen with lucrative ideas to present and then announce he will back them in the morning.

He has even set up a mysteriously funded State Development Bank to underwrite these fun proposals, naturally with “green finance” for “ventures that embed environmental, social and governance (ESG) into their business practices.”

As ever, if such projects fail, as so many have in the past, it will therefore be the state that will fund the failure. The businessmen who whispered in the Premier’s ear will make their fortune (alongside those who were ‘commissioned’ along the way) and money that ought to have gone to provide the still lacking basic facilities for native people will once again have disappeared.

Meanwhile, Abang Jo laughably claims he intends to achieve ‘developed status’ for the impoverished people of Sarawak within five years. How to achieve that when so much of the now inflated oil revenues and other resources must be spent on his BS projects?

Back to leaking carbon.

The real incentive for Shell in promoting ‘Carbon Capture Storage’ is to use the gas to force into depleted oil and gas deposits in order to extract the remaining fossil fuels, which they will then sell to burn …. and thus produce more carbon to pollute the atmosphere.

Mathematicians should work out that equation. Meanwhile, marine biologists and others are concerned about carbon leakage for different reasons. Their concern is that storing a liquified gas in porous rock under the surface of the sea for centuries could just be a little harder than it might sound to those who didn’t study basic science.

Gas is an escapist material and if it finds a microscopic exit point it will leap like a nimble sprite back into the atmosphere to match the pressure level it belongs to. A crack in the supposedly hard rock designed to pen it beneath the sea would do – and the engineers and scientists are dealing with locations miles under the sea, which makes space look like a simple unimpeded journey.

Should that gas escape the ‘green, eco-friendly’ captured carbon will join its brothers and sisters in excess amounts to further heat our sweltering planet.

Worse, on the way up through the water it will acidify Sarawak’s once magical tropical South China Sea, that once teamed with life, killing the already endangered and valuable remaining species in the region.

Such are the consequences of ill-thought out money-spinning mega-projects, so often as experience has shown time and again. Other advanced economies, such as the UK, are also piloting undersea carbon storage options.

However, given they have a more transparent and accountable decision-making process, the matter is being treated as a careful experiment amidst considerable controversy over effectiveness, longevity and safety. No such concerns threaten to hold back the Sarawak leadership who has decided to implement the bright idea bang in the middle of one of the most precious eco-systems on our planet.

Just one previous example of such potential for devastation is the Bakun Dam, a white elephant that has wantonly destroyed a vast region of tropical forest and ruined Sarawak’s most important river and its basin – along with the lives of so many of its peoples. The only benefit being to the pockets of Malaysian politicians and their business cronies.

‘Green’ Hydrogen and Power Dams

Yet, Bakun and other dams continue to be the subject of plenty of further hopeful ‘Blue Sky’ thinking, as the perpetrators from the Sarawak State Government seek to cash in on that eco-disaster before the poorly constructed project (designed only to last a hundred years mind you) gives up completely.

The construction of the next looming Borneo catastrophe, this time by Indonesia which plans to shift its over-crowded population onto sparsely populated indigenous lands with a new capital at Nusantara (one of the last remaining relatively un-destroyed segment of their archipelago) has already had SEB (Sarawak Electricity Board) salivating.

They have longed to sell their excess abundance of hydro-electricity for years to Indonesia and Singapore, but had constructed multiple destructive dams long before the market and technology existed to do so (the reason being that the real incentive for Bakun and other dams was the excuse to steal the valuable timber from the site and benefit from enormous contracts).

Naturally, no effort has been made to fulfil promises to the native people to use the electricity and ‘profits’ to enable them to reach ‘developed status’.  Communities displaced by dams remain without the electrification and running water that was pledged.

Meanwhile, another ‘blue sky’ prospect, namely ‘Green Hydrogen’ is being promoted as the great white hope for Sarawak’s dam builders. Abang Jo has been busily announcing the wondrous opportunity, seized on with barely a second thought it seems, to already revive the prospect of building all those further dams which protests had put mercifully on hold.

So, what is ‘green’ hydrogen?  It is a form of energy that can be stored and used to power motor vehicles in advanced economies such as South Korea to assist their target to be ‘carbon neutral’ within their borders.

A team from South Korea has persuaded Abang Jo there are big profits to be had by making the product by converting hydro-electric energy from Bakun and other dams.

However, consider the matter further. There was nothing ‘green’ about chopping down a huge swathe of virgin rainforest and destroying a major river to create Bakun. Now in situ the foetid lake pumps methane under the tropical sun.

Once the turbines have churned out electricity to convert the hydrogen then cram it into bottles (created from mining and smelting metal using fossil fuel) the heavy canisters will be driven miles to the ports, using fossil fuel burning lorries, then lifted onto vast tankers (the most fossil fuel guzzling vehicles on the planet) in order to make the lengthy sea journey to South Korea, where they will be disembarked and then transported to fuel ‘carbon free’ vehicles.

That is some carbon footprint for a ‘carbon neutral’ product.

However, in the palace of Abang Jo there is no need for such unpleasant reminders, contradictions or discussions. All that is needed is to call the obedient press cops to inform them about latest BS ‘Green Initiative’ to advance Sarawak’s ‘holistic sustainability’, demonstrate its ‘concern for the environment’ and promise riches (tomorrow) and imminent development goals (again) for the native people.

It’s just one of a whole spate of questionable ‘green’ branded initiatives being driven through in the name of ‘ESG’ in Sarawak, which has to be the abused concept on the planet. To show local enthusiasm for ‘Green Hydrogen’ Abang Jo has commissioned a couple of busses in Kuching to run off the material and six cars.

Meanwhile, amidst all this touted money making for the state, the poorest of the poor native communities are still being driven out of their homes by fossil fuel powered bulldozers in Usajaya.  Their homes and tended gardens are being flattened, so that ‘sustainable development’ can be allowed to take place, in this case on the outskirts of Miri.

The bulldozers belong to the sister of the Governor who was unaccountably granted this valuable land near the airport of this petroleum town for a token amount and without competitive tender some years back when he was in charge of all state land concessions. There is to be no compensation offered to the folk who lived there for generations. In fact, fines for trespass are being threatened, as this was land entrusted to the state.

So much for the profits from ‘green, eco-sustainable development’ (as this will inevitably be dubbed) being used to uplift the poorest in the state.

Green Aviation Fuel and Micro-Algae

Moving on to the next Blue Sky ‘eco-investment’ supported by Abang Jo, perhaps there will be jobs at the pilot Japanese micro-algae plant designed to grow off yet more of the carbon dioxide pumped out of Sarawak’s oil and gas and then to be converted into hopefully lucrative ‘Green Aviation Fuel’.

But, how green is green? The algae may be able to power jets and produce fertiliser, however what happens to that carbon after it is re-cyled to perform such tasks?

Spoiler alert, the carbon goes back into the atmosphere in the same way commercial acacia plantations do when they are cut and processed, and ‘green’ palm oil bio-fuels do. This is why the EU has woken up to rejecting this ‘green solution’, yet Abang Jo and his strategically placed federal plantations minister (Fadillah of the crony Yusuf family) are determined to fight that truth. Enjoy this flavour of the BS:

Sarawak is in the forefront of Malaysia in the use of technology to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) using algae, said Premier Abang Johari

He said the growth in Sarawak’s algae production will be brighter now, as people worldwide turn their focus towards sustainable and green energy.

“Sarawak has a suitable climate and abundant sea water for the mass production of algae, and therefore has passed the pre-requisite aspect for algae cultivation for SAF. Thanks be to God that our algae is the strain that produces oil,” he said. [Borneo Post]

It is the perfect setting to attract every Carbon Cowboy cum fast plantation monger on the planet and Sarawak’s Premier has set his stall together with Fadillah Yusuf in yet another ‘green’ gambit of the past two months, as they agitate to take control of the management of carbon trading away from the department for environment and climate change.

What these opportunists say they want is to ‘pioneer’ in carbon trading by controlling the process in Malaysia. Sarawak style that would involve cutting down the remaining native customary forests and replacing them with fast grow ‘carbon capture’ forests which they will try to bater money out of.

More Mega-Projects To Soak Up More State Cash

Such projects have been spewing out, one after the other, over recent months nearly all to be funded by Abang Jo’s new financial toy, the mysteriously funded Sarawak Development Bank. This again was established on the whim of the ‘Premier’ without scrutiny or transparency as to how it is to be financed or how money will be granted.

DAP and indeed PSB opposition party members who have raised the glaring issue of accountability are being simply ignored or threatened with legal persecution. As former finance minister Wong Soon Koh complained, none outside of Abang Jo’s immediate circle appear to have a clue about where Sarawak’s finances actually stand.

Yet the ‘Premier’ just prattles on with his big ideas, claiming each and every one of them as his own eco-brainchild.  Speaking just last week to a group of financial bigwigs in KL he enthusiastically listed these alleged ‘green initiatives’ as if they were all his own.  implying he had simply thought them up himself before funding them through this bright idea each”

facilitating better income opportunities and enhancing holistic wellbeing of the rakyat to achieve the vision of a more inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development for Sarawakians. We can only achieve lasting, sustainable reforms by having everyone to move together towards that common aspiration.

Thus has the present regime learnt to place the trendy buzz-words before every project. Yet, as Abang Jo’s presence just last week at a cross border gathering to launch yet another major Borneo Hydropower project, this time with Indonesia in the beleaguered environment of Kalimantan, made clear, the greedy profit motive remains behind every plan – eco-friendly or otherwise.

The remaining natural heritage of Borneo’s life-giving rivers and forests are still being targeted by these paper planners and money men. They want to dam them up and destroy vasts lands to replace the easy income they once achieved from fossil fuels and wasted.

There is nothing green and nothing sustainable about a dam built only to last a hundred years, yet created through the destruction of a 150 million year old forest (the oldest and most scientifically precious on the planet).

The opposite is true in that the greenest and also the cheapest way to capture carbon is to let those forests regenerate and grow uncut – thereby anchoring more carbon from the air and saving the valuable wildlife and DNA diversity for future generations.

The revenues and carbon credits from such low key intervention could then be used to help the neglected, impoverished natives of those lands.

The businessman cum Plantations & Commodities Minister, Fadillah Yusuf, will see no benefit in that and should be kept well away therefore. He and Abang Jo are already on to the next ‘sustainable’ project announced this week – a ‘Trans-Borneo railway’ mega-project like no other to carve through the jungle spine of remaining virgin territory.

The stakes could not be higher in the face of this swathe of dangerous ideas, given the destruction already wrecked in Borneo thanks to shallow, greedy thinking behind previous disastrous mega-projects.

By scything down the forest and exposing peat and turning earth the Sarawak State Government has unleashed vast pools of carbon into the atmosphere which has heated this tropical area more than any other. Trees bring the rains and without them heated areas can turn to deserts.

At worst, thanks to their greedy, thoughtless interferences, Abang Jo and his blue sky thinkers and greenwash teams might find by they time they work out how to export hydro-power under their bogus ‘green’ label, the rivers it depends on may be drying up.

Claiming a project is ‘green, eco-friendly and sustainable’ does not make it so in practice.

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