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Capital Blight: Pop go the Weasels

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 7, 2016

On March, 29, 2016, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and CoalSwarm released Boom and Bust 2016: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline, the second annual report examining the precarious global coal plant pipeline. New investigations detailed in the report revealed that while the coal industry continues to push for the construction of more coal-fired power plants, in reality, coal plants are increasingly sitting idle in all of the world’s four largest markets, and global coal consumption is declining drastically. This is particularly evident in China where the government recently took the first step to curb runaway coal plant investment, after the country’s coal use plunged by nearly 6.4 percent in two years.

The report’s unprecedentedly detailed mapping of new coal-fired power plants indicates the reported suspension of new permits and new construction starting in half of China’s provinces could affect 60 percent of the 460 new coal-fired units that have been permitted or are in the permitting process.

With coal use on the decline worldwide, the estimated $981 billion needed to construct the proposed coal plant pipeline represents a massive investment in potentially stranded assets — resulting in an even further downward spiral for the global coal industry. In fact, this number is more than one-and-a-half times the amount that the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates is needed to end energy poverty for the 1.2 billion people currently living without reliable energy access. On top of this staggering revelation, the report found that the additional new proposed coal capacity would result in over 130,000 more premature deaths worldwide each year from air pollution and finds that existing coal-fired power plants are responsible for a total of nearly one million premature deaths annually from coal-fired power generation.

In spite of the coal barons' continued insistence on beating a dead horse, hundreds of thousands of coal mine workers have lost their jobs anyway, (for which the capitalists have shed not a single tear--and yet the instant environmental activists oppose even the most insignificant coal facility or propose the meekest upgrade to a clean air regulation, these same capitalists screech and howl about how these "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" are "threatening jobs!" (meaning profits). Meanwhile, in the wake of the continuing decline in oil prices (from a high of $114 US on the Brent index in October 2014 to as low as $27 US in the early months of 2016), more than 250,000 oil workers have also lost their jobs. Likewise, many railroad workers have been furloughed as the carriers' insistance on putting all of their eggs in the fossil fuel basket has broken far more than warranted by any omlette. Across the supply chain, steel workers, pipefitters, office workers, and just about any craft related to fossil fuel extractivism are experiencing increasingly precarious job status.

Clearly the carbon bubble has burst. It's long past time to organize a workers' led movement to seize control of the means of production and initiate a rapid and just transition to a post carbon economy that puts an end to wage slavery and brings humanity back into harmony with the Earth!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.