Big Solar: Plundering the Mojave Desert

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.

By Dan Fischer - Capitalism vs. the Climate, February 16, 2014 (used by permission)

“Some people look out into the desert and see miles and miles of emptiness. I see miles and miles of gold mine.”
-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the start of Ivanpah Solar Power Facility’s construction

The world’s largest solar thermal energy facility, the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, opened last Thursday in California’s Mojave Desert. Unfortunately, this is bad news for neighboring indigenous people, the desert tortoise, and local birds. It is an example of solar done wrong.

Ivanpah use mirrors to reflect sunlight, in order to heat and boil water. This produces steam, which spins turbines to produce electricity. When done at a small scale, it can be a clean and sustainable process. Photovoltaic solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity, are even more democratic. They are easy to decentralize and put on rooftops.

In fact, Ivanpah’s grassroots opponents tend to strongly support solar power. The group Solar Done Right advocates decentralized solar energy as an alternative to mega-solar projects like Ivanpah. They argue that there is plenty of already-paved surface where we can safely install solar panels: rooftops, vacant parking lots, and former industrial sites known as brownfields.

According to the US Department of Energy, supplying all of the country’s electricity from solar photovoltaics would require 17 square miles of land in each state. Brownfields alone could provide 90 percent of the needed land!

Why 100% Renewable Energy Requires Libertarian Eco-Socialism

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.

By Dan Fischer - Capitalism vs. the Climate, November 15, 2013 (used by permission)

It’s old news that humans can power society with 100% renewable energy. Back in 1964, the anarchist Murray Bookchin wrote a prescient essay on global warming and other ecological issues. “Solar devices, wind turbines, and hydroelectric resources taken singly do not provide a solution…Pieced together as a mosaic…they could amply meet the needs of a decentralized society,” he wrote (Ecology and Revolutionary Thought).

Grow or Die

This transition can only take place when we start confronting the system that caused climate change: capitalism. Capitalism is a system based on private property and wage labor, where a ruling class of people own and manage most of the economy. It is inherently anti-ecological.

Capitalism presents each business with a stark “grow or die” imperative. As a result, businesses have no choice but to keep producing more stuff and using more energy (see chart above). When a business buys a more expensive form of energy like wind, it will lose market share to its competitors who buy oil and natural gas. To appear sustainable, they sell false “solutions” like mega-hydro, fracking, nuclear power and cap-and-trade. These proposals are insulting to those who care about the planet.

The AFL-CIO's Keystone Pipeline Dreams

By x344543, x356039, x362102, and x363464 - February 9, 2014

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.

The IWW maintains that we must not only abolish wage slavery, we must also, "live in harmony with the Earth". The same economic forces that subject the working class to wage slavery are those that are destroying the planet on which we all live. Logically, if the business unions are not fighting to abolish wage slavery, it follows that they will be unable to take a meaningful stand on environmental issues.

Therefore it comes as no surprise that the AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka has officially declared his support for the Keystone XL Pipeline, specifically stating, “there’s no environmental reason that [the pipeline] can’t be done safely while at the same time creating jobs.”

He has further gone on to speak in favor of increasing natural gas exports, opining,

“Increasing the energy supply in the country is an important thing for us to be looking at…all facets of it ought to be up on the table and ought to be talked about. If we have the ability to export natural gas without increasing the price or disadvantaging American industry in the process, then we should carefully consider that and adopt policies to allow it to happen and help, because God only knows we do need help with our trade balance.”

Do we really need to elaborate on the foolishness in suggesting that Keystone XL is either good for the environment or creating jobs, because it most certainly is neither, and we can readily prove that.

To begin with, it’s not the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline itself that’s the primary issue, but what will inevitably be transported through it that is the bone of contention. Nobody disputes that it will transport oil extracted from Canadian tar sands mining, and such oil will be anything but green.

Cole Strangler's article in In These Times, Angering Environmentalists, AFL-CIO Pushes Fossil-Fuel Investment Labor’s Richard Trumka has gone on record praising the Keystone pipeline and natural gas export terminals, lays out a fairly strong case that Trumka’s claims are false, stating:

The anti-KXL camp has long argued that construction of the pipeline will facilitate the extraction of Alberta’s tar sands oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet. Many also oppose Keystone XL on the grounds that its route crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground sources of fresh water. “We invite President Trumka to come to Nebraska and visit with farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are directly put at risk with the Keystone XL pipeline,” says Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, which has organized local opposition against the pipeline. “To say the pipeline will not harm our water is ignoring real-life tragedies witnessed by all of us with the BP explosion, the Enbridge burst pipe into the Kalamazoo River and tar sands flowing down the street in Mayflower, Arkansas.”

“Brendan Smith, co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, a group that works with labor unions and environmental groups to fight climate change, took issue with Trumka’s argument that Keystone would create jobs.  “There is plenty of work that needs to done in this country, and we can create far more jobs fixing infrastructure and transitioning to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources,” says Smith. “Why build a pipeline that will significantly increase carbon emissions and will hurt our economy when there is a more robust and sustainable jobs agenda on the table?”

However, the author’s critique barely scratches the surface.

Why Nothing Is Being Done to Improve Oil by Rail Safety

By Justin Mikulka - DeSmog Blog, February 14, 2014

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.

Since the oil train explosion in Lac-Megantic in July of 2013, we have learned that there are some obvious safety issues that need to be addressed regarding transportation of crude oil by rail. The first is that the majority of the rail cars transporting this oil are DOT-111’s which have been deemed unsafe due to their tendency to rupture in accidents. The second is that Bakken crude oil can be explosive and isn’t being properly classified for transport.  

Since Lac-Megantic we have heard many calls for increased rail safety. In August of 2013, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to the Federal Railway Adminstration (FRA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Adminstration (PHMSA) requesting that the agency begin a phase out of the DOT-111 rail cars. Senator Schumer also referenced a March 2012 letter written by National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah Hersman requesting safety upgrades to existing DOT-111 rail cars.

On January 15th, 2014, Representative Corrinne Brown (D-FL) wrote a letter to Jeff Denham (R-CA), who is Chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Wastes Congressional Subcommittee, requesting a hearing be held regarding rail safety.  In her letter she mentions that several members of the Subcommittee have already written letters requesting a hearing on rail safety as far back as August 2013.  Brown wrote:

“Again, we urge the subcommittee to hold a hearing immediately on rail safety.  We believe the hearing should, at a minimum, include representatives from the NTSB, FRA, PHMSA, the rail industry, and rail labor.  Thank you in advance for consideration of this request.”

Additionally, there are concerned elected officials across the country who have requested action on rail safety. Even Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff and current Mayor of Chicago has joined the chorus of people requesting improved rail safety.

Last week, the PHMSA released the first results regarding the testing of Bakken Crude. This testing began in November 2013 and is one of the few changes that have been made since the explosion in Lac-Megantic. The results were not good as over 50% of the samples taken were found to be improperly classified. The offenders paid fines ranging from $12,000 to $51,530.

What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?

By David Graeber - The Baffler, February 13, 2014

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.

My friend June Thunderstorm and I once spent a half an hour sitting in a meadow by a mountain lake, watching an inchworm dangle from the top of a stalk of grass, twist about in every possible direction, and then leap to the next stalk and do the same thing. And so it proceeded, in a vast circle, with what must have been a vast expenditure of energy, for what seemed like absolutely no reason at all.

“All animals play,” June had once said to me. “Even ants.” She’d spent many years working as a professional gardener and had plenty of incidents like this to observe and ponder. “Look,” she said, with an air of modest triumph. “See what I mean?”

Most of us, hearing this story, would insist on proof. How do we know the worm was playing? Perhaps the invisible circles it traced in the air were really just a search for some unknown sort of prey. Or a mating ritual. Can we prove they weren’t? Even if the worm was playing, how do we know this form of play did not serve some ultimately practical purpose: exercise, or self-training for some possible future inchworm emergency?

This would be the reaction of most professional ethologists as well. Generally speaking, an analysis of animal behavior is not considered scientific unless the animal is assumed, at least tacitly, to be operating according to the same means/end calculations that one would apply to economic transactions. Under this assumption, an expenditure of energy must be directed toward some goal, whether it be obtaining food, securing territory, achieving dominance, or maximizing reproductive success—unless one can absolutely prove that it isn’t, and absolute proof in such matters is, as one might imagine, very hard to come by.

Open Letter to the MI CATS 3 from Tar Sands Blockade

By the MI-CATS 3 - February 2, 2014

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.

As some double-down their efforts to engage in the corrupt political process surrounding the northern leg of Keystone XL, we want to take some time to honor three brave womyn currently imprisoned by the state for resisting another tar sands pipeline in their backyard.

On Friday, Vicci Hamlin, Lisa Leggio, and Barbara Carter of Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS) were found guilty of trespassing and “resisting and obstructing an officer”, a felony charge in Michigan that carries a maximum jail sentence of three years. They were arrested while blockading construction equipment being used to expand Enbridge’s Line 6B – the same tar sands pipeline which caused the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history when it leaked over one million gallons of tar sands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

Obama’s State of the Union: Fantasy, Fact, Fiction or All of the Above?

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

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.

During Obama’s State of the Union address last night the presence of the star of the reality TV show Duck Dynasty might have been the most real part of a very surreal evening.

Of particular note were Obama’s comments on energy and climate change.

While the US Southeast was being hammered by a highly unusual winter storm which stranded thousands in the metro Atlanta area, (no, this does not disprove climate change you nitwits, climate scientists have warned for years that a warming globe means extreme and unpredictable weather) Obama was proclaiming a desire to address climate change so that “when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, [we can say] yes we did.”

This sounds wonderful until we consider the “all of the above” energy strategy Obama touted earlier in the speech, which gives a nod to some of the dirtiest, most polluting and destructive energy sources.  It includes shale oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota–the gas flares of which can be seen from space.  This shale oil is so extremely volatile that in the past year two trains carrying bakken oil have exploded.  It means more coal; it means more deep water offshore drilling of the type that caused the BP oil spill disaster.  It means more nukes, even in the shadow of the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima.  And it means more fracking.  Obama made a big show of his support for natural gas “if extracted safely,” which it is not.

Reinventing the Wheel - Teaching Old Hydro New Tricks

By x356039 - January 22, 2014

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.

When discussing green, renewable energy something of a holy trinity of sources consistently emerges in every discussion: solar, wind, and water. Of the three the one receiving the least press these days as a possibility are those options and opportunities based on water power. This is understandable when one considers the first image that springs to mind when discussing the subject: towering tons of cold concrete caging the roaring rivers of the world to work for the whims of the wealthy and powerful.

There is little debate in spite of the incredible potential hydroelectric dams offer that they come at enormous environmental costs. At internationalrivers.org the consequences of these projects is summed up with very strong, damning words. In spite of the extensive studies regularly conducted on new dam sites the changes caused by construction lead to a number of unintended and deadly consequences for the local ecosystem. The most obvious is, of course, the diversion of the river's flow but the impact of this happens on more levels than immediately meets the eye. The creation of massive artificial reservoirs that result from the construction of these dams destroys the previously existing green water habitats of the rivers making them quite hostile to the native species. This leads to massive influxes of invasive species like snails, algae, and non-native predatory fish ensuring further ecological havoc. Added to this is the blocking of new sediment deposits, resulting in increased erosion and the lowering of the water table denying plant life of the needed moisture to thrive.

The negatives of hydroelectric dams don't stop there. Adding further insult to injury is the displacement of indigenous populations that often results from these massive building projects. According to a report titled, “Social Impacts and Social Risks in Hydropower Programs” submitted to the 2004 United Nations Symposium on Hydropower and Sustainable Development the number of people displaced in China and India over the past 50 years by such projects is staggering. Of the estimated 45 million people in China displaced by new industrial projects during this period at least half were forced out of their homes due to the construction of new dams with a new project in the Yunnan province expected to add tens of thousands more to their number. In India the number is believed to be at least fifty million and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. A recent report by Survival International argues hundreds of thousands of people are being displaced as we speak by new projects in Brazil, Malaysia, Guyana, Ethiopia, and Peru. The Ethiopian Gibe III Dam, expected to be the highest dam on the continent when it is completed in 2020, has already forced over 200,000 people from their homes and it still has six years to go.

If this was all there was to the story of hydropower then there is little doubt that any sane environmentalist would stay as far away from this source as possible and consign it to the same category as nuclear, coal, and other dirty sources of energy. Thankfully there are a number of recent innovations, many inspired by pre-industrial uses of water power, that show hydropower has a few more tricks up its sleeve that make it an equally necessary component in any green energy future. These new developments harness the potential offered by flowing rivers, the roll of the tides, and crashing waves in non-invasive, minimally impactful ways. What makes these even better is, like wind and solar power, these inventions can be implemented on a far smaller, more evenly distributed scale ensuring that all forms of renewable power remain truly grassroots power.

Stop WesPac: Pittsburg Workers Stand Up

By John Reimann - Oakland Socialist, January 15, 2013

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.

Pittsburg, California, is a solidly working class town if there ever was one. Like workers in other parts of the country and the world, residents here are building a working-class environmental movement, in this case to stop the construction of a facility to receive and store the highly volatile oil from the Bakken deposit. 

>

Here is a video of a protest on January 11 in Pittsburg.

This movement is taking up the most immediate effects of the destruction of the environment – from pollution of the air, water and soil to threats posed by tanker car explosions. Much of this threat is due to capitalism’s determination to burn every last drop of fossil fuel, and ultimately this working class environmental movement will have to take up the struggle for the alternatives.

Capital Blight - Grist's Ben Adler Throws the Working Class Under the Bus.

By x344543 - January 12, 2014

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.

Recently grist.org climate writer Ben Adler wrote an article, Hey, protester, leave those Google buses alone, excoriating anti-gentrification protesters for organizing a blockade of a private charter bus, contracted by Google, in protest of that company's contribution to the ongoing gentrification of the precious few remaining working class neighborhoods in San Francisco.

In the article, Adler made the rather glib argument that the protesters were ignoring the needs of the Earth, "because", he argued,

Driving in one’s own private car is far more elitist than sharing a bus with one’s coworkers. It is also vastly worse for the environment. The buses take cars off the road. Fewer cars mean less traffic, and less idling in traffic, which is especially polluting.

I'm sorry, but this has to be one of the most asinine articles Grist ever published, and it's wrong on so many levels.

First of all, to accuse those residents who are protesting very real economic threats to their ability to keep living in San Francisco with "class antagonism" is the height of accusing the victims with commuting the crimes. Capitalist economics, by nature, are institutionalized class antagonism of the working class by the employing class, and this is no different. If this were the mid 1850s, the author may very well have been accusing the abolitionists with stirring up "race hatred".

Secondly, it's highly ironic that Grist would be now defending Google, when they, themselves have rightfully called them out for organizing a fundraiser for climate change denying Senator Jim Inhofe (R, Oklahoma).

Thirdly, Adler makes a nonsensical argument that gentrification is "good for the environment", an argument which is contradicted by Adler's own previously published article, Pushing Poor People to the Suburbs is Bad for the Environment.

Indeed it is. Gentrification is a form of capitalist oppression which not only does not deliver on its own promises, it harms workers, people of color, and the environment. In fact, Gentrification is another form of colonialism.

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.