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Liz Truss’s Overturn of Fracking Ban in Britain Is Sparking Grassroots Resistance

By Gareth Dale - Truthout, September 21, 2022

Britain will soon see the first license to drill for shale gas issued since 2019, when the practice was banned following a Magnitude 2.9 tremor at a fracking test well near Blackpool in Lancashire.

Overturning Britain’s ban on fracking was one of the first initiatives announced this month by the incoming government under Tory leader Liz Truss. It belongs to a package of demand-and-supply interventions aimed at addressing the high price of gas.

The message from Downing Street is clear: This government will not seek to lessen the hold of fossil fuel corporations over citizens’ lives by transitioning from hydrocarbons through efficiency measures (such as building insulation), rapidly ramping up renewables, and a further windfall tax on the oil and gas industry. Instead, it will arrange payment of the full-market price for gas to the energy firms while subsidizing consumer and business bills, particularly for rich, energy-profligate households. The cost, estimated at £150 billion, will be loaded onto future taxpayers and energy consumers. It is the largest single act of U.K. state intervention outside wartime.

Given Truss’s market-fundamentalist instincts, this cannot have been easy. But she has coupled it with a laissez-faire thrust on the supply side: to tear up red tape and issue licenses to drill. The market, she believes, will resolve its problems as new supply brings prices back down.

The focus is North Sea oil, but fracking is part of the program. Fracking also offers the incoming government an opportunity to throw red meat to Tory Party members and the right-wing Daily Mail tabloid. To reactionaries, Truss’s move signals that her government intends to bash the tree-huggers, goad them into setting up camps at fracking sites where the security forces will persecute and ultimately defeat them, much as Lady Thatcher did to the feminists who peace-camped at Greenham Common.

The government’s rationale for fracking, then, has an economic and a political edge. Will either succeed?

On the economic side, the prospects are sufficiently enticing to have sent the shares of some fracking companies soaring, notably Union Jack Oil. (Its very name sets Tory hearts aflutter.) Some pundits are predicting a great British gas rush. Shale extraction, claims the Daily Mail, may begin slowly, but by 2037 could “eclipse” fossil gas output from North Sea wells. At the wilder end are predictions that Britain will enjoy a U.S.-style shale revolution, contributing to lower global prices and securing mega profits for the fossil fuel sector.

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Rutgers Educators Fight for Climate-Safe New Jersey

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, July 2022

The faculty and graduate worker union at Rutgers University has stepped out to oppose a plan to haul liquified fracked gas across southern New Jersey. The Star-Ledger has just published an op ed by two union leaders explaining why:

A proposal to transport liquified fracked gas on trains and in trucks through densely populated Camden, Philadelphia and southern New Jersey threatens enormous harm across the region. As Rutgers-Camden faculty, we stand with Camden residents and community groups in opposing this dangerous and potentially catastrophic proposal.

Our faculty and graduate worker union at Rutgers believes in “bargaining for the common good”; a labor strategy that builds community-union partnerships to achieve a more equitable and sustainable future. As this project demonstrates, our lives and well-being are deeply interconnected. We are stronger when we organize together with our partners against threats to our communities, our environment, and our collective future. We must work together to make our communities safer and more sustainable. Opposing the transport of LNG is one way to address these concerns, given the risks of the proposed plan and the carbon emissions associated with LNG.

The opinion piece was written by Jovanna Rosen, assistant professor of Public Policy at Rutgers-Camden and a member of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT Climate Justice Committee and Jim Brown, associate professor of English at Rutgers-Camden and president of the Camden Chapter of Rutgers-AAUP-AFT.

The Fossil Fuel Industry Is a Jobs-Killer

By Wenonah Hauter - In These Times, February 14, 2022

For years now, any discussion about climate action or the need to move off fossil fuels has run headlong into a familiar quandary: The industries fueling the climate crisis create good jobs, often in areas of the country where finding work that can support a family is incredibly difficult. 

This leaves activists gesturing towards well-intentioned goals like a ​“just transition,” a promise that likely rings hollow for workers and many labor unions because it’s hard to see where this has actually happened — even though, by every measure, we need to create some real policies that turn this vision into reality. While there are encouraging examples of labor unions throwing their support behind robust climate plans, it has proven difficult for the climate movement to find its way out of the jobs versus environment framing. 

But that is especially true when we refuse to question the original premise. The truth is that the fossil fuel industry wildly inflates its employment record, and the recent data show they are producing more fuel with fewer workers. Instead of avoiding this reality, perhaps it is time to tackle it head on. Dirty energy corporations are not creating jobs as much as they are cutting them these days, and that provides an opening to envision the kinds of employment — in areas like orphaned well clean up and energy efficiency — that will provide employment for the thousands of workers the industry is no longer employing. 

Some of the most common jobs estimates are produced by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the powerful oil and gas trade association. Over the years, API has released reports claiming that the domestic fracking industry creates somewhere between 2.5 million to 11 million jobs, both directly and indirectly. These numbers — or versions of them — are floated in political debates and in the media, but they are significantly out of step with other estimates, including the federal government’s labor reports. Food & Water Watch, an organization I founded, created a more accurate model that relies on direct jobs and relevant support activities, including pipeline construction and product transportation. The total comes to just over 500,000 in 2020, or about 0.4 percent of all jobs in the country. 

How to explain the massive gap between industry propaganda and reality? The API figures include a range of employment categories; in addition to direct industry employment, they add indirect jobs (those within a supply chain) and induced jobs (those that are supposedly ​‘supported’ by direct and indirect jobs). These categories make up the vast majority of their total. Convenience store workers, for example — working where gas happens to be sold — make up almost 35 percent of the industry’s supposed employment record.

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Election of Union Leader Who Called for COP26 to be Ditched ‘Not Ideal’, Say Campaigners

By Jocelyn Timperley - DeSmog, June 7, 2021

Pro-fracking union leader Gary Smith has accused politicians of “preaching about the need for a green jobs’ revolution” and said Glasgow’s hosting of the UN climate summit showed the UK had its “priorities all wrong”.

Green campaigners have expressed concern about the GMB union’s newly elected leader, who has called for Glasgow to ditch the upcoming COP26 climate summit and enthusiastically backed fracking.

Gary Smith was previously Secretary of GMB’s Scotland branch but on Thursday was elected as the union’s new UK-wide General Secretary and Treasurer. GMB is the third largest union in the UK, with some 620,000 members covering work across a range of industry sectors, including oil and gas, aviation and manufacturing, as well as the public sector.

Smith, who won just over half of the 61,000 votes cast, has a history of outspoken comments about climate change and last year slammed the international UN climate conference now due to be held in Glasgow in November, saying “our priorities are all wrong”.

“The world’s political elite will fly in and out of Glasgow later in the year but the city’s many challenges will remain the day after the circus leaves town,” he said at the time. “The best thing government could do for Glasgow is to ditch hosting the COP and instead invest the money in dealing with the state of the city.”

Smith has been a long-time backer of fracking and fiercely criticised Labour for its support for a nationwide fracking ban, saying “Britain needs gas”. He has also been outspoken on the offshoring of manufacturing and fabrication work for the UK’s renewables industry. 

In the lead up to the election, climate activist Leo Murray said Smith’s election “would not bode well for prospects of GMB finally arriving in the 21st century with respect to the climate crisis”, calling Smith a “fracking cheerleader extraordinaire”.

Responding to news of the election, Alex Brent, GMB activist and co-founder of GMB for a Green New Deal, said Smith’s scepticism towards decarbonisation and often confrontational attitude towards climate activism is “obviously not ideal”.

However, he added, “ultimately it’s not him that needs convincing – it’s workers”, noting that GMB Union was “hardly leading the way in climate action before Gary Smith became general secretary”.

“GMB members, trade unionists and climate activists will continue to organise for climate action at the only level that matters – among their branches, in their workplaces, and in their local communities,” he said. “If Gary gets in the way of that organising, then that may prove to be a problem. Until then, the work continues.”

North Dakota, Using Taxpayer Funds, Bailed Out Oil and Gas Companies by Plugging Abandoned Wells

By Nicholas Kusnetz - Inside Climate News, May 23, 2021

The bailout, environmentalists say, raises bigger questions about who will pay, in an energy transition, to close off the nation’s millions of aging wells.

When North Dakota directed more than $66 million in federal pandemic relief funds to clean up old oil and gas wells last year, it seemed like the type of program everyone could get behind. The money would plug hundreds of abandoned wells and restore the often-polluted land surrounding them, and in the process would employ oilfield workers who had been furloughed after prices crashed.

The program largely accomplished those goals. But some environmental advocates say it achieved another they didn’t expect: It bailed out dozens of small to mid-sized oil companies, relieving them of their responsibility to pay for cleaning up their own wells by using taxpayer money instead.

Oil drillers are generally required to plug their wells after they’re done producing crude. But in practice, companies are often able to defer that responsibility for years or decades. Larger companies often sell older wells to smaller ones, which sometimes go bankrupt, leaving the wells with no owner.

These “orphaned wells” become the responsibility of the federal or state governments, depending on where they were drilled. While oil companies are required to post bonds or other financial assurance to pay for plugging them, in reality those bonds cover only a tiny fraction of the costs, leaving taxpayers on the hook. One estimate, by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a financial think tank, found that those bonds cover only a tiny fraction of the expected costs of cleaning up the nation’s oil and gas wells.

But in North Dakota, it turned out that most of the wells the state plugged were not truly orphaned, but had solvent owners. After the industry warned last year that the pandemic-driven oil-crash was threatening its finances, state regulators stepped in, assumed ownership of more than 300 wells, and used CARES Act funds to plug them, meaning the companies avoided paying anything themselves.

“What happened was a bunch of people got a free ride,” said Scott Skokos, executive director of the Dakota Resource Council, a grassroots environmental group in the state.

Does Shale Gas Extraction Grow Jobs?

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