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Renewable Energy is (Mostly) Green and Not Inherently Capitalist, Volume 1: Wind Power (REVISED)

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Eco Union Caucus, Revised January 16, 2024

Is renewable energy actually green? Are wind, solar, and storage infrastructure projects a climate and/or envi­ronmental solution or are they just feel-good, greenwashing, false "solutions" that either perpetuate the deep­ening climate and environmental crisis or just represent further extractivism by the capitalist class and the privileged Global North at the expense of front-line communities and the Global South? 

This document argues that, while there is no guarantee that renewable energy projects will ultimately be truly "green", there is nothing inherent in the technology itself that precludes them from being so. Ultimately the "green"-ness of the project depends on the level of rank-and-file, democratic, front-line community and working-class grassroots power with the orga­nized leverage to counter the forces that would use renewable energy to perpetuate the capitalist, colonialist, extractivist system that created the cli­mate and environmental crisis in which we find ourselves.

In‌ order to do that, we mustn't fall prey to the misconceptions and inaccuracies that paint renewable energy infrastructure projects as inherently anti-green. This series attempts to do just that. This first Volume, on utility scale wind power addresses several arguments made against it, including (but not limited to) the following misconceptions:

  • Humanity must abandon electricity completely;
  • Degrowth is the only solution;
  • New wind developments only expand overall consumption;
  • Wind power is unreliable and intermittent;
  • Wind power is just another form of "green" capitalism;
  • The extraction of resources necessary to build wind power negates any of their alleged green benefits;
  • Wind power is an extinction-level event threat to birds, bats, whales, and other wildlife (and possibly humans);
  • Only locally distributed renewable energy arrayed in microgrids should be built without any--even a small percentage--of utility scale wind developments;
  • Only nationalized and/or state-owned utility scale renewable energy developments should be built;
  • No wind power developments will be green unless we first organize a socialist revolution, because eve­rything else represents misplaced faith in capitalist market forces.

In fact, none of the above arguments are automatically true (and the majority are almost completely untrue). However, they're often repeated, sometimes ignorantly, but not too infrequently in bad faith. This document is offered as an inoculation and antidote to these misconceptions and misinformation.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Debunking the Skeptics: Real Solutions For A Clean, Renewable Energy Future - EcoJustice Radio

The UK Government's Nuclear Scam

Economic Impacts of a Clean Energy Transition in New Jersey

By Joshua R. Castigliego, Sagal Alisalad, Sachin Peddada, and Liz Stanton, PhD - Applied Economics Clinic, June 7, 2022

Researcher Joshua Castigliego, Assistant Researchers Sagal Alisalad and Sachin Peddada, and Senior Economist Liz Stanton, PhD prepared a report on the economic impacts associated with a clean energy transition in New Jersey that aims to achieve the State’s climate and energy goals in the coming decades. AEC staff find that adding in-state renewables and storage, and electrifying transportation and buildings creates additional job opportunities, while also bolstering the state’s economy. From 2025 to 2050, AEC estimates that New Jersey’s clean energy transition will result in almost 300,000 more “job-years” (an average of about 11,000 jobs per year) than would be created without it. AEC also identifies a variety of additional benefits of a clean energy transition, including several benefits that are conditional on the design and implementation of the transition.

In a companion publication to this report—Barriers and Opportunities for Green Jobs in New Jersey—AEC discusses equity, diversity and inclusion in New Jersey’s clean energy sector along with barriers that impede equitable representation in New Jersey’s green jobs.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Barriers and Opportunities for Green Jobs in New Jersey

By Bryndis Woods, PhD, Joshua R. Castigliego, Elisabeth Seliga, Sachin Peddada, Tanya Stasio, PhD, and Liz Stanton, PhD - Applied Economics Clinic, June 7, 2022

Senior Researcher Bryndis Woods, PhD, Researcher Joshua Castigliego, Assistant Researchers Elisabeth Seliga and Sachin Peddada, Researcher Tanya Stasio, PhD, and Senior Economist Liz Stanton, PhD prepared a report that assesses New Jersey’s current clean energy workforce, identifies barriers to green jobs that impede access to—and equitable representation within—the clean energy sector, and provides recommendations regarding how the State of New Jersey can shape policy and regulations to enhance the equity, diversity and inclusion of its clean energy jobs. AEC staff find that there are important barriers to green jobs that reinforce existing inequities in New Jersey’s clean energy workforce, including: educational/experience barriers, logistical barriers, equitable access barriers, and institutional barriers. Achieving a future of clean energy jobs in New Jersey that is diverse, equitable and inclusive will require overcoming barriers to green jobs with intentional efforts targeted at marginalized and underrepresented groups, such as racial/ethnic minorities, women, low-income households, and people with limited English proficiency.

In a companion publication to this report—Economic Impacts of a Clean Energy Transition in New Jersey—AEC assesses the job and other economic impacts associated with achieving a clean energy transition in New Jersey over the next few decades. 

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

(TUED Working Paper #14) Beyond Disruption: How Reclaimed Utilities Can Help Cities Meet Their Climate Goals - Video Discussion

By Sean Sweeney, et. al. - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 31, 2022

Web Editor's Note: this webinar discussion focuses on TUED Working Paper #14. Some of the arguments made by the presenters seem to frame advocates of locally controlled, decentralized distributed energy as "unwittingly plaing into the hands of neoliberalism", which is a debatable position (and one that some of the other attendeees push back on). 

Unions Making a Green New Deal from Below: Part 1

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 2022

While Washington struggles over job and climate programs, unions around the country are making their own climate-protecting, justice-promoting jobs programs.

While unions have been divided on the Green New Deal as a national policy platform, many national and local unions have initiated projects that embody the principles and goals of the Green New Deal in their own industries and locations. Indeed, some unions have been implementing the principles of the Green New Deal since long before the Green New Deal hit the headlines, developing projects that help protect the climate while creating good jobs and reducing racial, economic, and social injustice.

Even some of the unions that have been most dubious about climate protection policies are getting on the clean energy jobs bandwagon. The United Mine Workers announced in March that it will partner with energy startup SPARKZ to build an electric battery factory in West Virginia in 2022 that will employ 350 workers. The UMWA will recruit and train dislocated miners to be the factory’s first production workers. According to UMWA International Secretary-Treasurer Brian Sanson, “We need good, union jobs in the coalfields no matter what industry they are in. This is a start toward putting the tens of thousands of already-dislocated coal miners to work in decent jobs in the communities where they live.”[1]

Alaska's Renewable Energy Future: New Jobs, Affordable Energy

By Kay Brown, Carly Wier, et. al. - Alaska Climate Alliance, March 21, 2022

Alaska has a vast endowment of renewable energy resources that can be tapped in its transition to a renewable energy future. Benefits of accelerating the energy transition in Alaska include more jobs, lower energy prices, higher energy security and the potential for renewable resources to support zero carbon hydrogen-based fuels for the aviation and maritime industries.

The state has already begun to develop its renewable energy resources and continues to support renewable technology development for Alaska’s challenging environment. The scale of Alaska’s vast undeveloped renewable energy resource endowment remains more than 14 times the total U.S. energy consumption.

Renewable energy technologies, including wind, solar, geothermal, and ocean and river hydrokinetic, along with complementary energy storage technologies, are continuing to exhibit declining costs which make them increasingly attractive as a primary energy source to substitute for fossil fuels in the electric sector and to support the electrification of buildings and the transformation of the transportation sector to electrification and renewable hydrogen-based fuels.

As local fossil fuel costs escalate across Alaska, from 2.5X higher in the Railbelt to as much as 4X higher in Rural Alaska (as compared to the U.S. average), renewable energy technologies are increasingly attractive investments and are poised to affordably replace legacy fossil fuel energy systems in the 2030-to-2050 time horizon while providing greater energy security, increased energy resiliency especially in rural Alaska, and broad environmental, economic and health benefits.

Independent studies have confirmed that the development of Alaska’s renewable energy potential will generate thousands of jobs – at least comparable in magnitude to the fossil fuel jobs that may be displaced by the transition to a clean renewable energy sector.

Read the report (PDF).

United Mine Workers Partner for 350 Electric Battery Jobs in West Virginia

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 2022

The United Mine Workers just announced that it will partner with energy startup SPARKZ to build an electric battery factory in West Virginia in 2022 that will employ 350 workers. The UMWA will recruit and train dislocated miners to be the factory’s first production workers.

“We need good, union jobs in the coalfields no matter what industry they are in,” said UMWA International Secretary-Treasurer Brian Sanson. “This is a start toward putting the tens of thousands of already-dislocated coal miners to work in decent jobs in the communities where they live.”

The first markets for the company’s batteries are expected to be for material handling vehicles like forklifts, agricultural equipment, and energy storage.

Source: bit.ly/UMWAEnergyJobs

Negawatts–From Below

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 2022

Tired of waiting for the Green New Deal? Thousands of individuals and communities, cities, and states are taking climate protection into their own hands by creating their own “Green New Deal from Below.” This commentary portrays how people are using energy efficiency and conservation locally to realize the climate, jobs, and justice goals of the Green New Deal.

Every time you replace an incandescent light bulb with a florescent or LED one, every time you caulk a window to stop heat from escaping, you save energy. Every time a skyscraper installs new heating and cooling equipment, it saves a significant and measurable number of watts. Indeed, the energy that is saved by these and other energy efficiency and energy conservation measures has come to be known as “negawatts.”

Energy efficiency and conservation are essential elements of the Green New Deal. It includes “upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety” and “decarbonizing” manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, and other infrastructure.[1] Spelling out the role of energy efficiency, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in April, 2021, introduced the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act which aims to strengthen public housing communities, improve living conditions for residents, and create jobs by addressing the housing and climate crises through the retrofitting, rehabilitating, and decarbonizing of the nation’s entire public housing stock.[2]

Meanwhile, at community, local, and state levels people are already producing “negawatts” through the “Green New Deal from Below.” Using more efficient home appliances, building houses and workplaces close to public transportation, and insulating buildings are a few examples. Homes, workplaces, stores, and other buildings are among the highest producers of greenhouse gases, and in this commentary we will focus on examples of energy efficiency and conservation that reduce the use of energy in buildings.

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