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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).

Freedom School: What Is Climate Justice and Why Are Unions Integral to It?

The Climate Contradictions of Gary Smith

By Paul Atkin - Greener Jobs Alliance, September 21, 2023

In agreeing to be interviewed by the Spectator under the title the folly of Net Zero GMB General Secretary Gary Smith lets his members down; not least because remarks like these from a leading trade unionist help give Rishi Sunak encouragement to accelerate his retreat from the government’s already inadequate climate targets.

The phrase “the folly of Net Zero” makes as much sense as “the folly of getting into the lifeboats when the ship is sinking”

Difficulties in making a transition to sustainability does not mean that making it isn’t essential, and the faster we move the less damage is done. We can see that damage all around us even now. 

Gary doesn’t seem to get this, any more than Rishi Sunak does, and he latches on to some of the same lines as the PM does, albeit with a more pungent turn of phrase. To go through these point by point, quotes are either directly from Gary Smith or the Spectator.

Employment Impacts of New U.S. Clean Energy, Manufacturing, and Infrastructure Laws

By Robert Pollin, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty, Gregor Semieniuk, and Chirag Lala - Political Economic Research Institute, September 18, 2023

The report Employment Impacts of New U.S. Clean Energy, Manufacturing, and Infrastructure Laws by PERI researchers Robert Pollin, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty, Gregor Semieniuk and Chirag Lala estimates job creation, job quality, and demographic distribution measures for the three major domestic policy initiatives enacted under the Biden Administion—the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation (BIL), and the CHIPS Act. Pollin et al. find that, in combination, total spending for these measures will amount to about $300 billion per year. This will generate an average of 2.9 million new jobs within the U.S. economy as long as spending for these programs continues at this level. The newly created jobs will be spread across all sectors of the U.S. economy, with 45% in a range of services, 16% in construction, and 12% in manufacturing. Critically, the study finds that roughly 70% of the jobs created will be for workers without four-year college degrees, a significantly higher share than for the overall U.S. labor market. As such, these measures expand job opportunities especially for working class people who have been hard hit for decades under the long-dominant neoliberal economic policy framework.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

The Green New Deal from Below and the Future of Work

The Green New Deal from Below Means Jobs

Harbor Commissioners Approve ‘Once in a Generation’ Project Labor Agreement for Humboldt Offshore Wind Terminal Project; Union Reps Laud Unanimous Decision

Text and images by Isabella Vanderheiden - Lost Coast Outpost, August 11, 2023

Local contractors and labor union members packed Eureka’s Wharfinger Building Thursday night to give the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Board of Commissioners their two cents on a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the Humboldt Offshore Wind Terminal Project that could guarantee local jobs for years to come.

The PLA outlines the general terms and conditions for labor employment affiliated with the first stages of port development on Humboldt Bay. The agreement has sparked opposition from some local construction companies that run non-union shops as it will require non-union workers to pay toward the union trust fund.

The Harbor District has spent the last year working with members of the Humboldt-Del Norte County Building and Construction Trades Council, the State Building and Construction Trade Council of the State of California, and other local labor representatives to develop the agreement, which is required by federal law. The contractors and subcontractors who are awarded contracts to work on the heavy lift marine terminal will be subject to the provisions of the agreement, including no-strike, no-lock-out clauses to eliminate delays associated with labor unrest. 

“This is an agreement between the district and the labor unions that we’re going to have a smooth labor transition and that there’s going to be no disruption to the workforce,” said Larry Oetker, executive director of the Harbor District. “But in return, there are some hiring stipulations that are included in [the document].”

The agreement details hiring priorities for “disadvantaged workers,” or local residents who, prior to the project, experienced barriers to employment, as noted in section 2.9.

OPINION: Enviros and Labor Alike Say, ‘For Good Jobs in Offshore Wind, Pass the Labor Agreement Now!’

By Jeff Hunerlach and Tom Wheeler - Lost Coast Outpost, August 9, 2023

The following is an op-ed written by Jeff Hunerlach of the Humboldt-Del Norte County Building and Construction Trades Council and Tom Wheeler of the Environmental Protection Information Center.

Building Worker and Community-focused Economic Transitions in Coal Country

Maine lawmakers approve bill to jumpstart floating offshore wind, develop 3 GW by 2040

By Diana DiGangi - Utility Dive, July 27, 2023

Dive Brief:

  • The Maine legislature on Tuesday passed a bill requiring the state to procure 3 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2040, and establishing provisions regarding the construction and siting of future projects.
  • LD 1895 supports the creation of a port facility designed for fabricating and launching the materials needed to establish floating offshore wind farms, as the waters in the Gulf of Maine are too deep to accommodate fixed-bottom wind turbines.
  • The bill received broad-based support from state labor and environmental groups, as well as some fishing industry groups, who supported the bill’s provision to give priority to projects sited outside of a key fishing area known as Lobster Management Area 1, or LMA-1.

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