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DAPL Doesn’t Make Economic Sense

By Mark Paul - Dollars and Sense, February 2017

Last week, Donald Trump signed an executive order to advance approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines. This should come as no surprise, as Trump continues to fill his administration with climate deniers, ranging from the negligent choice of Rick Perry as energy secretary to Scott Pruitt as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, a man who stated last year that “scientists continue to disagree” on humans role in climate change may very well take the “Protection” out of the EPA, despite a majority of Americans—including a majority of Republicans—wanting the EPA’s power to be maintained or strengthened.

As environmental economists, my colleague Anders Fremstad and I were concerned. We crunched the numbers on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The verdict? Annual emissions associated with the oil pumped through the pipeline will impose a $4.6 billion burden on current and future generations.

First and foremost, the debate about DAPL should be about tribal rights and the right to clean water. Under the Obama administration, that seemed to carry some clout. Caving to pressure from protesters and an unprecedented gathering of more than a hundred tribes, Obama did indeed halt the DAPL, if only for a time. Under Trump and his crony capitalism mentality, the fight over the pipeline appears to be about corporate profits over tribal rights. Following Trump’s Executive Order to advance the pipeline, the Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to approve the final easement to allow Energy Transfer Partners to complete the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux have vowed to take legal action against the decision.

While the pipeline was originally scheduled to cross the Missouri River closer to Bismarck, authorities decided there was too much risk associated with locating the pipeline near the capital’s drinking water. They decided instead to follow the same rationale used by Lawrence Summers, then the chief economist of the World Bank, elucidated in an infamous memo stating “the economic logic of dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” That same logic holds for the low wage counties and towns in the United States. The link between environmental quality and economic inequality is clear—corporations pollute on the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable; in other words, those with the least resources to stand up for their right to a clean and safe environment.

The Great Deceleration

By Alex Jensen - CounterPunch, December 2, 2016

In 2015, a major study of 24 indicators of human activity and environmental decline titled ‘The Great Acceleration’ concluded that, “The last 60 years have without doubt seen the most profound transformation of the human relationship with the natural world in the history of humankind”.[1] We have all seen aspects of these trends, but to look at the study’s 24 graphs together is to apprehend, at a glance, the totality of the monstrous scale and speed of modern economic activity. According to lead author W. Steffen, “It is difficult to overestimate the scale and speed of change. In a single lifetime humanity has become a planetary-scale geological force.”[2]

Every indicator of intensity and scale of economic activity — from global trade and investment to water and fertilizer use, from pollution of every sort to destruction of environments and biodiversity — has shot up, precipitously, beginning around 1950. The graphs for every such trend point skyward still.

The Great Acceleration is manifest everywhere, including many areas not covered in the study. It is impossible to directly, humanly appreciate the ghastly scale of change. Only statistics can do that. For example:

  • Humans now extract and move more physical material than all natural processes combined. Global material extraction has grown by more than 90 percent over the past 30 years, reaching almost 70 billion tons today.[3]
  • In this century “global economic output expanded roughly 20-fold, resulting in a jump in demand for different resources of anywhere between 600 and 2,000 percent”.[4]
  • For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise.[5] Today, around 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year. “About two thirds of this is for packaging; globally, this translates to 170 million tons of plastic largely created to be disposed of after one use.”[6]
  • The global sale of packaged foods has jumped more than 90 percent over the last decade, with 2012 sales topping $2.2 trillion.[7]
  • “In the last 50 years, a staggering 140 million hectares… has been taken over by four industrial crops: soya bean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane. These crops don’t feed people. They are grown to feed the agro-industrial complex.”[8]

Not only are the scale and speed of materials extraction, production, consumption and waste ballooning, but so too the scale and pace of the movement of materials through global trade. For instance, trade volumes in physical terms have increased by a factor of 2.5 over the past 30 years. In 2009, 2.3 billion tons of raw materials and products were traded around the globe.[9] Maritime traffic on the world’s oceans has increased four-fold over the past 20 years, causing more water, air and noise pollution on the open seas.[10]

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.

How Science is Telling us All to Revolt: Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data; and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

By Naomi Klein - New Statesman, October 29, 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.

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012, Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

Capital Blight - The Root of the Problem

By x344543 – October 8, 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.

I really would rather not be writing this; I honestly wish that I didn’t feel that it was necessary. However, some things simply cannot be left unaddressed.

As one of the half dozen or so charter members of the IWW’s Environmental Unionism Caucus, I comb through a good deal of class struggle and/or environmental news sources, since one of our goals is raising awareness. These sources come from a variety of directions, including syndicalist, socialist, anarchist, progressive environmentalist, and deep green (though not Deep Green Resistance, because of the latter’s transphobia and rigid primativist tendencies). Naturally, one of the most logical sources for this last tendency is Earth First!. Rarely is any source 100% in line with what I and my fellow “Green Wobblies” think represents our position (loosely defined though that may be), and Earth First! is no exception. That which doesn’t fit is generally ignored, and we “stand aside” as they say in the language of modified consensus process. Sometimes, however, our sources will publish something so egregiously wrong, in our opinion, that we feel compelled to respond.

Saturday, October 5, 2013, Earth First! re-published just such a story, called Thanks A Lot, Nebraska, by the Tucson chapter of Root Force (TURF).

What is Root Force you ask? Here’s their mission statement:

Root Force (Fuerza Raíz) is a campaign that recognizes the fundamental connection between the oppression of the Earth and the oppression of its people. The precursor to ecocide and genocide is the separation of people from the land so that both can be exploited. Thus Root Force is a biocentric campaign, asserting that no oppression can be overcome without addressing the relationship a society has with the Earth. To achieve either social or ecological justice, we must achieve both.

Therefore, Root Force aims to help dismantle the system that is killing and enslaving our planet and its people. This will be achieved by (1) identifying the system’s strategic weak points, and (2) targeting those points, thus providing an offensive component to existing ecodefense, international solidarity, and anti-colonialist efforts.

One strategic weak point is the U.S. dependence on the resources of Latin America. The exploitation of these resources is dependent on transportation, energy, and communications infrastructure. Hence this U.S.-based campaign focuses its efforts on opposing infrastructure expansion projects in Latin America, such as Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) and the South American Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative (IIRSA).

The campaign provides a framework for people to take effective action in solidarity with local resistance to these projects without traveling to Latin America. It is structured to allow for a diversity of tactics, to be undertaken by a wide network of autonomous individuals and groups.

This seems reasonable enough; in fact, I cannot find any really objectionable position in this mission statement at all. Much of it could easily mesh with the Preamble to the IWW Constitution, so having established that, I find the content of the article itself to be quite disturbing.

Essentially, TURF is miffed that a coalition including Nebraska ranchers and farmers, the Nebraska Farmer’s Union, Bold Nebraska, 350.org, Sierra Club, Credo, and billionaire Tom Steyer are protesting the impending construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline by constructing a wind- and solar- powered barn in its projected pathway.

Granted there are many criticisms one could make of this action, such as the fact that a great many of these folks are capitalists or enablers of capitalists, the fact that Keystone XL is not the only pipeline we need to worry about, or the obvious fact that Keystone could simply build the pipeline somewhere else (there are enough rural counties sufficiently beholden to corporate fossil fuel interests to ram through the permits barn or no barn), but in spite of these shortcomings, there are lot of good things that could be said about the project as well, including—in my opinion at least—the advocacy of renewable energy, such as wind and solar which could allow a state such as Nebraska which has a fairly good abundance of both to potentially generate all of its own electricity and perhaps even export a bit.

No doubt doing so would lessen that state’s reliance on fossil fuels, and though some of those are extracted and refined locally, the impact of those on the environment effects us globally in ways that greatly outweigh any significant impact from wind and solar. Certainly that would seem to fit the mission of Root Force would it not? Evidently the answer is a resounding “no”. Root Force is overwhelmingly opposed to renewable energy arguing that it simply props up the existing system and perpetuates the destruction of the Earth (and to be certain, the Earth First! Journal published Root Force's position paper on renewables in February 2009).

Climate Change and Capitalism

By Michael Roberts - Originally published at The Next Recession, September 28, 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.

The 5th report by the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) was released this weekend. The IPCC brings together hundreds of scientists in the field of climate change to cooperate in drawing up a comprehensive analysis of the state of the earth’s climate and forecasts about its future.  The IPCC report raised its estimate of the probability that human activities, led by the burning of fossil fuels, are the main cause of global warming since the mid-20th century to “extremely likely”, or at least 95 percent, from “very likely” (90 percent) in its previous report in 2007 and “likely” (66 percent) in 2001.

The IPCC said that short periods are influenced by natural variability and do not, in general, reflect long-term climate trends.  So the argument of those whom deny global warming is man-made or is not getting worse cannot rely on the recent slowing of the rise in average atmospheric temperatures in the last 15 years.  The IPCC went on to say that temperatures were likely to rise by between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century.  Sea levels are likely to rise by between 26 and 82 cm (10 to 32 inches) by the late 21st century, after a 19 cm rise in the 19th century.   In the worst case, seas could be 98 cm higher in the year 2100.

The IPCC estimates that a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere would lead to a warming of between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 and 8.1F), lowering the bottom of the range from 2.0 degrees (3.6F) estimated in 2007 report. The new range, however, is the same as in other IPCC reports before 2007.  It said the earth was set for more heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels from melting ice sheets that could swamp coasts and low-lying islands as greenhouse gases built up in the atmosphere.

The IPCC admitted that it was still unclear about the causes for the slowdown in climate change in the past 15 years, but insisted that the long-term trends were beyond doubt and that a decade and a half was far too short a period in which to draw any firm conclusions. The temperature rise has slowed from 0.12C per decade since 1951 to 0.05C per decade in the past 15 years – a point seized upon by climate skeptics to discredit climate science.  Professor Stocker said:

“People always pick 1998 but that was a very special year, because a strong El Niño made it unusually hot, and since then there have been a series of medium-sized volcanic eruptions that have cooled the climate.”

Explaining a recent slower pace of warming, the report said the past 15-year period was skewed by the fact that 1998 was an extremely warm year with an El Nino event – a warming of the ocean surface – in the Pacific.  It said warming had slowed “in roughly equal measure” because of random variations in the climate and the impact of factors such as volcanic eruptions when ash dims sunshine, and a cyclical decline in the sun’s output.

But the deniers of climate change and manmade global warming remain unconvinced. Professor Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta responded by saying that “Well, IPCC has thrown down the gauntlet – if the pause continues beyond 15 years (well it already has), they are toast.” But Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, retorted that the reduction in warming would have to last far longer - “three or four decades” – to be a sign of a new trend.  And the IPCC report predicted that the reduction in warming would not last, saying temperatures from 2016-35 were likely to be 0.3-0.7 degree Celsius (0.5 to 1.3 Fahrenheit) warmer than in 1986-2005.

The sceptics or deniers are a tiny percentage of scientists in the field of climate change.  An analysis of abstracts of 11,944 peer-reviewed scientific papers, published between 1991 and 2011 and written by 29,083 authors, concludes that 98.4 per cent of authors who took a position endorsed man-made (anthropogenic) global warming, 1.2 per cent rejected it and 0.4 per cent were uncertain. And more recent studies made after the laborious IPCC compilations confirm that the earth is warming up at a rate that can only be explained by human activity. Indeed, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was reported to have passed 400 parts per million for the first time in 4.5m years.

Capital Blight - They Really Don't Know Clouds At All.

By x344543 - September 9, 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.

A recent discussion among IWW members about whether or not to change the default delivery option for the union's official organ, the Industrial Worker, from hard copy to PDF has touched on a larger debate over the "greenness" of "the cloud."(the many data centers that form the backbone of the Internet).

My attention was drawn to this debate by one of my fellow worker's reaction to the following statement from the current editor of our union's venerable publication, the Industrial Worker in reference to a change in the default option from a paper copy to an emailed PDF:

Go paperless, live in harmony with the earth and help save the union money!"

The union implemented this change to cut costs. The apparent environmental benefits are merely coincidental, though it's gratifying to see that the membership is taking the environmental tenets of the IWW Preamble seriously.

My aforementioned fellow Wobbly took exception to this statement thusly:

From some of what I have read, the physical maintenance of the digital world is anything but green, even though the idea that computers = lower pollution and energy consumption is to be found pretty much everywhere these days.

Below is a link to an article from the New York Times on the subject.  One of the key points is how much of the energy -- about 90-94% -- is wasted just keeping servers idling in case they need to be pulled in as backups.

The specific article he referenced, Power, Pollution, and the Internet actually quotes a slightly lower figure of 88 - 93%, but more about that later.

He then offered the following quotation to emphasize a comparison between data centers and the paper industry:

Nationwide, data centers used about 76 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010, or roughly 2 percent of all electricity used in the country that year, based on an analysis by Jonathan G. Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford University who has been studying data center energy use for more than a decade.

Datacenter Dynamics, a London-based firm, derived similar figures.

The industry has long argued that computerizing business transactions and everyday tasks like banking and reading  library books has the net effect of saving energy and resources. But the paper industry, which some predicted would be replaced by the computer age, consumed 67 billion kilowatt-hours from the grid in 2010, according to Census Bureau figures reviewed by the Electric Power Research Institute for The Times.

Skepticism of any capitalist industry's claims to be "green" should be regarded as healthy, but that skepticism should be followed by careful examination of all of the facts.

Reinventing the Wheel - Kicking the Oil Habit

By x356039 - June 17, 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.

Oil. It is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room at every discussion of climate, energy, and the economy. Our society is unquestionably addicted to it, with the United States consuming a whopping 19.1 million barrels of oil every day. When the total energy used is converted from barrels of oil to watt hours the figure is staggering. Running in at 31 terawatt hours per day, this massively dwarfs all energy consumed in the electric grid which runs in at a much smaller 4 terawatt hours daily. Much of this goes to running our transportation networks, providing fuel for trucks, ships, trains, and airplanes across the country before we even start looking at military consumption. With how incredibly ubiquitous oil is for our economy it is no surprise mainstream environmentalists talk of slowly phasing it out as opposed to going cold turkey on the black stuff, implying one more hit won't put us over the edge.

This is all based on the assumption that we do not have the means to go off of oil. Even renewable energy production is caught in its sticky web. Yet there is hope. The current potential for renewable energy is so great that if we implemented it on a sufficiently large scale even the massive demand for energy the oil economy supports could be met. As was established in a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study released in 2008 if 7% of all commercial and residential rooftops in the United States were fitted with photovoltaic solar panels our electric power demand of 4.05 terawatt hours per day would be completely satisfied. Now granted oil does provide for 33.8 terawatt hours of energy per day so how could solar meet that demand? If we increased the number of solar panels to cover 65% of all residential and commercial rooftops in the United States the massive thirst for oil would be quenched by clean, free sunlight.

Chevron: Actively preventing a transition to renewable energy.

By x363464 - May 16, 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.

In 1950, Chevron, General Motors, and Firestone were charged and convicted of criminal conspiracy for their part in the General Motors streetcar conspiracy. In this scandal they purchased streetcar systems all over the United States in order to disassemble the industry and create bus lines. They did this to increase the demand for petroleum, automobiles and tires so that they could directly receive business and profits from their scheme.  Later Chevron began investing in alternative industries such as lithium car batteries. Chevron began to be limiting access to large NiMH batteries through its control of patent licenses. Many suspect they did this to remove a competitor to gasoline and suspicions were affirmed when Chevron began a lawsuit against Panasonic and Toyota because they started producing EV-95 batteries for electric cars.

Reinventing the Wheel - The REAL Green Jobs Story

By x356039 - May 2, 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.

In the accepted limits of debate in Washington and Wall Street the main argument by proponents of the fossil fuel industry is the same as its always been: do you want to protect the environment or create more jobs? They argue expanding fossil fuel exploitation, in spite of the proven risks to the environment and public health, is necessary for the sake of job creation. By building Keystone XL across the Great Plains, opening the Powder River Basin to coal interests, expanding offshore drilling, and opening up new lands to fracking the fossil fuel dinosaurs claim our economy will recover & energy independence will be achieved. When confronted with the facts on clean energy sources like wind and solar power fossil fuel proponents argue clean energy is too expensive. They claim it would not be cost-effective to build a green energy economy and that it would lead to a decline in standard of living.

Quite contrary to the boldest of claims made by those dinosaurs the facts show shifting to a clean energy economy would create more jobs, cost less money, and easily exceed all performance needs. Research by the Renewable & Appropriate Energy Laboratory at University of California, Berkeley shows the fossil fuel industry's claims of better job creation rates compared to green, clean energy are vastly overblown. As shown in this chart below renewable energy sources produce as many if not more jobs per megawatt of capacity as traditional dirty sources of electricity: