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Let Us Now Praise A Coal Miner: Chuck Nelson Is An American Hero

By Jonathan Rosenblum - Common Dreams, March 26, 2017

Among the hundreds of coal miners I have interviewed over the years, retired coal miner Chuck Nelson has always been among the most fearless truth-tellers in the coal country of West Virginia.

An indefatigable presence at hearings, meetings, media briefings, and in his beloved mountains, Nelson’s powerful voice and witness have never been needed more than now—during this unending “war” on Appalachia by the coal industry and its sycophants in state halls and Washington, DC.

“Chuck Nelson is an invaluable member of our community,” said Maria Gunnoe, the Goldman Prize Award recipient with Coal River Mountain Watch in West Virginia. “The coal industry may have broken his health down, but they sure didn’t break his Appalachian spirit to always fight for something better.”

A 4th generation union coal miner, who spent 30 years working in underground mines, Nelson has witnessed first-hand the demise of a once strong union movement for workplace safety and wage justice, the unraveling of deeply rooted communities, the clear-cut destruction of his mountain forests and poisoning of his neighbors, and the fierce struggle of local communities to defend their health, land and ways of life.

Act or Be Acted Upon: The Case for Phasing out Alberta's Sands

Dr. Gordon Laxer - Alberta Institute of Agrologists, March 16, 2017

The Alberta bitumen Sands are Canada’s fastest growing and largest single source of greenhouse gases (GHGs). This paper investigates the questions: Can Canada reach its Paris and G8 climate targets if it allows Sands output and emissions to grow substantially? Should the Sands be phased out? What can we learn from other energy phaseouts, specifically the ending of coal-fired electricity in Ontario and Alberta’s plans to do the same by 2030? The paper concludes with the steps of a planned Sands phase-out and principles for a just transition for Sands workers.

Read More - Download PDF.

Trump's "America First" puts the planet last

By Michael Ware - Socialist Worker, February 9, 2017

DONALD TRUMP'S executive orders for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and for building a border wall provoked the most visible and immediate responses of the early days of his presidency.

But his moves to restart construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and the new administration's censorship of government workers and federally funded scientists regarding climate change were a shot across the bow of the environmental movement.

Upon taking office, Twittler and his henchmen directed federal agencies to cease public communication that wasn't vetted by the new administration, effectively putting a gag order on any talk about climate change or scientific research that contradicts the administration's taste for "alternative facts."

The Badlands National Park Twitter account defied the ban, issuing unspeakable truths like "The Pre-Industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93ppm." The account has since been reigned in and the tweets deleted.

This week, the new administration scored a victory when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, bowing to an order from Trump, reversed its denial of an easement needed to complete a section of the Dakota Access Pipeline running under the Missouri River. The Army Corps not only abandoned plans to wait for an environment impact study, but rushed through approval so drilling could start in 24 hours--making it harder for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to take action in court.

Expect the Unexpected: The Disruptive Power of Low-carbon Technology

By Luke Sussams, et. al. - Carbon Tracker, February 2017

The time for energy transformations is now.

Achieving climate stability will require deep and widespread changes in the global energy sector. Fossil fuel industry projections, however, continue to show a future energy system with few changes to that of today. This is in spite of examples of disruption in the energy sector at the hands of the low-carbon transition. This scenario analysis was produced in partnership between Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and explores the extent to which ongoing cost reductions could see solar photovoltaics (PV) and electric vehicles (EVs) impact future demand for coal, oil and gas. The findings of this study should motivate energy companies and their investors to retire the use of business as usual (BAU) scenarios and further integrate the consideration of downside demand scenarios.

Read the report (PDF).

Inside the coal industry’s rhetorical playbook

By Steve Schwarze, Jennifer Peeples, Jen Schneider, and Pete Bsumek - The Conversation, January 8, 2017

If citizens have heard anything about the upheaval in the U.S. coal industry, it is probably the insistence that President Obama and the EPA have waged a “war on coal.” This phrase is written into President-elect Donald Trump’s energy platform, which promises to “end the war on coal.”

The often repeated slogan indexes a set of attitudes and assumptions about government regulation and environmentalism. The foremost if the belief that the (liberal, overreaching) federal government has it out for coal and the American way of life that coal supports.

If only the coal industry could get government and its regulations off their backs, the argument goes, thousands of jobs and our economy would come roaring back, a pledge Trump made during his campaign while touring Appalachian coal country. After the election, Trump doubled down on this rhetoric, saying that, “On energy, I will cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy – including shale energy and clean coal – creating many millions of high-paying jobs.”

Yet most analysts agree that the major front in the “war on coal” lies within the market itself. Natural gas production, experiencing explosive growth thanks to the rapid expansion of hydrofracturing, has dealt the biggest blow to King Coal and explains coal’s loss of market share for power generation.

Still, the “war on coal” rhetoric persists. But why? We investigated the public communication strategies used by the industry and found some consistent patterns.

Protests in Mexico Push Country to Brink of Revolution and Nobody’s Talking About It

By Nick Bernabe - AntiMedia, January 10, 2017

San Diego, CA — Long-simmering social tensions in Mexico are threatening to boil over as failing neoliberal reforms to the country’s formerly nationalized gas sector are compounded by open corruption, stagnant standards of living, and rampant inflation.

The U.S. media has remained mostly mute on the situation in Mexico, even as the unfolding civil unrest has closed the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, California, several times in the past week. Ongoing “gasolinazo” protests in Mexico over a 20 percent rise in gas prices have led to over 400 arrests, 250 looted stores, and six deaths. Roads are being blockaded, borders closed, and government buildings are being sacked. Protests have remained relatively peaceful overall, except for several isolated violent acts, which activists have blamed on government infiltrators.

The few mainstream news reports that have covered the situation blame rising gas prices but fail to examine several other factors that are pushing Mexico to the brink of revolution.

Hopelessly devoted to fossil fuels

By Amy Leather - Socialist Review, January 2017

World leaders are failing on climate change. Theresa May’s Tory government has given the go ahead to a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, backed the expansion of Heathrow airport and overturned the local decision in Lancashire to stop fracking. Meanwhile climate change denier Donald Trump is heading to the White House.

The last decade has seen a massive expansion of so-called “dirty energies” such as fracking, deep water drilling, and tar sand extraction. The pledges to reduce carbon emissions in the Paris Agreement, signed by 196 countries in December 2015, are only voluntary. Even if signatories kept to them we would still be on track for global warming far higher than is sustainable.

The scale of the crisis is widely recognized. Climate scientists and environmentalists such as Ian Angus have shown that we have entered a new geological era — the Anthropocene — in which the dominant influence on the environment is human activity. Unless urgent action is taken we face catastrophic climate change. The solution to global warming is quite simple — we need to stop burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and instead make a rapid switch to renewables.

So why won’t our rulers act? We need to look beyond the individual politicians. There are, of course, the climate change deniers, who must be challenged and stopped, but much of the ruling class does accept that climate change is a reality. The problem is they are guardians of a system with fossil fuels at its heart. Tackling the climate crisis would mean tackling the vested interests of the fossil fuel corporations — some of the most profitable companies in the world. To understand why capitalism and fossil fuels are so intertwined we need to go back to the time of the industrial revolution in Britain.

Andreas Malm, in his book Fossil Capital, outlines how in the early 1800s an energy transition took place in Britain. The first machines of the industrial revolution, the spinning and weaving machines of the cotton industry, were driven by water. In 1800 there were at least 1,000 water mills concentrated in Lancashire and Scotland. Even as late as the 1820s most mills in Manchester were still water-powered. Just ten years later steam generated by burning coal had overtaken water.

Apocalypse postponed: the oil price crash two years on

By Brian Parkin - RS21, December 31, 2016

Between November 2014 and January 2015, oil prices on international markets fell by nearly 80%. Since then many of the smaller ‘unconventional’ shale fracking operations have gone bust while the deep water and Arctic circle developments by the oil and gas ‘majors’ have been put on hold or abandoned. Here Brian Parkin surveys the damage and finds that despite the most bruising experience since 1973 oil price crisis the world of hydrocarbons is still driven by the same speculative greed and climate crisis disregard as ever. But with the cancellation (at the time of publication) of the XL Keystone pipeline, an outstanding victory at Standing Rock and a rediscovered militancy in the UK North Sea offshore industry, things may be changing.

House of fools

Prior to the oil price collapse of late 2014, the sustained high price of oil, largely predicated on expectations of sustained high Chinese economic growth, as well as heroic predictions of world economic growth post-2008 credit crash, had given rise to a speculative boom in ‘unconventional’ oil and gas exploration and production ventures. This meant that hitherto high cost and ‘marginal’ production techniques in smaller and relatively low yield fields, in combination with record low interest rates, suddenly and overnight looked like safe bets.

Another key factor at work was the shared political and strategic consensus in the US, that after the Gulf (of Arabia) military clean-up of a ‘new American century’, the US would seek to become energy self-sufficient by the mid-2030’s, by which time it would have also largely completed its imperialist ‘pivot on Asia’ strategy for the economic and military containment of China[1].

Apart from the marginalisation of OPEC[2] and the securing of wider MENA[3] regional oilfields dedicated to the supply of the US’s strategic allies in Europe and East Asia, the decisive factor would be in the development of ‘tight’ oil (and gas) from hydrocarbon bearing shale ‘plays’ that make up much of the north American east, mid-west and southern states geological formations. Additionally, high production cost ventures in the Gulf of Mexico and Outer Continental Shelf deep waters as well as within the Arctic Circle augmented further by the Canadian tar sands would complete the future hydrocarbon supply mix.

West Virginia, “Identity Decline” and Why Democrats Must Not Look Away From the Rural Poor

Trump, Putin and the Pipelines to Nowhere

By Alex Steffin - Medium, December 15, 2016

You can’t understand what Trump’s doing to America without understanding the “Carbon Bubble”

If you’re an American, you’re likely misinformed about the most dire crisis in our world.

American journalists, pundits and media executives have largely convinced themselves that climate change is not a serious political issue, because they think the polls tell them that. A majority of American voters regularly tell pollsters they don’t think climate change is a critically important election issue, so therefore the media decides it must not be an important political issue at all.

Unfortunately, that conventional wisdom blinds us to both to the actual bedrock reality of this era, and to — as I see it — the defining aim of the in-coming Trump administration: delaying climate action.

Trump has surrounded himself with more oil industry and oil industry connected people than any president in history (even George W. Bush). You can’t understand what’s going on with Trump unless you understand the oil industry… and you can’t understand the oil industry without understanding climate change.

Understanding Climate Change

In case you’re just joining us here on Earth, we’re making the planet hotter. The science is incontrovertible that by burning fossil fuels, we’re changing the planet’s climate. Because the consequences worsen dramatically as we emit more climate pollution and the planet gets hotter, every nation on Earth agreed last year in Paris to hold that temperature rise to two degrees Celsius (2ºC).

This means we must limit the total amount of CO2 and other greenhouse pollution we put into the sky: we have to meet a “carbon budget.” To meet that budget, we have to radically cut greenhouse gas emissions — burning way less oil, coal and gas — in the next two decades, and set the global economy on a steep path to zero emissions.

Again, the American media has failed to convey the magnitude of the costs of unchecked global warming. Those costs are profound already, today, as the Arctic heatwave, Syrian civil war, bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, worsening storms, droughts, wildfires and freak weather events all show. Those costs will only grow, and they will grow more dire, more quickly as the planet heats.

At the same time, the innovations we need to create zero-carbon prosperity are already here. From plummeting costs for solar, wind, electric vehicles and green buildings to better approaches to urban planning, agriculture and forestry, we already have the tools we need to start building a much more prosperous world, producing hosts of new companies and millions of jobs. Indeed, a giant building boom is what successful climate action looks like.

Because we have no real choice but to act — and, in fact, climate action will make most people not only safer, but better off — big changes are coming, far sooner than most Americans understand.

But some people totally understand: the ones who stand to lose money from these changes.

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