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Alpha, Arch, Peabody Energy: Bad Business Decisions are the True War on Coal

By staff - Public Citizen, May 2016

Over the past year, three of the United States’ major coal companies filed for bankruptcy: Alpha Natural Resources in August 2015; Arch Coal in January 2016; and Peabody Energy in April 2016.3 Although these companies and their trade association allies have often blamed environmental regulations for their precarious financial state, the truth is that debt-fueled acquisitions hobbled their finances at a time when market conditions were rapidly souring. Namely, Alpha Natural Resources, Peabody Energy, and Arch Coal bet big on future Chinese coal demand growth in 2011, going into debt to finance major expansions into metallurgical coal production during the year it was at peak price, only to see markets decline soon after the transactions were complete. At the same time, top executives were awarded record financial compensation, while slashing employee benefits and laying off workers.

Read the report (PDF).

Carbon Bubble News #101

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 25, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

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Carbon Bubble News #100

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 19, 2016

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Capital Blight: The Two Bums

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 15, 2016

It may seem like King Coal has suffered a couple of bad weeks in a row.  Consider the following:

Six years and a day after Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine exploded, killing 29 men, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger issued former Massey CEO, Don Blankenship, the maximum allowable sentence for for willfully conspiring to violate mine safety standards: one year in prison, one year of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

However, when broken down, this only roughly figures out to $8621 and 12½ days per dead miner. Perhaps that's why Tommy Davis, who lost his brother, son, and nephew in the explosion (while he was working in another section of the mine that day) shouted at Blankenship as he left the courthouse,

"You don’t have a heart; you don’t miss your kids like we miss ours...I hold a picture, I hold a tombstone; you hold nothing."

He further elaborated, in response to Blankenship's (no doubt well scripted) "apology" spoken in response to the sentencing

"It didn’t mean nothing, and it still won’t mean nothing...He never come to me in six years, never come to me, never come to my mom, my dad who’re gone now. They grieved themselves to death. He never come to apologize to us. He never said nothing."

This also likely explains why Annette Workman, who lost her husband, Ricky, in the incident angrily shouted, “Did you ever go down in that mine?” at the soon-to-be imprisoned (though not for long) erstwhile CEO.

Clearly this sorry affair reveals just how unfair the capitalist system really is. Any working class individual who'd caused the equivalent amount of death and mayhem would have been given the death sentence, but as long as such activity is done in the persuit of profit, it falls under the presumed innocence of capitalism and is thusly rarely charged more than a slap on the hand. One should not blame Judge Berger for not meting out harsher judgement. By law, she can only slap so hard. 

More Background

Carbon Bubble News #99

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 12, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

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Capital Blight: Pop go the Weasels

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 7, 2016

On March, 29, 2016, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and CoalSwarm released Boom and Bust 2016: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline, the second annual report examining the precarious global coal plant pipeline. New investigations detailed in the report revealed that while the coal industry continues to push for the construction of more coal-fired power plants, in reality, coal plants are increasingly sitting idle in all of the world’s four largest markets, and global coal consumption is declining drastically. This is particularly evident in China where the government recently took the first step to curb runaway coal plant investment, after the country’s coal use plunged by nearly 6.4 percent in two years.

The report’s unprecedentedly detailed mapping of new coal-fired power plants indicates the reported suspension of new permits and new construction starting in half of China’s provinces could affect 60 percent of the 460 new coal-fired units that have been permitted or are in the permitting process.

With coal use on the decline worldwide, the estimated $981 billion needed to construct the proposed coal plant pipeline represents a massive investment in potentially stranded assets — resulting in an even further downward spiral for the global coal industry. In fact, this number is more than one-and-a-half times the amount that the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates is needed to end energy poverty for the 1.2 billion people currently living without reliable energy access. On top of this staggering revelation, the report found that the additional new proposed coal capacity would result in over 130,000 more premature deaths worldwide each year from air pollution and finds that existing coal-fired power plants are responsible for a total of nearly one million premature deaths annually from coal-fired power generation.

In spite of the coal barons' continued insistence on beating a dead horse, hundreds of thousands of coal mine workers have lost their jobs anyway, (for which the capitalists have shed not a single tear--and yet the instant environmental activists oppose even the most insignificant coal facility or propose the meekest upgrade to a clean air regulation, these same capitalists screech and howl about how these "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" are "threatening jobs!" (meaning profits). Meanwhile, in the wake of the continuing decline in oil prices (from a high of $114 US on the Brent index in October 2014 to as low as $27 US in the early months of 2016), more than 250,000 oil workers have also lost their jobs. Likewise, many railroad workers have been furloughed as the carriers' insistance on putting all of their eggs in the fossil fuel basket has broken far more than warranted by any omlette. Across the supply chain, steel workers, pipefitters, office workers, and just about any craft related to fossil fuel extractivism are experiencing increasingly precarious job status.

Clearly the carbon bubble has burst. It's long past time to organize a workers' led movement to seize control of the means of production and initiate a rapid and just transition to a post carbon economy that puts an end to wage slavery and brings humanity back into harmony with the Earth!

The Report

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Amid Price Plunge, North American Oil and Gas Workers Seek Transition to Renewable Sector

By Candice Bernd - Truthout, April 3, 2016, ©Truthout; reprinted with permission.

Lliam Hildebrand says he had a moment of clarity during an apprenticeship at a steel-fabricating shop in Victoria, Canada. He was learning the metal-working skills he would need to become a boilermaker, to eventually move on to work on the many steel vessels -- including furnaces, pipelines, "cokers" and "exchangers" -- that make up the oil industry's vast infrastructure in Alberta, Canada's oil sands fields.

During that apprenticeship, Hildebrand would come into the fabricating shop and see a pressure vessel on one side of the shop being made for the oil sands, and at the same time, on the other side of the shop, his own project -- a wind farm weather station. Hildebrand says he walked into the shop one morning, and the contrast between the two ventures struck him sharply. That was the moment when he realized, "We are the trade -- the building trade -- that's really going to help address [climate change]."

From then on he has felt as though he's been living two lives. Coming out of his apprenticeship, he started looking for jobs in the renewable sector, but was unable to find work. Six years ago, he reluctantly decided to apply his skills where there were plenty of jobs: the Canadian oil sands fields.

But after years of working in an industry that one top climate scientist has called "the biggest carbon bomb on the planet," Hildebrand came to realize that he was not the only oil worker in Alberta who felt "guilty about developing the infrastructure that is creating climate change."

Carbon Bubble News #98

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 4, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Carbon Bubble News #97

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, March 29, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Carbon Bubble News #96

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, March 22, 2016

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