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The Inevitable Demise of the Fossil Fuel Empire: Rocketing production costs, proliferating write-downs, stranded assets pave the way for renewable renaissance

By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, originally published by Guardian Earth Insight blog, June 10, 2014

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 latest data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and other sources proves that the oil and gas majors are in deep trouble.

Over the last decade, rising oil prices have been driven primarily by rising production costs. After the release of the IEA's World Energy Outlook last November, Deutsche Bank's former head of energy research Mark Lewis noted that massive levels of investment have corresponded to an ever declining rate of oil supply increase:

"Over the past decade, the oil and gas industry's upstream investments have registered an astronomical increase, but these ever higher levels of capital expenditure have yielded ever smaller increases in the global oil supply. Even these have only been made possible by record high oil prices. This should be a reality check for those now hyping a new age of global oil abundance."

Since 2000, the oil industry's investments have risen by 180% - a threefold increase - but this has translated into a global oil supply increase of just 14%. Two-thirds of this increase has been made-up by unconventional oil and gas. In other words, the primary driver of the cost explosion is the shift to expensive and difficult-to-extract unconventionals due to the peak and plateau in conventional oil production since 2005.

Capital Blight: a Green-Syndicalist Responds to David Walters "Socialist" Defense of Nuclear Energy

By x344543 - November 22, 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 read with interest David Walters's recent article, "A Socialist Defends Nuclear Energy, wondering what I would find. I soon discovered there was very little credible "defense" and for that matter, not much "socialism" (other than the citation of various Marxist quotations that Marx and Engels would have bristled at given their context here) in it. In fact, it read to me as a typical capitalist defense of its standard operations wrapped in a rather threadbare and tattered red flag.

Michael Friedman has thoroughly debunked Walters's claims about the "safety" of (conventional) nuclear (fission) energy and the "ease" at dealing with the nuclear waste in his own piece so there is no utility in elaborating further on that matter. It is my intention to address the issues that Friedman didn't cover.

To begin with, if David Walters is so willing to overlook peer reviewed science and factual evidence that clearly shows that conventional nuclear fission energy is unsafe and the problem of nuclear waste not easily handled, he may as well also argue in favor of thorium based breeder reactors, nuclear fusion power, fracking, tar sands, "clean" coal, or even hydrogen fuel cells which are equally questionable technologies (and please note that I am not arguing in favor of any of these things here, though I think hydrogen fuel cells are worth a look at least).

Additionally, Walters lumps in all greens into a single, monolithic group, dominated by primitivism and Malthusianism. This is as inaccurate as arguing that all communists take their marching orders from Stalin. This is the rhetoric one expects to hear from the most reactionary elements of the capitalist class's punditocracy rather than an informed anti-capitalist. To me this is a clear indication that his entire argument is mere propaganda and has very little substance.

U.S. and Chinese Imperialism in the Sudans

By Burkely Herrman - September 27, 2013, (used by permission)

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 black gooey substance, oil, that comes out of the ground always seems to have broad geopolitical implications. The U.S. attack on Syria was partly about oil and natural gas, but also about Syria’s relationship to Iran and its oil and gas.[1][2] How does this play into South Sudan?

An article published in Chron on August 28th begins to tell this story: “President Barack Obama says he’s selected his outgoing ambassador to Ethiopia to be the U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. Obama says Donald Booth will lead U.S. efforts to implement security agreements the two countries agreed to last year, including disputes over borders and oil. South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011, but tensions between the countries remain high, especially over their intertwined oil industries.”[3] This openness surprised me, so I continued to do a bit more digging, finding that both America and China had imperial aims in South Sudan.

Starting on the White House website I found a number of results. One said that Ambassador Booth will “advance U.S. interests…including ensuring the uninterrupted flow of oil.”[4] As I continued to search, the results just kept coming. A statement issued by the White House Press Secretary on an agreement between South Sudan and Sudan said the following: “I welcome the announcement by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel of an agreement between Sudan and South Sudan on oil revenue. This agreement opens the door to a future of greater prosperity for the people of both countries.”[5] Around the same time, this development was noted in a readout of a call to the austerity-friendly President of Spain.[6] It seemed like the posts connecting oil to South Sudan kept coming: a post in September 2012 described then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to South Sudan to discuss “security, oil and economic opportunity,”[7] another was a readout of a call with the President of South Sudan in which Obama “emphasized the importance of South Sudan and Sudan reaching an agreement on oil,”[8] how the spokesperson of the National Security Council urges that both Sudans make an agreement on oil[9] and a statement from the White House Press Secretary saying that the peace agreement between the two countries has provisions to share “significant portions of Sudan’s oil wealth between north and south.”[10] Then there’s a fact sheet supporting South Sudan highlighting that “agencies across the United States government have examined the tools they can bring to bear to propel development and investment in South Sudan…to ongoing support to assist the government of South Sudan to manage its oil sector transparently and take steps towards joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.”[11] One of the most revealing is a joint statement by the US and South Sudanese governments in December 2011, noting that:

“The conference focused on several important themes central to this goal: responsible management of oil revenue and natural resources…In addition, participants discussed specific investment opportunities in sectors such as oil and renewable energy, information technology, agriculture, transportation infrastructure, clean water and sanitation, capacity building services, and financial services. South Sudan proposed and participants agreed that investments, international support and development assistance will be linked to national priorities.”[12]

One must ask, what all of this talk about oil is really about anyway and its what I looked into next. The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) writes on a page about Sudan and South Sudan noting the background of the problems over oil, noting that most of the oil producing areas are “near or extend across the de facto border between Sudan and South Sudan” but that after South Sudan became independent over two years ago in July 2013, South Sudan “gained control over most of the oil production but…remain[ed] dependent on Sudan because it must use Sudan’s export pipelines and processing facilities.”[13] The EIA continues, noting that after 15 months of on and off negotiations, “South Sudan restarted oil production in April 2013” but that “several unresolved issues remain and production may be curtailed again in the future,” problems which were confirmed by the New York Times, All Africa, AP and BBC.[14] Oil is so important to the governments of South Sudan and Sudan: “oil represented around 57 percent of Sudan’s total government revenue and around 78 percent of export earnings in 2011, while it represented around 98 percent of total government revenues for South Sudan in 2011.” That’s pretty important, considering both countries have over 5 billion in proven crude oil reserves with 70% of them residing in South Sudan. That’s not all, but there are also “natural gas…proven reserves of 3 trillion cubic feet” in the two countries as well. The EIA also lists the major oil companies that have a stake in the two countries: “International oil companies…primarily from Asia, dominate the oil sectors in both countries. They are led by CNPC, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Malaysia’s Petronas.” As a result, its no surprise that “China is the leading export destination for crude oil from Sudan and South Sudan.” There also supposedly a pipeline that “would reduce South Sudan’s reliance on Sudan, but the pipeline’s construction could take at least two years.”

How to Deflate the Carbon Bubble

By Truls Gulowsen - Originally published at OpenDemocracy.net, September 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.

Last Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change went public with their Fifth Assessment report in Stockholm. The report supplied us with more reasons to dread the coming effects of global warming, and even more reasons to urge politicians to act.

One of the key new features in the IPCC report is the global accumulative “carbon budget”. The IPCC confirms earlier findings that there is an allowence for less than 1000 gigatons of CO2 in the atmosphere for the rest of the century, if we are to avoid dangerous climate change above two degrees warming. This is less than a third of proven fossil reserves, and will be consumed in less than 30 years at current emission levels.

In neighbouring Norway, often described as a “world-leader in the combat against climate change”, a population of just over 5 million reap the profits in being the world's second largest gas exporter and the sixth largest oil exporter. The investments in the sector are growing year by year.


Along with the rest of the world, we are debating how to manage a limited resource and how to achieve the necessary emission cuts to avoid disastrous global warming. 



Along with the rest of the world, we live in a carbon bubble, in which, despite increasingly urgent warnings from scientists and environmentalists, we keep pumping up fossil fuels at record speed, pushing greener industry aside as we do so. In Norway the fossil fuels industry is by far the country's largest, and our reliance on this industry is not just a threat to the green industry, but to our entire economy, as has lately been pointed out by various individuals and organizations, including the IMF.


Our goal is not to get rid of the oil industry tomorrow. Nor is it to set a date for when the last oil worker will be out of a job. On the contrary, we want to keep the industry going for generations, but at a significantly lower level than we see today. To achieve this in a way that does not lead to mass unemployment (an estimated 250,000 people - or one in twenty Norwegians - are involved in the fossil fuel industry) we need a plan that combines both environmental policy and the oil workers' interests. That was the starting point when labour unions and environmental NGOs sat down to draft a plan on how we might realistically deflate Norway's inflated oil industry in a way that also retains the interests of the industry's employees.

Capital Blight - A Visit from the New Flat Earth Society

By x344543 - September 25, 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.

We post a lot of class struggle environmentalist relevant news on our Facebook page, an average of over 75 stories a day. Naturally, we expect them to incite comments and occasional disagreements from any number of directions. Having just surpassed 750 "likes", however, we're just getting started at this point, so we don't expect a lot of the big discussions or debates you might find on the Facebook pages of, say, the Sierra Club, 350.org, or Occupy. Considering that, it was quite a shock to see a contrarian response to this story (shared from DeSmog Blog) from a user named Tom Harris, reading (in part):

It is revealing that almost none of the above piece even addresses the science of the new report. Instead they employ logical fallacy attacks: guilt by association, ad hominem, motive intent, etc. Smart people are not swayed by such rhetorical tricks.

It is humorous that the writer calls the report just issued "the International Climate Science Coalition's report" when it was no such thing. I wish it were. It is a massive, heavily referenced and impressive document - see http://climatechangereconsidered.org/. We are simply helping the publishers (there are three, of which one is Heartland) of this fine book to promote the publication. And no, the funding for the book did not come from industry.

No one involved in this report is a climate change denier. They, the publishers and ICSC know that climate changes all the time and so we must prepare for these changes. We simply question the causes of climate change and do not agree with the politically correct version boosted by the UN IPCC, etc. So we deny that we deny climate change. We are denial deniers, if you want a label.

...Happily for society, especially those of us who want to use the best in science to engage in fact-based environmental protection, the press is indeed paying attention to the NIPCC report—see some of the coverage at the top of our Web site.

The full quote can be read here.

"Just what exactly is going on here and why is any of this relevant?" one might ask. Here is my answer: as Harris states, the ICSC has just published a document called "Climate Change Reconsidered", in a preemptive attempt by the NIPCC to undermine the AR5 report that has just been published by the IPCC.

If you are confused, that's precisely the result that Harris and his ilk have desired by spreading their misinformation. Fortunately there are folks like myself who will try and clear up that confusion and steer you in the right direction.

Coming Now to a Job Near You! Why Climate Change Matters for California Workers

By Jeremy Brecher, Brendan Smith, and Lisa Hoyos - Labor Network for Sustainability, September 2020

California is at the forefront of driving the expansion of the clean energy economy. California’s groundbreaking climate law, the Global Warming Solutions Act — AB 32 — is the most comprehensive climate legislation enacted anywhere in the US. But this law is at risk from political interests, backed by oil company resources, which are trying to overturn it.

AB 32 opponents are using a job-loss argument, creating a false divide between job creation and climate protection. They’ve done this is spite of the fact that green jobs have grown by 5% during a recessionary period where net jobs in our state fell. California already has 500,000 green jobs. We’ve got 12,000 clean energy businesses and we hold 40% of the US patents in solar, wind and advanced battery technology. Sixty percent of all clean energy venture capital is invested here (the runner-up state, Massachusetts, has 10%), with a large spike coming in the years after the passage of AB 32.

Climate change is a global problem. The AB 32 opponents who are working to stop the implementation of California’s climate law argue that our state shouldn’t try to address this problem on its own. However, California is the world’s eighth largest economy, and what we do here carries global significance, both politically and economically. We passed AB 32 in 2006. Four years later, at the national level, it is proving difficult or impossible to pass comprehensive climate policy. If California fails to build on our leadership in this arena, we will be playing into the hands of those, such as the US Chamber of Commerce, who are spending millions of dollars to thwart national action on climate change.

While the foot-dragging on climate protection continues at the national level, everyday’s news brings new evidence of the varied and devastating impacts of climate change happening around the world and within the borders of our own country.

Read the text (PDF).

France ends coal mining with tears but not a single protest

By John Lichfield - Indypendent, April 24, 2004

The French coal miner, a powerful symbol of social revolt and industrial strength for more than a century, passed into extinction yesterday.

The French coal miner, a powerful symbol of social revolt and industrial strength for more than a century, passed into extinction yesterday.

The last lump of coal was ceremonially carved last night from the La Houve mine near Creutzwald in Lorraine. An industry that produced 60 million tons of coal and employed 150,000 people as recently as 40 years ago has ceased to exist.

Although several smaller European countries have already stopped coal mining, France is the first of the world's large industrial powers to abandon production of what remains the world's second largest energy source.

Paris decided10 years ago to close its remaining mines, rather than compete with cheap, open-cast coal from other countries. The last shipments of French coal cost €130 (£86) a tonne to extract. Coal imported from Australia costs €40 (£26) a ton, including transport costs.

French coal miners, once numbering 300,000, built a fearsome reputation as the spearhead of social revolt and the champion of workers' rights - illustrated by Emile Zola's novel Germinal, based on the strikes in the northern coal fields in the 1880s. The last pit closed yesterday with nostalgic ceremonies but not a single protest.

By agreement with the unions, all redundant miners are paid 85 per cent of their salary until they are 45 and then 80 per cent until they reach normal retirement age. They keep their free homes and generous health and other social benefits.

Although the end of the industry has been a cause for mourning in the once great coalfield near the German border, there has been none of the social unrest about the sudden destruction of communities that accompanied the demise of Britain's coal industry. Britain still has 16 pits and 4,000 miners, compared with 170 pits and 180,000 miners at the time of the 1984-5 strike, according to the National Union of Mineworkers.

The subsidised inactivity of tens of thousands of men in France's former mining regions has brought other social problems, such as alcoholism, suicide and higher rates of divorce. In the north, where the last mines closed in 1990, and in central France and the Marseille area, which ceased mining last year, former pit workers have found it hard to live without the companionship and almost military discipline of the mines.

Under the 1994 redundancy agreement, men as young as 35 can draw almost full salaries for life, provided they do not take another job. Other work in the ex-mining areas remains hard to find. Some have taken up hobbies; others voluntary work, but many find themselves slumped in front of the television all day. Although the active coal miner has ceased to exist, there are more than 380,000 former coal miners or their widows who have rights to benefits up to 2050.

The last few coal miners, who ceased work yesterday, had mixed feelings. Bernard Starck, 50, said: "When you're down there, you're useless as an individual. You live for, and through, your work mates."

"The redundancy terms are fair but the past few months have been a time of great suffering. It was as if we were working for nothing."

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