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No plan for the Valley; No plan for the workers; No plan for the climate

By IWW Melbourne - Australia IWW, March 15, 2017

As the closure of the Hazelwood power plant looms closer, it is becoming increasingly clear that the government has no transition plan for the LaTrobe Valley. It's imperative that the workers in the valley develop a program of their own to transition away from coal.

The behemoth is shutting down. Completed in 1971, Hazelwood - the Soviet-era beast of a power plant that produces up to a quarter of the state's energy - is scheduled to shut in the next few weeks.

Following the privatisation of the energy industry and years of official neglect, this is just "Another kick in the guts for the Latrobe Valley," as the CFMEU's mining and energy president puts it. The Andrews State Government has, at the last minute, shown some interest in the almost 1000 workers set to lose employment, offering grants and funding amounting to $226 million. The federal government is still scrambling to respond. 

The remaining three plants in the valley remain in a precarious position. Brown coal is plentiful in the valley, but so dirty and so low in value that there's virtually no export market for the product. It's burnt there or it's not burnt at all. But the plants haven't been updated for years, and even basic maintenance is lax, allegedly contributing to the horrific fires that burnt through the Valley two years ago. In the face of climate change, coal - and brown coal especially - is rapidly becoming a "stranded investment" that can't turn a profit and which no one will buy.

This is a good thing for the planet's climate and - in the long run - for our communities. It's also been predicted for years. So why isn't there a transition plan for the LaTrobe Valley?

Successive governments have been in denial about the realities of a shifting energy market, pinning hopes on pipedreams like clean coal and carbon sequestration.

Investment that could have been directed at rebuilding grid infrastructure to better suit renewables has instead been sunk into the pockets of multinational companies without ties to the local communities, and who answer to no one but their shareholders. Even the comparitively progressive Andrews government has, until very recently, shown no interest in the Valley - but their response has been a piecemeal kneejerk reaction to pressure bought to bear by workers. There remains no plan for the Valley.

There is no escaping the realities of climate change. Coal is going out of business - and not before time! Nevertheless, unless a thoughtfully planned and executed transition to a coal-free economy is rapidly developed, the region which has underpinned Victoria's economic development throughout the 20th and 21st centuries will once again be burnt. This plan could take many forms, but the decision must be made by those wo work and live in the Valley. Groups like voices of the valley and the earthworker cooperative are the only hope for a democratic, truly just transition out of coal for the LaTrobe Valley. Workers can't rely on the government - state or federal - to do the job for them.

How the Energy Boys F#@*%d Over California

By David Macaray - CounterPunch, March 8, 2017

In 2000 and 2001, one of the biggest, filthiest, most audacious and wide-scale con jobs ever perpetrated on a state population occurred in California. And even though many citizens chose, reflexively, to blame the “government,” the entire fiasco (other than the state assembly stupidly laying the groundwork for it) was invented and put into play by the private sector.

And once the smoke cleared, and people realized what just happened, California had lost roughly $40-$45 billion, its first governor in history had been recalled, the state’s second-largest energy company PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) had gone bankrupt, and Austrian steroid hound Arnold Schwarzenegger was now governor.

It all began in 1996, with Republican Governor Pete Wilson. He and the state assembly, seeking to stimulate competition, pushed through a law (AB 1890) calling for the “partial deregulation” of the energy market. Not to point fingers, but if there were any justice in the world, Wilson would’ve been taken out and shot with a rusty bullet.

Basically, what happened in the wake of AB 1890, was that the energy companies, seeing the opportunity for astronomical profits, began manipulating the market in ways that no one had ever witnessed or even imagined. They did it by creating shortages where none existed. Before this began, California had a generating capacity of 45 gigawatts (GW). Demand was still only 28GW. Things were good. There hadn’t been “blackouts” for 40 years.

But energy suppliers (notably Enron, a Texas company) had devised a plan. With deregulation of wholesale pricing now in effect, the hoary, time-honored “supply and demand” formula raised its ugly head. Inevitably, the energy suppliers began taking steps to diminish supply and increase demand, albeit artificially.

In order to depress supply and raise the price, they began messing with the grid. They illegally shut down pipelines and intentionally took power plants off-line during periods of peak demand by pretending that these facilities needed “maintenance.” Of course, it was all a lie. Anything to create a shortage.

They exploited loopholes. Because California law allowed energy companies to charge higher fees when the energy they sold was produced out-of-state, they engaged in a form of “megawatt laundering” (analogous to “money laundering”), where they disguised the source—disguised it to make California-produced energy appear to have been produced out-of-state.

They also ran “overscheduling” scams. Essentially, this consisted of purposely overscheduling the transportation of electricity along power lines in order to get the state to pay them a lucrative “congestion fee” for willingly alleviating the congestion (even when they had no intention of using them). The state had no choice. People need electricity. You do everything you can to provide it.

NUMSA statement on Eskom CEO’s resignation

By Irvin Jim and Patrick Craven - NUMSA, November 16, 2016

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa welcomes the resignations of Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and Board member Mark Pamensky, and calls for the resignation of the entire board and divisional executives who are all implicated in the many serious allegations against Eskom in the former Public Protector’s report, the State of Capture, which include:

1. Irregularities in an Eskom deal with a Gupta-0wned mining company, Tegeta, which won a R2-billion profit from a transaction involving Glencor’s sale of Optimum Coal Mine and its holding company to Tegeta.

2. Eskom letting Tegeta sell off part of Optimum Coal Terminal — a deal which Ajay Gupta told the public protector had netted him a profit of R2-billion, which might constitute a contravention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) as Eskom “acted solely for the benefit of one company”.

3. Eskom’s authorisation of a R660-million coal prepayment to Tegeta at a special board meeting, hours after the Gupta company informed Glencor they were R600-million short of the money to buy the mine and that banks had refused to come up with the cash. This could violate the PFMA and amount to fraud as the money was not used to fund the mine but to buy the shares of the holding company — contrary to what Tegeta said publicly.

4. A 10-year contract with Tegeta to supply 1.35 million tons of coal a year to Majuba power station at roughly R284 per ton from their Brakfontein mine, despite evidence that Eskom’s technical team were concerned about the coal’s quality. Eskom paid R134-million to Tegeta for substandard coal it knew it could not use in its power stations.

Eskom has even victimised two Numsa members whom they are trying to make scapegoats for this Brakfontein deal. One has been dismissed and the other suspended for over a year and Numsa will continuously fight for justice for these members.

5. Molefe’s “cosy” relationship with the Guptas which are substantiated by cell phone records which show that he phoned Ajay Gupta 44 times, and Ajay Gupta called him 14 times, between August last year and March this year. Between August 5 and November 17 2015, he was placed in Saxonwold on 19 occasions.  Atul Gupta admitted to Madonsela that Molefe was a “very good friend”, yet Molefe had not declared his relationship with the Gupta family.

All these are allegations which the proposed Commission of Enquiry must investigate, but they are sufficiently serious to make it impossible for Molefe and the Eskom Board to continue with business as usual and they must stand down.

This however raises the question of who should replace them, and also who should be on the boards of other state-owned entities about several of which the State of Capture report also expresses concern, including Transnet, Denel, SAA and the SABC.

Numsa has consistently opposed privatisation of public entities, called for the renationalisation of Arcelor Mittal SA and Sasol and the nationalisation of other strategic industries. But it is now clear that SOEs all need to be run in a far more democratic and socially responsible way.

Public utilities should have an entirely different set of objectives from private companies – to produce commodities and deliver services which people need, as efficiently, safely and economically as possible and to protect the environment and the economic prospects for future generations.

This is impossible however when SOEs are run as they are today, as if they are private businesses, motivated exclusively by the pursuit of maximum short-term profits, regardless of the impact their activities have on local communities, the environment, their workers and the long-term future of the economy, and also as auxiliary service providers to the dominant private capitalist system.

The underlying problem at the heart of all Madonsela’s allegations is that SOEs have become entangled with the corrupt private sector through outsourcing of ancillary activities and thus been infected with the disease of corruption, which is inherent in the capitalist system.

While Eskom itself remains state-owned, it has done huge deals with private companies, in particular those in the coal mining industry, many of which feature in the former Public Protector’s allegations.

This leads to a particularly blatant form of corruption arising from the SOE directors’ close relations with the state, corrupt politicians and private companies, which creates the crony capitalism which Madonsela has exposed.

When challenged by Numsa about Eskom’s outsourcing of coal mining, Molefe argued that he was not interested in owning the bakery but only in the delivery of the bread.  But coal mining and electricity generation are inextricably linked together.

If public ownership is to achieve the social objectives as defined above it will have to embrace all the key sectors of the economy so that they can be integrated into a coherent development plan of production.

This will however be impossible if their boards are full of profit-motivated business men and women. The new Eskom Board must reverse this trend and comprise of democratically elected representatives of the workers, communities and civil society, so that they are run in the interests of South Africa as a whole and not their selfish interests and those of corrupt cronies.

This should then set the pattern for all SOEs and other industries which need to be nationalised so that we can create a socialist South Africa based on the Freedom Charter in which the wealth of the country is really transferred to the people.

Carbon Bubble News #122

Carbon Bubble News #121

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 13, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Market Watch:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral 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 #120

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

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Market Watch:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral 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 #119

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 31, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Market Watch:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral 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 #118

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 24, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Market Watch:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral 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 #117

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 17, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral 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 #116

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 10, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral 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.

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