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80+ Groups Blast CA Climate Plan’s Reliance on Carbon Capture for Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

By Dan Bacher - Daily Kos, October 25, 2022

Despite California’s image as a “green” and “progressive state,” Big Oil and Big Gas continue to exert huge influence over California regulators in the promotion of carbon capture and storage as a “tool” to addressing climate change.

On October 24, over 80 climate and environmental justice groups sent a letter urging California Air Resources Board Chair, Liane Randolph, and California Governor Gavin Newsom to reject the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) for fossil fuel infrastructure like oil refineries, gas-fired power plants, and other oil and gas operations in the state’s 2022 Climate Change Scoping Plan.

This letter was sent after new lobbying disclosure research revealed the CA CCS lobby, dominated by fossil fuel interests organized by the CA Carbon Capture Coalition, spent more than $13 million lobbying California’s Scoping Plan, Governor’s Office, Legislature and the Air Resources Board in the first six months of 2022, according to a press statement from a coalition of over 80 climate and environmental groups.

“California must have a climate roadmap that prioritizes rapid and direct emissions reductions at the source, centers Indigenous Peoples and frontline communities of color, and fully phases out the production, refining, and use of fossil fuels at the pace that science and justice require,” the letter states.

“Yet, the current plan to increase the state’s reliance on carbon capture and storage (CCS) undermines that vision and the state’s ability to meet its climate goals. CCS regularly fails to meet its promises, requires high use of electricity and water, puts communities at real risk of harm, and would prolong the production and use of fossil fuels that are driving the climate emergency and polluting communities. We urge you to adopt a Scoping Plan that rejects the use of CCS for fossil fuel infrastructure such as refineries, gas-fired power plants, and other oil and gas operations,” the letter continues.

Making It Make Sense: Equitable Transition and What EJ Advocates Should Know about the IRA

Liberal States Like California Are Also Failing to Make Progress on Climate

By C.J. Polychroniou - Truthout, August 23, 2022

California has a well-established reputation as a national and global climate leader, but despite its remarkable successes in cutting emissions between 2006 and 2016, it has recently begun showing signs of having lost its way.

California is increasingly falling behind on its emissions reduction targets, and its existing policies have now been deemed insufficient to hit its 2030 target of reducing carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, according to new modeling from the climate policy think tank Energy Innovation.

“Compared to historical trends, California will need to more than triple the pace of emissions reductions to hit its 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030,” the Energy Innovation report states.

The report is disappointing news, representing a weakening of the climate action that began with California’s passage of AB 32 in 2006. Otherwise known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32 was a landmark program in the struggle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Up until 2006, the United States was the largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, and California was the second highest state in terms of total greenhouse gas emissions.

How Elon Musk Got Rich: The $230 Billion Myth

(Narrated) By J.T. Chapman - More Perfect Union, July 19, 2022

 Elon Musk spent decades building something big: himself. Musk managed to sell the world on a persona: the visionary genius billionaire working his hardest to save the the world. And it’s worked: the myth of Elon Musk has made him a lot of money.

But what did it cost to get him there? And what does it mean that the richest man in the world build that wealth purely on an image of himself?

We took a deep look into Musk’s entire career: court documents, SEC filings, and interviews to break down the story Elon tells about himself and how he leveraged it to accumulate wealth and power.

Workers, Look Out: Here Comes California’s Phony Green New Deal

By Ted Franklin - Let's Own Chevron, July 14, 2022

California politicians never tire of touting the state’s leadership on climate issues. But how much of it is bullshit, to borrow the Anglo-Saxon technical term recently popularized by former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr?

Some East Bay and SF DSAers got very interested when we learned that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) was holding a one-day hearing on a 228-page draft plan for California’s transition to a green future. The 2022 Scoping Plan Update, to be adopted later this year, aims to be the state’s key reference document to guide legislators and administrations in remaking the California economy over the next two decades. We turned on our bullshit detectors and prepared for the worst. CARB did not disappoint.

The state is currently committed to two major climate goals: (1) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and (2) to achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2045. These are hardly adequate goals in the eyes of science-based climate activists, but California officialdom is taking them seriously, at least seriously enough to commission a state agency to map out a master plan to reach them.

And there’s the rub. Charged with the outsized responsibility of devising a roadmap to a Green California, CARB’s staff came up with a technocratic vision that caters to the powerful, seems designed to fail, and pays virtually no attention to workers whose world will be turned upside down by “rapid, far- reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” required to limit global overheating to 1.5ºC. Despite copious lip service to environmental justice, CARB’s draft also ignores the critiques and questions put forward by CARB’s own Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC), assembled to give CARB input and feedback as the state’s master plan takes shape.

“The state’s 20-year climate policy blueprint is a huge step backward for California,” commented Martha Dina Arguello, EJAC’s co-chair and executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. “The plan on the table is grossly out of touch with the lived reality of communities that experience suffocating pollution and doubles down on fossil fuels at a time when California needs real climate solutions.” 

The idea that an air quality regulatory agency like CARB could come up with a viable plan for a societal transformation on the scale of the Industrial Revolution is absurd on its face. To do this without extensive involvement of labor would seem to doom the project entirely. Yet CARB plowed ahead without any significant input from labor. Result: the only union mentioned in CARB’s draft plan is the European Union.

We searched the draft plan in vain to see if it addressed any of the key questions from labor’s point of view:

What is the green future for California’s workers? How shall we provide for workers and communities that depend on the fossil fuel economy as major industries are phased out? What would a green economy look like, what are green jobs, how can we create enough good green jobs to meet demand, and what public investments will be required?

Instead of answering questions like these, CARB’s draft plan promotes a bevy of false solutions to reach California’s already inadequate targets. CARB’s depends on the state’s problematic cap-and-trade carbon trading scheme as well as carbon capture and storage (the favored scam of the oil industry) and hydrogen (the favored scam of the gas industry). The draft gives the nod to 33 new large or 100 new peaker gas-fired power plants. Missing: cutting petroleum refining, oil extraction, and fracking; banning new fossil fuel infrastructure; degrowing military and police budgets; and committing more resources to education, mass transit, healthcare, and housing. Instead of proposing an economy of care and repair to replace the old fossil fuel economy, CARB offers electric cars and more pipelines.

Far from providing a roadmap to a green future, CARB has come up with California capitalism’s most ambitious response yet to the radical ecosocialist Green New Deal that the world needs and we are fighting for.

Book Review: The Future is Degrowth

By Timothée Parrique - Timothée Parrique, July 3, 2022

The best the degrowth literature has to offer served on a silver platter. That’s how I would describe The Future is Degrowth: A Guide to a World beyond Capitalism(June 2022) by Matthias Schmelzer, Andrea Vetter, and Aaron Vansintjan.[1] Reading it, I felt like Neo in The Matrix learning everything there is to know about Kung Fu all at once – “I know degrowth.” 

This kind of synthesis was long overdue. The degrowth literature has grown rather large and I cannot think of a single text that maps it all. Research on degrowth used to be my favourite guide to degrowth but there is only so much you can do in a 20-page article (plus, the literature has more than doubled since it was published in 2018). Degrowth: A vocabulary for a new era (2014) is a good pot luck of perspectives but lacks coherence and depth due to its multi-author, short-entry format. I tried my best in The political economy of degrowth (2019) but the end result is rather cumbersome. 

In The Future is Degrowth, the authors have achieved a colossal Spring cleaning of the field. Sufficiency, dépense, commoning, pluriverse, unequal exchange, conviviality, self-determination, and many more (I have counted more than sixty concepts throughout the book). With such an exhaustive span, this book is to degrowth what the IPCC is to climate science: the best available literature review on the topic. 

But warning: this book is not for the academically faint hearted. If you’re looking for a wide-audience introduction to degrowth, this is not one of them, and I would rather recommend The Case for Degrowth[G. Kallis, S. Paulson, G. D’Alisa, F. Demaria], a shorter, less demanding way of covering the basics. If you’ve never heard of the topic at all, Less is more[Jason Hickel], Post Growth: Life after capitalism[Tim Jackson], and Degrowth [Giorgos Kallis] are also good places to start. 

The Future is Degrowth is rather long (more than 100,000 words) but neatly organised. The literature is chiselled into six tidy lists: 3 dimensions and 7 critiques of growth, 5 currents and 3 principles of degrowth, 6 clusters of proposals, and 3 strategies for change. The book itself is divided in seven chapters. After a long introduction (12% of the total book length), the first two chapters deal with understanding economic growth and its critics (that’s about half of the book). The remaining chapters follow Erik Olin Wright’s famous triad: Chapter 4 is about the desirability of degrowth (11%), Chapter 5 about its viability (13%), and Chapter 6 about its achievability (11%). This leaves us with a short concluding chapter (5%) titled “The future of degrowth.” 

With such a monumental piece of work, I could not resolve myself to write a short review, which would feel like summarising all seasons of Game of Thrones in a single tweet. This book deserves a proper dissection, and so I will here process chapter by chapter, taking all the space needed to summarise its content and, in the end, analyse its (many) strengths and (very few) weaknesses.

Shifting America to Solar Power Is a Grueling, Low-Paid Job

By Lauren Kaori Gurley - Vice, June 27, 2022

Thomas Shade got his first job in a solar field at age 41. "I fell in love with it. I left a job where I didn't feel like a human," Shade told Motherboard. At 16, Shade worked in a cotton mill dyeing fabrics to support a newborn son. He then passed through a series of fiberglass factories. He spent a decade on the open road as a long haul trucker. In 2011, he was sick of working the graveyard shift in the oven room of a machine generator plant, so when a friend called him and said a temp firm was hiring laborers to install utility-scale solar power near his hometown in rural western North Carolina, Shade thought to himself “I wouldn’t mind doing that as a side gig.” Soon he had quit his other jobs to work full time in the solar fields. 

"Outside on the solar farm, I felt more free,” he said. “You didn't feel like you was trapped like you were inside of a plant.”

When the project ended, a few months later, Shade signed up with PeopleReady, the national temp labor agency, to work on another utility-scale solar farm two hours away in Rockingham, North Carolina. Since then, Shade has lived on the road chasing solar projects, from Texas to Virginia to South Carolina to Nevada to Florida to Maryland to Georgia. "It's a hard life to live," said Shade. "You're always away from friends and family. Sometimes you don't know anybody."

Temp agencies are as common in the solar industry as they are in construction. Many workers are needed to install a solar field, but much fewer are needed once it's up and running. Besides PeopleReady, there's companies like WorkRise, 360 Industrial Services, Aerotek, and Tradesmen. Shade has worked for lots of different temp companies.

For each project, Shade has had to negotiate with a recruiter on the phone over his hourly wages and a daily housing stipend, known as a per diem. In the solar industry, it's common to have two workers doing the same job for vastly different pay and living stipends, multiple solar workers and labor organizers told Motherboard. Nico Ries, an organizer at Green Workers Alliance who has engaged with hundreds of renewable energy workers, said getting paid a higher wage than other workers with the same experience often “boils down to nepotism.” “Workers often refer to it as the good ol’ boy system,” they said. Frequently, local hires and other newcomers to the industry who might commute an hour or two to get to a worksite do not receive per diem stipends.

(TUED Working Paper #14) Beyond Disruption: How Reclaimed Utilities Can Help Cities Meet Their Climate Goals - Video Discussion

By Sean Sweeney, et. al. - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 31, 2022

Web Editor's Note: this webinar discussion focuses on TUED Working Paper #14. Some of the arguments made by the presenters seem to frame advocates of locally controlled, decentralized distributed energy as "unwittingly plaing into the hands of neoliberalism", which is a debatable position (and one that some of the other attendeees push back on). 

Consumerism and Degrowth

By Paul-Martin Fearon-Hernandez - London Green Left Blog, May 13, 2022

Our Actions Do Not Exist In a Vacuum

Between every blink of an eye, a hundred Amazon packages are shipped in a constant, ever growing barrage of internet consumerism. The past 20 years have been dominated by Amazon’s unwavering growth and revolution of the world’s shopping scene in never before seen ways. Their success thrives off capitalism's incessant gluttony for infinite growth, exploiting our biological hardwiring (by abusing our dopamine triggers to create a literal addiction to shopping) to draw dollar after dollar from our pockets. Capitalism’s reliance on continuous growth (to power the cycle of surplus to reinvestment) creates a need for constantly increasing consumption, even when the basic needs of a society are already met.

As a result, modern ad campaigns aim to convert wants into needs by directly associating fulfillment with material goods (like a man finding love after wearing a certain cologne or a loving family exchanging gifts as a sign of affection) and solidifying this culture of consumption. Nowadays, companies don’t just sell you a product. By marketing certain aesthetics in fashion, music, lifestyles, advertising sells you an identity. Instead of saying what you could have with this product, it’s what you can be with that product. It’s gotten to a point where just watching people buy stuff has become a market in itself. Shouldn’t that alone raise some alarms?

What most consumers fail to realize, however, is the environmental price tag of their consumption habits. While it’s true that the individual carbon footprint was created to distract the public from the fact that 70% of greenhouse emissions are caused by just 100 companies, this isn’t to say consumers can shrug off all responsibility. The money spent on a Shein haul (a popular website where consumers can buy a variety of items, primarily clothing, for dirt cheap) still directly supports their unethical business practices and the larger system of fast fashion.

Ultimately, these industries survive on the wallets of consumers who dump their dollars into their unsustainable consumption habits. It’s a tricky relationship. Take fast fashion, for example. Recent years have shown an absurd increase in textile consumption and more importantly, textile waste. The U.S.’s textile waste has quintupled since 1980 despite the population only having increased 40%. To make it worse, current data shows over 80% of American clothing consumption ends up in landfills, which produce methane, toxic runoffs, and take up land. 

Fast fashion is just one industry, too. In even worse business practices, like overfishing, 40% of sea creatures caught aren’t even loaded off the boat, they’re just thrown back into the ocean after they’ve already died. After discarding 38 million tonnes of dead sea creatures a year, the industry then goes on to dump record-breaking levels of plastic into the ocean. Reckless, wasteful practices like these are what lead to the collapses of entire ecosystems at rates never before seen. Waste statistics like these—40%, 60%, 80%—should be a clear sign that we are producing far more than we could possibly need, and the environment and global proletariat are paying the price

Capitalism Isn’t the Answer (again)

What’s capitalism’s proposed solution to these problems? More consumption (but this time it's “green”)! The rise of greenwashing, a new marketing trend where products are advertised as more sustainable than they actually are, is a perfect example of capitalism proposing itself as a solution to the problems it created. Preying on consumers’ environmental concerns, companies advertise their products as more environmentally friendly in order to increase sales, despite their new production practices having similar environmental impacts as before. They tell us they can do this whole capitalism thing sustainably, we just have to give them enough time that we don’t have.

Though they continue to promise green capitalism through endless, dangerous pledges of net-zero emissions by 20XX, the current state of things has shown that we don’t have time to pray for capitalism to solve the problem. Some propose divorcing carbon emissions from economic growth often known as “decoupling,” which focuses on breaking the link between economic growth and environmental degradation through recycling, pollution standards, and “green” investment. While these policies may be beneficial, any attempt at decoupling is just putting a bandage on a bullet hole. In fact, decoupling attempts often make things worse, such as in South Korea’s 2009 green growth initiative that tried to revitalize the economy while reducing carbon emissions.

While the plan did stimulate the economy, it also spiked emissions, completely defeating the initial purpose. Needless to say, we are beyond the days of experimenting new ways to make capitalism work for us. It’s time we take steps to move beyond the system that destroys the environment in search of another dollar.

Amid Rolling Blackouts, Energy Workers Fight For Clean Public Power In South Africa

By Casey Williams - In These Times, March 31, 2022

Can South Africa transition from a reliance on coal to clean power while maintaining jobs? The energy workers fighting for a just transition think so.

The lights went out around Johannesburg on a Monday morning in November 2021, not to flicker back on until early that Friday in some areas. It marked the last rolling blackout of a year troubled by more outages than any in recent memory. The fate of Eskom, the beleaguered power utility behind the crisis, is now at the center of South Africa’s struggle for a just energy transition — a break from fossil fuels without leaving behind frontline communities or energy workers.

As a public company, Eskom has a constitutional mandate to guarantee electricity as a basic right. But the utility struggles to meet that mandate with its aging equipment, staggering debt, corruption and rules that require it to break even, which drive exorbitant rate hikes. Moreover, the electricity running through Eskom’s wires comes almost entirely from coal, smothering the country’s eastern coal belt in deadly pollution and adding planet-warming emissions to the atmosphere — and putting the utility at odds with South Africa’s decarbonization commitments and global calls for renewable energy. South Africa, the 26th-largest country by population, ranks 14th in carbon output worldwide and is responsible for 1% of global emissions, because of this reliance on coal.

Few believe Eskom will survive in its current state, and what comes next is the subject of a high-stakes debate — and is about more than the climate. The state-owned company employs 45,000 workers and supports 82,000 coal jobs in a country where more than a third of the population is out of work. Eskom is a union shop, as are South Africa’s biggest coal mines.

The government’s plan, already underway, is to invite private companies into the energy sector on the dubious grounds that clean energy is bound to win in a competitive market. The powerful miners and metalworkers unions oppose privatization, which they worry will hobble their organizations, if not eliminate the jobs they’re entrusted to protect. 

The unions have reason to worry. European multinationals have installed most of South Africa’s wind and solar capacity so far, importing technicians and hardware. The local jobs that come with them are often low-paid and temporary, vanishing once plants get up and running. Workers with permanent jobs, meanwhile, have struggled with for-profit energy companies over the right to strike.

While some union leaders and workers have responded to the threat of privatization by defending coal mines and the union jobs they offer, unions also say they support decarbonization efforts. There are currents within the labor movement organizing for a just transition to turn Eskom into a unionized, public and clean power utility, run by and for the South African people.

This tug-of-war holds lessons for workers everywhere: The South African labor movement has largely succeeded in making the public debate about ownership and power— about who owns energy resources and who decides how they’re used — rather than simply about renewables versus coal. Still, the temptation for labor to double down on coal jobs remains strong as the South African economy flags and unemployment spikes, emblematic of how hard it can be to fight for long-term goals if jobs are under threat.

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