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Green Groups Endorse Empty EPA Carbon Emissions Regulation

By Ken Ward - TruthOut, June 17, 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.

For environmentalists, it turns out, climate truth is not merely inconvenient, it is incomprehensible. How else to explain the fawning response of major green groups to President Obama’s cynical carbon emissions scheme?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed coal plant emissions regulations are a trifecta of terrible: near to useless as emissions policy, effective in distracting attention from the administration’s overarching pro-fossil fuel plan, and a tragic obfuscation of the latest, deadly climate science reports.

The facts are not in dispute. Climate is in free fall, with recent definitive evidence that the first major geophysical system (the West Antarctic ice shelf) has passed its tipping point, guaranteeing 10 feet of sea level rise and providing irrefutable evidence that the entire, fragile system which has permitted civilization to develop is collapsing. The internationally agreed objective of limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius is clearly way off base and all climate policy and strategy based on that target, which assumes a timeframe allowing for incremental response, is miscalculated.

In this context, President Obama unveiled an energy policy last month brazenly entitled “All of the Above,” which assumes a global temperature rise of 6 degrees Celsius, calls for an increase in oil and gas extraction and barely addresses climate change.(1) This pathway to doom was followed up last week with the EPA’s proposed emissions regulations for coal plants, which one business commentator described as a “big favor” to the power industry. The draft rules call for 30 percent emissions reduction from 2005 levels, half of which is already accomplished, and ignores the reality that coal being ripped from Appalachia and Western states will simply be shipped and burned elsewhere.

President Obama should have given the American people an honest explanation of the terrible predicament we now face and at least a sketch of the scale and timing of the global response now required – which must include new forestry and agricultural practices in addition to emissions cuts. What we got was a tepid description of the problem, weaker than past presidential statements, a flat lie (that natural gas has substantially less impact on climate than coal) and an understatement of risk so vast, in light of the most recent Antarctic news, as to arguably be considered misconduct.

Until Environmentalists Tackle Capitalism, We Will Never Stop Climate Change

By Brad Hornick -, June 16, 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.

In a recent speech, environmental journalist George Monbiot argues that opposition to the central drivers of climate change (neoliberal economic policies being the key) is consistently neutralized by environmentalists themselves. He says environmentalists shape their strategies to appease people who do not share their values.

Instead of boldly asserting their own values, environmentalists adopt principles embedded in neo-classical economics. They talk like radicals or leftists, but act as conservatives, says Monbiot. "The result" he says, "is effectively no political alternatives to the neoliberal project" and perpetual losses even in the face of the catastrophic destruction and crisis caused by political opponents.

Some of the roots of this conceptual slippage -- from defying to reproducing business-as-usual practices -- can be identified in a number of recent debates in Vancouver between advocates of "degrowth" and "ecological economics". These two conceptual frameworks have the appearance of radical, ecologically-minded departures from conventional economic thinking. To a certain extent they are. But they lack a crucial component, which is analysis that leads to concrete agonistic struggle against systemic power.

Obama Goes Green? - Days Before Obama Announced CO2 Rule, Exxon Awarded Gulf of Mexico Oil Leases

By Steve Horn - DeSmog Blog, June 5, 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.

On Friday May 30, just a few days before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced details of its carbon rule proposal, the Obama Administration awarded offshore oil leases to ExxonMobil in an area of the Gulf of Mexico potentially containing over 172 million barrels of oil.

The U.S. Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proclaimed in a May 30 press release that the ExxonMobil offshore oil lease is part of “President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production.” 

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell formerly worked as a petroleum engineer for Mobil, purchased as a wholly-owned subsidiary by Exxon in 1998.

Obama's Emissions Plan Won't Cut It - Why won't the Environment Protection Agency put teeth in its new emissions rules?

Editorial - Socialist Worker, June 5, 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 IWW is not affiliated with the International Socialist Organization.

THE CLIMATE crisis got some long-awaited attention from the Obama administration on June 2, when the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) released its plan to limit carbon pollution at power plants.

But while conservatives and the energy industry loudly denounced them, the administration's actual proposals--which among other things rely on states to decide how to meet new goals for lowering carbon emissions--aren't even close to what's necessary to start reversing the effects of burning fossil fuels.

"This is like fighting a wildfire with a garden hose--we're glad the president has finally turned the water on, but it's just not enough to get the job done," said Kevin Bundy of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute. Several environmental groups also criticized the plan as inadequate, including, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

That Obama's EPA did anything at all--after five and a half long years of inaction from the man who promised to make the environment a priority when he campaigned to become president--is because of increasing pressure from a sea change in public opinion about climate change and the devastating ecological crisis that is unfolding. An April poll by Yale Project on Climate Change Communication showed that those surveyed supported strict limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired plants--"even if the cost of electricity to consumers and companies increases"--by a nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

The wider public concern about climate change has never been more urgent. But Barack Obama's emissions plan is nowhere close to what's needed--neither to meet the expectations of people who believed Obama would honor his campaign promises, nor to make significant progress against greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, Obama is content to largely leave the energy industry bosses the room to decide.

THE AIM of the administration's 645-page plan is to cut carbon pollution from power plants--with a particular emphasis on the country's 600 coal-fired plants--by 30 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030. This goal is supposed to make good on its promise at a 2010 United Nations climate conference.

But is that enough of a reduction? And is 2030 fast enough?

In May, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released its third National Climate Assessment and found further signs of the devastation that climate change is already causing. For instance:

  • Sea levels have risen by eight inches since 1880, and it's estimated they will rise one to four feet by 2100.
  • Flooding from climate change could cost as much as $325 billion by 2100, including more than $130 billion in Florida alone.
  • 2001 to 2012 was warmer in every part of the country than any previous decade for a century.

"Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present," concluded the scientists who authored the report. But despite the immediacy of its own study, the latest proposal for emissions cuts goes slow.

"This plan is all about flexibility," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. The 50 states will all have their own individual targets to meet, and they will be able to decide how meet them by choosing from a menu of some 50 options. So, for instance, state governments can close a coal plant and open a solar or wind facility--or they can choose the cap-and-trade system.

Carbon trading leaves decisions about how to limit carbon emissions up to the corporate polluters themselves--whose solutions unsurprising prioritize their bottom line. The practice of offsetting, for example, allows power plant operators to avoid reducing their own emissions if they can pay a forester or farmer to reduce their emissions instead.

The outcome: As Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter and Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program Director Janet Redman wrote, "Power plants keep polluting, and the families living in their shadow continue to breathe toxic emissions. Communities near the polluters don't see any benefits from the supposed reduction in pollution taking place elsewhere."

So while Obama is claiming that his administration is finally getting tough on polluters, the plan will give state governments the leeway to accommodate the coal industry.

In Each Other we Trust: Coining Alternatives to Capitalism

By Jerome Roos - Roar Magazine, March 31, 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.

Beyond God and state, it’s money that rules. Can we still imagine alternatives? And what role will recent innovations like Bitcoin play in the struggle?

One doesn’t need to subscribe to Gilles Deleuze’s somewhat obscurantist post-structuralism to recognize that the French philosopher made at least two extremely prescient observations. First, his hypothesis in the early 1990s that Foucault’s disciplinary society, with its schools, prisons and mental asylums, had ceased to be the paradigmatic mode of governmentality under neoliberalism and was instead giving way to a nascent “state of control.” And second, his related observation that in this emerging control society the money-form assumes renewed centrality within the reproduction of capitalist power relations. “Beyond the state,” Deleuze wrote, “it’s money that rules, money that communicates, and what we need these days isn’t a critique of Marxism, but a modern theory of money as good as Marx’s that goes on from where he left off.”

Interestingly, Deleuze tied these two observations together with the chains of debt, which he considered to be the “universal condition” of capitalist control. In his widely-cited Postscript of 1992, he wrote that “man is no longer man confined, but man in debt.” I was reminded of these prescient words when I attended the fascinating MoneyLab conference in Amsterdam last weekend. Organized by the Institute of Network Cultures, the event brought together a smattering of intellectual superstars like Saskia Sassen and Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, alongside a diverse and international group of scholars, artists, activists, hackers and heterodox economists, including past ROAR contributors Max Haiven and Brett Scott. The central aim of the groundbreaking interdisciplinary gathering was to explore “experiments with revenue models, payment systems and currencies against the backdrop of ongoing global economic decline.”

Trees, Trash, and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal

By Mary Booth and Edward Miller - Partnership for Policy Integrity, April 2, 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.

New Report: “Green” Biomass Electricity More Polluting Than Coal - Renewable energy biomass plants are avoiding regulation, burning contaminated fuels, and threatening air quality

Pelham, MA. -  Biomass electricity generation, a heavily subsidized form of “green” energy that relies primarily on the burning of wood, is more polluting and worse for the climate than coal, according to a new analysis of 88 pollution permits for biomass power plants in 25 states.

Trees, Trash, and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal, released today and delivered to the EPA by the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI), concludes that biomass power plants across the country are permitted to emit more pollution than comparable coal plants or commercial waste incinerators, even as they are subsidized by state and federal renewable energy dollars.  It contains detailed emissions and fuel specifications for a number of facilities, including plants in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

“The biomass power industry portrays their facilities as ‘clean,’ said Mary Booth, Director of PFPI and author of the report.  “But we found that even the newest biomass plants are allowed to pollute more than modern coal- and gas-fired plants, and that pollution from bioenergy is increasingly unregulated.”

The report found that biomass power is given special treatment and held to lax pollution control standards, compared to fossil-fueled power plants.

Biomass plants are dirty because they are markedly inefficient.  The report found that per megawatt-hour, a biomass power plant employing “best available control technology” (BACT) emits more nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide than a modern coal plant of the same size. 

Almost half the facilities analyzed, however, avoided using BACT by claiming to be “minor” sources of pollution that skim under the triggering threshold for stricter pollution controls.  Minor source permits are issued by the states and contain none of the protective measures required under federal air pollution permitting.  

"The American Lung Association has opposed granting renewable energy subsidies for biomass combustion precisely because it is so polluting,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast.  “Why we are using taxpayer dollars to subsidize power plants that are more polluting than coal?”

The analysis also found that although wood-burning power plants are often promoted as being good for the climate and carbon neutral, the low efficiency of plants means that they emit almost 50% more CO2 than coal per unit of energy produced.  Current science shows that while emissions of CO2 from biomass burning can theoretically be offset over time by forest regrowth and other means, such offsets typically take several decades to fully compensate for the CO2 emitted during plant operation.  None of the permits analyzed in the report required proof that carbon emissions would be offset. 

EPA rules also allow biomass plants to emit more hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) than both coal plants and industrial waste incinerators, including heavy metals and dioxins.  Even with these weak rules, most biomass plants avoid restrictions on the amount of toxic air pollution they can emit by claiming to be minor sources, and permits usually require little testing for proof of actual emissions.  When regulated as a minor source, a facility is not required to meet any limitations on emissions of hazardous air pollutants. 

The potential for biomass power plants to emit heavy metals and other air toxics is increasing, because new EPA rules allow burning more demolition debris and other contaminated wastes in biomass power plants, including, EPA says, materials that are as contaminated as coal.  A majority of the facilities reviewed in the report allowed burning demolition debris and other waste wood.

BREAKING: Bill McKibben Locked Down at Keystone XL Southern Leg Construction Site

The Myths of “Green Capitalism”

By Brian Tokar - New Politics, early 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.

Greenwashing and the Bloombergification of the Globe’s Cities

By Peter Rugh, - System Change not Climate Change, March 5, 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.

Have you ever been caught tapping a friend’s phone calls? Called out for the exploitive maltreatment your employees? Are you a multi-billionaire prone to going through the pockets of black youth in the hopes of finding marijuana?

Consider talking about your concern for the environment, particularly the effects of climate change. Leading governments, corporations, and political figures under fire for civil and human rights violations are giving it a whirl.

Greening Injustice

After the New York Times, via documents provided by former security contractor Edward Snowden, revealed on February 16 that the NSA had spied on Indonesia and U.S. attorneys representing the nation, Secretary of State John Kerry found himself in a tough spot. He was visiting Indonesia at the time. What did he say when he took the podium in Jakarta? He warned the country about climate change.

“President Obama and I believe very deeply that we do not have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society,” Kerry told the press.

Never mind that the U.S. outranks Indonesia in greenhouse emissions or, that the State Department issued a bogus report claiming that the fuel fuel intense Keystone XL pipeline will have significant impact on U.S. greenhouse gas output. Forget that the U.S. has fought against reparation initiatives that would see historically high emitters in the West providing poorer nations like Indonesia with funds to move off fossil fuels. 

Big Solar: Plundering the Mojave Desert

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.

By Dan Fischer - Capitalism vs. the Climate, February 16, 2014 (used by permission)

“Some people look out into the desert and see miles and miles of emptiness. I see miles and miles of gold mine.”
-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the start of Ivanpah Solar Power Facility’s construction

The world’s largest solar thermal energy facility, the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, opened last Thursday in California’s Mojave Desert. Unfortunately, this is bad news for neighboring indigenous people, the desert tortoise, and local birds. It is an example of solar done wrong.

Ivanpah use mirrors to reflect sunlight, in order to heat and boil water. This produces steam, which spins turbines to produce electricity. When done at a small scale, it can be a clean and sustainable process. Photovoltaic solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity, are even more democratic. They are easy to decentralize and put on rooftops.

In fact, Ivanpah’s grassroots opponents tend to strongly support solar power. The group Solar Done Right advocates decentralized solar energy as an alternative to mega-solar projects like Ivanpah. They argue that there is plenty of already-paved surface where we can safely install solar panels: rooftops, vacant parking lots, and former industrial sites known as brownfields.

According to the US Department of Energy, supplying all of the country’s electricity from solar photovoltaics would require 17 square miles of land in each state. Brownfields alone could provide 90 percent of the needed land!