You are here

publications

Ash in Lungs: How Breathing Coal Ash is Hazardous to Your Health

By Alan H Lockwood, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Lisa Evans, Earth Justice - Report, August 2014

Take a deep breath. But if you live near a coal-burning power plant that dumps coal ash into a nearby landfill or lagoon, don’t inhale too deeply because you’re probably breathing fugitive dust made up of airborne coal ash filled with dangerous and toxic pollutants. Whether blown from an uncovered dump site or from the back of an open truck, toxic dust contaminates hundreds of fence line communities across the country. Acrid dust stings residents’ eyes and throats, and asthmatics, young and old, are forced to reach for inhalers. Breathing this toxic dust can be deadly, and yet no federal standards exist to protect affected communities.

This report describes the health impacts of the pollution found in coal ash dust. It also points to the imminent need for federal controls to limit exposure and protect the health of millions of Americans who live near coal ash dumps. Coal combustion waste (or coal ash), particularly fly ash, a major component of coal ash waste, poses significant health threats because of the toxic metals present in the ash, such as arsenic, mercury, chromium (including the highly toxic and carcinogenic chromium VI), lead, uranium, selenium, molybdenum, antimony, nickel, boron, cadmium, thallium, cobalt, copper, manganese, strontium, thorium, vanadium and others. Ironically, as coal plant pollution controls like electrostatic precipitators and baghouse filters become more effective at trapping fly ash and decreasing coal plant air pollution, the waste being dumped into coal ash waste streams is becoming more toxic.

Read the report (PDF).

It's Time to Take Over the Big Energy Firms

By staff - Fire Brigades Union, August 2014

How can we solve the problems of climate change, eliminate fuel poverty and improve energy security? Most politicians look to the market for solutions – but these plainly do not work.

The climate crisis has been caused largely by around 100 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawn of the industrial age.

Fifty of those fi rms are privately-owned – mostly oil companies such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Royal Dutch Shell and coal producers such as British Coal Corp, Peabody Energy and BHP Billiton. Some 31 of the companies are state-owned companies such as Saudi Aramco, Gazprom and Statoil. Nine were government-run industries, producing mainly coal in countries such as China, the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Poland.

Everyone knows that heating and lighting our homes are basic necessities – yet the price of doing so continues to spiral upwards across the globe. It’s a disgrace that 25,000 people die of the cold every winter in the UK. Yet the government’s own projections say that gas prices are likely to go up over the next decade. Poorer families spend more than high earning households as a proportion of their spending on energy bills. This fuel poverty is a blight on the lives of millions – and a damning indictment of the welfare system in this day and age.

The UK has some of the least energy efficient households in Europe. Refurbishing, modernising and rebuilding the housing stock would make sense for improving living standards, reducing carbon emissions and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. However the rule of the market does not and will not provide the investment needed.

Read the report (PDF).

Interview - The Politics of Going Green

Chris Williams and Robert Pollin interviewed by Jessica Desvarieux - The Real News Network, July 30, 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.

Biography

Chris Williams is a long-time environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. He is chair of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute and adjunct professor at Pace University, in the Department of Chemistry and Physical Science. His writings have appeared in numerous publications, including TruthOut, Z Magazine, Green Left Weekly, Alternet, CommonDreams, ClimateAndCapitalism, ClimateStoryTellers, The Indypendent, Dissident Voice, International Socialist Review, Socialist Worker, and ZNet. He reported from Fukushima in 2011 and was a Lannan writer-in-residence in Marfa, Texas over the summer of 2012, where he began work on his second book. He was awarded the Lannan 2013-4 Cultural Freedom Fellowship to continue this work. He has just returned from four months in Vietnam, Morocco and Bolivia, examining the impact of economic development and climate change in relation to energy, food and water issues.

Robert Pollin is professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the founding co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI). His research centers on macroeconomics, conditions for low-wage workers in the US and globally, the analysis of financial markets, and the economics of building a clean-energy economy in the US. His latest book is Back to Full Employment. Other books include A Measure of Fairness: The Economics of Living Wages and Minimum Wages in the United States and Contours of Descent: US Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity.

Capitalism and Climate Change (Alyssa Rohricht)

By Alyssa Rohricht - 2014

Capitalism dominates the globe. It has become so enmeshed into the cultural narrative that it seems almost axiomatic. Private owners (of capital) control the means of production. The goal: build profits. The best part about it is that if everyone pursues self-interest, the market will grow and society will benefit. The invisible hand helps the market to self-regulate, creating socially desirable results.

Simple?

No. When it comes to dealing with issues such as poverty, the income gap, unemployment, economic crises, human rights, war, imperialism, and the externalization of costs on society and the environment, the invisible hand that Adam Smith once imagined is not invisible, it is nonexistent.

We are currently experiencing, without a doubt, the greatest crisis to face human kind. Indications of climate change are being seen around the globe: accelerated melting of the Arctic sea ice, rapidly receding glaciers, rising sea levels, warming oceans and ocean acidification, more frequent and longer-lasting droughts, stronger and more frequent storms, higher temperatures than ever recorded, and a rapid extinction of species are direct result of a warming climate.

There is a scientific consensus that the climate is rapidly changing and that these rapid changes are due to anthropogenic causes. The science is clear: the human-caused emissions of great amounts of greenhouse gases – primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – are causing global environmental damage.

Many argue that market and techo-based approaches are the way to combat climate change. They push for carbon taxing and trading, geo-engineering, and renewable energy without considering the fact that the system itself is incompatible with sustainability. By its very nature, capitalism seeks only to grow and accumulate – an idea that is diametrically opposed to a sustainable existence.

In this series, I will examine how the capitalist system has brought us to climate disaster, and why it cannot get us out of it.

Troubled Waters: Misleading industry PR and the case for public water

By Emanuele Lobina - Corporate Accountability International, June 2014

When it comes to the nation’s most essential public service, mayors and municipal officials face a momentous challenge.

Local governments are investing in public water systems at all-time highs, but in the absence of adequate federal support, many systems still face serious infrastructure reinvestment gaps. Over the next 20 years, U.S. water systems will likely require a staggering $2.8 to $4.8 trillion investment. In response, private water corporations are waging a national campaign to present privatization, in its many forms, as a cure-all that will reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Even where public water systems are thriving, the private water industry is pressuring public officials to pursue private water contracts repackaged in terms deemed less offensive to a skeptical public. But are public-private partnerships (PPPs), and other euphemisms used to describe water privatization, a way forward?

The key findings of this report indicate no. All too often, promised cost savings fail to materialize or come at the expense of deferred infrastructure maintenance, skyrocketing water rates, and risks to public health.

The current trend toward remunicipalization (return of previously privatized systems to local, public control) of water systems is a primary indicator that privatization and PPPs are not the answer. Since 2003, 33 U.S. municipalities have remunicipalized their water systems. Five have done so in 2014 alone. And an additional 10 have set the wheels in motion to do so this year through legal and/or administrative action. This closely mirrors the accelerating global remunicipalization trend. Paris, where the two largest global private water corporations (Veolia and Suez) originated and are headquartered, has notably led the charge to remunicipalize, saving tens of millions of dollars since returning its water system to public control.

As this report finds, private water contracts can pose substantial economic, legal, and political risk to local officials and the communities they serve. The findings come through review and analysis of lobbying reports, Congressional records, city case studies, and empirical evidence drawn from research by the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU). They show the private water industry depends on political interference, misleading marketing, and lack of public oversight to secure its contracts. This report exposes the private water industry’s tactics and makes the case for democratically governed and sustainably managed public water systems, providing public officials with a set of examples and recommendations to bolster public water.

Read the report (PDF).

Trade Deals that Threaten Democracy

By staff - International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations, June 2014

At its 2002 World Congress, the IUF adopted a wide-ranging resolution on trade and investment committing our organization to vigorously oppose the expanded WTO “Doha Round” agenda and to combat the growing number of bilateral trade and investment agreements as instruments for entrenching and expanding corporate power at the expense of democratic rights and the rights of workers and their trade unions.

The resolution highlighted the function of the expanding web of regional and bilateral agreements in building on the WTO rules to construct, layer upon layer, “investment regimes which enforce the right of corporations to pursue maximum profit while removing and undermining restrictions which seek to regulate corporate activities in the interest of public health, worker and consumer health and safety, public services and the environment.”

The Resolution recalled the IUF’s historical and statutory commitment to promote and defend a broad spectrum of basic rights: the right to adequate, nutritious and safe food; the right to food security and food sovereignty; the right to a safe working and living environment; and the right to livelihood protection. Congress further called on the IUF and its affiliates to “actively support and campaign for governments at every level (local, national, regional) to review all existing trade and investment rules and treaties using these fundamental rights as a benchmark and to reject all trade and investment agreements which conflict with those rights.”

Organized opposition killed the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), an attempt to establish far- reaching powers for transnational investors only partially realized in the WTO’s TRIMS agreement. Popular resistance also halted the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, an attempt to extend the reach of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to all of Central and South America and the Caribbean. Since 2002, growing popular resistance has blocked the advance of the WTO Doha Round. This has arrested the insertion of more far-reaching investment rules into the WTO, but has also frozen into place a global food system whose destructive features were dramatically highlighted in the 2008 and subsequent food crises which are essentially permanent. And while attention has largely focused on these ambitious mega-treaties, an intricate web of bilateral and regional investment agreements, some of them deliberately and misleadingly packaged as free trade agreements, have conferred on transnational capital new powers to directly challenge the democratic right of governments to regulate and to legislate in the public interest.

The latest proposed treaty instruments to embody these investor ambitions are the EU-US trade deal now known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Both these treaties are being negotiated under conditions of the strictest secrecy. Corporations draft and share the negotiating texts, but citizens are denied access in the name of national security. On the basis of the leaked texts we know that they would build on existing trade and investment rules by incorporating the most toxic elements of the already-existing thousands of treaties and granting expanded powers to transnational capital to challenge public interest policies and practices, eliminating or putting at risk rights for which workers and unions have struggled over many decades.

This publication builds on the past work of the IUF and the efforts of many activists in explaining the nature of these threats and why the labour movement must commit to defeating these treaties as an urgent political priority. We would also hope to stimulate discussion on how we might move beyond these defensive struggles to begin putting in place a system of global rules to effectively enforce respect for human rights over the private claims of investors.

Read the report (PDF).

(Working Paper #1) Global Shale Gas and the Anti-Fracking Movement

By Sean Sweeney and Lara Skinner - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, June 2014

This paper has been prepared to assist unions and their close allies who wish to better understand the impacts of shale gas drilling, or “fracking,” and want to develop a position or approach to fracking that protects workers, communities, and the environment. It begins with a summary of the shale gas industry’s global expansion, and then looks at the opposition to fracking that has emerged in a number of key countries. A preliminary profile of the anti-fracking movement highlights the goals and characteristics of this movement as well as the issues that lie at the heart of the resistance.

The paper concludes by attempting to bring together the available information on unions’ perspectives and positions on this increasingly important issue. It also raises for discussion the prospect of unions giving support to a global moratorium on fracking based either on the precautionary principle (the health and environmental effects are not fully understood or have still to be adequately addressed) or on the more definitive assessment that fracking can never be sufficiently safe in terms of its impact on health and the environment and should therefore be stopped altogether.

Read the report (PDF).

The Green Shock Doctrine

By staff - Global Justice Ecology Project, May 13, 2014

There is much being said and written today about how to effectively address the oncoming catastrophe of climate change, which is already, for many, tragically real. There is a crucial and obvious need for a powerful global movement to tackle the climate crisis. But this movement will not be based on reform.

Capitalism and the markets have led us to the brink of the abyss. They will not provide our parachute. The system cannot be reformed. It must be transformed. The more we understand how the roots of the many issues we are fighting are intertwined, the better we can cooperate to change the system driving them. In diversity is strength, as any ecologist understands, and our movements for change are no exception.

Global Justice Ecology Project is publishing The Green Shock Doctrine as a means to help expose and examine the deeper issues behind the climate crisis and their links to many of the other crises we are facing. In doing so, we hope to help advance the effort to transform the global system driving climate catastrophe.

Read the report (PDF).

Runaway Train: The Reckless Expansion of Crude-by-Rail in North America

By Lorne Stockman, et. al. - Oil Change International, May 2014

This report tracks the rise of crude-by-rail in North America, detailing where crude trains are being loaded and unloaded, how many trains carrying crude oil are crossing the North American continent, and who is involved in this burgeoning trade.

This reportis the first in a series covering North America’s booming crude-by-rail industry and is being published in conjunction with a unique interactive on line map of crude-by-rail terminals and potential routes.

Future reports in this series will look at the economics of crude-by-rail, safety, and climate change issues. Please see this site for the map and links to reports and data.

Read the report (English PDF).

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

By Mary S. Booth, PhD - Partnership for Policy Integrity, April 2, 2014

The biomass power industry is undergoing a new surge of growth in the United States. While bioenergy has traditionally been used by certain sectors such as the paper-making industry, more than 70 new wood-burning plants have been built or are underway since 2005, and another 75 proposed and in various stages of development, fueled by renewable energy subsidies and federal tax credits. In most states, biomass power is subsidized along with solar and wind as green, renewable energy, and biomass plant developers routinely tell host communities that biomass power is “clean energy.”

But this first-ever detailed analysis of the bioenergy industry reveals that the rebooted industry is still a major polluter. Comparison of permits from modern coal,biomass, and gas plants shows that a even the “cleanest” biomass plants can emit > 150% the nitrogen oxides, > 600% the volatile organic compounds, > 190% the particulate matter, and > 125% the carbon monoxide of a coal plant per megawatt-hour, although coal produces more sulfur dioxide (SO2). Emissions from a biomass plant exceed those from a natural gas plant by more than 800% for every major pollutant.

Biomass power plants are also a danger to the climate, emitting nearly 50 percent more CO2 per megawatt generated than the next biggest carbon polluter, coal. Emissions ofCO2from biomass burning can theoretically be offset over time, but such offsets typically take decades to fully compensate for the CO2rapidly injected into the atmosphere during plant operation.

Compounding the problem, bioenergy facilities take advantage of gaping loopholes in the Clean Air Actand lax regulation by the EPAand state permitting agencies, which allow them to emit even more pollution. Electricity generation that worsens air pollution and climate change is not what the public expects for its scarce renewable energy dollars.

Read the report (PDF).

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.