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The Future of Energy and Work in the United States: The American Oil and Gas Worker Survey

By Megan Milliken Biven and Leo Lindner - True Transition, March 2023

At the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022, we circulated a cross sectional survey via social media platforms and through word of mouth. In total, 1,635 workers completed the survey. While responses revealed shared themes, such as the desire for employment stability, workers who participated in the survey were not a monolith. Workers ex- pressed unique and individual views specific to their career and life experiences, oftentimes revealing contradictions that all humans possess. No one is perfectly consistent and respondents to this survey are no different in that regard. One recurring theme, however, emerged. Workers ex- pressed gratitude for the opportunity to say their piece to a larger audience. As one survey respondent said, “I wish people knew our stories.”

Of course, a few dozen questions can only tell part of a story. We followed up with several survey participants to ask additional questions and learn more about their individual experience and attitudes towards their work and the future of the industry in their own words. We feature those conversations throughout this report as case studies.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

New Report: Building Public Renewable Energy

By Johanna Bozuwa, Sarah Knuth, Grayson Flood, Patrick Robbins, and Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò - Climate & Community Project, March 2023

The Inflation Reduction Act provides tax incentives for corporate investment in renewable energy — but what if “we the people” created our own publicly owned and community controlled renewable energy system?

Building Public Renewables in the United States, a new report from the Climate and Community Project, proposes a “Federal Public Power Program [that] would inject straightforward, public investment into the electricity system.”

The report proposes to “counter the monopolized, fossil-fueled, and profit-driven status quo of today” with a federal program that would invest in:

  • Existing publicly owned and cooperative utility energy providers

  • Tribal Nations

  • Newly authorized Regional Power Authorities

  • Grants for democratic development and transparency

The report says, “The transition to renewable energy requires far more than just a technological swap driven by private companies. It requires reordering the electricity system so that it values good-paying jobs, justice, and democracy.”

A federal program could require projects to provide good jobs, prioritize funds to disadvantaged communities, and demand real accountability to the community.

Download this document (PDF).

RWU Resolution in Support of Safe Train Length and Braking

By Steering Committee - Railroad Workers United, March 1, 2023

Whereas rail carriers have consistently over the years increased the size of trains while disregarding the limitations of technology and infrastructure largely unimproved for decades; and

Whereas longer, heavier trains create much higher buff and draft forces during, what would otherwise be a minor derailment event, which can then lead to a major catastrophic event; and

Whereas many potential problems cannot be identified and corrected by the onboard crew due of the length of these trains; and

Whereas these trains carry cargo that carries the potential to cause mass casualty events due to their volatility and toxicity; and

Whereas the US rail industry has spent far more on share buyback programs every year than on the infrastructure expected to handle these long, dangerous trains; and

Whereas the railroads have drastically cut car repair staff, creating shorter and less thorough inspections of the rail cars expected to be handled in these long, dangerous trains; and

Whereas the railroad industry has actively worked to eliminate regulation which would have required a more modern braking system to reduce in-train-forces in a derailment, as well as in daily operations; and

Whereas the reliability and effectiveness of the conventional braking system trains use is reduced greatly when it is subjected to excessive train lengths, especially in cold weather; and

Whereas the railroads have shown zero regard for public safety or inconvenience at crossings, while conducting unregulated experiments on our communities by running trains of essentially unlimited length; and

Whereas railroads effectively surrendered any regulatory autonomy when they merged to become regulated monopolies subject to common carrier obligations;

Therefore be it Resolved, that RWU demands that railroad safety regulators act immediately to set temporary maximum safe train lengths, that account for dangerous slack events occurring during a derailment, as well as to significantly reduce such incidents; and

Be it Further Resolved that RWU demands that a set of permanent train length regulations be implemented within a reasonable time which establishes federal safe train lengths for conventional, DPU, Hazmat, ECP and Non-ECP brake equipped trains; and

Be it Finally Resolved that RWU demands that regulators establish a permanent regulation that requires trains defined as “Key Trains” under hazardous material regulations to be equipped with operative ECP braking systems.

Adopted by the RWU Steering Committee 3/1/2023

Download a copy of this resolution here (PDF).

Promise Breakers: Assessing the impact of compliance with the Glasgow Statement commitment to end international public finance for fossil fuels

By staff - Oil Change International, March 2023

This report, Promise Breakers: Assessing the impact of compliance with the Glasgow Statement commitment to end international public finance for fossil fuels, reveals that the Glasgow Statement, a joint commitment forged at the 2021 UN climate summit (COP26), is already shifting an estimated USD 5.7 billion per year out of fossil fuels and into clean energy, with the potential of a further 13.7 billion per year if all Glasgow Statement signatories fulfill their commitments.

The report’s key findings include that out of sixteen high-income signatories that provide significant levels of international public finance:

  • Eight have adopted policies that broadly meet the promise they made in Glasgow (Canada, the European Investment Bank, the United Kingdom, France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and New Zealand), shifting an estimated USD 5.7 billion per year out of fossil fuels and showing that the Glasgow Statement is having a real-world impact;
  • Four signatories (Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Spain) have new policies that further restrict fossil fuel support but leave major loopholes and/or do not meet the end of 2022 deadline; 
  • Four signatories (Germany, Italy, Portugal, and the United States) have yet to publish new or updated policies. The United States has reportedly adopted a policy, but is refusing to publish it. Ongoing policy debates in Germany and Italy suggest that these countries are likely to introduce loopholes in any forthcoming policies that allow continued fossil fuel financing;
  • Just days after this report was finalized, it appears Canada’s export credit agency, Export Development Canada is already in breach of their policy by approving four international oil and gas transactions totaling at least USD 5.5 million already in 2023.

The report contains a detailed report card on each signatories’ policies, with recommendations for improvement. It highlights key opportunities for signatories to increase their clean energy finance levels, work together to reiterate and strengthen their commitment to end international finance for fossil fuels at the Japan-led G7 in May and negotiate oil and gas export finance restrictions at the OECD.

Read the entire statement (PDF).

Just Transition: A trade union proposal to address the climate and social crisis

By staff - Central Única dos Trabalhadores, March 2021

The defense of a trade unionism that fights for a fairer model of society for workers has always been a principle that guided the debates and actions of CUT Brasil. Over the years, the unionism of CUT-Brasil has understood that the defense of the environment and of a model of sustainable development is in the interest of the working class and this topic has become an issue of growing importance. The 13th CONCUT (National Congress of the CUT-Brasil) approved in its resolutions the defense of a just transition, advancing even further in the debate and struggle for a model of society that avoids the climate and environmental crisis and guarantees jobs and rights for the working class.

The booklet “Just Transition: a trade union proposal to address the climate and social crisis” comes at a time when the working class is facing a challenge of containing the unbridled advance of the destruction of the environment and the climate crisis, while defending democracy and its rights against attacks by capital and the extreme right. As the result of a partnership with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the booklet aims to identify the main specificities of the just transition agenda for CUT-Brasil and the Brazilian working class, in addition to spreading the debate among trade unions, leaders, workers and to strengthen the fight against the production model that exploits the poorest and destroys the environment and our future.

The model imposed by capital causes unemployment, poverty and hunger, at the same time that it destroys entire biomes and threatens to cause permanent damage to the planet, increasing the risks for the working class. For the richest, it is possible to pay for housing, health care and other diverse protections against the problems caused by the climate crisis, such as desertification, floods and pollution. For the working class, avoiding the climate crisis is a necessity for survival.

Although the topic of climate change has many technical terms, in this booklet we seek to use a familiar and accessible language for the entire Brazilian working class.

Read the entire statement (PDF).

Rooftop Solar Justice

By Howard Crystal, Roger Lin, and Jean Su - Center for Biolgical Diversity, March 2023

A war over the nation’s energy future is raging across the United States. On one side are everyday people who can benefit from clean, renewable energy through distributed-solar projects like rooftop and community solar. On the other side are for-profit electric utilities threatened by distributed solar’s impact on their lucrative, guaranteed profits. These companies are using their influence with regulators and legislators in a coordinated effort to undermine the expansion of distributed solar. They recently succeeded in California. This report addresses the environmental and economic justice of net energy metering, or NEM, and the utility industry’s false and self-serving claims against distributed-solar growth.

To combat the climate emergency and pervasive energy inequity, we need to maximize distributed solar development. NEM already exists in many states and is a key policy driver to expand distributed solar. Customers pay only for the net electricity they use each month, considering both the power going to the grid when rooftop-solar systems generate excess electricity and the power coming in from the grid (particularly at night). Net metering substantially reduces electricity bills, allowing people to recoup their distributed-solar investments.

For-profit utilities are fighting NEM on multiple fronts and in many states. In California, for example, they recently convinced regulators to gut net metering for new customers. In Florida a utility-backed bill to gut net metering passed the legislature. Utility companies fight NEM because it undermines their business model, which assumes that centralized utilities are the only legitimate makers and sellers of electricity.

As this report shows, anti-net-metering talking points are based on an outdated version of the grid, where for-profit utilities control everything. Utilities want to gut net metering to maintain control and use the proceeds to pay for rising utility costs, including the growing costs of addressing climate-fueled catastrophes and stranded assets in fossil fuel infrastructure.

Read the entire statement (PDF).

Alberta’s Roadmap to the New Energy Economy

By Simon Dyer - Pembina Institute, February 21, 2023

Alberta has always been an international leader on energy. Our abundant natural resources, coupled with our proud history of technological innovation in the oil and gas sector— particularly the oilsands—means we are renowned for our ability to use a skilled labour force to reach new frontiers in energy production.

In 2023, Alberta has an opportunity to build on that history and move towards a new energy future. In doing so, it can begin to capitalize on the multiple opportunities associated with the globally emerging clean economy.

To achieve this, Alberta needs a robust, credible plan on climate and energy. The number of governments worldwide that are legislating emissions reduction targets and policy measures to deliver them is rapidly growing each year, and it is time that Alberta joined them. This province — home to some of the world’s foremost experts on carbon capture technology, methane reduction techniques, wind and solar power, and so many other clean energy solutions— has much to offer to the energy transition, and much to gain. The International Energy Agency, for example, estimates 14 million new energy jobs and 16 million new jobs in energy efficiency will be created, worldwide, between now and 2050.

To take advantage of these opportunities, Alberta must also be willing to confront the realities of the global shift towards low-carbon energy sources, and take steps to adapt and futureproof its economy and workforce. The global outlook for fossil fuels, for example, has fundamentally shifted in the last twelve months. In 2022, for the first time, a range of assessments — including from within the oil industry — projected that the current level of worldwide policy momentum on emissions reductions will result in a sustained decline in global demand for oil, beginning this decade. If the world successfully achieves its goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and avoiding the worst effects of climate change, that demand decline will begin sooner and be steeper — and will have a significant impact on Alberta’s industry. 

Acknowledging these realities, and choosing to show leadership on climate and energy policy, is integral to Alberta’s overall attractiveness as an investment destination. Now more than ever before, companies are looking for opportunities to invest in climate solutions, and for jurisdictions where they can operate while meeting their own climate goals. Choosing instead to remain out of step with the global trend towards low-emissions economies would leave Alberta at a significant disadvantage in the years ahead.

The Pembina Institute is, and has always been, proudly headquartered in Alberta; this is our home. We are committed to seeking out effective, evidence-based policy solutions that can support this province’s communities, economy, and environment. 

As the 2023 provincial election approaches, this document provides our recommendations to future leaders in Alberta to advance this province’s position in the transition towards low-carbon energy. Above all, we think Alberta can and should be a leader on climate and the energy transformation in Canada.

Read the report (link).

Chapter 3 : He Could Clearcut Forests Like No Other

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

“Come to light: L-P’s literally poisonous policies literally poisoning forest workers. Has any other business a higher profit-to-wages ratio? And yet, are any local workers at higher risk? Where’s the IWW? The first Wobbly who writes in gets a free lunch, courtesy of RADIO * FREE EARTH.”

—Marco McClean, Mendocino Commentary, April 18, 1985.

Harry Merlo is one of the highest paid executives in the industry. He makes $353,000 and he just got a 10 percent raise”

—Harold Broome, carpenter.

“Harry was down to see the strike in his mink coat the other day.”

—Walter Newman, spokesperson and business representative for Lumber Production and Industrial Workers Union Local 2592.

Americans are raised on the mythology of the “self-made man”, the “enterprising go-getter” archetype who creates his own fortune and charts his own destiny. Very often he faces incredible odds, and, armed only with his wits and will to succeed, he alone overcomes disadvantages to become a leader among his fellow Americans. The gender specific pronoun is intentional, because in these stories, women more often than not play a subordinate role. There is an element of “pioneer” spirit within this narrative, and this is not entirely coincidental, because much of the narrative stems from the European-American subjugation of indigenous peoples and the wild. This archetype certainly matches the description of most “captains of industry”, particularly railroad bosses, oil magnates, and timber barons. There is more than folktale about such individuals. Indeed there is a strong ideological component to them, a personification of capitalism, perhaps expressed most unapologetically, albeit crudely, in the narratives of Ayn Rand, particularly Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead.

Whether fact or fiction, in these narratives, the entrepreneur is always the hero—virtuous to the core—and he is held up as an example to the rest of us to follow. Very often they not only rely on their own means, they often struggle against a cool and callous society, usually personified by a bureaucratic government, who appropriates some or all of the hero’s self-made fortune to serve its own political ends. What these stories consistently omit, is that most often these “conquering heroes” are neither self-made nor are they virtuous. They often lie, cheat, bend or break the rules, stab those close to them in the back, and rely on the benefits provided by the very same “government” they decry when it doesn’t serve their every need. They appropriate the fruits of others’ labor and call it their own. If there are consequences to their actions, they are shifted to the general public, usually upon the backs of those most unable to resist. And, it is the richest and the most powerful among them who commission the narratives that celebrate their triumphs, sanitizing their own histories so that it is difficult to tell what constitutes fact or fiction.

Harry A. Merlo Jr. was such a man. He began his career as a shipping foreman at a small, independently owned mill, advanced to partner, and then, after the mill was bought out by Georgia Pacific (G-P) he quickly moved up ranks of the G-P corporate structure.[1] Georgia Pacific spun off Louisiana Pacific (L-P) as a result of an antitrust suit brought by Boise Cascade (B-C) against the former for monopolistic practices in 1973. The Federal Trade Commission had threatened to break up the former for monopolizing the timberlands of northwestern California after acquiring holdings formerly held by Boise-Cascade, including the Fort Bragg California mill.[2] Merlo took over as head of the newly created L-P, and, under his management, the latter quickly expanded to become the second largest lumber company in the United States with 110 plants and at least 13,000 employees nationwide, with annual sales in excess of $1 billion.[3] Despite Merlo’s reputation as a self-made man, he received achieved many of his “successes” on the backs of others.

ITUC report shows big economic returns for modest investment in infrastructure, the care economy and the green economy

By Özlem Onaran and Cem Oyvat - International Trade Union Confederation, February 6, 2023

The study simulated the impact that public spending increases in the care economy, the green economy, and infrastructure could have across eight countries.

The report shows that a repeated annual increase in public spending by 1% of GDP within these three sectors would yield major economic returns that exceed the initial level of investments made. The findings reveal that:

  • Investing an extra 1% of GDP in the care economy over five years would yield an average GDP increase of more than 11%, as well as a 6.3% increase in total employment levels.
  • An extra 1% of GDP investment in the green economy over five years would yield an average GDP increase of 10%, as well as a 7.5% increase in total employment levels.
  • An extra 1% of GDP on infrastructure investment over five years would increase both employment and GDP levels by 12% on average.

Owen Tudor, ITUC Deputy General Secretary, stressed: “The lingering employment effects of Covid-19, as well as a rapidly changing world of work, have underscored the urgency of addressing employment deficits and inequalities. Governments must step up their investments to support the creation of quality jobs – especially in strategic sectors that are good for both people and the planet including care, infrastructure and the green economy.”

At the global level, trade unions are calling for the creation of 575 million jobs and the formalisation of at least one billion informal jobs by 2030, to enable delivery of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda commitment for full employment and decent work under Sustainable Development Goal 8.

Read the report (Link).

'Only the Beginning': Democrats' IRA Set to Create 100,000+ US Green Jobs

By Brett Wilkins - Common Dreams, February 6, 2023

A leading climate action group on Monday published a report revealing that the 94 clean energy projects announced since U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law last August are set to create more than 100,000 green jobs.

Climate Power—which published the report as part of a new six-figure national ad campaign touting the growing green economy—said that since the IRA became law without any Republican support last year, "companies are racing forward with massive investments to build our clean energy future."

"New manufacturing in wind, solar, batteries, and electric vehicles—along with storage projects across the country—mean new, good-paying jobs for hard-working Americans," the group continued. "In the six months since the landmark climate and clean energy investments became law, clean energy companies have announced more than 100,000 new clean energy jobs for electricians, mechanics, construction workers, technicians, support staff, and many others."

"As the largest U.S. investment in clean energy and climate in history, this national clean energy plan will continue to reshape and recharge our economy for many decades to come," Climate Power added.

While green groups have generally praised the IRA's historic $369 billion investment in renewable energy production and innovation, activists have condemned provisions including fossil fuel tax credits and mandatory lease sales on public lands and at sea.

The 94 new clean energy projects in the Climate Power report—which are spread across 31 states and have a combined investment value of $89.5 billion—include:

Forty new battery manufacturing sites in places like Van Buren Township, Michigan; Tucson, Arizona; and Florence County, South Carolina. So far, 22 companies have announced plans for new or expanded electric vehicle manufacturing in Pryor, Oklahoma; Montgomery, Alabama; Highland Park, Michigan—and more. A further 24 companies shared plans to expand wind and solar manufacturing in cities including Pueblo, Colorado; Perrysburg, Ohio; and Georgetown, Texas. The majority of the projects are in seven states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

"Thanks to President Biden's affordable clean energy plan, businesses are investing in manufacturing like never before, and planning to create good-paying jobs in every corner of the country," Climate Power executive director Lori Lodes said in a statement.

"This is only the beginning—we're months after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and we're already at the precipice of a renewed manufacturing, made-in-America boom that will create opportunities for millions of Americans, all while reducing toxic emissions that harm the health and wellbeing of our communities," Lodes added.

Last month, the International Energy Agency said in a report that "the world is at the dawn of a new industrial age—the age of clean energy technology manufacturing," and that green manufacturing jobs will more than double by the end of the decade if countries worldwide live up to their climate and energy pledges—a huge "if" given that global emissions remain at record levels.

Read the report (Link).

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