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As California Considers Dropping Fossil Fuels from Major Pension Funds, New Report Calls Out ‘Misinformation’ on Costs

By Sharon Kelly - DeSmog, May 13, 2022

CalPERS and CalSTRS, which oppose fossil fuel divestment legislation, have “wildly exaggerated” divestment costs, according to Fossil Free California’s latest report.

A newly published report by Fossil Free California finds California’s pension fund managers are circulating divestment “misinformation” by exaggerating the costs involved in shedding their fossil fuel investments in documents prepared for state lawmakers.

California lawmakers are currently considering Senate Bill 1173 (SB-1173), California’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, which would require the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), to stop investing in fossil fuels before the decade is out. The move would impact billions of dollars currently invested in oil, gas, or coal on behalf of California’s teachers, firefighters, and other public employees.

The report titled “Hyperbole in the Hearings” found that the pension “funds have wildly exaggerated losses from past divestments” like those involving tobacco, firearms, and some forms of coal. It concludes that CalPERS and CalSTRS estimates for costs associated with fossil fuel divestment are also exaggerated.

Extraordinary sums of money, invested on behalf of California’s public employees and teachers, are on the line. The two pension funds have estimated holdings of $7.4 billion and $4.1 billion respectively in fossil fuel investments that would need to be divested if the law went into effect. 

Good Jobs and a Just Transition into Hydrogen

By staff - IndustriALL Global Union, May 12, 2022

On 5 May, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), LO Norway and IndustriALL held a first workshop on hydrogen technology as part of the Just Transition and the Energy Sector initiative. The initiative provides a platform for unions around the world to exchange information on energy transition technologies and the jobs, skills, markets, investments, and emissions related to them.

There is no single industry that could replace the oil and gas industry, in terms of jobs and in terms of income. We must consider multiple different technologies when thinking about where jobs are going to transition to,”

said Kenneth Sandmo, Head of business and Industry Policy in the Norwegian Trade Union Confederation (LO Norway).

Putting it into perspective, Sandmo explained that Norway’s oil and gas industry employs more than 200,000 workers directly and indirectly. As the hydrogen sector is projected to create approximately 35,000 jobs in Norway, hydrogen technology shouldn’t be the only focus for trade unions.

Hydrogen technology is key for the long-term decarbonisation of energy intensive industries and sectors such as heavy transport. To get a better view of where jobs are and where they could be, the workshop looked at the value chains of oil and gas and hydrogen. Breaking both value chains down to production, processing, distribution, and end use (upstream, midstream, downstream) provided a clearer view of where the jobs are, and where there is a future for workers to transition in the hydrogen value chain.

Rallies Held Across US for 'Climate, Care, Jobs, and Justice'

By Kenny Stancil - Common Dreams, April 23, 2022

Scores of people in communities around the United States took to the streets on Saturday to demand swift and bold legislative and executive action to tackle the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis as well as skyrocketing inequality.

At "Fight for Our Future" rallies held in Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Atlanta, and more than 40 additional cities across the country, the message was simple: Time is running out for Congress and President Joe Biden to make the bold investments needed to create millions of unionized clean energy and care sector jobs that can simultaneously mitigate greenhouse gas pollution along with economic and racial injustice.

The nationwide mobilization—organized by a coalition of more than 20 labor, civil rights, and environmental justice groups including SEIU, NAACP, the Sierra Club, the Sunrise Movement, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Green New Deal Network—took place one day after Earth Day.

Oil and Gas Price Rises Fuel the Case for a Just Transition Now

By staff - Just Transition Partnership, April 22, 2022

The dramatic rise in the prices of oil and gas, compounded by the reductions in supplies as a result of the war in Ukraine, have demonstrated the failings of our broken energy system. The social and environmental damage it causes have underlined the case for a just transition to renewable sources of energy, giving people power over the energy system. This must be planned to create good and secure new jobs and to protect the living standards of the poorest, the wellbeing of all and the health of the planet.

Consequences of fuel price rises for citizens and corporations

Wholesale gas prices quadrupled in the last year, according to Ofgem’s statement1 made on 3 February when it announced that the energy price cap (the maximum prices which energy retailers can charge) would rise by 54%. Further rises are anticipated in September.

On the same day , Shell announced profits of $19.3bn for 2021. In the last few months profits made by oil corporations have soared. “The largest oil and gas companies made a combined $174bn in profits in the first nine months of the year” reported the Guardian2.

National Energy Action said that in the UK the number of households in fuel poverty is expected to go up from four million in October 2021, to 6.5 million after April’s price rise3. That would go up again to 8.5 million in October this year, if the typical bill increases to £3,000.

As Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said on 3 February:The energy price cap rise will turn the cost-of-living crisis into a catastrophe for millions of people. This will plunge at least one in four families in Britain into fuel poverty”.4 With rates of inflation higher than wage increases and benefit upgrade, living standards are under threat.

The consequences for employment of rising prices and falling incomes have been predicted to be negative across the economy as a whole. In the energy sector there may be some stronger recruitment where production can be increased in the short-term in response to higher wholesale prices but in a volatile market the longer-term consequences are probably going to be determined mainly by the direction of government policies on both energy efficiency and fossil fuel licensing , with the prospect of largest employment rises in energy efficiency.

Nationalize the U.S. Fossil Fuel Industry To Save the Planet

By Robert Pollin - American Prospect, April 8, 2022

Even as Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine proceeds and concerns over the subsequent high gas prices proliferate, we cannot forget that the climate crisis remains a dire emergency. The latest report of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—the most authoritative source on climate change research—could not be more explicit in reaching this conclusion. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres described the report as a “file of shame, cataloguing the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world.” This follows several equally vehement studies in recent years, as well as those from other credible climate researchers.

If we are finally going to start taking the IPCC’s findings seriously, it follows that we must begin advancing far more aggressive climate stabilization solutions than anything that has been undertaken thus far, both within the U.S. and globally. Within the U.S., such measures should include at least putting on the table the idea of nationalizing the U.S. fossil fuel industry.

Separating Truth from Fiction What the crisis in Ukraine really means for U.S. oil and gas

Want Peace? Ditch Fossil Fuels!

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, April 2022

The Labor Network for Sustainability has joined more than 610 organizations in 57 countries to call on world governments to ban Russian oil and gas and to rapidly phase out all fossil fuels in the name of peace. The letter was initiated by Ukrainian climate activists and backed by Roman Shakhmatenko, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection, who said: “We have to stop being indifferent. We should end using gas, oil and coal.” It calls on governments to “End global fossil fuel addiction that feeds Putin’s war machine” once and for all. It calls on governments to “ban any import of fossil fuels from Russia” and “rapidly phase out all fossil fuels,” ending this “fossil fuel addiction.”

With an emerging priority of boycotting Russian oil and gas, fossil fuel expansion must be immediately halted, and nations worldwide must commit to the rapid and just transition away from all fossil fuels. Reliance on coal, oil and gas is the intentional embrace of death, misery, and collapse at a global scale.

Stand with Ukraine,”

How can climate-safe energy start replacing Russian fossil fuel exports right now? Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, and other propose an “Energy Marshall Plan” that would use the Defense Production Act to boost manufacturing of electric heat pumps, efficient electric appliances, and renewable energy technology.

For their full proposal, see their letter to President Biden here.

Solving the Climate Crisis with Nuclear Energy Won’t Work

By Robert Pollin - Dollars & Sense, March/April 2022

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is—as of this writing, in late March—an ongoing calamity. As of now, it is impossible to predict how it might end, and what all its costs will be. We do know, as of now, that many thousands of people are dead, and millions of lives are being wrecked.

In addition to these most brutal consequences, the war must force us to rethink many issues that—with no exaggeration—reach to the core of how we can envision future prospects for life on earth. I will consider only one such question now. That is: What role should nuclear energy play in advancing a workable global climate stabilization project?

In the initial phase of its invasion on February 24, the Russian military seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which is located about 60 miles north of Kyiv in Ukraine. In 1986, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, Chernobyl was the site of the most severe nuclear power plant accident in history. An explosion blew the lid off one of the plant’s four operating nuclear reactors. This released radioactive materials into the atmosphere that spread throughout the region. Despite this disaster, the other three reactors at Chernobyl continued operating until 2000.

The other three reactors did cease operating in 2000. And the site still houses more than 20,000 spent fuel rods. These rods must be constantly cooled, with the cooling system operating on electricity. If the system’s electrical power source were to malfunction, the spent fuel rods could become exposed to the air and catch fire. This would release radioactive materials into the atmosphere. Once released, the radioactive materials could again spread throughout the region and beyond, as they did in 1986. This is a low-probability but by no means a zero-probability scenario.

On March 3, the Russian miliary also took control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest in Europe. According to a March 4 report on NPR, “Russian forces repeatedly fired heavy weapons in the direction of the plant’s massive reactor buildings, which housed dangerous nuclear fuel.” All military actions at or near the plant create further danger of the plant’s operations becoming compromised. As with Chernobyl, this could then lead to radioactive materials being released into the atmosphere.

Nuclear disasters at both Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia are therefore active threats right now. In addition, the war is compromising the security systems that operate to protect both sites. The fact that both sites have become combat zones means that they are more vulnerable to attacks from non-state actors, including terrorist organizations of any variety. The aim of such organizations in breaching security at Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhya would almost certainly include gaining access to materials that would enable them to produce homemade nuclear weapons. At the least, they would be positioned to threaten the release of radioactive materials.

Labor Against War in Ukraine Webinar

War in Ukraine: reflections and proposals for internationalist union action

By Simon Pirani - Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, March 31, 2022

From the Solidaires Union web site. These notes from the Solidaires Union bureau set out its approach to building solidarity with Ukrainian working-class resistance to Russian military aggression. They are a useful starting point for discussion.

This statement is based on the assessment made during the Solidaires national board meeting in March, the contributions of our member organizations, the work of our international commission, and inter-union exchanges both nationally, through the inter-union CGT/FSU/Solidaires, and internationally, through the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles. All of this has also been fuelled by the exchanges and reflections held within larger unitary frameworks in which we take part. [1]

Beyond producing assessments and analyses, union commitment is about action. The following proposals are based on the international work that Solidaires has been doing for years and are expressed in the initiatives, connections and publications of recent days. They aim to respond – on the basis of concrete actions and not useless polemics – to the sectarianism displayed by some statements from other trade union organisations, and especially to the hypocrisy of government and employers’ declarations.

The introductory statement to the debate of the national board the 9th March recalled the position of the Solidaires union from the first day of the war (actually even before the start of this war, since all that follows is part of the tradition and practice of internationalist unionism that we try to implement):

□ The immediate withdrawal of Russian troops – the right of peoples to self-determination – the need for an immediate ceasefire and for building a negotiated peace – supporting people fighting against war, especially in countries at war – the dignified and massive reception of all refugees, regardless of their origin, and the fight against all inequalities and discrimination – taking part, on our own terms, in mobilisations and demonstrations for peace – (joint) participation in the initiatives of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, such as the “union convoy” which aims to provide Ukrainian workers with relief supplies – denouncing nationalism and capitalism as the causes of war – internationalism, as an alternative to nationalism – fighting to end tax havens – the urgency of an ecological transition towards the end of the massive use of fossil fuels.

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