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Capital Blight: a Green-Syndicalist Responds to David Walters "Socialist" Defense of Nuclear Energy

By x344543 - November 22, 2013

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.

I read with interest David Walters's recent article, "A Socialist Defends Nuclear Energy, wondering what I would find. I soon discovered there was very little credible "defense" and for that matter, not much "socialism" (other than the citation of various Marxist quotations that Marx and Engels would have bristled at given their context here) in it. In fact, it read to me as a typical capitalist defense of its standard operations wrapped in a rather threadbare and tattered red flag.

Michael Friedman has thoroughly debunked Walters's claims about the "safety" of (conventional) nuclear (fission) energy and the "ease" at dealing with the nuclear waste in his own piece so there is no utility in elaborating further on that matter. It is my intention to address the issues that Friedman didn't cover.

To begin with, if David Walters is so willing to overlook peer reviewed science and factual evidence that clearly shows that conventional nuclear fission energy is unsafe and the problem of nuclear waste not easily handled, he may as well also argue in favor of thorium based breeder reactors, nuclear fusion power, fracking, tar sands, "clean" coal, or even hydrogen fuel cells which are equally questionable technologies (and please note that I am not arguing in favor of any of these things here, though I think hydrogen fuel cells are worth a look at least).

Additionally, Walters lumps in all greens into a single, monolithic group, dominated by primitivism and Malthusianism. This is as inaccurate as arguing that all communists take their marching orders from Stalin. This is the rhetoric one expects to hear from the most reactionary elements of the capitalist class's punditocracy rather than an informed anti-capitalist. To me this is a clear indication that his entire argument is mere propaganda and has very little substance.

The Impact of Tar Sands Pipeline Spills on Employment and the Economy

By Lara Skinner and Sean Sweeney - Cornell University Global Labor Institute, March 2012

In debates over proposed tar sands pipelines such as the TransCanada corporation’s Keystone XL, little attention has been given to the potentially negative impacts of pipeline spills on employment and the economy. The proposed route for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline cuts through America’s agricultural heartland, where farming, ranching, and tourism are major employers and economic engines. Ground or surface water contamination from a tar sands oil spill in this region could inflict significant economic damage, causing workers to lose jobs, businesses to close, and residents to relocate. Such a spill could also negatively impact the health of residents and their communities.

A Closer Look at Keystone XL’s Threat to Existing Jobs and Economic Sectors:

» The negative impacts on employment and the economy of tar sands pipelines like the Keystone XL have largely been ignored. To date, a comprehensive risk assessment for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline oil spill has not been conducted. Such an assessment would provide an independent review of the risk of spills and their economic consequences. Since the first Keystone pipeline began operation in June 2010, at least 35 spills have occurred in the U.S. and Canada. In its first year, the spill frequency for Keystone’s U.S. segment was 100 times higher than TransCanada forecast.

» The Keystone XL pipeline would cut through America’s breadbasket. Agricultural land and rangeland comprise 79 percent of the land that would be affected by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. It would cross more than 1,700 bodies of water, including the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers and the Ogallala and Carrizo-Wilcox aquifers. The Ogallala Aquifer alone supplies 30 percent of the groundwater used for irrigation in the U.S. It also supplies two million people with drinking water.

» Farming, ranching, and tourism are major sources of employment along the Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed route. Water contamination resulting from a Keystone XL spill, or the cumulative effect of spills over the lifetime of the pipeline, would have significant economic costs and could result in job loss in these sectors. Approximately 571,000 workers are directly employed in the agricultural sector in the six states along the Keystone XL corridor. Total agricultural output for these states is about $76 billion annually.

» Many of the land areas and bodies of water that Keystone XL will cross provide recreational opportunities vital to the tourism industry. Keystone XL would traverse 90.5 miles of recreation and special interest areas, including federal public lands, state
parks and forests, and national historic trails. About 780,000 workers are employed in the tourism sector in the states along the Keystone XL pipeline. Tourism spending in these states totaled more than $67 billion in 2009.

» Recent experience has demonstrated that tar sands spills pose additional dangers to the public and present special challenges in terms of clean up. There is strong evidence that tar sands pipeline spills occur more frequently than spills from pipelines carrying conventional crude oil because of the diluted bitumen’s toxic, corrosive, and heavy composition. Tar sands oil spills have the potential to be more damaging than conventional crude oil spills because they are more difficult and more costly to clean up, and because they have the potential to pose more serious health risks. Therefore both the frequency and particular nature of the spills have negative economic implications.

» The Kalamazoo River tar sands spill affected the health of hundreds of residents, displaced residents, hurt businesses, and caused a loss of jobs. The largest tar sands oil spill in the U.S. occurred on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010. This spill is the most expensive tar sands pipeline oil spill in U.S. history, with overall costs estimated at $725 million.

» The public debate around Keystone XL has focused almost exclusively on job creation from the project, yet existing jobs and economic sectors could suffer significantly from one or more spills from Keystone XL. According to the U.S. State Department, the six states along the pipeline route are expected to gain a total of 20 permanent pipeline operation jobs. Meanwhile, the agricultural and tourism sectors are already a major employer in these states. Potential job losses to these sectors resulting from one or more spills from Keystone XL could be considerable.

» Renewable energy provides a safer route to creating new jobs and a sustainable environment. The U.S. is leading the world in renewable energy investments, and employment in this sector has expanded in recent years. For every $1 million invested in renewable and clean energy, 16.7 jobs are created. By contrast, $1 million invested in fossil fuels generates 5.3 jobs.

Read the report (PDF).

Untapped Wealth: Offshore Wind Can Deliver Cleaner, More Affordable Energy and More Jobs Than Offshore Oil

By staff - Oceana, September 2010

In Oceana’s report Untapped Wealth: Offshore Wind Can Deliver Cleaner, More Affordable Energy and More Jobs Than Offshore Oil, our comprehensive analysis shows that focusing our investments on clean energy like offshore wind would be cost effective, more beneficial to job creation, and better for the environment and ocean in a variety of ways than offshore oil and gas exploration and development.

On the Atlantic coast, an area targeted for expansion of oil and gas activities, offshore wind can generate nearly 30% more electricity than offshore oil and gas resources combined. In addition, wind development would cost about $36 billion less than offshore oil and gas production combined, while creating about three times as many jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuel production.

Based on conservative assumptions for offshore wind and generous assumptions for offshore oil and natural gas, this study found that by investing in offshore wind on the East Coast, rather than offshore oil and gas, Americans would get more energy for less money while protecting our oceans.

Read the report (PDF).

Towards a Just and Sustainable Solar Energy Industry

Towards a Just and Sustainable Solar Energy Industry - A Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition White Paper, January 14, 2009.

Every hour, enough solar energy reaches the Earth to meet human energy needs for an entire year. Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is widely seen as a “win-win” solution that can harness this “free energy” to address global warming, reduce U.S. dependence on energy imports, create “green jobs,” and help revitalize the U.S. economy.

Solar energy will play an essential role in meeting these challenges, but as the solar PV sector expands, little attention is being paid to the potential environmental and health costs of that rapid expansion. The most widely used solar PV panels are based on materials and processes from the microelectronics industry and have the potential to create a huge new wave of electronic waste (e-waste) at the end of their useful lives, which is estimated to be 20 to 25 years. New solar PV technologies are increasing cell efficiency and lowering costs, but many of these use extremely toxic materials or materials with unknown health and environmental risks (including new nanomaterials and processes).

With the solar PV sector still emerging, we have a limited window of opportunity to ensure that this extremely important industry is truly “clean and green,” from its supply chains through product manufacturing, use, and end-of-life disposal. The solar industry has taken a leadership role in addressing the world’s pressing energy and environmental challenges and will serve as a model for how other innovative “green” industries address the lifecycle impacts of their products.

In this white paper, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) provides an overview of the health and safety issues faced by the solar PV industry, including the toxic materials used in manufacturing and the potential end-of-life disposal hazards of solar PV products. The report also lays out recommendations to immediately address these problems to build a safe, sustainable, and just solar energy industry. These recommendations include:

  • Reduce and eventually eliminate the use of toxic materials and develop environmentally sustainable practices.
  • Ensure that solar PV manufacturers are responsible for the lifecycle impacts of their products through Extended
    Producer Responsibility (EPR).
  • Ensure proper testing of new and emerging materials and processes based on a precautionary approach.
  • Expand recycling technology and design products for easy recycling.
  • Promote high-quality “green jobs” that protect worker health and safety and provide a living wage throughout the
    global PV industry, including supply chains and end-of-life recycling.
  • Protect community health and safety throughout the global PV industry, including supply chains and recycling.

Read the report (PDF)

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