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The Fossil Fuel Industry Is a Jobs-Killer

By Wenonah Hauter - In These Times, February 14, 2022

For years now, any discussion about climate action or the need to move off fossil fuels has run headlong into a familiar quandary: The industries fueling the climate crisis create good jobs, often in areas of the country where finding work that can support a family is incredibly difficult. 

This leaves activists gesturing towards well-intentioned goals like a ​“just transition,” a promise that likely rings hollow for workers and many labor unions because it’s hard to see where this has actually happened — even though, by every measure, we need to create some real policies that turn this vision into reality. While there are encouraging examples of labor unions throwing their support behind robust climate plans, it has proven difficult for the climate movement to find its way out of the jobs versus environment framing. 

But that is especially true when we refuse to question the original premise. The truth is that the fossil fuel industry wildly inflates its employment record, and the recent data show they are producing more fuel with fewer workers. Instead of avoiding this reality, perhaps it is time to tackle it head on. Dirty energy corporations are not creating jobs as much as they are cutting them these days, and that provides an opening to envision the kinds of employment — in areas like orphaned well clean up and energy efficiency — that will provide employment for the thousands of workers the industry is no longer employing. 

Some of the most common jobs estimates are produced by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the powerful oil and gas trade association. Over the years, API has released reports claiming that the domestic fracking industry creates somewhere between 2.5 million to 11 million jobs, both directly and indirectly. These numbers — or versions of them — are floated in political debates and in the media, but they are significantly out of step with other estimates, including the federal government’s labor reports. Food & Water Watch, an organization I founded, created a more accurate model that relies on direct jobs and relevant support activities, including pipeline construction and product transportation. The total comes to just over 500,000 in 2020, or about 0.4 percent of all jobs in the country. 

How to explain the massive gap between industry propaganda and reality? The API figures include a range of employment categories; in addition to direct industry employment, they add indirect jobs (those within a supply chain) and induced jobs (those that are supposedly ​‘supported’ by direct and indirect jobs). These categories make up the vast majority of their total. Convenience store workers, for example — working where gas happens to be sold — make up almost 35 percent of the industry’s supposed employment record.

The Quiet Culprit: Pension Funds Bankrolling the Climate Crisis

By staff - Climate Safe Pensions, December 2021

A first-of-its-kind report ... from Climate Safe Pensions Network and Stand.earth reveals that just 14 pension and permanent funds finance fossil fuels to the tune of $81.6 billion.The report shows a comprehensive accounting of the fossil fuel exposure of 14 pension funds in one report from Climate Safe Pensions Network and Stand.earth reveals that just 14 U.S. public pension funds are the quiet culprits of climate chaos: with $81.6 billion invested in coal, oil, and gas.

With over $46 trillion in assets worldwide, pension funds are among the largest institutional investors in fossil fuels. These investments have dangerously underperformed the rest of the market, making public pensions’ fossil fuels investments inherently risky.

Pension funds’ financial influence make them a force to reckon with in the battle to confront, slow and mitigate climate change. Pension fund decision-makers must take climate protection seriously — not only for their financial well-being, but also for the well-being of their millions members.

With 10 years of data, there’s hard evidence that divestment is a winning financial strategy. The fastest way for pensions to address climate change is to divest fossil fuel holdings and invest in just and equitable climate solutions.

Read the text (PDF).

12 Guilty Fogeys: Big Oil’s $86 billion offshore tax bonanza

By staff - Friends of the Earth, Bailout Watch, and Oxfam, September 2021

Few letter-soup acronyms in Washington bureaucratese are so aptly pronounced as GILTI and FOGEI, two esoteric provisions in the tax code worth tens of billions of dollars to Big Oil’s multinational majors.

Under the Trump Administration’s radical 2017 tax law, companies that extract oil and gas overseas enjoy special exemptions within the Global Intangible Low-Tax (GILTI) regime covering Foreign Oil and Gas Extraction Income (FOGEI).

It is a fitting accident of nomenclature: FOGEI’s GILTI carveout helps prop up the fossil firms most culpable for the climate crisis — to the tune of $84 billion. An additional international tax loophole enjoyed by Big Oil is worth at least another $1.4 billion, for a grand total of over $86 billion in offshore tax giveaways.

Read the text (PDF).

Protecting Some Old Growth Isn’t Enough. BC Needs a Forest Revolution

By Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Arnold Bercov, Torrance Coste and Ben Parfitt - The Tyee, November 12, 2021

Governments have mismanaged the sector for decades. Now communities and First Nations should lead.

No one should be surprised that the British Columbia government’s plan to consider deferring logging in 26,000 square kilometres of old-growth forest angered many and pleased few.

First Nations’ leaders were highly critical of the incredibly short 30-day period the government imposed on them to respond to the deferral proposals, the paltry funding provided by the province to offset consultation costs, and the economic implications for their members.

The Council of Forest Industries, representing the province’s biggest logging, lumber and pulp and paper operations, warned of an impending economic apocalypse in which 18,000 workers would lose their jobs, while skirting around the tens of thousands of industry jobs already lost.

And environmental leaders noted that many tracts of old growth remained unprotected and would likely be logged even more intensely as the government took the next couple of years to decide whether or not the proposed deferral areas would actually receive formal protection.

All of this was predictable, and all of it largely ignored the elephant in the room.

What the deferral decision underscored is the abominable point to which this government and governments before it have brought us.

Successive provincial governments actively encouraged the logging industry, which is dominated by a few very powerful companies, to cut down more and more forest without any coherent plan for how healthy, resilient ecosystems — which are the bedrock of healthy communities — were to be maintained.

Perpetuating logging rates that anyone with an iota of common sense knew could not go on was guaranteed to have brutal consequences, including old-growth forests so fragmented from logging that they are no longer capable of supporting caribou and vibrant songbird populations; community watersheds where once-clean drinking water has turned to mud; drastically reduced or eradicated salmon stocks; and 41,000 direct jobs lost in the forest industry in just 20 years.

Counting the Job Cost of Halting Old-Growth Logging

By Andrew MacLeod - The Tyee, November 10, 2021

The province says 4,500, industry says 18,000. Critics say government has left too many unanswered questions.

The BC Council of Forest Industries and the United Steelworkers union say protecting old-growth forests could cost four times as many jobs as the government is predicting.

But whatever the actual number, any decline in employment will be part of a long-term trend that has seen fewer people working in the sector even as the volume of trees logged each year remained steady.

Last week Katrine Conroy, the minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, announced the B.C. government plans to defer logging 2.6 million hectares of the most at-risk old-growth forests in the province for two years while it discusses possible permanent protection with the Indigenous nations whose territories the forests are on.

Conroy said the ministry estimates up to 4,500 jobs could be affected and promised a suite of programs aimed at helping workers and their families transition to other work.

The Council of Forest Industries, however, believed the government’s estimate is far too low.

“Our initial analysis indicates that these deferrals would result in the closure of between 14 and 20 sawmills in B.C., along with two pulp mills and an undetermined number of value-added manufacturing facilities,” Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO of the council, said in a statement released Nov. 2.

That translates to about 18,000 “good, family-supporting jobs lost” and about a $400-million reduction in government revenue each year, she said.

A day later the United Steelworkers, the union representing about 12,000 of B.C.’s forestry workers, put out a statement backing COFI’s figures over the government’s.

“If even half of the 2.6 million hectares identified by the government are removed, jobs will be lost as multiple sawmills, value-added operations and pulp mills close permanently,” it quoted USW Wood Council Chair Jeff Bromley.

“In the past three years, eight operations with USW workers across B.C. closed and 1,000 good-paying, family-supporting jobs were lost,” he continued. “The impact from this process will almost certainly multiply across the province.”

For comparison, there were nearly 2.7 million people employed in all sectors in B.C. in October. B.C. added 10,400 jobs in October according to the Labour Force Survey numbers StatsCan released last week.

Hoodwinked in the Hothouse: Examining False Corporate Schemes advanced through the Paris Agreement

Facing Fossil Fuels’ Future: Challenges and Opportunities for Workers in Canada’s Energy and Labour Transitions

By Teika Newton and Jamie Kirkpatrick - Climate Action Network and BlueGreen Canada, September 2021

Canada has a climate plan but it does not lay out a plan for the future of oil and gas extraction that aligns with the goal to limit global warming to 1.5°C, leaving workers and communities with an uncertain future. The Canada Energy Regulator warns that the future of oil sands extraction, which makes up 62 percent of Canada’s oil output, is uncertain due to the projected drop in the future oil demand as the global pace of decarbonization increases.

Meanwhile, a study backed by the UN Environment Programme further states that global oil and gas output would have to decline by over one third by 2030 and over one half by 2040 to achieve the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C. In early 2021, the International Energy Agency, one of the world’s foremost authorities on global energy forecasting, published a landmark report, Net Zero by 2050, in which the agency declared that oil and gas output should be constrained to existing operations in order to meet the 1.5°C temperature goals articulated in the Paris Agreement. Constraining Canadian oil and gas output to existing fields approximates a similar rate of phaseout to that proposed by the UNEP-backed report.

he Canadian oil and gas industry, including upstream activities, pipelines, and services, provides approximately 405,000 jobs - 167,000 direct jobs and 238,000 jobs across supply chains. In response to oil price crises, industry’s solution to protect profits has historically been to slash jobs while maintaining output. As a result the number of jobs per barrel of output has already fallen by 20% since 2000.

While oil and gas jobs have significantly better compensation and training provisions than most sectors in the economy, these jobs are also somewhat more precarious and have higher health and safety risks. Union density is higher but is also falling at a more rapid rate than in oth-er industries.8 Finally, automation is projected to threaten between 33%-53% of Canadian oil and gas jobs by 2040.

Read the text (PDF).

Hoodwinked in the Hothouse (Third Edition)

Edited by Lucia Amorelli, Dylan Gibson, Tamra Gilbertson, the Indigenous Environmental Network, et. al. - Various Organizations (see below), April, 2021

Authored by grassroots, veteran organizers, movement strategists and thought leaders from across our climate and environmental justice movements, the third edition of Hoodwinked in the Hothouse is an easy-to-read, concise-yet-comprehensive compendium of the false corporate promises that continue to hoodwink elected officials and the public, leading us down risky pathways poised to waste billions of public dollars on a host of corporate snake-oil schemes and market-based mechanisms. These false solutions distract from the real solutions that serve our most urgent needs in an alarming climate justice moment of no-turning-back. By uncovering the pitfalls and risky investments being advanced by disaster capitalists to serve the needs of the biggest polluters on the planet, Hoodwinked also provides a robust framework for understanding the depth of real solutions and how they should be determined. As a pop-ed toolbox, Hoodwinked promises to be instructive for activists, impacted communities and organizers, while providing elected officials with critical lenses to examine a complex, technocratic field of climate change policy strategies, from local to national and international arenas.

The second version of Hoodwinked in the Hothouse was released in 2009 as a pop-ed zine collaboratively produced by Rising Tide North America and Carbon Trade Watch with the Indigenous Environmental Network and a number of allied environmental justice and climate action organizers leading up to the 2009 United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen (COP 15). During that mobilization and in years since, this zine has played a major role in raising awareness across climate movements around the world – both helping frontline organizers in their fights against destructive energy proposals and shifting policy positions of large non-governmental organizations.

With the proliferation of false solutions in the Paris Climate Agreement, national and subnational climate plans, the third edition of Hoodwinked in the Hothouse aims to provide a resource that dismantles the barriers to building a just transition and a livable future.

Includes contributions from the following organizations:

  • Biofuelwatch
  • Energy Justice Network
  • Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
  • ETC Group
  • Global Justice Ecology Project
  • Indigenous Climate Action
  • Indigenous Environmental Network
  • Just Transition Alliance
  • La Via Campesina
  • Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project
  • Mt. Diablo Rising Tide
  • Mutual Aid Disaster Relief
  • North American Megadam Resistance Alliance
  • Nuclear Information and Resource Service
  • Rising Tide North America
  • Shaping Change Collaborative

Read the text (PDF).

Roadmap to a Canadian Just Transition Act: A path to a clean and inclusive economy

By Dr Sibo Chen - LSE Review of Books, March 31, 2021

In recent years, there has been a steady growth of studies on the ‘Pink Tide’ experience in Latin America — the notable turn towards left-wing governments in Latin America around the start of the twenty-first century — and its implications for regional political economy and social-environmental conflicts. Following this trend, author Thea Riofrancos examines how conflicting visions of resource extraction have divided the Ecuadorian Left in Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador. Drawing upon a wide range of sources gained from fifteen months of fieldwork, the book presents an in-depth analysis of internecine struggles between the Ecuadorian government, which focuses on economic development via resource nationalism, and grassroots anti-extractivism activists, who strongly oppose the government’s lean toward extractive industries due to social and environmental concerns.

The book’s narrative begins in 2007, when Rafael Correa was elected as the 45th President of Ecuador with support from a disparate group of leftist organisations. Correa’s victory marked a fundamental break from Ecuador’s past economic policies. During his tenure (2007–17), Ecuador rejected neoliberalism and attempted to replace it with a series of progressive reforms that sought to improve the country’s economic equality and living standards. Resource extraction still served as the primary funding source for these reforms. Through strong state presence and information campaigns promoting the public benefits of resource development, the Correa government sought to de-politicise resource extraction and frame it as a technical affair, which offers a viable path toward a redistributive post-neoliberal state.

Unsurprisingly, Correa’s reforms were opposed by foreign corporations and domestic elites. What complicated the political struggle, however, was fierce resistance to these reforms among many social activists who had resisted neoliberalism for decades and supported Correa’s leftist election platform. Accordingly, the central question that Resource Radicals seeks to address is how the radical politicisation of resource extraction led to the Ecuadorian dispute between a self-described socialist government and many grassroots activists who helped bring it to power.

Political deregulation of Texan grid to blame for near total collapse & bills of $15,000+

By Andy Rowell - Oil Change International, February 25, 2021

If shivering with cold dark for days in sub-zero temperatures was not enough for many Texans, those lucky enough to still have electricity during the recent freezing weather have been hit with exorbitant electricity bills.

In some cases unlucky customers have been charged a whopping USD $15,000 for one month’s power, or put another way over 70 times the normal cost people pay for all their utilities.

One customer Susan Hosford of Denison told the AP that normally she pays around $2.50 for power per day, but got charged $1,346.17 for the first two weeks of February. “This whole thing has been a nightmare,” she said.

Another customer, Karen Knox, a teacher in Bedford, not only lost power but now owes $7,000 to Griddy, an electricity provider located in Houston. She told the Texas Tribune there was no way she could pay.

Such is the outcry that Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican who is heavily funded by Big Oil, had to hold an emergency meeting with legislators to discuss the outrageous bills.

Abbott and others are now promising relief for those hit by sky-high bills, although how people are compensated is yet to be worked out.

As the anger has grown, so too has the political fall-out and finger pointing and as to what has gone wrong and who is to blame.

The reason the grid failed is simple: political deregulation. Along with sixteen other states Texas had deregulated its power market. The market was deregulated in 2002, under the then Governor Rick Perry, who would later become President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Energy.

Perry established the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (known as ERCOT), with roughly 70 providers. And then the politicians cut Texas off from the rest of the country, the only state in the contiguous U.S. that was operating its own electric grid.

And because the Texas grid was then disconnected from the rest of the country, no reserves could be imported when the grid got into trouble.

“As someone who has spent the past two decades studying electricity deregulation, I know that extreme power bills in Texas result partly from the state’s market-driven approach to running the power grid,” wrote Seth Blumsack, Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics and International Affairs, at Penn State in the Conversation yesterday.

Blumsack continued: “the sky-high electric bills in Texas are partly due to a deregulated electricity system that allowed volatile wholesale costs to be passed directly to some consumers.”

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