You are here

extractivism

Breathing in the benefits: How an accelerated coal phase-out can reduce health impacts and costs for Albertans

By Benjamin Israël, Kim Perrotta, Joe Vipond, Leigh Allard, and Vanessa Foran - Pembina Institute, September 2016

With the phase-out of coal power announced by the provincein November 2015, Albertans stand to avoid significant health impacts caused by coal pollution. By extension, afurtheraccelerated phase out of coal power facilities would both hastenand amplify those avoided health impacts.The health benefits and costs savings in avoided health outcomes would be significant, and should be consideredin the government’s planning of the coal phase-out from now to 2030.

While the provincial government has announced a coal phase-out, they have not yet released a transition schedule. This analysis assesses the relative benefits of an accelerated stepwise transition away from coal, as proposed by the Pembina Institute,versus the back-loaded phase-out that otheranalyses haveposited.

In 2012, when the federal government finalized its coal regulations that —in effect —reduce electricity generation from coal plants, Environment Canada(as it was called at that time)estimated considerable health impacts would be avoided, usinghighly regarded modelling techniques. Logically, thesesignificantbenefits from reducing coal necessarily mean that the use of coal for power generation causesconsiderablehealth impacts in the first place.

By extrapolating the health benefit results from Environment Canada’s analysis, this report highlights the full impact of coal-fired generation in Albertaand indicates attainable benefits associated with the province’s coal phase- out.When the federal government weakened its proposed coal regulations back in 2012 in response to lobbying from some coal generators, allowing coal plants to continue unabated longer than first proposed,it left health savings on the table. Alberta can now grasp these savings byaccelerating our transition away from coal-fired electricity.

Read the report (PDF).

“A Preliminary Environmental Equity Assessment of California’s Cap-And-Trade Program

By Rachel Morello-Frosch, Manuel Pastor, James Sadd, Lara Cushing, Madeline Wander, and Allen Zhu - California Environmental Justice Alliance, September 2016

California’s cap-and-trade program is a key strategy for achieving reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act. For residents living near large industrial facilities, AB32 offered the possibility that along with reductions in GHGs, emissions of other harmful pollutants would also be decreased in their neighborhoods. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary GHG, indirectly impacts health by causing climate change but is not directly harmful to health in the communities where it is emitted. However, GHG emissions are usually accompanied by releases of other pollutants such as particulate matter (PM10) and air toxics that can directly harm the health of nearby residents.

In this brief, we assess inequalities in the location of GHG-emitting facilities and in the amount of GHGs and PM10 emitted by facilities regulated under cap-and-trade. We also provide a preliminary evaluation of changes in localized GHG emissions from large point sources since the advent of the program in 2013. To do this, we combined pollutant emissions data from California’s mandatory GHG and criteria pollutant reporting systems, data on neighborhood demographics from the American Community Survey, cumulative environmental health impacts from the California Environmental Protection Agency’s CalEnviroScreen tool, and information from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) about how regulated companies fulfilled their obligations under the first compliance period (2013-14) of the cap-and-trade program. Our methodology is described in greater detail in the appendix to this report.

In this analysis, we focus primarily on what are called “emitter covered emissions,” which correspond to localized, in-state emissions (derived mostly from fossil fuels) from industries that are subject to regulation under cap-and-trade. The cap-and-trade program also regulates out-of-state emissions associated with electricity imported into the state and, beginning in 2015, began regulating distributed emissions that result from the burning of fuels such as gasoline and natural gas in off-site locations (e.g., in the engines of vehicles and in homes).

We found that regulated GHG-emitting facilities are located in neighborhoods with higher proportions of residents of color and residents living in poverty. In addition, facilities that emit the highest levels of both GHGs and PM10 are also more likely to be located in communities with higher proportions of residents of color and residents living in poverty. This suggests that the public health and environmental equity co-benefits of California’s cap-and-trade program could be enhanced if there were more emissions reductions among the larger emitting facilities that are located in disadvantaged communities. In terms of GHG emission trends, in-state emissions have increased on average for several industry sectors since the advent of the cap-and-trade program, with many high emitting companies using offset projects located outside of California to meet their compliance obligations. Enhanced data collection and availability can strengthen efforts to track future changes in GHG and co-pollutant emissions and inform decision making in ways that incentivize deeper in-state reductions in GHGs and better maximize public health benefits and environmental equity goals.

Read the report (PDF).

Chilcot inquiry: don’t mention the oil

By Greg Muttitt and David Whyte - Red Pepper, August 2016

The anti-war demonstration in London on 15 February 2003 was the biggest protest in British history. And probably the most popular slogan on the placards and banners that day was ‘No blood for oil’. It was a connection that seemed obvious to many on the march but was repeatedly ridiculed by supporters of the invasion of Iraq. Tony Blair said that ‘the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it.’

Why is it so easy to dismiss the idea that access to oil and the interests of those who profit from it may be part of the motive for war? Why, given our experience of wars though the ages, is this not the first question we ask? After all, as the celebrated General Smedley Butler famously observed after completing numerous military campaigns on behalf of the nascent US empire: ‘War is a racket. It always has been.’

By the standards of an official inquiry, Chilcot’s was utterly damning of a government that took the country to war without justification. But compared to the evidence Chilcot had, his conclusions were mild, because the questions he asked were limited. In particular, while noting that there was no convincing case for WMD, even at the time, Chilcot failed to ask how other political and economic motivations affected decisions.

Was it a war for oil?

A year after the February 2003 demonstration, an international opinion poll conducted by US think tank, the Pew Research Centre, asked sample populations from nine countries (the US, Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco and Jordan) about the ‘war on terrorism’. The majority in all but two countries (the US and Britain) thought it was ‘to control Mideast oil’. It is worth underlining that the question was not just asking about the invasion of Iraq, but about the motive for a war on terrorism full stop.

When it comes to the Iraq war, they were right. Evidence released with the report shows unequivocally that using Iraqi oil to boost British energy supplies was a central pre-war aim. A February 2002 Cabinet Office paper described the UK’s objectives as ‘preserving peace and stability in the Gulf and ensuring energy security‘. Right up to the withdrawal of British troops in 2009, successive British strategy documents, also released by Chilcot, maintain two consistent objectives: transfer the oil sector from public ownership to multinationals, and ensure that BP and Shell get a large share. Sometimes a third oil objective appears: to make Iraq an advocate of low oil prices within OPEC.

Smoke and Mirrors: Lonmin’s failure to address housing conditions at Marikana, South Africa

By staff - Amnesty International, August 16, 2016

Since 2012 Amnesty International has commented and campaigned on the serious policing failures that led to the deaths at Marikana, calling for full accountability and reparations for the victims and their families. That work continues.

This report examines abuses of the right to adequate housing of mine workers at Lonmin’s Marikana mine operation. Its primary focus is an examination of Lonmin’s response to the findings of the Farlam Commission.

In this regard it looks both at what Lonmin has done and what the company has said about the situation.

Read the text (PDF).

Tunisia: on the frontlines of the struggle against climate change

By Hamza Hamouchene - ROARmag, July 28, 2016

Kerkennah is a group of islands lying off the east coast of Tunisia in the Gulf of Gabès, around 20km away from the mainland city of Sfax. The two main islands are Chergui and Gharbi. When approaching the islands by ferry, one is struck by a curious sight: the coastal waters are divided into countless parcels, separated from one another by thousands of palm tree leaves. This is what Kerkennis call charfia, a centuries-old fishing method ingeniously designed to lure fish into a capture chamber from where they can be easily recovered.

As the land is arid, agricultural activity is limited to subsistence farming. For the islanders fishing is one of the key economic activities, but for big multinational corporations it is the exploitation of oil and gas.

Despite a new article in the Tunisian constitution stipulating state sovereignty over natural resources and transparency in the related contracts, oil and gas companies continue to garner obscene profits and enjoy impunity. At the same time, local communities continue to shoulder the externalized social and environmental costs of this industry.

The Kerkennah archipelago is being doubly dispossessed and doubly threatened: first by the effects of disruptive global warming and second by the extractive operations of oil and gas companies, bent on making super-profits at the expense of the archipelago’s development. Caught in the intricate web of capitalist globalization, the collision between neoliberalism and climate change is potentially disastrous for the people of Kerkennah.

Going to Extremes: The Anti-Government Extremism Behind the Growing Movement to Seize America’s Public Lands

By staff - Center for Western Priorities, July 7, 2016

The 2016 armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon provided the American public with a ringside seat to a disturbing trend on U.S. public lands: extremist and militia groups using America’s national forests, parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges to advance their anti-government beliefs.

But these far right-wing organizations are not operating in a vacuum. To the contrary, the armed insurrection in Oregon and Nevada before—led by Ammon Bundy and the Bundy family—share the same foundations as land transfer schemes promoted by some elected leaders in states throughout the West. Both rely upon a philosophy based in vehement anti-government ideologies, both have connections to organizations that espouse armed resistance, both employ pseudo-legal theories to justify their actions, and both use scholarly support from conspiracy theorists and discredited academics.

Our nation’s parks and network of public lands are one of our finest democratic achievements. Americans see management of public lands as one of the things our government does best. But over the last four years, politicians and special interest groups in 11 Western states and in Congress have tried to seize many of these places and turn them over to state and private control.

The elected officials supporting state seizure of U.S. public lands couch their arguments carefully, but our research shows their close associations to extreme individuals, groups, and ideology characterized by antigovernment paranoia and a pseudo-legal approach to the Constitution.

Since the beginning of 2015, 54 land seizure bills have been introduced into Western states, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. At least 22 state legislators with direct connections to anti-government ideologies or extremist groups were the primary sponsors on 29 of those bills.

Sitting at the hub of the movement and functioning as the bridge between extremism and the mainstream political debate are Utah Rep. Ken Ivory, Montana Sen. Jennifer Fielder, and their non-profit, the American Lands Council. A close analysis of Rep. Ivory and Sen. Fielder’s activities, and those of other active land seizure proponents at the state level, shows how these efforts are a functional part of an aggressive anti-government movement that will grow more potent if reasonable Americans don’t take action.

Read the report (PDF).

A Deadly Shade of Green: Threats to Environmental Human Rights Defenders in Latin America

By staff - Center for International Environmental Law, et. al., Summer 2016

On 3 March 2016, a wave of indignation and repudiation swept the world, condemning the brutal and cowardly assassination of Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental activist and community leader who inspired thousands of people through her work promoting the rights of the Lenca people.

Her death came amid a growing number of attacks against human rights defenders, particularly campaigners peacefully defending the environment, the right to land and the rights of indigenous peoples. This situation is not limited to Honduras, but can be seen throughout the continent, in Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, and Ecuador. This long list is being added to by an increasing number of countries that seem willing to put economic interests before those of people and territories. Reports from numerous organizations confirm a steady deterioration of the situation, highlighting the fact that Latin America has become the most dangerous region in the world for environmental activists.

Various types of attack have been committed against campaigners and their organizations. They range from surveillance campaigns, harassment, and being discredited in the media and social networks, to physical assaults, acts of torture, enforced disappearances and assassinations. In addition, there is widespread corruption and impunity in many countries where relations between state and non-state actors are often ambiguous. We should note, in particular, the attacks against female human rights defenders, who face threats of sexual violence and smear campaigns based on their gender. All of this is exacerbated by the context of increasing criminalization of social protest, and use of the law to suppress dissent in Latin American and Caribbean societies.

Despite the grim outlook, there are reasons to remain optimistic. Civil society has never looked so strong, organized and determined. International solidarity strengthened by the globalization of exchanges between people and organizations makes it possible to bring these struggles out of isolation, and demand accountability to ensure the effective implementation of human rights commitments.

Read the report (EN PDF) | (ES PDF).

Unfair Market Value II: Coal Exports and the Value of Federal Coal

By Clark Williams-Derry - Sightline Institute, June 17, 2016

This report documents massive exports of federally owned coal from 2000-15. The US Bureau of Land Management sold private companies the right to mine this coal for a pittance—in some cases, for less than 20 cents per ton. And when Asian demand was red-hot, these companies made massive profits selling millions of tons of federal coal overseas. Nonetheless, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has essentially ignored export economics when setting the “fair market value” that it will accept for federal coal leases. Now that the Department of Interior has placed a three-year moratorium on new coal leases pending a thorough review of federal coal policies, BLM has an ideal opportunity for a thorough review of the economics of exports. And our report points to evidence that by ignoring exports, the BLM has been selling many federal coal leases at just a fraction of their true economic value.

Read the report (PDF).

Venezuelan Social Movements Converge on Supreme Court, Demand Injunction Against Mining Arc

By Lucas Koerner - Venezuela Analysis, June 5, 2016

Caracas, June 5, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Activists from grassroots organizations protested outside the Venezuelan Supreme Court Tuesday to demand that the body put a halt to a controversial mega-mining project spearheaded by the Maduro government.

The demonstration was organized by the Platform for the Nullity of the Mining Arc, an alliance of diverse movements and leading public intellectuals that emerged in response to a law authorizing open-pit mining in 12 percent of the nation’s territory. 

In February, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro used emergency economic decree powers granted by the Supreme Court to declare nearly 112 square kilometers of the mineral-rich eastern Amazonian state of Bolivar a “strategic development zone”, which will be opened to as many as 150 national and transnational firms for the extraction of gold, iron, diamonds, and coltan.

The government has defended the initiative as a necessary step towards a post-oil productive economy amid a severe economic crisis triggered by the collapse of global crude prices, the principal source of Venezuela’s foreign currency earnings. 

Nonetheless, the project has sparked vocal opposition from prominent leftist academics and former high officials under late President Hugo Chávez, including ex-Environment Minister Ana Elisa Osorio, internationally-renowned sociologist Edgardo Lander, Major General Cliver Alcala, former Minister of Education and Electricity Hector Navarro, Indigenous University of Tauca Rector Esteban Emilio Mosonyi, ex-Commerce Minister Gustavo Marquez, and former 1999 constitutional assembly member Freddy Gutierrez.

Also raising their voices in outrage over the decree are a plethora of indigenous, environmental, eco-feminist, and socialist collectives, who rallied together with the ex-officials outside the Supreme Court in Caracas in order to deliver a formal nullity plea to the body requesting an injunction against the mining project on constitutional grounds.

Post-Growth and Post-Extractivism: Two Sides of the Same Cultural Transformation

By Alberto Acosta; Translated by Dana Brablec - Alternautas, June 4, 2016

Marx said that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps things are very different. It may be that revolutions are the act by which the human race travelling in the train applies the emergency brake.

Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)

Mainstream thinking – embedded within capitalist globalisation – leads us to accept the impossibility to imagine an economy that does not promote growth, as much as a world without oil, mining and agribusiness is impossible. Within this mainstream thinking, we can find people from every political stance, from neoliberals to socialists.

Reality, however, is that we must overcome such views, that is the great task of this moment. On the one hand, we must rethink the question of economic growth, and free ourselves from its shackles before we enter into a global socio-environmental debacle with unforeseeable consequences. On the other, it is increasingly urgent to move from an extractivist perspective focused on the demands of capital, towards a view that prioritises a dignified life to its fullest extent and enables the construction of structurally democratic societies. This task puts the capacity of critical thinking to test, as well as the capacities of our societies, states, and that of social and political organisations to engage in innovative and creative thinking.

Closing the door to this debate would entail closing the door on democracy itself.

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.