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fossil fuel capitalism

Time has come to nationalize the US fossil fuel industry

By Carla Santos Skandier - ROAR, August 15, 2019

No other generation understands better the implication of climate change than today’s teens. As sixteen year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has famously summarized it, “this is an emergency.” But despite this emergency, the response from national governments has been to hype up the private sector as the silver bullet capable of providing the financial means and innovations needed to address climate change — even when the private sector itself is pointing out it can neither fund the massive costs nor create the technological breakthroughs necessary to do the job at the pace and scale required.

Fossil fuel companies are the enemy

Over the past few months a handful of US politicians, spurred by a youth-led climate mobilization, have started to wrap their heads around of what it will actually take to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change in the country. This has led to the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution back in February, and the recently proposed Climate Emergency Resolution.

Despite their different purposes, the proposed resolutions agree in one aspect of the climate fight; if we are to successfully transform our energy system in the next decade mobilization efforts will need to resemble those taken during World War II.

But let’s be clear about how WWII was fought in political-economic terms: when the private sector got in the way of defeating fascism, it was removed from the equation. If we want to win our fight against the fossil fuel industry, we need to center a similar commitment to nationalization.

It is well documented that in both World Wars the US government did not shy away from seizing the control of industries deemed crucial to the war efforts. This included the nationalization of the railroad system, telegraph, telephone and radio networks and manufacturers in World War I, in addition to coal mines, oil companies and refineries, and even a department store in World War II.

But nationalization initiatives did not stop there. In fact, the US nationalized what it considered “enemy” companies — US subsidiaries of German and Japanese companies, such as Merck & Co. If we were to translate those actions to today’s fight to keep any global temperature increase within the 1.5 Celsius limit, that means gaining control over companies that continuously work against climate safety in the country. In other words, fossil fuel companies are the enemy, and we need to treat them as such.

Who is Included in a Just Transition?: Considering social equity in Canada’s shift to a zero-carbon economy

By Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Zaee Deshpande - Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change, August 2019

As the international community moves to act on the climate crisis, governments are increasingly being forced to reckon with the social and economic costs of climate policies. The production and consumption of fossil fuels is the primary driver of global heating, so shifting to cleaner alternatives is necessary for long-term environmental and economic sustainability. However, the global economy is highly dependent on fossil fuels, so declines in the production and consumption of coal, oil and natural gas have the potential to negatively impact large numbers of workers and their communities in the short to medium term. In Canada alone, the fossil fuel industry accounts for hundreds of thousands of jobs and more than $100 billion dollars worth of economic output.

Efforts to reduce emissions from the fossil fuel sector have provoked calls for governments to ensure the transition to a cleaner economy is a just transition for affected workers and communities. The concept of a “just transition” for fossil fuel workers has long existed within the North American labour movement, but only in the past few years has it gained mainstream international attention. The 2015 Paris Agreement acknowledged the “imperatives of a just transition of the workforce.” And in 2018, more than 50 countries signed the Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration, which highlights the essential role of a just transition in the broader fight against climate change.

In Canada, the phrase “just transition” only began appearing in official policy documents around the time of the Paris Agreement, but it is now a formal priority for several governments across the country. Canada’s recent adoption of just transition principles has emerged almost exclusively in the context of the government-mandated phaseout of coal-fired electricity generation. Under a patchwork of provincial and federal policies, nearly all coal power plants and their associated coal mines will be shuttered by 2030.3 To mitigate the costs of the phaseout to coal workers and coal towns, the provincial government of Alberta — home to the largest share of the coal industry — together with the federal government have implemented or announced a variety of just transition policies since 2016. Targeted programs include income support and skills retraining for coal workers as well as infrastructure investments in affected communities. These governments continue to explore initiatives to provide support to coal communities as they undergo the transition to a cleaner economy.

Read the report (PDF).

Earth Srike: Intersecting Labour and Environmental Movements

By various - Earth Strike and IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, 2019

The scientific consensus is clear. Climate change is happening. It is happening now and it’s impacts are only going to get worse.

Climate change is not a stand alone issue, it affects and exacerbates all of the existing inequalities and exploitations within our society. In our struggle to fight against climate change we stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting against racism, sexism and colonialism inherent within global capitalism.

Climate change will not be solved through individual lifestyle changes. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions. To tackle climate change therefore we must challenge the power of these companies and the governments that support them.

Simply shifting the concentration of wealth to other so-called “sustainable industries” will not change the over- consumptive and self destructive drive of capitalism that has caused climate change and the mass extinction of species. Nor will it remove the ability of those with wealth to buy political power and get away with their planet killing practices.

Whilst increasingly the global economy is becoming an automated and auto-managed machine, labour still has power. The current economic system depends on the participation of a large labour force for both the extraction of natural resources and to perpetuate the unsustainable cycle of global consumption.

History has demonstrated that when a significant amount of the labour force organises for industrial action they can bring the bosses to the negotiating table and extract real gains for the workers. Likewise the environmental movement has demonstrated that community-led organising and direct resistance to natural exploitation can successfully defend ecological and social justice.

By bringing these two movements together, ending our self-destructive participation in the techno-industrial complex and resisting the capitalist economics of infinite growth we can change the current system and prevent global environmental catastrophe.

Earth Strike is therefore uniting the green and red by building for a global general climate strike. The IWW Environmental Committee recognises the huge importance of this initiative and will play it’s part to support it.

Read the report (PDF).

Internationalising the Green New Deal: Strategies for Pan-European Coordination

By Daniel Aldana Cohen, Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, and Thea Riofrancos - Common Wealth, 2019

Climate politics are today bursting to life like never before. For four decades, market fundamentalists in the United States and United Kingdom have blocked ambitious efforts to deal with the climate crisis. But now, the neoliberal hegemony is crumbling, while popular climate mobilisations grow stronger every month. There has never been a better moment to transform politics and attack the climate emergency.

When the climate crisis first emerged into public consciousness in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were consolidating a neoliberal doctrine that banished the most powerful tools to confront global heating— public investment and collective action.

Instead, neoliberals sought to free markets from democratically imposed constraints and the power of mass mobilisation. Thatcher insisted that there was no alternative to letting corporations run roughshod over people and planet alike in the name of profit. Soon, New Democrats and New Labour agreed. While the leaders of the third way spoke often of climate change, their actual policies let fossil capital keep drilling and burning. Afraid to intervene aggressively in markets, they did far too little to build a clean energy alternative.

Then the financial crisis of 2008 and the left revival that exploded in its wake laid bare the failures of the neoliberal project. An alternative political economic project is now emerging—and not a moment too soon. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it, keeping global warming below catastrophic levels will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” In other words: public investment and collective action.

Fortunately, movements on both sides of the Atlantic have been building strength to mount this kind of alternative to market fundamentalism. On the heels of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Democratic primary campaign breathed new life into the American left and its electoral prospects. Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party, spurred by a vibrant grassroots mobilisation, gives those of us in the U.S. hope: if New Labour could give way to Corbynism, surely Clintonism can give way to the left wing of the Democratic party. In the U.K., drawing on tactics from the Sanders campaign, Momentum has developed a new model of mass mobilisation to transform a fossilised political party. It’s restoring the dream that formal politics can be a means for genuinely democratic political organising. In turn, U.S. leftists are learning from Momentum’s innovations.

The vision of the Green New Deal that has taken shape in the United States in the past few months is in many ways a culmination of the U.S. left’s revival. The Green New Deal’s modest ambition is to do all that this moment requires: decarbonise the economy as quickly as humanly possible by investing massively to electrify everything, while bringing prodigious amounts of renewable power online; all this would be done in a way that dismantles inequalities of race, class and gender. The Green New Deal would transform the energy and food systems and the broader political economy of which they are a part.

Read the report (PDF).

Extinction Rebellion Must Evolve to Tackle Our Systemic Climate Crisis

By Steve Rushton - Occupy.Com, May 9, 2019

The movement known as Extinction Rebellion (XR) has pushed climate change firmly into the British consciousness, clearing the political hangover left by the never-ending Brexit fog. But there are constructive critiques to this monumental, London-centred climate activism that bear mentioning. Namely, what does this movement need to do to gather enough popular support and halt the ongoing climate meltdown.

XR takes over London

For 10 days in April, Extinction Rebellion created headline disruption, taking over prominent sites across London, including Parliament Square. They demanded that the UK government "tell the truth" about the scale of the climate crisis; enact legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025; and do both through a Citizens Assembly (more on citizens assemblies here).

People last month participated in the tens of thousands, and many of then were new to activism. Holding these sites created space for public assemblies and direct action. When police arrested activists – more than 1,000 in total – more came forward until jail cells were full. Actions went far beyond London, from road blocks in Brussels to stopping a coal train in Australia, and die-ins as well as other actions from India to South Africa to Seattle.

Pressure from XR made Labour table a motion in Parliament to declare a climate emergency. The Welsh assembly did the same just days before. Now, as XR expands its effective activism globally, it is worth asking: what does this movement need to do to stop the climate catastrophe?

Sea Change: Climate Emergency, Jobs and Managing the Phase-Out of UK Oil and Gas Extraction

By Greg Muttitt, Anna Markova, and Matthew Crighton - Oil Change International, Platform, and Friends of the Earth Scotland, May 2019

This new report released by Oil Change International, Platform and Friends of the Earth Scotland shows that a well-managed energy transformation based on Just Transition principles can meet UK climate commitments while protecting livelihoods and economic well-being, provided that the right policies are adopted, and that the affected workers, trade unions and communities are able to effectively guide these policies.

This report examines the future of UK offshore oil and gas extraction in relation to climate change and employment. It finds that:

  • The UK’s 5.7 billion barrels of oil and gas in already-operating oil and gas fields will exceed the UK’s share in relation to Paris climate goals – whereas industry and government aim to extract 20 billion barrels;
  • Recent subsidies for oil and gas extraction will add twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as the phase-out of coal power saves;
  • Given the right policies, job creation in clean energy industries will exceed affected oil and gas jobs more than threefold.

In light of these findings, the UK and Scottish Governments face a choice between two pathways that stay within the Paris climate limits:

  1. Deferred collapse: continue to pursue maximum extraction by subsidising companies and encouraging them to shed workers, until worsening climate impacts force rapid action to cut emissions globally; the UK oil industry collapses, pushing many workers out of work in a short space of time. Or:
  2. Managed transition: stop approving and licensing new oil and gas projects, begin a phase-out of extraction and a Just Transition for workers and communities, negotiated with trade unions and local leaders, and in line with climate change goals, while building quality jobs in a clean energy economy.

The report recommends that the UK and Scottish Governments:

  • Stop issuing licenses and permits for new oil and gas exploration and development, and revoke undeveloped licenses;
  • Rapidly phase out all subsidies for oil and gas extraction, including tax breaks, and redirect them to fund a Just Transition;
  • Enable rapid building of the clean energy industry through fiscal and policy support to at least the extent they have provided to the oil industry, including inward investment in affected regions and communities;
  • Open formal consultations with trade unions to develop and implement a Just Transition strategy for oil-dependent regions and communities.

Read the text (PDF).

Gulf South for a Green New Deal Policy Platform

By Colette Pichon Battle, et. al. - Gulf South Rising, Spring 2019

The Gulf South is uniquely positioned to be a national leader in the movement for a Green New Deal. With the climate crisis accelerating faster than even most scientific predictions, deep investment in Gulf South frontline communities will yield an opportunity for this region to be a global leader in equitable approaches to a socio-economic transformation that builds wealth and sustainability for the nation and the world.

Gulf South for a Green New Deal is a multi-state effort to address the impact of the global climate crisis on some of the most unique communities in the US. In May 2019, more than 800 advocates, farmers, fisherfolk, and community leaders from across the Gulf South gathered in New Orleans around a shared vision to advance regional sustainability in the face of the global climate crisis.

The creation of the Gulf South for a Green New Deal (GS4GND) Policy Platform was a six-month process anchored by the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP). Using techniques from the People’s Movement Assembly Process, GCCLP facilitated a five-state process of formalizing frontline voices. Through a broader regional organizing effort, over 100 original signatories are listed herein. Additional signatories will be updated quarterly.

This document is a collective assertion that the Gulf South must be included in the development of national policy. This platform is not a comprehensive policy vision, but rather a starting point and living tool of regional alignment and broad organizing in the Gulf South. The principles, goals, and strategies of this Policy Platform are offered to address what a Green New Deal must look like to be successful in the Gulf South.

We offer this document as a step towards climate justice, self-determination, and dignity for all people everywhere.

As goes the South, so goes the nation.

Fuel to the Fire: How Geoengineering Threatens to Enrich Fossil Fuels and Accelerate the Climate Crisis

By Carroll Muffett and Steven Felt - Center for International Environmental Law, February 2019

The present report investigates the early, ongoing, and often surprising role of the fossil fuel industry in developing, patenting, and promoting key geoengineering technologies. It examines how the most heavily promoted strategies for carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation modification depend on the continued production and combustion of carbon-intensive fuels for their viability.

It analyzes how the hypothetical promise of future geoengineering is already being used by major fossil fuel producers to justify the continued production and use of oil, gas, and coal for decades to come. It exposes the stark contrast between the emerging narrative that geoengineering is a morally necessary adjunct to dramatic climate action, and the commercial arguments of key proponents that geoengineering is simply a way of avoiding or reducing the need for true systemic change, even as converging science and technologies demonstrate that shift is both urgently needed and increasingly feasible. Finally, it highlights the growing incoherence of advocating for reliance on speculative and risky geoengineering technologies in the face of mounting evidence that addressing the climate crisis is less about technology than about political will.

Read the report (Link).

Beyond the Nation State: A Critical Look at Venezuela’s Current Crisis

By Brooke Anderson and Mateo Nube - Movement Generation, February 2019

Venezuela has made headlines in the last few weeks, as Venezuelan opposition leader and National Assembly head Juan Guaidó has declared himself interim President, throwing the country into turmoil. Current President, Nicolás Maduro has called the effort a coup. Meanwhile, thousands of people have taken to the streets on both sides, with a death toll of 26 and rising. The Trump administration, many Western European countries, and the right-leaning bloc of Latin American governments have recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela.  Meanwhile Russia, China and others are backing Maduro. A third bloc, most notably Mexico and Uruguay, are calling for a peaceful transition through new elections.

I recently sat down with my co-worker Mateo Nube, collective member of the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, for more political and economic context to the current crisis. In the interview, Nube unpacks the history and promise of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and beyond; the roots and early warning signs of the authoritarianism we’re now seeing play out in Venezuela; the lost opportunity for Venezuela to leverage its oil money wealth toward a just transition away from extractivism and toward a regenerative economy; and the dangers of U.S. interventionism in the conflict.

Brooke Anderson: Your family came up under dictatorships in both Venezuela and Bolivia, so this is personal for you. Give us some context to how you come to the question of Venezuela.

Mateo Nube: My family has roots in Venezuela. We originally  fled the Holocaust in the 30’s and 40’s and settled in Caracas [Venezuela] from Berlin. My mom grew up under Marcos Pérez Jiménez, the military dictatorship that really marked and traumatized Venezuelans. In turn, I was born in Bolivia in 1971 and spent the first 10 years of my life under military dictatorship there. So I’m politically steeped in resisting military authoritarianism and building social movements to not only overthrow the military but to redistribute wealth and power. So the Venezuelan context really marked my family and informed my political orientation.

So the Venezuelan context really marked my family and informed my political orientation.

Brooke Anderson: What’s actually happening on the ground in Venezuela right now?

Mateo Nube: The situation in Venezuela right now is dire and painful to witness. It is a mixture of a political, economic, and humanitarian crisis. The man who is controlling the state of Venezuela is Nicolás Maduro. He is the successor of Hugo Chávez, who led the Bolivarian Revolution for the last two decades, prior to his death in 2013. Maduro is currently facing a challenge from Juan Guaidó, the current head of the National Assembly. Guaidó is arguing that Maduro is not a legitimate President and that the constitution dictates that he, Guaidó, is the next in line. This contestation coming from the opposition is largely the right wing.

Neither of these leaders has tremendous legitimacy. There are two men (representing two political factions) who are calling themselves President of Venezuela. They are both claiming power in a way that disrespects the constitutional process of Venezuela. We can definitely call Guaidó’s move an attempted coup and unconstitutional. If we do, we also have to recognize that Maduro won the 2018 elections after banning the main opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, and multiple opposition parties from running and dissolved the opposition-controlled National Assembly in March 2017 through a stacked Supreme Court. If a right-wing political party had made these moves, we would have loudly denounced them.

I am Not a Criminal; The Air Polluters are the Criminals

By Allan Todd - London Green Left, January 28, 2019

In Milton Keynes, on Friday 25 January, I was one of 24 Greenpeace activists found guilty of ‘aggravated trespass’. All those (myself included) without any previous criminal convictions, were given 12-month conditional discharges, with damages and court costs of £105 each. Those who had got previous convictions were, in addition, fined £200 each.

Our case arose from a Greenpeace ‘air pollution’ action back in August 2018, which peacefully locked-down VoltsWagon's (VW) UK HQ in Milton Keynes for most of one day - according to VW, this prevented 960 employees from getting into work, costing the company £166,000.

After the verdicts, I was minded of what the Ancient Greek playwright, Euripides, wrote: 

‘Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.’

The background

Many companies - such as Volvo - have already committed to phasing out the production of diesel vehicles. However, the VW ‘stable’ - which is responsible for 1 in 5 of all new diesel vehicles being put on UK roads today - had refused, for over a year, all Greenpeace requests to discuss this issue.

But, on the very day of that Greenpeace action, VW finally agreed to discuss the issue; and, 3 months later, have announced they will phase out all diesel production by 2040.

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