Archives

Organizations

WATCH: Zero Days [U.S. & Israel Attack on Iran via Cyberwarefare, 2016 Documentary]

November 28, 2020

 

 

“What does it mean to be anti-imperialist? It means supporting nations under attack by empire even when or if it is opportunistically inconvenient. It means to stand with all nations under attack, without prejudice, without wavering, and to never serve interests of empire – even if it means you sacrifice popularity or lose social media followers.”

 

Alexandra Valiente, Internationalist360

 

 

“A black ops cyber-attack launched by the U.S. and Israel on an Iranian nuclear facility unleashed malware with unforeseen consequences. The Stuxnet virus infiltrated its pre-determined target only to spread its infection outward, ultimately exposing systemic vulnerabilities that threatened the very safety of the planet. Delve deep into the burgeoning world of digital warfare in this documentary thriller from Academy Award® winning filmmaker Alex Gibney.

 

[Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by Alex Gibney are those of the filmmaker’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of WKOG. Any thoughts in the following interview contrary to WKOG’s expressed opinions are not intended to malign any region, group, country or people.]

 

DIRECTORS STATEMENT ALEX GIBNEY

What do you do when your government launches a global war and keeps it a secret?

That’s the question that haunted me when making “Zero Days,” a film about the spectre of a new generation of classified cyber weapons.

I started out making a small film investigating “Stuxnet,” the self-replicating computer virus invented by the US and Israel to infiltrate and sabotage the Iranian nuclear centrifuges at Natanz.   What I discovered was a massive clandestine operation involving the CIA, the NSA, the US military and Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad to build and launch secret cyber “bombs” that could plunge the world into a devastating series of criss-crossing attacks on critical infrastructure, shutting down electricity, poisoning water supplies and turning cars, trains and planes into deadly weapons.  Even more terrifying, this science fiction scenario, possibly resulting in the loss of millions of lives, could happen without anyone – including our own government – knowing who is responsible.

In the words of David Byrne, You may ask yourself: How did we get here?  

When I started, I knew that the Stuxnet worm (a self-replicating virus) had spread all over the world.  The secrecy of the operation was blown.  But every US official I asked about the operation either refused to talk about it or even admit that it happened.

Everyone justified their silence with claims of national security.  As Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and the NSA, told me, a covert operation “automatically goes into the do-not-talk-about-it box.”

But Stuxnet wasn’t just another covert op.  It represented a fundamental change in the threat landscape.  For the first time in history, a computer virus crossed the threshold from the virtual reality of 1s and 0s to the physical world.  Stuxnet took control of machines and commanded them to destroy themselves.  Then the code leaked all over the world so that it could be re-purposed by other nations, criminals and terrorists.

Keeping that secret was like saying, after Hiroshima, “what bomb?”

And it reached the height of absurdity when I learned that the Department of Homeland Security triggered a high alert to protect the US from Stuxnet, since the NSA never let the other branches of government know that the weapon we launched was now attacking the homeland.  We had met the enemy and it was us.

Since government officials were trying to hide the dangers they had caused, my team and I reached out to others.  We first contacted the cyber detectives, Liam O’Murchu and Eric Chien, from the anti-virus company Symantec, who were the first ones to discover the purpose of Stuxnet.  They took apart the weapon for us so that we could understand both its delivery system and payload.

Then we traveled to Moscow – the capital of cyber crime and headquarters for Russia’s cyber weapons units – and to Israel, the key partner for the US in the development of Stuxnet.  What we discovered in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, by talking to politicians, journalists and – on background – agents for Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, was that “Stuxnet” was not a technical computer story at all.  Rather, it was part of a much larger operation which involved the Mossad, the CIA, the US military unit, Cyber Command, and included covert operations – sometimes directed at American companies, like Microsoft – the assassination of Iranian scientists, and weapons of cyber mass destruction that made “Stuxnet” look like a computer game.

Armed with this level of detail, we returned to the United States and were able to persuade some people inside the NSA and the CIA to talk to us provided we kept their identities a secret.  By now, it’s well known that the Obama Administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined.  So we had to take careful precautions to protect our sources.

We recorded interviews on audio recorders with no wifi capability, transcribed them on electric typewriters and then destroyed the data cards.  We used a system of codes to identify the sources and then integrated their testimony in a “script” that was factually accurate but which masked phrases that could lead investigators to identify our witnesses.   Then we used a system called “Depthkit,” to photograph our “essential source” via a 3-D video capture device that allowed us to break down a human face into separate fields of flesh, dots and lines.  In final post, we recombined those elements with new computer tilts and pans to portray a cyber whistleblower whose “hacked” look harmonized with the film’s animation of the actual Stuxnet code.

(Note: in the code animation sequences we only used excerpts of the Stuxnet code, which would not allow anyone reconstitute the weapon.  That said, our co-producer, Javier Botero, didn’t have much difficulty obtaining the entire code, something that makes the government secrecy about it all the more absurd.)

Our whistleblowers were able to give us an entirely new perspective on the Stuxnet operation, known inside the government as “Olympic Games,” and the new world of cyber weapons.   Among the key elements of information in “Zero Days” that have been revealed in the popular media for the first time are:

-The US, as a matter of policy, has not dedicated sufficient resources to cyber defense. Instead, it is focusing on cyber offense, and hoping that the threat of counterattack will prevent our enemies from launching cyber weapons against us.  So far, that strategy has failed.  Russia, China, Iran and North Korea have all launched limited cyber attacks against us and likely hidden thousands of backdoors to computer networks that have the potential of damaging key portions of our critical infrastructure: power grids, water filtration plants, transportation systems, heat, air conditioning, etc

-While “Olympic Games” was a joint operation between the US and Israel, each country had the ability to modify and deploy the OG cyber weapons in ways they wished. This caused animosity and tension, when the Mossad – pressured by an impatient Bibi Netanyahu – launched, without consultation with the US, a virulent version of the virus that spread all over the world.  This raises very difficult questions about the nature of our relationship with Israel.

-Following “Olympic Games,” the NSA developed far more powerful cyber weapons. One operation involving those weapons, named “Nitro Zeus” (disclosed for the first time in “Zero Days”) had the capacity to jam all of Iran’s air defenses and to shut down many of the key power grids in Iran.  As one of our sources told us, “the science fiction cyber war scenario is here.”

-Department of Defense officials in US Cyber Command showed a remarkable lack of sophistication or concern about the amount of destruction that these weapons could cause. As one source noted, when key power plants are shut down, they don’t just “pop back up.  It’s more like Humpty Dumpty…lots of people die.”  In discussing targets in Iran, State Department lawyers objected to the fact that US cyber attacks would shut down hospitals causing large numbers of fatalities.  The Department of Defense overruled those objections.

-“Olympic Games” was a CIA-led operation. For every attack, an officer from the CIA had to stand behind NSA computer operators and give them attack commands.

-When Iran, in retaliation for Stuxnet, launched a cyber attack on US banks, the US government was aware that the attacks were coming from Iran but did not counterattack because the the computers controlling the “botnet” (a network of private computers infected with malicious software)was in another country and the US State Department was concerned that a US attack might involve a friendly nation in a growing cyber conflict.  This highlights one of the dilemmas of cyber war: attribution is very difficult, raising the spectre of “false flags” and mistaken counterattacks that could lead to a cyber world war.

-The “Stuxnet” virus was autonomous. No operator commanded it to attack.  Once Stuxnet found its target inside Natanz, it was programmed to launch its attack on its own, without human intervention.  An increasing number of  cyber weapons share this characteristic.

-The secrecy over offensive cyberweapons and their capability is not only impeding democratic debate but also making us less safe. Indeed, our sources came forward because they believe that secrecy itself is putting us all at enormous, possibly existential, risk.

-The revelation of “Nitro Zeus” sheds new light on the Obama Administration’s deal with Iran on nuclear weapons. While many critics have suggested that Obama was negotiating from a position of weakness, it is likely – given “Nitro Zeus” – that he was negotiating from a position of strength, knowing that the US could virtually shut down the entire country in the event that Iran cheated on the deal.

-Our sources have confirmed that, since the launch of Stuxnet, offensive cyber operations – conducted by nation states – are an every day occurrence. (O’Muchu and Chien from Symantec have confirmed that the number of nation state attacks have increased exponentially in the last few years.) Government secrecy and the inability of the media to report on this story is the only reason we don’t know more about cyberweapons. They are being launched – by and against us – every day.

 

Alex Gibney, April 2016 – New York City

 

The Unannounced Death of the Green New Deal: Part 2 – An Object of Projection

November 5, 2020

By Michael Swifte

 

[Part 1: The Unannounced Death of the Green New Deal: What Happened to the People’s Plan?]

 

 

You don’t need an impeccable record — if you champion the Green New Deal, the movement will have your back.

 

—Michelle Goldberg, New York Times [SOURCE]

 

 

 

The Green New Deal is as much a narrative device as a set of policy levers.

 

—Julian Brave Noisecat, Vice president of Policy and Strategy, Data for Progress [SOURCE]

 

In Part 1 of this series I described the shift in messaging and language that accompanied the apparent silencing of demands for well principled engagement with advocates of First Nations and frontline communities. I posed questions about the integrity of the Green New Deal process in light of the unanswered demands placed before New Consensus by members of Climate Justice Alliance.

In Part 2 I will explore how the elements of the Green New Deal came together with the transfer of momentum from the People’s Climate Movement to the Sunrise Movement, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), and the Green New Deal brigade of progressive vehicles and Democrat aligned NGOs in the wake of the 2018 midterms. I will show how the momentum, built on the endorsement of the Green New Deal by grass roots advocates, was exploited to give Democratic presidential hopefuls a set of talking points and commitments.

The fuzziness of the “100% clean” language allowed candidates like Jay Inslee and Joe Biden to retain certain concessions for carbon capture utilization and storage. They were aided by progressive media outfits like Vox, Grist, New Republic and The Intercept chipping away at the scope of allowable “clean energy” sources. Mouthpieces for climate NGOs were careful not to acknowledge the concessions built into the climate plans of Democratic presidential hopefuls. Few if any took the time to point out that “clean energy” and “renewable energy” are 2 very different things. In fact one prominent writer/wonk suggested we leave the language “fuzzy”.

The interlocking directorates (Sunrise Movement, New Consensus, Justice Democrats and Data for Progress) that all connect back to Democrat aligned NGOs (World Resources Institute, Demos, the Center for American Progress and the Sierra Club), fashioned an object of projection for all who may benefit from what it represented. They fashioned a deal that promised a fossil fuel phase out, but it was not backed up by any scrutiny of bipartisan legislation designed to bring on a new oil boom.  Environmental NGOs promised to “vigorously” fight against fossil fuel friendly legislation, but they only offered under-resourced efforts. The Green New Deal proponents fashioned a set of policies and plans that offer to bring justice, but they cannot name the principles under which they engage with grass roots organisations.

Transferring the climate justice momentum

21 April 2017 to 2 November 2018

In April of 2017 the Climate Justice Alliance put out a short paper articulating the principles of a Just Transition. In it they pointed to the “false solutions” of carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS), fracking and “clean coal” making sure to direct the reader to the elements of extractivism that will not disappear if we allow any false solutions to continue to expand.

The path of extracting, transporting, processing, and consuming these technologies is paved with communities riddled with cancer, reproductive and respiratory disease, among other devastating health impacts. [SOURCE]

On the eve of the 2017 People’s Climate March in Washington Bernie Sanders and Mark Z Jacobson co-authored a piece for The Guardian calling for an “aggressive transition” to “clean, renewable solutions”. The authors confidently asserted that renewables can be at the center of plans for breaking our dependence on fossil fuels. Note the inclusion of the word “clean” in relation to the concept of ‘100%’.

University researchers and the not-for-profit Solutions Project have mapped out how we can achieve a 100% clean, renewable energy future for all 50 states and 139 countries by 2050. With their research, governments in the US and around the world can learn exactly how to break dependence on fossil fuel, why we don’t need fracking and how we can move aggressively in terms of sustainable energy and energy efficiency. [SOURCE]

Any confidence in the assertions that achieving 100% renewables is possible in the near term or the long term are founded in the work of Mark Z Jacobson et al. In August 2017 research was published that clearly frames real renewables as the core of a systemic response. While in many places biomass burning is erroneously regarded as ‘renewable’, Jacobson et al stick to wind, water and solar (WWS).

While some suggest that energy options aside from WWS [water, wind & solar], such as nuclear power, coal with carbon capture and sequestration (coal-CCS), biofuels, and bioenergy, can play major roles in solving these problems, all four of those technologies may represent opportunity costs in terms of carbon and health-affecting air-pollution emissions. [SOURCE]

In November 2017 John Noel from Clean Water Action identified a problem with the bipartisan political will for tax subsidies for enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Noel appears to be perennially under-resourced when it comes to resistance against legislation. His work ought to have been mentioned in Naomi Klein’s book ‘On Fire’. Both Klein and Noel have argued that EOR with tax credits for sequestered CO2 could massively expand US proven reserves.

Strange days in Washington, D.C. right now. New legislation dubbed the FUTURE Act is supposedly a climate solution. But in reality the FUTURE Act would put drinking water at risk, encourage more oil drilling without putting adequate protections in place, and add to the more than $20 billion in taxpayer subsidies the oil and gas industry enjoys every year. Yet some elected officials who fight tirelessly for more action on climate have been hooked and are supporting the bill. Why? [SOURCE]

Despite my active efforts on Twitter and elsewhere to monitor the political will for, and active resistance against tax credits for CCUS and EOR, I did not notice Noel’s work until recently. There appears to be a pattern of limp-wristed support for efforts to fight the tax credit/subsidy that was expanded in passing the provision of the FUTURE Act. In February of 2018 Noel was able to summon up a decent list of ENGO supporters to resist the FUTURE Act, but barely anyone noticed, and nobody took the time to highlight the bipartisan support it received in a way that enlightened the public.

Section 45Q is a handout to oil companies. If 45Q expands as proposed, the CO2-EOR subsidy benefiting oil producers alone could cost taxpayers as much $2.8 billion each year. That would make it the single biggest subsidy to the fossil fuel industry in the United States…

 

Expanding the tax credit for CO2-EOR disproportionately affects people of color and environmental justice communities, as low income and people of color are more likely to live near oil fields and be subjected to the associated pollution and health impacts. [SOURCE]

On February 9, 2018 the FUTURE Act provisions were passed with very little attention paid by climate justice NGOs. In April 2018 Data for Progress published a report commissioned by Justice Democrats called ‘The Future of the Party’. In it they argue that “The Democratic base is ready for multi-racial populism”, and that non-voters and young people should be targeted. The enduring theme of Data for Progress is that progressive candidates are the future of the party.

THERE IS NO QUESTION:
Democratic primary voters support a populist progressive agenda that ties racial justice to progressive economic populism. The days are long gone when a message proclaiming “the end of big government as we know it,” could win a Democratic primary. [SOURCE]

In May of 2018 the climate justice movement momentum was managed through the People’s Climate Movement (PCM), an organisation created after the success of the 2014 People’s Climate March. Its purpose is to engage a broad swathe of NGOs and advocacy groups around climate justice activism. As such the collective will of climate justice activists was reflected in their messaging which was in support of a “100% renewable economy” and a “just transition”. In an article for MintPress Jessica Corbett quotes both the PCM director Paul Getsos, and the executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Miya Yoshitani who went on to make the demand for a memorandum of agreement from New Consensus on behalf of the Climate Justice Alliance.

With the upcoming mobilization, PCM said it “aims to transform the energy of resistance into action by calling on leaders and elected officials to invest in real solutions to the climate crisis that prioritize the most impacted and vulnerable of our communities, like a massive, just transition to a 100 percent renewable economy that ensures safe and healthy communities, the right to organize for all workers, and millions of family-sustaining jobs. [SOURCE]

The essential elements of what was sold as the Green New Deal up until the resolution was introduced were repeatedly articulated by climate justice leaders like May Boeve. In a July 2018 media release in preparation for ‘Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice’ an event connected with the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit, Boeve articulated the need for speed in delivering climate justice while covering all the elements of the Green New Deal concept which was only a few months away from being introduced by AOC.

We need a fast, fair, and just transition away from fossil fuels to a 100% renewable energy economy, that protects vulnerable people already impacted by climate change and creates good paying jobs and opportunities for all.  [SOURCE]

New Consensus was founded in early 2018, reportedly as a policy vehicle to develop the Green New Deal. Rhiana Gunn-Wright described to David Wallace-Wells how New Consensus engaged with the other Green New Deal vehicles with the exception of Data for Progress.

And the origin story of how it literally happened is pretty short and normal. At New Consensus, the founders have been thinking for a while about a Green New Deal and what does it mean — what will it take to have an economic approach outside of neoliberalism? They made contact with the Sunrise Movement, who had already been working on their own idea of a Green New Deal. And then I came on board. New Consensus was already connected to Justice Dems. This is before, you know, the squad had won their primaries, but they had all been endorsed by Justice Dems. By September, most had been through their primaries, if not all, and so that meant that new consensus was connected to this group of likely incoming freshmen. [SOURCE]

In August 2018 the Democratic National Committee (DNC) reversed an amendment that was designed to ban fossil fuel corporation donations. In Tom Perez’s resolution CCS and advanced nuclear were mentioned along with reaffirmation of support for the “fossil fuel workers in an evolving energy economy”.

WHEREAS, these workers, their unions and forward-looking employers are powering America’s all-of-the-above energy economy and moving us towards a future fueled by clean and low emissions energy technology, from renewables to carbon capture and storage to advanced nuclear technology; and

 

WHEREAS, to support fossil fuel workers in an evolving energy economy, we must commit to securing their right to a strong, viable economic future, which includes maintaining employment and their health care and pension benefits; [SOURCE]

 

Alex C. Kaufman in an August 2018 article quotes a Twitter thread featuring Kate Aronoff wherein she argues that the Perez amendment was not about unionised workers, but rather the bosses who profit from them. This interpretation is sound, bosses have more money than individual union members. Aronoff’s point would be fine if she ever took the time to tell us which ‘forward-looking’ employers the unions work with to advance business as usual.

To put a fine point on it: This proposal isn’t to let union members keep donating to the DNC. It’s to let fossil fuel executives keep donating and selling influence among Democrats. Certain unions (incl some building trades) see their interests as aligned with those of executives [SOURCE]

In early September 2018 organisers of the ‘Rise for Climate’ event in San Fransisco clearly indicated that the demand at the ‘Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice’ march was “100% renewable” energy. If you look at the statements from various key figures in the broader People’s Climate Movement you will see that word “renewable” is often replaced with the word “clean”. This tends to happen more depending on how closely an organisation is connected with the Democrats.

San Francisco, CA — Today, 30,000 people took to the streets of San Francisco as part of the “Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice” march. A massive crowd marched from the Embarcadero Plaza to Civic Center, demanding racial and economic justice, an end to fossil fuel production, and a just transition to 100% renewable energy that supports workers and communities.

In late September, just in time for AOC’s midterm campaign, Data for Progress released their Green New Deal Report. In it you can see the insertion of the word ‘clean’ and a reframing of what is regarded as ‘clean energy’. Included are advanced nuclear, biomass burning, and fossil fuel with carbon capture. 

All electricity consumed in America must be generated by renewable sources, including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, sustainable biomass, and renewable natural gas, as well as clean sources such as nuclear and remaining fossil fuel with carbon capture. [SOURCE]

In early November 2018 shortly before the midterms Vogue magazine published a heavy styled video wherein Instragram personality turned actor Bria Vinate explains the Green New Deal highlighting AOC’s stated commitment to “100% renewable” energy.

Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, who wants the U.S. to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 [SOURCE]

A narrative vehicle, or how to leave the door open?

10 April 2018 to Present

On April 10, 2018 Data for Progress released ‘The Future of the Party’, a document commissioned by Justice Democrats, the people who recruited AOC. By September 2018 they had released their Green New Deal Report

 THERE IS NO QUESTION: Democratic primary voters support a populist progressive agenda that ties racial justice to progressive economic populism. The days are long gone when a message proclaiming “the end of big government as we know it,” could win a Democratic primary. [SOURCE]  

In late December 2018 Sunrise co-founder Evan Weber was quoted in Vox by Bill McKibben’s colleague at Grist dot com David Roberts. Weber was talking about the failed efforts by AOC and Sunrise Movement to launch a Green New Deal select committee on the promise of “100% Renewable” electricity by 2030.

For us [] the more important thing for the draft legislation was always to have a platform for candidates to run on in 2020. [SOURCE]

Roberts made a comment that reads to me like a briefing for climate justice activists and Green New Deal promoters.

The delicate dance is to keep the GND fuzzy enough to allow a broad coalition of people and interests to see themselves in it — which is, somewhat miraculously, what seems to have happened so far — while specifying it enough to avoid having it watered down into a feel-good buzzword. [SOURCE]

I think comments like these from journalist/stenographers like David Roberts who’re half inside-the-tent are important to consider as we unpack what exactly the Green New Deal was constructed to do. Our considerations should focus on questions of: What was made specific? What was left undefined?, and for the honest broker, What was at risk of being quietly rejected?

Sean McElwee co-founded Data for Progress after spending time at Demos: A Network for Idea and Action which was founded by Rockefeller Brothers Fund president Stephen B. Heintz. In early January 2019 McElwee made it clear the end goal was always to influence the Democrat agenda.

Policy details are going to matter and be very important, [] But the actual meta politics question is how do we make sure, in a roughly two-year period, … Democrats create an agenda? [SOURCE]

McElwee deals in demographics, focus groups, polling and crunching data to produce the kind of intelligence that helped Justice Democrats select and recruit AOC. If grass roots groups were engaged in developing the Green New Deal under their own terms then the work of Data for Progress would be beneficial, but without the specific demands of First Nations leaders and advocates for frontline communities, it’s work becomes resoundingly hollow and easily captured by the Democrat-neoliberal agenda.

David Roberts always seems to be at least a few weeks ahead of events. In mid January 2019 he made a series of pronouncements in a piece on the question of what is and is not “clean energy”. His writing did not make it clear what we ought to understand when a public figure says “clean energy” saying we should leave the question “as open as possible”.

If the GND insists from the outset on 100 percent renewables, it will immediately lead to infighting. Policy wonks will attack it as unnecessarily expensive; anyone who believes in a role for other carbon-free resources (which includes more than a few on the center left and right) will be shut out.

Roberts presents an aggressive argument in favour of leaving the door open for any and all forms of extractivism as long a some abatement is involved that can contribute to net-zero.

But it doesn’t need to be resolved now. We don’t need to have this fight. The language of the GND can, and should, focus on what matters: carbon.

Contrary to Roberts’ argument that environmentalists need not insist on firmly supporting 100% renewables, I would argue that if we don’t heed First Nations and frontline community advocates demands for a fossil fuel phase out, no nuclear and 100% renewable energy, then we will have no chance to stop the efforts of bipartisan Democrats to expand 45Q tax credits which are crucial to financing CCUS, DAC and EOR projects.

Even if the GND targets carbon-free energy at the headline level, there’s no reason environmentalists can’t go right on fighting for policies that support renewables. Everyone can continue to fight for the carbon-free sources they most support or believe in, including nuclear fans, CCS fans, whoever. [SOURCE]

In mid January 2019 Sunrise Movement spokesperson Stephen O’Hanlon distanced his organisation from the letter of 626 groups released earlier that month.

…not the full vision of the Green New Deal. It is a set of climate priorities for the new Congress. [SOURCE]

In an article that appeared on March 12, 2019, a week before the statement made to New Consensus by Climate Justice Alliance members, Rihana Gunn-Wright and New Consensus founder Demond Drummer made statements strongly suggesting that they were proactively reaching out to the grass roots.

All too often, said Gunn-Wright (a 2019 Grist 50 honoree), policies are divorced from people’s lived realities. “Then the onus ends up on the communities that are hurt, that usually have less social capital, less political capital, less time to take to the streets, to organize to get that policy reconsidered,” she explained. As policy lead for New Consensus, she wants to flip that script on its head, and consult with marginalized communities first.

 

At its core, New Consensus shares some priorities with the environmental justice movement, which emphasizes equity in climate and environmental solutions. “The EJ movement clarifies how issues of climate change actually are directly related to issues of social justice, racial justice, economic justice,” Drummer said.

In the same article Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats who were the first Democrat entity to commission a report from Data for Progress articulates how “crucial” New Consensus are to furthering a Green New Deal.

Their role is crucial in seeing a Green New Deal that is going to not just address climate change but also rising inequality, [SOURCE]

The vagueness of the Green New Deal resolution is embodied by the fuzzily understood term “clean energy”.  The vague language of “zero emissions” energy and an almost universal unwillingness to clarify meanings of key terms left room for Carbon Capture Coalition member The Nature Conservancy to voice it’s support for a Green New Deal approach to emissions reductions in late March 2019.

We welcome serious discussions about climate solutions,[ ]We are prepared to support legislative proposals that immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are especially optimistic about market-based proposals for a price on carbon. [SOURCE]

In early April 2019 on a Next System project podcast Kate Aronoff who writes for new Republic and is a fellow at Data for Progress argued that the very issues around which the Climate Justice Alliance reasserted the principles of engagement with First Nations and frontline communities are yet to be resolved. Arnoff found a skillful way of acknowledging there are problems without attending to the nature of those problems and eliding to the insinuation that the ongoing process of creating a Green New Deal will crack that “nut”. This approach relies on blind faith in the Green New Deal proponents, whoever they may be.

But several people have rightfully pointed out that the resolution, which is currently the most arrived-at form we have for the Green New Deal, does not include language about fossil fuels, which neither does the Paris Agreement, notably. I think that is a nut to be cracked, and I think something that’s certainly essential to figuring out what that looks like. [SOURCE]

In a mid April 2019 interview presidential hopeful Jay Inslee made the case for why the green new Deal had been so successful to date. He was free to argue that Green New Deal proponents were “paying attention” to frontline communities because New Consensus had not publish a memorandum of agreement requested by Climate Justice Alliance.

And it’s been successful, because (a) people are talking about climate change, (b) it has raised aspirational levels. You can’t do this with a nip and tuck, building a fossil-free economy over the next several decades is a Herculean proposition. Third, it has helped bring in frontline communities, marginalized communities, communities of color. It brought them to the table to understand why, as you’re doing a just transition, it can help you reduce income inequality because you’re building jobs, you’re paying attention to these communities.

 

So I think, given the urgency and the scale of the challenge, we have to keep all low- and zero-carbon technologies on the table. [SOURCE]

Ben Geman writing in Axios made an excellent observation about Jay Inslee’s climate platform in early May 2019. Geman appears to recognise why the Green New Deal resolution and it’s fuzzy language was so useful to presidential candidates.

The plan steers clear of mandating technology-specific generation sources, which leaves room for nuclear and carbon-capture alongside renewables.[SOURCE]

Writing about Jay Inslee’s climate plans in early May 2019, David Roberts slipped into a world of delusion. The policy discussion he predicted never really happened. Instead the public was subjected to discussion of the electoral platforms of a bunch of Democratic candidates and Bernie Sanders. Each candidate having variations on the language and framing in the Green New Deal resolution and the Data for Progress report.

The Green New Deal and the grassroots energy behind it have ensured that every one of the Democrats running for president will be forced to prioritize climate change. There’s finally going to be a policy discussion. [SOURCE]

In early May 2019 AOC flagged her technology agnosticism. The First Nations and frontline activists who had endorsed the Green New Deal when it’s language suggested no new nuclear must have felt betrayed at this point.

I don’t take a strong anti- or pro-position on it,” the New York Democrat said about nuclear energy in an interview late last week. Her Green New Deal resolution, which calls for “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy” to meet 100 percent of U.S. power needs in the next 10 years, “leaves the door open on nuclear so that we can have that conversation,” she said. [SOURCE]

The co-founder of Data for Progress gave an interview in June 2019 that lays bare the marketed nature of the Green New Deal. Have a look at the following 4 quotes and ask yourself if people from ‘diverse’ communities are being hired for the right reasons.

 The path to leftist electoral power is through racial justice and economic justice,

 

Our gains on the left have exclusively come from more diverse candidates.

 

I can get in the room, I am taken seriously,

 

We wrote a Green New Deal report, polled it, and we will fuck you up if you don’t support it, [SOURCE]

In mid June 2019 the Service Employees Union International (SEIU) (a founding partner of Avaaz) president endorsed the Green New Deal giving its promoters opportunity to suggest that the unions were on board. If the Green New Deal was really about getting out of fossil fuels and putting unions at the center then the SEIU president ought to have raised the issue of the support among big industrial labor organizations for carbon capture utilization and storage as a ‘climate solution’.

But the Green New Deal is more than a plan for transitioning the U.S. economy out of fossil fuels. It’s also a model for how lawmakers should design any proposal to restructure the economy—by putting worker power and unions at the center. [SOURCE]

In mid July 2019 Jeff Merkley introduced a bill that would amend the US Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to include a new section that would expand 45Q tax credits for carbon capture and storage projects. The bill is ostensibly about labor standards for energy jobs, but the 48D amendment would enshrine a subsidy that will financially enable an enhanced oil recovery boom and the continuation of coal fired power while providing opportunities for the development of a fossil hydrogen or ‘blue hydrogen’ industry facilitated by carbon capture.

“(3) QUALIFIED CARBON DIOXIDE.—The term ‘qualified carbon dioxide’ means carbon dioxide captured from an industrial source which—

 

“(A) would otherwise be released into the atmosphere as industrial emission of greenhouse gas,

 

“(B) is measured at the source of capture and verified at the point of disposal or utilization,

 

“(C) (i) is disposed of by the taxpayer in secure geological storage (as such term is defined under section 45Q(f)(2)), or

 

“(ii) utilized by the taxpayer in a manner described in section 45Q(f)(5), and

 

“(D) is captured and disposed or utilized within the United States (within the meaning of section 638(1)) or a possession of the United States (within the meaning of section 638(2)). [SOURCE]

In mid July 2019 Jeff Merkley joined with AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka to announce a new bill to create good jobs and support “clean energy”. Trumka is a long time critic of the Green New Deal whose organization is a member of the Carbon Capture Coalition.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka today unveiled the Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act, major new legislation to create good-paying jobs in the transition to clean energy.

Among the cosponsors and endorsers of Jeff Merkley’s ‘S.2185 – Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act’ are some of the key players in advancing expanded tax credits for CCUS like the labor organisations who are members of the Carbon Capture Coalition and the Natural Resource Defense Council who were members of the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative until it became the Carbon Capture Coalition at which time it was replaced by The Nature Conservancy. Also among the endorsers is Data for Progress which works closely with the progressive Democrats who introduced and sponsored the End Polluter Welfare Act 2020. Among the cosponsors are at least 5 Green New Deal Resolution cosponsors including Jeff Merkley and Kamala Harris who, as Joe Biden’s running mate, has clearly stated that she is against fossil fuel subsidies.

Merkley’s legislation is co-sponsored by ten of his Senate Democratic colleagues, including Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). The Good Jobs for 21st Century Clean Energy Act is endorsed by AFL-CIO, the Blue Green Alliance, the United Steelworkers, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), the Union of Concerned Scientists, Data for Progress, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters of the United States and Canada. [SOURCE]

In late Auguest 2019 Data for Progress published their ‘scorecard’ of Jay Inslee’s climate plans. In it they further redefine “clean energy” as renewable or non-renewable. In the public conception “clean energy” is interchangeable with “renewable energy”. The creation of the term “non-renewable clean energy” demonstrates that the word “clean”, as it appears in the Green New Deal Report includes, nuclear, biomass burning, fossil hydrogen and carbon capture.

NON-RENEWABLE CLEAN ENERGY SOURCES

The development and use of nuclear, hydrogen, and carbon capture energy technologies [SOURCE]

One of the energy wonks chipping away at the acceptable boundaries of ‘clean energy’ is Leah Stokes. In late August 2019 she began to reveal her leanings toward advanced nuclear which she would later suggest was a form of “clean energy”.

It’s very hard to target a net-zero emission economy by 2050 if we are shutting down nuclear,” Leah Stokes, an assistant professor of environmental politics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, told me. “A lot of people on the left believe that, but very few are willing to say it. [SOURCE]

In mid September 2019 Julian Brave Noisecat quoted Tom Goldtooth regarding the March 2019 New Consensus meeting after outlining the importance of the process to develop the Jemez Priciples. Noisecat ought to have been highly aware of the significance of the failure of New Consensus to respond to the demands of Climate Justice Alliance representatives, but chose not to write up his position.

At a March convening to begin drafting a Green New Deal, leaders of the Climate Justice Alliance voiced concerns that the progressive climate platform was not being developed according to the Jemez Principles and the Principles of Environmental Justice. “I’m not saying there hasn’t been some positive movement and some incorporation of environmental justice with white organizations,” said Goldtooth, whose organization, IEN, is part of the Climate Justice Alliance. “But the challenges are still there with the Green New Deal.” [SOURCE]

In late September 2019 a colleague of Naomi Klein at The Intercept, Rachel M. Cohen supplied a quote from Brad Crabtree the co-director of the Carbon Capture Coalition discussing a conversation he had with Ed Markey. If true, and if there was any real interest in uncovering the Democrats plans for business as usual, then Markey’s remarks would have rocked the very foundations of the Green New Deal.

“I have personally spoken to Senator Markey after the Green New Deal was introduced, and he said carbon capture is in,” said Brad Crabtree, co-director of the Carbon Capture Coalition, a group of roughly 60 companies, unions, research institutes, and energy groups that support carbon-capture technology. “I asked him directly, and he was pretty categorical, and immediately then talked about what he tried to do for carbon capture in Waxman-Markey. [SOURCE]

The ‘A 100 Percent Clean Future’ report which was published in early October 2019 was authored by John Podesta et al for the Center for American Progress (CAP). It is a document very much aligned with ‘clean energy’ rather than renewable energy. Rather than taking a position against nuclear energy and CCUS, Podesta et al acknowledge there are “concerns” and call for “stronger dialogue”.  This stance poses no threat to the objectives of the CAP, ClimateWorks or the Design to Win plan it was created to deliver – carbon capture for ‘unavoidable’ fossil fuel use.

Economically disadvantaged communities, tribal communities, and communities of color have historically been marginalized in the development of national climate policies. Confronting the legacies of systemic racism and injustice will require a much closer collaboration with environmental justice advocates to incorporate their perspective and expertise. While there are broad areas of agreement, these communities have well-founded concerns about market-based policy mechanisms, nuclear waste, and carbon capture and sequestration. These and other questions of policy design require stronger dialogue and collaboration to ensure the agenda for climate action achieves pollution-free communities to protect and advance the right of all people “to breathe clean air, live free of dangerous levels of toxic pollution, access healthy food, and share the benefits of a prosperous and vibrant clean economy.” [SOURCE]

In mid October 2019 Leah Stokes gave a talk at UC Santa Barbara called ‘The case for a Green New Deal’. Stokes is an expert and an energy wonk who specializes in pragmatic analysis. She has been welcomed on panels and in discussions with the likes of Kate Aronoff, Julian Brave Noisecat, Naomi Klein, and many others.

We need to phase out the oil and gas industry, really important. And that’s not gonna be easy, but that is a really important fight. [SOURCE]

In a December 2019 feature by Eric Holthaus, Julian Brave Noisecat provided the perfect description of the Green New Deal in the hands of the brigade of progressive Democrat aligned entities.

What the progressive movement has been doing is really changing the narrative. The Green New Deal is as much a narrative device as a set of policy levers.

Noisecat transitioned from 350 dot org to Data for Progress shortly after the March New Consensus meeting. The consent of grassroots advocates had already been acquired in terms of the impressions  created among the public who are polled by Data for Progress. Noisecat arrived after the damage had already been done. His job was to hold the line.

Sean McElwee, founder of Data for Progress, says he gave NoiseCat “executive authority” in crafting a Green New Deal focused on racial equity and environmental justice. He wanted to figure out how to create transformational change – not in the next 10 years, but in the next two years…

Sean McElwee acknowledges that Noisecat has been highly effective and characterizes the effectiveness of his efforts in terms of the impact on Democratic electoral platforms.

Looking at the Green New Deal a year later, the central victory is an increase in ambition and equity in the presidential candidate platforms. [SOURCE]

In early December 2019 David Roberts quoted John Noel and took a close look at enhanced oil recovery without looking at the raft of bipartisan bills before congress at the time.

“If the industry can perfect CO2 injection into shale formations and tight oil,” John Noël, a researcher at Greenpeace, told me, “it could unlock an almost endless amount of oil under the right conditions.”

In his conclusion Roberts, as usual, frames the pragmatic position for those who privately are not committed to phasing out fossil fuels as rapidly as possible in line with the demands of First Nations and frontline community advocates. His conclusion begs the question, How much fossil fuel extraction should be allowed to be ‘unavoidable’?

It may be that EOR can play a constructive role in a comprehensive decarbonization plan, helping to reduce the carbon content of the oil we can’t avoid using. But its use and limitations should be shaped by the public interest, not by the interests of oil and gas investors. [SOURCE]

In mid December 2019 Mark Z. Jacobson et al reasserted their claims about the achievability of 100% renewables (water, wind, solar). In the process Jacobson specified that CCUS, nuclear and biomass are not needed.

Thus, its conclusion that “including nuclear power and natural gas plants that capture CO2 consistently lower[s] the cost of decarbonizing electricity generation” was not shown. As calculated here, a transition to 100% WWS energy should reduce private and social costs substantially over those incurred by BAU energy without the need for nuclear power, fossil fuels with carbon capture, or bioenergy. [SOURCE]

In early February 2020 Jason Albritton from The Nature Conservancy provided testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee: Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. In that testimony he confirmed TNC’s commitment to supporting 45Q tax credits and legislation like the USEIT Act.

The Nature Conservancy believes that carbon capture, utilization and storage is a valuable part of that climate solution set. We support efforts to ensure carbon capture is available as an effective tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining environmental safeguards. [SOURCE]

In early February 2020 Jason Albritton from The Nature Conservancy provided testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee: Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change. In that testimony he confirmed TNC’s commitment to supporting 45Q tax credits and legislation like the USEIT Act.

 

Testimony was also provided to the House Energy and Commerce Committee: Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change by Lee Anderson, government affairs director with the Utility Workers Union of America. It is clear from his statements that the most important battle ground in fighting for a fossil fuel phase out will be in the senate and congressional committees where the concerns of the people should get a fair hearing.

Building on recent landmark reform of the federal 45Q tax credit to incentivize deployment of carbon capture technology, the USE IT Act will foster continued development and deployment of carbon capture by authorizing the EPA Administrator to coordinate with the Secretary of Energy on furthering research, development and demonstration of carbon utilization and direct air capture technologies. [SOURCE]

 John Noel has consistently sounded the alarm about enhanced oil recovery with CO2 from CCUS or direct air capture. He operates where he needs to be, but sadly his work is not adequately amplified among his high reach networks. The testamony presented to the hearing ‘Consideration of H.R. 1166, the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies Act’ should have been major news in the fight to phase out fossil fuels.

The industry’s campaign to undermine true climate solutions in order to maintain demand is real and well documented. CO2 EOR cannot be siloed off from the rest of a company’s portfolio or business strategy. Any policy that subsidizes increased oil production, which improves the borrowing position of the oil company, not only bolsters its ability to plow revenues back into expansion efforts, but also strengthens its social license and ability to run political interference against real  climate action. Climate science and carbon math are not complete without an honest analysis of political power. [SOURCE]

In mid March 2020 the DNC Platform Committee published their ‘Guidelines for the Platform Committee’s policy recommendations’. It’s a testament to the effective marketing of the Green New Deal concept and the fuzzy definitions that support it that an entity with an horrendous and ongoing track record of accepting fossil fuel money could make any claim to be inspired. I would note that Steve Kretzmann from Oil Change International is on the DNC Platform Committee.

Use the Green New Deal’s vision and aspirations as a framework [SOURCE]

In late March 2020 Politico reported on the negotiations in preparation for the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force and the supposed integration of the Green New Deal priorities into the Biden platform. Sean McElwee, like many others says that the fight to keep the core values of the Green New Deal, (real or based on pretence), was yet come.

“The dirty little secret is everyone’s talking to Biden’s campaign,” said Sean McElwee, co-founder of the liberal think tank Data for Progress. “There will be fights, but at the end of the day, progressives still hold votes in the Senate and increasingly Democratic voters stand behind our views. I expect we’ll see Biden embracing key planks of the ambitious agenda progressives have outlined on issues like climate and pharmaceutical policy.”

 

The Sunrise Movement will work to defeat Trump “no matter what,” said Evan Weber, national political director of the organization, by registering and turning out voters in key battleground states. But whether Sunrise does “broad anti-Trump campaigning” or “explicitly back[s] Vice President Joe Biden” if he becomes the nominee, Weber added, depends on what Biden’s campaign does to “demonstrate that they are taking the climate crisis seriously. [SOURCE]

In what seems like a distraction from the private interests who’ve lined up opportunities for the enhanced oil recovery revolution while strengthening a tax credit that will be a game changing fossil fuel subsidy, Oil Change International and the Next System project collaborated on a report into the potential nationalization of fossil fuel companies. The mid April 2020 report is effectively a thought exercise sold as a possible response to the ‘COVID crisis’ integrated as part of the Green New Deal. The Next System project is uniquely positioned to propagandize this moment. As a hub connecting climate activism with regenerative or ‘natural capitalism’, and a broad selection of movement builders and philanthropically funded social justice orientated NGOs, it is well placed to affirm the apparent potential of a dramatic progressive shift in Democrat policy.

A Federal Just Transition Agency would receive and manage fossil fuel assets with the express goal of a phase-out grounded in just transition principles, and coordinate and finance investment in public and community infrastructure for a new, resilient economy. Processes like those in the Climate Equity Act of 2019 should be used to ensure accountability to frontline communities and labor unions through policy development and implementation. The transition should also build on such grassroots efforts as Gulf South for a Green New Deal’s Policy Platform and the Climate Justice Alliance’s Just Transition Principles. [SOURCE]

A week after the release of the OCI/NextSystem report, Data for Progress shared results of it’s polling on nationalization measures sewn into bail out deals attached to COVID recovery plans. Data for Progress highlighted the positives as they see them saying “large swaths of voters of color support the policy”.

This support is promising given that some prominent left-leaning climate advocates have argued that public ownership of fossil fuel companies could be an effective way to phase out fossil fuels, promote energy democracy and protect vulnerable workers. Indeed, public ownership would give the government and taxpayers, not fossil fuel CEOs and billionaires, authority to decide what kind of energy future we want. [SOURCE]

In late April 2020, Grist dot com published a video called ‘The Narwhal Curve’ made in collaboration with Leah Stokes wherein she asserts that nuclear energy is “clean energy”.

In 2018, about one third of our energy systems came from clean energy sources like wind solar nuclear and hydropower. [SOURCE]

Demos is a Democrat aligned NGO cofounded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund president Stephen Heintz. It helped develop the career of Sean McElwee from Data for Progress. In late May 2020 it released it’s Frontlines Climate Justice Executive Action Platform. The initial signatories to the platform included the Climate Justice Alliance who have never acknowledged publicly that they recieved the memorandum of agreement they demanded from New Consensus. There are dozen’s of follow up signatories including 350 dot org. New Consensus are not listed as a signatory, and I would note that the document pushes for a “renewable energy transition” without mentioning the term “100% renewable”.

In tackling the urgency of the climate crisis, prioritizing the most

 

impacted communities for the protections and benefits of an economy-

 

wide renewable energy transition is a moral imperative. [SOURCE]

In early July 2020 when the Biden Sanders Unity Taskforce recommendations came through David Roberts merely wrote an update fixed to the top of an article he wrote in May 2020. That Roberts felt no need to formally digest the Unity Task Force recommendations suggests that he had significant access to briefings from key progressives engaged in the Biden team’s wide ranging consultations.

In short, the broad US left-of-center coalition appears to be aligning around a common climate policy vision. That vision is described in the following piece, first published on May 27.

Roberts indicates that he has full knowledge of the areas where conflicts that amount to the difference between keeping it in-the-ground and accepting a net zero emissions ledgered outcome will occur, but rather than acknowledge the almost complete absence of controversy, he preferred to update a six weeks old article.

If there’s any chance for bipartisan climate policy, it probably starts with carbon capture, use, and sequestration.

 

It creates another tension with industrial unions, which stand to benefit from the jobs building carbon capture projects and CO2 pipelines, and with Democratic moderates who are beholden to those unions. And it’s going to create a long-term tension with carbon wonks, who increasingly agree that, like it or not, gigatons of carbon need to be pulled from the atmosphere.

 

Climate unity is at hand, if Democrats can grasp it [SOURCE]

In mid July 2020 the Biden/Sanders team released their climate plans which demonstrate that leaving the door open to CCUS and making gross compromises in the Unity Task Force allowed for the continuation of long term plans for CO2 enhanced oil recovery. The near silence on 45Q tax credits from the climate justice NGOs prevents general awareness of the fossil fuel subsidies which would support the extractivist plans embedded in the Biden/Harris climate platform.

Biden will double down on research investments and tax incentives for technology that captures carbon and then permanently sequesters or utilizes that captured carbon, which includes lowering the cost of carbon capture retrofits for existing power plants — all while ensuring that overburdened communities are protected from increases in cumulative pollution. [SOURCE

In mid July 2020, shortly after the release of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force recommendations and the release of the Biden/Harris “clean energy” plans Julian Brave Noisecat penned a piece for The Guardian that was headlined by the absurd assertion that there isn’t much difference between the Green New Deal and the Biden/Harris team’s climate plans.

Part of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, these plans are a Green New Deal in all but name. If you set aside the most attention-grabbing left-wing programs included in New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2019 Green New Deal resolution, like Medicare for All and a federal job guarantee, Biden’s plans broadly align with an approach advocated by the left-wing of the Democratic party.

 

This is, in the broadest strokes, the climate policy gospel according to many progressives. Biden’s plans draw upon the Green New Deal-inflected recommendations issued by the joint taskforce convened by surrogates of the Biden and Bernie Sanders campaigns, including Ocasio-Cortez. They also crib heavily from plans devised by Washington governor Jay Inslee’s climate-focused presidential campaign and are delightfully similar to policies drafted by Data for Progress, an upstart leftwing thinktank where I work. (Full disclosure: we provided research and recommendations to the joint taskforce and campaign.) [SOURCE]

In a mid July 2020 statement Varshini Prakash who sat on the Unity Task Force pushed the argument that the Sunrise Movement and their allies moved Democrat electoral climate policies in a good direction. Prakash is perhaps the leading proponent of the absurd idea that an abundance of pro-climate rhetoric is somehow a good thing even in the face clear statements in support of the very mitigation stratgeies that will deliver an enhanced oil recovery boom and more business as usual, albeit with some carbon abatement.

Our movement made this possible, but there’s more work to do, and the urgency of the crisis demands that we keep pushing. Vice President Biden must build on these commitments and make these actions an immediate and urgent priority on day 1. Our movement, alongside environmental justice communities and frontline workers, has taught Joe Biden to talk the talk. Now, let’s defeat Trump and mobilize in mass after the election to get Biden to walk the walk. [SOURCE]

Leah Stokes called nuclear energy “clean energy” in her video collaboration with Grist dot com called ‘The Narwhal Curve’. In mid July 2020, shortly after it was revealled that advanced nuclear had made it through the Unity Task Force deliberations she joined with the Sunrise Movement’s San Diego leading light Nikayla Jefferson to write about energy transformation and racial justice. Stokes inciated last year that she would support direct air capture, but does not appear to have offered an opinion specifically for or against CCUS which is the preeminent signifier of a self serving pragmatist.

Make no mistake: Fossil fuel companies need to tell lies about the costs that their dirty infrastructure imposes on Black communities. Because if we understood the truth, and if we valued Black lives, there will be nowhere for the fossil fuel plants to go. [SOURCE]

In late July 2020 Ilhan Omar introduced the latest version of the End Polluter Welfare Act. The bill contains specific provisions against the expansion and improper use of 45Q tax credits for fossil fuel projects. The introduction of the bill did not lead to an ongoing campaign to highlight the 45Q tax credit as a crucial fossil fuel subsidy, indeed the EPW Act was introduced and then promptly ignored. No effort was made to highlight provisions against 45Q that were also included in previous versions of the bill introduced by Bernie Sanders.

 The End Polluter Welfare Act is a vital part of the move off fossil fuels. It’s fundamentally absurd that we continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry at the exact moment we need to ramp down the extraction and burning of coal, oil, and gas, [SOURCE]

Ilhan’s statements when she introduced the EPW Act suggest that there is an apetite for an agressive engagement with leglislative process to fight fossil fuel subsidies. The reality is that Ilhan’s statements were all there was.

It’s past time we end the billions of taxpayer subsidies to fossil-fuel companies,” Omar said in a statement. “Our focus right now needs to be on getting the American people through this difficult, unprecedented time, not providing giveaways to polluters. [SOURCE]

Few journalists have bothered to call the action as it is. There are plenty of pragmatists selling particular narratives for their editors, but there are few who see the donkey-elephant show for what it is, a neoliberal carnival of greenwashing. In late July 2020 Steve Horn showed that he was one of the few who were prepared to tell the whole truth about Biden’s climate plans.

The plan doesn’t call for any type of oil fossil fuel industry phaseout. The words “fracking” and “natural gas” are missing from the text altogether. The terms “coal” and “fossil fuel” only show up once, and not in the context of an industry phaseout… [SOURCE]

Ensuring Ed Markey, flag bearer for the Green New Deal remained a Democrat senator became a rallying point for the Sunrise Project in late July 2020. Sunrise threw heavy support behind Markey’s senate primary campaign. It should be noted that Ed Markey promoted gas as a “bridge fuel” while the fracking boom was in full swing.

Markey is poised — and arguably more prepared than any other politician in the US government — to fill in the conceptual aspirations of the Green New Deal resolution that he cosponsored with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with practical policies and to get them passed in Congress. [SOURCE]

Emily Holden from The Guardian US reported in late July 2020 that many leading figures in the Democrats, Democrat aligned NGOs and climate justice aligned NGOs acknowledged the Biden campaign’s lack of commitment to phasing out fossil fuel production and extraction. Holden would know well that the Biden team’s plans have barely changed since the primaries.

The measures that draw electrical workers to Biden’s plan are the same ones that push more vocal climate activists away. Biden doesn’t set a date to phase out drilling for oil and gas – although he would prohibit new drilling on public lands. He doesn’t lay out a timeline for shifting away from gasoline-reliant cars. And he is mum on limiting fossil fuel exports, which would still cause climate damage, even if they are being burned outside the US. [SOURCE]

In late July 2020 Data for Progress released a memo titled ‘Biden’s updated climate agenda has the markings of a Green New Deal’. In it you will find the phrase used by Julian Brave Noisecat and Varshini Prakash to describe Biden’s climate plans.

In September 2018, Data For Progress released a report entitled A Green New Deal: A Progressive Vision for Environmental Sustainability and Economic Stability, designed to fill in the details of the progressive climate agenda. The report translates the emerging consensus on the Left — that the climate, jobs, and justice crises are inextricably intertwined — into concrete targets informed by what science and technology said were necessary and possible. Joe Biden’s evolving presidential climate plan has come to embrace and echo that consensus and converge with many of the targets we laid out two years ago. In other words, it is a Green New Deal in all but name.

It is clear from the memo that 100% renewables, or even substantial support for renewables is not on the table.

At this moment of profound crisis, we have the opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable economy – one that will put the United States on an irreversible path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050. [SOURCE]

In early August 2020 a large group of economists issued a letter in support of a fossil fuel phase out.  The economists did not offer a critique of the Biden campaign’s policy positions and how they fall well short of the necessary actions/commitments needed to deliver a real fossil fuel phase out.

Governments must actively phase out the fossil fuel industry. Bailouts and subsidies to big oil, gas and coal companies only further delay the essential energy transition, distorting markets while locking us into a future we cannot afford. Instead, a coordinated phaseout of exploration for and extraction of carbon resources allows governments to redeploy funds towards green technology, infrastructure, social programs and good jobs, spurring an economic transition that benefits people and the planet. [SOURCE]

In early August 2020 John Laesch, a DNC platform committee member attempted to push through an ammendment that specifically challenged the 45Q tax credit for enhanced oil recovery and CCUS that is opposed in the End Polluter Welfare Act 2020. Laesch alleges in his own blog that “sander staffers” pressured himself and others to drop their ammendments. Laesch’s ammendment was controversially removed, but in the ensuing media frenzy, few if any public figures among the progressive Democrats, Democrat aligned NGOs, or climate justice aligned NGOs saw fit to mention 45Q tax credits. They railed against fossil fuel subsidies with the hashtag #EndFossilFuelSubsidies, but 45Q tax credits/subsidies were not put in the frame.

I move to amend page 46, line 20 to bring back and improve upon a sentence from the 2016 Democratic Platform, “Democrats believe the tax code must reflect our commitment to a clean energy future by eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies, including any tax subsidies for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), carbon capture and storage (CCS) or direct air capture (DAC). [SOURCE]

In early August 2020 Kamala harris introduced S.4513 – Climate Equity Act of 2020 which aims to define frontline communities and how they are represented. I suspect this bill was introduced with the help of AOC to polish up Harris’ poor reputation on racial justice.

(A) IN GENERAL.—Subject to subparagraph (B), the Board of Advisors shall be composed of not less than 10 members that provide diverse and fair representation of frontline communities and allies of frontline communities, 1 of whom shall be designated chairperson. [SOURCE]

Mindy Isser, writing about the endorsement of the Green New Deal by the American Federation of Teachers took a look at the state of labor movement support for the Green New Deal in the sort of depth that has rarely taken place since the Green New Deal was introduced. Her ivestigation highlights the underexplored division in the labor movement and raises serious questions about how a just transition might begin to be negotiated.

Yet the AFL-CIO has remained resistant. When Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) introduced the Green New Deal legislation in February 2019, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters, “We need to address the environment. We need to do it quickly.” But he also noted that, “We need to do it in a way that doesn’t put these communities behind, and leave segments of the economy behind. So we’ll be working to make sure that we do two things: That by fixing one thing we don’t create a problem somewhere else. [SOURCE]

David Roberts knows perfectly well that the fossil fuel industry, big industrial unions and the bipartisan Democrats have no interest in phasing out fossil fuel extraction. He knows that extractivism causes harm to frontline communities whether or not carbon capture is applied. He knows that the door has been left open for CCUS because direct air capture is the flagship allowable carbon capture technology for climate justice activists. And yet he continues to remain pragmatic about CCUS plans. In early August 2020 he made a statement that clearly shows that he is fully aware of the destruction that extractivism always causes.

The evidence is now clear enough that it can be stated unequivocally: It would be worth freeing ourselves from fossil fuels even if global warming didn’t exist. Especially now that clean energy has gotten so cheap, the air quality benefits alone are enough to pay for the energy transition. [SOURCE]

In mid August 2020 Elaine Godfrey quoted Julian Brave Noisecat in reference to the perception problems with Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate. Again the ‘we can shift the bad actor’ mentality is on show.

The same guy who was willing to sit down with Strom Thurmond is now talking like he wants to be the 21st-century FDR,” Julian Brave NoiseCat, the vice president of policy and strategy at the progressive polling firm Data for Progress, told me. “A savvy politician like Harris is going to see where the winds are blowing and move in that direction.

Noisecat cites Harris’ work on the Climate Equity Act as a positive despite the fact that the bill will go nowhere before the upcoming election.

Her collaboration with AOC on the Climate Equity Act shows that she can take some fairly left-wing and justice-oriented conversations to the highest office in the land, and that’s a good thing, [SOURCE]

The climate justice aligned NGOs appear to put more faith in letters and petititions than exposing the truth of neoliberal bipartisanship. In mid August 2020 a group of the usual suspects prepared a petition that called for commitment to a fossil fuel phase out, but they did not mention tax breaks or 45Q tax credits.

Dear DNC Coalition

 The Democrats need to hear from you: The Democratic platform must include a strong and unambiguous plan to phase out fossil fuels while protecting workers and communities. [SOURCE]

In mid August 2020 Dylan Matthews wrote a piece for Vox that I suspect would have otherwise been written by his stable mate David Roberts. Matthews is right to point out that bringing the Sunrise Movement “inside the tent” limited the chances of public conflict.

Biden has deeply consolidated support from just about every part of the progressive institutional infrastructure, not least through the unity task forces, which offered party activists and experts aligned with Bernie Sanders a chance to build the party platform in collaboration with Biden loyalists. Groups like Sunrise that were formerly thorns in Biden’s side have been brought inside the tent, where they can influence Biden internally without creating messy public drama. [SOURCE]

Bernie Sanders endorsed Joe Biden in mid August. His arguments were similar to many others and focused on getting rid of Trump. Rather than standing on principle and not letting the Green New Deal become watered down or gutted and used as a greenwash for Biden, Sanders chose to abandon his “political revolution” once again.

Sanders acknowledged on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he and his supporters “surely did not” get everything they wanted. But if Biden’s proposals become policy, “Joe Biden will become the most progressive president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And that, in this moment, is what we need. [SOURCE]

In a New York Times article in mid August 2020 Lisa Friedman explains that the donor community are happy and that some donors were influenced by Biden’s work with “youth leaders”.

Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris already are where the donor community wants them to be on the issue…

 

Several donors said they were not early supporters of Mr. Biden, having preferred candidates that were more outspoken on climate change, but they praised the former vice president for working with youth leaders in groups like the Sunrise movement and issuing an aggressive plan [SOURCE]

In mid August 2020 Vox published Bernie Sanders’ remarks from a policy pitch he gave to the Democratic National Convention. The pitch made no mention of renewable energy or phasing out fossil fuels. Despite Biden’s climate and infrastructure plans specifically referring retrofits of coal fired power stations, Sanders still thinks Biden is the man to “heal the soul of our nation”.

Joe will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and fight the threat of climate change by transitioning us to 100 percent clean electricity over 15 years. [SOURCE]

In mid August 2020 Colin Rees from Oil Change International was quoted by Alexander C. Kaufman at The Huffington Post asserting that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were against fossil fuel subsidies like the ones John Laesch tried to challenge at DNC2020. This is despite the fact Kamala Harris cosponsored a bill introduced by Jeff Merkley in July 2019 that would, if passed, strengthen the 45Q tax credit/subsidy for carbon capture projects.

This is a commonsense position held by both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. … The DNC should immediately include it in the platform. [SOURCE]

In mid August Brian Kahn from Gizmodo-Earther quoted the “manager’s mark” document provided by the DNC after the cotnroversial removal of John Laesch’s enhnced oil recovery amendment . The quote contradicts itself, but most people would not percieve the contradiction because the reality of “clean energy” plans is not generally understood. The Democrats cannot support eliminating tax breaks for fossil fuels and extend tax incentives for “clean energy” because clean energy includes fossil fuels and therefore will result in the destruction and negative impacts on nature and frontline communities that extractivism always causes.

Democrats support eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuels, and will fight to defend and extend tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy. [SOURCE]

The day after Brian Kahn’s piece was published Biden’s policy director doubled down on the no fossil fuel subsidies lie. Biden’s climate plans released during the primaries in 2019 are identical in all the most important respects. The Unity Task Force process did nothing to close the door on CCUS, advanced nuclear or fracking.

Vice President Biden’s commitment to ending fossil fuel subsidies remains as steadfast as it was when he outlined this position in the bold climate plan he laid out last year,” Stef Feldman, policy director for the Biden campaign said in a statement to The Verge. “He will demand a worldwide ban on fossil fuel subsidies and lead the world by example, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies in the United States during the first year of his presidency, [SOURCE]

Varshini Prakash who represented the Sunrise Movement at the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force was interviewed on Democracy Now by Juan Gonzalez in mid August 2020. Prakash says that they were able to move the timeline for getting to clean electricity by 15 years, but she does not outline the rationale behind remaining silent on the reasons for her concessions to CCUS, advanced nuclear and fracking.

Getting to 100% renewable energy by 2050 is absolutely impermissible for island nations, for young people who are growing up at a true crossroads between chaos and destruction and a livable planet right now. And so, we pushed, and we won some pretty significant victories. We were able to move up the timeline on decarbonizing the electricity sector by 15 years, so now the Biden administration is committing to 100% clean electricity by 2035. [SOURCE]

In a mid August 2020 article The Real News Network quoted a Sanders staffer offering a contradictory version of the events that lead to John Laesch’s amendment being removed. This version of events makes no sense in the light of Laesch’s own writing from 2 weeks earlier before his amendment disappeared. The outcome from the episode is that all and sundry Democrats and NGO mouthpieces were given an opportunity to speak up against fossil fuel subsidies without having to acknowledge the existence of, or attempts to expand 45Q tax credits. The truly sad thing is that Laesch’s own words were ignored by those with the power to amplify his concerns about the coming enhanced oil recovery boom.

Jeff Weaver, a long-time aide to Bernie Sanders, told The Real News he had spoken to Laesch who had agreed to the amendment being removed. “He agreed to the language being taken out in exchange for certain other amendments that he supported,” Weaver said, adding that it was indeed a “clerical error” which was rectified after the statement was scrubbed. [SOURCE]

The North America director for 350 Action penned a piece for The Nation in mid August 2020 which did not mention the full version of John Laesch’s experience of having his amendment dropped. This was consistent with all the statements made by all the Democrats – progressive or otherwise – who spoke about the incident. The same was the case for all NGO mouthpieces and the vast majority of journalists. Through their failure to fully recount the incident they assisted in masking off the specific tax credits that have been expanded through bipartisan efforts during the first Trump presidential term.

By evading the need to stop fossil fuel subsidies and phase out fossil fuel extraction, the DNC leadership is avoiding the root causes of climate change and environmental injustice. [SOURCE]

In mid August Peter White at The Tenessee Tribune outlined the shannanegans that went on during the DNC platform development process. It wasn’t only John Laesch who was under pressure to drop amendments. Members representing progressive positions were manipulated in multiple ways. You can see from the below quote how much John Laesch’s recollections differ from the version of events provided by senior Sanders staffer Jeff Weaver.

I submitted nine amendments on climate and some of them were dropped without my consent. This is both against the rules and undemocratic,” said John Laesch, a Sanders member of the Platform Committee. “I would have understood if they wanted to change a few words, but they wanted to eliminate any reference to eliminating fossil fuel subsidies for enhanced oil recovery, the fossil fuel industry’s plan to address the climate crisis.” [SOURCE]

In late August 2020 the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis through it’s chair Brian Shatz released ‘The Case for Climate action: Building a Clean economy for the American People’. Among the members are Sheldon Whitehouse, a proponent of the FUTURE Act and the USEIT Act, Jeff Merkley whose Good Jobs for 21st Century Energy Act aims to strengthen tax credits for sequestered CO2, and Ed Markey who in 2019 reportedly told the brightest fossil fuel industry lobbyist in the US, Brad Crabtree, that carbon capture “is in”. The pipelines advocated here are the absolute opposite of phasing out fossil fuels or keeping them in the ground. Ed Markey, the top Democrat proponent of the Green New Deal, the man who expressly stated that he wanted to appeal to “progressives and moderates”, is putting his support behind CO2 pipeline expansions that could only be possible with tax breaks like those contained in bipartisan efforts to strengthen 45Q tax credits and support the development stream for the CCUS supplied CO2 enhanced oil recovery boom.

Decarbonizing the electricity sector (and industrial sector) will also require new types of interstate pipelines. The United States already has nearly 5,000 miles of pipeline to carry carbon dioxide,117but we will need thousands more miles if we commit to a carbon capture and storage network that scales to the likely need. All scenarios examined in the 2018 IPCC report on holding global warming to 1.5 degrees required the use of carbon capture and storage.118 We may also need new pipelines to carry hydrogen or other chemicals created to store electricity produced by wind and solar generators. Like new transmission, new pipelines are challenging to permit. To achieve emission reduction goals, we will need well-crafted federal policy changes to aid the buildout of this pipeline network without sacrificing environmental review processes. [SOURCE]

Upon the release of the Senate Democrats ‘case’ policy director Food & Water Action, Mitch Jones released a statement. If his disparagements of the Senate Democrats report seem particularly forceful, it may be because on August 24, the day before the report was released, Food and Water Action published an endorsement of Ed Markey for the senate.

This climate report from the Senate Democrats completes a trifecta of underwhelming and inadequate proposals from Democratic leadership. Like the June report from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the recently-released Democratic Party platform, this report relies on false solutions designed to placate the oil and gas lobby. Further, it fails to address the vital need to end the extraction, processing, and burning of fossil fuels, and instead sees a future for fossil fuels tied to the false promise of carbon capture. It even fails to include a call to ban new fossil fuel extraction on public lands, a position that was endorsed by virtually all candidates in the Democratic presidential primary. [SOURCE]

‘Food & Water Action Endorses Ed Markey for U.S. Senate’ [SOURCE]

In late August 2020 M.V. Ramana and Schyler Edmunston from Beyond Nuclear International made the case against nuclear with perspective rightly informed by the First Nations people who’ve warned against the extractivist impacts of uranium mining of First Nations land. The authors discuss 2 variants on the Green New Deal, one in Canada and the other championed by Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins.

Last but not least, Green New Deal proposals emphasize ethics and equity. The Pact for a Green New Deal, for example, wants to ensure that the necessary energy transition “is socially just and doesn’t hurt those at the bottom of the economic ladder; and that it respects Indigenous rights.” It is precisely those groups that have been hurt most by the nuclear fuel chain.

 

Around the world, the uranium that fuels nuclear plants has predominantly been mined from traditional lands of Indigenous peoples, whether we are talking about Canada, India, the United States, or Australia. There is ample evidence of devastating health consequences from the production of uranium, for example, on the Navajo and the Lakota nations. [SOURCE]

In early September 2020, a little over a month before Oil Change International endorsed Joe Biden, OIC senior campaigner Collin Rees, as part of a joint letter to Joe Biden, made a statement that shows he’s fully aware of the role played by Obama’s energy tsar in wrangling the industrial labor organizations in the Carbon Capture Coalition for the net zero agenda.

Joe Biden can’t address the climate crisis while listening to people taking checks from the fossil fuel industry like Ernest Moniz, Jason Bordoff, Ken Salazar, and Heather Zichal. Biden must act boldly in collaboration with grassroots leaders fighting for environmental and climate justice—which means ruling out positions for dangerous ‘all-of-the-above’ boosters whose time has passed,” said Collin Rees, Senior Campaigner at Oil Change U.S. [SOURCE]

In early September 2020 Varshini Prakash was quoted a New York Times article by Michelle Goldberg regarding the impact of the Green New Deal on Ed Markey’s career. The quote shows how necessary it has been to have someone who can engage with moderates. Pleasant things can always be said about Ed Markey as long as you don’t acknowledge his compromise positions or his senate committee attendence record.

Markey was the most prominent figure on the Green New Deal aside from A.O.C.,” said Varshini Prakash, the Sunrise Movement’s executive director. “If he goes down in a Democratic primary, immediately the story that gets spun out of that is, ‘The Green New Deal is a losing political proposition.’ [SOURCE]

In early September 2020, just as I was submitting Part 1 of this series, the Thrive Agenda was announced. It was supported by a significant representation of climate justice NGOs including some that were marginalized by progressive Democrats and the Democrat aligned NGOs that serve their electoral interests. #TimetoThrive achieved very little other than boost the numbers for a Sierra Club petition. It seems that it was a product of the constant polling done by Data for Progress.

This polling shows that economic recovery plans that center racial, economic, and climate justice are popular with broad swaths of the electorate, including in battleground states and districts. [SOURCE]

The Green New Deal redeems the moderate with compromise positions, as long as you champion it. I would contend that making Ed Markey’s electoral success essential incentives turning a blind eye to his compromise positions.

In an article in The Atlantic in mid September 2020 Elain Godfrey outlines how Sean McElwee and a colleague – most likely Julain Brave Noisecat – were invited to discuss climate policy with the Biden team in March 2020 despite Bernie Sanders not having yet suspended his campaign.

In their March meeting, McElwee and a colleague attempted to persuade the Biden team to endorse a kind of quasi–Green New Deal. Their hope: If the presumptive Democratic nominee took a stronger stance on climate change in particular, he could get more young people and progressives excited about his campaign. They urged the campaign to endorse a commitment to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century, and to invest in low-income communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution. The Biden team was worried that moving left on climate would be all risk and no reward. But McElwee assured them that it would be both popular and good policy. They didn’t extract much in the way of immediate commitments, McElwee told me after the meeting. But he had—he has—a longer-term plan.

Godfrey observes the shift in McElwee’s progressive messaging over time, now tailored to the mainstream which means more suitable for moderate Democrats.

The second stage of Sean seems to have begun about a year ago. McElwee started talking much less about moonshot progressive goals and much more about tailoring the progressive message to mainstream Democratic voters.”

Godfrey also quotes Julian Brave Noisecat who seems to have a knack for spinning the ugly into the acceptable. Did the compromise positions presented by Data for Progress to the Biden team help prime the Unity Task Force process to deliver more business as usual?

“Biden really could be a crypto-progressive president,” Julian Noisecat [SOURCE]

In late September 2020 Varshini Prakash was intrviewed by KK Oetesen at the Washington Post. The interview spotlights Prakash and the Sunrise Movement as if they were not part of a collective effort supported by a brigade of NGOs, think tanks, and progressive Democrat entities.

If Sunrise hadn’t been a disruptive, local movement, there’s no way that we would have actually ended up on that task force. And if we hadn’t [brought] the movement’s agenda into the task force, I don’t think that Joe Biden would have embraced a plan to get 100 percent clean electricity by 2035. I don’t think he would have embraced the demand that came up through movement organizers in New York of embracing investment into communities of color and low-income communities who have been affected by the climate crisis or environmental degradation. [SOURCE]

In late September 2020 Steve Horn explained the reality of Biden’s climate plans to “double down” on CCUS. Horn outlines the extensive efforts of Ernest Moniz to shape net zero ‘climate soltuions’ that will please fossil fuel companies, the big indutrial labor organizations and bipartisan Democrats.

While the Biden campaign has promised to slash “fossil fuel subsidies at home in his first year” in office, both his supporters and those of progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), his chief challenger for the nomination, backed CCUS in the climate platform forged by their post-primaries “unity” task force in July. In August, the Biden campaign emerged from Democratic National Committee platform negotiations with a pledge to support the “development and deployment of carbon capture sequestration technology,” as well as to “double down on federal investments and enhance tax incentives for CCUS. [SOURCE]

In late September 2020, just after the first presidential debate, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Kate Aronoff who, as usual, was frank about the fact that Biden is not fully committed to the Green New Deal, but, as usual, Aronoff didn’t speak to the specifics that would put her comments in a different light. Aronoff pushes the same line that all Green New Deal promoters push which is that the work will need to be done after Joe Biden is voted in. Aronoff, by not speaking to the existence of CCUS and advanced nuclear in Biden’s plans, can quite easily perpetuate the false impression created by those who’ve said the Green New Deal and Biden’s climate plans bare some resemblance.

Yeah, it’s the most progressive climate policy that a Democratic presidential candidate has ever run on, and it’s not nearly enough. Activists pushed this to be the best plan that we’ve seen from a Democratic nominee, and we know that, in January, when he is hopefully elected, that he’ll need to be pushed really aggressively in order to make any of that a reality. So, it’s a good starting place, and it’s just that. [SOURCE]

In early October 2020 Jean Chemnick wrote about how the executive level decision making for implementing climate plans may take shape. John Podesta has championed, as a long time “climate consiglieri to Democrat presidents, a National Climate Council that would support coordination between federal, state and local levels of government. It would be modelled on the National Security Council.

Podesta wrote a memo in 2008 that called for a National Climate Council when he headed the Obama-Biden transition team. The idea was never adopted, though Podesta went on to helm Obama’s second-term climate effort in a role that served roughly the same purpose of providing White House oversight to domestic and international climate efforts.

A National Climate Council would support a “Podesta-like” position in the White House. A top climate official with significant authority. Jason Bordoff, who is thought to be highly influential in the Biden campaign team advocates for the creation of a “deputy national security advisor for climate and energy” working under the National Security Council.

“You need a really single, forceful, powerful actor within the White House with the mandate to lead the president’s climate agenda across the White House and the rest of the government,” said Jason Bordoff, who served as senior director for energy and climate change at the NSC under Obama.[SOURCE]

In early October 2020 Oil Change International endorsed Joe Biden. They could have chosen not to endorse any presidential candidate and made some clear responses to the substance of Biden’s climate plans. There is everything to be gained in terms of better informing the public about the influence of the oil, gas and coal industry on the Democratic party from unpacking precisely what is in Biden’s climate plans and asking how they got there.

Oil Change U.S. was not shy to critique Joe Biden throughout the primary campaign. We pointed out where his plans fell short, and when he took advice from the wrong advisors. But we also know he’s listening — both Biden and Harris are signatories of the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, and even in the last week they’ve announced fossil fuel executives will have no place in their transition team. With Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House, we know there will be room to shape a more just and equitable future. [SOURCE]

The Sunrise Movement ‘Victory Squad’ kept the message very simple in early October 2020. The message is that getting a Green New Deal is all about defeating Trump. Sadly, maintaining the integrity of the Green New Deal is not an issue.

We have the chance to win big – electing Green New Deal champions to Congress, turning out our peers in states where the youth vote can defeat Trump, and all the while building our movement to be ready to bring in the decade of the Green New Deal. But it’s gonna take all of us, giving the time that we can, to get us there. [SOURCE]

Leslie Kaufman wrote a piece for Bloomberg Green in early October 2020 regarding the “energy clash” on the Biden team. Kaufman recognizes the significance of the Unity Task Force as a translational process that takes the inputs from key stakeholders to produce policy platforms for the Biden team. As you can see from the quote, the favored approach to the lack of ‘unity’ flowing from the task force process is to accentuate the positive (we moved Biden further left) and eliminate any mention of the patently negative (fracking, nuclear and CCUS still on the table) thereby avoiding discussing the true nature of the concessions that were made.

After Biden refused to support the Green New Deal during last week’s debate with Trump, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Our differences are exactly why I joined Biden’s Climate Unity Task Force — so we could set aside our differences & figure out an aggressive climate plan to address the planetary crisis at our feet.” Another task force member, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash, told Bloomberg Green in September that left-wing environmentalists “will have a lot of work to do even if he’s elected. [SOURCE]

In early October 2020 Nikayla Jefferson, a Sunrise Movement organiser, repeated an assertion Julian Brave Noisecat made after the Unity Task Force recommendations came out and Biden’s ‘Buld Back Better’ climate plans were released. The assertion is demonstrably untrue and entirely reliant on not unpacking what is actually in Biden’s plans and who continues to advise the Biden team on energy policy, eg Ernest Moniz.

It is a testament to the power of the youth movement that, since the end of the primary season, Biden has released his climate plan as a Green New Deal in all but name. [SOURCE]

In mid October 2020 Jean Chemnick wrote about the closed nature of the Biden campaign team’s engagement as it prepares transition plans. Chemnick quotes a person characterising the campaign process as “a black box”.

Everyone who’s producing policy ideas is hoping they can get it into that bloodstream,” said Andrew Light, a State Department climate official under President Obama who is now a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute. “If you’re working on something now, you’re probably not aiming to just produce an academic article if you really want to make a difference.

Chemnick indicates the likely influential role of Jason Bordoff who advocates for a position to be created within the National Security Council.

It’s unclear which proposals are gaining traction — though several sources mentioned that Obama energy and climate adviser Jason Bordoff seemed to have the campaign’s attention. The National Security Council alum has proposed that Biden create a deputy national security adviser on climate to better integrate those concerns into national security planning [SOURCE]

In late October 2020 Jeff Merkley introduced the ‘Protecting America’s Economy from the Carbon Bubble Act of 2020’. The stated purpose of the bill is to prohibit finace for “new sources” of fossil fuels. Merkley is a Green New Deal cosponsor, member of the Senate Democrats SCCC that recently recommended support for CCUS pipeline infrastructure, and in 2019 he introduced a bill that would expand tax credits/subsidies for CO2 enhanced oil recovery, fossil hydrogen and all forms of carbon capture utilization and storage.

The Protecting America’s Economy from the Carbon Bubble Act of 2020 would help safeguard the economy by prohibiting financial companies from making new investments in fossil fuels—investments that are not only accelerating climate chaos, but also risk destabilizing the global economy. [SOURCE]

If we look at how the term “new sources” is defined we can see that the operative word is “proven”. In the case of CO2 enhanced oil recovery reserves become proven when recovery techniques improve and market conditions are suitable. It is quite posible that CO2 enahanced oil recovery projects may not be regarded as “new sources” under this bill. Given that Jeff Merkley has supported legislative efforts to fund the infrastructure that would expand the enhanced oil recovery industry, it stands to reason that he would not introduce 2 bills that are counterposed in their objectives.

(4) the term ‘new sources’ means— 2 ‘‘(A) any production in excess of proven developed producing reserves of fossil fuels as of the date of enactment of this section; or ‘‘(B) new or expanded fossil infrastructure that would facilitate the production described in subparagraph (A); and [SOURCE]

In late October 2020 following the third presidential debate the LA Times reported a rhetorical statement that is clearly contradicted by Biden’s own plans. In terms of subsidies like the 45Q tax credit, there is nothing to signifiy that Biden is comitted to hodling up the bipartisan political will. I suspect there has been overwhelming silence from progressives and Democrat aligned NGOs because, in the end they serve net zero rather than a fossil fuel hase out, and direct air capture which will be necessary to achieve negative emissions falls under the umbrella of technologies that could get a boost from tax credits for capture ans sequestration of CO2.

“I would transition from the oil industry,” Biden said. “It has to be replaced by renewable energy over time — over time,” he added after Trump interrupted him. “And I’d stop giving to the oil industry — I’d stop giving them federal subsidies.” [SOURCE]

The extended pretence of climate justice leaders

7 February 2019 to Present

Before Trump, the Democrats had their Clean Power Plan, an all-of-the-above suite of solutions where the groundwork was being laid for the coming enhanced oil recovery boom. They were happy to have the climate justice movement with it’s 2 leading lights determining the acceptable boundaries of discussion. Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein were an effective foil, a reference point for climate messaging.

After Trump was voted in the climate justice movement and it’s associated ENGOs had a choice. Focus on bipartisan Democrats who would continue to help advance efforts made during the Obama presidency, or join with the generalised anti-Tumpism while ignoring the political will they had largely ignored during the Obama years.

The Biden campaign team is now replete with Obama era advisers like Ernest Moniz the Obama era energy secretary, Gina McCarthy Obama’s EPA director, and Jason Bordoff, former special assistant on energy and climate change to President Obama.

The Green New Deal campaign was never more than an electoral greenwash to facilitate the ambitions of moderate Democrats in advancing energy policy and managing resistance against long term plans to deliver favorable finance for new fossil fuel frontiers.

Klein and McKibben are nearing the end of their usefulness. When the Green New Deal Resolution came along they didn’t say “Hey! What is this “net zero”?”, “What happened to keep-it-in-the-ground?”, or “How is ‘clean’ different from renewable?”. They chose instead to cheer on as climate justice activism was captured to facilitate the electoral agenda of of the Democrats. Everyone got played, or silenced, or played along and stayed quite on anything that might rattle the momentum.

On 7 February 2019 Dharna Noor published an interview with the climate policy director at Greenpeace USA, Janet Redman who explained how we ought to understand “clean energy” as distinct from renewable energy. This is a critical understanding of the language that crucially shifted when the Green New Deal Resolution became the central object of Democrat endeavours. If critically applied, an honest understanding of what is and is not “clean energy”, will result in unpacking the political will for business as usual, and exposing the absence of a desire to phase out fossil fuels and drive back extractivism.

Yeah, renewable and clean are slightly different. Renewable energy means wind, water, and sunlight. Things that are coming from the environment around us that never run out. Clean energy can mean a lot of different things to different people. It can mean nuclear power to some people. It’s clean because it doesn’t emit carbon. It’s not clean because we need to do uranium mining to make that energy, and we need to do something with that waste that’s now toxic. Sometimes lawmakers and environmentalists have tried to sneak in gas as a way of talking about clean energy, because it, in some forms, is less dirty than burning coal. Studies have recently shown that that’s not true at all; unfortunately, it’s just as bad, as climate-harming, as other forms of fossil fuel. It is, in fact, a fossil fuel. [SOURCE]

On the same day that the Green New Deal Resolution was introduced, 7 February 2019 The Chronicle of Philanthropy published an opinion piece by Angela Adrar from Climate Justice Alliance and banker Tyler Nickerson, a regular writer for TCP. I am left with the question,  Did that package of bills arrive? I am also concerned that philanthropy stepped in at this juncture given that CJA have gone silent in regard to their demands for accountability from New Consensus.

Now grant makers can put their money and influence behind a package of bills that incorporate many issues such as economic development, social justice, and the environment. [SOURCE]

The technology neutrality or willingness to consider new nuclear energy or willingness to leave existing nuclear energy undisturbed was made plain in early February 2019 immediately following the introduction of Green new Deal resolution. Advocates for First Nations and frontline groups were clearly concerned, but where were the admonishments and warnings from climate justice movement leaders?

“The resolution is silent on any individual technology which can move us toward a solution to this [climate change] problem,” Markey said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “There [are] no individual prescriptions in the resolution which is why we think we’re going to be able to get a broad base of support, and then we’ll let the debates begin on the individual solutions.”

 “[T]he text of the actual resolution makes it abundantly clear — we must embrace every zero-carbon resource available to eliminate climate pollution and dramatically increase our investment in clean energy innovation,”Josh Freed, vice president for clean energy at Third Way, said in a statement. [SOURCE]

In early February 2019 Kate Aronoff who went on to become a fellow at Data for Progress described the situation as it is and acknowledged that, yes, 100% renewables was the basis of the green new Deal concept before the resolution was introduced. Amazingly, Aronoff makes to prescription for what climate justice activist and frontline advocates might do to address the issue. The claim that the issue of 100% renewables versus 100% clean energy was “hotly debated” is contestable. I can’t say that a fulsome discourse took place. If it did then John Noel’s efforts would have received more attention and support.

Unlike the original resolution calling for a Select Committee on a Green New Deal — which called for 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 — this one calls for the U.S. to reach net-zero emissions by 2030. The difference is more than semantic, and energy wonks have hotly debated it since Ocasio-Cortez, Sunrise, and other groups began pushing the call for the latter in November. While full reliance on renewables would have all energy come from sources such as wind and solar, net-zero entails an openness to so-called negative emissions technologies, a suite of measures ranging from the experimental — like carbon capture and storage, machines to extract carbon from industrial processes and put it underground — to the conventional, like afforestation, or planting trees that suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. [SOURCE]

In late February 2019 Naomi Klein’s colleague at The Intercept , Rachel Cohen made the same acknowledgemnt as many others including Kate Aronoff, that the Green New Deal does not expressly rule out forms of supposedly ‘clean energy’. Naomi Klein had written about the Green New Deal resolution the week before without mentioning CCUS or nuclear. Indeed, Klein managed to discuss the unions without ever acknowledging how many are with Carbon Capture Coalition.

The Green New Deal resolution doesn’t explicitly rule out carbon capture technology, but in a section that deals with removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, the authors endorse “proven low-tech solutions that increase soil carbon storage,” like protecting land and planting new trees. Other vaguely written sections of the resolution, however, could open the door for carbon-capture technology. The resolution endorses “creating solutions to remove” emissions, and endorses the international exchange of technology, products, and services to address climate change.

 

The Sunrise Movement does not see “a heavy role for carbon capture and storage,” said Weber, the group’s political director, though he said it could be worth investing in some research and development for so-called heavy industry like steelmaking and shipbuilding. He noted that carbon capture technology is “pretty expensive compared to just reducing emissions by moving toward alternative forms of energy.” Ocasio-Cortez’s and Markey’s offices did not return requests for comment. [SOURCE]

In early March 2019, a month after Julian Brave Noisecat who was still working with 350 dot org acknowledged that the Green New Deal resolution had a “keep the door open approach” in regard to it’s specific language, Mark Z. Jacobson and a colleague reasserted that a 100% renewable Green New Deal was possible without nuclear or CCUS. This position is in line with the position articulated by Janet Redman from Greenpeace USA in February 2019.

Critics claim, though, that the Green New Deal is unaffordable and uneconomical and will sink the US into more debt. Having led the research team that developed science-based plans to transition each of the 50 states to 100% wind, water, and solar (WWS) in all energy sectors (electricity, transportation, heating and cooling, and industry), we conclude the opposite is true: the benefits of clean energy systems greatly exceed the costs. 10 other independent research groups similarly find that 100% renewable energy systems are low cost without fossil fuels with carbon capture or nuclear power. [SOURCE]

In mid April 2019 AOC in partnership with The Intercept, Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis and Molly Crabapple produced a fanciful video that did not attend to the spectre of the coming enhanced oil recovery and fossil hydrogen booms, but rather, they focused on aspirational outcomes.

‘A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ [SOURCE]

Sunrise Movement co-founder Stephen O’Hanlon spoke at a rally in Washington in early May 2019, in it he reasserted the commitment to “100% renewables” despite the change of language with the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution. But in order to prioritize 100% renewables you have to be 100% committed to a fossil fuel phase out.

We have proven solutions to 100% renewable energy like wind and solar — we want to be prioritizing development of them. That said, we don’t want to shut down nuclear power plants and replace them with coal-fired power plants. [SOURCE]

In early July 2019 the NDN Collective published a position paper titled ‘Mobilizing and Indigenous Green New Deal’. One of the authors was Julian Brave Noisecat. By this point Noisecat had become a crucial member of Data for Progress team that defined the language that he argues is “not specific” enough. Indeed Noisecat was on staff when D4P invented the phrase “non-renewable clean energy”.

NDN Collective shares the concern stated by IEN that the language around “green infrastructure” and “renewable clean energy” is not specific enough to prevent future co-optation and abuse. The term ‘green infrastructure’ has been utilized to describe various carbon capture mechanisms which, like carbon trading, allow extractive industries to continue the dirty and unjust extraction of fossil fuels. Nuclear energy production and energy generated by large hydroelectric dams are both zero-emission energy production practices that carry deep toxic and damaging legacies within Indigenous communities and homelands.

 

NDN is the most ambitious, systemic effort to empower Indigenous communities in the history of philanthropy. (slogan on website)[SOURCE]

In mid September 2019 Naomi Klein sat on a panel with Julian Brave Noisecat and organizer Jane McAlevey. Klein stumbles into a criticism of Green New Deal proponents. With the Green new Deal in the hands of various Democrat aligned groups including the Sunrise Movement, it should be no surprise that the level of engagement from the public is merely a matter of metrics and polling.

“I come across people all the time who are like, “I love the Green New Deal , I have no idea how to get involved”, like, they’re in the women’s movement you know, they’re teachers or nurses, and it’s not…The path of entry isn’t clear yet to enough people who actually are the people who have the most to gain.” Naomi Klein [SOURCE]

In late September 2019 Naomi Klein sat down with former The Atlantic and Boston Globe editor, and strong supporter of 350 dot org Wen Stephenson to discuss her new book ‘On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal’. Klein, rather than point out the greatest threats to phasing out fossil fuels, threats she articulated in ‘This Changes Everything’, Klein explains how she helped promulgate “hope” in the Green New Deal. If her “fairy tale” had attended to the real risks to a Green New Deal, like the coming enhanced oil recovery and fossil hydrogen booms, then it would have been a different, but much much more honest film.

“Our experience when we did the Message From the Future film — which is a fairy tale, I admit that — but people wept, because they were like, I had not allowed myself to imagine a future that was not terrible. I think there’s a space for that, for giving ourselves those little exercises, because most of us have never let ourselves do it.”

 

“I think one reason for hope is that we are having more debates about the structural crisis within democracy, that this is happening in parallel. When I look at history, and these moments when progressive change happened, it does tend to be like a dam breaking, and we do tend to see a lot of change very quickly, after long periods of no change.” [SOURCE]

In late October 2019 Naomi Klein spoke about her new book at a Berkeley Journalism event. In her talk she reinforced the need to observe climate justice principles while at the same time suggesting that the Green new Deal is building on the work of the climate justice movement rather than eroding its substance to further the agenda of the Democrats.  Yet another moment where Klein failed to disturb the agreed narrative.

The Green New Deal…this is a political framework that builds on the work of the climate justice movement over many decades…the principles that the frontline communities need to design the response, [SOURCE]

In late February 2020 Janet Redman reasserted the need the to work directly against the fossil fuel industry’s plans for continued extractivism under 45Q tax credits.

We need to think about what’s the most important way to spend our money and our political will,” which means shifting to renewables, not working on things that allow the fossil fuel industry to continue producing, said Janet Redman, the environmental group’s climate director. [SOURCE]

Like the many letters sent by collections of climate and social justice NGOs, the US Climate Action Network ‘Vision for Equitable Climate’ document contains firmly stated positions against technologies like CCUS, but leaves key operators out of the spotlight. This is standard for any NGO or collective that wants to support a Green New Deal, but does not want to marginalize itself. While they take a position against CCUS and direct air capture for CO2 enhanced oil recovery, they do respond to the specific ‘clean’ language in the Green New Deal Report and the resolution that followed it.

Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground and Stop Expansion.

 

Target a Just Transition to 100% Renewable Energy.

 

Ensure That Polluters Pay the Full Costs of Their License to Operate.

 

Ensure That Polluters Pay for the Cost of a Just Transition. [SOURCE]

Silence leaves no paper trail. This is where making arguments gets more difficult because pointing out what someone or a group ought to have done this or that places a critic in a field of conjecture. As someone who has been pointing out the truth of the term “clean energy” for the past 4 years and who has written extensively about the engagement of industrial labor organizations with the efforts of big oil, gas and coal to deliver tax credits as an effective subsidy, I think I have an excellent vantage point to argue for what ought to be said by anyone claiming to be committed to phasing out fossil fuels.

As I have argued in multiple forums, avoidance of unpacking certain inconvenient truths is the key mechanism in the thinking of self censoring, high reach individuals. I would argue that this is why Naomi Klein went dark before the Unity Task Force recommendations were released followed quickly by Biden’s Build Back Better plans, and why Greenpeace did not fill the gap created when John Noel went on paternity leave shortly before the presidential climate policy season.

Part 3

In the final part of this series I will review my investigations into bipartisan efforts to expand tax credits as a subsidy for CO2 enhanced oil recovery, and examine the pragmatic choices made by high reach individuals out of fear of losing influence and career position. I will show how the largely ignored bipartisan political will supports a relentless fossil fuel industry hell bent on further entrenching fossil fuel extraction through massive expansions in pipeline and refining infrastructure. I will show that no matter who is the next president, all who support a Green New Deal will need to train their eyes very closely on legislative process, especially senate committees.

Conclusion

The substance of Biden’s climate plans compared against the original basis of the Green New Deal that was sold to First Nations and frontline advocates reveals a stark contrast. For the Green new Deal to function in the political space, it has to belong to the Democrats. The Democrats will never settle for policies that actually threaten the power and profits of fossil fools. The Green New Deal had to satisfy the progressives and their friends the Democrat aligned NGOs, but it also had to function as a messaging vehicle for moderate Democrats, hence its language is so vague that it does not raise difficult questions.

Prevarication is the process whereby lies are told and truths are omitted. The vast majority of voices speaking for or about the Green New Deal have either a narrative or a funding stream to protect, sometimes it’s both. Between the abrogations of all the various players sits the unattended truth, that First Nations and frontline communities are not safe enough for NGOs to leave in charge of exercising the principles of a Just Transition.

 

+++

*Since you made it to the end, and if you have any energy to read on. Please enjoy these ponderings on the metaphor I have chosen to represent this series.

’15 Things About Weekend At Bernie’s That Don’t Make Sense (But We Don’t Care)’

https://www.therichest.com/world-entertainment/15-things-about-weekend-at-bernies-that-dont-make-sense-but-we-dont-care/

 

 

[Michael Swifte is an Australian activist and a member of the Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective.]

 

 

 

 

It’s Not a Social Dilemma – It’s the Calculated Destruction of the Social [The Enclosure of Africa]

October 30, 2020

By Cory Morningstar

 

 

2Africa: Digital Colonization Meets White Paternalism – The Facebook Enclosure of Africa

 

“Zuckerberg’s team has another related project named 2Africa. A “mission”, as they call it… Civilians have been quite silent about it this time, but not because they don’t have an opinion. It looks like many civil society groups in the continent are financed by Facebook itself. Ironic, right? Well, it seems like the missionary-like good guys from up North are going to save the world again.”

 

August 18, 2020, “There’s a 2.0 form of colonialism happening under our very eyes”

 

 

“Facebook realizes it’s running out of room to grow in developed markets. Instead of waiting for developing countries to build adequate infrastructure for its apps, Facebook wants to help develop the infrastructure and lock users into its ecosystem.”

 

May 22, 2020, Facebook Will Bring Expanded Internet Access to Africa in $1 Billion Project

 

 

“Big Tech corporations are wreaking havoc on the Global South. There’s a crisis in the tech ecosystem, and it’s called digital colonialism.”

 

March 13, 2019, “Digital colonialism is threatening the Global South”

“Many countries will face a shrinking population. For Europe, this challenge may come sooner. The region is projected to face the highest dependency ratio—the number of people of nonworking age (over 65) compared with those of working age—by 2050. At 75 percent, this ratio is higher than for any other region… Not all populations are shrinking or getting older, though. Africa—the only region whose population is expected to grow more than 1 percent a year—will have the youngest median age, 25, by 2050.” [Source: International Monetary Fund, Finance & Development, March 2020] 

Today, four in ten people, that is, 42% of the global population, are aged under 25. Now consider that 76% of youth aged 18–24 use Facebook. [Source] “While the majority of most populations in the Global North are decreasing or flatlining, in Sub-Saharan Africa the populations are growing with nearly half of the world’s youth living in Sub-Saharan African countries.” [Source]

“As Africa meets the 4IR Fourth Industrial Revolution], its youth will be one of its most important assets”

 

August 25, 2020, World Economic Forum, How can Africa succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

According to a 2019 Pew Research Center analysis, for the first time in modern history, the planet’s human population “is expected to virtually stop growing by the end of this century, due in large part to falling global fertility rates.” [Source] In a mere ten years, by 2030, it is expected that one in five people will be African. [Source] By 2100, half of all babies born in the world – will be born in Africa. [Source]

For decades, population has been made a convenient scapegoat for climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and expressed concerns over biodiversity and sustainability. It has gained an upsurge in popularity with New Deal For Nature influencers David Attenborough and Jane Goodall (selected by the World Economic Forum, WWF et al.) promoting this narrative (a narrative with a fixation of black and brown bodies). Although it is Western countries responsible for the absolute bulk of these emissions and ecological devastation across the globe, it has not been African groups nor black academics calling on population controls for the West. Rather, it is Western and European groups, predominantly white and male, relentlessly targeting African nations and the sovereign bodies belonging to African women. Consider that in 1900 Europe held 25% of the global population, triple that of Africa. Yet by 2050, Europe is on track to hold a mere 7% of the global population (one-third that of Africa). With white supremacy as a foundational structure of the ruling class, the feigned concern over both ecology and poverty rings hollow. The race to recolonize African citizens, as techlonial subjects, has begun.

“Up until 1950, more than half of historical CO2 emissions were emitted by Europe. The vast majority of European emissions back then were emitted by the United Kingdom; as the data shows, until 1882 more than half of the world’s cumulative emissions came from the UK alone. Over the century which followed, industrialization in the USA rapidly increased its contribution. It’s only over the past 50 years that growth in South America, Asia and Africa have increased these regions’ share of total contribution.”

A 2013 map demonstrates fourteen nations account for approximately 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, an advance chapter of the 2019 Emissions Gap Report, released ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, reported G20 member states account for almost 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. [Source] The top three greenhouse gas emitters— China (with a population of1.4 billion), the European Union and the United States contribute more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions, while the bottom 100 countries account for a mere 3.5 percent. [Source]

Bob Collymore (1958-2019), Former CEO of Safaricom and leader of The B Team

Forecasts for this year (2020) show only one non-African country – Afghanistan – placed in the top 20 countries for the highest youth populations. [Source] For these reasons, Africa has been a target of both “fourth industrial revolution” technologies (digitalized healthcare, education, identities, etc.), as well as the United Nations-World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) is also recognized as a key target market. Under the guise of alleviating poverty, protecting climate and biodiversity, the SDGs are in reality, emerging markets, with their implementation driven by the World Economic Forum, partner to the United Nations. Children and youth are to become human data commodities on the blockchain. This is the foray into the machinations underpinning the new global poverty economy. The majority of climate investments earmarked in Annex 1 states in the Global North will be invested in emerging markets in the Global South – created by the West, for the West.

“Tech giants have been finding new ways of gathering data from citizens, this time with major investments in connection infrastructure in the global South.”

 

August 18, 2020, Digital Colonialism

On May 13, 2020, Facebook announced its plans to encircle the entire continent of Africa with subsea cable. At 37,000 kilometers long, the 2Africa cable will be nearly equal to the entire circumference of the Earth.

The 2Africa project, valued at approximately USD 1 billion, is considered one of the largest subsea cable projects in the world. It will interconnect 16 countries in Africa, the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and Europe.

“Facebook hasn’t disclosed how much money it’s contributing to the project, but it won’t be a significant percentage of its projected revenue of $78 billion this year.” [Source]

Facebook’s 2Africa partners include some of the globe’s largest telecom corporations, including: the U.K.’s Vodafone Group, France’s Orange SA, China’s Mobile, stc (Saudi Telecom), Europe’s GlobalConnect, and Africa’s West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC). The two African wireless carriers involved in the project are MTN Group (Johannesburg) and Telecom Egypt. Nokia Oyj’s Alcatel Submarine Networks has been contracted to build the cable. [Source]

“2Africa, whose aim is surrounding the whole African continent with undersea fibre-optic cables, is an infrastructural feat that in usual circumstances would be considered the exclusive domain of governments.”

 

August 17, 2020, Inside Facebook’s new power grab, From cables to internet cafes, Mark Zuckerberg is leaving his mark on the global South

According to Bloomberg, “tech giants, led by Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, are behind about 80% of the recent investment in transatlantic cable, driven by demand for fast-data transfers used for streaming movies to social messaging.” If one juxtaposes such priorities, with our dire planetary ecological crisis and unprecedented biodiversity loss, one catches a glimpse of a society in intellectual and ethical freefall. As we enter a “fourth” industrial revolution, consider that after an approximately 260 years of “progress”, 30% of the global population still has no access to clean drinking water, while approximately half the world’s population lacks access to safe sanitation. In tandem with diet, nutrition, and shelter, it is these most basic necessities that prevent disease and sickness. “An estimated 801,000 children younger than 5 years of age perish from diarrhoea each year, mostly in developing countries. This amounts to 11% of the 7.6 million deaths of children under the age of five and means that about 2,200 children are dying every day as a result of diarrheal diseases. Unsafe drinking water, inadequate availability of water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation together contribute to about 88% of deaths from diarrheal diseases.” As these black and brown deaths occur in the Global South, the populace of Global North remains largely and seemingly willfully blind to this normalized atrocity, while as of March 27, 2020, The Lancet reported outside of two reported deaths in China of children who tested positive for COVID-19, there were no accounts of COVID-19 deaths of children in the published literature. Since this time, fatalities in children from/with COVID-19 remain extremely rare.

Although at first glance, that COVID-19 is being prioritised over providing clean drinking water and safe sanitation must be considered insane, in fact, one must understand this as marketing: “Suggesting that the digital sphere “amplifies existing inequalities”, the UN official noted that among the most pressing challenges are tackling the lack of internet access in the world’s poorest nations – where fewer than one in five people has regular electricity.” [Source] One cannot feed their children with the internet. One cannot bathe their child in a virtual world. The concern over internet access inequality – the push for equal access for all – is nothing more than public relations and strategic marketing seeking social license. This feigned concern over inequality – is the storytelling that simultaneously conceals and drives the emerging markets. Oppression is reframed as empowerment. Data is the new oil.

Let them eat virtual cake – on their smartphones.

“‘We’ve been able to work with the local partners who are providing internet service in the most challenged areas,’ says Facebook’s Rabinovitsj. ‘Some of these places are really large slums in and around large urban centres and typically the disposable income is less than a few dollars a month for households.’ ‘We are able to, with our partners, come up with a sustainable model that provides internet access for [those] families.” [Source]

[Source: Smart Growth Is Colonialism Reinvented]

Award digital badges for “Smart Learning”. Mine the data. Feed the artificial intelligence and machine learning. Continue the theft of resources (biological communities) from the pillaged continent of Africa – that underpin the imperial “great reset”. Enslave the children via technology. Smart slavery. Smart enslavement. Smart colonialism.

“Facebook has long tried to lead the race to improve connectivity in Africa in a bid to take advantage of a young population, greater connectivity and the increasing availability and affordability of smartphones.”

 

Bloomberg, May 14, 2020, Faster Internet Coming to Africa With Facebook’s $1 Billion Cable

September 12, 2016: “NAIROBI, Kenya, “Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is in Kenya after a three-day visit in Lagos, Nigeria in his first visit to Africa. Zuckerberg is expected to meet tech entrepreneurs, developers and talk to stakeholders in the ICT industry. Zuckerberg: “Just landed in Nairobi! I’m here to meet with entrepreneurs and developers, and to learn about mobile money – where Kenya is the world leader.” [Source] [Image]

May 17, 2017: “Black Facebook users are having their accounts banned for speaking out against racism: It seems the intent behind silencing outspoken Black folks hasn’t changed in the last few hundred years. And while Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t yet sentenced me to “thirty nine lashes on [my] bare back,” I can’t say for certain that penalty isn’t hidden somewhere… I’ve lost count of how many Black organizers have had their Facebook accounts temporarily or permanently banned for posting content that even remotely challenges white supremacy.”

Facebook’s announcement of the 2Africa project followed “a long and complex restoration process of an unprecedented simultaneous cable break”. The two Atlantic Ocean based 16,000 km cable systems (connecting South Africa to the UK) occurred early in the morning on January 16, 2020. The breaks in the cables, only eight years old, took place approximately 1,964 km apart from one another – with one break occurring near Libreville, Gabon, while the second break occurred south of Gabon, in the vicinity of Luanda, Angola. [Source] This same day, an 18-year-old cable called SAT-3 that runs along the same route was also reported broken.

“It was unprecedented that two completely geographically separate cables run by completely separate companies would fail within hours of each other,”

 

— Afrihost CEO Gian Visser speaking to Business Times

The breaks, cited as catastrophic, the cause as-yet unspecified, resulted in frustrated users in over 24 sub-Saharan African countries. Upon announcing the full restoration on February 19, 2020, Openserve, the infrastructure arm of South Africa’s Telkom, charged with co-ordinating the repairs on two damaged cable lines (WACS and the SAT3/WASC) stated it would “conduct a full analysis of the unusual dual-cable break.” As a side note, in February of 2008, outages on five separate undersea cables in the Middle East were attributed to sabotage by a UN official. Such acts of sabotage are not as rare as one may think:

“What’s the least sophisticated, but probably the most foolproof, way to cut off a country’s Internet traffic? Literally cutting it by severing undersea Internet cables. That’s what the Egyptian navy caught three scuba divers doing in the waters 750 meters off the port city of Alexandria on Wednesday… The effects of the ship taking out that cable were experienced as far away as Pakistan and India…”

 

— Divers Caught Cutting Internet Backbone Cable, March 28, 2013

The cable break disruption in Africa created a well-timed segue for the 2Africa project announcement by Facebook, which otherwise may well have generated backlash: “When completed, this new route will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa; supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East; and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people.” [May 13, 2020] Par for the course, and leaving no stone unturned, Facebook has taken a page from its capitalist predecessors, financing any possible opposition:

“This is hardly the only reason backlash has been muted. Activists on the African continent are often battling internet shutdowns, connectivity and other issues – and also struggle to make headlines in the western media even more than their counterparts in India. And there’s an additional complication: many of the African civil society groups are themselves funded by Facebook.” [Source]

 

“They have so many projects at the moment,” van der Spuy remarks. “They’re funding so many civil society people, including people that you wouldn’t think of, and they fund them to go to conferences and things. There’s a lot of soft and hard lobbying on the continent.” — Dr Anri van der Spuy, a senior associate at Research ICT Africa, a policy and regulation think-tank [Source]

 

Smart Colonialism

 

August 21, 2020, Algorithmic Colonisation of Africa: “In the age of algorithms, this control and domination occurs not through brute physical force but rather through invisible and nuanced mechanisms such as control of digital ecosystems and infrastructure.”

“Similar to the technical architecture of classic colonialism, digital colonialism is rooted in the design of the tech ecosystem for the purposes of profit and plunder. If the railways and maritime trade routes were the “open veins” of the Global South back then, today, digital infrastructure takes on the same role: Big Tech corporations use proprietary software, corporate clouds, and centralised Internet services to spy on users, process their data, and spit back manufactured services to subjects of their data fiefdoms. ”

 

March 13, 2019, “Digital colonialism is threatening the Global South”

The 2Africa cable project is expected to be in operation by 2024. It will surpass the combined capacity of all existing sub-sea cables serving Africa.

For an idea of the massive profits to be realized from the capture of data, one only needs to look at the monetary outlay corporations are willing to place up front. The population of St. Helena, Africa is 5,000. Research suggests that approximately 60% of these 5,000 citizens will use the Internet, for a total of 3,000 Internet users. For this tiny demographic, Google will spend USD 30 million. [Source]

Fiber optic specialist and industry insider Sunil Tagare was selected by Wired magazine as one of the “Wired 25” in 1999; a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, and is a Charter Member of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) New York. According to Tagare, Facebook’s share of the 2Africa project will amount to approximately 80 million dollars and use 10-20% of the bandwidth. This percentage of bandwidth will generate 21 billion dollars per year in revenues increasing Facebook’s market cap by USD 178 billion. [Source]

According to Tagare, 2Africa will be “the first smart cable with sensors to cross the Atlantic.” [Source]

The real prize here is not merely Facebook’s billion dollar revenues and growing global dominance. Rather, it is the infrastructure that underpins the further expansion of both 5G, that is, the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks (rolling out now with virtually no dissent) and 6G (foreseen for 2030). 5G networks underpin the global expansion of Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence, biometrics, global digitalization, digital identification, autonomous lethal weapons, cyber security, an automated global workforce, etc. At 10 gigabits per second, theoretically, 5G is said to be up to one hundred times more powerful than the current 4G technology. 6G is expected to support 1 terabyte per second speeds. This level of capacity and latency will be unprecedented, extending the capabilities of 5G applications. [Source]

Whereas US and China corporations own the platforms, Europe, China and South Korea, lead on 5G. Those that control 5G will control all the infrastructure upon which 5G technology is based. Together, China (#1), the US (#2), and the EU (#3) represent the three largest economies in the world (although the order in which they reign is sometimes contested). The three combined represented 48% of the world economy.

On June 28, 2019, Google announced “Equiano”, its new private subsea cable that will connect Africa with Europe. [Source] Named after Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist who was enslaved as a child, today’s woke slavery for children is to be repackaged with digital badges earned for their very own, unique, digital passport. Perhaps such appropriation and irony is even too rich for Facebook. Consider the 2Africa project was originally named “Simba” named after the Lion King character. (After initial involvement, Google left the Simba consortium.) The first phase of Google’s Equiano project, connecting South Africa with Portugal, is expected to be completed in 2021. Between 2016 and 2018, Google invested USD 47 billion in capital expenditures, which includes the billions being invested in further expanding its global infrastructure.

“As Facebook’s core product (social) starts seeing a significant downward trend and is certainly a non-starter with the millennials, it will increasingly have to depend on other verticals which will compete with Google.” [Source]

African Telecom providers have warned that the Facebook and Google projects threaten the survival of the local and mainstream operators:

“Virtual operators like Facebook are organisations that mainstream operators have to watch out for because a number of services they render today are free of charge. Their revenue is mostly from advertisement. They don’t have tax obligations; they don’t have any obligation like the conventional licensee have to the government.”

 

June 8, 2020, Telcos Threatened As Facebook, Google Plan Subsea Cable

 

“Silicon Valley corporations are taking over the digital economy in the Global South, and nobody is paying attention. In South Africa, Google and Facebook dominate the online advertising industry, and are considered an existential threat to local media.”

 

March 13, 2019, “Digital colonialism is threatening the Global South”

 

Facebook’s “Internet.org” – Rebranded to “Free Basics”

 

“Most importantly, for Free Basics users, Facebook becomes the homepage of the Internet. Free Basics builds brand loyalty among users. It contributes to Facebook’s dominant position in emerging markets with tremendous demographic growth.”

 

Inside Facebook’s new power grab, From cables to internet cafes, Mark Zuckerberg is leaving his mark on the global South, August 17, 2020

Free Basics homepage

 In partnership with Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm, Facebook launched Internet.org in 2013:

“Basic data-light web services would be available through a free app, owned and curated by Facebook. By marketing its new product as ‘the internet’, Facebook could make itself the centre of their online world. There was no email provision, no Google services, no other social media platforms – and often no content in that country’s native tongue. In effect, Facebook was offering a heavily censored version of the American internet, accessed through a Facebook app which directed everything back to its own services.” [Source]

In 2014, Internet.org launched the ‘Internet.org app’ in four African countries. Users could access 13 websites without data charge, including Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and a Johnson & Johnson-sponsored maternal health site.

On February 10, 2015, Internet.org announced the upcoming launch of its app in six Indian states. Following intense backlash (*”Facebook was acting as a gatekeeper of the Internet by pre-selecting services available on Internet.org, without transparency and with a Western bias detrimental to local services and start-ups”) the business venture was rebranded to “Free Basics” in September 2015, prior to a nationwide roll-out. [*Source]

 

“Based on current figures provided by Facebook, some 2.99 billion people currently use at least one of Facebook’s apps every month. The population of the entire world is, according to Worldometer, around 7.8 billion, so when you take into account the aforementioned stat that 3.5 billion can’t access the web, and add to that the fact that 1.4b Chinese citizens are technically unable to use Facebook due to government restrictions, Facebook’s apps, based on these calculations, are used by pretty much everybody who’s able to access them, in some form.  Given this, you can see why Facebook’s keen to maximize its presence in India, and its reach among that nation’s 1.4 billion people.” [Source]

In February 2016, regulators banned Facebook’s Free Basics service in India. In nationwide protests, citizens argued that Free Basics expanded Facebook’s monopoly power while simultaneously subjecting users to both censorship and surveillance. This was a massive blow to Facebook. With a population of 1.4 billion citizens, India represented Facebook’s largest target market. Since this time, Facebook quietly rolled out a new initiative into India and other targeted demographics with Wi-Fi hotspots, called Express Wi-Fi. This initiative gives retailers the option to offer its users open access to Free Basics. In effect, Free Basics was re-routed through Express Wi-Fi.

“In 2015 researchers found that 65% of Nigerians, and 61% of Indonesians agree with the statement that “Facebook is the Internet” compared with only 5% in the US.” [Source]

On November 3, 2016, Facebook announced 40 million people were using internet.org. Despite the February 2016 ban of Free Basics in India, Facebook quietly continues its monolithic expansion, relatively free of scrutiny, into most developing countries, including India, while Free Basics is proliferating in dozens of countries. [Source: March 13, 2019, Digital colonialism is threatening the Global South] To successfully enable the Free Basics expansion into Africa, Facebook ceased to publicise its Free Basics pursuits, and instead focused on engagement with and financing of “civil society”(NGOs). This was largely accomplished via the Praekelt Foundation – funded by heavy hitters including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Omidyar Network, Johnson & Johnson, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Ford Foundation, the United Nations Population Fund, and USAID. As of June 2019, it was reported that Free Basics was present in 65 countries with a large part of the expansion saturating African countries, which went largely unnoticed, unreported and uncontested. [Source]

As of July 2020, there are over 290 million Facebook users in India, with a population closing in on the 1.4 billion mark.

Graph: Leading countries based on Facebook audience size as of July 2020 (in millions) Source: Statista

“I argue that Free Basics’ quiet expansion across Africa was notably made possible by the combination of two key interrelated phenomena: (1) Facebook’s evolving strategy, particularly its growing engagement with civil society organizations and (2) the focus of digital rights activists across the continent on other issues, including Internet shutdowns, government censorship, and the lack of data privacy frameworks.”

 

Access granted: Facebook’s free basics in Africa, April 22, 2020

Graph: “Number of news stories about ‘Free Basics’ and ‘Internet.org‘ across 1,500 Global English Language sources, June 2013 to July 2019″ [Source

“Free Basics also fits within two broader and interrelated trends in the digital industry, digital experiments on marginalized populations and data extraction. There is increasing evidence that vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, such as minority groups, refugees, and impoverished communities are prime, albeit largely nonconsenting subjects of digital experiments – be they designed to ‘help’ or surveil these communities (Latonero and Kift, 2018; Madianou, 2019; Mann and Daly, 2018). Data extraction, for its part, is central to the digital economy (Zuboff, 2019). It is key to building unique, rich datasets that train competitive algorithms, which are then generally used to connect businesses to customers.”

 

Access granted: Facebook’s free basics in Africa, April 22, 2020

 

“Anti-Colonialism has been economically catastrophic for India for decades. Why stop now?”

 

Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, February, 2016

Looking back momentarily, in 2015, Facebook announced that internet.org was operating in 11 countries, allowing about one billion people to access its services for free. [Source] On April 25, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg would clarify the actual number of users. In response to Facebook’s Q1 2018 earnings call Zuckerberg stated: “our Internet.org efforts have helped almost 100 million people get access to the internet who may not have had it otherwise”. [Source] This was up from 40 million users in November 2016, a 60 million increase in users in approximately 16 months.

Facebook’s capture of India has barely begun. In 2019, Facebook acquired the Indian eCommerce platform Meesho. Facebook also seeks to roll out its cryptocurrency – initially focused on funds transfers in the Indian market – in the coming months. Globalcoin is the new cryptocurrency “Libra” founded by Facebook, in conjunction with “Novi”, a digital wallet. “While Libra itself is a cryptocurrency that can be used to make purchases or gain access to services through Facebook, Calibra is the wallet that will be used to store Libra and whatever other forms of crypto the user may have, only this time, the wallet will no longer be known as Calibra, but as Novi… As part of the verification process, customers of Libra and Facebook will be required to upload a government-issued identification card.” [Bitcoin News, June 1, 2020] [Forbes, August 17, 2021: “Between Crypto, Libra, Stablecoins, And Digital Dollars, Congress Introduced 35 ‘Blockchain’ Bills’]

April 22, 2020: “If you wanted to know how much value Facebook sees in the emerging Indian market, this deal certainly provides some indication. After recent reports that Facebook was looking to acquire a stake in Indian internet provider Jio, The Social Network has now confirmed that it has purchased a majority stake in the Reliance-owned venture for a massive $US5.7 billion… the acquisition will provide Facebook with a new way into the Indian market, which it’s been looking to gain a foothold in for many years, with varying levels of success.” [Source]

 

India, and its 1.4 billion citizens, is the next key battleground for the tech giants, with both Facebook and Google both working to gain a foothold in the Indian market in order to expand their audience base, provide new business tools, and build revenue-generating partnerships that will facilitate significant opportunities to expand their respective empires… India is now the world’s second-largest smartphone market after China, while the number of internet users in the nation is expected to top 850 million by 2022. For comparison, the US is expected to reach around 300 million internet users at the same stage.” [Source]

September 6, 2017 video: “Facebook creates digital map showing where every human lives”:

 

The Colonization of Space & Skies

With Facebook’s growth slowing in the West, the corporation must diversify. August 17, 2020: “Today, the internet is estimated to have around four billion users. More than two billion of them use Facebook products. But growth is slowing, and the social network has its eyes firmly set on the three billion people without a connection as their hope for the future.” [Source]

On September 1, 2016, a SpaceX rocket exploded prior to its scheduled launch. Facebook had contracted SpaceX to deliver the first Internet.org satellite into orbit, in order to secure new internet customers in large portions of sub-Saharan Africa. This would be key in providing basic connectivity via Internet.org, to the entire world’s population. [Source] The Amos6 satellite was built by Israeli communications firm Spacecom Ltd., while owned and operated by Eutelsat, France.

In May 2019, the IEEE Spectrum reported that Facebook had established a subsidiary called PointView Tech, to develop “low-Earth-orbit satellites” under the codename Athena.

On February 12, 2020, Business Insider reported that Facebook was going forward with its plan to build a constellation of thousands of satellites with the first one launching into space in March 2020.

Last month, on September 3, 2020, Facebook launched its first satellite into orbit. A rocket encompassing “700,000 pounds of thrust” (made possible only with massive quantities of fossil fuels), successfully launched over French Guiana:

“The first satellite released into a 320-mile-high (515-kilometer) orbit by the Vega’s AVUM upper stage was Athena, a 304-pound (138-kilogram) spacecraft built by Maxar in California. Athena is a small experimental communications satellite for PointView Tech, a subsidiary of Facebook, that will test technologies that could be used in a future constellation of small satellites to provide global broadband Internet services. Athena is PointView Tech’s first satellite.”

 

September 3, 2030, Vega rocket deploys 53 satellites on successful return to flight mission, Spaceflight Now

September 3, 2020: Facebook launched its first satellite into orbit

At present, with approximately 2.7 – 3 billion users (stats differ), Facebook is closing in on almost half of the global population. Barriers include no access to China, with a population of approximately 1.4 billion citizens;  India, due to the fact that fewer than 20% of India’s citizens, in a population on par with China, have access to the Internet; and sovereign states that ban Facebook, recognizing that it serves as an instrument to empire for foreign interference and destabilization. Such targeted geopolitical hotspots include the sovereign nations of China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea (the majority of North Korean citizens do not access the Internet). This is in line with the threat of foreign and Western NGOs that serve Western foreign policy and capital. Consider Access Now, an arm of Avaaz (which led a leading role in the annihilation of Libya, as well as the attempted destruction of Syria), was created with the specific intent to destabilize Iran. [Link] (One can be certain that if Middle Eastern countries were attempting to overthrow Western states, with social media serving as a key apparatus, controlled by NGOs serving Iran, North Korea, Syria, etc. – social media would be blocked in our countries as well.)

Thus, to reach the global populace that remain off-limits, and to secure the foundation and expansion of 5G, that the “fourth industrial revolution” architecture is absolutely dependent upon, the race for satellites in space has begun. Although completely asinine, human centric and short-sighted, approximately 57,000 satellites are to be launched into space in this single decade. [This is explored in further detail later in this report.]

In tandem with industry’s servitude to planned obsolescence, coupled with the rapid acceleration of technology, satellites will eventually be far more important than subsea cables. In the not-so-distant future, (possibly the 6G era) sea cables may become altogether obsolete.

Next: Part III

 

Being Made Invisible

Being Made Invisible

Tortilla con Sal,

October 7, 2020

By Stephen Sefton

 

 

Over thirty years ago, the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre* noted that an inability to engage competing rationalities critically disables the proponents of the moral and intellectual tradition failing to do so. That kind of fundamental, banal critical failure has always characterized the societies of the Western imperialist powers, in every sphere of intellectual and moral life. It may have been less noticeable before the current advent of a challenging multi-polar world, but the resulting crisis of Western elites’ power and prestige has highlighted their innate moral and intellectual bankruptcy as never before.

 

Anyone challenging the moral and intellectual bad faith of entrenched corporate elite interests gets attacked or ignored. Various otherwise quite well-known figures defending Julian Assange against US and allied NATO country governments’ efforts to destroy him, have experienced this, finding themselves attacked or marginalized even more than usual. Slightly different, but ultimately just as sinister, has been the treatment of dozens of very eminent scientists questioning received wisdom about the current COVID-19 outbreak. In both cases, justice and freedom of speech are important underlying motifs.

Few are surprised that defenders of Julian Assange against the UK injustice system are misrepresented or excluded by imperialist country governments supported by all the disinformation outlets their countries’ oligarchs control. However, scientists questioning public policy on COVID-19 find themselves marginalized not only by dominant liberal opinion but also by majority progressive opinion too. Eminent scientists like John Ioannides, Sunetra Gupta, Sucharit Bhakdi, Alexander Kekulé, Dolores Cahill and dozens of others find themselves in effect, if not disappeared, certainly generally excluded from public discussion.

Julian Assange

Overall, Western liberals and progressives have failed to engage, let alone credibly refute, the arguments of this very significant, unquestionably well-qualified body of scientific opinion. Nor do they engage  the savage class attack enacted as public policy on COVID-19 to impose a corporate capitalist economic reset on the peoples of North America and Europe.  In a similar way, the West’s disinformation lynch media have misrepresented the case against Julian Assange, lying about the facts and unjustly smearing him at every turn while also burying the massive attack on free speech his probable extradition to the US represents.

In general, prescribed untruths are propagated and imposed not just via corporate news and entertainment media, but also by almost all the main international information sources. These include practically all the high profile international non governmental organizations and practically every international institution in the United Nations system, the European Union or the Organization of American States. Sincere witnesses to truth have little to no chance of surviving uncompromised in these morally and intellectually corrupt organizations and systems.


Leonard Peltier, Ana Belén Montes, Mumia Abu Jamal

 

Sinister political power and corporate money smother and suffocate efforts to challenge the cynical, mendacious status quo. Extreme historical examples in the US include the murders of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and the subsequent persecution of the Black Panther movement. A great number of anti-imperialist heroes like Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, Ana Belen Montes or Simon Trinidad, among many others, remain unjustly imprisoned. Among current examples of Western information perfidy, the Assange show trial, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons scandal and the prolonged Russiagate farce stand out.

Everyone will have their own experience of this reality. For example, efforts to suppress the “Planet of the Humans” film highlighted how corporate money moulds, manipulates and corrals opinion in favor of a phony Green New Deal which environmentalists like Cory Morningstar have challenged for years against systematic suppression of their arguments. Liberal and progressive environmentalists mostly exclude incisive class-conscious analysis while celebrating pseudo-progressive, corporate-friendly pap. Across the board, systematic disinformation deliberately negates democratic process by denying people fair access to vitally relevant factual appraisal and analysis. Knowledgeable people presenting well attested evidence find themselves effectively disappeared.

For people in countries targeted by the North American and European imperialist powers none of this is new. In most Western foreign affairs reporting on countries from Russia and China, to Iran and Syria, to Venezuela and Cuba, intellectual and moral honesty are almost entirely absent. In the majority world, this experience of being practically invisible extends to whole peoples. Most people in North America and Europe could hardly care less about people far away in distant, usually culturally very different countries. Very few people know enough to be able to effectively challenge the unending deceit of most official Western accounts of events in those countries targeted by North American and European oligarchies and the governments they direct.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Haiti is perhaps the most egregious example, or maybe Honduras, or perhaps Bolivia… Unquestionable though, is the vicious, psychopathic hatred propagated by Western media, NGOs and institutions against Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. These are the last three revolutionary governments in Latin America left standing after the wave of US and EU promoted coups and lawfare offensives of the last fifteen years. In Cuba’s case, the hatred is occasionally dressed up as grudging recognition of the Cuban Revolution’s great example of international solidarity and love between peoples, embodied in so many ways, but above all by its unparalleled international assistance during the ebola and COVID-19 outbreaks.

If influential media outlets, NGOs and international institutions in the West really admired Cuba’s infinitely-far-beyond-their-reach example of human love and solidarity , they would campaign relentlessly demanding an end to the criminal US coercive measures attacking Cuba’s people’s basic well-being. Of course they do not, because they are cynical hypocrites who detest Cuba’s revolutionary commitment to and defence of the human person as the centre and focus of the country’s national development. The same is true of Venezuela and Nicaragua. On these two countries, Western disinformation media, NGOs and institutions have sunk to previously unplumbed depths of in-your-face criminality and odious falsehood.

Despite everything, Venezuela continues resisting outright violation of basic UN principles by North American and European elites who have directed their countries’ regimes and institutions to steal Venezuela’s wealth and attack the country’s people, just as they did successfully to Ivory Coast and Libya up to and including 2011. They have attempted to do the same to Iran, without success. Despite every indication to the contrary, they believe the delusion that by destroying Venezuela they stand a better chance of overthrowing the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions and crushing the nationalist revolutionary impulse in the region for good. They can barely tolerate even the social democrat versions of that impulse in Mexico and Argentina.

Nicaragua is still in the early stages of Western attempts to attack its people so as to weaken support for the country’s Sandinista government led by President Daniel Ortega. That is likely to change through 2021, which is an election year here in Nicaragua. In Nicaragua’s case, the big lie is that the country is a brutal dictatorship that has failed to protect its people from COVID-19. Precisely the opposite is true. Nicaragua has been the most successful country in Latin America and the Caribbean in protecting both its people’s health and their economic well being during the international COVID-19 crisis. Similarly, it is the country’s political opposition, bankrolled, trained and organized by the US government and its European Union allies, which has brutally attacked Nicaragua’s people. They did so using armed violence in 2018 and they have done so by demanding more and more illegal coercive economic measures against their own country from both the US and the EU. Likewise, they promote an endless international disinformation war.

Not one international human rights NGO or any international human rights institution has researched the experience of the thousands of victims of Nicaragua’s opposition violence in 2018. Not Amnesty International nor Human Rights Watch nor the International Federation for Human Rights nor the Inter-American Human Rights Commission nor the Office of the UN High Commisioner for Human rights, nor any European Union institution, none of them have. To do so would reveal the big lie that the opposition protests were peaceful. Every single one of those institutions has falsely claimed the Nicaraguan government brutally repressed peaceful demonstrations in 2018. All the Western corporate media and alternative information outlets covering international affairs have parroted that lie. The truth about Nicaragua and the events of 2018 is available in independently produced texts, audio visual material and testimonies like these:

So far, virtually none of this substantial material or other available material has been publicly addressed or seriously analyzed by any academic, anywhere, comparing, contrasting and appraising official accounts, witness testimony and audio-visual and documentary evidence. Practically every single academic writing on Nicaragua has been content to regurgitate the same lies and misrepresentations spread about by all Western media, NGOs and institutions who have relied absolutely exclusively on US government funded opposition sources. None of them have done genuine original honest research on the issue of opposition violence. Not one. All the abundant material documenting the truth of what happened in Nicaragua in 2018 is invisible.

Being made invisible by Western media, NGOs and academics is nothing new. It just means becoming subsumed in the anonymous masses of the majority world whom the Western elites have always looted, murdered and abused. Despite this reality, the overwhelming majority of people in North America and Europe hold the irrational, ultimately self-destructive belief that their rationality is morally superior to their rivals’. To make sure they hold on to that demented false belief, their ruling classes have to disappear the truth, whether it’s to do with an individual like Julian Assange or a whole country, like Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela.

* “Whose Justice? Which rationality?” (PDF 21Mb)

 

Human Rights Fraud from Ukraine to Nicaragua

Tortilla con Sal

July 26, 2020

Stephen Sefton

Current Western human rights industry practice has nothing to do with establishing the truth. Increasingly in recent years, US and allied elites have sought to legitimize illegal aggression by exploiting human rights motifs in their attempts to recolonize the majority world.

 

In any given crisis, human rights NGOs funded by the US and allied corporate elites and governments deploy sensationalist false claims, for example of police murdering peaceful protestors, so as to create a cognitive limbo of doubt and suspicion aimed at disabling opposition to the West’s recolonization campaigns. Over the medium and long term, the steady drip of false accusations against countries resisting recolonization, like Syria and Iran, or Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, creates false memories, corrupting and distorting the historical record and obscuring the West’s crimes against those and so many other countries in the majority world.

Western ruling elites have corrupted human rights organizations and institutions at practically every level using corporate grant making and government funding. The practical results of this corruption mirror corporate techniques of control fraud and strategic avoidance of regulation. Economics writers like Michael Hudson and  William Black, among others, have explained how corrupt US and allied corporations have exploited these fraudulent abuses for decades.  Control fraud is essentially no different from ancient practices like debasing coins, adulterating food products or selling defective goods as fit for use. They all fool people into accepting something that causes them loss, hurt and damage.

In the United States, powerful corporations control US political and institutional life sufficiently to be able to co-opt justice and escape criminal prosecution. This reality crowds out honest, socially responsible business and financial practice. Parallel to control fraud by major financial institutions, other multinational corporations, for example oil, mining or information technology corporations,  operate what various writers call a “veil of tiers” strategy misrepresenting their earnings so as to avoid tax or other regulation, and legal prosecution. More legitimately, in the field of insurance, the “veil of tiers” strategy spreads risks associated with potential litigation. The international human rights industry uses similar techniques to justify and cover up Western attacks against the peoples of the majority world.

The dependence of international human rights NGOs on corporate and government funding and on publicity via corporate media and public relations over time has generated the osmosis of corrupt corporate practice into the human rights industry. Writers like Cory Morningstar have analyzed exhaustively how this takeover by corporate culture of the “non-profit industrial complex serves hegemony as a sophisticated fine-tuned symbiotic mechanism in a continuous state of flux and refinement. The ruling elite channel an immeasurable amount of resources and tools through these organizations to further strengthen, protect and expand existing forms of power structures and global domination.”

In a human rights context, control fraud takes the form of politically motivated, false, sensationalist accusations based on egregiously one-sided, often fact-free research, sometimes using fake pseudo-scientific reconstructions. Accountability for these false accusations is rendered negligible by means of a “veil of tiers” strategy starting at a low level with small, local or national human rights NGOS, progressing via larger international human rights NGOs and auxiliary private contractors to regional human rights institutions, then reaching United Nations organizations and ultimately the highest levels of the international human rights legal system. By excluding independent corroboration, the interchange from one level to the next imparts spurious mutual legitimacy of varying degrees between the organizations and institutions involved.

The process is quasi-judicial with zero accountability, such that attempting to counteract false accusations is extremely difficult if not impossible, especially in the short term. If anything, the human rights industry is even less accountable than multinational corporations. Two recent examples, among innumerable others, confirm the creeping monopolization of the human rights industry by corrupt corporate practice. Against both the Ukraine government in February 2014 and against the Nicaraguan government in May 2018, Western human rights NGOs made very similar accusations that their police forces murdered peaceful protestors indiscriminately. In both cases, the accusations were false.

The context of the killings in both cases was a violent attempt at regime change by a US government funded political opposition. In Ukraine’s case, the opposition had been supported for over twenty years with US government funding amounting to over US$5 billion as confirmed in 2013 by Victoria Nuland, then US Assistant Secretary of State. That US government finance was in addition to funding from US corporate oligarchs like Pierre Omidyaar and George Soros. The most notorious event in the regime change campaign in Ukraine took place over February 18th-20th in 2014 when over 70 people were killed in Kiev’s Maidan square during violent confrontations between police and protestors. The massacre led to the overthrow of the legitimate government and its replacement by a fascist US client regime.

After the event, even CNN felt bound to report a leaked conversation between Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs in which Paet confirmed that a  pro-opposition doctor treating wounded protestors claimed opposition snipers, not government security forces, had shot the protestors. That report was followed by the broadcast from Italy’s Mediaset Matrix television channel of interviews, here and here, with mercenary snipers confessing they had fired on both protestors and police during the Maidan protests in February 2014. The mercenaries had come forward aggrieved at not getting paid by the opposition aligned figures who hired them. Even so, the Ukraine authorities announced their investigation into the shootings was complete, simply repeating the false accusations against the former Ukrainian government despite categorically clear evidence to the contrary.

A prominent part of the Ukraine prosecutors’ false case was a virtual reconstruction of events  by a private New York contractor called SITU Research whose human rights work is funded by US oligarch owned grant making bodies, like the MacArthur Foundation, the Oak Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. Ivan Katchanovski of the University of Ottawa has exposed as phony the SITU Research reconstruction of the Maidan shootings, demonstrating, for example, that in various cases SITU Research’s imaging moved wound locations indicated in the respective forensic autopsy reports in order to suit the video’s conclusions. Katchanovksi’s detailed analysis draws on other evidence omitted by SITU Research which also contradicts their claims, for example witness testimony from 25 wounded opposition supporters that they were shot from opposition controlled buildings.

Katchanovski points out that numerous video and TV footage shows opposition snipers and shooters in buildings controlled by the opposition. That footage is supported by over 150 witness testimonies confirming snipers were firing from those locations. Katchanovski also notes that Brad Samuels, founding partner of SITU Research “said in a video [start at 55:16] that ‘…eventually, there is a consensus that there was a third party acting. It is clear from forensic evidence that people were shot in the back. Somebody was shooting from rooftops.’ ” Katchanovski remarks that Samuels’ “striking observation was not included anywhere in the SITU 3D model report that he produced.” Katchanovski’s critical analysis of SITU Research’s material and of the broader official Ukraine investigation into the Maidan massacre has never been seriously challenged.

Similar false accusations ignoring readily available contradictory evidence and also using SITU Research modeling were made against Nicaragua’s government earlier this year. On May 30th the Organization of American States subsidiary body the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), the Argentinian Forensic Anthropology Team and SITU Research jointly published a video allegedly proving that Nicaragua’s police shot and killed unarmed protesters at a demonstration on May 30th 2018. But detailed analysis of the video shows that in this case too SITU Research have misrepresented data, namely the distance between the police and the protestors which was in fact about 175 metres, in order to harmonize the reality of what happened with their virtual reconstruction which claims police snipers fired from a distance of around 250 metres.

The video footage of the protests in Nicaragua contains no scenes where Nicaraguan police use their firearms. Similarly, just as in their false reconstruction of events in Kiev’s Maidan square, SITU Research omitted a substantial body of information contradicting their account of the shootings in Managua on May 30th. The context in this case too was of extremely violent protests by organizations funded by the US government with over US$15 million just in 2017-2018. For example, local human rights organizations received over US$3 million from the US government that year as did local media NGOs. Although, two solidarity organizations wrote and published an open letter to the organizations who produced the video, respectfully questioning their findings, to date the letter has received only a formal acknowledgment without replying to the questions.

In both Ukraine and Nicaragua, the US government funded local opposition aligned NGOs to make false allegations of very serious human rights violations. A private company contractor was funded by US corporate interests to produce false pseudo-scientific material unfairly incriminating the governments for those violations. International human rights NGOs repeated the false accusations on the basis of that same false evidence. Regional human rights institutions accused the governments concerned on the basis of that same material.

The accusations are false but the Nicaraguan government and accused members of the former Ukrainian government are denied a fair defense. This same process has been repeated over and over again against governments resisting US and allied policies. Western human rights organizations share the same corrupt methodology as their corporate and government patrons. They make false claims, suppress inconvenient evidence, do all they can to avoid independent scrutiny and systematically evade accountability.

 

The Big Green Lie

 

 

WWF recently released (June 5th, 2020) a short video[1] of British “national treasure” and conservation icon, Sir David Attenborough, telling us that “suddenly” saving the world is within reach. He says they know what to do and have a plan to build a stable, healthy world that we can benefit from forever. What’s not to like? Well, a lot! WWF’s plan regurgitates a 19th century racist assumption: That too many of the wrong kind of people threaten us all.

Their “plan” has four commandments: 1) “stop the damaging stuff”; 2) “new green tech”; 3) get population down, and; 4) keep hold of “natural wealth we have currently got.”[2] Let’s begin by removing the two “no-brainer” outliers, the first and last in the plan, stopping doing damage and keeping existing advantages. Both are self-evident approaches to pretty much anything. What we’re left with then is just two answers to the planet’s problems – new green tech and reducing population.

What’s the underlying message in the first: We can carry on business as usual so long as we change our energy source? We swap oil and coal for wind and solar and hey presto the world is saved? But hang on, what about the carbon footprint, and the slave and child labor, used in building that “new green tech” – tiny children digging cobalt in the Congo,[3] for example? What about the growing inequalities which fuel the massive overconsumption by the élite? If the world’s most famous opera house in Milan played to a packed house of the world’s richest people, it’d be host to nearly two-thirds of the total money owned by everyone on the planet.[4] Might that astonishing detail be relevant? What about the fact that the average American citizen – leave aside a well-heeled WWF executive – in just over a week consumes about the same as a sub-Saharan African does in a year, and uses the same energy as a South Sudanese does in two years?[5] Who bears the real responsibility for doing “the damaging stuff”? After all, there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who live and die, often hungry, who are responsible for practically no pollution at all.

Yes, it’s certainly vital to stop burning fossil fuels, but will the “world” be saved simply by swapping oil for renewables, or might that really also be about enabling the élite to carry on doing what they’re doing, just by investing in different companies?

But it’s in the other “solution” – getting the population down – where both Attenborough and WWF really plumb the depths of their elitist ideology. One can visualize the meetings of writers who struggled to express this without attracting attacks from those like me who think the 200-year old cry of “overpopulation” is ideological, fundamentally racist, certainly eugenic, and nothing to do with science.

The writers finally came up with, “stabilize the human population as low as we fairly can.” They presumably thought that using “stabilize” rather than “reduce” (which is what they mean), and that inserting “fairly,” would satisfy the critics. That only goes to show just how little they understand what the problems with their “overpopulation” dirge actually are!

The inconvenient truth, never mentioned by the ideologues, is that the Global North’s population has been dropping for generations. Overall numbers are still growing there only because they’re boosted by newcomers from the Global South.[6] The largest growth area is sub-Saharan Africa, where the population density remains extremely low and where they use very little of the world’s resources themselves.[7] That’s because the “natural wealth they have currently got” is largely stolen from them by the North.[8] Have a look at the area at night from a satellite to see just how little energy is used in Africa compared to Europe, or get the view from a plane, as Attenborough will have done hundreds of times.

 

In other words, if you’re worried about overpopulation threatening the environment, then you’re blind to the real menace: It’s not the growing number of “have nots” in the South, but growing overconsumption by the “haves” in the North.

One group acutely worried about this non-existent “overpopulation” is the fascists who believe in “replacement theory” – that the “white races” are being overrun by growing numbers of Africans, Asians and Latin Americans. Many progressive folk don’t realize just how widespread that conviction is, but it’s time they wised up: It’s been the founding creed of the extremist right wing for over a century.[9] Ecofascists are also concerned about the environment being overrun, and so are many in the conservation sector, which has its own foundation in racism and anti-immigration.[10] They might balk at thinking they too share ecofascist beliefs, but many of them do.

To underscore its point, WWF’s footage accompanying its cry to “stabilize” the population “low” looked like it was shot on the banks of the Ganges or similar. The inference is clear. Overbreeding non-Europeans threaten our world.

 

Now, social media is not the best repository for definitive answers to the universe’s riddles, or even one planet’s problems, but let’s consider all this. The film may be less than a minute long but it doubtless cost WWF thousands. Experts would have pored over the script to ensure it was exactly right before attaching the best footage to illustrate the meaning. Attenborough’s people, probably the man himself, must have approved the final cut, after all he’s probably the world’s most experienced broadcaster and he certainly picks his “issues” with extreme care. Believe me, nothing here was left to chance.

People on social media, including me, reacted quickly to the film. We complained and forced the conservation giant to take it down and apologize.[11] But it’s too late. It’s clear what WWF and their ilk actually believe.

The story reminds me of WWF fundraising from 1994, which posed the very odd question: whether to send in the army or an anthropologist to stop indigenous people destroying the Amazon (its proposed answer, needless to say, was to give WWF yet more money). Yes, WWF actually suggested that indigenous people, not the industry bigwigs[12] it invites to sit on its boards are the destroyers of the world’s largest rainforest, an ecosystem which those same indigenous people are both responsible for creating and by far the best at protecting. That can now be proven from satellite pictures and data about the higher biodiversity in indigenous-controlled territories.

 

The real tragedy here is not what Attenborough and WWF believe – that won’t change unless and until savvier folk get a controlling hand – it’s that they are able to foist their propaganda on so large a sector of the Global North, including on many progressives. Perhaps many white environmentally-aware people really do believe that “overbreeding” will overrun the Earth and see it as a duty, even “sacred” duty, to defend the planet from the barbarian hordes. That’s been the really big lie drummed into us for over a century, it’s a key component of racism and anti-immigration. It has financial support from corporations and big foundations, and enormous backing from governments which dedicate massive amounts of our money to foment it. Worst of all, those who promulgate this lie are now planning on getting billions more dollars through their terrible “new deal for nature,” which is warming up to be the biggest land grab in history. They want control of no less than one-third of the globe for their “Protected Areas,” and yes, they are sending in the army, often private militias, to get local people out.[13]

If we really want to save the world, we have to fight against such a truly destructive message. My guess is that it’s a struggle which will never end, but like combatting bigotry, cruelty and disease, that’s no reason not to engage. Here’s the real choice: On the one side are billions of dollars, on the other, billions of lives.

Attenborough and WWF say, “We now have the choice to create a planet that we can all be proud of.” They illustrate it with a sci-fi-like cityscape to illustrate what they have in mind.

 

It’s actually a picture of Singapore’s “Gardens by the Bay” theme park, which cost over (U.S.) $700 million to build and $20 million a year to run, in the world’s third richest country (per capita).[14] As you would expect, the futuristic “gardens” were built by migrant laborers who face prison and beating if they overstay. Many low-paid construction workers in Singapore are from India.[15] Who knows, perhaps some of the same laborers could be in the clip of the overpopulated “Ganges” earlier in the film? Anyway, it’s entirely fitting that Attenborough and WWF’s choice for the future is a theme park reserved for the rich. If the rest of us have a choice, then please count me on the other side.

Notes.

1) Link to the original film: (https://twitter.com/Survival/status/1268935324232814592?

2) The full text is: “Suddenly, saving our planet is within reach. We have a plan. We know what to do. Stop the damaging stuff, roll out the new green tech, stabilise the human population as low as we fairly can, keep hold of the natural wealth we have currently got and we’ll have built a stable, healthy world that we can benefit from forever. We now have the choice to create a planet that we can all be proud of, our planet, the perfect home for ourselves and the rest of life on earth.” ?

3) Amnesty International. “This is what we die for”: Human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Power the global trade in cobalt. London: Amnesty International, 2016. https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/AFR6231832016ENGLISH.PDF (accessed June 23, 2020) ?

4) The world’s billionaires own as much wealth as 60% of the earth’s population.
Lawson, Max, Anam Parvez Butt, Rowan Harvey, Diana Sarosi, Clare Coffey, Kim Piaget and Julie Thekkudan. Time to care: Unpaid and underpaid care work and the global inequality crisis. Oxford: Oxfam International, 2020. https://oxfamilibrary.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10546/620928/bp-time-to-care-inequality-200120-en.pdf (accessed June 23, 2020) ?

5) World Bank. “GDP per capita (current US$)”. World Development Indicators. The World Bank Group. 2018.

https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD?locations=US-ZG (accessed June 23, 2020) ?

6) The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “Migration and population change – drivers and impacts”. Population Facts, no 2017/8 (2017). ?

7) The World Bank. “Population growth (annual%)”. 2018.

https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.GROW?locations=EU-ZG-US-AU-CA-NZ&name_desc=false (accessed June 23, 2020) ?

8) McVeigh, Karen. “World is plundering Africa’s wealth of ‘billions of dollars a year’”. The Guardian, May 24, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/may/24/world-is-plundering-africa-wealth-billions-of-dollars-a-year (accessed June 23, 2020) ?

9) Bowles, Nellie. “Replacement Theory,’ a Racist, Sexist Doctrine, Spreads in Far-Right Circles”. The New York Times, March 18, 2019.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/18/technology/replacement-theory.html (accessed June 23, 2020) ?

10) Corry, Stephen. “The Colonial Origins of Conservation: The Disturbing History Behind US National Parks”. Truthout, August 25, 2015. https://truthout.org/articles/the-colonial-origins-of-conservation-the-disturbing-history-behind-us-national-parks/ (accessed June 23, 2020) ?

11) https://twitter.com/wwf_uk/status/1268933761573490689 ?

12) Eg. Coca-Cola, Tata, KPMG, Adamjee, AES, Indus Basin etc. ?

13) Further information can be found here:

Survival International, Rainforest Foundation UK and Minority Rights Group International. The ‘Post-2-2- Global Biodiversity Framework’ – a new threat to indigenous people and local communities?. London: Survival International, 2020. https://assets.survivalinternational.org/documents/1908/post-2020-biodiversity-framework-briefing-final-survival-rfuk-mrg.pdf (accessed June 23, 2020) ?

14) AsiaOne. “Final cost for Gardens by the Bay within budget: Khaw.” AsiaOne, Oct 15, 2012. https://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest+News/Relax/Story/A1Story20121015-377822.html#:~:text=He%20estimated%20that%20the%20annual,of%20operating%20the%20outdoor%20gardens. (accessed June 23, 2020)

Suneson, Grant. “These are the 25 richest countries in the world”. USA Today, Jul 8, 2019. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/07/07/richest-countries-in-the-world/39630693/

(accessed June 23, 2020) ?

15) Ratcliffe, Rebecca. “’We’re in a prison’: Singapore’s migrant workers suffer as Covid-19 surges back.” The Guardian, April 23, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/23/singapore-million-migrant-workers-suffer-as-covid-19-surges-back (accessed June 23, 2020) ?

[Stephen Corry has worked with Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, since 1972. Twitter: @StephenCorrySvl.]

Planet of the Humans Backlash

Journal of People, Peasants and Workers

May 11, 2020

By Yves Engler

 

Planet of the Humans

The backlash may be more revealing than the film itself, but both inform us where we are at in the fight against climate change and ecological collapse. The environmental establishment’s frenzied attacks against Planet of the Humans says a lot about its commitment to big money and technological solutions.

A number of prominent individuals tried to ban the film by Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore. Others berated the filmmakers for being white, male and overweight. Many thought leaders have declared they won’t watch it.

Despite the hullabaloo, the central points in the film aren’t particularly controversial. Corporate-industrial society is driving human civilization/humanity towards the ecological abyss and environmental groups have largely made peace with capitalism. As such, they tout (profitable) techno fixes that are sometimes more ecologically damaging than fossil fuels (such as biomass or ethanol) or require incredible amounts of resources/space if pursued on a mass scale (such as solar and wind). It also notes the number of human beings on the planet has grown more than sevenfold over the past 200 years.

It should not be controversial to note that the corporate consumption juggernaut is destroying our ability to survive on this planet. From agroindustry razing animal habitat to plastic manufacturers’ waste killing sea life to the auto industrial complex’s greenhouse gases, the examples of corporations wreaking ecological havoc are manifold. Every year since 1969 humanity’s resource consumption has exceeded earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources by an ever-greater volume.

It is a statement of fact that environmental groups have deep ties to the corporate set. Almost all the major environmental groups receive significant cash from the mega-rich or their foundations. Many of them partner directly with large corporations. Additionally, their outreach strategies often rely on corporate media and other business-mediated spheres. It beggars belief that these dependencies don’t shape their policy positions.

A number of the film’s points on ‘renewable’ energy are also entirely uncontroversial. It’s insane to label ripping down forests for energy as “green”. Or turning cropland into fuel for private automobiles. The film’s depiction of the minerals/resource/space required for solar and wind power deserves a far better response than “the data is out of date”.

The green establishment’s hyperventilating over the film suggests an unhealthy fixation/link to specific ‘renewable’ industries. But there are downsides to almost everything.

Extremely low GHG emitting electricity is not particularly complicated. In Québec, where I live, electricity is largely carbon free (and run by a publicly owned enterprise with an overwhelmingly unionized workforce, to boot). But, Hydro-Québec’s dams destroy ecosystems and require taking vast land from politically marginalized (indigenous) people. Likewise, nuclear power (also publicly owned and unionized) provides most of France’s electricity. But, that form of energy also has significant downsides.

In the US in 2019 63% of electricity came from fossil fuels, 20% from nuclear and 17% from ‘renewables’. But, even if one could flip the proportion of fossil fuels to ‘renewables’ around overnight there’s another statistic that is equally important. Since 1950 US electricity consumption has grown 13-fold and it continues to increase. That’s before putting barely any of the country’s 285 million registered private automobiles onto the grid. Electricity consumption is growing at a fast clip in China, India and elsewhere.

Oil is another source of energy that is growing rapidly. Up from 60 million barrels a day in 1980 and 86 million in 2010, 100 million barrels of oil were consumed daily in 2019. That number is projected to reach 140 million by 2040.

On one point I agree entirely with critics of the film. It’s unfair to (even indirectly) equate Bill McKibben with Al Gore. Representing the progressive end of the environmental establishment, McKibben has engaged in and stoked climate activism. Gore was Vice President when the US led the destruction of the former Yugoslavia, bombed Sudan and sanctioned Iraq.

Still, it’s ridiculous for McKibben and others to dismiss the film’s criticism of his decade-long promotion of biomass and refusal to come clean on 350.org’s donors as divisive. “I truly hope that Michael Moore does not succeed at dividing the climate movement. Too many have fought too long to build it”, he tweeted with a link to his response in Rolling Stone titled “‘A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement’: Michael Moore Damages Our Most Important Goal.” Echoing this theme, Naomi Klein came to her 350.org comrade’s defence tweeting, “it is truly demoralising how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change.” Democracy NowCommon Dreams, the Guardian and other media picked up her remark.

If it is divisive to criticize McKibben’s positions, then the same must be said of his own criticisms aimed at those demanding the Pentagon be highlighted in decarbonization efforts. In a June New York Review of Books column titled “The Pentagon’s Outsized Part in the Climate Fight” McKibben pours cold water on those who have asked him about the importance of “shrinking the size of the US military” (the world’s largest single institutional emitter of fossil fuels) in the fight for a sustainable planet. In fact, his piece suggests the Pentagon is well-positioned to combat the climate crisis since right wingers are more likely to listen to their climate warnings and the institution has massive research capacities to develop green technologies. McKibben seems to be saying the green movement should (could) co-opt the greatest purveyor of violence and destruction in the history of humanity! (In the Wrong Kind of Green blog Luke Orsborne offers a cogent breakdown of McKibben’s militarism.)

McKibben’s repeated advocacy of the private electric car could also be considered divisive. In Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? McKibben calls for “millions and millions of electric cars and buses” (alongside “building a hell of lot of factories to turn out thousands of acres of solar panels, and wind turbines the length of football fields.”) Does anyone believe the planet can sustain a transportation/urban planning system with most of the world’s 7.8 billion people owning 3,000-pound vehicles?

When an electric car is powered from a grid that is 63% fossil fuels the GHG it contributes per kilometer of travel is generally slightly less than an internal combustion engine. But the production and destruction phases for electric vehicles tend to be more energy intensive and they still require the extraction and development of significant amounts of resources. Additionally, the private car underpins a land, energy and resource intensive big box retail/suburban economy. (For details see my co-authored Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay.)

Moreover, as Death by Car recently pointed out, “electric vehicles are haloware — a product that exists to distract attention from continuing SUV and pickup sales. If this thesis is correct, then it is a huge mistake for progressive forces to express enthusiasm” for electric vehicles. Of the 86 million new passenger and light commercial vehicles sold globally in 2018 about 1.2 million of them were powered by battery-only electric engines while 37 million were pickups and SUVs. In other words, for every new battery-electric car there were 30 new SUVs/pickups sold. Alongside growing buzz about electric vehicles, the number of SUVs increased from 35 million to 200 million between 2010 and 2018.

McKibben and associates’ ability to frame the film as divisive rests on the stark power imbalance between the ‘green’ capitalist and degrowth outlooks. While there are few profits in the consume-less worldview, McKibben is situated at the progressive end of a network of organizations, commentators and media outlets empowered by hundreds of billions of dollars of ‘green’ capitalism. This milieu has counterposed solar, wind and biomass to the hyper fossil fuel emitting coal, natural gas and oil industries. But, they aren’t keen on discussing the limitations of their preferred energies and the fundamentally unsustainable nature of limitless energy (or other) consumption. And they certainly don’t want any spotlight placed on environmental groups ties to the mega-rich and an unsustainable model.

Fragments of wind turbine blades await burial at the Casper Regional Landfill in Wyoming. Photographer: Benjamin Rasmussen

But, in reality it’s not the criticism that bothers. Wrong Kind of GreenDeath by CarCounterpunch and various other small leftist websites and initiatives have long documented McKibben and associates’ concessions to the dominant order. Often more harshly than in the film. What is unique about Planet of the Humans is that these criticisms have been put forward by leftists with some power (Michael Moore’s name and the funds for a full-length documentary, most obviously.) In other words, the backlash is not a response to the facts or argument, per se, but the ‘mainstreaming’ of the critique.

The environmental establishment’s ability to generate hundreds of hit pieces against Planet of the Humans suggests the movement/outlook has amassed substantial power. But, it’s not always clear to what ends. Most indicators of sustainability are trending in the wrong direction at the same time as top environmental figures have risen to the summits of power. Québec’s most prominent environmentalist, Steven Guilbeault, recently became a cabinet minister in the Liberal government while the former head of World Wildlife Fund Canada, Gerald Butts, was Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff. These individuals happily participate in a government that oversaw a 15 million tonne increase in Canada’s GHG emissions in 2018 and then decided to purchase a massive tar sands pipeline.

The incredible popularity of Planet of the Humans — seven million views on YouTube — suggests many are worried about the ecological calamity humanity is facing. Many also sense that the solutions environmental groups are putting forward don’t add up.

The lesson to be learned from the film and the frenzied attacks against it is that questioning the system — be that capitalism or the mainstream environmental movement — won’t make you friends in high places.

 

[Yves Engler is the author of 10 books, including A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and ExploitationRead other articles by Yves.]

Clinton to McKibben to Steyer to Podesta: Comments on Planet of the Humans by Michael Swifte

May 20, 2020

by Michael Swifte, Wrong Kind of Green Collective

 

 

“I think that the mainstream climate movement needs to collapse. It needs to end. And that the very comfortable organizers within that mainstream climate movement working in those NGO jobs – they need to fail. I think they need to be brought down. I think they need to have a little bit of hardship and a bit of suffering, and they need to create space for those historically oppressed groups.” [1]

 

— Tim DeChristopher, Transformation without Apocalypse – Episode #6 [SOURCE]

 

To understand the “damage” Bill McKibben claims the Planet of the Humans documentary has done to the climate justice movement you have to look at where 350 dot org began.

A fifty million dollar beginning

Bill McKibben has been in a dance with philanthropo-capitalists for more than a decade. He may not have been paid to be the face of 350 dot org but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t ‘corporate’ money around.

There was corporate and philanthropic money from the start. Bill Clinton announced 50 million from a “range of corporate and non-profit partners” for 1Sky at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative. Bill McKibben was on the board of 1Sky in 2009 before it was merged with 350 dot org.

Watch this video and ask yourself how anyone could claim to be a leader of a ‘grassroots’ organisation or say that 350 dot org was ever a “rag-tag bunch of kids”. Watch the video.

 

Cory Morningstar has been tracking, analysing and cataloguing this stuff for 10 years, and by “this stuff” I mean the global capture of climate justice activism through #networkedhegemony at the behest of the non profit industrial complex #NPIC. Cory follows the money, analyses the networks, and interrogates the messaging.

#NewPower networks connect 350 dot org to a vast web of similarly funded campaigns and critically deliver opportunities to shape the Democratic party agenda. 350’s global expansion was built on replicating the organisations, institutions and campaigns that positioned it in the US and Canada.

Here are some links providing deep background on the #NewPower constructs and networks that empower the ‘climate cartel’.

‘Rockefellers’ 1Sky Unveils the New 350.org | More $ – More Delusion’

http://www.theartofannihilation.com/rockefellers-1sky-unveils-the-new-350-org-more-more-delusion/

‘SumOfUs are Corporate Whores | Some Of Us Are Not’

http://www.theartofannihilation.com/sumofus-are-corporate-whores-some-of-us-are-not/

Jessica Bailey at Rockefeller Brothers Fund actually used the word ‘merger’ to describe the union of the 2 campaign organizations incubated by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

“Bill McKibben, who has been a 1Sky board member and will chair the new 350.org board, once referred to 1Sky as the U.S. Embassy for 350.org and 350.org as 1Sky’s foreign legion.[] Matching 350.org’s talent for mass mobilization and online action with 1Sky’s advocacy and field campaign experience is tremendously exciting. Mergers are tough, and I applaud the leaders in both organizations for recognizing they’d be stronger together.“ [SOURCE]

Comments on Planet of the Humans

Planet of the Humans is a worthy documentary for it’s revelations about “green energy” and the failures of the climate justice movement. It is a testament to Jeff Gibbs’ extensive documentation and long commitment to environmental issues. I was pleased that it included the Climate Challenge segment with Karyn Strickler pitching a question from Cory Morningstar to Bill McKibben, and I was glad the film makers told the truth about Ivanpah and Robert F Kennedy Jr’s ties to fossil fuel giants.

Planet of the Humans is mostly about North America, and while it opens up a range of departure points for discussion of planetary issues, it’s a documentary about North American humans and westerners more generally, not the 100s of millions of blameless people who struggle to put food on the table. I found the discussion of the ‘population issue’ concerning given how little time had been given to putting global consumer markets into perspective, but documentary making is about access, and Jeff Gibbs has gained access to the world of “green energy” in North America. Michael Moore brings access of a different but equally vital kind, if you want to make a splash with a documentary.

Departure points are vital if we’re to make the most of what Planet of the Humans has highlighted as key issues. If the climate justice movement has failed and the environmental movement has been captured by billionaires, what else have they messed up? What are the other billionaire philanthropists doing to capture the efforts of environmental campaigners? What new diabolical schemes are planned to keep business as usual going?

People who feel inspired or moved by Planet of the Humans should look into biomass burning in Europe and the future plans for burying CO2 produced from burning biomass under the North Sea. American and European philanthropies have invested staggering amounts of money into organisations like the European Climate Foundation which is part of a global empire of similar organisations. The IPCC mitigation pathways are replete with the term BECCS (bio-energy with carbon capture and storage).

I watched Planet of the Humans after watching the Earth Day livestream discussion with Michael Moore, Jeff Gibbs and Ozzie Zehner. I hope that Michael Moore’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders and his plea that we put environmentalism into the hands of young people like the Sunrise Movement which was incubated by the Sierra Club is not the position of all three film makers. We can’t take Michael Moore’s words as a call to action so we are going to have to make our own calls to action.

Watch the full video of Karyn Strickler interviewing Bill McKibben on Climate Challenge here:

 

Departure point: John Podesta and a parallel climate campaign

In 2007 a plan was launched by 6 foundations. This plan #DesigntoWin produced the ClimateWorks Foundation, headed by John Podesta, which has spearheaded the incubation and funding of re-granting NGOs globally. ClimateWorks is perhaps the world’s largest recipient of  climate philanthropy having received more than 1.3 billion USD since it’s inception in 2008.

John Podesta has a long relationship with the Clintons, both as politicians and philanthropists. In the various roles he has played – always as a Democrat – his focus has been on the future of energy and how to message a position on climate change for the party and for the global philanthropo-capitalist agendas.

Have a read of the Wikileaks ‘Podesta Emails’ that refer to Bill McKibben and/or Tom Steyer. Check out the ‘climate tick tocks’ for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the updates from philanthropist-billionaires like Tom Steyer and Henry Sandler, or Chris Lehane’s ‘big idea’ briefing that became the ‘Clean Power Plan’ (more business as usual). [SOURCE]

Podesta is always engaged with philanthropists. The Sandler Foundation helped establish the Center for American Progress which Podesta heads up. It helped fund the Australian climate justice regranting NGO the Sunrise Project and the US Beyond Coal campaign. Tom Steyer, a former Wall St banker, hedge fund manager and friend of Nancy Pelosi befriended Podesta who welcomed him into his Center for American Progress. Podesta encouraged Steyer to start his NextGen Climate Action Committee. It is likely that Steyer’s dubious defection from the ranks of billionaire fossil fuel investors and hedge fund managers was orchestrated under the advice of Chris Lehane. Steyer’s defection would see him join with McKibben and 350 at high profile events, and according to the Podesta emails they were in regular contact.

350/McKibben have been a foil for Democrat positioning on climate. The non profit industrial complex needed a global climate justice brand, and it needed to nestle it in a web of networks all connected by funded talking points and touchstone pieces in Rolling Stone and Grist. Granting and regranting NGOs pass over talking points in their transactions with grant recipients. Billionaires on every continent get to play the game.

Important background on the Design to Win plan here:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/09/11/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-for-consent-volume-ii-act-i-a-design-to-win-a-multi-billion-dollar-investment/

Background on the largely ignored mitigation plans of big oil & gas here:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/10/19/perfect-distractions-and-fantastical-mitigation-plans/

Departure point: The Steyer-Taylor Center and financing for CCS

Tom Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor fund the Steyer Taylor Center at Stanford. The center was headed from it’s founding in 2011 until September 2018 by Dan Reicher who has spoken in favour of financing to support carbon capture and storage on numerous occasions.

Dan Reicher is a Clinton administration energy wonk who spent some of the Obama years at Google. He’s the Founding Executive Director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy & Finance, but is now at the Stanford Woods Institute. Reicher explains how the future is all laid out for enhanced oil recovery with CO2 in this 2016 video. His slides include the prexisting CO2 pipeline maps for enhanced oil recovery.

 

A quote from the video:

“Carbon capture and sequestration is a key climate change strategy. You ask the IPCC, you ask the International Energy Agency.”

Reicher argues that with the CO2 pipeline infrastructure that is already in place and the right financial instruments “Full scale cost effective CCS” is deliverable.

Here is Reicher discussing private activity bonds and CCS. In the past he has spoken about the usefulness of master limited partnerships. Both of these financial instruments have been included in bipartisan bills currently before congress.

“It’s less about how to make it work technically these days but more about how to make it work financially,” [SOURCE]

Here is a quote from Reicher speaking at the Exxon funded Global Climate and Energy Project – Research Symposium in 2015.

“We really need to be using CCS for coal, natural gas, and a whole host of industrial carbon sources. But the costs are too high,” [SOURCE]

The Steyer-Taylor Center has partnered with the Exxon incubated and funded Global Climate and Energy Project which was ended in August 2019.  Exxon are a founding member of the Strategic Energy Alliance along with Bank of America who support the – Sustainable Finance Initiative along with the Steyer-Taylor Center. [SOURCE]

Departure point: The Green New Deal and the failing phase out

Dan Lashof is the director of the World Resources Institute and the current COO of Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate America and Nextgen Policy Center. In January Lashof co-wrote an opinion piece for the Houston Chronicle with Occidental Petroleum – Low Carbon Ventures president Richard Jackson. Oxy’s air capture plans support their enhanced oil recovery efforts and net zero targets through negative emissions from their planned air capture for CO2 enhanced oil recovery project. [SOURCE]

There’s a lot of interest in Oxy’s direct air capture plans which are supported by Carbon Engineering who have a long list of investors including Bill Gates, Murray Edwards, Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, LLC, Chevron Technology Ventures and BHP. [SOURCE]

The World Resources Institute provided 2 of the 3 Data for Progress researchers that developed the #netzero language that made it into the Green New Deal resolution. After the resolution came and went it has become clear that any sort of commitment to a fossil fuel phase out had been abandoned.

Important background on the ties between the World Resources Institute and Data for Progress here:

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2019/02/13/the-manufacturing-of-greta-thunberg-for-consent-the-new-green-deal-is-the-trojan-horse-for-the-financialization-of-nature/

The Green New Deal has taken some of the pressure from McKibben/350. The Clean Power Plan was business as usual, but a little bit cleaner. The GND allows Democrats to appear to be taking a harder line on climate,  but it’s a vehicle that has little legislative substance.

The Green New Deal must be failing to deliver a fossil fuel phase out if the director of the WRI, a so called ‘environmental advocate’, can share a by-line with a big oil executive to spruik a project that is the opposite of phasing out fossil fuels and seemingly nobody cares.

Here’s a quote from Dan Lashof regarding Oxy’s air capture for CO2 enhanced oil recovery project that clearly shows he’s not working for a fossil fuel phase out.

“On the other hand, to the extent that you’re expanding the total energy resources base and extending the fossil-fuel era, obviously that doesn’t solve the climate problem.” [SOURCE]

Data for Progress, New Green Deal Research Director and World Resources Institute US, Manager for Climate Action and Data, Greg Carlock referred to a WRI working paper on direct air capture in a recent blog post for WRI. The paper refers to Oxy’s DAC for CO2 EOR project as an example of where investments are increasing.

“Some companies interested in combining enhanced oil recovery with direct air capture are increasing investments. For example, Occidental Petroleum is partnering with Carbon Engineering to build potentially several direct air capture plants.” [SOURCE]

Departure point: Drax, BECCS and the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative

  1. On April 21, 2020, while the global oil market was in free fall, it was reported that a formal agreement had been signed confirming that Drax would be part of a consortium that included Equinor and Phillips 66 to develop “the world’s first net zero carbon industrial cluster” in Humber, UK. [SOURCE]

 

  1. Equinor are a member of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative who are funding the Teesside CCS cluster. [SOURCE]

 

  1. Drax have been trialling BECCS (bio-energy with CCS) in the UK. [SOURCE]

 

  1. The lions share of the biomass burned by the Drax Group is from North America. [SOURCE]

 

  1. BECCS is in 3 of the 4 pathways offered by the IPCC working group on mitigation. [SOURCE]

Departure point: European Climate Foundation and industrial CCS clusters

Laurence Tubiana is a former French ambassador to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and CEO of the European Climate Foundation.

 

“The phase when abatement of emissions from industry was considered impossible is over. Industry leaders are looking at totally disruptive technologies and visions.” [SOURCE]

I could try and explain how the ECF is positioned to shape the ‘climate solutions’ on offer, but Cory Morningstar has already done it perfectly:

“As “the core of the ClimateWorks system in Europe“, the ECF constitutes an integral part of the regional global network created by the San Francisco-based ClimateWorks. ClimateWorks works to oversee and shape climate-related policy work worldwide. Launched in 2008 – the same year as ClimateWorks) – the ECF is a regranting foundation like its US counterpart.” [Background on the European Climate Foundation]

3 key points about European Climate Foundation

  1. The European Climate Foundation commissioned Element Energy to prepare 2 reports. One report is on carbon capture utilisation and storage for gas, coal, oil and biomass, and the other is on liquid fuels (hydrogen) which will largely come from processing North Sea gas and sequestering the CO2 in geological storage or from electrolysis using electricity largely supplied from the grid that is ostensibly renewable.
  2. Element Energy prepared reports for the developers of Teesside CCS industrial cluster and for the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative which are funding the Teesside CCS cluster as part of their UN endorsed Kickstarter Initiative investments.
  3. It is clear that the European Climate Foundation which is part of the ClimateWorks empire under the Design to Win plan, are 100% in support of further entrenching fossil fuel extraction and use as part of their #NetZero

5 studies relating to BECCS and industrial clusters in Europe

2018: Study funded by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative

‘Policy Mechanisms to support the large-scale deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)’

“Element Energy and Vivid Economics have assessed policy mechanisms that could accelerate the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to the scale required to meet climate change targets. The report begins by considering why, despite the central role that CCS plays in many deep decarbonisation trajectories, CCS has failed to build momentum. Having identified the problems, the work lays out policy and market mechanisms that could stimulate investment across the stages of deployment, acknowledges regional circumstances, and suggests principles that could help governments and firms to collaborate. Note that in this report CCS includes CCUS (carbon capture, utilisation and storage) in those cases where storage is permanent.'” [SOURCE]

2018: Study funded by the European Climate Foundation

‘Low-carbon cars in Europe: A socio-economic assessment’

“Hydrogen production for the transport sector is expected to be dominated by water electrolysers, steam methane reforming (SMR) and by-product from industrial processes (for example chloralkali plants). These sources form the basis of the production mix in this study. Other potential sources include waste or biomass gasification, or SMR with carbon capture and storage. These additional routes could potentially provide low cost, low carbon hydrogen, but are not yet technically or economically proven and have not been included in the cost assumptions below.” [SOURCE]

2017: Study funded by the European Climate Foundation and Industrial Innovation for Competitiveness (i24c)

‘Deployment of an industrial Carbon Capture and Storage cluster in Europe: A funding pathway’

“The 2020s will be a make-or-break decade for so many aspects of the low carbon transition. CCS in industrial plants needs to be part of the picture. Getting the financing right is clearly an essential first step. But we also need to establish the right frameworks for shared liability between operators and tackle some of the concerns the public and some policymakers still harbour over industrial CCS. This report shows the way for at least one of the hurdles related to CCS. I hope you enjoy reading it.” [SOURCE]

2011: Study funded by the One North East Regional Development Agency and the North East Process Industries Cluster.

‘Tees Valley CCS Network’

“An Element Energy study has looked at the logistics of implementing a shared CCS pipeline network in the Tees Valley to connect major CO2 emitters in one of the UK’s largest industrial clusters. By Harsh Pershad, Element Energy”[SOURCE]

2019: Study prepared for European Climate Foundation in collaboration with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Climate-KIC, the Energy Transitions Commission, RE:Source,and SITRA.

‘Industrial Transformation 2050: Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions from EU Heavy Industry’

“BIOMASS WILL BE REQUIRED PRIMARILY FOR FEEDSTOCK Achieving net zero emissions for the economy as a whole will lead to multiple competing claims on scarce biomass re-sources. The use of biomass for fuel or feedstock can compete with alternative uses for land like food or feed production, conservation for maintained biodiversity, or as a ‘sink’ for CO2 emissions. Furthermore, once the biomass has been extracted, there are multiple competing uses, from simple combustion for heat or electricity generation (the largest use today) to the production of transportation fuels, or use with CCS for ‘negative emissions’ to offset remaining emissions in other sectors.” [SOURCE]

2017: Research paper prepared for Chatham House by independent policy analyst Duncan Brack

‘Woody Biomass for Power and Heat: Impacts on the Global Climate’

“Biomass is classified as a source of renewable energy in national policy frameworks, benefiting from financial and regulatory support on the grounds that, like other renewables, it is a carbon-neutral energy source. It is not carbon-neutral at the point of combustion, however; if biomass is burnt in the presence of oxygen, it produces carbon dioxide. The argument is increasingly made that its use can have negative impacts on the global climate. This classification as carbon-neutral derives from either or both of two assumptions. First, that biomass emissions are part of a natural cycle in which forest growth absorbs the carbon emitted by burning wood for energy. Second, that biomass emissions are accounted for in the land-use sector, and not in the energy sector, under international rules for greenhouse gas emissions.”

 

“Many of the models used to predict the impacts of biomass use assume that mill and forest residues are the main feedstock used for energy, and biomass pellet and energy companies tend to claim the same, though they often group ‘low-grade wood’ with ‘forest residues’, although their impact on the climate is not the same. Evidence suggests, however, that various types of roundwood are generally the main source of feedstock for large industrial pellet facilities. Forest residues are often unsuitable for use because of their high ash, dirt and alkali salt content.” [SOURCE]

 

End notes:

[1] Verbatim: “I think that the, the mainstream climate movement, needs to, needs to collapse. It needs to end. Um, and, and that the very comfortable organizers within that mainstream climate movement, ah, working in those NGO jobs, um, they, they need to fail. Um, I think they need to be brought down. I think they, they need to, ah, have a little bit of hardship and a bit of suffering, and they need to create space for, ah, for those historically oppressed groups.” Tim DeChristopher, Transformation without Apocalypse – Episode #6

 

[Michael Swifte is an Australian activist and a member of the Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective.]

Green Capital and Environmental “Leaders” Won’t Save Us

Undisciplined Environments

May 20, 2020

By Alexander Dunlap

 

People are outraged! Jeffery Gibbs’s new documentary, Planet of the Humans – co-produced by Michael Moore and Ozzie Zehner – has shocked and awed “progressive” critics, fuelling a steady stream of outcry. “It is truly demoralizing how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change,” exclaims Naomi Klein on Twitter.

Much of the concern voiced is correct, yet it detracts away from two fundamental messages: “renewable energy” is dependent on extreme mineral and hydrocarbon extraction, and mainstream environmentalism has “sold out.” This, in many ways, is old news for political ecologists, especially those involved in environmental conflicts concerning wind powerhydroelectric dams and mineral extraction development, yet the pandemonium generated by this film deserves some clarification.

Important Criticisms: Caveat

The documentary has some foundational flaws. It underestimates the efficiency and capacity of wind and solar technologies. The data is old and the range of people interviewed limited. More damaging, however, is their discussion of population. Yes, population is an issue, and voluntary initiatives to control it are adopted by some environmentalists (for instance, degrowth advocates). Yet, modes of consumption and production will always be the determining factors for how populations will articulate catastrophic ecological and climatic impacts.

The problem with the “overpopulation” narrative is that it condemns all of humanity for the present socio-ecological situation. Even if, later in the documentary, corporations, financial consultants and their “environmental movement” collaborators become the main focus of critique, the directors largely neglect class, race, and gender as issues related to environmental degradation.

At the same time, the film forgets the socio-ecological values of different groups. It overwrites the variegated agency of (a “pluriverse” of) people, positioning Indigenous land defenders at war with extraction in the background, and not acknowledging in any way their different socio-ecological practices and relationships. The lack of clarity surrounding these issues, or the missing explicit support for environmental struggles against green capitalism and extraction is damaging, ultimately taking away from issues that deserve popular acknowledgment in the film.

Film segment title page reviewing the extraction necessary for so-called renewables (Screenshot: 36’55”). Source: youtube.com

 

So-called Renewable Energy

The outraged critics need to realize that the distinction between fossil fuels and so-called renewable energy is exaggerated. Every aspect of so-called renewable energy requires hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon-based facilities for equipment construction and operation; mining; processing, manufacturing, transportation and the security personnel to enforce land control for these projects. Hence, I proposed the term “fossil fuel+” as a replacement for the inaccurate concept of “renewable energy.”

Ethnographic research investigating natural resource extraction for fossil fuel+ systems remain insightful in this regard. Modelling studies, however, have exposed the seriousness of resource extraction and waste for fossil fuel+ systems. Drawing on a World Bank report, Jason Hickel estimates that making 2050 renewable energy targets will require mining “34 million metric tons of copper, 40 million tons of lead, 50 million tons of zinc, 162 million tons of aluminium, and no less than 4.8 billion tons of iron.”

This also includes increases in other minerals essential to solar, wind and battery technologies over the same period:  35-70% neodymium, 38-105% in silver, 920% in indium, 2,700% increases in lithium and is compounded with further increases (70%) with the promotion of electric vehicles.

Moreover, Benjamin Sovacool and colleagues calculate a single 3.1 MW wind turbine creates “772 to 1807 tons of landfill waste, 40 to 85 tons of waste sent for incineration and about 7.3 tons of e-waste per unit.” This does not even account for mineral processing, component manufacturing, transportation or provisions for security personnel to facilitate security operations of “renewable energy” extraction sites or development sites. Remember: “It takes 500,000 gallons of water to produce a single ton of lithium.”

Critics of the film declare to speak in the name of science. Yet this is a question of research design and methodology. Fossil fuel+ projects are frequently justified by carbon accounting and modelling practices imbued with capitalist ideologies and technological utopianism, which – more to the point – are separated from the political contexts, neglect various forms of pollution (e.g., industrial wastes), local struggles and violence emanating from “green” and corresponding mining projects that animate fossil fuel+ development.

Corporate Environmentalism

Land defenders are well aware of corporate co-optation of environmental struggles. Jeff Gibbs and colleagues are correct to highlight these connections as this problem has only intensified. Submedia.tv released a documentary nearly 10 years ago demonstrating at length the problem of environmental NGOs co-opting struggles and marginalizing land defenders. This segment, moreover, documented the connection between large environmental NGOs, such as Greenpeace and Sierra Club, and their staff going to work in mineral extraction and timber industries. Does anyone remember how, in 2014, Greenpeace lost £3 million in currency speculation? The proclaimed mission and actions of environmental NGOs frequently do not add up.

The “NGOization” of struggle has emerged as a body of literature. Meanwhile, Cory Morningstar’s updated the connection of green capitalists, “climate youth leaders” and the new (corporate) environmental movement, charting trends and issues many ignore or fail to understand. Planet of the Humans documents a small piece of this compared to Morningstar’s work, focusing primarily on Al Gore, Bill Mckibben and their financial managers and partners.

While Al Gore is no surprise, some film reviewers suggest Bill McKibben’s exposé was startling, if not personally offensive. “I have never taken a penny from green energy companies or mutual funds or anyone else with a role in these fights, ” explains Mckibben in a Rolling Stone interview, “I’ve never been paid by environmental groups either, not even 350.org, which I founded and which I’ve given all I have to give.”

The film presents some damaging evidence. For instance, it shows McKibben sitting on a panel at the “Investors and Environmentalists Sustainable Proposal,” discussing a “40-50 trillion ‘green energy fund’” with The World Resource Institutes’ David Blood, who “spent 18 years at Goldman Sachs including serving as CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.” Moreover, 350.org’s collaboration with the “Green Century Funds” makes a clear connection to how manufactured or self-styled “environmental leaders” (see 1:15:14) are clearly in bed with green capitalism and efforts to financialize nature.

The No Deal for Nature Campaign is particularly relevant in this regard. The exposé of corporate environmentalism and collaborative efforts to financialize nature holds. The film highlights the timeless issues of “leaders,” but also how single-issue campaigning – built on carbon accounting and narrowing its focus to “fossil fuels” – disables itself from holistic assessments and offers itself to the construction of a “green” or “climate” economy their movement leaders are invested in promoting.

 

David Blood (co-founder of Generation Investment with Al Gore) and 350.org’s Bill McKibben: featured keynotes for divestment partner, Ceres.

 

Conclusion

The film deserves both hostility and love. Hostility for carelessly discussing population issues, homogenizing different people – a socio-ecological-cultural flattening – and lacking, even in passing, respect for those fighting the mines, energy factories and politicians small and large, formal and informal. The film would have benefited from a more refined scope and tighter narrative, with a greater diversity of participants, from Indigenous groups struggling against fossil fuel+ projects, to political ecologists and environmental anthropologists.

Yet the film also deserves love, as it highlights a neglected and sensitive issue for many: how the (mainstream) “environmental movement” has been corporatized, how its actions are not working, and how “renewable energy”/fossil fuel+ systems are not ecologically sustainable. The film is correct to publicize these issues, even if most popular media outlets are having a less than intelligent conversation about the contested issues within the film. Instead of writing the film off as “demoralizing“, it should resituate one’s hopes and realities concerning environmental struggle.

Concern has also been voiced about the film “dividing” the environmental movement. But the movement is already divided, to the extent that environmental “leaders” are divided from their “flock”, and “light” green (capitalist) movements try to extinguish or recuperate “dark” green radical critique and action. Autonomous, horizontal and leaderless resistance akin to the multiplicity of land struggles taking place across the world, should be what climate activists gain inspiration from – not McKibben or Gore. Earth First!, for instance, – not without its critiques – represents an alternative mass-organizational model, discarding leaders and dedicated to organizing discussion space and direct action.

Those shocked by Planet of the Humans’ revelations concerning “renewable energy” and environmental movement “leaders” are either unfamiliar with the boundless treachery of capitalist society or have yet to commit themselves to fighting the capture, domestication and exploitation of human and nonhuman resources near and far.

[Alexander Dunlap holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His PhD thesis examined the socio-ecological impact of wind energy development on Indigenous people in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Alexander’s work has critically examined police-military transformations, market-based conservation, wind energy development and extractive projects more generally with coal mining in Germany and copper mining in Peru. Current research investigates the formation of transnational-super grids and the connections between conventional and renewable extraction industries.]

Featured image: Planet of the Humans poster. Source: planetofthehumans.com.

 

WATCH: Planet of the Humans [Full Film]

WATCH: Planet of the Humans [Full Film]

April 22, 2020

 


WKOG caveat: Industrial civilization is destroying all life on Earth. Human destruction of biodiversity is not created equally: “Yet tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world, and 80% of our planet’s biodiversity is found in tribal territories.” [Further reading: The best conservationists made our environment and can save it, Stephen Corry] Human population is often identified as a problem because it strains the world’s resources and pollutes. [1] The first and most efficient way to address over consumption is to reduce consumption in the North is to a) redistribute the resources, (all arable land, etc.) to the Global South, to sustain those in the Global South, and b) phase out the production of all superfluous consumer products that harm life and biodiversity. [Further reading: Too Many Africans?, July 11, 2019] An analysis of population growth that accounts for the vast differences in consumption across class and region is critical in examining the worldwide environmental crisis.

 

Jeff Gibbs, Writer, Producer, Director:  “At long last our film “Planet of the Humans” is now released to the world! It’s one of the happiest days of my life, and a day I fervently hope has a role in initiating some real change in the world. “Planet of the Humans”  is now available free of charge to everyone on planet Earth courtesy of our partnership with Michael Moore. Please help us spread the word by sharing, blogging, posting, tweeting, emailing, or pony expressing your enthusiasm and urgency about why people must see this movie.”

Planet of the Humans takes a harsh look at how the environmental movement has lost the battle through well-meaning but disastrous choices, including the belief that solar panels and windmills would save us, and by giving in to the corporate interests of Wall Street.

Jeff Gibbs, the writer/producer/director of Planet of the Humans, has dared to say what no one will – that “we are losing the battle to stop climate change because we are following environmental leaders, many of whom are well-intentioned, but who’ve sold out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America.” This film is the wake-up call to the reality which we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the so-called “environmental movement’s” answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. “It’s too little, too late,” says Gibbs. “Removed from the debate is the only thing that might save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. [1] Why is this not the issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business.”

“Have we environmentalists fallen for illusions, ‘green’ illusions, that are anything but green, because we’re scared that this is the end — and we’ve pinned all our hopes on things like solar panels and wind turbines? No amount of batteries are going to save us, and that is the urgent warning of this film.”

This compelling, must-see movie – a full-frontal assault on our sacred cows – is guaranteed to generate anger, debate, and, hopefully, a willingness to see our survival in a new way—before it’s too late.

[Jeff Gibbs, Writer, Producer, Director | Ozzie Zehner, Producer | Michael Moore, Executive Producer]

 

[1]

%d bloggers like this: