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Extractivism is Winning and the Green New Deal is the Perfect Distraction

Wrong Kind of Green

February 6, 2019

By Michael Swifte

 

 

A Game of Cosponsors

There are 4 cosponsors of the Green New Deal resolution (H.Res 109) in the minority member list of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. They are Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Ed Markey. [Source]

There are, at the time of writing, 7 Democrat cosponsors of the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies Act (S. 383). They are Sheldon Whitehouse, Tammy Duckworth, Tina Smith, Thomas Carper, Brian Shatz and Chris Van Hollen. [Source]

On Wednesday February 27, 2019 the Environment and Public Works committee met to discuss the USE IT Act and hear testimony from 3 guest panellists from energy companies and NGOs.

The three panellists were Paul Sukut – General Manager & CEO, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Steve Oldham – CEO, Carbon Engineering, and Kurt Waltzer – Managing Director, Clean Air Task Force. The Clean Air Task Force are part of the Carbon Capture Coalition which was formerly called the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative. Video is available of the committee proceedings. [Source]

While Republican and Democrat cosponsors asked questions of the invited guests, no questions were forthcoming from the 4 cosponsors of the Green New Deal. Indeed, having not seen an attendance list I can’t say for certain they were even there at the meeting.

Committee Chair John Barrasso issued a transcript of his comments at the February 27, EPW meeting. Among the comments he points out that in the previous congress the EPW committee had “voice” voted the now reintroduced USE IT Act “unanimously”. This would mean that if the 4 GND cosponsors were also in attendance at the “voice vote” they supported the USE IT Act through the committee stage after it’s first introduction. Again, I can’t say they were there for certain at the first “voice vote”. [Source]

A Significant Act

In my previous blog post for Wrong Kind of Green I provided some legislative, labor, and philanthropic context for understanding what the Green New Deal is designed to allow to pass while it becomes a distraction from real legislative efforts. It follows from my 2016 piece on “clean energy’ in which I argued that there will be little change to the ‘all of the above’ strategy hidden behind Obama’s Clean Power Plan. My consistent focus has been on the expression of political will made clear by many largely ignored processes. [Source]

The USE IT Act is significant because it follows up on the 45Q tax credit expansions included in the FUTURE Act 2018, but passed into law through the Bipartisan Budget Bill 2018 (Sec. 41119). 45Q tax credits reward coal and gas burners for scrubbing their CO2 emissions and transporting them to depleted oil fields where the liquefied CO2 is used in a process called miscible flooding to plump up the hard to extract remnant oil. Companies extracting oil from depleted fields are rewarded when they can show that CO2 has been incorporated into the rock matrix in place of the extracted oil. CO2 enhanced oil recovery with geological storage represents a qualitative shift in extractivist codependence providing a response to oil industry demand for giant scale CO2 sources. [Source]

Below are some of Senator Barrasso’s remarks from the February 27, 2019 EPW committee meeting.

The FUTURE Act extended and expanded the tax credit for using and storing carbon dioxide.

 

The Clean Air Task Force called the FUTURE Act ‘one of the most important bills for reducing global warming pollution in the last two decades.

 

The extension and expansion of the so-called 45Q tax credit through the FUTURE Act has expanded public interest about how we capture and use carbon dioxide.

 

This Congress, I have continued to focus on ways to expedite and expand the use of carbon capture.

 

That begins with the USE IT Act.

 

Last Congress, we unanimously reported the legislation out of Committee by voice vote.

 

This Congress we want it signed into law.

 

America should reduce emissions through innovation, not punishing government regulations.

 

The USE IT Act advances that goal. [Source]

The comments and responses to questions by the panellists in attendance at the EPW committee showed the significance of the passing of 45Q expansions through the Bipartisan Budget Bill 2018. The video of the committee meeting is well worth watching. [Source]

“Frontline and Vulnerable Communities” are Forgotten

The Green New Deal resolution emphasises the importance of “justice and equity” for “frontline and vulnerable communities”. The focus for GND authors is often on foreseen climate impacts, but consideration should be given to existing vulnerable communities and the known destructive effects of fossil fuel extraction, transport, refining, and burning. By remaining silent on actual legislation like the USE IT Act, by not attending or staying silent at key committee meetings, by ignoring the stated outcomes supported by unions and other Labor organisations working in mining, pipeline building, refining, and transport, and by ignoring the stated object of the Carbon Capture Coalition, the 4 cosponsors of the Green New Deal and their friends in the Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats PAC, Brand New Congress PAC, Data for Progress think tank, and New Consensus think tank are abrogating their stated responsibility to “frontline and vulnerable communities”. How can an extended life for fossil fuels be goods in any way? How can a plan that that continues our rampant consumer culture founded on the creation of externalities in the global south, ensures the continued destruction of aquifers, the poisoning of rivers, the removal of mountain tops, the capture of vast quantities of water for extraction, and all the other ways we already know that fossil fuels destroy life and health be a good thing?

Silence on Labor and CCUS

Sheldon Whitehouse is the Democrat’s strongest champion of the USE IT Act. In his comments at the February 27 EPW meeting he made a point of mentioning that the AFL-CIO are supportive of the USE IT Act and the 45Q tax credit expansions. The AFL-CIO are yet to make a public statement on the Green New Deal, but 4 of their fellow labor organisations from the Carbon Capture Coalition were enjoined on a February 12 letter authored by the international presidents of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Mine Workers of America. In the letter titled ‘Preliminary Labor Positions on Climate Change Legislation’ the position of the labor component of the Carbon Capture Coalition in regard to the Green New Deal is made very clear.

We also have grave concerns about unrealistic solutions such as those advocated in the “Green New Deal” and by proponents of the “Keep It in the Ground” ideology. Any legislation addressing the complex issues of carbon emission reduction must recognize and address: a) the tremendous impact such legislation will have on millions of fossil fuel-reliant jobs across America; and b) the costs and full recompense required to mitigate the effects of the loss of those jobs on workers, families and communities.[Source]

The 4 Green New Deal cosponsors and everyone else for that matter have had every opportunity to attend to the issue of Labor’s response to the Green New Deal, but as you will notice in Rachel M Cohen’s recent piece titled ‘Labor Unions Are Skeptical of the Green New Deal, And They Want Activists To Hear Them Out’ many of the Green New Deal cohort (Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats PAC, Brand New Congress PAC, Data for Progress think tank, and New Consensus think tank) are not willing to be drawn on the details of the carbon capture utilization and storage issue as it relates to energy futures designed to deliver on the Green New Deal. [Source]

Framing the Resolution

To understand how the Green New Deal resolution language was framed we have to look at the primary authors and researchers who developed early contributions at the behest of the leading proponents of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement. Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer identified the primary authors of  the Green New Deal blueprint as researchers recruited from the World Resources Institute to the purpose built think tank Data for Progress. [Source]

The terms “clean energy” and “net zero emissions” echo the language in the Green New Deal Report, and no commitment to phase out fossil fuels appears in the Green New Deal resolution. [Source]

Dallas Goldtooth from Indigenous Environment Network has expressed concerns about the resolution.

While we applaud its intentions, we feel that [the resolution] falls short in protecting indigenous communities,[ ]Explicitly talking about keeping fossil fuels in the ground, that’s a critical issue. [Source]

Julian NoiseCat, a policy director with 350 dot org was surprisingly candid about that fact that the Green New Deal resolution does not shut the door on fossil fuel extraction.  

The language I read was clean, renewable, zero emissions — which is that ‘keep the door open’ approach,

NoiseCat described the drafting process for the Green New Deal as inclusive noting that it included the AFL-CIO and three other unions.

It was an inclusive drafting process that included stakeholders from environmental, labor and more traditional environmental organizations, [Source]

The fact that the process was inclusive and no commitment to a fossil fuel phase out was included in the Green New Deal resolution to the disappointment of key climate justice spokespeople the question needs be asked: Did leaving the “door open” to carbon capture utilization and storage require framing out a commitment to phasing out fossil fuel extraction and burning?

A Little Help?

Naomi Wolf (@naomirwolf on Twitter) has built a common sense platform called Daily Clout which supports BillCam. She has rightly identified the need for collective effort in analysing and monitoring legislative activity in the US. Now I’m just an Australian researcher and anti-fossil fuel activist who knows that whatever takes hold in the US and Canada will be exported to countries like mine which happens to have a massive target painted on it and a sign that says “Dig Here”. The reason I ended up being so fascinated by North American fossil fuel development is because Canada and the US are a proving ground for new fossil fuel frontiers. [Source]

So I’m left with a burning question about the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. It’s a question I might be able to answer with an exhaustive search, but I thought I’d put it out to the Daily Clout audience: Is there an attendance record for each senate committee meeting, and were Senators Sanders, Booker, Gillibrand and Markey present for either the unanimous voice vote on the USE IT Act in the 115th Congress or the February 27, 2018 meeting of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works?

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Green New Deal has an AFL-CIO Problem

January 7, 2019

By Michael Swifte

 

Image: SARAH SILBIGER / eyevine

Not only does the #GreenNewDeal have an AFL-CIO problem, it has an International Brotherhood of Boilermakers problem, an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers problem, a SMART Transportation Division (of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers) problem, a United Mine Workers of America problem, a United Steel Workers problem, and a Utility Workers Union of America problem. These labor organisations are a problem for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the climate cartel, the Sunrise Movement, and the Democratic Socialists of America because they are all members of the Carbon Capture Coalition which is supporting bipartisan efforts to expand tax credits for carbon capture from coal, gas, and oil for utilization in enhanced oil projects that result in geological storage of CO2.

The Carbon Capture Coalition was formed from the participants in the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative. Executive Director of the Industrial Union Council at AFL-CIO, Brad Markell made this statement at the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Legislative Education Action Program (LEAP) 2016 conference:

[Carbon Capture and Storage] is something that those of us who work on energy in Washington are spending a lot of time on. It’s a must-have technology; it’s the way we are going to keep coal plants open in this country. It’s the way we’re going to take advantage of our hundreds of years of coal. [SOURCE]

Cory Channon, the Assistant to the International President and Assistant Director of Construction Sector Operations (Canada) for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers made this statement ahead of last year’s Accelerating CCS Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland:

The Boilermakers can be part of the solution by insuring that, through the expansion and building of CCS plants, we will be there to complete the construction phases, maintain the work on schedule and on budget. This is our responsibility to every person and living thing on our planet. Please share our video and help us spread the word. [SOURCE ]

The video that Channon is championing is called ‘Bridge to a Clean Energy Future’. It’s a production of Boilermaker Videos and features an interview with Ian MacGregor, the Chair and CEO of North West Refining who are leading the development of the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line which is designed to transport liquefied CO2 sequestered from tar sands refining to depleted oil fields in the Williston Basin for use in CO2 enhanced oil recovery.

In the video MacGregor gives his opinion on those who believe we can achieve anything like 100% renewables by 2030 saying:

40% of the people believe that we’re going to be off petroleum in 10 years from now. Is that on Mars that they believe that?

MacGregor is only one of many corporate executives and CEOs engaged with labor organisations around CCS and enhanced oil recovery. Here is a list of some of the better known corporations participating in the Carbon Capture Coalition:

Air Liquide, Arch Coal, Linde LLC, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America, Inc, NRG Energy, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Peabody Energy, Shell [SOURCE]

Richard Trumka, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations president, addresses members during the quadrennial AFL-CIO convention at Los Angeles Convention Center on Monday, Sept 9, 2013 in Los Angeles. The AFL-CIO plans to open its membership to more non-union groups in an effort to restore the influence of organized labor as traditional union rolls continue to decline. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was very specific about his support for carbon capture and storage in his 2016 address to the Boilermakers Convention.

We know carbon capture, use and storage is necessary to reduce global emissions. The truth is, developing countries around the world are building coal-fired power plants as fast as possible. We can address climate change and be an international energy leader by investing in and developing clean emissions technology. It exists. Let’s make it work for us. [SOURCE]

DNC resolutions

In August 2018 only 2 months after it’s June 2018 resolution to reject fossil fuel industry donations, the DNC voted 30-2 in favour of a resolution submitted by DNC Chair, Tom Perez which specifically mentions “fossil fuel workers” and “carbon capture and storage”.

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]

In June 2018, Democrat Party strategist Christine Pelosi, daughter of Congresswoman and newly appointed House speaker Nancy Pelosi submitted a resolution to the DNC calling for a response to the negative effects caused by the burning of fossil fuel and “grassroots” action that resembles the efforts of the Green New Deal allies.  

WHEREAS, we Democrats have the opportunity to reform and revive our party by empowering diverse grassroots Democrats at the leadership table and in our communities including building on our recent successes with small donor fundraising programs;[SOURCE]

Climate cartel connections

On November 12, 2018 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was welcomed into the Congressional Progressive Caucus at the AFL-CIO Washington headquarters along with other new ‘liberal lawmakers’. Representatives of Move On and Indivisible were in attendance.

On December 3, 2018 Cortez joined Bernie Sanders, Bill McKibben, Van Jones and others at a ‘town hall’ event organised by the Sanders team. This was the unofficial kick off for the Green New Deal.

Van Jones is a noted author on green jobs, a fellow at John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, a member of the US Advisory Council of 350.org, and a former trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council who were participants in the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative for 4 years up until the creation of the Carbon Capture Coalition.

Jones’ connection to Podesta is reason for great concern. Podesta has been instrumental to philanthropic efforts to shape climate activism to suit the ambitions of the fossil fuel  industry. The ClimateWorks Foundation is at the center of a collection of foundations connected through an agenda setting document first published in 2007 called ‘Design to Win: Philanthropy’s role in the fight against global warming’. Indeed this document is the foundation of ClimateWorks’ efforts for the last decade. It lays out the imperatives for philanthropy to instil in the climate justice and environmental organisations that it incubates and funds.

The plain message from the ‘Design to Win’ is that when it comes to climate change, philanthropies should accept the inevitability of the implementation of carbon capture and storage for fossil fuels. In the intervening decade, with the expansive work of granting organisations like ClimateWorks, the global climate justice movement was incubated to be no threat to the left arm of the neoliberal machine (Democrats). Organisations like MoveOn, GetUp, Avaaz, Purpose, and ResPublica (which all share the same co-founders) play a pivotal role in circling climate activists around to the neoliberal agenda. The granting and incubation efforts of the ClimateWorks Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Energy Foundation, Oak Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and Sandler Foundation served to help maintain a concession/capitulation position in favor of fossil fuel and biomass based carbon capture and storage. The following passage shows that the underlying assumption for the authors of ‘Design to Win’ was always that coal could not be stopped:

Reduce emissions from unavoidable coal through carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Even under the sunniest of scenarios, efficiency gains and expanded use of alternative energy sources won’t displace enough coal in the next two decades to forestall catastrophic climate change, so we must find a way to separate CO2 emissions from coal plants and store them beneath the earth. CCS, which remains in its infancy, deserves a critical push from philanthropy so that it can be rapidly deployed where demand for coal power is the greatest. [SOURCE]

Podesta, as a Clinton Global Initiative insider, and as the leader of a global granting body has been highly influential on the messaging and talking points used by the global climate justice movement. He has on several occasions revealed his leanings in regard to carbon capture and storage. He recently visited with Norwegian CCS promoting NGO, the Bellona Foundation.

ClimateWorks, in telling their own story, leave out the sewn-in concession/capitulation to CCS choosing to emphasize their support for ‘climate philanthropy’.

Committed to seeing these strategies put into action, three foundations — Hewlett, Packard, and McKnight — created ClimateWorks in 2008, with the goal of increasing philanthropic impact on climate change. During our first six years, ClimateWorks made hundreds of grants worldwide, helped build capacity in key regions, and collaborated with a network of partners to support research, policy advocacy, outreach and public engagement, all with the aim of reducing the emissions that cause climate change. [SOURCE]

45Q tax credits

45Q tax credits benefit coal and gas burners who sequester CO2 and pipe it to depleted conventional oil fields for oil drillers who use CO2 miscible flooding to liberate the remnant oil.

The expansion of 45Q tax credits which were first passed into law through the 2008 ‘bail out’ bill was achieved by the passing of the FUTURE Act. The passage of the FUTURE Act and the advancement of the USE IT Act represents the most significant bipartisan achievement of the Trump presidency. They were spearheaded by Democrat Senator for North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp (outgoing) and Senator for Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse.

Heitkamp’s press release announcing the successful passage of the FUTURE Act contained the following statement from AFL-CIO’s Brad Markell:

This is a good day for the climate and a good day for American jobs. These provisions will advance the use of technologies that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and will create high-paying jobs in the energy, construction and manufacturing sectors. [SOURCE]

Upon the introduction of the USE It Act Republican Senator for Wyoming John Barasso commended the leadership of Democrat senators and acknowledged the bipartisan efforts that brought the bills to their current state.

 In developing both the FUTURE Act and the USE IT Act, senators on both sides of the aisle have found areas of common ground.

 

I appreciate Senator Whitehouse’s leadership as we worked together to develop the USE IT Act. [SOURCE]

When the USE IT Act passed the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Senator Whitehouse made this statement:

Building on the bipartisan cooperation behind the carbon capture and utilization tax credit, this bill can help get carbon removal projects rolling. It signals to utilities that we mean business and points the way for companies in Rhode Island and across the country finding innovative uses for carbon dioxide. [SOURCE]

Senator Heitkamp also underlined the significance of the bipartisan efforts that delivered the FUTURE Act and have helped advance the USE IT Act:

CCUS benefits a wide range of industries, paves a long-term opportunity for North Dakota lignite coal, and supports enhanced oil recovery efforts in the Bakken – all while reducing carbon pollution. Just as we were able to build strong bipartisan support for the FUTURE Act and eventually see it get signed into law, we’re now on the right track with the USE IT Act. Passage in this committee is an important step forward for jobs and economic progress in North Dakota, and an all-of-the-above energy strategy that supports American jobs and will help the U.S. become a leader in developing and selling CCUS technologies. [SOURCE]

The Carbon Capture Coalition statement on the FUTURE Act and the USE IT Act also celebrates the strength and “breadth” of bipartisan support for carbon capture and storage.

The bipartisan support for both bills was unprecedented for legislation of its kind, spanning the political spectrum from all regions of the country and underscoring the breadth of support for carbon capture. [SOURCE]

Mike Langford, National President, Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO also applauded bipartisan efforts and repeated the call for new CO2 pipelines.

The Utility Workers Union of America applauds the bipartisan work of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in moving the USE IT Act one step closer to becoming law. In seeking to facilitate the build-out of carbon dioxide pipelines and supporting research into carbon dioxide capture and utilization, the USE IT Act promotes cutting edge technology, enabling the creation of entirely new energy systems that will sustain family-supporting jobs and healthy communities for decades to come. [SOURCE]

All the things that wont change

Copper Mines photo(s) Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto EDWARD BURTYNSKY / OTTWP

Exploding oil trains, mountain top removal, poisoned and destroyed aquifers, poisoned rivers, oil spills, gas leaks, exploitation and violence against Indigenous people, and the continued hegemony of fossil fuel loving, consumer-overconsumption-driving global elites will continue if the proponents of the Green New Deal do not address the political will for carbon capture utilization and storage as demonstrated by a large segment of North American industrial labor organizations.

Some people will tell you they don’t think CCS is viable, but it is clearly what the big corporations want. They have convinced the big labor organizations to support their plans with the help of philanthropies who spend money with prejudice to incubate activist groups and NGOs with a built in blind spot for the political will. Activist groups like the Sunrise Movement, and political leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez need to call out those democrats who steered and voted for bipartisan tax credit expansion for fossil fuel energy generation, refining and extraction. If they don’t then the Shangri-La of “100% Renewable” energy will be put even further beyond reach.

Sunrise political director and co-founder, Evan Weber

What we are seeing in the collaboration of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Sunrise Movement – almost certainly incubated by the climate cartel – is the exploitation of a political moment to use ‘climate’ as an object of propagandization to carry particular talking points to the public. The non-profit industrial complex with it’s interlocking directorate of behavior change, movement incubation, and networked governance agencies built this opportunity to propagandize reformist measures to tackle impossible goals while framing out the well funded and impending reality that fossil fools will do everything, absolutely everything they need to do to get their way.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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