July 05, 2018
AB 813: Welcome to Coal Country
Dr. Conway's Climateside Chat, July 5, 2018
What is the role of government in regulating markets? To those who understand the flaws of the modern capitalist adage “privatize profits, externalize costs,” governments have a clear duty to intervene in markets if they intend to maintain a healthy and prosperous citizenry. Businesses and corporations have shown again and again that they are more than willing to pass on as many costs to the public as they can get away with, from slavery in the Antebellum South to the modern-day greenhouse gas pollution that drives climate change. From this historical perspective, it would be difficult to argue that unbiased, carefully crafted regulations are not essential to an equitable and sustainable society. However, capitalists realized early on that the best investments they could make were in politics. I personally view the current presidential administration, staffed by woefully unqualified businessmen and lobbyists hell-bent on aiding their industries at the cost of the world, as the culmination of this effort, along with centuries’ worth of carefully cultivated racism, xenophobia, greed, and apathy for the planet. This hostile takeover has resulted in a federal government that is no longer interested in preserving the health and prosperity of its people, and is instead picking winners that make nearly all of us losers.
—Jon Conway, Ph.D., Greenpower Research Director
Department of Energy Secretary and climate change denier Rick Perry recently called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to boost the failing US nuclear and coal industries, in defiance of the conclusions from a grid reliability study Perry himself commissioned. Perry justified his request with the claim that “there is no free market in the energy industry,” which, to some extent, is true. But why should dirty, unreliable, uneconomical, and corrupt industries like coal and nuclear be prioritized over better energy sources? How can Perry rationalize dumping billions of taxpayer dollars into such noncompetitive and unsustainable power plants when his own agency’s study found no evidence suggesting that was a good idea? It’s almost as if his decision to fund dirty energy industries was arrived at before the study was complete.
"[Puerto Rico’s] grid went down completely and won’t be back for months, because it was essentially destroyed. Fuel on-hand won’t do a damn thing to help, except for large buildings with backup diesel generators. Rooftop solar and batteries, on the other hand, would have allowed communities to recover and retain essential services."
4. Fukushima Residents Win 500m Yen Payout Over Nuclear Disaster The Guardian
Nuclear power is, and has been, a very contentious topic in both popular opinion and the energy industry since its inception. Nuclear fission offers the allure of abundant carbon-free electricity, but is one of the least economical power sources—even without taking into account the staggering external costs. When these costs are accounted for, the nuclear industry simply should not exist. This was clearly demonstrated after the Karen Silkwood trial, in which Daniel Sheehan and Sara Nelson (current president and executive director, respectively, of Greenpower and our parent organization the Romero Institute) were able to successfully persuade the courts to rule that US nuclear plants had unlimited liability for damages caused by their operations. This relatively straightforward decision essentially froze nuclear development in the US for decades, as nuclear plants could not afford the possibility of a catastrophic disaster like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or Fukushima. These events, while uncommon, utterly negate any profitability from nuclear power, exactly as the Japanese government and the owners of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are finding out.
US automakers have been leading the charge toward an all-electric fleet in much the same way a petulant child leads the way to the dentist’s office: kicking and screaming, dragged along by a grimacing parent. Many have engaged in tactics designed to curb the growth of the EV industry, such as delaying new EV models, blocking advertisements for EVs, promoting gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, and lobbying against fuel standards. This is hardly surprising for an industry that worked very hard to destroy US public transportation infrastructure, an endeavour in which they were largely successful. They seem to be hoping the current administration will have a more favorable ear to their machinations, but are rightfully worried that California will ignore any federal regulatory rollbacks. As I’ve explained in previous TWITEs, California, as the most populous state, is able to set state standards that end up being adopted de facto by the rest of the country because auto manufacturers cannot afford to create vehicles that meet two different sets of regulations. In this way, California is helping to make sure that the people of the world—not just a few massive corporations—are the “winners.”
"If the federal standards are relaxed despite the overwhelming body of evidence demonstrating they should continue as is, California will maintain its standards. Moreover, we will pursue all available legal remedies to overturn federal actions that are unsupported by the facts and law."
Much ado is being made by the fascists currently running the US federal government about highly successful tax subsidies for solar and wind energy sources. EPA head and notable fascist Scott Pruitt recently announced, with a complete lack of irony, that he would “do away with these incentives that we give to wind and solar” so that they could “stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas.” He for some reason neglected to mention that fossil fuels receive orders-of-magnitude more state and federal incentives and subsidies than renewable energy sources do. This easy-to-read piece by David Roberts over at Vox breaks down exactly how uneconomical fossil fuels are. What does it say about our country that such dirty, dangerous, and discriminatory fossil fuel industries have been given trillions of taxpayer dollars over the years?
Puerto Rico is giving us a glimpse of the future we have sown for ourselves by allowing greedy men to work against the public interest for centuries. Why is the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico being exploited for private gain? Why did the President show up for a few hours to huck paper towels at starving peoples’ heads? Why is the death toll massively underreported in the mainstream media? Why do trade restrictions exist that have undermined the Puerto Rican economy to the point where they are unable to rebuild without private and federal assistance? Why are they still a “territory” (colony) instead of a state—or their own country? I have some ideas. What are yours?
"¿Será que nuestra historia es tan peligrosa que puede llegar a ser revolucionaria?"
Dr. Conway's Climateside Chat, July 5, 2018
Dr. Conway's Climateside Chat, May 11, 2018