Apr 172018

by Bill Onasch

This is an abbreviated WIR. Perhaps because of the weather I’m feeling a bit under it. Hopefully, next time I will have recovered my normal long wind.

A Welcome Correction

In the last WIR I reported there were 2800 attending the Labor Notes Conference. That was the last figure I had heard before we had to leave early because Amtrak put us on a bus to Kansas City due to a bridge replacement on the BNSF track. An e-mail blast from Labor Notes says 3,000 participated in the April 6-8 gathering in Chicago.

An Exchange on Nuclear Power

A supportive reader in Los Angeles and I long ago agreed to disagree about the role of nuclear power in combating global warming. He recently pointed out that an article I posted on Labor Advocate about ambitious new goals for renewable energy in New Jersey also included continuing subsidies to the state’s nuclear plants. This was the gist of my reply,

Since most of the environmental damage has either already been done—or is an inevitable threat in decommissioning—I could live with keeping existing nukes still in good condition online during the transition to renewable energy. But, if for no other reason than the fact that it takes at least a decade of planning and construction to connect new nukes to the grid, they are not an option for even “emergency” off-setting of fossil emissions as some climate scientists advocate. Solar, wind, even hydro have become quicker and cheaper to build.

The New Jersey action goes about as far as a state can go—and clearly is not enough. Conversion to renewable energy needs to be part of a planned restructuring of the economy—ultimately on a global scale. The current orientation of 350.org and other activist wings of the climate/environmental movement are doing a disservice, in my opinion, by contributing to illusions that states, divestment, and electing Democrats in the midterms, are progress. Emissions are still increasing and the planet is getting hotter. This is not going to decisively change under capitalism.

While there can be a case for keeping New Jersey’s nukes online until they can be replaced by clean renewables there is no justification for continuing to subsidize their capitalist owners who, at the end of the day, will leave behind a dangerous, costly environmental mess.

Many are hailing the effort in New Jersey, along with similar programs in California and New York, as essentially meeting their share of the goal for reduced U.S. emissions included in the Paris Climate Accords. While that may be true it’s hardly anything to brag about. That leaves 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico with either inadequate goals—or none at all.

And that’s not the worst of it. The collective goals of the signers of the Paris agreement fail to come close to the target of limiting warming to 1.5C and would allow our planet to grow disastrously hotter to perhaps as high as 3C.

New Jersey is also home to refineries, petrochemical plants, and one of the nation’s busiest airports. Just as states can’t socialize all energy under worker management—as advocated by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy—they don’t have the power to implement a Just Transition restructuring to put workers in to new climate-friendly jobs.

I’ll continue this topic next time.

That’s all for this week.

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