An Initial Position on Socialism and the Fight Against Environmental Devastation

by Socialist Organizer (U.S.A.) on October 22, 2012

Resolution adopted by the 12th National Convention of Socialist Organizer.

Introduction

Humanity is today facing an unprecedented crisis caused by the impasse of the capitalist system based on the private ownership of the means of production. The crisis has a specific environmental component that is intertwined with the general crisis affecting working people the world over, and this ecological crisis can only be dismissed or downplayed at humanity’s great peril.

The environmental crisis has already real and tragic consequences for millions of humans today. Problems such as the recent oil spills in China and the Gulf Coast, smog choking the inhabitants of big cities, deforestation, chemically unhealthy mass food production, the pollution of our lands, rivers and oceans, and climate change, all have dire consequences for human civilization.

The future of the planet — and, therefore, human civilization — is correctly understood to be at stake by millions of people, particularly among the younger generation. In recent years, under the impact of the deepening ecological and social crisis, the desire to “save the environment” has caught the imagination of many young workers and students who, via this prism, have begun to question features of the capitalist system and its constant drive for profits, which is at the root of world’s current crisis.

Millions of youth understand there is something wrong with the current economic system but have not developed a class or socialist understanding of the problem. For us as Marxists, “saving the environment” means ending capitalism’s irrational and super-polluting practices in order to defend and improve the lives of the billions of human beings inhabiting planet earth.

Unfortunately, too much of this sentiment has been channeled into anti-industry, anti-consumption, anti-worker perspectives pushed by NGOs such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Federation, as well as their more “left” counterparts. Socialist Organizer and the Fourth International must intervene politically to win over these healthy young forces from the misleaders.

In Germany, to cite one example, the Green Party, in power with the Social Democrats, proposed a plan to rid Germany of non-carbon nuclear energy and replace it with Š 23 coal plants burning dirty brown coal. The Green parties globally and their environmentalist non-profits and NGO allies are totally wedded to the fake “Green capitalism” that everywhere supports the destruction of jobs and public services and provides no long-term solution to the environmental destruction wrought on the planet by capitalism.

As revolutionaries, we must put forward a political perspective that can win youth and others concerned with the environment to the scientific and political perspective that the expansion, not destruction, of the productive forces, for human needs and not for profit, is the only solution for humanity. We must explain that such development can and must take place in an ecologically viable manner.

The central transitional slogan in relation to capitalism’s assault on the environment and humanity is the call for the nationalization of transportation and the energy industry under workers’ democratic control, raising in turn the need for a planned economy and authentic workers’ governments. Without such nationalizations and democratic worker-community control, it will be virtually impossible to make a turn towards cleaner forms of energy-generation in the interest of the masses of working people.

We must patiently explain that the only social force capable of successfully leading to victory in the fight against the devastation of the environment caused by decaying capitalism is the organized working class in alliance with the youth and all the oppressed.

For today’s struggles, we need a political perspective concerning the ecological crisis that responds to the actual level of consciousness of youth and workers, that points towards independent class mobilizations against the exploiters and polluters, and that, therefore, can serve as steps toward the world socialist revolution required to free both humanity and the earth from the destructive drive of Capital.

Capitalism, in its final imperialist stage, is leading humanity to barbarism — and possible extinction as a species. To defend humanity it is necessary to end capitalism’s destructive use of natural resources and establish a rational use of them for the immediate and long-term benefit of human civilization.

Only the world socialist revolution — the abolition of the private ownership of the major means of production — can open up a real solution for all of humanity, as well as the environment. These two questions are inextricably linked; they cannot and should not be separated. And the crisis of humanity remains the crisis of revolutionary leadership of the working class; this crisis can only be overcome by building the sections of the Fourth International. This resolution aims to outline Socialist Organizer’s perspective on these important questions.

Marx and Engel’s Views on the Environment

Given the widespread lack of awareness concerning the rich writings of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels concerning the relationship of humanity, capitalism, and the environment, it is useful here to summarize this little-known history, which should form the foundation of a Marxist position today on how to confront the ecological crisis.

Marx and Engels wrote a moment when the industrial revolution was leading to a massive wave of pollution and industrial contamination wherever factories, refineries and other advanced forms of production developed. The working class in this period, the period before unionization, faced terrible environmental conditions, leading to widespread disease and early death. Whole cities were kept in perpetual fogs of smog; it was dangerous to even go to work or school.
Marx often described the interaction between human society and the natural world as a kind of “metabolism.” He argued that the destructive irrationality of capitalist production creates a “metabolic rift” — a sharp break in the relationship — between humanity and the planet.

In Volume One of Capital, Marx argues:

Capitalist production disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e. prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; it therefore violates the conditions necessary to lasting fertility of the soil. … Moreover, all progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress towards ruining the more long-lasting sources of that fertility. … Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology only by sapping the original sources of all wealth — the soil and the worker. (Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, pp. 637-638)

The writings of the great German chemist Justus Liebig, who wrote extensively on the depletion of the soil due to capitalism’s irrational, profit-driven agricultural techniques, were an important influence on Marx throughout his life. One of Liebig’s “immortal merits,” wrote Marx, was having “developed from the point of view of natural science the negative, i.e., destructive side of modern agriculture”. (Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, p. 638)

Marx noted the contradiction between the logic of capitalism and rational agricultural practices:

The way that the cultivation of particular crops depends on fluctuations in market prices and the constant changes in cultivation with these price fluctuations — the entire spirit of capitalist production, which is oriented towards the most immediate monetary profits — stands in contradiction to agriculture, which has to concern itself with the whole gamut of permanent conditions of life required by the chain of human generations. (Karl Marx, Capital, Volume, 3, p. 754)

He concludes by noting the need for socialism (“the control of the associated producers”):

The moral of the tale is that the capitalist system runs counter to a rational agriculture, or that a rational agriculture is incompatible with the capitalist system (even if the latter promotes technical development in agriculture) and needs either small farmers working for themselves or the control of associated producers. (Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 3, p. 216).

Frederick Engels, for his part, wrote about the historic contradiction between class society’s short-sighted use of natural resources and the long-term needs of humanity:

Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centers and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. …

Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature — but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.” (Frederick Engels, The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man)

This destructive process has deepened under capitalism, as Engels noted:

As individual capitalists are engaged in production and exchange for the sake of the immediate profit, only the nearest, most immediate results must first be taken into account. As long as the individual manufacturer or merchant sells a manufactured or purchased commodity with the usual coveted profit, he is satisfied and does not concern himself with what afterwards becomes of the commodity and its purchasers. The same thing applies to the natural effects of the same actions.

What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertilizer for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees — what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock! In relation to nature, as to society, the present mode of production is predominantly concerned only about the immediate, the most tangible result. (Frederick Engels, The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man)

Karl Marx further wrote the following in Volume 3 of Capital:

From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation, the private property of individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as the private property of one man in other men. Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not owners of the earth, they are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations, as boni patres familias [good heads of the household]. (Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 3, p. 911)

Capitalism Leads to Environmental Devastation

Clearly, the environmental crisis has deepened tremendously since the era of Marx and Engels. The catastrophic threat posed by global warming is just one part of the overall environmental crisis created by class society’s inability to rationally regulate its relationship to nature. Capitalism in the age of imperialism has reached the stage where the acceleration of the “destructive forces” of humanity is becoming more and more the salient feature of the system based on the private ownership of the means of production.

Look at the example of coal. The United States still generates 49.75% of its electricity from coal. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 21,000 people in the U.S. die each year as a direct result from inhaling coal ash in the form of microscopic particulate. Additionally, over 20 times that number develop respiratory ailments from coal burning: asthma, emphysema and respiratory related heart disease. These numbers exclude the number of U.S. coal miners who are hurt, injured, or who develop black lung disease as a result of their jobs. Coal, which also contains a variety of heavy metals from thorium to uranium to mercury, is the largest source of these carcinogens in the environment today.

To give an idea how bad coal is in terms of pollution, over 400,000 people die each year from coal related deaths in China. Perhaps 10 times that number develops various illnesses from it, as most Chinese cities are enveloped in clouds of pollution. And, of course, as is well know, coal remains a central contributor to climate change.
Pollution is not an abstract moral question — it is, and always has been, one that effects the direct immediate well-being of the working class. In the United States, it usually effects the most oppressed among the working class, particularly Black and Latino communities.

The agricultural sector also illuminates the irrationality of capitalism. Enormous “dead zones” caused by nutrient runoff, such as that in the Gulf of Mexico, groundwater contamination through pesticides, huge loss of genetic biodiversity because of crop monoculture, and the erosion of scarce top-soil, all make agricultural production a key topic in an analysis of current environmental problems. Low estimates claim that food production accounts for approximately 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions, but with many comprehensive studies putting the figure closer to 30% or even 35%. This potentially makes the agricultural sector nearly as polluting as the transportation sector.
In particular, as socialists, agriculture represents a key juncture between the problems facing the environment and the problems facing the working class — all of the conditions of modern agriculture that make it detrimental to the environment also contribute to exploitive and dangerous working conditions for farmworkers and food processors, as well as the dispossession of resources from rural communities throughout the world.

The fact that a significant shift towards ecologically sound production has not already taken place demonstrates the complete irrationality of the capitalist system, which puts profit above all other considerations.
The technological potential for a rapid transition to an economy that does not destroy the environment and promote global warming already exists; about 18% of the world’s energy supply is already provided by renewable sources. Preventing an ecological disaster requires a massive shift away from coal, oil, and natural gas, towards solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, wave, tide, nuclear and other energy-generation mechanisms that produce little or no carbon.

[This resolution proceeds on the basis of the understanding that climate change is a real and present danger and must be addressed. It is the overwhelming scientific consensus among almost all climatologists and scientists that man-made climate change is a serious threat to the very existence of the human species. This scientific consensus was also succinctly summed up by the Inter-Academy Council (IAC), a global network consisting of over 100 national science academies:

Current patterns of energy resources and energy usage are proving detrimental to the long-term welfare of humanity. The integrity of essential natural systems is already at risk from climate change caused by the atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases. (IAC, “Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future”, 2007)]

Yet despite the tremendous existing technological potential and the repeated dire warnings from scientists, carbon emissions and generalized environmental devastation continue to grow every year on a worldwide level.

So why hasn’t any meaningful action been taken in light of all the new “green” rhetoric of the governments and corporations?

The answer lies in the nature of the capitalist system, which puts profits above all else.

Moreover, transitioning to an ecologically sound economy poses a massive social re-organization — that is, a break from the anarchy of the private ownership of the means of production and towards a rational energy plan based on the nationalization of the energy companies and transportation under worker-community democratic control.

Thus it is necessary for Marxists to expose all wings of the bosses and make clear the contradiction between their new supposed environmentalism and the reality of their practices, which are as polluting as ever. We cannot overstate the importance of this point.

For example, while British Petroleum (BP) spent millions on “greenwashing” public relations campaigns — in fact, it adopted the slogan “Beyond Petroleum — it was actually deepening its dirty practices by investing billions into the extremely polluting production of oil shale and tar sands in Canada. For its part, Shell recently sold of virtually all of its solar business; in 2005 Shell spent only 1% of its investment on renewables, and over 69% toward looking for yet more oil and gas. (www-static.shell.com, 2005)

In short, “green” rhetoric has not been matched by consistent “green” practice by a single major energy corporation. For example, BP makes more profits in 13 weeks than it plans on spending on renewables during the next six years. In an economic system based on profits, there is little incentive for the private sector to invest massively in clean energy. Thus clean energy remains a small niche market to make companies look green. (Fred Pearce, “Green Wash: BP and the Myth of a ‘World Beyond Petroleum,” Guardian, November 2008)

In short, no sector of the ruling class can provide a solution to the crisis of the earth and of society. This is a crucial point to understand and to highlight in our propaganda and agitation. The inability of any sector of the ruling class to provide real solutions to the environmental crisis demonstrates the falsity of the perspective that workers and their organizations should “ally with the ‘green’ capitalists.”

While we should take advantage of any divisions in the ruling class to push for our demands, any gains we make will be won by us, not given to us, through the class struggle. The fight to stop the destruction of the environment — just like the fight to stop layoffs, privatizations, racist attacks and all other blows against working people — can only be advanced and eventually won via the independent mobilization and organization of the working class and its allies against the small minority of exploiters who are running the world into the ground.

Is Development Itself the Problem?

“Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.” — V.I.Lenin

We think, as Marxists, that the advance of human civilization was, and remains, dependent on the development of the productive forces – i.e., how humanity provides for itself and develops via the labor and technology it implements vis-a-vis the natural world.

This process has progressively moved humanity from the drudgery of a primitive hunter-gatherer existence where small groups with extremely low life spans were under constant threat of starvation, death by disease or attacks by animals, to a moment in human history where the economic potential exists to meet the essential needs of all people on the planet, which would allow humanity to free itself from compulsory labor and move on to communism, what Engels called “the realm of freedom” and the real beginning of human history.

It is crucial to reject the view that working people are “living beyond their means,” that workers “consume too much” and that, therefore, we have to return to the “ways of the past.” This vision is reactionary through and through — if implemented, it would mean a return to barbarism, with devastating consequences for literally billions of people.

The environmental movement today is dominated, largely, but not exclusively by NGOs like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and the World Wild Life Federation. Most of these are directly connected to major sectors of the capitalist class. For instance, executives from Coca-Cola and DuPont have had prominent roles recently on the board of the World Wildlife Fund, the Gates Foundation has partnered with Cargill and Monsanto to “help” Africa grow food, and the board of Acumen, a leading “social entrepreneurship” fund, is stocked with Wall Street elites.

These groups, among dozens of others, have pushed the belief that the environmental problem lies with the human species itself: humans, as consumers, simply use too much (energy, commodities, etc).

These very middle class and Western-based NGO environmental groups talk about humanity as whole, ignoring both the different realities of dominant and dominated countries, as well as the class (and racial) divisions within the dominant countries.

Yet most people in the world — i.e., the populations in dominated countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America — still do not have access to sufficient amounts of energy. Basic rights such as access to regular electricity, potable water, sufficient food, etc. are still denied to billions of people on this planet.

Many in these NGOs praise the poverty of billions of human beings as something ‘noble’; they hold their lifestyles up as examples of “doing more with less.” Thus they oppose development, any development, in the imperialist countries and in the underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

This sort of reactionary reasoning means explicit support for maintaining billions of human beings in conditions of disease and poverty. The fact remains that giving up on industrial civilization altogether — including electricity, urbanization, etc. — could only mean a tremendous regression in the living standards of the vast majority of humans on our planet.

These movements and NGOs have put forward reactionary proposals and should be considered enemies of the working class everywhere. Of course each group and movement needs to be judged specifically, but the overall trend of these groups is towards “de-development.” Our view, as Marxists, is that only the planned expansion of the productive forces on an ecologically sound basis can provide a future for both humanity and the natural environment. A future ecologically sound socialist society is still going to need very significant energy production.

We will still need a lot of energy — at present well over 1.6 billion people on earth don’t even have access to electricity at all! Humanity will need more, not less, energy in order to address not only the issues of inequality between nations but to phase out fossil fuel energy production and usage. It is not a question of lowering consumption (and living standards), but of producing more to meet human needs, but on an environmentally sound basis.

Our political framework is the defense of humanity, which is the highest form of life on this planet. As Marxists, we are concerned with the environmental crisis first and foremost because of the serious damage it inflicts on billions of human beings.

We reject the argument promoted by many environmental organizations that humanity should subordinate its immediate and long-term interests to the so-called higher priority of “the defense of the planet.” An isolated “nature” unaffected by humanity does not exist anywhere on earth. The environment today is completely intertwined with class society and it is impossible to separate the environmental crisis from the social crisis caused by the decaying capitalist system. Thus it is, at best, meaningless and, at worst, reactionary to counterpose “the defense of the planet” to the defense and development of humanity. They are inseparable.

As part of this “degrowth” offensive, the bosses, the heads of government, the U.N., and their various political relays in the apparatuses of the “Left” and the “Far Left” are using the pretext of climate change to push (and/or accompany) layoffs, de-industrialization, and the destruction of the gains working people and all the oppressed have won through bitter struggle.

The capitalist de-industrialization and degrowth policies make wide use of the “greening of the economy” terminology to destroy industry, jobs and all forms of productive forces. It is necessary to clearly oppose all such roundtables and “green industrial policies” that seek to use the global warming issue for reactionary purposes, with the help of all too many left activists. It is necessary to demand an end to all layoffs and the nationalization and retooling-conversion of polluting industries under democratic worker-community control.

The neo-corporatist agenda is aiming to co-opt the unions into the implementation of this degrowth and deindustrializing agenda. Against this offensive, it is more urgent than ever to promote class independence and expose all attempts to forge a “national unity consensus” meant to co-opt independent workers’ organizations. To the extent that the various “eco-socialist” currents do not challenge this corporatism and degrowth policies, they serve as “left cover” for, and are accomplices in, this reactionary drive.

A Socialist Perspective for the Environment

The desire of working people and poor peasants to “save the environment” (which, for them, means saving themselves against capitalist pollution and environmental catastrophes) has a generally progressive content in so far as it directed against the bosses and their incessant drive to maximize profits. When the communities of the Gulf Coast demand that BP pay massive reparations to fully clean up the oil disaster, when unions demand “green” jobs or the construction of accessible mass public transportation, or when peasants fight against the destruction of the ecosystems upon which they depend, we should support these struggles and, if possible, actively participate in them, at all times raising our socialist perspectives,

Ecological devastation affects working people first and foremost. Moreover, the working class, particularly its younger generation, has always been keenly interested and involved in issues that go beyond wages and working conditions.

Our perspective is that to defend humanity it is necessary to establish a rational use of natural resources for the immediate and long-term benefit of human civilization. Though this goal can only be achieved under socialism, it is necessary to positively intervene today to channel the progressive environmental sentiment of youth and working people into the struggle for socialist revolution.

Given the relatively small forces of Socialist Organizer, and the fact that the main mass struggles of working people in the U.S. are not generally centered at this moment around environmental issues, our intervention in the coming period will likely be largely limited to propaganda and agitation concerning the capitalist roots of the environmental crisis. But where and when opportunities arise to intervene in and shape concrete struggles around environmental issues that affect working people (e.g. environmental racism, a specific corporate environmental disaster, etc.), we should intervene in a more pro-active way.

A cleaner planet is one of the “elementary interests” of the working masses, and environmental struggles (to end specific polluting practices, nationalize energy companies, to create a public environmental jobs program, etc.) can be potentially means to fight for social revolution, to the extent that theses struggle are conducted through independent class struggle methods (protests, strikes, independent organization, etc.).

So what perspective concerning climate change and the environmental crisis and what specific demands should be raised today?

First of all, Marxists should aim to participate in the day-to-day struggles of working class and rural communities against the specific local devastation and human health problems created by capitalist pollution. Where you find oil spills, polluted drinking wells, and contaminated lands, you can also find local people, often of oppressed peoples and nationalities, struggling against the powers-that-be. In the United States, the most promising area of direct intervention for Socialist Organizer is in struggles against environmental racism.

Second, we should emphasize, when relevant, the “pro-environment” dimension of some of our longstanding demands, for example, in defense of public transportation or against imperialist war.

Take the question of war: The U.S. military-industrial complex is the world’s single biggest consumer of energy. The U.S. military, which is exempt from most environmental regulations, is also the world’s largest polluter, so the fight to end U.S. wars and occupations has a direct link to reducing global warming and other environment problems. Some of the worst health and environmental disasters, from Agent Orange during the Vietnam War to depleted uranium in Iraq today, are directly related to U.S. wars and war profiteering. Thus, we can and should seek to channel progressive environmental sentiment into the fight against imperialist wars and occupations.

Third, we should defend progressive environmental regulations, and demand from the government better environmental regulations and their enforcement — it is necessary to counterpose strong government regulations to the unenforceable “market incentives” and bogus international treaties promoted by the “Al Gore wing” of imperialism. For decades, environmental regulations, frequently linked to workers’ safety and health concerns, have been won through struggle and have played an important role in improving the environment for millions of working people, which is precisely why the bosses and the international institutions are constantly pushing deregulation.

In the 1960s movements in the large cities of the U.S. started to develop to oppose the dreadful pollution that enveloped most American cities. Under pressure from popular struggles from below, a series of progressive laws were passed that put restraints on factories and power plants and attempted to regulate the tail-pipe pollution from automobile transport. In 1963 the first Clean Air Act was passed with opposition from major manufactures who saw this as a profit-reduction act.

There is no doubt that the CAA(s) significantly reduced harmful pollution at many levels, from automobile to industrial air pollution. The ruling class has, over the last few decades, attempted to chip away at, and eventually overturn, the most effective parts of the CAA. Socialist Organizer defends the CAA — and other similar environmental regulations — as a victory for all working people and would support campaigns to defend and extend the act.

Fourth, while given that the corporations are incapable of moving to a cleaner economy, it will become more and more necessary to combine our immediate demands with a central transitional demand around energy: nationalization under the democratic control of the working class and its community allies.

The huge energy corporations that remain at the heart of global capital have shown that they are unwilling to make a real significant shift towards clean energy. Thus we should promote the key transitional demand for the nationalization of these polluting industries, as well as the entire transportation sector.

In the spring of 2009, the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) adopted a resolution on the crisis in the auto industry that points to the combined solution of no layoffs, retooling of the auto industry, nationalization and worker-community control. It stated, in part:

“The financial crisis of the auto corporations was not caused by the auto workers any more that the financial crisis of Wall Street was caused by the working class. … We strongly reject the administration’s drive to make the unions a partner in the effort to resolve the corporation’s financial crisis. The unions were not created by the workers to join the employers in their corporate assault on workers’ jobs.

“There should be no layoffs. If the government can find trillions of tax dollars to bail out a handful of bankers, it can surely find the funds to prevent layoffs and put all laid-off workers back on the job. The U.S. labor movement must draw a line in the sand to say: ‘Not One Single Layoff in the Auto Industry!’

“The Obama administration must nationalize the Big 3 auto companies [Ford, GM and Chrysler] and place the management of the companies under the control of an elected labor-community board of directors, halt all further layoffs, retool the auto industry, retrain its workforce, and ensure that all laid-off workers can return to work immediately with union contracts at union scale.”

Likewise, the fight against capitalist pollution is integrally linked to the fight for oppressed nations, which are generally the most affected by environmental destruction, to regain national sovereignty via the re-nationalization of their natural resources. By taking back their natural resources from foreign companies (which generally impose irrational and unsustainable uses of the land and resources for the benefit of an export-oriented economy), dominated countries can advance their development and industrialization in a manner that benefits working people without decimating the environment. In all countries, the nationalization of energy resources is a central and key demand.

At the same time, of course, it is necessary to oppose all attempts by imperialism, with the help of NGOs, to (re)assert its control over other country’s resources under the pretext of “green energy” (e.g. attempts by companies to privatize deserts for solar power, oceans for wave power, etc.) Imperialism remains imperialism, regardless of whether it chooses to garb itself in green colors.

Fifth, the fight for clean energy in a nationalized energy sector under democratic worker-community control is intrinsically linked to the fight to create literally tens of millions of new, good-paying, union jobs via massive government programs to build and install hundreds of thousands of solar panels and wind turbines, build widespread green public transport, properly insulate all homes and buildings, and undertake the thousands of other necessary projects to move towards a cleaner world. The funds currently paying for the bank bailouts, the foreign debt (in dominated countries), and wars should instead go towards these projects and other public services.

The capitalist class, since the 1920s, has organized to destroy many urban areas mass-transit systems in order to force workers to buy and use automobiles, which are now the cause of 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This has been a largely successful campaign, save for a few of the bigger cities east of the Mississippi River.

Thus the extension of existing mass transportation systems — and the development of new ones like high-speed rail — are imperative to the lowering of pollution from cars and trucks to generally lowering the costs of transportation for workers to and from their place of work.

Such a huge and not-particularly financially profitable undertaking for the benefit of humanity and its environment can only be won through an independent mass movement centered around the demand that the governments establish a massive jobs program. The Trade Union group of the Campaign Against Climate Change, which is currently leading such a campaign in Britain, estimates that it would take the creation of at least 1 million to 2 million new jobs within 10 years to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions in Britain. On a world level, this would mean the creation of 100 million to 200 million jobs.

Of course, the capitalists and degrowthers are using the pretext of climate change to push layoffs and de-industrialization. This, of course, must be opposed. In all countries, we must continue to build a movement to demand “No Cuts! No Layoffs!” and, moreover, call for the government to prohibit them.

But the demand for “No Layoffs!” is not at all inherently contradictory with the struggle against environmental destruction and global warming. In fact, the opposite is true. At a moment when unemployment is skyrocketing across the world, and while awareness is increasing among working people about the tremendous dangers of global warming, a campaign to fight for these green jobs in a nationalized energy industry, with democratic worker-community control, could potentially become important.

We should demand that the jobs created by new clean nationalized energy-plants be first of all offered to workers who are currently employed in highly polluting industries. In this way, steps toward cleaner energy production can be made without supporting or adapting to the efforts of the capitalists to lay off workers and de-industrialize.

This approach is correct tactically in that it avoids the trap of attacking workers in super-polluting industries and avoids playing into the hands of the capitalists who are using the pretext of climate change to shut down plants. During the shift to a cleaner energy grid under nationalized energy production, it is very likely that oil, coal, and gas will have to stay in use for some time until that point where the newer and cleaner energy industries can provide for all the developing needs of society and provide alternative jobs for all workers.

The approach of calling to build new cleaner energy production is also correct because the central energy question in both imperialist and dominated countries is whether new energy production should be based on fossil fuels or on new energy generation techniques (solar, wind, nuclear, etc.). It is necessary to stress this important point.

In the progressive fight of dominated countries to industrialize and develop, there is no pre-ordained reason that they have to adopt the irrational and destructive reliance on fossil fuels of the imperialist countries. Trotsky explained through his theory of uneven and combined development that “backwards” countries can “skip over” some of the stages of development of more “advanced” capitalist countries. By refusing to pay the foreign debt, these countries would have the resources to provide for their energy growing needs through massive nationalized public energy projects based on the most modern technology, creating tens of millions of new jobs.

In the imperialist countries, the question of what new energy facilities to build is also a central question because much of the energy infrastructure is very old. For example, in the United States, the median coal plant was built in January 1966. Due to the regular life-cycle of these plants, many have begun to be shut down in recent years, and many more are set to be “retired” in upcoming years.

A major energy debate in the United States has been: What should replace these dying coal plants? The answer of the huge private energy corporations has been clear: more coal plants! For our part, we think it is our duty to say: The government should nationalize the energy companies and begin building better and cleaner forms of producing energy for the benefit of working people!

Our approach toward the dirtiest energy industries in some ways parallels the traditional socialist demand within imperialist countries for the huge military industrial-complex (which employs literally millions of workers in the United States) to be used for the benefit of humanity, instead of corporate profits.

Calls on the government to stop all layoffs and to nationalize the energy companies and the transportation industry and to establish a massive public works environmental jobs program — all under the democratic control of the working class and the communities of the oppressed — are transitional demands, in that no capitalist government could fully implement either of them. Therefore, the fight to win these demands tends to point the working class and its allies towards the need to conquer economic and political power through the establishment of a workers’ (and peasants’) government.

With this method we can more effectively move towards resolving the crisis of revolutionary leadership and, in so doing, help the masses of working people and youth overcome all obstacles in their fight for socialism, i.e., a classless society of super-abundance, based on the massive (and ecologically rational) development of the productive forces.

{ 132 comments… read them below or add one }

Manuel Barrera, PhD October 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm

So, they are opposed to or in favor of nuclear energy?

Reply

Bill Kerr October 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm

This resolution proceeds on the basis of the understanding that climate change is a real and present danger and must be addressed. It is the overwhelming scientific consensus among almost all climatologists and scientists that man-made climate change is a serious threat to the very existence of the human species

The IPCC and Al Gore (An Inconvenient Truth) attempted to present that as a scientific consensus but since ClimateGate that has unravelled.

You appear to be arguing here that scientists have agreed that climate change is an extreme threat and that agreement is on a par with other scientific agreements that the earth travels around the sun, that the earth is roughly spherical and not flat etc. That is not correct. There is no scientific consensus of that nature.

That is to say since ClimateGate more respected climate scientists have seen the need to speak out against the IPCC. Good examples are Pielke snr, Judith Curry, Richard Tol scientists who have seen the need to make their voices heard in opposition to the consensus propaganda.

The opinion that I think is well argued is that put forward by Rial, Pielke snr et al in NONLINEARITIES, FEEDBACKS AND CRITICAL THRESHOLDS WITHIN THE EARTH’S CLIMATE SYSTEM

… a fundamental requirement for the future environmentalist/climatologist is a firm grasp of the mathematics and physics of nonlinearity and of the methods and goals of interdisciplinary climate science. We enthusiastically endorse John Lawton’s (2001) call for establishing specific programs on ‘Earth System Science’ (ESS) at various institutions and universities, in order to provide upcoming generations of scientists with insight into the complexity, the interdisciplinary nature and the crucial importance of these themes for the future of humanity.

The climate system is complex and non linear. We still don’t understand it very well. It’s a complex dynamic system with multiple equilibria being possible. It can flip into different states, some of them warming and some cooling. We are dealing with chaotic and complex systems that display unpredictable and emergent behaviour.

Currently, prediction is too hard and so the best solution is integrated assessment of environmental issues within a framework of vulnerability.

Global warming has paused for the past 15 years (a new inconvenient truth) and so the model presented by Hansen for example lacks credibility. Hansen himself admits that his extreme argument is not based on modelling in his book, Storms of My Grandchildren. I am not arguing that models are not useful for some climate issues but that there is no good evidence that they can reliably predict decades ahead. The IPCC projections have not eventuated so far.

Really, to have any credibility you need to get your facts straight for starters and not blindly repeat green alarmists on matters of fact. How can you expect to have any credibility in arguing for a socialist alternative if you can’t even keep up with current opinions of scientists? Doesn’t socialism have to have a factual basis as a starting point rather than blindly accepting the illusion of our epoch, as Marx said in a very relevant section of The German Ideology

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Brian S. October 23, 2012 at 4:22 pm

@Bill Kerr:
I regard myself as something of an agnostic when it comes to the analysis of global warming – partly because I haven’t found the time to acquire the technical literacy needed to penetrate the literature; partly because the processes themselves are so complex and multi-faceted that it seems difficult to make definitive judgements.
But just a few comments on your post:
1. The paper you link to strikes me as very good (thank you): But its primarily methodological – not about the state of global warning as such, but about what conceptual issues need to be addressed to more effectively analyse climate change. Crucially, it argues that climate processes are “non-linear” and that this can give rise to abrupt and unexpected shifts, making accurate prediction impossible. It therefore advocates that public policy should shift from a “prediction” to a “vulnerability approach”:
“which can be used to assess the resilience and sensitivity of different countries and cultures to environmental disturbance, include ‘what if’ scenarios such as:
• The ‘dust bowl’ years of the 1930s were to occur again in the United States;
• The ‘Little Ice Age’ were to reoccur in Western Europe;
• An abrupt warming … was to occur; or
• Major volcanic eruptions similar to Tambora in 1815 were to take place
The consequences (and, when possible, the probabilities) of these events need to be assessed in the context of current socioeconomic and cultural conditions.
Sounds very sensible to me, but it’s a programme for research and education that is likely to take up more than a decade.
What’s more, it but it doesn’t sound terribly reassuring and I can’t for the life of me see what conclusions you are trying to draw from it.
2. You assert that “Global warming has paused for the past 15 years” (we should be clear that this is not from the article but is an interpolation by you) This claim seems to be based on a story in the Daily Mail drawing on data from the UK Met Office’s long-term database. I took a look at the original data and it didn’t seem to show that to me, but what do I know. Here however is the Met Office’s comment on the article :
“for Mr. Rose to suggest that the latest global temperatures available show no warming in the last 15 years is entirely misleading … what is absolutely clear is that we have continued to see a trend of warming, with the decade of 2000-2009 being clearly the warmest in the instrumental record going back to 1850. Depending on which temperature records you use, 2010 was the warmest year on record [or] the second warmest on.”
http://metofficenews.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/met-office-in-the-media-29-january-2012/
I think I’m sticking with the precautionary principle, thank you very much.

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Bill Kerr October 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Hello Brian,

Many thanks for reading the paper. Being agnostic on this issue for the reasons you give makes a lot of sense.

In the language you use I don’t think it’s possible to clearly separate out the methodology from the concepts. But at any rate for a recent expert opinion on the current state of climate science see:
Pielke Sr Summary Of Several Climate Science Issues – October 2012

I don’t rely on the Daily Mail but, in this case, on Judith Curry who fed the relevant information to Rose. There are at least 4 directly relevant posts on her blog about this. She complained about some relatively minor aspects of Roses’ first article but in his second one he fact checked with her before publication.

For Curry’s summary of the state of AGW (anthropogenic global warming) see ‘Pause’ : Waving the Italian Flag. Scroll down to the Italian flag picture to see her summary of evidence for (green), uncertainties (white) and evidence against (red) for this hypothesis:

There is significant (or discernible) evidence of anthropogenic global warming over the past 16 years

Global warming has paused. From my reading of Curry and Pielke snr that is an accurate statement. But paused does not mean stopped and there are other good reasons to decarbonise our energy supplies apart from global warming. eg. acidification of the oceans is problematic.

If by the precautionary principle you mean something similar to vulnerability approach (advocated in the paper and quoted by you) then I’m not opposed. But notice that the scientists who wrote the paper don’t use that term, my guess is that it has too much baggage associated with it.

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Brian S. October 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Hi Bill – doing a bit more reviewing of this issue and so far have drawn the following conclusions:
1. there is no serious foundation for the claim that global warming has in any meaningful sense “paused”: once you draw a proper trend line through the best available data, it becomes clear that this claim is dependent on a selective choice of time , and even then any apparent flattening of the curve is within the error margin, so it might exist or – it might not. But the key point is that 10-15 years (I can only see any signs of a pause from 2003-12) is too short a period to infer anything about long-term climate dynamics; and the more meaningful 30 year trend line has a clear upwards slope with no evidence of a “”pause”.
2. As I understand it, the rate of increase of global surface temperatures is slower than the IPCC models forecast.

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Bill Kerr October 24, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Your position is very reasonable Brian. Rather than paused let us say that global warming has slowed down.

Should we go into the technical details of that more? One article I read said the warming in the past 15 years was 0.051 degrees C. Compare this with the IPCC prediction of 0.2 degrees C per decade. There are many ifs, buts and what abouts in this discussion and neither of us are climate scientists.

One thing that interests me is the conceptual rethink that needs to be done at the scientific level to accommodate the new data. My position has been and continues to be that the IPCC attempted something that a scientific body should not have attempted – they pretended certainty and consensus where no certainty and consensus existed.

The Socialist Organiser article at the top of this thread has bought this green alarmist mindset hook, line and sinker.

[There has always been a political problem with the IPCC position. There is not a linear relationship between science and politics on a wicked issue like climate change whose implications impact on the core issue of development. I think that is the main thing we should be talking about and I interpose this comment here for that reason.]

Back to the science issue. The IPCC position that we are capable of predicting the temperature decades ahead is no longer credible IMO. Rial, Pielke snr et al article I posted above, which you read, put forward an alternative approach: integrated assessment of vulnerabilities.

I am also very interested in alternative scientific hypotheses that attempt to explain what is going on with the climate. Judith Curry has been the biggest help to me here. http://judithcurry.com/2012/02/07/trends-change-points-hypotheses/

I’ll paste a slab here because it also relates to some of the technical (IMO side) issues you raise (cherry picking data):

Consider the following three hypotheses that explain 20th century climate variability and change, with implied future projections:

I. IPCC AGW hypothesis: 20th century climate variability/change is explained by external forcing, with natural internal variability providing high frequency ‘noise’. In the latter half of the 20th century, this external forcing has been dominated by anthropogenic gases and aerosols. The implications for temperature change in the 21st century is 0.2C per decade until 2050. Challenges: convincing explanations of the warming 1910-1940, explaining the flat trend between mid 1940′s and mid 1970′s, explaining the flat trend for the past 15 years.

II. Multi-decadal oscillations plus trend hypothesis: 20th century climate variability/change is explained by the large multidecadal oscillations (e.g NAO, PDO, AMO) with a superimposed trend of external forcing (AGW warming). The implications for temperature change in the 21st century is relatively constant temperatures for the next several decades, or possible cooling associated with solar. Challenges: separating forced from unforced changes in the observed time series, lack of predictability of the multidecadal oscillations.

III: Climate shifts hypothesis: 20th century climate variability/change is explained by synchronized chaos arising from nonlinear oscillations of the coupled ocean/atmosphere system plus external forcing (e.g. Tsonis, Douglass). The most recent shift occurred 2001/2002, characterized by flattening temperatures and more frequent LaNina’s. The implications for the next several decades are that the current trend will continue until the next climate shift, at some unknown point in the future. External forcing (AGW, solar) will have more or less impact on trends depending on the regime, but how external forcing materializes in terms of surface temperature in the context of spatiotemporal chaos is not known. Note: hypothesis III is consistent with Sneyers’ arguments re change-point analysis. Challenges: figuring out the timing (and characteristics) of the next climate shift.

There are other hypotheses, but these three seem to cover most of the territory. The three hypotheses are not independent, but emphasize to varying degrees natural internal variability vs external forcing, and an interpretation of natural variability that is oscillatory versus phase locked shifts. Hypothesis I derives from the 1D energy balance, thermodynamic view of the climate system, whereas Hypothesis III derives from a nonlinear dynamical system characterized by spatiotemporal chaos. Hypothesis II derives from climate diagnostics and data analysis.

Each of these three hypotheses provides a different interpretation of the 20th century attribution and has different implications for 21st century climate. Hypothesis III is the hypothesis that I find most convincing, from a theoretical perspective and in terms of explaining historical observations, although this kind of perspective of the climate system is in its infancy.

Cherry picking data, or testing alternative hypotheses?

Back to the issue of cherry picking data, and interpreting the temperature time series for the past two decades.

Is the first decade+ of the 21st century the warmest in the past 100 years (as per Peter Gleick’s argument)? Yes, but the very small positive trend is not consistent with the expectation of 0.2C/decade provided by the IPCC AR4. In terms of anticipating temperature change in the coming decades, the AGW dominated prediction of 0.2C/decade does not seem like a good bet, particularly with the prospect of reduced solar radiation.

Has there been any warming since 1997 (Jonathan Leake’s question)? There has been slight warming during the past 15 years. Is it “cherry picking” to start a trend analysis at 1998? No, not if you are looking for a long period of time where there is little or no warming, in efforts to refute Hypothesis I.

In terms of projecting what might happen in coming decades, Hypothesis III is the best bet IMO, although it is difficult to know when the next change point might occur. Hypothesis III implies using 2002 as the starting point for analysis of the recent trend.

And finally, looking at global average temperatures makes sense in context of Hypothesis I, but isn’t very useful in terms of Hypothesis III.

And none of this data analysis is very satisfying or definitive owing to deficiencies in the data sets, particularly over the ocean.

IMO, the standard 1D energy balance model of the Earth’s climate system will provide little in the way of further insights; rather we need to bring additional physics and theory (e.g. entropy and the 2nd law) into the simple models, and explore the complexity of coupled nonlinear climate system characterized by spatiotemporal chaos.

My translation: Natural variation, complexity and uncertainty has been underestimated; AGW and certainty has been overestimated. The non linear approach of Rial, Pielke snr et al needs to replace the dumbed down linear mindset of the IPCC.

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Arthur October 29, 2012 at 11:17 pm

” Is it “cherry picking” to start a trend analysis at 1998? No, not if you are looking for a long period of time where there is little or no warming, in efforts to refute Hypothesis I.”

That is PRECISELY what the expression “cherry picking” means.

None of us are competent to enter into the (entirely legitimate and interesting) debate between Curry, Pielke and a significant minority of competent people and the general consensus among competent people.

Attempting to do so is just a distraction from the economic, social and political issues that remain important even if this particular minority happens to be wrong (not unusual) and the consensus among the majority happens to be right (unusual but not unheard of).

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Bill Kerr October 30, 2012 at 12:22 am

Arthur,
Your didn’t read the full context of the cherry picking remark. Some of the advocates of Hypothesis one have argued previously that only a pause greater than 15 years would be significant.

Any full evaluation of this issue has to include a scientific evaluation, which in turn includes an assessment of the role played by some scientists (the alleged IPCC consensus) who have distorted the relationship b/w science and policy making, and so that part of it is not a distraction. If the evidence and stance of the IPCC for urgency is discredited then that has an impact on the other economic, social and political issues.

Your assertion that there is a “general consensus amongst competent people” has been challenged by Judith Curry who describes it as a “manufactured consensus”. See http://judithcurry.com/2012/10/28/climate-change-no-consensus-on-consensus/ We are competent to evaluate such claims without devoting our lives to climate science.

Massive R&D is a great idea, the sort of policy that a socialist government would introduce and which capitalism does not introduce (except under extraordinary circumstances such as the 1957 Sputnik challenge) because of its own peculiar economic dynamics.

From my understanding of the more recently emerging scientific evidence the grounds for urgency in the particular case of AGW are declining. Massive R&D remains a great idea but perhaps not a necessary policy to solve our current environmental problems.

Also the sort of R&D needed and the sort of balance needed b/w mitigation, adaptation in the next 100 years cf. climate science fundamental research and technology fundamental research (eg. fission) needs to be developed further. The state of the science impacts on the sort of R&D and so again is not a distraction. See non linearities)

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Arthur October 30, 2012 at 6:31 am

I agree strongly with the substance of Judith Curry’s article (as hinted in my reference to the majority being right as unusual though not unheard of). In particular I think the IPCC has been appalling (and has had the negative effect she describes).

Nevertheless, picking a year that has a relatively high temperature to conclude that subsequent years did not show a warming trend is literally a classic example of “cherry picking”.

You analyse the hypothesis that there is a trend by subjecting the whole of the data available to standard statistical tests, Not by such “cherry picking”.

My understanding is that there is little doubt the existence of a trend, nor that this trend is so small as to be swamped by much large fluctuations for decades at a time.

She isn’t arguing that there is no such consensus but simply pointing out that it subtracts nothing from the arguments of those who disagree with that consensus and adds nothing to the arguments of those who agree with it and should not be used (as it has been used by IPCC supporters) to try to shut down scientific debate.

But the place for such debate is in science publications, not political blogs.

As to the grounds for urgency declining on the basis of more recent scienific evidence, I rather doubt that there was ever any grounds for urgency. -Belief that there was is declining because that belief was fostered artificially by greeenies and the IPCC.

My understanding is that the actual claims of a fraction of a degree rise expected per decade are spectacularly non-urgent.

This is precisely the problem. It is so difficult to imagine the world doing anything about a problem decades away that people concerned about the consequences of not doing anything about it have resorted to alarmism to convey a sense of urgency in the hope that it results in something being done. This has been dramatically counter-productive.

Short term solutions that are incapable of even contributing marginally to solving the long term problem have attracted huge resources in order to pander to the demands that “something must be done now”.

This gives serious grounds for concern about actually doing anything useful in time to avoid serious damage. Contrary to claims for Integrated Fast Reactors etc there is currently no technology on the horizon that could plausibly displace coal. Most progress of technology reduces the cost of mining and transporting coal along with everything else. The lead time for first educating a much larger generation of scientists and then discovering and developing something radically new are certainly decades. So although the problem is decades away the work does need to start now.

At this stage its just a matter of influencing public opinion in favour of “massive R&D” rather than specific budgets. Certainly part of the R&D should be about what would be the most useful direction for other parts (including priorities for many other probems).

In “worst case” if climate change turns out to be a false alarm, or if no coal replacement cheaper than nuclear is found, massive R&D will still have had the effect of accelerating the economic development of the world (and hence also the capability of the developing countries to switch from coal to more expensive energy sources).

This is similar to the greenie argument that it would do no harm to have an improved environment even if climate change was a false alarm. But its valid and the costs of massive R&D are relatively small compared to the costs of the deindustrialization promoted by greenies to improve the environment.

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Bill Kerr October 30, 2012 at 8:52 am

Arthur,
I think you’ve misunderstood Judith Curry’s position of cherry picking. It’s a basic issue wrt evaluating scientific data and of course is continually raised on her blog. If she didn’t understand the point you are making then that would go to discrediting her credentials to think scientifically.

Judith Curry:

The whole issue of cherry picking start and end dates is a red herring, as I’ve argued in my previous post Trends, change points and hypotheses. It depends on what hypothesis you are trying to test. If you are using data to evaluate the IPCC’s projection of 0.2C/decade warming in the first two decades of the 21st century, with plateaus or pauses at most of 15-17 yrs duration, well then you can pick whatever start date you want (emphasis added)
http://judithcurry.com/2012/10/21/sunday-mail-again/

I think the science is very relevant for many reasons and so I’ll continue to raise it for discussion where appropriate as well as trying to improve my own understanding. We can improve understanding of the science with the help of some rather helpful climate scientists from a low level to a higher than low level, without aspiring to become fully expert.

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Arthur October 30, 2012 at 8:41 am

PS As Brian has demonstrated it isn’t necessary to go into much detail to see through such a clear example of cherry picking as picking 1998 as your starting year.

But here’s an example of the sort of (500pp) textbook you would need to study to meaningfully participate in scientific debates about climate data analysis:

“Climate Time Series Analysis: Classical Statistical and Bootstrap Methods” by Mudelsee M.
http://en.bookfi.org/book/1219540

Although I don’t recommend anyone here attempting it I do recommend that web site as an excellent source for over a million one click free download ebooks.

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Bill Kerr November 3, 2012 at 11:44 pm

arthur,
I’ll just rough out some preliminary thoughts about why I think it’s important for those interested in the politics of climate change to do at least a little study of the science of climate change.

Science was the relatively innocent origin of this problem. The temperature was rising, this was plausibly due to accelerated use by humans of fossil fuels. So when thought about in linear terms the solution was “obviously” for humans to reduce their appetite for fossil fuels.

This to me identifies one real problem in the whole issue: linear thinking.

Climate change has been described as a wicked problem because linear thinking does not work for it. That is because there is a complex mix of science, technology, economic, political and social (eg. our lifestyle values) questions which are bound up in a tight knot that is not easily undone.

My basic argument here is that it is important to understand the nature of dynamic non linear systems. I realise you understand this. Politics and economics itself is a dynamic non linear system. Marx’s analysis of Capital is an excellent illustration of this.

In the case of climate change I don’t see how it possible for people to deeply grasp the issue unless they understand this point. Also, I don’t see how you can understand the various dynamic, non linearities involved without looking at some of the science. Also, since this is a failure within our education system in general then it perhaps offers a partial explanation of why the IPCC has let us down so badly.

What is more if think in linear fashion in one area (science) then that will influence how you think in another area (politics). So study of the nature of science is a good general corrective for linear thinking in general, as illustrated by some of Engel’s writings.

Some of the particular issues I would flag as important are:
– understanding uncertainty (in this and other issues) and various ways in which scientists attempt to lessen this problem
– the difference b/w a wicked and non wicked issue
– the connection b/w science and politics itself is non linear for a wicked issue (can we understand that without some understanding of the science of particular issues – doubtful)
– assessing whether the climate science establishment is setup to discover the truth
– understanding the nature of complex problem solving in its own right (in detail for at least some issue, otherwise its just hand waving phrases)
– the nature of science itself, philosophically, issues such as the fact / value distinction

Just some rough notes. I can provide links to various papers on these issues if anyone is interested in pursuing it further.

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Arthur November 4, 2012 at 1:46 am

Using linear and non-linear as a metaphor (for mechanist and dialectical, or simplistic and holistic) is ok, but it can be confusing in the context of climate science where nobody does or could dispute that the climate is a complex dynamic non-linear system.

Debate about the statistical significance of climate data trends can only be useful among people who do understand textbooks like the one I linked.

The simplistic approach “emissions are cause so reduce emissions” could be described as “linear” but it doesn’t help much. I’ve tried to explain what’s wrong with it (and propose a better approach) but the reaction here (ignore it) is not unusual (and is helped by distractions).

Anyway, since you are going to study the science anyway I agree with your choice of first point:

” understanding uncertainty (in this and other issues) and various ways in which scientists attempt to lessen this problem”

Hope the linked text on that precise topic will be helpful (at least to understand that picking 1998 was cherry picking ;-)

Arthur October 22, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I’m afraid its too long and my eyes glazed over towards the end.

Towards the middle I picked up that they were not just paying lip service to supporting progress and unleashing the productive forces in opposition to the reactionary romanticism promoted by greens (and the ruling class more widely).

Towards the start it was unclear to me whether they were just being opportunist in pandering to greenie alarmism and catastrophism in order to be able to recruit from among people influenced by greens or whether they actually believe it in contradiction to the material appearing later,

Really dislike the pontificating style.

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David Walters October 22, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Socialist Organizer is favor of ALL non-carbon/GHG emitting forms of energy. This would include nuclear as well as more diffuse forms of energy. And no, this is SHORT in length as few serious documents on *this subject* can be truncated any shorter, really. It is, after all what its says “an introduction to a discussion”. There will be more.

Arthur, your center paragraph is the most accurate.

David Walters
Socialist Organizer

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David Berger October 23, 2012 at 8:42 am

Are you saying that these people are pro-nuke?

David Berger

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Arthur October 23, 2012 at 10:48 am

Well, if your referring to my observation that the document really does support progress and unleashing the productive forces and really does oppose romanticism, I’ll add an acknowledgement that this is a very important point of agreement since it is astonishingly rare.

That makes it all the more important to correct the excessive length, pontificating style, and pandering.

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David Berger October 22, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Maybe some day they’ll learn to write in the English language instead of some bad version of a translation from 19th Century Russian.

“Given the relatively small forces of Socialist Organizer, and the fact that the main mass struggles of working people in the U.S. are not generally centered at this moment around environmental issues, our intervention in the coming period will likely be largely limited to propaganda and agitation concerning the capitalist roots of the environmental crisis. But where and when opportunities arise to intervene in and shape concrete struggles around environmental issues that affect working people (e.g. environmental racism, a specific corporate environmental disaster, etc.), we should intervene in a more pro-active way.”

Hey, kid, can you spell p-r-e-t-e-n-t-i-o-u-s?

David Berger

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Christian October 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Thanks for sharing the article.

Never mind the negativity of trolls on here. You raise good points. Energy is hard because if you squeeze in one place you wind up pushing out somewhere else. You make a compelling case that coal is bad. I think every time a coal plant closes, it’s a good thing. Does that mean some workers are loosing jobs? Yes. I think we should support that. The long term damage coal is doing to our planet far outweighs the short term benefit the relatively few number of coal miners are getting.

Just because a worker is benefiting from something bad doesn’t mean it’s anti-worker to tell him to stop. If you go hunting with a friend from work, and he keeps firing off wild long range pot shots at every animal he sees, wounding several with bad shots and not even trying to track him, is it anti your fellow worker to confront him and tell him, “Hey man, you’re screwing up here. Stop doing that.” No, it’s not. Wildlife is a resource and by wasting it he’s not only disrespecting life in some moral way but he’s taking food off the table from someone else. It’s the same thing with coal. When that coal miner and coal power plant worker gets his job, there are a lot of more farmers who are going to loose theirs when whether patterns change, and a lot of workers in coastal areas who are going to loose their entire towns, jobs included.

The point about energy is you have to look at impacts holistically. Working for coal is an incredibly reactionary thing to do. It might be a rational employment choice for an individual, like joining the army or the police force or becoming a prison guard because there are few jobs in your area. As socialists do we support the expansion of prisons or the military industrial complex because they are job creators? Of course not. They are completely destructive organizations that waste far more of our working potential and resources than they usefully appropriate.

The good news for our coal plant workers? The citizens of the first world won’t tolerate brownouts. Many of them waste a lot more energy than they really need to use, but the general population’s desire of electricity (even though many of them agree that using it efficiently as we can is a good idea) will always place them in a larger block than the number of voters / citizens / activists who are consciously willing to reduce living standards in order to help the environment as a whole. As this will never be an eco-primitivist dictatorship, let’s start working with people where they are at and figuring out what solutions there can be.

As coal gets reduced, alternatives will have to be found. Our governments could draw up timetables for the closure of coal plants and provide research funds and tax incentives for renewable energy development. All efforts should be made to figure out how to switch to a completely renewable grid, because peak uranium will be every bit as much of a problem as peak coal or peak oil. Here’s the work of one reseracher who is actually trying to figure that out: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/january/jacobson-world-energy-012611.html

Now let’s say the battery and transmission technology isn’t there yet. If you can prove that nuclear is absolutely the only the thing that can step in for coal while renewable are developed, you can sell that idea to the public. They’ll vote for even knowing the risks of disasters as places like Fukushima. In the construction of renewable power plants and possibly nuclear, the jobs you lost in coal get recreated. Problems’ solved and everybody’s happy.

The only problem is there is no political will for that. The politicians here are owned by coal and gas and oil and they are so invested in extractive energy they want to keep right along working in the same old way. So political upsurge is needed.

Either that happens, or the environment is screwed and everybody looses.

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David Berger October 23, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Are you pro-nuke? Yes or no?

I sense I really nasty political grab-ass coming.

David

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Christian October 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Hey David. I’m really not sure.

Today I live across the river from a nuclear tailings pile that American taxpayers will wind up spending between $320 million and $700 million to remove from a floodplain along the Colorado River- a drinking source for some 30 million people. The 20-25 years that will be spent to remove the tailings to a safe location will take about as long as the the mill ever operated. Even then, though it generated enormous profits for its owners (see the saga of Charlie Steen), it was never commercial viable. Uranium mining in the United States has always been a government supported industry. They bought the uranium, they built the mills, and they bulldozed roads across the desert for prospectors. It’s been a completely cradle- to grave subsidized project forever.

The legacy of uranium mining on the Colorado Plateau has been very destructive, particularly in terms of ground water contamination. While many workers in the original rush died from lung cancer as a result of exposure to radon gas, that danger is mitigated today through the use of respirators in mining and milling. Ultimately, assuming further nuclear disasters can be avoided (which is a big assumption), the environmental and human costs of uranium mining and nuclear power will largely be born by Australians and Canadians. According to the department of energy, domestic uranium mining only supplies about 10% of American nuclear demand. Were we to attempt to supply 100% of our demand, our proven reserves would only last for about 20 years. The largest global deposits of Uranium are located in the aforementioned countries.

The biggest problems with nuclear I think, besides public concern over safety, is waste storage and cost. Our current waste storage programs are inadequate. In Scandinavia I have heard of burying nuclear waste inside mountains. That seems like a pretty good idea. There was in the 1980s a plan to bury US waste deep underground in layers of thick salt formations that lie thousands of feet below the water table. This program was defeated by local environmentalists concerned about the program’s impact to Utah’s scenic canyon country. While I appreciate the local concern, I do think we have to get over “not in my backyard” politics if we are to address the energy crisis. Utah’s scenic canyon country is certainly threatened by global warming as much as everywhere else. The ability of numerically tiny communities holding back the energy needs in a country of 300 million people is of questionable merit in a democratic society.

Cost may be the final hangup where nuclear dies. No nuclear plant has ever been built or operated without government help. Certainly, no private insurance company has ever ensured one. When you total up how much these plants cost to built, how much waste transport and storage costs, and what it would take to replace coal and natural gas in the US with all nuclear plants, you’re looking at a price tag not significantly lower than what it would take to covert the grid to renewable energy.

When you consider the true cost of nuclear, renewables are economically competitive, just as the are when you factor in the true costs of fossil fuels, both in terms of health and global impacts as well as in terms of military budgets essential to control that industry. Battery technology is the main point where they are weak, because the grid likes having a steady output, and wind and solar outputs can fluctuate wildly day to day.

What is the answer? The answer will come when all the scientific information gets out there to an informed public and it goes to a vote. My vote is for no nukes and the transfer of military spending to the construction of an all renewable grid. As an ecologically conscious person, I think there is a tremendous amount of energy that is wasted by most people. We get in trouble because we mistake what someone is trying to make money of selling to us for what we actually need. We don’t need to live in 6,000 square foot houses. We don’t need to drive Dodge Powerwagon trucks to pick up the groceries. We also don’t need to stare at TVs all day or leave the lights on when we aren’t in the room. Maybe we shouldn’t have 6.5 million people living in Arizona if those people need a coal burning power plant to power their AC and to pump water 3,000 feet out of a canyon so they can grow cotton and cantaloupes.

The power needs of my girlfriend and I can be met by a battery and solar system using existing technology. We don’t need lots of lights on in rooms we aren’t in. We don’t need a large house, and if we watch TV it’s usually with Hulu or downloaded shows off a laptop- which uses a lot less power than a conventional TV. We manage to hear things okay without 5.1 surround sound. Personally I’m horrified by how addicted people are to TV and video games. Maybe it’s actually pro- the working class to suggest people go on a hike with their kids, or a read a book outside, or bike to the grocery store instead of staying glued to a TV and using electronic screens to raise their children. Maybe unplugging from the fake electric land and actually living a life in the real world is more enjoyable and healthy. Maybe people shouldn’t live in the same house in a sub division for their entire lives. Having a vegetable garden instead of buying pesticide monsanto crops or “organics” that were imported by diesel ship from half way around the world is probably a good idea. Now your vegetable garden won’t supply all your needs but it helps somewhat, and having your kids spend an hour in one is probably teaching them more about life and the planet than letting them spend that time in front of the TV will.

The current civilization is incredibly unnatural and unhealthy. I’m all for recognizing that and trying to change how we live. Since using less electricity I’ve become a much happier and healthier person. I also recognize not everyone can live in rural Utah, and that not everyone share my believes. So what you do then is you get everyone on board with the idea that the problem is serious and needs change. You get all the facts and statistics out there and you make a list of pros and cons for nuclear and pros and cons for a non-nuclear renewable grid. If you’re smart you go with the list that has more pros and less cons.

If people get around to doing that, and I loose the vote and it goes for nuclear, well I’d rather have than that have coal. But I’ve rather have a non nuclear renewable grid than nukes.

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Bill Kerr October 24, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Christian:

All efforts should be made to figure out how to switch to a completely renewable grid, because peak uranium will be every bit as much of a problem as peak coal or peak oil. Here’s the work of one reseracher who is actually trying to figure that out: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/january/jacobson-world-energy-012611.html

Mark Jacobson’s analysis has been debunked by Barry Brook at Brave New Climate:
Critique of ‘A path to sustainable energy by 2030′

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David Walters October 23, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Christian thank you for your reply. Socialist Organizer, my group, has been somewhat remiss among left Marxist currents in not previously addressing this issue of climate change and ecological decline. So this is our initial foray into the question.

Part of this is to raise the question of the need for a discussion around energy itself, since few, it seems, really understand the role of energy in the transition of humans from clan based pre-historic societies to more advanced historical ones, and the advent of class society. We want to start addressing this.

Secondly, and relating to this, is the importance what we consider a kind of ‘reactionary’ response intrinsic to many who consider themselves part of the ‘green movement’ generally. That is, the their opposition to all forms of development and a wish to ‘down gear’ society into a sort of pastural green feudalism. This is a only somewhat an exaggeration but does come from the “we use too much” crowd who believe it’s all about consumer society. We reject this as a quite 2 dimensional understanding of Imperialism and what’ it’s doing the planet generally and how what is causing climate change specifically.

Thirdly, on nuclear. This, in the Western left, is quite controversial. There is not misunderstanding. We say “nuclear” along with other forms of energy as most, almost all socialists and anarchists, leftists generally, simply don’t get it. Indeed, Christian, only nuclear *has* replaced coal anywhere, that is fossil fuel, in France where they replaced 95% of their oil for generation and other countries where the choice was oil, coal or gas, every nuclear plant built was in fact a replacement for such a fossil fuel plant. We have to examine, or more likely, re-examine the role nuclear, especially advanced nuclear, can play in addressing the phasing out of fossil fuel. Along with other forms of low-carbon energy generation.

We are very much against, and this is addressed in our Resolution, about the issue of jobs. We are not for, nor should anyone, be supporting a phase out of fossil fuel without some forms of job security for the thousand let go. While it’s true that in an aggregate form, the jobs would be more than made up in nuclear and other low-carbon energy building a wind farm in Iowa or a nuclear plant in Georgia, doesn’t really help that coal miner in Illinois or West Virginia. So it’s important to address a class struggle approach to these issues.

David Walters for
Socialist Organizer

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Christian October 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm

With that latter point, I think it would be nice as much as possible to replace coal mining jobs with other jobs for the benefit of laid off coal miners. However I think trying to make that part of the program is extremely politically rigid and sounds more like pandering than a workable plan. Today’s labor force is incredibly mobile. Look at demographic trends. People are moving to where jobs are. It’s what they have always had to do. From about 1910 to 1960 a lot of people moved from the South to the North and Midwest because there were industrial jobs there. Today the South is crawling with economic refugees from Michigan and Wisconsin. Internal displacements happen as naturally as international displacements.

Furthermore our parents paradigm of working the same job for 30 years is shattered. I had to suppress a laugh recently while hearing the concern of aging baby boomers that people in my generation will have to change their job every 10 years. Really? I don’t know anyone under age 40 who has had the same job for 10 years. Most people I know change their job every 6 months to 2 years. There are a little over 80,000 coal miners in the entire United States. Since 2008 we’ve seen month to month changes in the number of jobs created or destroyed in the hundreds of thousands. Why are coal miners any more important than the other 30 million Americans currently un or under employed? Why shouldn’t they have to deal with the same economy and challenges with moving to find jobs and struggling to develop marketable skills as anyone else?

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Arthur October 30, 2012 at 7:02 am

Agreed. Each generation has different jobs from its parents. Trying to stop that means trying to stop development and progress. Workers need rapid social change, not preservation of the status quo.

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David Berger October 24, 2012 at 3:31 pm

FROM DAVID WALTERS (SO): We have to examine, or more likely, re-examine the role nuclear, especially advanced nuclear, can play in addressing the phasing out of fossil fuel. Along with other forms of low-carbon energy generation.

REPLY: Is SO, now, under a capitalist economy, for or against the building of new nukes?

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Manuel Barrera October 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I make the following remarks based on my poignant observations and experience as an anti-nuclear activist while in the SWP during the run-up and response to the 3-Mile Island accident (1979) and as as a mill mechanic on the #3 Coke Plant at Inland Steel (Indiana) during that same time where I worked atop the coal scrubbers maintaining the plumbing and equipment that removed coal byproducts in the making of pure carbon for making steel. That period was probably the only advantage for me during the ill-fated SWP turn to industry. I found it quite enlightening to have been protecting the environment on the “Dante’s Inferno” atop coke plant, trying to “talk socialism” with workers of, let’s say, minimal consciousness, and at the same time working with anti-nuclear activists in a coalition educating against the use of nuclear power plants that surrounded the city of Chicago.

I am very glad, David W., that SO arrives (albeit “in the last analysis”) at opposing nuclear energy. It’s an important first step (but only a first step) to oppose a form energy production that may essentially displace workers under the guise that doing so will create “cleaner” forms of energy–a truly cynical fallacy–and thereby somehow make people in general safer without the generations of casualties from “dirty coal” and their carbon emissions (there are lots of analogies to point up the absurdity, but I won’t engage in them here). Finding “cleaner” nuclear solutions is indeed a profit-driven enterprise (especially with federal subsidizing). However, nuclear power is truly a dangerous and harmful form of energy with the potential to render whole geographic regions unusable as well as the potential for immediate and long term loss of life. Of course, when speaking of nuclear power today, we are speaking of nuclear fission power and not any future development of fusion; something that is unlikely ever to come to fruition under capitalism without a major cost in life, economy, and health.

Indeed, fighting for safety in the energy workplace and for reducing pollution in the energy industry as well as removing the profit motive from the development of energy is by far a more sane course for energy policy. You need more not less workers when you have a safe environment, you create more jobs with a much stronger anti-pollution initiative in the workplace and in communities (both in rural and urban settings), and you create a more collective economy when energy and energy distribution becomes as accessible as water and sewage is today (I say that knowing full well how water and sanitation remain still less accessible as they need to be). Hence, the fight against nuclear power is not a moral issue, but an issue of human self-preservation part and parcel with the fight for environmental protection and environmental justice as many throughout the world can attest.

Fighting against nuclear power is the same as fighting against fracking; both harm the environment–in the immediate and long term–for the sake of reaping profit and because both result in perhaps the most clearly quintessential shortsighted outcome in the nature of capitalism; the very destruction of humanity and the planet. There is no need to fear Marxist delving into reactionary “anti-development” positions by opposing nuclear power. It is our legacy and responsibility when we took up the banner of socialism. Revolutionaries have a duty to the working class to educate, agitate, and organize around this issue.

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David Walters October 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm

@Manual, good see you here from other lists….

No…it’s not only a question of opposing this or that project. I don’t, personally, consider nuclear the same as fracking. The only real issue is how do way lay any sort of basis for a energy system based on non-GHG and, what do the alternatives mean. Fracking, besides the immediacy of causing unregulated pollution to the water tabe, untold miles of roads tearing up the countryside (though this can be mitigated) produces *natural gas*. Nuclear is FAR safer than natural gas if you look at the history of both, globally and in the US. The harm all fossil fuels do to the environment is far, far greater than anything nuclear has done in civilian/commercial energy production. Not even close, Fukushima included.

If you want we can discuss the relative safety issues with regards to nuclear, wind, hydro, gas and coal. The whole point is of this is that nuclear is not more dangerous than coal, oil or gas. We *support* nuclear energy and I think you read what I wrote incorrectly, Manuel. We can, again, discuss this. Part of this discussion is breaking through the myths of renewable energy, why we need energy, etc…and in fact why we need to use MORE energy, not less, to get off of fossil fuels.

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Brian S. October 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I was originally going to ask a question about energy conservation, but before I could formulate it the following caught my eye:
“In Germany, to cite one example, the Green Party, in power with the Social Democrats, proposed a plan to rid Germany of non-carbon nuclear energy and replace it with 23 coal plants burning dirty brown coal. The Green parties globally and their environmentalist non-profits and NGO allies are totally wedded to the fake “Green capitalism” that everywhere supports the destruction of jobs and public services and provides no long-term solution to the environmental destruction wrought on the planet by capitalism.”
In the rest of the developed world socialists and greens have been exploring their common ground, and in many cases finding positive frameworks for cooperation. So its disappointing to find this kind of sectarian spleen being voiced here.
What’s more there are a couple of problems with the content of this argument:
1. The Green party is not “in power with the Social Democrats” in Germany and hasn’t been for 7 years.
2. The 23 new power stations that the actual CDU-FPD federal government is proposing are mostly burning hard, not brown coal.
3. The German Greens are opposed to further coal-fired power stations of any type and advocate gas or renewable sources.
4. There are “red green coalitions in power in several German states: in Schleswig-Holstein they have blocked plans for new a proposed coal-fired station; in the Rhineland Palatinate the coalition “stresses that it wants to focus on energy-efficiency and energy savings, the expansion of renewable energies and decentralising supply.” and in Baden- Wurttemberg “The coalition intends to replace power plants that are shut down by green energy and flexible gas-fired power plants, preferably combined heat and power plants.” Maybe you could learn something from them.
http://www.germanenergyblog.de/?p=6142

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm

The implication is that supporting the presidential candidacy of someone like Jill Stein in the U.S. today in the here and now is worthless because of what Green Parties elsewhere have betrayed their own principles. It’s ridiculous, given our vastly different contexts. Getting rid of Democrats and Republicans here and replacing them with Greens would be a tremendous step forward from where we — the left– in the U.S. are at now, which is nowhere. Complaining that the U.S. Green Party has no long-term solution like ending capitalism to the problems of the environment is off-base, given the utter lack of short solutions coming from us that would mark a single step forward to our own long-term solution.

Very lazy thinking.

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David Walters October 24, 2012 at 4:07 pm

@Brain S. No, you wrong. The plan was to use lignite, not bitumous coal in these plants. This is what the GP of Germany *agreed*. I know they were not in power but Germany’s energy plan was the one designed from 10 years ago when the Greens WERE in power with the SPD. It shows how ass-backward the German GP was/is that they would advocate shutting down a major…the major sources of non-carbon energy and chose coal instead. Crazy! Instead, the build scads of gas turbines using gas from Russia and Turkey that both the SPD Chancellor, Schoader, signed off on (and then became an executive of Gasprom) and, a rival pipeline from Turkey. So now we see Germany wedded at the face, stomach and butt to GHG emitting gas fired generating stations.

The German gov’t and opposition plans are based not, IMO, based on a sound economic or technical understanding of their grid and what it will require (including paying outrageous amounts for electricity) to keep their capitalist economy going.

@Pham, the US Green party’s advocacy of green capitalism not only misses the mark, but actually ties activists to a vision of a market driven “green economy”. Their false belief that 700GWs (US grid daily load) can be run *completely* on renewables is not just wrong, it’s totally irresponsible (it’s also a lie as it will really rely on more and more natural gas…see fracking). It can’t be done or, at least not at a price that wouldn’t drive most working class Americans into the poor house. And it won’t reduce GHG emissions even by a small double digit percentage. Their program is not science based and relies to heavily on market mechanism to make their fantasy a reality.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm

“Green capitalism” is abstract, especially given that the Greens in 9 cases out of 10 cannot beat a Republican or a Democrat for elected office to actually implement a policy, good or bad.

How can a party that cannot win positions within the state “tie” any activist to anything in the real world? Or are we just talking about abstract ideology and so-called principles?

On a totally separate issue: judging a party solely or mostly by its program is a huge methodological error. If that’s what we should use, the RSDLP was hopelessly reformist and pro-capitalist. Ditto with Hugo Chavez, MAS in Bolivia, the Black Panther-Party for Self-Defense, and heck, even the Free Syrian Army while we’re at it.

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David Walters October 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm

@Pham….I don’t know what you are talking about. The Green Party can ONLY be judged by what it…says. What it says I don’t support or most of it. I think it “points” to an incorrect path for the US working class. Our points, generally, on Greens, internationally, is that they’ve failed to address fundamental working class issues (they are not a working class party, either objectively or subjectively).

The GP in the US, which a stronger leftist pedigree than what I consider the Green Party of Germany (or most European Greens that often are pro-Imperialist and pro-capitalist), is electoralist and is simply ‘leftist’ in a sort of centrifugal way. And…the GP would disagree with you, besides. THEY take their program very seriously (it’s something I actually respect about them). They do not answer the problem of independent working class politics. They are not interested. They are strickly ‘issue’ oriented around the environment. I heard Jill Stein speak at the left forum in March. The “Green New Deal” is what they orient around in terms of program and again, they are quite serious about this and want to discuss it and focus their activities around it.

What this has to do with the RSDLP I have no idea. Perhaps you can elucidate a bit on this.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 25, 2012 at 1:35 pm

“The Green Party can ONLY be judged by what it…says.”

Marx called this idealism. Lenin evaluated parties based on the overall context they operated in, what class forces they represented, and above all else, what they did in practice.

This is not an argument that a program is meaningless or worthless in terms of evaluation, but to argue that is the only criteria to judge the Green Party or any party by is, at bottom, an idealist method and one that I reject.

“They [the Greens] do not answer the problem of independent working class politics.”

The American Green Party has a much larger working-class following than the U.S. entire socialist left put together multiplied by 10x. We socialists haven’t answered the problem of independent working class politics any better than they have.

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David Walters October 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Pham, you don’t answer my point. The Republicans have a larger “working class following” than the Greens do. So what? When I say “working class politics” my emphasis is the on the class part of politics, a self-conscious class, not just everyone who works for a living. The issue is a political expression of our class, consciously, programmatically, in action. Since when do socialists judge any party, tendency, group, etc only by their composition or followers?

Secondly, in the case of the Greens, why I emphasize what they ‘say’ is because what they ‘say’ makes up most of their activity. They run in elections and that’s about it. So in their case, as opposed to, perhaps, Occupy, socialist groups, unions, community organizations one can look at what they say AND do. The Greens? Not so much.

I’m not for silly polemics against the Greens. This was a specific point, mostly directed at the Greens globally, not locally, so much. We have worked very closely with the GP in SF on energy issues, health care issues, etc when they chose to raise these in elections or work via the initiative process in California. We are not for such sterile polemics. We’d much rather talk about what we see as the fault in the labor movement specifically in their chasing after, and subordinating themselves to the Democrats.

David

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm

“Since when do socialists judge any party, tendency, group, etc only by their composition or followers?”

I never claimed that this should be our “only” criterion.

Speaking of “political expression of our class, consciously, programmatically, in action” and “the fault in the labor movement specifically in their chasing after, and subordinating themselves to the Democrats,” the Vote Sawant campaign organized by Socialist Alternative against Democrat Frank Chopp managed to pick up the endorsement of a union local: http://votesawant.org/endorsers/

I’m not sure when the last time a union came out in support of a socialist over a Democrat is. Maybe early 1900s? Initiatives like that are a step in the right direction, and in many (maybe even most) cases the Green Party will be with us, not against us, in the fight to break the Democratic Party.

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Brian S. October 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm

@ David Walters re German Greens: So you say – but this just looks like a muddle to me. Your reference to “23 coal plants burning dirty brown coal” appears to refer (inaccurately) to the current government programm e- which involves at most 3 lignite-burning plants (and those probably won’t happen because of Green opposition on the ground). The position you attribute to the Greens bears no relationship to their long established policies, or indeed their whole philiosohy which emphasises energy conservation and renewables.
The only thing I can find on the internet that bears on this is a story in a pro-nuclear blog that appears to think that the government which initiated current policies in 2007 was an SPD-Green coalition (of course it wasn’t: it was the CDU-SPD “Grand Coalition”). Perhaps that was the source of your wisdom?
In any event,until you can provide some source for this claim, I shall continue to treat is as ill-informed sectarianism.

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Manuel Barrera, PhD October 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm

That’s too bad, David. It is a huge mistake to believe nuclear power is safer than coal because the effects of coal are so much more immediate and those of nuclear are not. It is short-sighted to believe nuclear fission is somehow better, but it is actually worse to think revolutionaries can somehow stand in concert with the arguments of the nuclear industry and not have devastating political consequences, never mind the environmental ones.

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David Walters October 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm

@Manuel…you were deadly wrong, Manuel. Coal kills 21,000 to 30,000 people *a year* in the U.S. that’s exclusive of mining. How many has nuclear killed, *a year* in the U.S.?

This is not ‘nuclear industry’ propaganda, it’s based on NIH statistics. I’m concerned about phasing out coal because of it’s deadly long term effects not to mention it’s twice as bad a gas with regards to GHG emissions. THAT is the priority.

These are facts that have to be internalized. The left, which you reflect, has believed the extreme falsehoods of many in the anti-nuclear movement. I used to believe the same thing until I did serious reading on the immediate and long term effects of coal. BTW…the effects of coal generally are long term, not short term, Manuel.

Anyone serious about developing a class struggle approach to the environment needs to start with a vision that can produced on demand energy, abundantly, cheaply and in dense enough forms that it can totally replace the worlds fossil fuel use (both electricity and transportation fuel).

I will chose nuclear over coal any time. And we need to start phasing out fossil fuels as soon as possible, by *all* means necessary. Our program, above, is to do this because we recognize climate change as a serious business that threatens us not with barbarism as Rosa Luxemberg titled her essay, but with extinction. I feel MOST Greens are completely lost with regards to this and take utopian, or dystopian avenues to try to achieve environmental sanity.

We need to develop a full program (which is this not even close to doing) that takes into consideration the 10s of thousands of workers and their families in rail, power, mining etc who would be made redundant to a socialist non-carbon based economy.

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David Berger October 24, 2012 at 11:59 pm

So what you are saying is that after Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, you have no problem with the same people running more and more nukes. No one is arguing that ANY system run by the bourgeoisie is any good, but nukes represent a qualitatively more dangerous threat. Support for nukes represents a serious retreat by certain elements of the Left.

Consider the following, a year and a half after Fukushima:
_________

Though the mainstream media has long since abandoned the issue, the precarious situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility in Japan is only continuing to worsen, according to a prominent Japanese official. During a recent interview, Mitsuhei Murata, the former Japanese Ambassador to both Switzerland and Senegal, explained that the ground beneath the plant’s Unit 4 is gradually sinking, and that the entire structure is very likely on the verge of complete collapse.

This is highly concerning, as Unit 4 currently holds more than 1,500 spent nuclear fuel rods, and a collective 37 million curies of deadly radiation that, if released, could make much of the world completely uninhabitable. As some Natural News readers will recall, Unit 4 contains the infamous elevated cooling pool that was severely damaged following the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011.

According to the Secretary of former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the ground beneath Unit 4 has already sunk by about 31.5 inches since the disaster, and this sinking has taken place unevenly. If the ground continues to sink, which it is expected to, or if another earthquake of even as low as a magnitude six occurs in the region, the entire structure could collapse, which would fully drain the cooling pool and cause a catastrophic meltdown.

“If Unit 4 collapses, the worse case scenario will be a meltdown, and a resultant fire in the atmosphere. That will be the most unprecedented crisis that man has ever experienced. Nobody will be able to approach the plants … as all will have melted down and caused a big fire,” said Murata during the interview. “Many scientists say if Unit 4 collapses, not only will Japan lie in ruin, but the entire world will also face serious damages.”

Because there are 31 nuclear units of a similar type to Unit 4 in the U.S., the American government has been downplaying the disaster to protect its own reputation, alleges Murata. This is, in fact, the primary reason why so little has been reported on the severity of Fukushima following the disaster. The American empire, in other words, does not want the world, nor the American people, to know that there is the possibility of literally dozens of Fukushima situations occurring on American soil, should the right disaster situations arise.

You can watch the full 3:51 minute translated interview with Murata at the following link:
http://youtu.be/-LCTv65aqgA

http://www.naturalnews.com/037556_Fukushima_power_plant_collapse.html

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Bill Kerr October 25, 2012 at 6:16 am

David Berger:

No one is arguing that ANY system run by the bourgeoisie is any good, but nukes represent a qualitatively more dangerous threat. Support for nukes represents a serious retreat by certain elements of the Left.

Socialist response: Fukushima was preventable and scientists did warn beforehand that it could happen. So it represents a good case where capitalists putting profit first leads to significant preventable disasters. That is not an argument against nukes as such but it is a good argument against capitalism.

Capitalist response: It could also be argued that tighter regulations under capitalism and developments within nuclear power industry itself (eg. fast breeder reactors) will make things safer.

Immediate or present response: We have to pick our “poison”. Coal kills. Nukes kill. Renewables are far too expensive and if you do the maths / economics you will discover they can’t replace coal etc.

In the overall scheme of things the lives made possible by abundant energy are far more, by billions in number and by quality of life in standard of living, than the lives lost through production and use of that energy. Isn’t that bald and callous fact rather obvious.

“He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense” (John McCarthy: Progress and its sustainability)

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David Berger October 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm

FROM BILL KERR: Socialist response: Fukushima was preventable and scientists did warn beforehand that it could happen. So it represents a good case where capitalists putting profit first leads to significant preventable disasters. That is not an argument against nukes as such but it is a good argument against capitalism.

FROM DAVID BERGER: It is also a good argument against nukes under capitalism. Whether or not there will nukes “under socialism” is a debate that needs to be held by the working class after the revolution.

FROM BILL KERR: Capitalist response: It could also be argued that tighter regulations under capitalism and developments within nuclear power industry itself (eg. fast breeder reactors) will make things safer.

FROM DAVID BERGER: The response to this is to survey the history of capitalism, as it really exists, and note that the capitalist class will always subordinate safety to profits, except when explicitly forced not to do so. With regards to nukes, the danger is so great that there is no way that anyone in their right mind would ever let the capitalist class have control of them in any shape or form let alone in the vague form of “tighter regulations.”

FROM BILL KERR: Immediate or present response: We have to pick our “poison”. Coal kills. Nukes kill. Renewables are far too expensive and if you do the maths / economics you will discover they can’t replace coal etc.

FROM DAVID BERGER: This is, in my opinion, a false argument. Nukes are qualitatively more dangerous than any other form of energy. If anyone thinks this isn’t so, consider that the Fukushima reactors are still out of control after a year and a half. Can anyone think of a disaster in any other kind of plant that could possibly match this?

FROM BILL KERR: In the overall scheme of things the lives made possible by abundant energy are far more, by billions in number and by quality of life in standard of living, than the lives lost through production and use of that energy. Isn’t that bald and callous fact rather obvious.

FROM DAVID BERGER: If by “that energy” you mean nukes, it isn’t obvious at all.

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Bill Kerr October 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm

FROM BILL KERR: Immediate or present response: We have to pick our “poison”. Coal kills. Nukes kill. Renewables are far too expensive and if you do the maths / economics you will discover they can’t replace coal etc.

FROM DAVID BERGER: This is, in my opinion, a false argument. Nukes are qualitatively more dangerous than any other form of energy. If anyone thinks this isn’t so, consider that the Fukushima reactors are still out of control after a year and a half. Can anyone think of a disaster in any other kind of plant that could possibly match this?

It is not a false argument in your own terms. You still have to decide on which energy future you prefer.

I did look at the Mitsuhei Murata information you provided (briefly) and didn’t find any rebuttals to what he has claimed. It does have the feel to it of the earlier warnings that were ignored and led to the current disaster. So I can’t refute your argument. Capitalist interests and bureaucratic secrecy have stuffed up nuclear development big time through the Fukushima debacle.

I have a strong reaction against Green end of the world scenarios since IMO they have often lied. The Fukushima worst case scenario that you report is totally preventable (move the fuel rods) and it seems almost unbelievable to me that it would happen. But then Fukushima itself was not protected against a tsunami and in retrospect that was unbelievably stupid as well. So yes, you have a good argument.

Nevertheless, capitalism will continue to flounder around on its energy forward planning, including nuclear.

If you go to David MacKay’s site, sustainable energy without the hot air download his 10 page synopsis. He has done the maths and provides some alternative scenarios for possible energy futures. Pick your preferred option. Note, however, that he has not done the economics.

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Aaron Aarons October 26, 2012 at 6:15 am

Regarding “the lives made possible by abundant energy”:

It may or may not be true that the number of people who can inhabit the earth at any one time is increased by the availability of abundant energy. But, even if that is the case, it may well be true that the total number of human beings who will be able to live on earth over the next few hundred or few thousand years may be greatly reduced by the environmental destruction associated with that abundant energy and by the human activity it makes possible.

Just something to think about.

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Aaron Aarons October 26, 2012 at 6:17 am

OOPS! Another formatting error on my part! I wish this site had the possibility of previewing one’s post, or editing it after posting it, as so many other sites have.

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David Walters October 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm

One of the interesting developments in the US energy scheme since deregulation started over 15 years ago is the massive increase in natural gas. The building high-GHG emitting gas turbines is a major growth area in energy and is the most rapidly expanding sector I’m aware of. California has added over 4,000 MW in just the last few years. The “greenwash” themselves by noting that GHG emissions are only half that of coal. Looked at another way, the 20 times that of wind, solar, hydro and nuclear.

One of the problems with the anti-nuclear movement is their being wed to natural gas (since gas can, unlike wind and solar, substitute for coal or nuclear).

This is true in many countries internationally as the extremely power gas industry, which is more power than coal and nuclear together if you look at what is being built and the value of their commodities.

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Manuel Barrera, PhD October 24, 2012 at 11:36 pm

“. I’m concerned about phasing out coal because of it’s deadly long term effects not to mention it’s twice as bad a gas with regards to GHG emissions. THAT is the priority”
I think that statement is precisely your problem, David. You can’t really be “concerned about phasing out coal”; unless of course you are a coal industrialist or if we had workers council under a workers and farmers government making such decisions. Trying to determine now what “we” may or may not do once we have eliminated capitalism from the picture is about as meaningful as cosmologists prognosticating about where the universe is going to be billenia from now. Like cosmologists we may have very good speculative tools about what makes for a saner energy policy, but such speculation steps over the very real need to overcome the obstacles to such a sane policy.

I actually was more sympathetic to your view at your first response when you limited yourself to the need for protecting jobs–a necessary component for any working class struggle in defense of environmentally supportive energy. Now, I just believe you are just tailing some of the most cynical liberal perspectives promoting nuclear power. It’s a very slippery slope you are taking (or have taken). You nor a small revolutionary socialist left have no business trying to be “concerned about phasing out” anything. What is more needed is a much stronger understanding about the nature of capitalist energy policy and its designs for the sake of countering it not with points of “agreement” on this or that energy issue, but with a clear explication of those policies and how they place the environment at risk solely for making and increasing profit. Nuclear energy policy in the hands of the capitalists and in the context of world imperialism is simply not going to improve the struggle to improve cleaner energy and the inadvertent support to nuclear energy policy that revolutionaries pretending to have expertise on how best to make nuclear energy work only playe into their hands. It is working people fighting for democracy,and safety, and protection of the environment that will pave the way for understanding how best improve energy use and protection of the planet. It is a fool’s errand to think you can do that dreaming up good excuses to use unsafe radioactive energy before it is even possible to implement a socialist perspective on such issues. Indeed, if you really are interested in making your case for nuclear fission as a safe energy alternative in the context of socialism, wouldn’t it make sense to fight for democracy and protection of the environment from the speculative intentions of the capitalist class? Supporting some of their energy policy designs intended to maintain their power doesn’t make you reasonable and appealing to emerging class conscious workers. It just makes you sound backward and more egregiously it appeals to the conservative impulses within the working class.

Well, I doubt I’ve convinced you. But I hope that this trajectory doesn’t send you spinning off into more conservative politics. Best of luck with that.

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David Walters October 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm

@Manuel, the reason this is an intro to a discussion for us, and for many, actually, is that we are convinced that fighting to defend this planet from the grotesqueness of capitalist theivery is everyone’s interest. So we decided to look back on all this objectively, see what the problems are (there are hundreds of essays written on this same subject) and how to contextualize this for a program that can address the issues. This sounds like platitudes but it is quite serious.

What we did is abandon your non-scientific approach and look at all energy forms. [I should add that we are NOT debating climate change. No one cared to and while there are some questions about this, the reason I’m not engaging in a debate here about it is because that is for other forums, not this one.] we looked the *technology* of all energy forms and tried to come up with a perspective toward a transitional approach that doesn’t have to wait until socialism is achieved as it will be way too late for that.

Centered on this is the demand…minimally, to nationalize all energy resources and run them by workers and, community representatives. By doing this it addresses jobs, local and regional environmental issues etc. We can then discuss carbon/climate issues etc. So understand this is key for us. Unfortunatly we are a long way from the workers movement taking this demand up, but it remains critical in our view.

You are unscientific because you provide no evidence that nuclear is ‘dangerous’ as coal, or fossil fuel. We’ve reexamined it and taken as a whole, we will stand by what we know to be true: nuclear represents the safest and largest form of non-carbon on-demand power around, bar none. We actually looked at the number of deaths, number of illnesses, relationship between military and civilian nuclear industries and so on. We didn’t proceed on assumptions that you exemplify around nuclear energy. You don’t *like* that nuclear is far far safer than coal or has caused few deaths and illnesses, but it’s true. Facts are stubborn things and hurt when they fly in face on one’s assumptions. That’s what I learned working almost 25 years in the electrician generation business as a union member.

I probably wrote my point about phasing out coal that left the impression that I’m concerned about it from the point of view that I question it. My fault. No, I’m concerned that if the labor movement and broader left doesn’t understand the *need* to phase out coal, with a full program around energy, a set of demands, that coal will be with us forever and that won’t do.

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Arthur October 24, 2012 at 11:53 pm

“One of the problems with the anti-nuclear movement is their being wed to natural gas (since gas can, unlike wind and solar, substitute for coal or nuclear).”

This is an understatement. Wind is basically a euphemism for gas (pun intended).

Since wind is inherently intermitant about 2 to 3 times as much energy has to be supplied by gas for each unit of wind energy the retailers are required to buy. This results in such a close alliance that you see “renewables” propaganda sponsored by greenie groups together with BOTH the gas and wind industries.

“Anyone serious about developing a class struggle approach to the environment needs to start with a vision that can produced on demand energy, abundantly, cheaply and in dense enough forms that it can totally replace the worlds fossil fuel use (both electricity and transportation fuel).”

Grasping that is a huge advance on the green mush dominant in what passes for “the left”. However it is simple common sense, widely accepted among both conservatives and liberal reformists so the phrase about “developing a class struggle approach” is just pontificating.

“…we recognize climate change as a serious business that threatens us not with barbarism as Rosa Luxemberg titled her essay, but with extinction…”

Rosa was writing at the time of the first world war. Phrases about extinction are pure pandering to the greenies.

Climate change is a serious business because the third world is industrializing rapidly but is still too poor to adopt anything other than the cheapest technology (generally coal). The overwhelming majority of increases in power generation over the next decades will come from coal unless cheaper technology is developed.

That requires massive R&D. Simply switching from coal to nuclear in those countries that can afford it CANNOT solve the problem because India, China and other poor countries WILL continue using coal while it is cheaper and WILL generate most of the emissions.

It is natural that neither mainstream conservatives nor their more reactionary green and pseudo-left opponents can see that capitalist imperialism is unable to focus on R&D in the way that communism will because of “free rider” issues in the competition for profits.

It is bizarre for anyone that sees the need for developing the productive forces to pander to catastrophism instead of advocating massive R&D.

Also, an orientation towards unleashing the productive forces of humanity cannot be combined with protecting workers jobs. Our goal is to eliminate wage labor.

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David Walters October 25, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Arthur, I’m not going to get into rhetorical or hyperbolic statements about how wind or solar won’t do the job, at least alone. I don’t think I understate what I wrote about wind and solar. This is, btw, my position rather that my groups view. The resolution kindly reproduced on this web site by The North Star is the result of many compromises. Not everyone, for example, agrees about nuclear energy. Not everyone, for example, agrees that wind and solar can play more than an incremental role at best. I’m in the latter category. We had a wide open discussion and debate around this resolution at our recent convention a few weeks ago.

There is a huge difference between, say, Senegal, and, say, India and China. Senegal is way underdeveloped and can’t afford much of anything in terms of energy. So they burn diesel fuel in diesel-electric generators. Polluting, highly inefficient, yet ‘cheap’ since the generators are easy to buy on the open market (essentially used diesel-electric locomotives converted to supplying electricity). India and China are building, as you note, massive amounts of coal AND they are building nuclear as well. Over half the worlds new builds for nuclear are in those countries. China’s plan is to replace all their fossil fuel with hydro and nuclear by the end of this century. So it’s not so clear about developing countries per se. Of course every nuclear plant built is a coal plant not built. They are also investing heavily in wind and solar. They are mixing and matching, so-to-speak.

You wrote “Also, an orientation towards unleashing the productive forces of humanity cannot be combined with protecting workers jobs. Our goal is to eliminate wage labor.” Well true. Under communism and even socialism, where wages will continued to be paid, I suspect until abundance can really be supplied by that unleashing I talked about.

In the mean time we struggle for things like health-and-safety of all workers, at the point of production and in society in general. Capitalism actually restrains and destroys the forces of production (capital, labor) and under socialism these forces will be a planned exponential increase which will protect workers. Ultimately unless we develop the forces of production there is no ‘safety’ for anyone. It’s a material prerequisite for it.

David

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Arthur October 25, 2012 at 10:18 pm

India is still building coal stations without the minimal pollution controls required for acid rain and major health problems. There is simply no question of them being able to afford to switch to anything else for decades.

China has developed to a point where they can afford to replace older and more polluting coal plants with more modern ones. This fact has been misused for purely propaganda claims that they are phasing out coal. In fact they are building coal plants rapidly.

China shifting from coal to nuclear and/or renewables is a myth promoted by greenies (with some assistance from the Chinese regime).

Any country that can afford has good reason to include nuclear in the mix, simply in order to provide a basic capacity to expand from in case it does become economically viable. (In addition of course countries like France and Iran have an incentive to subsidize a nuclear industry to much more than a minimal extent as a basis for actual or potential future nuclear weapons development).

China has only marginally more than a minimal civil nuclear energy program. The reason is similar to larger programs in South Korea and Japan. It is cheaper and faster to build nuclear than to import coal in those areas that don’t have extensive coal resources locally.

In South Korea and Japan coal imports have the additional cost and delay of importation by sea through port infrastructure. In south China imports of coal from the north (and Mongolia) could come by rail with lower freight costs. However the uneven expansion of energy consumption in the south has greatly exceeded the expansion of rail (and road) infrastructure from north to south. The result has been massive (weeks long) traffic jams as coal trucks clog up the existing roads. Rapid expansion of the transport infastructure is difficult because you have to also shut down already congrested routes temporarily while expanding them and this creates even worse bottlenecks. In these circumstances a side effect of the poor planning has been a modest expansion of nuiclear to meet energy demands wihout adding to the transport chaos, despite the greater cost.

This problem is temporary and fundamentally coal will remain cheaper so there is no possibility or intention of phasing out coal by the end of the century.

As for wind and solar, China is the world’s major manufacturer and aims to supply whatever demand there is. As part of that they have various impressive demonstration projects. These are and will remain competely insignificant compared with coal.

The problem is, unless there is such rapid development that countries like India and China can afford nuclear, or some technology cheaper than both coal and nuclear fission is developed, this is likely to continue for several decades beyond the end of the century.

The lead time for new technology could be decades (eg nuclear fusion has been 40 years away from commercial viability for more than 40 years). This is exacerbated by the need for a prior massive shift in higher education to create the enlarged generation of R&D workers. So the delays resulting from capitalism’s difficulty with free riding etc could result in needing to resort to geo-engineering (which we also don’t know how to do well and so are likely to do badly).

This all points to the need for massive R&D of all kinds – general to accelerate the development of poor countries so they can afford to switch to nuclear if necessary, fusion in case that could work, cheaper (including safer) nuclear fission, storage technology so that intermittant renewables like wind could actually become useful, and geo-engineering because its already unlikely that others solutions will be found before climate change actually has a serious impact.

A focus on R&D highlights the fact that capitalism is a fetter on the productive forces and goes well with actually fighting for improved working conditions, health and safety and living standards generally as opposed to purely conservative attempts to preserve the status quo by “protecting jobs”.

It is therefore entirely natural that most of what passes for the “left” has little interest in science or R&D and lines up with the reactionary romantic greens and other populists rather like the Russian Narodniks.

Given your agreement with the necessity to develop the forces of production It seems much less natural that you assume existing, well known, nuclear fission technology that has been around for more than half a century will be the solution for climate problems likely to arise a century later.

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Brian S. October 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm

India has a small but significant nuclear generating sector- 6 operating plants , 7 under construction and plans to increase its nuclear capacity more than 10-fold over the next 20 years (Wikipedia). But there’s a lot of opposition to the construction of new plants and hence uncertainty about the programme: http://forbesindia.com/article/close-range/india-should-deprioritise-nuclear-energy/33648/1.
Despite many of the contributors to this debate being avid technophiles, there seems to be a very static approach to the technological choices open to developing countries here. As Trotsky 101 should have taught some of you, late developers have an advantage over establlshed economies in being able to draw on the most modern technologies. And countries like India and China have a high level of indigenous R&D capacity.
I don’t know why Arthur regards China’s committment to developing nuclear capacity and renewables a “myth” – the Chinese government is quite explicit about it and has clear targets.
I also find very strange the stereotyping of the Greens by several contributors to this debate as” having little interest in science or R&D “. I really dont know what political circles these people hang out in, but for my part I have never known a political current to be as concerned with technology and technological development as the Greens – although of course they want to incorporate environmental criteria into new technologies and harness them to meeting green objectives.

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Arthur October 26, 2012 at 10:54 pm

I explained in considerable detail why I regard China’s claims about commitment to nuclear and renewables as a myth. Simply saying “I don’t know why” is not a response to those details.

BTW I am writing from Australia where it is difficult to be unaware of how rapidly China’s coal consumption has been rising since the resulting exports from Australia are central to the state of the local economy. This also makes it easier to be aware of the mythical character of governmental claims on these matters since the Australian government simultaneously claims to be committed to reducing emissions while also confident that the local coal industry will continue to expand rapidly!

Certainly greens are more interested in technology than other currents. They are especially keen on medieval technologies like wind mills and take a medieval approach to “The Science” as collection of dogmas to be learned from authorities in direct opposition to enlightenment conceptions of science. Hence they have no hesitaion about simply lying on matters of scientific fact and actively bullying people into submission to their “authorities”.

What they have in common with other conservative and reactionary political tendencies (including those passing as “left”) is an active lack of confidence that humans can benefit enormously from discovering more about how the universe actually works. At best they believe instead in finding ways to use “market forces” to prevent disasters by imposing rationing through price mechanisms instead of regulations as we huddle in fear of nature and our own capacities.

(There are of course variations and exceptions, as always, but that’s the general trend).

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Aaron Aarons October 27, 2012 at 9:24 am

It’s no surprise that pro-imperialist, ‘progress’-worshipping ‘Arthur’ would ignore the fact that, in the U.S., at least, it is those who have the most absurd ideas, mostly derived from ancient Hebrew texts, of how the universe actually works who are the most fanatical advocates of unrestrained development of industry of all kinds.

As long as the utilization of “nature and our own capacities” is managed by those motivated by production for profit, there is reason to fear them. At least until capitalist class rule is overthrown, we have good reason to take a cautious and critical approach to all developments of ‘the forces of production’.

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Brian S. October 27, 2012 at 10:40 am

Pardon me ,Arthur, but I don’t see anything in your post that “explained in considerable detail why I regard China’s claims about commitment to nuclear and renewables as a myth”. You assert that several times and you have various details about various things, but the only one that seems relevant to this claim is “they are building coal plants rapidly.” Maybe – but that doesn’t prove that their committment to other sources is “mythical”: what we are talking about here is a change in the energy mix, and on that the Chinese government has a very clear policy. Their time frames for this seems rather unrealistic, and I gather that the whole area is politically sensitive. Of course, there’s not necessarily a contradiction between expanding coal consumption and cutting emissions, if you adjust the technologies involved.
As far as Greens and technology is concerned, I think the problem is that you, like the Socialist Organiser mob, simply don’t like Greens – and chose to substitute you own caricatural stereotypes for a real evaluation of the movement (which is, of course, diverse, although there’s no reflection of that in your views).

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Arthur October 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm

“They are building coal plants rapidly”. “Maybe”

Either they are or they are not. Your “maybe” makes it sound either doubtful, or irrelevant.

There is no doubt about it the facts that China and India are massively increasing coal production, are fully committed to continuing to do so and have made it clear that they reject any mandatory internationally agreed limits on emissions because there is simply no feasible alternative to their continuing to do so.

This is expected to be the dominant source of emissions for many decades and is the factual basis for concerns that climate change could become a significant problem. The unimortance of these simple facts to you suggests that claims, intentions and speculations are somehow more real and important than facts.

That would explain your difficulty in understanding why others not only dislike, but have real contempt for, greens.

What the climate policy beaurocrats are talking about, worldwide, is indeed “a change in the energy mix”. They talk about this to pander to greens, who correctly point out that a “change in the energy mix” won’t solve the problem of a cumulative buildup of gases that take centuries to dissipate from the atmosphere because emissions will continue to increase with the “change in the energy mix” while the basic reuirement is not only that they be reduced but that they be virtually eliminated.

On climate change, like everything else, it is pointless discussing issues with people who don’t care much about facts.

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Brian S. October 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm

@Arthur – Let’s try and remind ourselves what this exchange is about (or started out as being about). I queried your assertion that China’s committment to the development of nuclear and renewable energy sources was a “myth”. You responded with the assertion that ““They are building coal plants rapidly”; as you say quite rightly my “maybe” commment on that ” makes it sound either doubtful, or irrelevant.”
Its DOUBTFUL because I can find no evidence to support that and you don’t offer any. On the other hand, I can find plenty of evidence that the Chinese government is committed to a major increase in the share of renewables in its energy mix and an expansion of its nuclear capacity.) Whether they will actually deliver that is another matter.)
Its IRRELEVANT because the discussion was about the expansion of renewables not the expansion of coal – obviously they could do both; and if renewables were expanded more rapidly the energy mix would shift.
China is committed to a major reduction in the carbon intensity of its economy by 2020 (India much less so) and the use of renewable sources seems to be a key part of its plans to achieve that.

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Bill Kerr October 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Hello Brian,

It’s easy to find information that China is rapidly building coal plants even though the exact figures are not clear due to the non transparency of the Chinese government. There is a comprehensive article about China and coal here: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=China_and_coal

Part of China’s concern is strategic since they are now importing coal. As countries become more industrialised they do improve their energy efficiency and China will be no exception to that.

The Kaya identity (details not provided here) provides us with a complete overview of how to influence the amount of carbon di-oxide which enters the atmosphere. If you want to reduce carbon dioxide then there are only 4 ways to do it:
1) reduce population, which won’t conceivably happen to later this century
2) reduce per capita GDP, which fits with some Green thinking that we all ought to live more frugally
3) become more energy efficient, which tends to happen spontaneously with technological improvement (eg. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs are far more efficient than incandescent globes)
4) switch to less carbon intensive sources of energy (eg. nuclear rather than coal)

From now until 2050 population is going to increase and GDP per person is going to increase.

France, possibly the lowest level industrialised emitter, with its nuclear program, produces 6-7 metric tons of CO2 per person. By contrast China emits a little over 4, India 1-2 and Brazil 2 metric tons per person. These large population developing countries are going to emit more CO2 per person in the future unless something else in the equation changes.

Decarbonisation is defined as reduction in the carbon intensity of the economy. Decarbonisation does not necessarily mean an absolute reduction of carbon emissions. If the product of population and GDP per person is increasing more than carbon intensity of the economy is decreasing, then overall carbon emissions will continue to increase.

Decarbonisation has been happening spontaneously for over a century, without any real conscious effort to achieve it. More efficient energy usage through technological improvement saves money and the result has been decarbonisation.

In 1910, we produced 1.2 metric tons of CO2 per $1,000 GDP
In 2010, we produced 0.6 metric tons of CO2 per $1,000 GDP

However, the irony is that in the past decade the spontaneous rate of decarbonisation, whilst still declining, has levelled out, the decline is less steep. This is mainly because China has been using vastly more coal and coal is more carbon intense (per energy use) than natural gas. So, at a time when people are more concerned about the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere, the rate of decarbonisation is less than the previous period when we didn’t see it as an issue to worry about.

From time to time different governments, including China, make pronouncements about their plans to reduce the carbon intensity of their economies.

All you can really say is that all these political announcements over the past decade have amounted to no real reductions at all, eg. “Decarbonisation in the EU occurred at an annual average rate of 1.35% per year in the nine years before the Kyoto Protocol and 1.36% in the nine years following”. That is in the EU which has relatively stable population and low GDP growth compared with other economies

The target presented at the failed Copenhagen 2009 Climate conference was that we ought to reduce of reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuels to 50% of 1990 levels by 2050. This is a huge reduction and if you do the maths and economics you will see that it can’t be done with our current technologies.

This can be presented as either a question of developing nation economics or a simple question of logistics.

Economics: With 1.5 billion people in the world without electricity and 1 billion people living on less than a dollar a day all we can expect is that China, India, Brazil etc. will continue to develop using the cheapest fuel available

Logistics: To achieve the Copenhagen 2009 target with current technology would require at least 12,000 nuclear power stations by 2050 (roughly one per day). Currently we have 430 operational nuclear power stations in the world with another 474 under construction or planned.

I’d recommend The Climate Fix by Roger Pielke jnr for a more detailed analysis of these considerations.

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Arthur October 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Got to rush now, more later.

“Its DOUBTFUL because I can find no evidence to support that and you don’t offer any. On the other hand, I can find plenty of evidence that the Chinese government is committed to a major increase in the share of renewables in its energy mix and an expansion of its nuclear capacity.) Whether they will actually deliver that is another matter.)”

This highlights the problem. You are thinking of “evidence” in terms of statements and claims about commitments. I am talking about real, physical, power plants.

It simply doesn’t matter whether people are committed to reducing the intensity of carbon emissions or expanding the mix of renewables once you understand that the real physical result is KNOWN WITH CERTAINTY to be a continuing increase in the overall total level of emissions.

You also need to understand that the expected effect of emissions on climate are essentially cumulative (because it takes centuries for them to dissipate from the atmosphere). Therefore the eventual goal has to be virtual elimination of emissions rather than reduction.

Once you grasp these simple facts you should understand that the sole impact of greenies pushing renewables and/or nuclear has been to divert massive attention and resources that should be put into R&D into projects that are incapable of contributing even marginally to any actual solution of the problem.

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Brian S. October 30, 2012 at 10:31 am

@Arthur: I’m glad that you’ve managed to find some “simple facts” in this area – everything I come across seems pretty complex. Like you, I am thinking of evidence in terms of “real physical [coal] power plants” – that’s precisely what I was referring to when I said that I could find no evidence and you had not offered any. In fact China is currently cutting back on its previous plans for increased coal production – its planned to grow only 4% next year. Of course that could be offset by increased iimports as you suggest, but that stil leaves us in the realm of uncertainty.
You assert “the real physical result is KNOWN WITH CERTAINTY to be a continuing increase in the overall total level of emissions.” Well, that depends on what you are talking about (aka “maybe”). If China achieves its reduced carbon intensity target (feasible but not certain in my view) at its current rate of output growth its level of carbon emissions would be somewhere between stationary or showing a small increase overthe period 2010-20. Since its rate of economic growth looks set to fall, there could even be a reduction of some degree. India is likely to perform more poorly,
You keep talking about R&D – but R&D into what exactly? There is plenty of R&D in,for example, improved combustion technologies for coal, but you seem to dismiss that.
In fact there is considerable scope for India to reduce its carbon intensity through investment in its grid, involving less costs that the building of new plant of any type.

Arthur October 30, 2012 at 7:16 am

Continuing:…

This sub-thread started with my claim that:

“Climate change is a serious business because the third world is industrializing rapidly but is still too poor to adopt anything other than the cheapest technology (generally coal). The overwhelming majority of increases in power generation over the next decades will come from coal unless cheaper technology is developed.

That requires massive R&D. Simply switching from coal to nuclear in those countries that can afford it CANNOT solve the problem because India, China and other poor countries WILL continue using coal while it is cheaper and WILL generate most of the emissions.”

David responded:

” India and China are building, as you note, massive amounts of coal AND they are building nuclear as well. Over half the worlds new builds for nuclear are in those countries. China’s plan is to replace all their fossil fuel with hydro and nuclear by the end of this century. So it’s not so clear about developing countries per se. Of course every nuclear plant built is a coal plant not built. They are also investing heavily in wind and solar. They are mixing and matching, so-to-speak.”

Stories about China switching to nuclear and/or renewabls have been widely propagated and in the case of nuclear it is true that China has been expanding nuclear well beyond the minimum needed to maintain flexibility. So I then gave considerable detail on why that was the case to show it did not imply any switch from massively increasing coal emissions.

I think most people are unaware of the specific transportation bottleneck issues so it was useful to provide that background information. But it should not be necessary to provide details on the massive continuing increase in coal consumption. This is easy for anyone to look up.

For people pushing renewables (or nuclear), it is of course irrelevant. For people concerned about what to do concerning climate change it makes both renewables and nuclear irrelevant.

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Arthur October 30, 2012 at 11:19 am

1. It is a “simple fact” that “reducing” the rate of growth of coal to 4% means it is KNOWN WITH CERTAINTY that emissions will increase, (by 4%) not decrease, let alone be virtually eliminated, which is what is needed .

I cannot state this more clearly than you have stated it yourself.

2. At this early stage I would put most R&D into fundamental science, since we really have no plausible solutions on the basis of current knowledge. People actually working in specific areas should put forward proposals for funding priority for expert evaluation.

For example once it is clear that no further funds will be wasted on actual deployment of intermittant energy sources without a storage solution people serious about renewables ought to turn their attention to research on fundamental physics and chemistry of materials in the hope of coming up with storage solutions (also needed for electric transport).

Geoengineering could also be priority in view of how little we understand it and the very real possibility that a sudden acceleration in climate change or protracted delays in coming up with emissions reductions could make it necessary.

Biology seems central to CO2 cycles and algae are being used for carbon capture and storage. No doubt there would be ideas for biological research.

Cheaper nuclear fission and fusion, like carbon capture and storage seem inherently unlikely to ever actually get below the cost of coal. Neverthess reducing the gap (including improved safety, waste disposal etc) along with accelerating development generally could make it possible for poorer countries to transition from coal earlier than would otherwise be possible.

The point is we need to acknowledge that we currently do not have a solution and therefore need to learn a lot to find one.

Advocates of renewables and nuclear combine a dishonest pretense that they are plausible solutions with a lack of understanding that everything we now know how to do was once unimaginable and lack of confidence that we can learn a lot more by putting resources into it.

3. Again, reducing emissions intensity simpy means making gestures that CANNOT solve the problem. The effects are cumulative.

Bill Kerr October 28, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Brian S:

As far as Greens and technology is concerned, I think the problem is that you, like the Socialist Organiser mob, simply don’t like Greens – and chose to substitute you own caricatural stereotypes for a real evaluation of the movement (which is, of course, diverse, although there’s no reflection of that in your views)

The problem with Green Parties and technology / economic policy is that they argue:
1) we must trade off the economy for the environment
2) we can do it with the technology we currently have

I suggest you have a look at The Climate Fix by Roger Pielke jnr for a well argued rebuttal of these views by someone who is politically moderate.

When Green Parties represent concerns, without exaggeration, about capitalist destruction of the environment and on humanitarian issues such as treatment of refugees then they play a positive role IMO. The trouble is that this good is mixed up with the bad and the ugly. eg. coal is bad, nuclear is bad, we can replace all energy needs with renewables by 2030. Where does the wishful thinking end and the lying or head in the sand denial begin?

As someone who is concerned but not alarmed about environmental issues then I think the policies of the Breakthrough Institute are worth a close look, in the right ballpark without necessarily agreeing with all of it. It’s the sort of approach that would put green thinking back on track to where it should be (not on the front page).

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Bill Kerr October 29, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Brian S:

As far as Greens and technology is concerned, I think the problem is that you, like the Socialist Organiser mob, simply don’t like Greens – and chose to substitute you own caricatural stereotypes for a real evaluation of the movement (which is, of course, diverse, although there’s no reflection of that in your views)

The problem with Green Parties and technology / economic policy is that they argue:
1) we must trade off the economy for the environment, we need to live more frugally – a moral imperative
2) we can do it with the technology we currently have (not all but some)
3) create unfounded fear through unjustified / exaggerated attribution, eg. Bob Brown, then Australian Green Party leader, blamed the Queensland floods of 2009 on the coal industry

I suggest you have a look at The Climate Fix by Roger Pielke jnr for a well argued rebuttal of these views by someone who is politically moderate.

When Green Parties represent concerns, without exaggeration, about capitalist destruction of the environment and on humanitarian issues such as treatment of refugees then they play a positive role IMO. The trouble is that this good is mixed up with the bad and the ugly. eg. coal is bad, nuclear is bad, we can replace all energy needs with renewables by 2030. Where does the wishful thinking end and the lying or head in the sand denial begin?

As someone who is concerned but not alarmed about environmental issues then I think the policies of the Breakthrough Institute are worth a close look, in the right ballpark without necessarily agreeing with all of it. It’s the sort of approach that would put green thinking back on track to where it should be (not on the front page).

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Brian S. October 30, 2012 at 11:14 am

@Bill Kerr: The problem with your approach to “Greens” is that it is based on an amalgam: the picking out of a poor policy here, an overly moralistic approach there. some silly hyperbole somewhere else. And out of that you build your own “Green” sterotype. It resembles the Fox news school of political debate. To take your points:
1. “we need to live more fugally – a moral imperative”. Well, in situations of uncertainty “moral” (i.e. universal) principles may well be the best (if not the only) way to navigate. There are certainly some Greens who choose to adopt a frugal personal lifestyle -that’s their right and unless you think that 21st century consumerist capitalism has brought us to the apex of civilisation, the more “demonstration projects” in human living the better. How else can we discover possible ways forward? And this dovetails with a long current of Marxist criticism of “waste” inmodern capitalist society dating back to the Frankfurt school and Baran and Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital.
2. “we can do it with the technology we currently have”. Not sure what this means. If it is meant to suggest that Greens as a whole are against technological development, its nonsense. Many Green policies have been directed precisely at “technology forcing” by factoring envionmental costs into the economic decision making process. What Greens oppose are technologies that are developed and implemented without due (often without any) consideration of their environmental impacts.
3.”create unfounded fear”. Occasionally, but not in my experience a widespread Green trait, and certainly not confined to Green politicians. Certainly more than balanced by those on the other side who “create unfounded complacency”.

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Bill Kerr October 31, 2012 at 7:10 am

Brian,
When I talk about the “Greens” I mean Green Parties. I distinguish b/w Greens with a capital G and greens with a small g. Just about everyone is a small g green, we are amazed at the natural beauty of the world – sunsets, pristine beaches, trees, the wonders of evolution in species etc. I did ask you to have a look at the Breakthrough Institute in an apparently futile effort to persuade you that my position differs quite a lot from Fox news. I get the impression that you couldn’t be bothered reading past the first paragraph of my comment. Puzzling because at other times you have taken the trouble to read links that I have posted.

Anyway, in thinking about the possibility that I might have stereotyped Green Parties I looked again at the policies of the Australian Green Party. They have a section on climate change and energy and another on nuclear energy

IMO their policies are:
– incredibly alarmist

1 climate change poses the greatest threat to our world in human history and requires urgent local, national and global action.
2 we have only 10-15 years to use our collective human intelligence to address the crisis of climate change and to prevent catastrophe.
8 climate change will result in the displacement of people, creating environmental refugees and intensifying the threat of regional and global conflict.

– present climate science in a language of certainty which is totally unjustified, ie. unscientific. In that respect they are an extreme form of that pretend scientific body, the now discredited IPCC

13 a safe climate will require a return to an atmospheric concentration of 350ppm or lower of greenhouse gases (CO2 equivalents)

– incoherent wrt energy futures in the light of points made in this thread about the importance of economics in the choices made by developing countries. ie. they are against coal, against nuclear and see no need for massive R&D to find economic alternatives

I hope this time you can see the difference b/w me and Fox news.

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David Walters October 29, 2012 at 5:37 pm

We’ll we certainly drifted away from the main point of this entry. But on China, something I know something about, I think you (Andrew and Brian) are arguing at cross purposes.

Brian is, *factually*, a lot closer to the truth. China has laid out quite elaborate plans for nuclear and renewables. From the manufacturing side, of course, the PRC is leading the world in solar cell and wind turbine production. It does’ this driven by Imperialist world economic concerns, to smash the manufacturing in the Imperialist countries by capturing the highly subsidized market for both.

But this doesn’t explain what they are doing domestically. They do have plans, including the same amount of name plate capacity in renewables (excluding hydro which is much larger) as nuclear by 2020. There is real money going onto this. This is not fake, it’s quite real. But the devil is in the details. While 80 GWs of new nuclear will likely be online over the next 10 years, this represents a far more serious amount of power than the same amount of renewables, for the fame capacity *factor* reasons we all should know by now. 80GW of energy doesn’t equal 80GWs of power (unless it’s nuclear or hydro or coal).

China has proved it can build nuclear. If you look at this list here, it gives a year-by-year list of all the reactors the world is building. The Chinese dominate the list. The dates are firm. Every single one of these plants represents a coal plant not built. that’s real. But is it enough? Yes, the Chinese are still building coal. But their plans, as they plan out the next 80 years (advantages of a bonapartist economic system) show they aim are replacing their coal by the end of the century based of FB and IFR reactors (and real money being spent on LFTR at that).

Why, Andrew, you think this is a ‘myth’ is give a lie by the link I provided and numerous plans they have made public and, if you dig, you can find even more to prove.

Like the S. Korean claim to go to 59% nuclear, there is no reason to think the PRC won’t go to 75% nuclear by 2080.

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David Walters October 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm
Arthur October 31, 2012 at 8:41 am

” If you look at this list here, it gives a year-by-year list of all the reactors the world is building. The Chinese dominate the list.”

SO WHAT!!!???!!!

Surely you cannot be unaware that there has been a worldwide hiatus in nuclear construction and the recent very small signs of a revival have been largely killed off since Fukushima?

Half of negligible is negligible!

Incidentally there are a lot of illusions that the strength of anti-nuclear opposition was the cause of the hiatus. Actually it was the simple fact that coal remained cheaper. In that situation there has been no point bothering to counter anti-nuclear propaganda with an industry campaign.

“They do have plans, including the same amount of name plate capacity in renewables (excluding hydro which is much larger) as nuclear by 2020. ”

Again, the same amount as negligible is negligible.

I have already responded to the rest elsewhere, highlighting from your own source that:

1. “OVER THE PAST DECADE, CHINA’S DOMESTIC COAL OUTPUT HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED WHILE ITS COAL IMPORTS HAVE INCREASED BY A FACTOR OF 60”.

2. “FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE” China’s coal emissions WILL continue to grow rapidly.

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=2890#comment-15206

PS Admin, this thread has become unmanageably long and convoluted (due to significant interest in multiple distinct but related topics).

Suggest breaking it up into several new threads that should start with somebody summarizing and responding to an aspect of the discussion so far eg Dave specifcally on nuclear and Bill specifically on climate science.

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Manuel Barrera October 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm

David: “You are unscientific because you provide no evidence that nuclear is ‘dangerous’ as coal, or fossil fuel. We’ve reexamined it and taken as a whole, we will stand by what we know to be true: nuclear represents the safest and largest form of non-carbon on-demand power around, bar none.”

You do have a flair for Olympian leaps in logic, David. Amazing that you would state the nonsense that nuclear fission power is safer because “only” a few major disasters (Bill K., I agree that the accident at Fukushima was indeed an argument against capitalism as, for example a mining accident in Chile) have not resulted in the misery and death from protracted unsafe use of coal. With that logic it is not too distant to leap to the idea that it might be best to keep nuclear arsenals given that protracted ground wars would be worse–you know, like the rationale that was given for earlier uses of nuclear weapons.

Disentangling the rather opaque logic of this argument is, as is usual with myopic conservative views of any sort, difficult because of the patent obtuseness it conveys about the speaker and the doubt that tends to creep in that any truly rational debate would be possible when speaking to what amounts to a brick wall (yes, your position is more akin to the nuclear industry’s in particular and energy industry capitalists in general much more so than a proletarian revolutionary one). But, since I am here, I will risk the slippery slope where this discussion may take me.

First (sort of feel a little stupid even having to say it, but . . .), nuclear fission power has already proven both its utter danger (you know, primarily based on the making of nuclear bombs) and its wholly unsustainable nature–once unleashed, it doesn’t go away, its rather mundane purpose, to boil water, so fraught with “danger” that it takes multiple redundant systems even for it to be implemented never mind its waste management; that no one wants “in their back yard”. Your argument that there “no evidence” of nuclear fission’s harm is a bit like the cancer patient who tells the doctor that he feels fine even as his unsuspecting body is about to disintegrate before his eyes. Because “not many” nuclear accidents have not resulted in the kind of long term polluting effects of carbon-based coal extraction is not evidence that it is better, it just means that there is a major hidden cost that the capitalist class, especially the nuclear industry, leverages the capitalist government to help it obscure, to the tune of $billions in subsidies and underwriting (that, of course, do not reveal themselves until something like a Fukushima, Chernobyl, or 3-Mile Island point up). Radiation lasts a long time and gives the gift of death for what amounts “all time” for humanity. Again feeling a little silly having to say, but your argument amounts to the notion that because one hasn’t been to the moon, you cannot “know for sure” that there is no air; Or, more to the point, because capitalists and their mouthpieces in government leverage $billions to “protect” the population from the truth of nuclear power’s dangers, in your mind seems to mean that its not dangerous and that absent such “evidence” there is none. . .wow

Having said all that, your actual first leap of illogic was to attribute my opposition to nuclear power as being as “dangerous as coal”. Perhaps you made that leap when I said that nuclear fission power was as equally devastating to the planet as fracking. I can see how that perspective might confuse you given your already apparently confused idea about the relative safety of nuclear fission compared to the use of coal. However, my argument on nuclear fission power and fracking (I think I’ve made the distinction clear enough now, so, from now on I will just refer to nuclear fission as “nuclear power”) being equally devastating to the planet is not an argument that “coal” is worse than nuclear power, but that the practice of fracking–destroying the substrate of a geographic region with horrendously toxic chemicals to extract fossil fuels–has tremendous potential for rendering whole regions unusable and toxic very much like a nuclear accident might do if a nuclear power plant were to blow up and spew radiation. Indeed, because fracking is an open process using chemicals and disturbing the water table, its effects are more public than a nuclear accident. But both would make land and environment unusable for generations. Because you cannot “see” those comparable effects does not mean they do not exist.

Finally, Bill Kerr made the point that nuclear accidents such as Fukushima were “not an argument against nuclear” but an “argument against capitalism”. I see that point as a bit tautological, but its truth only points up the fundamental problem with the propensity of the capitalist system to devastate the environment in the interests of profit. At the very best, we cannot be in favor of nuclear fission power given that we live under capitalism and capitalism will make its dangers more devastating and reduce our ability even to give humanity the chance to overcome capitalism and build socialism. I do not take an abstract position against nuclear power “for all time”, not because I believe it might be “better under socialism” but because we do not live under socialism and frankly, we do not know what would be the best socialist policy with regard to energy. We do know that under this horrible system, fighting for energy that does the least harm–in the short and long term–requires us to oppose capitalism’s short-sighted solutions and its policies that render our tasks for ending it even more difficult through the burden of an increasingly devastated planet.

I do agree that a socialist perspective on the environment, climate change, and energy begins with finding ways for working people to insert democracy in the workplace, especially in the energy and environmental industries.

Workers control over industry is an essential task toward arriving at a useful policy on all these issues. Doing so requires both a framework to organize workers’ struggles and to gain support for environmental justice and human safety throughout society. We need a comprehensive approach that opposes the devastating effects that are portended by nuclear fission power, supports a cleaner system of extracting available fossil fuels (coal is abundant, but profit cannot be the primary motive for taking it out of the ground), and the promotion of all manner of environmental cohabitation within the planet; from protecting rainforests and farmlands, to cleaner and more available water for everyone. We cannot hope to build such a movement if we adopt in any way, the designs of the capitalist system for sustaining profit through unsustainable uses of energy.

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David Walters October 25, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Manuel, slippery slope, indeed.

The need for energy to power civilization generally, and to lift developing countries out of the morass Imperialism has left them in is going to require massive amounts of generation. The idea that conservation and efficiency combined with renewables will do this is a remarkable statement from those in the anti-nuke community. No you don’t state this. But your POV in not critically analyzing what the overwhelming majority of the Green movement (in the general sense) shows that you’re analysis will things exactly as they are: more coal and gas, more fossil generally. I know, I believe, you don’t want this, but it’s where your fear of nuclear energy leads you too (and has left Denmark, Germany and Japan).

To begin…it was sloppy of me to restate your counterpoising of nuclear and gas fracking. Apologies. I just thought it was a strange comparison. Fracking gas isn’t in enough quantities now to supply what is need but a low double digit amount of that energy usage. Gas still comes from conventional wells, not fracking, in it’s majority. I oppose fracking (though for me I still have to read up on it’s larger effects than anecdotal evidence that does exist.). But I oppose gas in general. I’m not for shutting it all down, nor am I for shutting all coal down now though it’s the deadliest energy killer in the world today. But we do need to develop a working class program to do just that, because of it’s clear damage to our species and it’s long term damage to the planet. Gas and coal have to go. It is unlcear to me if you agree with this.

When you write the following: “being equally devastating to the planet is not an argument that “coal” is worse than nuclear power, but that the practice of fracking–destroying the substrate of a geographic region with horrendously toxic chemicals to extract fossil fuels–has tremendous potential for rendering whole regions unusable and toxic very much like a nuclear accident might do if a nuclear power plant were to blow up and spew radiation.” It shows that you are buying into the sort of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) spread by liars like Caldicott and Gundersen.

I oppose fracking but it’s not going to ‘whole regions toxic’. They’ve been fracking since the second Truman administration. It’s grown in the last few years hundreds of times but it’s left no regions uninhabitable. Ground water can be ruined forever, but making it like the region around Chernobyl is polemical excess. Let’s go on what we know and not what is speculative.

I don’t think fracking is ‘equally devasting’ as nuclear (and I’ll call it just that for commercial nuclear energy). I won’t falsely conflate the massive amounts of carbon free energy that has never hurt anyone in the US (by all means, how many nuclear accidents have killed…”potentially”…exactly how many in the US?) from nuclear to fracking since the issue of fracking is the real and present pollution this causes right now both in terms of the ground water and in terms of escaping methane that is 30 times worse that CO2 as a GHG.

My point, capitalist or not, publicly owned or privately owned utilities, the record for nuclear in even capitalist countries is better than that of any fossil fuel in terms illness and death. i would challenge you to find me anything that is all the opposite of this statement. You are taken in Manual, but the outrageous statements of anti-nukes on every aspect of nuclear energy.

The facts are that nuclear is safer than any form of energy out there including and inclusive of Chernobyl (a one off reactor accident unique to that kind of reactor). This is why previously anti-nuke writers have begun to gravitate toward a pro-nuclear position.

The reason I’m for opposing campaigns against nuclear energy is because right now, *given the real risks* along with climate change we should not oppose nuclear energy, “under capitalism” or any other mode of production at this point. It has *reactionary* implications. It would increase, not lower, carbon out put. See Japan which now has greatly increased it’s GHG emissions and, not incidentally, begun to sink it’s economy because they now have to massively import fossil fuel to make up for the close nuclear plants. How is this ‘progressive’ in the slightest?

I don’t believe, after 20 years in the energy system, that anything other than nuclear, along with a mix of other non-carbon forms of generation, can reach anything approximating either the kind of system you want to see in your last paragraph or the democracy we need to implement it without massive amounts of on demand power.

The developing world is, under Imperialism, under the boot of imperialism, trying to do just that. They are doing it by mining more coal and gas, burning down the ‘renewable’ forests to make charcoal. Unless we can offer cleaner forms of energy while they try to get their 1.6 billion citizens without electricity to have electricity, then we are very much doomed at many, many levels. We need to develop a program that includes nuclear energy *because its safe and abundant* that includes opposing de-development schemes, supporting their drive to raise their standard of living, and defends these countries sovereignty from Imperialism.

Our truck with the Greens and small ‘g’ greens is they can’t offer the world anything but wind turbines and expensive solar cells that deliver minor amounts of energy but don’t develop real infrastructure. They need their own revolutions to turn this around. Of course we oppose capitalism’s “short sighted solutions” but that doesn’t mean we oppose all development. We demand the takeover of profit driven enterprises so we can offer *more* not *less* to humanity.

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Arthur October 27, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Winning an argument with completely illogical greenies who simultaneously maintain we face imminent disaster from emissions and that nuclear power is worse than fossil fuels is just a distraction from thinking through the issues.

There is no way to get through to Manuel. Its a religion.

But it doesn’t matter much since their religion is NOT the reason that fossil are fuels are still dominating over nuclear. The reason is that nuclear is more expensive. That won’t change and its important. But you aren’t thinking about that, perhaps because you are distracted by the ease with which you can refute Manuel.

Think about the implications of the fact that nuclear power WILL NOT replace fossil fuels in developing countries because it costs more. Don’t just ignore it the way greenies ignore inconvenient facts, Respond to it.

My response is that there has to be a decades long massive R&D program. What’s yours?

“Changing the energy mix” won’t cut it.

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Bill Kerr October 25, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Manuel Barrera:

I do not take an abstract position against nuclear power “for all time”, not because I believe it might be “better under socialism” but because we do not live under socialism and frankly, we do not know what would be the best socialist policy with regard to energy. We do know that under this horrible system, fighting for energy that does the least harm–in the short and long term–requires us to oppose capitalism’s short-sighted solutions and its policies that render our tasks for ending it even more difficult through the burden of an increasingly devastated planet.

The first sentence tells me you are not a fundamentalist about the “evils” of nuclear. The second sentence, “fighting for energy that does the least harm” tells me that we have a different view of how capitalism actually operates.

One aspect of capitalism is that it harms the environment in its relentless search for profits. Another aspect is that it adapts to the environmental movement and also cleans up the mess as it goes along. That is a dynamic and I’m puzzled by those who stress the negative aspect to extremes. My world view is different from yours but I believe it fits reality better than your apparently imminent catastrophe viewpoint.

[Aside: For me the selective quotations from Marx and Engels, in the original document, leave much to be desired when it comes to understanding the real knowledge developed by them. It’s analogous to a liturgical discourse. Thank god Marx and Engels said those things because that means we can think Green and still be marxists. It’s got nothing to do with why some people believe in a soon to happen environmental catastrophe. IMO Marx and Engels are very good on how capitalism functions in a fundamental sense and made important contributions on how to apply philosophical thinking etc. but to pretend they are consistent with Green catastophe beliefs is just ridiculous.]

IMO people will reject capitalism when they see that it can longer maintain it’s historical role of developing productive forces and increasing standard of living. Along the way capitalism has adapted and shown flexibility on many issues – women have the vote, child labour and long working hours have been reduced in developed countries (but not everywhere of course), many damaged environments have been cleaned up, green politics is a respected component of the day to day workings of capitalism, gay rights etc.

As I understand it the internal dynamics of the nuclear industry will make it progressively safer over time. eg. fast breeder reactors use their waste as fuel and so the long term storage of nuclear wastes is virtually eliminated. Also, if you are going to make nuclear weapons then these reactors are unsuitable. I can elaborate on these points if you want to discuss them. Hence, we can view nuclear as just another technology developed under capitalism with the good and bad that goes along with its origins.

IMO the green wisdom that capitalism is on an irreversible path to wrecking the planet ought to be at least debated and not just assumed. Lomborg for example initiated some robust discussion in that direction some time ago. I disagree with the approach that anyone who challenges Green wisdom is automatically regarded as a dupe of capitalism.

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Arthur October 26, 2012 at 6:38 am

“… if you are going to make nuclear weapons then these [fast breeder] reactors are unsuitable….”

Its a side issue but this is wrong. Breeders produce plutonium and require reprocessing facilities that can make it easier to develop weapons grade reprocessing. They inherently involve greater proliferation and security issues than ordinary reactors. Consequently special designs are being developed to mitigate these risks, claims of success about which may be the source of confusion.

(Needless to say I agree with your general perspective).

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Bill Kerr October 26, 2012 at 7:50 am

arthur,

My source for that claim was The Integral Fast Reactor by Steve Kirsch:

The IFR recycling process cannot separate out pure Plutonium so it does not create an easier path for a terrorist to make a bomb. It creates a path where it is almost impossible to make a bomb. If we choose not to promote this technology, the world will standardize on a much more dangerous recycling process where is it is much easier to make a bomb. By switching to fast reactors, we eliminate the need for enrichment which is the big proliferation risk today

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Arthur October 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

You said “fast breeder reactors”. Look them up. (PS from the source you linked “Integrated Fast Reactors” are a propoposal for getting around the problem as I suggested. The link does not suggest they actually exist).

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David Walters October 26, 2012 at 12:39 pm

With Bill Kerr on both his entries above I personally agree a lot. For more on the IFR go to bravenewclimate.com They simply have tons of stuff on this.

There are no IFRs in production right now. The difference between the IFR and the FR (Fast Reactor) of which several have been built, on is still operating and about half a dozen under construction is that there is an onsite reprocessing facility. Essentially you load it once and it can keep on running. A standard light water reactor using only about 3% of the energy contained in the fuel. The IFR coverts all it’s U235 (the fissionable stuff) and the U238 (the rest of the fuel) into a usable form of non-weapons grade plutonium that is perfect for fueling. The Chinese, Russians and Indian all have active programs to build these IFRs in addition to FRs. They can also be built to eat the waste of the current fleet of LWRs that everyone is so worried about (but shouldn’t be…another discussion).

The issue of proliferation always seems to be aimed by Imperialist countries at the neo-colonial world but no one ever talks about Russian, Chinese, American, UK and French nukes. Why is that? It’s all about India and Iran, or so it seems. IFRs cannot be used to make a nuclear weapons. If it they build something else to do this, it’s not an IFR. All nuclear weapons are built using enriched uranium from R&D reactors, essentially primitive “piles”. This is where the US gets it WMD plutonium as do the Indian and Russians and everyone else. Repeat: no civilian commercial grid connected reactor has ever been use to produce WMD. It is not like an aircraft plant that can build passenger liners on one line and B-2 Bombers on another using the exact same workers and engineers.

The reason for this is the expense. It is far cheaper, quicker and easier to accumulate Pu239 for an H-Bomb from these purpose built military reactors than is reprocessing the same isotope from Spent Nuclear Fuel. Which is why it’s done this way.

IFRs produce large amounts of Pu238 (the ‘good stuff’) and smaller, very small amounts of Pu239, the ‘bad stuff’). All of it is processed and gets burned up in the reactor as soon as it’s created.

Proliferation is 100% a political, not technical issue. Nuclear bombs don’t grow out of commercial nuclear reactors like mushrooms in the woods after a good rain. It’s a *decision* based on *polilcy*. I’m sure everyone on this list is for 100% global nuclear disarmament.

I might add the ONLY way to get rid of weapons grade plutonium and uranium is to use it all as fuel in…nuclear reactors, either LWRs of FR/IFRs or, LFTR (thorium run reactors).

David

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Bill Kerr October 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm

ok, arthur, my mistake, I meant integral fast reactors (haven’t looked at this material for a while).

A successful experimental integral fast reactor program (Argonne 1984-94) was shut down by the Clinton government. The nuclear engineers were sworn to secrecy and so the information has been slow getting out. Those engineers / experts are now old / dying and so the continuity of their expertise has become a problem. This illustrates some of the political obstacles to safer nuclear.

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Arthur October 26, 2012 at 10:27 pm

I only glanced at the link but this sort of anecdotal evidence sounds like wishful thinking mixed with conspiracy theory. Its utterly clear that coal is more environmentally harmful than nuclear. But its equally clear that nuclear is and will remain significantly more expensive than coal because of the huge costs of designing and insuring against far more catastrophic risks.

The Brave new climate web site accurately debunks greenie myths about renewables but promotes its own greenie myths about feasability and safety of “anecdotally available” future nuclear technologies. Their complete inability to be objective was adequately demonstrated when they issued continual pronouncements that there was no big problem during the Fukushima incident – oblivious to official announcents that there was a serious enough problem to evacuate tens of thousands of people.

Their case for nuclear potentially replacing coal even in poor countries rests on myths about cheaper and safer technologies which would be widely deployed if they actually existed and simple denial that the very high regulatory costs for maintaining nuclear safety are necessary (now blown apart by the demonstration from Fukushima that in fact tighter and more expensive regulation is necessary).

There is no easy solution. Hence the need for massive R&D. Any distraction from that by claims that some solution is already at hand is also a distraction from highlighting the fact that capitalism has become a fetter on the development of the productive forces and its elimination is essential for unleashing them through massive R&D.

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Bill Kerr October 27, 2012 at 12:31 am

Arthur,
You are confusing your correct critique of BNC with my correct critique of the Clinton government for undermining some excellent nuclear R&D done some years ago.

The source is Tom Blees book: Prescription for the Planet. He interviewed the Argonne scientists.

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Arthur October 27, 2012 at 3:58 am

Ok, I haven’t read the book and am only expressing my generic suspicion of “claims like that” rather any substantive analysis to refute this particular claim.

My general suspicion arises from:

1. The vast amounts of capital that would be pouring in if anybody who did analyse them carefully took them seriously.

2. The notoriety of tendencies towards outlandish claims about such matters.

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Bill Kerr October 27, 2012 at 4:13 am

Arthur,
I said that Argonne was experimental, ie. R&D, not commercial strength on a cost effectiveness basis. When I said it was successful I was thinking of things like (a) ability to recycle nuclear wastes (b) safety features such as automatic shutdown when unattended. Sorry if some of my expression and attention to detail is not as clear as it could be.

Excellent R&D of the type you are advocating and shut down by those damn Democrats Bill Clinton and John Kerry (main speaker against) due to the influence of the Green lobby. What a waste.

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Arthur October 27, 2012 at 6:59 am

Just to clarify, I do think the R&D campaign should be massive enough to include pretty well anything plausible.

But issues like recycling wastes and automatic shutdown strike me as well down the list of priorities since there is no plausible path by which they could lead to something that would enable developing countries to switch from coal.

R&D of the type I am advocating would be looking for major cost reductions to below cost of coal – eg from fundamental research that enables some currently unknown way to store electricity so that renewables could be used, fusion etc (also geoengineering in view of the likely lead time for delivery).

jim sharp October 28, 2012 at 1:40 am

shit! this is soooo bizarre coz for once i agree with arfur lad
“Their complete inability to be objective was adequately demonstrated when they issued continual pronouncements that there was no big problem during the Fukushima incident – oblivious to official announcents that there was a serious enough problem to evacuate tens of thousands of people.”

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Aaron Aarons October 26, 2012 at 7:00 am

It seems to me that, at least in the short term, the main way to fight against environmental devastation while improving the lives of the poorest half or so of the global population is to work to (1) reduce, and in the extreme cases, enormously reduce, the consumption of resources by the highest-consuming part of the global population, (2) prevent the use of resources by all militaries except those that exist for defense against imperialism, (3) help the middle and lower strata (in terms of resource consumption) of the global population to make more efficient use of the resources they do consume, recognizing that the people on the bottom, consumption-wise, will nevertheless have to increase such consumption. The last of the three can and should be a non-violent activity. The first two, probably not.

Also, we should always be for the qualitative development of the forces of production, but not, in many cases, for their quantitative expansion.

And an observation regarding ‘jobs’: An activity that is harmful doesn’t become any less harmful because one person pays another person to do it.

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David Berger October 26, 2012 at 1:42 pm

This is a social democratic program. Is that what you favor?

David Berger

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Aaron Aarons October 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm

I think it’s been about 100 years, or at least 98, since any major party that called itself ‘social-democratic’ has been in favor of liquidating the imperialist militaries, which is what my point (2) obviously does. My point (1), taken together with the last part of my point (3), implies a radical redistribution of wealth that goes beyond anything that such parties have fought for, and have not even claimed to favor for decades. And my clear implication that these redistributive actions can not be accomplished non-violently also separates e from social democracy as we know it, a ‘social democracy’ more likely to use violence to prevent such redistribution than to achieve it.

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Manuel Barrera, PhD October 27, 2012 at 11:14 pm

You really do like hearing yourself talk, don’t you, David? Not much point in going further with this.

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David Walters October 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Manuel, you have a real way of avoiding a discussion on politics and technology. The world is facing a true crisis around climate change. Only a few technologies, deployed *because we demand they do so* and, eliminatng the system that creates this crisis, Imperialism, is going to effect change. We have to do this in a way that saves jobs, in fact expands jobs, allows for development of the underdeveloped world and at the same time assures a smooth transition to a non-carbon economy. That is why this documents was written. personally I’ve quite GLAD it stepped on some oh-so-PC toes around energy, to wit: we need a LOT more of it in order to get rid of fossil fuels, we need to expand, not curtail development, and we need socialism to accomplish it.

As a starting point, a transitional demand would be nationalization of the energy industry. Anything else is just chatter.

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Bill Kerr October 29, 2012 at 6:55 pm

David Walters:

… you have a real way of avoiding a discussion on politics and technology. The world is facing a true crisis around climate change

Sadly, you are doing some avoiding too, David. I raised some points at the beginning of this thread and only Brian S has responded to them.

A couple of days ago Judith Curry published another devastating critique of the IPCC: http://judithcurry.com/2012/10/28/climate-change-no-consensus-on-consensus/

For an expert opinion on the current state of the climate I would recommend http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/pielke-sr-summary-of-several-climate-science-issues-october-2012/

It’s good that you step on PC energy toes but you also need to look at your own PC climate opinions.

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David Walters October 30, 2012 at 10:58 am

One paper isn’t going to break the scientific consensus. I’ll read this but I will also read the challenges to it. I noted earlier, and in fact in my report to S.O. I noted i wasn’t going to debate the outlier papers on the issue of climate change, we proceed from the POV of addressing it’s potential to do disaster. But i will read the two papers.

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Bill Kerr October 31, 2012 at 7:23 am

David Walters:

outlier papers … i will read the two papers

Thank you.

I don’t regard Curry or Pielke or Richard Tol as outliers, actually they are insiders who have become critical of the IPCC and now voice that publicly. Not that there is anything wrong with being an outlier. In an earlier phase of the dialog it would be fair to say that Lindzen was an outlier. He is very interesting too but I have relied on the above three precisely because they are not outliers and I thought that would reduce irrelevant sniping.

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Bill Kerr November 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Posting here because the other thread (discussion with arthur) reached its limit

Daniel Sarewitz is an author who adds a very interesting twist to the science is more or less a distraction argument advance by arthur:
How science makes environmental controversies worse
For a shorter version see his more recent Slate article:
The Trouble With Climate Science: More research makes the controversy worse
summary:

1) Nature is so rich and diverse that a variety of positions on complex issues (AGW, genetic engineering, nuclear waste disposal) can be assembled and legitimate evidence found for those positions. These different positions originate more from the values of the scientists than anything else

2) The particular filters of different scientists depends on their subject disciplines, eg. ecologists and molecular geneticists view the world differently

3) More science and research leads to more uncertainty, not less: unknown unknowns become known unknowns

So it really boils down to the values one brings to the discussion. Development is good or development under capitalism is dangerous. Quite well illustrated throughout this whole discussion.

I’d still be inclined to argue about the state of the science though, I guess that’s just my values.

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David Walters October 30, 2012 at 11:17 am

The big motivation for cutting back on coal has nothing to do with climate change, it has to do with transportation and health care (which costs, even in China, hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, illness, etc).

The majority of coal use is in china’s south. The production is in the north (northeast of Beijing, and Manchuria). Over 50% of the China’s rail transport is tied up with moving this rock from north to south. One snow storm, such as the one a few years ago, caused massive blackouts through out the south. The massive movement of coal is also destroying their rail lines as they can’t repair them fast enough to get the coal through. They are very vulnerable to any disruption of coal. Thus they sincerely want to slow down it’s growth, stabilize it’s use, and begin to roll it back. Thus the increase in hydro and nuclear.

You can look, “for evidence”, at every one of their plans including their 5 Year energy plans which historically they have tried to meet. Why this is not evidence is beyond me as they in fact build to their plans or attempt to. The only thing that slowed down their nuclear program was a reassessment after Fukuishima on their sea side plants. They’ve not decided to continue the approval process (and likely now to only approve sea side plants for the immediate period a head).

Secondly, because of their insurmountable rail problems, they have done this by addressing it in two ways. One, they are shifting coal transport to sea barge to load coal in the north and ship it by barge to the south. This costs a lot of money due to port infrastructure development. Additionally, as noted by one of you, they are importing more and more coal, from Australia and S. Africa and Russia. This runs totally counter to what their immediate to long term plans are which is 100% energy ‘security’ that is, independence as they understand it.

So they are rapidly developing a nuclear and hydro infrastructure the likes of which have never been attempted in the world. Will they succeed? I don’t know. Won’t speculate.

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Arthur October 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Dave, I made the same point about China transport problems earlier in this thread:

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=2890#comment-12285

Not sure whether you missed it or are responding to it.

But the implication you draw is that they are shifting from coal to nuclear because coal has inherent transport problems.

In fact as I mentioned there’s no inherent problem – transport is generally the main cost of coal. Nothing unusual about that in China. Its a planning problem and therefore temporary. They failed to expand the transport infrastructure fast enough to ship the coal and as a result are having to build more nuclear than they would otherwise need. But its still cheaper to build the extra railway lines for coal than it is to build nuclear power stations instead of coal. So its a temporary situation.

BTW 50% of rail tonnage coal isn’t particularly dramatic (cf 43% in USA). What’s dramatic is that coal trucks are clogging up the highways instead of going by rail. They can put a positive spin on the resort to more expensve nuclear made necessary by this, but its unambiguously a planning stuff up. (One of many – whole cities are sitting unoccupied due to lack of coordination between construction and sales)

I also mentioned in same comment that they are indeed replacing more polluting coal plants with more modern ones, which is a sign that they are much more developed than India which still can’t afford even minimal pollution controls. That doesn’t change CO2 emissions.

Certainly they are concerned about energy independence. Measures include foreign investments (eg buying Australian mines) and an expanded navy. I haven’t checked but as far as I know they are worse off for uranium independence. Presumably they willl also cut back on imports and step up the local production when transport has caught up.

Hydro plays a special role due to high maneuverability (when a large transmission line or power station goes down suddenly you can ramp up hdro output instantly) and likewise its useful for peaks. Proportionate expansion of hydro is desirable in any grid. But its generally more expensive than coal and so not generally not used for base load.

I agree that the Fukushima pause was just a necessary and appropriate pause to study issues. But its absurd to describe railway chaos as “insurmountable”. You surmout it by building track – which takes longer when you are so congested that its difficult to briefly shut existing track (and roads) while duplicating or enhancing it.

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David Walters October 30, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Arthur, I did miss it. The thread(s) have no drifted quite far from the original intent…to wit…

A few rejoinders. I overstated that they don’t care about GHG. In fact there concerns by the PRC toward carbon mitigation and they are active in R&D, including, interestingly, carbon capture, something I think is a complete waste of time but there you are: they are investing heavily in it. So it’s wrong for either of us to say they don’t make this a consideration.

I’m not sure the connection to any of this with ‘whole cities sitting empty’. Mostly this has to do with the fact that there are few jobs there waiting, most are quite remote to existing social structure in China and they are…damn ugly most of them. The ‘new cities’ project was more the result of the gov’t subsidies using a kind of Kenysianism-grafted-onto-real-estate-speculation than serious planning. it has little do with coal or load.

The truck problem can’t go away as there is no other way to load and offload inter-model coal stations. That’s the way it is and they are not building more coal station, only streamlining existing investments. It is, at any rate, only going to get worse.

Understand China has actually *no* dedicated north-south train lines that could more easily move coal. The % of coal moved by train is actually down to around 55% from a high of 80% with barges and imports making up the large minority soon-to-be majority.

A lot more on this is available in this short but informative paper:
http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/china_coal.pdf

But what is not stated is that the tie up of rail for coal has a huge detrimental effect on the economy as right-of-way is given over to coal in front of non-coal freight. Understand, unlike the U.S., 90% of Chinese *oil* is delivered by rail. Most of it’s steel used domestically to port for export is moved by rail. Rail plays a far more significant role in the PRC than it does in the USA. Thus another major motivation to *slow* down the rate of consumption.

China can completely supply all it’s energy needs (non-transportation) with coal if it wanted to. It supplies over 80% now and this number is expected to fall. And this is what we are arguing about. China cannot, despite what you say, continue with this rate of increase. Every conference on Chinese energy I’ve attended all point to a more diversified energy portfolio (with wind and solar only making cameo, but not significant, appearances. The Chinese do know what works and won’t, it seems).

So what you say about the use of nuclear substituting for coal is largely accurate. Other than gas (which would have to be imported) only nuclear can substitute on a MW-per-MW basis on name plate capacity alone (and little more since nuclear runs at 90% capacity *factor* and Chinese coal at 65% to 80%).

But they know that they will start dipping the curve of sustaining coal use for another 50 years as coal is getting ever more, slightly, every year, more expensive to mine. There are no plans for an “85%” generation wedge out more than a few decades. I would challenge you to show if this is in fact the case, either trending or, by way of energy 5 year plans.

In fact they are planning to go to 75% nuclear. Is that firm? I doubt it. We won’t be around to see it. I do know that they have proposals to go to 153GWs started by 2020…that’s 7 years. Will they all get approval. No. But you can see the trend. 150 GW in 7 year “proposed” even if cut down by half is truly massive. What will it be like for 2030…17 years away?….

Uranium: they have some uranium supplies. No doubt they are prospecting but it’s cheaper, way cheaper, to simply buy the uranium from Australia and S. Africa. But again, the PRC thinks ahead. They are engaged in building FB and IFR reactors and putting a lot of money toward them. They are planning on having 200GWs of fast breeders by 2030. Construction will start on two 800MW reactors next year in Sanming. They have embarked on building 1000MW and 1.2 GW fast reactors of the IFR type as well. With any of these their uranium problems are over as they can use the spent nuclear fuel from their small and growing LWR fleet to feed them along with all the depleted uranium lying around from enrichment.

More on this here:
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf63b_china_nuclearfuelcycle.html#FNR

The reason they are doing this Arthur is because they are ‘best tech’ oriented…going for the cheapest and most abundant means of production and *most advanced* tech available. The conflict between this view and the older near-feudal ways of production in other areas is probably the subject for many doctoral theses down the road. Yes, they will “always” use coal, but they appear by dint of the approved and proposed nuclear plans, slowly, way too slowly phasing it out. Nuclear will cut into this as it’s the smart way to go for them.

You (or someone) noted human resources issues. Agreed. It’s their biggest single bottleneck. Not components, not transmission, people, the most important of all productive forces there are. All I can say is if they don’t go for complete nuclearization, they’ll never phase out coal. Or, they can have a huge socially dislocating financial collapse which will amount to the same thing once all the cities have burned down and the nation breaks apart. Not a good scenario.

David

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Arthur October 31, 2012 at 8:09 am

David, thanks for the link to coal report. Although it does not mention nuclear at all, it completely confirms my point that China WILL continue to expand coal production rapidly. Here’s the opening sentences of the summary at the start:

“China is home to the world’s second largest proven coal reserves after the United States. In addition, prior
to 2009, China was a net coal exporter. Coal is a cornerstone of the Chinese economy, representing 77
percent of China’s primary energy production and fueling almost 80 percent of its electricity. Moreover,
China is the world’s top coal consumer, accounting for nearly half of global consumption in 2010.1
Over the past decade, China’s domestic coal output has more than doubled while its coal imports have
increased by a factor of 60—the country’s dependence on other nations’ coal exports is growing.”

I don’t see how you could miss this or fail to understand the implications. Nevertheless I will highlight the key point:

OVER THE PAST DECADE, CHINA’S DOMESTIC COAL OUTPUT HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED WHILE ITS COAL IMPORTS HAVE INCREASED BY A FACTOR OF 60.

The whole premise of the report is that “Coal is expected to be China’s most dominant energy source in the foreseeable future.” and this has major implications for the world coal market.

Instead of absorbing this simple and very well known fact you are distracting yourself with your own interest in nuclear plants.

FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE China’s coal emissions WILL continue to grow rapidly.

The connection between the transport chaos that has made them reliant on imports and even on a few nuclear plants in some areas and whole cities siting empty is that both are due to the notorious and highly visible breakdowns in national planning in the Chinese capitalist system.

“The truck problem can’t go away as there is no other way to load and offload inter-model coal stations. That’s the way it is and they are not building more coal station, only streamlining existing investments. It is, at any rate, only going to get worse.”

As you mention these transport bottlenecks are doing major damage to the Chinese economy so they have no choice but to build the necessary infrastructure. Just as they have already had to massively expand port infrastructure for coastal shipping and imports. The difference is that the latter could be done relatively quickly whereas railway lines take longer.

Far from supporting your idea that there is somehing permanent or unavoidable about not having enough rail capacity the report points to specific institutional factors:

“One of the reasons for the sharp contrast in capacity expansion lies in the
organizational structure of railways and ports. Since China’s Ministry of
Railways is both the regulator and the monopoly operator of China’s national
railway network, a lack of competition has led to insufficient investment in coal
rail lines thus far. China’s coastal port sector on the other hand was opened
up to competition in the 1990s, which resulted in increased investment in port
facilities and led to a seaport building boom.”

So the transport bottlenecks that have resulted in a modest expansion of nuclear plants will eventually be surmounted and there is nothing whatever to support claims China is or could switch from coal to nuclear.

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admin October 30, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Apologies to anyone whose comments got inadvertently held back for a couple days. We have been having problems with loads of spam, and a couple of comments got buried, but are now posted. Spam filters have been installed, so this shouldn’t happen again.

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David Walters October 31, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Arthur, nothing I noted or linked to disagrees that “coal” will remain dominant. Trends are limited by many other factors, even long term ones. 10 years ago there were zero imports of coal. And going back forever this was the same. Would it be correct to note that coal imports “for the foreseeable future” are likely to be zero? This is why a “factor of 60” increase in coal sounds ominous. It is when you used to export coal. But yes, I stated, and i will again, they will be burning coal until I’m dead and I’m 56. It’s not going away until something can replace it. Their goal is to do that.

Secondly, there are some good exploration on The Oil Drum (I’m not a peak oil person but it’s an excellent well sourced site) on this question. Everyone, and the Chinese gov’t has admitted this, that their current use of coal, let alone the trend upward, steeply, is simply not sustainable. It’s eating China a live and everything that comes in contact with it: health, transportation…and BTW…it’s not even close to being resolved…worker safety, pollution to water, land, etc.

Proof of this is that they are building coal plants, actually LESS now than in the past somewhat, to meet the real fact that electricity is getting less and less reliable. It’s effecting their economy in negative ways as I’ve stated already. Plants have to shutdown on scheduled outages and, increasingly, unscheduled ones.

This is of course all based on a basically un-planned free market unhinged development of primary (feed stock) and secondary (commodity production) industries. There is a lot of planning for generation, but zero for load (until recently, I learned, second hand). This is what is driving the use of energy in China and coal specifically.

So my view is that they have to plan to slow down, plan their load, re-nationalize energy (they’ve been moving toward privatization without a regulatory regime in place) and build out their nukes for the 2020 to 2025/2030 Five Year plans and the can stem this monster. They want to, I actually believe they do as it’s lose-lose if they don’t.

Lastly, they have about 75 years of coal left under current consumption levels. Imports can never make up for this (though there is talk of dedicated rail lines from new un-invested Siberian and Far East parts of Russia). And then internationally the pressure is immense. They are not immune to it. I think all these factors will level coal use increases until it flattens and then, with the advent of their nuclear program it can decrease. Until then it will increase, we have no disagreement there.

D.

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byork October 31, 2012 at 10:09 pm

As far as China and future coal reliance is concerned, I would think this is the actual context in which all the talk about alternatives and directions is occuring: “In the decade to 2020, China plans to add 453 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity, equivalent to double Russia’s entire 2009 power generation capacity”. http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2012-10/07/content_26715090.htm

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Arthur November 1, 2012 at 12:17 am

Why not pause and focus on the implications of the fact that you agree their coal cosumption will continue to increase?

You are distracting yourself from even registering, let alone thinking about the implications of that simple fact by drifting off into speculations about how desirable it would be for that fact not to be true.

It is obvious that given that fact, resources dedicated to switching from coal to nuclear in countries that can afford it will not significantly change the climate outcome.

Despite it being obvious, you simply ignore it. That is not the same as refuting it. Your comments show that you are not seriously addressing the problem and just finding ways to distract yourself from it.

Once you register the fact that China WILL be the main source of emissions and WILL continue to increase emissions while coal remains cheaper it should become obvious that the resources being pointlessly wasted on switching from coal at high cost elsewhere should instead be put into R&D for developing low emissions technology cheaper than coal. Then there would be need to persuade anyone to adopt it.

Also stuff about “peak coal” is again just distracting you. There is no reason to devote resources to coal exploration when 75 years worth of proven reserves are availble. When more is needed it is worthwhile looking for it, but not before.

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Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp November 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm

“We have worked very closely with the GP in SF on energy issues, health care issues, etc when they chose to raise these in elections or work via the initiative process in California.” — David Walters

This (correct) approach is at odds with the resolution, which states categorically: “The Green parties globally and their environmentalist non-profits and NGO allies are totally wedded to the fake ‘Green capitalism’ that everywhere supports the destruction of jobs and public services and provides no long-term solution to the environmental destruction wrought on the planet by capitalism.”

If both statements are true, that would mean Socialist Organiser is collaborating with a job-killing public service-slaying Green Party here in the U.S.

This kind of lazy thinking — the Greens did horrible things in x, y, and z countries and therefore we cannot and will not work with them in a, b, and c countries — is really common on the Marxist left internationally when discussing this question.

A materialist appraisal of the U.S. Green Party would start with their record in office. I don’t think Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, NY comes remotely close to how the Greens are characterized in this resolution.

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David Walters November 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm

We collaborate with anyone we agree on…it’s called a “united front”, Bihn. And we will do so again. We didn’t endorse their economic program…even back in 2000, which was scattered nonsense about green jobs and various other things. It was, at any rate, working with the SF Greens (or a wing of them, to be precise) and not the party nationally. We endorsed McKinney last time around who ran as the GP candidate, nationally, though she was essentially stabbed in the back by the entire party apparatus…we only said “Vote McKinney” not “vote Green Party”.

In 12 years things have evolved. Socialist Organizer works with any group that is on the same page we ware with regards to what needs to be done. We work with ISO and La Voz and various folks in Occupy *when we agree* and do closely. It doesn’t mean we agree with the other stuff they do.

Because the Resolution here deals with the environment specially we take a huge distance form the GP program and actions intentionally. Jason West (My sister lives there and was a supporter of his) was a nice liberal, completely honest and, brave (though New Paltz is a little Berkeley if you’ve ever been there)…it’s hardly what the Green Party is ‘about’ or anything to judge them buy. In fact Anderson was the same way in a much larger venue as a Democrat and could easily be a GP candidate or member.

The resolution had little do with *electoral* strategy but rather tries to present a leftist view, a working class perspective for an initial discussion on these questions, and as the GP is the ‘the’ party which was found on ecological concerns, we of course chastise them for what we believe is a totally incorrect perspective. Our electoral view is that working people do not have a choice out there. There is no real working class political party (as defined by one that rests on a *conscious* class program, sees the working class as it’s base) and this party has yet to be built, a labor party or a party like a labor party. In fact, Jill Stein had some interesting comments to make on this very subject recently.

I don’t think we will ever call for a vote for ‘progressives’ just because a candidate runs outside the Democratic party. It has to be a kind of party that actually rests on the organized working class and it’s allies in the oppressed communities. The GP is certainly not that. But if it makes you feel better, fine, vote for ’em. It won’t make a difference.

David

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David Berger November 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Let me make several categorical, polemical remarks and, hopefully, cut through some of the bullshit.

(1) Any Left group that currently supports nukes is out of their fucking minds. I recommend a guided tour of Chernobyl or Fukushima as therapy.

(2) The fundamental decisions that will need to be made to save this planet will be made under socialism, not capitalism. Capitalism is incapable of doing this.

(3) These fundamental decisions will be made by the working class, who will then carry out the decisions that it makes to save mankind.

(4) Putting forward transitional demands to save the planet by a Left group should explicitly include nationalization and workers control of the energy industry. Nationalization without workers control is not a transitional demand: it is a capitalist reform.

(5) It is remotely possible that the working class might, after ample study, decide that nukes are permissible. However, such as decision will be made by the working class, using democratic institutions that do not yet exist and with access to information gathered in ways that do not yet exist.

(6) The advocacy of nukes by portions of the Left is part of the decline of the Left generally over the past 30-odd years.

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Brian S. November 6, 2012 at 7:33 am

So, are you proposing a class-based franchise under socialism?

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David Berger November 6, 2012 at 8:14 am

I am proposing workers control of the economy. The commanding decisions of the economy will be made by the working class. This will especially be true during the time after the overthrow of capitalism., That’s called socialism.

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Brian S. November 6, 2012 at 7:27 pm

@David Berger. You are begging my question. Presumably a major decision like the choice of nuclear technology as an energy source, with all its implications, would be a society-wide matter that would have to be dealt with by state representative structures, whatever form they took. And that would mean the involvement of all citizens – unless you decided to adopt a class-based franchise for your species of socialism.

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David Berger November 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm

FROM BRIAN S.: @David Berger. You are begging my question.

FROM DAVID BERGER: No, it’s evident that you don’t understand what socialism is.

FROM BRIAN S.: Presumably

FROM DAVID BERGER: Where are you getting your presumptions from, including your definition of socialism:?

FROM BRIAN S.: a major decision like the choice of nuclear technology as an energy source, with all its implications, would be a society-wide matter that would have to be dealt with by state representative structures

FROM DAVID BERGER: There you go. Your definition of socialism involves a “society” with its “representative structures” separated from the structures by which the working class runs the economy. I don’t know what to call this, but it isn’t socialism.

FROM BRIAN S.: whatever form they took.

FROM DAVID BERGER: Under socialism, the forms of the “representative structures,” as you call them, are workers councils that also control the economy from the workplace upwards.

FROM BRIAN S.: And that would mean the involvement of all citizens – unless you decided to adopt a class-based franchise for your species of socialism.

FROM DAVID BERGER: My “species” of socialism is the one used by Marxists from the beginning. It is a society in which the economy is controlled by the working class from the bottom up by a system of councils. The category of “citizen” is extremely problematic as it implies important groups of people organized outside of the economy. There will be no decision-making structure outside of the structures by which the economy is controlled.

Under socialism, to get back to the original point of all this, the working class, as the operators of the economy, using their collective knowledge of that economy, will make the decision on nuclear power.

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Arthur November 6, 2012 at 2:54 am

(6) Anyone who thinks the left was generally anti-nuclear prior to 30 years ago might be interested to go to a research library that has “The Marxist Quarterly” Vol 3 No 2, April 1956 special issue on Atomic Power and Automation.

(1) to (5) are also dogmatic assertions based on the same sort of ignorance.

BTW Bogdanov’s bolshevik science fiction “Red Planet” had atomic powered space ships (in 1908!)

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Brian S. November 6, 2012 at 8:04 am

Arthur, there were a lot of illusions about nuclear energy in its early years (remember the claim that it would be distributed free of charge because its low cost wouldn’t make it worthwhile to bill users for it?). And certainly a “science fiction” story from 1908 (even from such a fertile mind as Bogdanov) is unlikely to be relevant to contemporary debates. I don’t see why anyone would expect the left to be traditionally anti-nuclear – the pre-environment movement Marxist left, in all its variants, tended to be dominated by a naive techno-philia (that I hear still lingers on in some quarters.). I would certainly have expected something in a CPGB journal published two years after he opening of the world’s first first nuclear power station in the USSR to be lyrically pro-nuclear.

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Arthur November 6, 2012 at 8:57 am

Brian, I merely drew attention to it because of the ignorant claim that pro-nuclear attitudes had arisen in the last 30 years. Not claiming any current relevance and certainly not suggesting that it was surprising.

Though on the general issue of attitudes towards technology and progress, I do think its worth recovering the positive enthusiasm about science as expressed by the founders of scientific socialism and the Comintern eg at the sixth world congress.

BTW the CPGB article is worth looking up. Wasn’t just hailing Soviet achievements but apparently written by British nuclear experts seriously advocating for Britain (while also insisting on proper safeguards against radiation leakages).

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David Berger November 6, 2012 at 9:46 am

FROM ARTHUR: Brian, I merely drew attention to it because of the ignorant claim that pro-nuclear attitudes had arisen in the last 30 years. Not claiming any current relevance and certainly not suggesting that it was surprising.

FROM DAVID BERGER: Actually, anti-nuke sentiment among the left began well over 40 years ago, in the late 60s. he left in the 50s and early- and mid-60s did not deal with the issue. It only arose with the beginning of the ecology movement The main actions against nukes came in the mid-70s. Three Mile Island, in 1979, put an end to nuke building in the US. That was over 30 years ago. The technocratic pro-nuke attitudes that have been floating around for awhile only began in the past few years.,

FROM ARTHUR: Though on the general issue of attitudes towards technology and progress, I do think its worth recovering the positive enthusiasm about science as expressed by the founders of scientific socialism and the Comintern eg at the sixth world congress.

FROM DAVID BERGER: I think that the kind 0f naive pro-science attitude that was expressed in 1928 is hardly appropriate today.

FROM ARTHUR: BTW the CPGB article is worth looking up. Wasn’t just hailing Soviet achievements but apparently written by British nuclear experts seriously advocating for Britain (while also insisting on proper safeguards against radiation leakages).

FROM DAVID BERGER: They didn’t know jack shit about the dangers of nuclear power back then. And we are not even dealing with the problems of long-term nuclear waste disposal.

As I said above, left-wing groups should be totally opposed to any expansion of nuclear power and should advocate the shutting down of existing nukes. After the revolution, the issue can be considered again in a properly democratic manner.

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Brian S. November 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm

@Arthur: Unfortunately this issue of the Marxist Quarterly is hard to track down; but I’ll keep an eye open. I believe one of their main contributors on these issues was the Australian Eric Burhop http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/burhop-eric-henry-stoneley-9627 He who also wrote a book in 1951 on “The Challenge of Atomic Energy”. (Available from ABE)

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Arthur November 6, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Tnx, I hadn’t heard of Eric Burhop. Do have a copy of that issue of Marxist Quarterly but not handy at the moment.

Its curious how pointless it is mentoning facts like these to somebody who responds to and repeats details about positions from the 1970s and still claims “The technocratic pro-nuke attitudes that have been floating around for awhile only began in the past few years.”

I think the tolerance of completely ignorant loudmouths for decades has resulted in the current situation where for many years now they see themselves as, and are seen by others as “the left”.

PS David Walters (below). You are still not responding to the refutation of your claims about China and the demonstration that there is no possibility of nuclear replacing most emissions that will come from coal in poorer countries given greater costs. Did you miss responses again?

It isn’t just “commercial paper” and legal fights. The capital costs (including adequate precautions to actually make it safer than coal) HAVE made it more expensive than coal. Simply pretending otherwise works for greenies with renewables but doesn’t actually change anthing in the real world and therefore cannot result in poor countries switching to nuclear any more than it could result in them switching to renewables.

Also the mantra about “protecting” jobs is still radically inconsistent with unleashing the productive forces and abolishing wage labour.

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Arthur November 6, 2012 at 9:02 pm

typo 1970s –> decades before the 1970s

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David Walters November 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Arthur, no you didn’t ‘refute’ what I was saying. If you did you wouldn’t have a massive nuclear build out in China (or S. Korea). If it’s more cost effective to build coal, you don’t build nuclear. Same with India which also has a massive build out.

Costs for coal are cheaper *only* on overnight per KW installed costs, that is “Build me this plant, how much does it cost per KW?”. The number is China for nuclear as, in some cases *cheaper* than the coal with, say, carbon capture and (or) super critical units that require a tremendous amount of capital outlines in extra heavy tubes for the boiler and controls.

You have to look at the total external costs from fuel to pollution to transportation tie-ups to health care costs and so on. The Chinese have done the math which is why they want to go to the upper double digits in nuclear…why they are in fact doing it…at the expense of coal. That they are not doing it fast enough, to make it effective vis-a-vis the problems, like global warming, from coal, is another matter and here I’m critical of the Chinese.

Other cost factors in the long run are items such as plant life. If you total up the number of years a power plant can run, and at what capacity factor…you will find nuclear actually comes in much cheaper than coal. But if you use only the “commercial paper” costs, that is overnight costs, then not so much.

So the ‘greater’ costs are only up front ones. Utilities in China want to build nuclear and all forms of energy, including coal and now, gas. So the issue is a policy one *not* guided by costs or technology. If during the 2020-2025 Five Year plant they wanted to go to 600GWs of nuclear instead of the 200 they plan for now, they could. There is nothing really stopping them, including human resources.

Protecting jobs is paramount if you are talking about unleashing the productive forces, which labor is the most improtant part. Even if those jobs get phased out (we hope) “protecting” means having real programs in place to do just that, including retaining etc. We don’t ‘demand’ and end to wage slavery unless one can point to a way to achived this, via workers revolutionary on a world scale. To get there we have to bring workers into struggle around their quite immediate demands, like jobs. This is called the transitional method. You can spend all the time you want aping the old IWW slogan, but I doubt you’ll organize more than a few participants into a coffee clatch doing so.

David

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Arthur November 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm

“Arthur, no you didn’t ‘refute’ what I was saying. If you did you wouldn’t have a massive nuclear build out in China (or S. Korea). If it’s more cost effective to build coal, you don’t build nuclear. Same with India which also has a massive build out.”

This is bizarre. I explained that there is no massive nuclear build out in China and that the modest nuclear construction exceeding the minimum necessary was due to local transport issues in south China (and similar requirements for importation by sea in S. Korea and Japan).

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=2890#comment-12285

You missed that comment and indepenently wrote your own referring to a report on Chinese coal that discussed the transport issues.

I responded pointing out that you had completely misunderstood the report which in fact confirmed that:

“OVER THE PAST DECADE, CHINA’S DOMESTIC COAL OUTPUT HAS MORE THAN DOUBLED WHILE ITS COAL IMPORTS HAVE INCREASED BY A FACTOR OF 60.

The whole premise of the report is that “Coal is expected to be China’s most dominant energy source in the foreseeable future.” and this has major implications for the world coal market.

Instead of absorbing this simple and very well known fact you are distracting yourself with your own interest in nuclear plants.

FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE China’s coal emissions WILL continue to grow rapidly.”

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=2890#comment-15206

Barry York responded at the same point in the thread:

“In the decade to 2020, China plans to add 453 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity, equivalent to double Russia’s entire 2009 power generation capacity”.

http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2012-10/07/content_26715090.htm

In another post you proudly documented your “massive nuclear buildout” linking to an actual list confirming that China dominates the plants actually being build.

I responded pointing out that the world total of nuclear plants being built is still negligible.

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=2890#comment-15212

China is building about 3 coal plants EVERY WEEK. But your attention is distracted towards less than 30 nuclear plants planned over FIVE YEARS from 2013 to 2017. That’s 260 weeks or more than 780 coal plants compared with less than 30 nuclear. Say 26 coal plants for each nuclear!!!

Incidentally the actual numbers for each year in your list are:

2013 7

2014 10

2015 7

2016 4

2017 1

This strongly confirms a temporary surge to deal with transport bottlenecks and then tailing off back to minimal levels to maintain flexibility.

You seem to be on auto-pilot blindly insisting that “If it’s more cost effective to build coal, you don’t build nuclear.” despite the fact that both China and India are building overwhelming more coal than nuclear plants and ” If it’s more cost effective to build nuclear, you don’t build overwhelmingly more coal”.

You appear to be simply not reading what you are replying to. This has reached the point where your advocacy is no longer simply one-sided but wilfully dishonest.

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Brian S. November 8, 2012 at 6:51 am

@Whoever: Re: Chinese energy policy: I’m staying on the fringes of this discussion until someone can remind me of the significance of it. But one point – its wrong to consider that “cost” ( a tricky concept anyway – e.g. long or short-term?) will be a decisive factor in these decisions. These large scale plants are all in the state sector and decisions with regard to technology etc. will be determined primarily by politics. Certainly true of China; but in India too electricity supply is highly politicised and not governed significantly by market factors.

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Arthur November 8, 2012 at 7:54 am

The significance is that since China, India etc WILL continue to use coal while it remains the cheapest energy source there is no possibility that measures proposed for countries that can afford to use more expensive technologies to do so will have any significant impact on climate change.

Claims that cost is irrelevant or can be trumped by politics reflect an inability to face the simple logic above. The result has been massive diversion of resources that should go into R&D for developing technology that poor countries will actually adopt instead of coal into purely token political gestures.

The relevant “costs” are what people planning power plants have to pay to generate electricity. This translates directly into electricity costs and hence into general standards of living.

The reality is that electricity generation in all countries is dominated by market factors. As a result Green efforts to politically enforce changes in energy technology have not actually achieved anything useful anywhere.

In order to continue supporting the green waffle that all “right thinking” people go along with it is NECESSARY not to understand the significance of this. The same mechanisms are in play as with the rationalization of any other superstitious fantasy.

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Brian S. November 8, 2012 at 8:16 am

@Arthur. I can’t speak for China, although I would very much doubt that a key production factor in such a still highly-statified economy would be primarily governed by market calculations (assuming that anyone can actually do them). You are suggesting that they will be governed by short-term costs (ie ignoring externalities) but planners are certainly aware of the latter and Chinese government pronouncements indicate a concern with e.g public health impacts.
But I can tell you for sure that in India production costs do not “translate directly into electricity costs”(if by that you mean what consumers pay for it) . As I said previously “electricity supply is highly politicised” : prices are subsidised, and a large proportion of it distributed at low or zero charge through illegal connections sanctified by political patronage networks.

Arthur November 8, 2012 at 9:52 am

Subsidizing retail prices and and political patronage influencing illegal (and legal) connections are effects of politics on distribution.

This does occur and is relevant.

But the costs of building power plants are a different matter. Only major relevance is in not allocating externalities. The major political impact on plant construction would be preferred contractors.

Should be obvious that pressures to subsidize electricity would go in opposite direction to encouraging use of more expensive technology.

Brian S. November 7, 2012 at 9:30 am

@Arthur: There was an important debate in the CPGB in the late 1970s over energy policy which led them to shift from a qualified pro-nuclear to an anti-nuclear position. I seem to remember something about it from the time, but my recollection is hazy, There are references to it in the index of the CPGB archives, but I’ll see if I can track down something more substantial.
By the way, Arthur, you’ ve mentioned that you are doing some online courses. Could you provide some more info?

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Arthur November 7, 2012 at 10:18 am

I’ve completed 11 Coursera courses and am currently enrolled in another 8, plus Finance from Stanford Ventuea Lab and an “MRUniversity course” on development economics which I haven’t actually looked at much yet (was in a dozen or so simultaneously until some of the shorter ones finished recently).

Main difference from just providing video lectures and handouts is that they do weekly auto-graded (or sometimes peer graded) assignments with deadlines plus some exams (all open book, some timed and others not) and have a (very large) cohort of students going through in sync with timetable to help each other in discussion forums. This makes it much more like doing a course rather than just self-study.

“Statemets of Accomplishment” explicitly do not count towards academic credit at the institutions providing them (and cannot identify the holder since there is just free enerolment online with no proctored exams or ID checks). They will probably introduce optional proctored exams for separate fees soon.

Comprehensive list at:

http://www.class-central.com/

Ranges from introductory undergraduate to post-doctoral. Mainly from high prestige universities and lecturers.

Udacity courses differ from Coursera in not having deadlines (so no cohort of students moving together through the forum though still has fora). More interactive less traditional lecture format and mainly computer science related. I also enrolled in 4 Udacity courses but haven’t actually got around to them because they don’t have deadlines while the ones with deadlines are always more urgent.

Other major provider is EdX, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Do strongly recommend them – both for knowledge and as an important new phenomenon (and example of productive forces yearning to be free and communist – like free software, wikipedia etc).

Mainly doing finance and statistics for understanding economic crisis, plus networks for dialectics generally and others for general interest. Will be doing more economics courses starting in January.

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Brian S. November 8, 2012 at 6:37 am

@Arthur: thanks very much for the info – this is the sort of thing I am looking for. I have looked at some of the stuff on offer from the traditional institutions – especially MIT- some look quite interesting, but they are mostly just handouts and slides from their terrestrial courses. I’ll check out your references. Thanks again.

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David Walters November 6, 2012 at 11:56 am

And David, as I said before it’s move backward from a real science based understanding. As Arthur noted support for peaceful use of fission was almost universal among the far left and near-left until the 1970s. BTW…3 Mile Island did not kill nuclear in the U.S….they commissioned dozens of nuclear plants after TMI. What killed future construction was primarily the very high interest rates on commercial paper and legal challenges filed by the anti-nuclear movement.

The Left should absolutely support nuclear energy. Despite Chernobyl (a one-off nuclear plant whose design is BANNED outside Russia and Bulgaria) and Fukushima (no one died and, no one is likely to die despite hysterical yappings from the anti-nuclear movement), the nuclear industry, EVEN under capitalism, as a deployed technology, is simply safer than any other form of energy *deployed under capitalism*. I reject this fake “under socialism” as we don’t have time to deal with the problem of climate, pollution, safety and health with our fossil fuel regime.

We need to protect jobs and move, transition, to a non-carbon based energy regime which is why transitional demands are totally appropriate *right now*. Consciousness FOR socialism and revolution doesn’t come about through a ‘catholic’ revelation but via actually struggle for very immediate and democratic demands. We should be demanding both Jobs for All, shortening the work week with no cut in pay and to make the planet more livable by *demanding* the bosses and it’s state implement things we want to see. The fact that the bosses are *incapable*of this points to the ‘transitional’ method in raising something like “Nationalize the energy industry under workers and community control” .

David

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David Berger November 8, 2012 at 2:08 am

FROM DAVID WALTER: And David, as I said before it’s move backward from a real science based understanding.
FROM DAVID BERGER: Not clear what you mean. I assume you mean that the Left’s opposition to nukes was a retreat from a scientific worldview. My response is that you are full of shit. Nuclear energy, as proved by its history, is an extraordinarily dangerous source of energy. It’s history, which you are constantly denying, proves this. What is extraordinary is that you are perfectly willing to let the capitalist class have control over this.
FROM DAVID WALTER: As Arthur noted support for peaceful use of fission was almost universal among the far left and near-left until the 1970s.
FROM DAVID BERGER: This is simply not so. The Stalinists may have been rah-rahing it, but the rest of the Left did not pay much attention to it. We were constantly agitating against nuclear weapons, but we paid little or no attention to nuclear power. I distinctly recall the first stirrings of anti-nuke sentiment in 1971. To say that “support for peaceful use of fission was almost universal among the far left” is not true.
FROM DAVID WALTER: BTW…3 Mile Island did not kill nuclear in the U.S….they commissioned dozens of nuclear plants after TMI. What killed future construction was primarily the very high interest rates on commercial paper and legal challenges filed by the anti-nuclear movement.
FROM DAVID BERGER: And what caused the high interest rates? And why did the legal challenges have some much effect? Because after Three Mile Island, everyone was rightfully scared shitless of nukes and after that came Chernobyl.
FROM DAVID WALTER: The Left should absolutely support nuclear energy.
FROM DAVID BERGER: Why? Because you say so?
FROM DAVID WALTER: Despite Chernobyl
FROM DAVID BERGER: That’s one hell of a big “despite.” That’s like saying it’s dark tonight despite the full moon.
FROM DAVID WALTER: (a one-off nuclear plant whose design is BANNED outside Russia and Bulgaria)
FROM DAVID BERGER: Which, nevertheless, was built, operated and exploded. And the Fukushima plants, built by one of the most advanced industrial countries in the world, with a technologically sophisticated capialist ruline class, were a disaster. And British Petroleum, with its vast experience, fucked up the Gulf of Mexico.
FROM DAVID WALTER: and Fukushima (no one died and, no one is likely to die despite hysterical yappings from the anti-nuclear movement)
FROM DAVID BERGER: Not true.
“With the Japanese electric needs met and with its economy functioning without nuclear power, health hazards play the major role in any decision to restart Japanese reactors. It will probably take many years for the true casualty numbers to emerge; for years, the party line held that only 31 emergency workers died from Chernobyl. The idea that casualties were small was shattered by a 2009 book by a team headed by Russian researchers, published by the New York Academy of Sciences and based on 5,000 reports and articles. It estimated that 985,000 persons had died from Chernobyl exposures by 2004, with more to come. The eventual toll from Fukushima will likely be on the same order of magnitude.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samuel-s-epstein/fukushima-nuclear-_b_1790423.html
FROM DAVID WALTER: the nuclear industry, EVEN under capitalism, as a deployed technology, is simply safer than any other form of energy *deployed under capitalism*.
FROM DAVID BERGER: Simply not true.
FROM DAVID WALTER: I reject
FROM DAVID BERGER: You reject. Well, lah-de-dah.
FROM DAVID WALTER: this fake “under socialism”
FROM DAVID BERGER: So capitalism is going to save us from a capitalist-made disaster. Don’t hold your breath. Capitalism has never solved any problem it created.
FROM DAVID WALTER: as we don’t have time to deal with the problem of climate, pollution, safety and health with our fossil fuel regime.
FROM DAVID BERGER: This is basically a social democratic approach: that capitalism can be reformed to solve its major problems.
FROM DAVID WALTER: We

FROM DAVID BERGER: Who is we? You, me and Donald Trump?

FROM DAVID WALTER: need to protect jobs and move, transition, to a non-carbon based energy regime

FROM DAVID BERGER: And how are “we” going to do this? Do you honestly believe that this is going to happen under capitalism? Wow!

FROM DAVID WALTER: which is why transitional demands are totally appropriate *right now*.

FROM DAVID BERGER: I don’t think you know what a transitional demand is.

“The Fourth International does not discard the program of the old “minimal” demands to the degree to which these have preserved at least part of their vital forcefulness. Indefatigably, it defends the democratic rights and social conquests of the workers. But it carries on this day-to-day work within the framework of the correct actual, that is, revolutionary perspective. Insofar as the old, partial, “minimal” demands of the masses clash with the destructive and degrading tendencies of decadent capitalism – and this occurs at each step – the Fourth International advances a system of transitional demands, the essence of which is contained in the fact that ever more openly and decisively they will be directed against the very bases of the bourgeois regime. The old “minimal program” is superseded by the transitional program, the task of which lies in systematic mobilization of the masses for the proletarian revolution.”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/tp/tp-text.htm#op

FROM DAVID WALTER: Consciousness FOR socialism and revolution doesn’t come about through a ‘catholic’ revelation

FROM DAVID BERGER: Who in their right mind every said it did?

FROM DAVID WALTER: but via actually struggle for very immediate and democratic demands.

FROM DAVID BERGER: Again, I don’t think that, from this formulation “very immediate and democratic demands,” you know what a transitional demand is and can distinguish it from a reform.

FROM DAVID WALTER: We should be demanding both Jobs for All, shortening the work week with no cut in pay and to make the planet more livable by *demanding* the bosses and it’s state implement things we want to see.

FROM DAVID BERGER: These things are both necessary and impossible under capitalism. They do constitute transitional demands.

FROM DAVID WALTER: The fact that the bosses are *incapable*of this points to the ‘transitional’ method in raising something like “Nationalize the energy industry under workers and community control”

FROM DAVID BERGER: That’s correct. But you are neglecting the fact that it is also correct that capitalism will not “deal with the problem of climate, pollution, safety and health” with fossil fuels or any other kind of technology. It’s proper to demand that this be done. This is a transitional demand. But to believe it can be done is an illusion.

Likewise, to believe that nuclear technology, under capitalism, will “save the world,” is also an illusion.

David Berger

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David Walters November 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm

David B. transitional demands are any demand that mobilizes the masses (as opposed to sects or “Leftists”) around their class interests and at the same times brings them into conflict with the bosses (and bureaucrats). A reformist demands is *any* demand that holds these mobilizations back when more radical demands also meet the consciousness of the masses. Even ‘reformist’ sounding demands, like ‘tax the rich’ can strike at the heart of the capitalists when they are in crisis and can only offer ‘sharing the hurt’ solutions. Demands should be raised to organize around and mobilize. Anything else is ‘leftist’ chatter designed to make you feel good.

It’s also factually inaccurate to say democratic and immediate demands, those that don’t bridge the consciousness of the working class to socialist solutions where the question of power is poised , cannot be won. Everything from the clean air act, to OSHA to increase in holiday pay can be won. Gay marriage as a democratic reform can be won. Abortion rights can be won. The air is cleaner today than 40 years ago because of this. So *some* things that can advance toward climate solutions can fought for and won. More importantly many among the mass of workers and students agree with this while not seeing, necessarily, socialist and revolutionary solutions. We know that ultimately unless we get rid of capitalism, they will push back and reverse these gains. The role of socialists is to point this out and be constantly on guard. It’s is not to drop immediate demands and wait it out for the Revolution. It means getting involved and fighting for even the simplest of democratic or immediate demands. Anything else is left-communist sectarianism.

David

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David Berger November 8, 2012 at 10:17 pm

I’m not going to split hairs over a semantic definition of transitional demands. We’ll see in the future if Socialist Organizer “really” knows what they are. So let me just reiterate the real issues:

(1) Capitalism cannot solve the climate problem it created.

(2) Nuclear energy is extremely dangerous and no left group should advocate its use under capitalism.

(3) Any final decision about the use of nukes should be left to the working class in a socialist society.

David Berger

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