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Archive for the ‘Green Energy’ Category

The New Abolitionism: Sending the Carbon-Burners Down the Path of the Slave Owners

April 23rd, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Climate, Green Energy, structural reform

By Christopher Hayes
Progressive America Rising via The Nation

April 22, 2014 – Before the cannons fired at Fort Sumter, the Confederates announced their rebellion with lofty rhetoric about “violations of the Constitution of the United States” and “encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States.” But the brute, bloody fact beneath those words was money. So much goddamn money.

The leaders of slave power were fighting a movement of dispossession. The abolitionists told them that the property they owned must be forfeited, that all the wealth stored in the limbs and wombs of their property would be taken from them. Zeroed out. Imagine a modern-day political movement that contended that mutual funds and 401(k)s, stocks and college savings accounts were evil institutions that must be eliminated completely, more or less overnight. This was the fear that approximately 400,000 Southern slaveholders faced on the eve of the Civil War.

Today, we rightly recoil at the thought of tabulating slaves as property. It was precisely this ontological question—property or persons?—that the war was fought over. But suspend that moral revulsion for a moment and look at the numbers: Just how much money were the South’s slaves worth then? A commonly cited figure is $75 billion, which comes from multiplying the average sale price of slaves in 1860 by the number of slaves and then using the Consumer Price Index to adjust for inflation. But as economists Samuel H. Williamson and Louis P. Cain argue [1], using CPI-adjusted prices over such a long period doesn’t really tell us much: “In the 19th century,” they note, “there were no national surveys to figure out what the average consumer bought.” In fact, the first such survey, in Massachusetts, wasn’t conducted until 1875.

In order to get a true sense of how much wealth the South held in bondage, it makes far more sense to look at slavery in terms of the percentage of total economic value it represented at the time. And by that metric, it was colossal. In 1860, slaves represented about 16 percent of the total household assets—that is, all the wealth—in the entire country, which in today’s terms is a stunning $10 trillion.

Ten trillion dollars is already a number much too large to comprehend, but remember that wealth was intensely geographically focused. According to calculations made by economic historian Gavin Wright, slaves represented nearly half the total wealth of the South on the eve of secession. “In 1860, slaves as property were worth more than all the banks, factories and railroads in the country put together,” civil war historian Eric Foner tells me. “Think what would happen if you liquidated the banks, factories and railroads with no compensation.”

* * *

In 2012, the writer and activist Bill McKibben published a heart-stopping essay in Rolling Stone titled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math [2].” I’ve read hundreds of thousands of words about climate change over the last decade, but that essay haunts me the most.

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A Platform for a Popular Front vs. Finance Capital, War and the Right is Taking Shape

March 24th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2014 Election, Budget Debates, financial crisis, Green Energy, militarism, safety net

 

12 Steps to Realizing the U.S.’s New Populist Movement

By Roger Hickey
Campaign for America’s Future

March 19, 2014 – A new progressive populist movement is rising up in the United States. Inspired by an expansive vision of greater economic opportunity for all Americans, this new movement is also fueled by anger over politicians’ broken promises. After decades of recurring economic crisis, which now seems systemic and permanent, millions of Americans have come to realize that much of our democratic system is now owned by a moneyed elite that use their power to resist real change and to manipulate the economy for their own financial gain.

Even the mass media know something big is going on. At the end of November, a Washington Post headline announced, "More liberal, populist movement emerging ahead of 2016 elections [3]." And the New York Times, in a September article [4], reporting on the new progressive insurgency, cited the excitement generated by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the new populist mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio. These and other media reports have been based on important new populist victories that represent the visible tip of a very large iceberg:

  • Low-wage workers and their allies have filled the streets of America’s major cities, demanding a living wage and the right to bargain for wages and benefits. Their basic demand, echoed now by political leaders, is that full-time work should pay enough to keep a family out of poverty.The cry of "break up the big banks" is now heard from protests at bank shareholder meetings to the halls of Congress. Many of the groups who worked to pass the Dodd-Frank bill have joined with housing advocates and others to demand Wall Street prosecutions — and real bank reform championed by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Warren.
  • Lawrence Summers, President Obama’s top choice for Chair of the Federal Reserve, was stopped from getting that important job by a coalition of civic activists, including women and financial reform groups. Their favorite, Janet Yellen, was appointed instead.
  • The national debate on the future or Social Security has been flipped — from "Stop cutting benefits" to "Expand Social Security." Activists got Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin to introduce a bill with Sen. Sherrod Brown to expand benefits. Sen. Warren helped achieve critical mass. Conservative "Third Way" operatives attacked, but actual Third Way Members of Congress denounced their own group — and several actually embraced Social Security expansion [5]. And after grassroots pressure, President Obama withdrew his plan to cut Social Security benefits

Political reporters have tended to frame the New Populism as either a challenge to President Obama, or as an agenda and constituency for whoever might run against Hillary Clinton. But hard experience has taught us we need to build an independent force that can fight the big corporate interests and shape a positive agenda for all politicians who claim be for progressive change.

To be clear, this new movement is still coming together, most visible politically in the grassroots campaigns to raise the minimum wage and extend unemployment insurance. It is still too early to know whether the New Populist agenda for change will be embraced by Democrats trying to win back the House and keep the Senate in the 2014 elections — especially since far too many Democrats, including the President, have trapped themselves into claiming the economy is on the mend, when most voters think things are still pretty bad. But politicians wondering what works with the voters should go to the new website, www.populistmajority.org [6].

Here is a description of ongoing organizing around 12 big elements of the emerging New Populist agenda. All this activity is not completely coordinated, but it is very real, involving hundreds of thousands of organizers who get up every morning and reach out to their neighbors and networks to fight for this economic change agenda and to challenge the interests that have rigged the economic system. And many millions more share the vision of an economic system that works for the majority of Americans. As you can see, the New Populism is on the move.

1. Revive Sustainable Economic Growth, Creating Jobs for All.

In the turbulent months after the economic collapse the rallying cry was jobs. Grass-roots citizen organizations [7] and think tanks agitated publicly for a big, bold economic recovery program [8] based on investing in getting Americans back to work. This organizing helped build momentum to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in February of 2009. Citizen and labor groups held demonstrations at aging bridges and schools in hundreds of communities, making the point that America has lots of needs for investments that would put people to work immediately, while making our economy more productive for the long term. The Recovery Act succeeded in stopping America’s plunge into a deep recession, but should have been seen as only a first step toward economic revival.

Tragically, President Obama failed to mobilize the people around a demand for the continuing stimulus investment necessary to sustain recovery after such a profound recession. As a result, voters in the 2010 Congressional elections, voters, most of whom were still discouraged about the lack of jobs, blamed Democrats and sent a new Republican majority to the House.

On March 12, the Congressional Progressive Caucus [9] — led by 70 Members of Congress and backed by hundreds of citizen groups — released their new Better Off Budget [10]. For the fourth time in four years, they are demonstrating the level of investment America should be making in order to revive growth. If Congress had passed the CPC’s first budget, the economy would have grown more robustly and consistently, unemployment would have come down dramatically, wages and opportunity would have increased, and the deficit would have even been lower. The Economic Policy Institute finds [11] it would create 9 million jobs by 2017.

Many progressive organizations are joining to promote the Progressive Caucus budget. They will remind voters that radical conservative austerity killed jobs, and conservatives have obstructed every major investment and growth plan. And many groups will also organize to ask candidates for Congress what they would do to create enough jobs for all Americans who want to work.

2. Invest in America’s Infrastructure and in New Jobs for the 21st Century.

Immediate action to stimulate growth and achieve full employment is the number one priority of most Americans. But when we ask the experts and elected officials what will drive long-term job creation, too many turn pessimistic, mumbling warnings about globalization, the rise of technology, and the failure of the U.S. education system. We know from bitter experience that conservative "growth plans" — tax cuts, austerity and deregulation — don’t work. They lead only to speculative booms, growing inequality, and then financial collapse.

America’s future depends on the growing movement demanding productive public investment in the new industries, energy technologies, research, and the education systems America will need to drive a new generation of economic growth and good jobs. The best parts of the Obama stimulus made a start at creating new industries, such as advanced batteries and high-speed rail, and helped existing industries, such as photovoltaics and wind energy. Powerful coalitions, like the Apollo Alliance [12] and the Blue-Green Alliance [13] have united environmentalists, unions, mayors and governors with business leaders to push for a new development strategy for America that retools our infrastructure (including advanced and open Internet) and energy systems in a way that rebuilds our cities and creates the next several generations of jobs, while stimulating new private industries.

Again, it is the ultra-ideological conservatives, whose only tools are cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations, who stand in the way of this new nation-building movement. Polling shows that most Americans remember when public investment in highways and financing for suburban homes drove private sector prosperity — and public investments the space program helped America’s private-sector domination in computers and advanced technology systems. Younger people, who may not know that history, are strongly committed to society-shaping investments in alternative energy and conservation — and they are delighted to find out about America’s long history of federal aid to education, including our creation of land-grant universities, which once made college virtually free.

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Climate Change Speech: Obama’s Lincoln Moment?

June 30th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Climate, Green Energy, Obama, pushing obama

By Ted Glick

Progressive America Rising via Grist.org

“Those of us in positions of responsibility will need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of our children.”         Barack Obama, June 29 national radio address

I’ll admit it—I was moved several times as I watched and listened to President Barack Obama’s major speech on the climate crisis on June 25th. As much as I have been angered so many times over the last 4 ½ years since he came into office by the weakness of many of his actions and his pretty-close-to public silence on climate, it is no small thing that the U.S. President, an essential actor if we’re to have any chance of avoiding worldwide, catastrophic climate change, has clearly turned a corner and come out rhetorically strong.

To have Obama speaking for 50 minutes on the subject—to hear him put forward a solid analysis of why this is such a critical issue—to hear him go aggressively after the climate deniers (“we don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society”)—and to hear him say, unexpectedly, about the Keystone XL pipeline that it should be built “only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” which of course it does, big time—to hear all of this was a very big deal.

What about his specific plans? A number of them are important, without a doubt: directing EPA to come up with a regulatory regime to reduce CO2 from all, both new and existing, power plants; active government support for the spread of renewable energy; a strengthening of energy efficiency; support to communities in their efforts to adapt to a changing climate; advocating, again, a phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies; an end, or close to it, of government funding of overseas coal plants; and more.

But here’s the thing, the very big “but” about Obama’s speech: it was the speech of an incrementalist on climate. His plans are not even close to what is needed. A goal of a 17% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2005 by 2020 is weak, very problematic. And the most problematic of all: in his speech Obama projected as the #1 thing we should be doing to reduce emissions the “strengthen[ing] of our position as the top natural gas producer” in the world. He did this even though in his plan of action he identifies the reduction of methane leakage into the atmosphere as one of his objectives. About 90% of natural gas is methane, and there’s a huge problem of leakage all throughout the lifecycle of gas, especially fracked gas. Talk about a contradiction!

We don’t need incremental action on climate. We need action that is appropriate to the deepening crisis. Even the head of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, Christiana Figueres, politely criticized Obama’s speech: “I think the fact remains that compared to what the science demands, no country is doing enough.”

For years a number of people who have closely studied this issue and who have had the courage to speak out and take action—Al Gore, James Hansen and Bill McKibben, most prominently—have said that what is needed is the kind of society-wide mobilization on this issue that we saw right after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. We need a nonviolent, World War-type mobilization for a renewable energy revolution.

To move the United States and other laggard nations of the world toward this level of urgency, it is going to take a mass movement of many millions, and fortunately we’ve got one developing. You don’t bring 40,000-plus people to D.C. in the middle of the winter, as happened four months ago on Feb. 17, unless there’s something at work at the grassroots.

As distinct from Obama’s incrementalism, this movement is about resistance, resistance to the fossil fuel industry, oil, coal and gas, as well as, for a growing number of it members, resistance to false solutions like biomass, the industrial cutting down and burning of trees (see more on this issue at http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2010/06/11/wood-power-worse-polluter-than-coal).

One month after Obama’s speech, during the statistically hottest time of the year, this fossil fuel resistance movement will take action in a coordinated way across the USA via 350.org’s Summer Heat campaign. Over the last 10 days of July, major, day-after-day actions all over the country will show the dedication and growing tactical sophistication and creativity of the fossil fuel resistance. Strategically, it’s happening at a key time given not just Obama’s speech but the continuation of an extreme-weather-events dynamic that has weakened the climate deniers and opened the minds of more and more US Americans to the climate issue.

One of the Summer Heat actions that I’m involved with is a nine-day walk from Camp David via Harpers Ferry to Washington, D.C. On that ninth day, Saturday, July 27th, there will be a rally at the White House in late morning to keep the pressure on Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and step up his game on climate. Among those speaking at that rally will be Bill McKibben.

As we engage in these and future actions, it’s important that the fossil fuel resistance continue to engage with Obama and other incrementalist Democrats (and Republicans), pushing them to go past where they are right now.

It seems to me that there’s a potential analogy between Obama and the 3 ½ years he has left as President and Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War broke out. To Lincoln at the beginning of his term, the war was not about the abolition of slavery; it was about the preservation of the union. At that point in time he might have been willing to end the war if the Confederacy had agreed to stop fighting with a compromise of no spread of slavery beyond the South. But as the war developed, as Black people took direct action by leaving the plantations and migrating to Union-held territory, as the North had difficulty in subduing the South, Lincoln’s thinking evolved, leading to the Emancipation Proclamation and, in early 1865, his successful push for a Constitutional amendment outlawing slavery.

The world needs to see a similar evolution with Barack Obama when it comes to the climate crisis, and after his June 25th speech there’s reason to believe it could happen. Between the extreme weather events that will keep hitting us and the growth of the fossil fuel resistance movement, there’s little question that the pressures will intensify for action on climate at the scale of the crisis.

It’s impossible to know exactly how this might play itself out. But what we do know is what we need to do if it’s to have a chance of happening:

-Realize that mass movements that succeed are made up of people who have a common goal but varying ideas on how to get there and who are at different places as far as what they are willing to do.

-Keep building the fossil fuel resistance, from the grassroots up to the national and international levels.

-Keep engaging as is possible with Obama and other incrementalists, pushing them to realize the necessity of stronger action than they think is politically possible right now.

Let’s bring the Summer Heat!

Ted Glick has been a climate activist since 2004 and a progressive activist since 1968. Past writings and more information can be found at http://tedglick.com.

Five Ways to Bridge the Jobs vs. Environment Gap

April 30th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Environment, Green Energy, Jobs

By Jeremy Brecher

Progressive America Rising via Common Dreams

April 29, 2013 – It happens over and over again. A company proposes some big project, environmentalists oppose it, but unions say it will create jobs. Or a government agency proposes new regulations, environmentalists say it will halt pollution, but unions say it will destroy jobs. The result is billed as a conflict of “jobs vs. the environment.” The Keystone XL Pipeline, the “beyond coal” campaign, the fracking battle, and EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act have all been treated as examples of that story. For those who want to overcome this division – to tell a different story — here are five levels at which it can be challenged:

1. Recognize the common interest in human survival and in sustainable livelihoods. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, if God had intended some people to fight just for the environment for the economy and others to fight just for the economy, he would have made some people who could live without money and others who could live without water and air. There are not two groups of people, environmentalists and workers. We all need a livelihood and we all need a livable planet to live on. If we don’t address both, we’ll starve together while we’re waiting to fry together.

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Global Capital Looking to ‘Global Green New Deal’ for Climate and Other Bailouts

January 22nd, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Environment, Green Energy

Editors Note: The key phrase below is ‘potential backers of low-carbon projects.’ From the left, there is no reason these can’t be public ownership projects or worker-owned coops—but it will take a fight.

Davos Call for $14 Trillion ‘Greening’ of Global Economy

Political and business leaders warned of need to ensure sustainable growth

By Tom Bawden
SolidarityEconomy.net via The Independent – UK

Jan 22 2013 – An unprecedented $14trn (£8.8trn) greening of the global economy is the only way to ensure long-term sustainable growth, according to a stark warning delivered to political and business leaders as they descended on the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday.

Only a sustained and dramatic shift to infrastructure and industrial practices using low-carbon technology can save the world and its economy from devastating global warming, according to a Davos-commissioned alliance led by the former Mexican President, Felipe Calderon, in the most dramatic call so far to fight climate change on business grounds.

This includes everything from power generation, transport, and buildings to industry, forestry, water and agriculture, according to the Green Growth Action Alliance, created at last year’s Davos meeting in Mexico.

The extra spending amounts to roughly $700bn a year until 2030 and would provide a much-needed economic stimulus as well as reduce the costs associated with global warming further down the line, said Mr Calderon, who leads the alliance.

It is better to try to pre-empt events like Hurricane Sandy, which cost $50bn, by keeping a lid on global warming, concluded the report, researched by the Accenture consultancy.

Mr Calderon, whose six-year term as Mexican President ended in November, said: "It is clear that we are facing a climate crisis with potentially devastating impacts on the global economy.

"Greening global economic growth is the only way to satisfy the needs of today’s population and up to 9 billion people by 2050, driving development and wellbeing while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing natural resource productivity."

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The Golden Age: Keynes, Malthus, Marx and the Post-Scarcity Vision

January 6th, 2013 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in economic democracy, Green Energy, socialism, Unemployment

The 15-hour working week predicted by Keynes may soon be within our grasp – but are we ready for freedom from toil?

By John Quiggin
SolidarityEconomy.net via Aeon Magazine

Sept 27, 2012 – I first became an economist in the early 1970s, at a time when revolutionary change still seemed like an imminent possibility and when utopian ideas were everywhere, exemplified by the Situationist slogan of 1968: ‘Be realistic. Demand the impossible.’ Preferring to think in terms of the possible I was much influenced by an essay called ‘Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren,’ written in 1930 by John Maynard Keynes, the great economist whose ideas still dominated economic policymaking at the time.

Like the rest of Keynes’s work, the essay ceased to be discussed very much during the decades of free-market liberalism that led up to the global financial crisis of 2007 and the ensuing depression, through which most of the developed world is still struggling. And, also like the rest of Keynes’s work, this essay has enjoyed a revival of interest in recent years, promoted most notably by the Keynes biographer Robert Skidelsky and his son Edward.

The Skidelskys have revived Keynes’s case for leisure, in the sense of time free to use as we please, as opposed to idleness. As they point out, their argument draws on a tradition that goes back to the ancients. But Keynes offered something quite new: the idea that leisure could be an option for all, not merely for an aristocratic minority.

Writing at a time of deep economic depression, Keynes argued that technological progress offered the path to a bright future. In the long run, he said, humanity could solve the economic problem of scarcity and do away with the need to work in order to live. That in turn implied that we would be free to discard ‘all kinds of social customs and economic practices, affecting the distribution of wealth and of economic rewards and penalties, which we now maintain at all costs, however distasteful and unjust they may be in themselves, because they are tremendously useful in promoting the accumulation of capital’.

Keynes was drawing on a long tradition but offering a new twist. The idea of a utopian golden age in which abundance replaces scarcity and the world is no longer ruled by money has always been with us. What was new in Keynes was the idea that technological progress might make utopia a reality rather than merely a vision.

Traditionally, the golden age was located in the past. In the Christian world, it was the Garden of Eden before the Fall, when Adam was cursed to earn his bread with the sweat of his brow, and Eve to bring forth her children in sorrow. The absence of any discussion of the feasibility of an actual golden age was unsurprising. As Keynes observed in his essay, ‘From the earliest times of which we have record — back, say, to 2,000 years before Christ — down to the beginning of the 18th century, there was no very great change in the standard of life of the average man living in the civilised centres of the earth’. The vast majority of people lived lives of hard labour on the edge of subsistence, and had always done so. No feasible political change seemed likely to alter this reality.

It was only with the Industrial Revolution, and the Enlightenment that preceded it, that the idea of a future golden age, realised as a result of human action, began to seem possible. By the end of the 18th century incomes had risen to the point where radical thinkers such as William Godwin could propose that, with a just distribution of wealth, everyone could live well.

The novel idea of progress — that the natural tendency of human affairs was to get better rather than worse — became part of ‘common sense’

Such dangerous speculation led to the first and still the most notable defence of the inevitability of scarcity, Malthus’s ‘Essay on the Principle of Population’, written specifically to refute Godwin. Malthus argued that, even if a technological innovation or redistribution of wealth could improve the living standards of the masses, the result would simply be to allow more children to survive. Inevitably, the exponential growth of population would outstrip linear growth in the means of subsistence. In a short time, the poor would be poor once again.

In the initial presentation of his argument, Malthus admitted only two checks on population — misery and vice. Misery meant poverty and hunger. Vice meant contraception, to which Malthus, unlike his neo-Malthusian successors, was resolutely opposed. Although he later admitted the third option of ‘moral restraint’ (that is, sexual abstinence), he was comfortably assured that this would never be sufficient to undermine his argument. Thus he concluded that the maintenance of a small upper class (clergymen, for example), with leisure to preserve, extend and transmit culture, was the best that humanity could hope for.

Linear growth? Fruit processing in Hawaii, 1960s. Factories drove up both working hours and living standards. Photo by Bates Littlehales/National Geographic/Getty

The conditions of the early 19th century seemed to support Malthus’s case. The Industrial Revolution had produced an intensification of work that was almost unparalleled in human history. Driven off the land by enclosure acts and population growth, former peasants and agricultural labourers became the first industrial proletariat. The factories in which they worked rapidly drove old traders and cottage industries like that of the handloom weavers into destitution and then into oblivion.

Unconstrained by seasons or by the length of the day, working hours reached an all-time peak, with the number of hours worked estimated at over 3,200 per year — a working week of more than 60 hours, with no holidays or time off. There were small increases in material consumption, but not nearly enough to offset the growth in the duration and intensity of work.

Most economists of Malthus’s time agreed with him. All the standard models ended in a steady state, with the majority of the population at subsistence. The only important exception was Karl Marx, for whom the process of immiseration ended, not with a subsistence-level steady state, but with crisis and revolution.

By the late 19th century, things had changed. On the one hand, Malthus’s predictions were being falsified in practice. A growing middle class was enjoying improved living standards as a result of technological progress. And, whether through moral restraint or contraception, they were having smaller families. The relatively novel idea of progress — that the natural tendency of human affairs was to get better rather than worse — rapidly became part of ‘common sense’.

The working class had more compelling reasons to hope for better things. Over decades of struggle, workers clawed back the ground they had lost and then some. The Factory Acts outlawed child labour in Britain, and by 1870 all children in England and Wales were entitled to at least an elementary education. The hours of work were limited by legislation and union action. The eight-hour day, a norm that is still under challenge 150 years later, was first achieved by Melbourne stonemasons in 1855, though it was not established more generally, even in Australia, until the early 20th century. The weekend, making Saturday as well as Sunday a day of leisure, came even later, around the middle of the 20th century in most developed countries.

The idea that a combination of technological progress and political reform could produce a genuine utopia became an appealing alternative to the ‘pie in the sky’ of an afterlife. Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888), a critique of 19th century capitalism written from the imagined perspective of the year 2000, was the archetypal example of this literature. Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’ (1891) was perhaps the most appealing. Even Marx, sternest critic of the old utopians, had his moments, most notably in The German Ideology (1846). There, he and Engels looked forward to a society in which labour did not depend on the lash of monetary incentives:

For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.

None of these writers, however, had a theory of economic growth. Neither was one to be found in the literature of classical economics. Keynes’s discussion of economic possibilities was one of the first to spell out the argument that improvements in living standards, based on a combination of technological progress and capital accumulation, might be expected to continue indefinitely.

He argued that technological progress at a rate of two per cent per year would be sufficient to multiply our productive capacity nearly eightfold in the space of a century. Allowing for a doubling of output per person, that would be consistent with a reduction of working hours to 15 hours a week or even less. This, Keynes thought, would be sufficient to satisfy the ‘old Adam’ in us who needs work in order to be contented.

Keynes himself had no grandchildren, but he was a contemporary of my own grandparents. It seemed to me when I first read his essay that there was a good chance that his vision might be realised in my lifetime. The social democratic welfare state, supported by Keynesian macroeconomic management, had already smoothed many of the sharp edges of economic life. The ever-present threat that we might be reduced to poverty by unemployment, illness or old age had disappeared from the lives of most people in developed countries. It wasn’t even a memory for the young.

There was, it seemed, every reason to expect further progress towards Keynes’s vision. Working hours were decreasing. A comfortable retirement at or before 65 had become a normal expectation. The idea of a lengthy and fairly leisurely university education was increasingly accepted, even if access to higher education was far from universal. More generally, in a labour market where the number of vacancies routinely exceeded the number of jobseekers, responding to economic ‘rewards and penalties’ seemed much less urgent. If one job was unsatisfying or boring, it was a simple matter to quit, take some time off and then find another.

In these favourable conditions, anti-materialist attitudes that had been confined to a Bloomsbury elite in Keynes’s day became widespread, particularly among the young. The enthusiastic consumerism of the 1950s was repudiated in varying degrees by nearly everyone, a trend exemplified by the adoption of blue jeans, previously the cheap and durable everyday wear of unskilled workers. The idea of ‘the environment’ as a problem of more general concern than specific local issues such as air pollution and the preservation of national parks was also a product of the ’60s, book-ended by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) and the first Earth Day in 1970. The idea that we could continue on a path of ever-growing material consumption appeared to be not merely unsatisfying but a recipe for ultimate catastrophe.

So on a first reading, ‘Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren’ seemed prophetic. Yet, 40 or so years later, I am a grandparent myself, the year 2030 is rapidly approaching, and Keynes’s vision seems further from reality than ever. At least in the English-speaking world, the seemingly inevitable progress towards shorter working hours has halted. For many workers it has gone into reverse.

The situation in Europe was, until recently, very different. Germany’s work hours declined from 2,387 hours annually in 1950 to 1,408 in 2010. France’s declined from 2,241 hours annually in 1950 to 1,552 in 2010. Yet even here, and even before the advent of austerity, there were signs of a turnaround. The loi Aubry, the law which reduced the normal French working week to 35 hours, has been repeatedly weakened. Work-sharing in Germany was highly successful in reducing the impact of the global financial crisis, but that does not seem to have had much effect on German judgments about the desirability of more and harder work for other countries.

Have allowances of free time peaked? A worker at the IRS center in Ogden, USA, 1980s. Photo by Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis

Moreover, far from fading into irrelevance, the struggle to accumulate capital and maintain or increase consumption is more intense than ever. Instead of contracting, the values of the market have penetrated ever further into every aspect of our lives. During the decades leading up to the global financial crisis, the scope and scale of speculative markets grew beyond any conceivable bound. Avarice and usury, as Keynes called them, are worshipped on an unimaginable scale. Financial instruments with notional values in the trillions were routinely traded, creating immense wealth for some (mostly participants in the trade) while bringing ruin and destitution to others (mostly far removed from the scene of the action).

Particularly during the ’90s, it seemed that this wealth was there to be taken by anyone willing to focus their thoughts on financial enrichment at the expense of any broader goals in life. Now that the bubble has burst, the burden of unsustainable debt left behind for both households and governments has ensured that the gods of the marketplace maintain their pre-eminence, even if their worship is much less enthusiastic than before.

How did this reversal come about, and is there any possibility that Keynes’s vision will be realised?

The first of these questions is easily answered. The economic turmoil of the ’70s put an end to the utopianism of the ’60s, and resulted in the resurgence of a hard-edged version of capitalism, variously referred to as neoliberalism, Thatcherism and the Washington Consensus. I have used the more neutral term ‘market liberalism’ to describe this set of ideas.

Social democracy must offer more than a lever to stabilise the economy. We need a vision of a genuinely better society

The central theoretical tenet of market liberalism is the efficient (financial) markets hypothesis. In the strong form that is most relevant to policy decisions, the hypothesis states that the prices determined in markets for financial assets such as shares, bonds and their various derivatives are the best possible estimates of the value of those assets.

In the core ideology of market liberalism, the efficient markets hypothesis is combined with the claim that the best way to achieve prosperity for all is to let the rich get richer. This claim is rarely spelt out explicitly by its advocates, so it is best known by its derisive label, the ‘trickle down’ hypothesis.

Taken together, the efficient markets hypothesis and the trickle down hypothesis lead us in the opposite direction to the one envisaged by Keynes. If these hypotheses are true, the mega-fortunes piled up in speculative financial markets are not merely justified: they are essential to achieve and maintain decent living standards for the rest of us. The investments that generate technological progress will, on this view, only be made if they are guided by financial markets driven by the desire to make unimaginable fortunes.

As long as market liberalism rules, there is no reason to expect progress towards a less money-driven society. The global financial crisis and the subsequent long recession have fatally discredited its ideas. Nevertheless, the reflexes and assumptions developed under market liberalism continue to dominate the thinking of politicians and opinion leaders. In my book, Zombie Economics (2010), I describe how these dead, or rather undead, ideas have risen from their graves to do yet more damage. In particular, after a resurgence of interest in Keynes’s macroeconomic theory, the entrenched interests and ideas of the era of market liberalism have regained control, pushing disastrous policies of ‘austerity’ and yet more structural ‘reform’ on free-market lines. Social democratic parties have failed to put up any serious resistance so far. Popular anger at the crisis has been channelled into right-wing tribalist movements such as the Tea Party in the US and Golden Dawn in Greece.

This experience makes it clear that, if Keynesian social democracy is to regain the dominant position it held from the end of Keynes’s own lifetime until the ’70s, it must offer more than a technocratic lever to stabilise the economy. We need a vision of a genuinely better society. For this reason, the time is right to re-examine Keynes’s vision of a future where economic scarcity, real or perceived, no longer dominates life as it does today.

To begin with, it is important to consider the limitations of Keynes’s thinking. First, Keynes considered only the developed world, implicitly assuming that the colonialist world order could be sustained indefinitely. Judging from his other writing, including his early work on the Indian economy, Keynes envisaged a gradual increase in living standards, under colonial tutelage, for the poor countries. The idea that a post-scarcity society in Europe and its settler offshoots could coexist with mass poverty elsewhere seems incongruous now, but in 1930, the European empires seemed destined to endure for a long time. The Indian National Congress had declared its goal of independence only the previous year, and the Statute of Westminster, establishing the legislative independence of the settler dominions, was a year in the future.

Once we try to apply Keynes’s reasoning to the world as a whole, it’s clear that the end of scarcity is further away than he supposed. How much further? To be more precise, how much technological progress would be needed for everyone to enjoy the average standard of living of Britain in 1930 (when Keynes was writing) by working only 15 hours a week?

For the first time in history, our productive capacity is such that no one need be poor

By 1990, 60 years after Keynes’s essay, average income for the world as a whole had just reached Britain’s level in 1930. So, it seems we need to add another 60 years, or two generations, to his timescale. On the other hand, because developing countries are mostly adopting existing technology, the average world growth rate of income per person is around three per cent, not the two per cent proposed by Keynes. In that case, an eightfold increase would take only 70 years. So, taking the entire world into account only defers the estimated end of scarcity by 30 years, to 2060 — within the expected lifetime of my children.

The problem of distribution, sharp enough in the Britain of the ’30s, is far worse for the world as a whole. A billion or so people live in destitution, and billions more are poor by any reasonable standard. Nevertheless, for the first time in history, our productive capacity is such that no one need be poor. In fact, more people are rich, by any reasonable historical standard, than are poor.

Even more strikingly, perhaps, more people are obese than are undernourished. And this is not true merely in terms of basic nutrition. Right now, the world produces enough meat to give everyone a diet comparable to the average Japanese person’s. This amount could be increased by replacing grain-fed beef with chicken and pork, a step that would also reduce carbon emissions. With another 50 years of technological progress and even a modest effort to aid the poorest onto the path of rapid growth already being followed by most of Asia, poverty could be eliminated. The vast majority of the world’s population could enjoy a living standard comparable, in material terms, to that of the global middle class of today.

A second problem to which Keynes pays only passing attention is that of housework. As a male academic born into a household staffed with domestic servants, he almost certainly did none himself. His discussion reflects this. Looking forward to the problems that might arise in a society with unaccustomed leisure, Keynes mentions ‘the wives of the well-to-do classes’ who ‘cannot find it sufficiently amusing, when deprived of the spur of economic necessity, to cook and clean and mend, yet are quite unable to find anything more amusing’. These traditional tasks had not, of course, been eliminated by technological progress. Rather, they had been contracted out to others, typified by the charwoman in a song quoted by Keynes, whose hope for paradise was to do nothing for all eternity.

Some housework is enjoyable and fulfilling but much of it is drudgery. A central requirement for a post-scarcity society is that no one should have to spend a lot of time on the latter.

The household appliances that first came into widespread use in the ’50s (washing machines, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers and so on) eliminated a huge amount of housework, much of it pure drudgery. By contrast, technological progress for the next 40 years or so was limited. Arguably, the only significant innovation in this period was the microwave oven. As a result, housework alone takes up all of Keynes’ proposed 15 hours a week. Time-use surveys suggest that the average woman in the UK spends around three hours a day on household work (excluding childcare, of which more later) and the average man spends about two hours. Both of these numbers have declined over time, but only slowly.

Market alternatives to most kinds of housework are available. Cooking can be replaced by eating out, washing and ironing can be sent out to a laundry, and (low-paid) workers can be hired to clean houses. Obviously, while people are being paid to do the housework of others, we are a long distance from Keynes’s post-scarcity world. A little less obviously, such a situation demands more time spent in paid work from those who want the money to buy market alternatives.

We might be willing to support surfers in return for non-market contributions to society

Still, the time spent on housework has been falling, and there are good reasons to think that it can fall further, to the point where most housework is done by choice rather than necessity. The rise of the internet and the advent of mobile telephony have drastically simplified a wide range of household chores, from banking and bill-paying to dealing with tradespeople. At the same time, the online world is changing shopping from a necessity to an optional extra, pursued only by those who enjoy it. It allows the requirements for a decent life to be met without any significant interaction with the culture of consumption, exemplified by the shopping mall.

An even more important omission in Keynes’s essay is the effort involved in raising children. Childless himself, Keynes came from a social class in which child rearing was contracted out, to an extent unparalleled before or since. Babies were handed to wet-nurses, cared for by nannies and governesses and then, from the age of eight or even younger, packed off to boarding schools. From the perspective of today’s parents, such a world is hard to imagine. Even if the need for market work were to disappear altogether, parents of young children would not have much time to worry about the need to fill their leisure hours.

But far from weakening Keynes’s case against a money-driven society, the problems of caring for children illustrate the way in which our current economic order fails to deliver a good life, even for the groups who are doing relatively well in economic terms. The workplace structures that define a successful career today require the most labour from ‘prime-age’ workers aged between 25 and 50, the stage when the demands of caring for children are greatest.

For the first time in history the world produces enough food so that none need go hungry: yet we are far from solving the problem of fair distribution. Hot dogs on Puget Sound, 1960s. Photo by Merle Severy/National Geographic/Getty

Work is distributed unequally, and perversely, in other dimensions as well. And yet, in the English-speaking countries at least, this has not meant more leisure so much as more time in retirement, unemployment or otherwise involuntarily excluded from the labour force. The result has been an inequality of leisure, the counterpart to the growing inequality of income. Particularly in the US, families are becoming polarised. On the one hand there is the two-income class of economically successful couple households in which both partners work full-time or more. On the other is the zero-income class, with one or two adults dependent either on welfare benefits or else on intermittent and insecure low-wage employment.

If work was distributed more equally, both between households and over time, we could all be better off. But it seems impossible to achieve this without a substantial reduction in the centrality of market work to the achievement of a good life, and without a substantial reduction in the total hours of work.

The first step would be to go back to the social democratic agenda associated with postwar Keynesianism. Although that agenda has largely been on hold during the decades of market-liberal dominance, the key institutions of the welfare state have remained both popular and resilient, as shown by the wave of popular resistance to cuts imposed in the name of austerity.

Key elements of the social democratic agenda include a guaranteed minimum income, more generous parental leave, and expanded provision of health, education and other social services. The gradual implementation of this agenda would not bring us to the utopia envisaged by Keynes — among other things, those services would require the labour of teachers, doctors, nurses, and other workers. But it would produce a society in which even those who did not work, whether by choice or incapacity, could enjoy a decent, if modest, lifestyle, and where the benefits of technological progress were devoted to improving the quality of life rather than providing more material goods and services. A society with these priorities would allocate most investment according to judgments of social need rather than market signals of price and profit. That in turn would reduce the need for a large and highly rewarded financial sector, even in relation to private investment.

There remains the question of how to move from a revitalised social democracy to the kind of utopia envisaged by Keynes. It would be absurd to spell out a detailed transitional program, but it’s useful to think about one of the central elements of such a society — a guaranteed minimum income.

In one sense, a guaranteed minimum income involves little more than a re-labelling of the existing benefits provided by all modern welfare states (with the US, as always, a notable exception). In most modern welfare states, everyone is eligible for income support which should be sufficient to prevent them from falling into poverty. Those who cannot work because of age or disability are automatically entitled to such support, while unemployed workers receive either insurance benefits related to their previous wages or some basic allowance conditional on job search.

In a post-scarcity society, everyone would be guaranteed an income that yielded a standard of living significantly better than poverty, and this guarantee would be unconditional. The move from a near-poverty benefit subject to eligibility conditions to a liveable, guaranteed minimum income would require both an increase in productivity, such that a smaller number of workers could produce an adequate income for all, and some fairly radical changes in social attitudes.

It seems clear enough that technological progress can generate the necessary productivity gains, so what is needed most is a change in attitudes to work that would make a guaranteed minimum income socially sustainable. The first is that the production of market goods and services needs to become pleasant enough that those doing it don’t mind supporting others who choose not to. The second is that the option of receiving a guaranteed minimum income does not become a trap, leading into the kind of idleness that produces despair.

We can imagine a few steps towards this goal. One would be to allow recipients of the minimum income to choose voluntary work as an alternative to job search. In many countries, a lot of the required structures are in placed under ‘workfare’ or ‘work for the dole’ schemes. All that would be needed is to replace the punitive and coercive aspects of these schemes with positive inducements. A further step would be to allow a focus on cultural or sporting endeavours, whether or not those endeavours involve achieving the levels of performance that currently attract (sometimes lavish) public and market support.

An Australian example might help to illustrate the point. Under our current economic structures, someone who makes and sells surfboards can earn a good income, as can someone good enough to join the professional surfing circuit. But a person who just wants to surf is condemned, rightly enough under our current social relations, as a parasitic drain on society. With less need for anyone to work long hours at unpleasant jobs, we might be more willing to support surfers in return for non-market contributions to society such as membership of a surf life-saving club. Ultimately, people would be free to choose how best to contribute ‘according to their abilities’ and receive from society enough to meet at least their basic needs.

We do have the technological capacity to start down that path and to approach the goal within the lives of our grandchildren. That’s a couple of generations behind Keynes’s optimistic projection, but still a hope that could counter the current tides of cynicism and despair.

This brings us to the final, really big question. Supposing a Keynesian utopia is feasible, will we want it? Or will we prefer to keep chasing after money to buy more and better things?

In 2008, 16 economists contributed to an interesting volume called Revisiting Keynes, edited by Lorenzo Pecchi and Gustavo Piga. Many of those economists argued that Keynes had been proved wrong. Experience, they said, had shown that people will always want to consume more and will be willing to work harder to do it. Implicit in much of their discussion was the idea that the US economy, as of 2008, represented the way of the future. With the advantage of a few years’ hindsight, this assumption seems every bit as dubious as the view against which Keynes argued in 1930, that the Depression would continue indefinitely.

The steady growth in consumption expenditure in the US in the decades leading up to the financial crisis depended on debt. And of course, the need to service debt necessitated a willingness to work long hours. Now, after millions of foreclosures and bankruptcies, a large proportion of the population has been excluded from credit markets. Households in general have seen the need to build up their savings.

More importantly, the culture of conspicuous consumption, which reached unparalleled heights of excess in the 1990s and early 2000s, is on the wane. The most striking emblem of this change is the end of the American love affair with the motor car. Throughout the 20th century the car stood in American culture as a symbol of personal freedom attainable through consumption expenditure. Year after year, pausing only briefly for recessions and slowdowns, more and more cars were driven further and further, burning more and more petrol. But this endless growth has now, apparently, come to an end. The use of petrol in the US peaked in 2005, before the advent of the economic crisis. The distance driven has also peaked and Americans are buying fewer and smaller cars. Economic factors, including higher fuel prices, have a role to play. But anecdotal evidence suggests that there is more to it than this. Increasingly, driving is seen as an unpleasant chore rather than an exercise of freedom. Young people in particular have been less eager than their parents to start driving and acquire cars.

Such shifts bring bigger changes in their wake. Without cars and commuting, large houses in the suburbs are much less attractive. After decades of steady growth, the size of new houses seems to be declining. Smaller houses mean fewer possessions to fill them, and less appeal for a privatised life based on private consumption.

An escape from what Keynes called ‘the tunnel of economic necessity’ is still open to us. Yet it will require radical changes in the economic structures that drive the chase for money and in the attitudes shaped by a culture of consumption. After decades of finance-driven capitalism, it takes an effort to recall that such changes ever seemed possible.

Yet it is now clear that market liberalism has failed in its own terms. It promised that if markets were set free, everyone would benefit in the long run. In reality, most households in developed countries experienced less income growth under market liberalism than in the decades of Keynesian social democracy after 1945. Of more immediate importance, except for the top one per cent there has been no recovery from the crisis of 2008, and even worse looms ahead. And despite the initial success of the backlash against Keynesian macroeconomic policies, austerity is now failing in political as well as economic terms.

Popular anger has boiled over in a string of electoral defeats for the advocates of austerity. But, unlike the right-wing tribalism that has formed part of that backlash, progressive politics cannot, in the end, rely on anger. It must offer the hope of a better life. That means reclaiming utopian visions such as that of Keynes.

What Is the Smart Grid? Core Infrastructure for the ‘Green New Deal’

December 19th, 2012 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Environment, Green Energy, structural reform, Unemployment

By Joe Miller

SolidarityEconomy.net via Smartgridnews.com

Many people are asking, “What is the Smart Grid?”

Many more are trying to define it with short “sound bite” descriptions. These short statements cannot adequately convey the level of detail needed to provide a clear understanding.  The Smart Grid isn’t a thing but rather a vision and to be complete, that vision must be expressed from various perspectives – its values, its characteristics, and the milestones for achieving it.

Smart grid values

The transformation to the Smart Grid will require new investment and commitment by its many stakeholders.  These stakeholders expect significant value in return.  Understanding how this value will be created is an important step in defining the vision.  Expectations for the Smart Grid are great and will be realized through advances in each of the six value areas described below:

It must be more reliable.  A reliable grid provides power, when and where its users need it and of the quality they value.

It must be more secure.  A secure grid withstands physical and cyber attacks without suffering massive blackouts or exorbitant recovery costs. 
It is also less vulnerable to natural disasters and recovers quickly.

It must be more economic.  An economic grid operates under the basic laws of supply and demand, resulting in fair prices and adequate supplies.

It must be more efficient.  An efficient grid employs strategies that lead to cost control, minimal transmission and distribution losses, efficient power production, optimal asset utilization while providing consumers options for managing their energy usage.

It must be more environmentally friendly.  An environmentally friendly grid reduces environmental impacts thorough improvements in efficiency and by enabling the integration of a larger percentage of intermittent resources than could otherwise be reliably supported.

It must be safer.  A safe grid does no harm to the public or to grid workers and is sensitive to users who depend on it as a medical necessity.

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Don’t Throw Wind Power Off Fiscal Cliff: Iowa Blue-Green Advocates

December 10th, 2012 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Environment, Green Energy

By Rod Boshart
Progressive America Rising via Iowa Farmer Today

Dec 9, 2012 -DES MOINES — With Congress facing an approaching deadline to extend a production tax credit critical to wind energy’s future, an Iowa-based environmental group issued a report Nov. 28  extolling the pollution-fighting, health and water conservation benefits of the state’s major source of renewable energy.

According to Environmental Iowa — a statewide, citizen-based advocacy group — Iowa’s current power generation from wind energy has had the equivalent “avoidance” benefit of displacing as much pollution as taking 1,187,000 cars off the road each year and has saved enough water not used to cool fossil-fuel production facilities to meet the needs of 98,100 Iowans.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 28 Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, joined Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., and about 40 veterans who have found post-military careers in the wind energy industry to push for renewing the wind-production tax credit.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, also sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner asking him to “give weight” to the Operation Free veterans’ effort to extend a tax credit that helps secure made-in-America energy and the jobs it creates.

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‘Fracking’: Myth Meets Realties

June 27th, 2012 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Environment, Fracking, Green Energy, public health

 

A natural gas rig side by side with homes in Washington County, PA | B. Mark Schmerling

Fractured Lives

Detritus of Pennsylvania’s Shale Gas Boom

By Edward Humes

Progressive America Rising via Sierra Club

The supple hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, once known for their grassy woodlands, red barns, and one-stoplight villages, bristle with new landmarks these days: drilling rigs, dark green condensate tanks, fields of iron conduits lumped with hissing valves, and long, flat rectangles carved into hilltops like overgrown swimming pools, brimming with umber wastewater.

Tall metal methane flaring stacks periodically fill the night with fiery glares and jet engine roars. Roadbeds of crushed rock, guarded by No Trespassing signs, lie like fresh sutures across hayfields, deer trails, and backyards, admitting fleets of tanker trucks to the wellheads of America’s latest energy revolution.

 
This is the new face of Washington County, the leading edge of the nation’s breakneck shale gas boom. Natural gas boosters, President Barack Obama among them, have lauded it as a must-have, 100-year supply of clean, cheap energy that we cannot afford to pass up. However, recent data suggest that supplies of shale gas may last for only 11 years and that the extreme measures needed to recover it may make it a dirtier fuel than coal. But that hasn’t slowed the dramatic transformation of gas-rich regions from rural Pennsylvania to urban Fort Worth, Texas.

Driving this juggernaut is the amalgam of industrial technologies collectively known as "hydraulic fracturing," or "fracking," which releases the gases (the main component of which is methane) hidden deep within layers of ancient, splintery shale. With five major shale "plays" concentrated in eight states, and more under development, America has been transformed from a net importer of natural gas into a potential exporter.

Perched atop the 7,000-foot-deep Marcellus Shale formation, which undergirds most of Appalachia, Washington County not only boasts enormous reserves of methane but also leads the state in producing far more frack-worthy "wet gas" products: propane, butane, ethane, and other valuable chemicals that can mean the difference between a money pit and a money gusher. Although central Pennsylvania has more wells, this wet gas makes Washington County, in industry parlance, a "honeypot."

The lure of million-dollar payouts has led many farmers, homeowners, school boards, and town commissions to lease out their subterranean energy wealth. Royalty payments on leases so far have topped half a billion dollars statewide–money that, for some, is literally saving the farm.

"An unprecedented economic impact," Matt Pitzarella has called it. He’s spokesman for the leading driller in this part of the state, Texas-based Range Resources, which in 2004 fracked the first successful Marcellus Shale wells–at the time a shot in the dark and now believed to be tapping the second-largest natural gas field in the world. Pitzarella ticks off stories of poor families who hit the gas-lease lottery and are now able to afford college tuition, new cars, and home makeovers.

But unlocking half-billion-year-old hydrocarbon deposits carries a price, and not everyone shares in the bonanza. For every new shale well, 4 million to 8 million gallons of water, laced with potentially poisonous chemicals, are pumped into the ground under explosive pressure–a violent geological assault. And once unleashed, the gas requires a vast industrial architecture to be processed and moved from the wells to the world. Imagine the pipes, compressors, ponds, pits, refineries, and meters each shale well in Pennsylvania demands, planted next to horse farms, cornfields, houses, and schools. Then multiply by 5,000.

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Distorting Green Jobs: Van Jones Gets Dissed Again

August 25th, 2011 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Green Energy, rightwing, Unemployment

Exclusive: Van Jones Slams Misleading Quotes in Flawed New York Times Story on Green Jobs

By Joe Romm

Progressive America Rising via Climate Progress, Aug 24, 2011

In an email to Climate Progress, green jobs champion Van Jones explains how the New York Times misrepresented his quotes and his views.

The story in question is “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.”  I debunked it here yesterday for completely ignoring the “explosive growth” documented by a recent Brookings study in the clean energy jobs sector –  even though the article cited the study!

I thought that the quotes attributed to Van Jones didn’t sound like the passionate, optimistic green jobs guru I have had the good fortune to get to know at the Center for American Progress:

President Obama once pledged to create five million green jobs over 10 years. Gov. Jerry Brown promised 500,000 clean-technology jobs statewide by the end of the decade. But the results so far suggest such numbers are a pipe dream.

“I won’t say I’m not frustrated,” said Van Jones, an Oakland activist who served briefly as Mr. Obama’s green-jobs czar….

I asked Jones if that’s what he really said, and he replied:

I was quoted in the story as “frustrated.” I am. But not in the way that the story suggests.

“Yes, I said I was frustrated. But I was talking about my frustration with the GOP, not the green jobs movement. The whole thing is ridiculous. Dirty energy backers blocked cap-and-trade, which would have spurred green innovation and enterprise. Now they complain that we have not had more progress regarding green jobs?

That would be like someone tripping a racehorse and then saying, “See, I told you that horse was no good!”

That is the frustration that I was talking about.

What I find inspiring, if not miraculous, is that the green economy continues to blossom — despite everything that has been thrown against it. Thanks for pointing that out in your column.

But it gets better, which is to say, worse.  The Times claims that Jones has scaled-back his projections:

SolFocus’s plans do not much resemble what Mr. Jones, the former Obama administration official, had in mind in his 2008 book, “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems,” when he described the green economy as “Joe Sixpack with a hard hat and a lunch bucket going off to fix America,” and talked of millions of new jobs.

In an interview last week, though, he seemed to have scaled back. “The green economy as we initially conceived it,” Mr. Jones said, “was never supposed to save the entire global economy.”

Jones sets the record straight again:

Also: contrary to the article, I explicitly told the reporter that I stand beside my prediction that the clean energy sector will create millions of jobs. But I warned him that a majority of those jobs could end up in China soon, unless DC starts acting aggressively. China’s government has been moving quickly to gobble up global enterprises and industries. Meanwhile, DC has been missing in action since the mid-term elections.

Most troubling, the recession cost us nearly 10 million jobs, and there are an additional 15 million underemployed people in the United States. To fix America’s economy single-handedly, the clean energy sector would have to generate 10-25 million jobs, all by itself. We never said we could create 10-25M US clean energy jobs, under any scenario.

The most enthusiastic backers were debating numbers in the 3-5M range — and that was over a decade or longer, WITH cap and trade securely in place. We can still achieve those numbers — with the right policies, innovations and enterprises. And those are very big numbers, worthy of the effort. But unless we fix our trade policy, get our currency valued properly and reform the financial sector, we will still be short 7-22 million jobs. So, no: the clean energy sector cannot generate enough jobs to erase all of the damage that the Great Recession did to America or the world. Growing this sector is an absolutely necessary, but not ultimately sufficient, part of the solution.

I conveyed all of this at length — in a one-hour interview — but the main quotes that made it through were the ones that reinforced the premise of the article. Thanks for helping to correct the record.

We all wonder sometimes whether it is worth giving extended interviews to reporters, knowing that they may just pick out one or two words or phrases that match their desired narrative.  Fortunately, most get it right.

But right now, with Obama down in the polls and overall job creation slow and the fossil-fuel-funded disinformers pushing lies about clean energy, many in the media want to tell yet another story of how Obama failed.

I’m as critical of Obama as anyone on climate change, but the narrative in the NY Times story is just false.  Clean energy jobs have soared in recent years — thanks in no small part to Obama’s stimulus bill, as well as the business community’s understanding of the threat posed by climate change, something this article is silent on.  The promise of millions of clean energy jobs was always based on the passage of policies that the GOP have so far, successfully torpedoed.  Yes, Obama deserves some blame for the failure of those policies, but I have always said that it is under 10% of the blame.  Some 60%  belongs to the right wing and its disiniformers, with another 30% to the media itself  for failing to tell the story — see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2.”

It is the realities of global warming and peak oil that ensure the world will generate millions of clean energy jobs in the coming decade — and far more than that in the ensuing decades when we get truly serious.  This remains the story of the decade and the century.