To: Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice mailing list
September 18, 2018
RE:The “Rise for Climate” marches and the Washington State carbon tax initiative

* On the “Rise for Climate” marches
* Notes on the article

On the “Rise for Climate” marches

by Frank Arango, Seattle Workers’ Voice


    The following is a report from a Seattle Workers' Voice comrade who attended the September 8 Rise for Climate march in Tacoma, Washington. On the same day, 350.org reports that over 250,000 people took part in the 900 similar marches that took place globally. This included tens of thousands in South Asia, tens of thousands in Africa, 150,000 in France, 15,000 in Denmark, 3,500 in Stockholm and 1,000 in Portugal. In the United States, they report 30,000 people marched in San Francisco (a figure also given by the Mercury News), 3,000 in New York and 1,100 in San Diego.

Close to 300 people gathered for the Tacoma rally and march, many of whom have been engaged in battles against pipelines, in the battle against a new liquefied natural gas plant in Tacoma, and in other environmental struggles. There was a good Native American turnout, and many of the speakers dwelt on the fact that indigenous peoples and people in the poor countries have long been in the forefront of the struggle to save the environment. We then had a spirited march to the ICE detention center to show solidarity with the unjustly imprisoned immigrants, to demand their release, and to demand that ICE be abolished.

I passed out 100 copies of the leaflet at http://www.communistvoice.org/DSWV-180908.html. Upon seeing that it dealt with Washington’s carbon fee Initiative 1631, a young Native American man immediately said 1631 would raise gas prices but do little to curb carbon emissions. Others in the crowd supported the initiative with signs and buttons. But I’m sure they all know we’re going to have to continue building the environmental movement if the initiative passes.

I also had a table displaying printouts from the “free market vs. the environment” section of Communist Voice (http://www.communistvoice.org/00GlobalWarming.html). Several people took copies, including a man who asked if I really thought the carbon tax is a futile attempt at a free-market solution to global warming. I replied by outlining the experience with the carbon tax in British Columbia: After freezing increases in 2012, the government had to raise the tax twice because it wasn’t meeting its targets. The oil companies had shifted the burden of the tax onto the masses by raising prices, but gas and diesel sales had actually increased in the ten years the tax has been in effect. (One study shows that seven years after the carbon tax took effect, total gasoline sales increased by 7.37 percent. Another says that gasoline sales in British Columbia skyrocketed over 23% between 2012 and 2016.) I also pointed out that B.C.’s emissions from all sources have only fallen 2% during the period of the tax, which is not enough. (One could add that since B.C.’s total emissions had already been declining for several years before the carbon tax went into effect, it’s hard to say how much this further decline is due to the tax.) The man seemed to accept this.

Overall, I think the September 8 demonstrations provided a shot in the arm for the environmental movement. Marchers shared experiences and ideas among themselves, and they used many original chants, signs and banners to arouse the masses of people into the fight to rapidly go over to renewable energy sources and to keep the pollutants in the ground. As one of the chants said: “When the climate is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

The political fight over regulations

While more regulations and their enforcement are needed, Trump and his climate change denying administration have been on a rampage of tearing up or rolling back regulations on the polluters from the beginning. Now, this month, they’re moving to roll back a weak Obama regulation concerning methane emissions. [1] Instead of requiring oil and gas drillers to perform leak inspections as frequently as every six months on their drilling equipment, and to repair leaks within 30 days, the new E.P.A. rule would lengthen the time between inspections to one year on most wells, and to two years on low-producing wells. Also, while allowing a company to wait 30 days before repairing a methane leak was bad enough, the new rule outrageously allows them to wait 60 days. Furthermore, the E.P.A. proposal would allow states with methane standards worse than the federal ones to follow their own standards. [2] Thus, E.P.A. is fast becoming the acronym for Environmental Pollution Agency.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are also enemies of regulation, but, unlike Trump, they push carbon pricing or the carbon tax in order to avoid it. [3] Furthermore, big oil companies like Exxon-Mobil, BP, Shell and Total SA have themselves begun favoring carbon tax as a way to avoid regulations. In the United States they’ve even teamed up with a handful of conservative Republicans in order to push it. [4]

But in their endless search for new and improved versions of failing market solutions, the mainstream environmental groups either ignore these embarrassments or proclaim them victories. But this is not going unchallenged. For example, Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch writes as follows:

“Simply put, carbon pricing is a false solution to climate change and a problematic distraction from real, effective climate solutions we must urgently pursue.

“From 2009 (the first full year of the tax) to 2014 (the most recent data available), emissions from taxed sources in British Columbia grew by 4.3 percent. And in the seven years after the carbon tax took effect, total gasoline sales increased by 7.37 percent.

“Meanwhile, fossil fuel giants such as ExxonMobil are increasingly coming out in support of carbon pricing. This should be cause for alarm for anyone concerned with stamping out the use of the dirty energy sources these corporations profit from. Exxon knows that carbon taxes will do little the change the business-as-usual dependence on oil and gas that it relies on to continue operating and enriching shareholders. Furthermore, corporations such as Exxon rightly view carbon pricing schemes as a means of diverting energy and interest from tougher regulations that might actually encroach on their business plans and bottom lines.“—emphasis added [5]

Ms Hauter ends her article praising a Congressional bill that I haven’t yet read. But whatever its merits or demerits, for sure we need to maintain an orientation toward building a politically alive environmental movement of millions of working people. That is where the kind of militancy needed to force the Republicans and Democrats from their profit-preserving and failing market solutions will come. <>

Notes to “On the ‘Rise for Climate’ marches”

[1] Although methane is only a small part of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, an equal quantity of it is 25 times more potent then the same quantity of carbon dioxide. Thus it’s already is responsible for about 9% of the greenhouse warming effect, and an estimated one-third of methane pollution comes from oil and gas operations, with more coming from leaking natural gas pipelines.)

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/10/climate/methane-emissions-epa.html

[3] http://www.communistvoice.org/DWV-160429.html

[4] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/shell-oil-quietly-urges-lawmakers-to-support-carbon-tax/ and

https://medium.com/aj-news/whats-with-oil-companies-supporting-a-carbon-tax-bdb1dea22489

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/all-opinions-are-local/wp/2018/06/25/the-carbon-tax-fallacy/?utm_term=.f8bcc169704b <>


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Posted on September 20, 2018
Some typos - including SWV # - have been corrected.
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