FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Farce of Democratic Party Climate Change Policy

Aliso-Canyon-640x353

As the Aliso Canyon natural gas leak continues to spew into the air, Rhode Island’s small hamlet of Burrillvillle is now facing the chance to be the future site of such a catastrophe. With the help of a key Democratic Party endorsement and accession from labor union bosses who should know better, Rhode Island may soon host a fracked natural gas plant rather than the saner move of a sustainable electric plant.

Recently, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who is lovingly nicknamed ‘Wheldon Shitehouse’ by constituents in the know, has posed and postured around the Senate regarding climate change, browbeating and hectoring the Republican denialists with all the pomp and circumstance of the pontificating charlatan he is. One of Sen. Whitehouse’s claims to fame is going after the paint corporations in a lawsuit regarding lead poisoning in children, yet his recent behavior makes one wonder if he in fact consumed a fair share of paint chips in his youth.

What makes this such a joke is his adamant support of the construction of a Spectra Energy natural gas plant in Burriville. My colleague Steve Ahlquist at RIFuture.org, a better journalist and investigative reporter than I will ever be, has done a truly amazing amount of muckraking on this issue that shows the calamity in construction, reporting I would highly encourage CounterPunch readers to peruse at their leisure, including ones about whistleblowing regarding corporate pollution and protests by residents willing to go to jail. What I offer here is a mere summary.

Let us begin with the science, which says that the methane generated when one burns natural gas is actually, at this point, far more dangerous than carbon emissions. Methane dissipates faster than carbon but also magnifies heat to a greater degree, which at this juncture is unacceptable.

[T]he media are discovering that the claim fails to account for the climate impacts of methane, the main constituent of “natural” gas, over its full life-cycle. The latter starts at the well. From there, gas is transported via pipelines and compressor stations, to its final destination downstream. Gas escapes unburned at every stage.  When the global warming potential of this so-called “fugitive methane” is taken into account, it turns out that “natural” gas (both conventional and fracked) is a greater threat to the climate than coal or oil burned for any purpose. This came to light in 2011, when Cornell University researchers Anthony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth, along with actor and anti-fracking activist Mark Ruffalo, were named among Time Magazine’s 50 “People Who Matter” for performing and publicizing a study that undercut the bridge-fuel claim. In April of 2014, a recent update of the research has confirmed this finding. (http://www.rifuture.org/methane-gas-is-no-bridge-fuel.html)

The proponents of this move argue that natural gas is a ‘transition fuel’, but the reality is that the transition period came and went during the Bush administration. And to be precise on that point, I mean the H.W. Bush administration, that is why Gorbachev embraced climate change issues in the final days of the Soviet epoch.

University of Rhode Island scientist Dr. Peter Nightingale has recently engaged in a series of protests against the Spectra plant to the chagrin of unionized workers of a construction industry in the doldrums. But the reality is that, despite the fact these workers see him as a job killer, he is trying to save their houses. Recent maps generated by Climate Central and National Geographic demonstrate that the coastal areas of Rhode Island, which are thoroughly populated by unionized laborer domiciles, could be inundated by the end of the century. The fact that Union leaders allow a situation where laborers are pitted against their fellow workers from unionized public universities just goes to show that class war is so classy.

Sen. Whitehouse has said recently he would like to use the model created by the tobacco lawsuits in the 1990’s to go after the fossil fuel companies, who knew decades ago that their carbon footprint was causing an ecological catastrophe. Some time ago, I talked with a neighbor who told me the insurance companies had lowered her bill by saying she no longer needed to pay for flooding coverage. With what we know now about the forecast, will Sen. Whitehouse dare take on the home insurance companies that are running such a fraud? What will he tell constituents when the route he walks during the annual Gaspee Days Parade down Narragansett Parkway in Warwick is under water?

These maps show the historic African and Latino neighborhoods of South Providence are under water in two decades, which gives new meaning to the ethnic cleansing description of gentrification. Will Sen. Whitehouse, whose offices are above sea level on the East Side of Providence, be giving shelter to these flood victims?

Instead of creating a few jobs that will last for a brief window of time Sen. Whitehouse and Gov. Gina Raimondo could instead use this opportunity to create a Green New Deal. The installation of the sustainable grid could create good unionized jobs for years to come, perhaps saving our country from economic woes in a fashion not seen since World War II. Paul Jay of The Real News Network recently interviewed Dr. Robert Pollin of UMass Amherst, an economic professor, who described succinctly how to finance this effort. Yet the union leadership replies that their primary concern is to get cranes in the air. Whether they will answer for when the union members are flooded out of their homes remains to be seen. One must wonder why Sen. Whitehouse finds it necessary to reinvent the wheel while ninety miles away from Key West in Cuba we have a model to follow, one that is wholly pro-union and will grow the rolls of labor unions in measurements that utilize reams instead of lines on a paper. Like I said before, blame the paint chips.

While we wait with bated breath for Sen. Whitehouse to wake up from his petro-funded stupor, I would recommend true activists connect with Fighting Against Natural Gas (FANG), a direct action climate justice group that is taking on Spectra and their pawns movement of faux neoliberal activists one battlefield at a time. I would also love to see FANG network with the Cuban embassy and present a wholly-unionized plan of alternative action that deflates the behavior of the unimaginative union leadership. Perhaps this could also precipitate union support for ending the embargo, something that is far-overdue. But instead Sen. Whitehouse and his collaborators are playing a dangerous game, setting up for another Aliso Canyon, that, like the Cuban Missile Crisis half a century ago, brings us dangerously close to an apocalypse of our own making. I doubt Sen. Whitehouse would like to be compared to President Kennedy in that fashion.

More articles by:

Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail