Keep On Keepin' On
The Low Road to Ecological Perdition:Greed Tries Turning Natural Gas ‘Green’
By Carl DavidsonKeep On Keepin’ OnIt’s hard to decide who has less shame, the Pennsylvania legislature’s GOP-led majority or the natural gas industry. The question is raised by a Sept. 2, 2011 report in the Pittsburgh Business Times headlined, “Gas as alternative energy? New PA bill says yes.”So we’re now faced with yet another sweetheart deal concocted jointly by our two local big-time political hustlers. They want to declare natural gas as a ‘tier two alternative energy’ to get their hands on tax credits earmarked for real green startups. To add insult to injury, both are also blocking any extraction tax on the gas released from the Marcellus shale by the environmentally dangerous ‘fracking’ underground explosions.That’s like someone picking your pocket with one hand while attaching your paycheck with the other.Let’s get this straight. Taking any form of carbon from under the ground, burning it, and putting the resulting carbon dioxide in the air is not an ‘alternative energy.’ Claiming so puts you in the running for the George Orwell 1984 ‘War is Peace’ award. There’s only one rational, strategic way to burn carbon for energy: set aside part of the profits from this decidedly un-green process to create the investment fund for true alternative energy systems. Over time, this will help phase out the burning of carbon as a primary energy source altogether. Here’s something most kids learn in their high school Earth Science classes, even if our paid-off politicians and short-sighted and carbon-addicted business leaders are in denial:Alternative energies, for the most part, derive from the interplay of the Earth, Sun and Moon. That’s solar cells and solar collectors, wind turbines, hydro power and wave generators taking advantage of tides and other ongoing movement of water. The few exceptions are geothermal sources, tapping into the heat below the Earth’s crust. All these are practically inexhaustible and leave a relatively low ecological footprint. That’s why they’re called ‘renewable’ and ‘green’. When brought to scale and with the proper technology—almost all of which is already invented and in use in many parts of the world—renewable energies can provide almost all our needs, from running heavy industry and powering land-based transportation to turning on your porch lights. We’ll still need a small amount of hydrocarbons to power aircraft, but even that can be reduced with electromotive high-speed rail.What’s more, making the transition to clean and green energy requires a massive but productive increase in modern high-tech, high-value-added manufacturing and the jobs that go with them. That’s why Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers has been hammering away at their importance for years now.That’s also the high road to economic and energy development for creating new wealth here at home.  But our legislature or at least a majority of it, along with the speculators bound up with the Marcellus Shale, want to take us down the low road to less sustainable low-wage growth and disaster-threatening ecological perdition. This bill is simply the latest case in point. It’s time for the Blue-Green alliance and a job-building, progressive-minded majority to expose these shenanigans, get rid of the shale-related corruption and organize the independent political clout to put us on a proper clean and green course.

The Low Road to Ecological Perdition:
Greed Tries Turning Natural Gas ‘Green’


By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin’ On

It’s hard to decide who has less shame, the Pennsylvania legislature’s GOP-led majority or the natural gas industry.

The question is raised by a Sept. 2, 2011 report in the Pittsburgh Business Times headlined, “Gas as alternative energy? New PA bill says yes.”

So we’re now faced with yet another sweetheart deal concocted jointly by our two local big-time political hustlers. They want to declare natural gas as a ‘tier two alternative energy’ to get their hands on tax credits earmarked for real green startups. To add insult to injury, both are also blocking any extraction tax on the gas released from the Marcellus shale by the environmentally dangerous ‘fracking’ underground explosions.

That’s like someone picking your pocket with one hand while attaching your paycheck with the other.

Let’s get this straight. Taking any form of carbon from under the ground, burning it, and putting the resulting carbon dioxide in the air is not an ‘alternative energy.’ Claiming so puts you in the running for the George Orwell 1984 ‘War is Peace’ award.

There’s only one rational, strategic way to burn carbon for energy: set aside part of the profits from this decidedly un-green process to create the investment fund for true alternative energy systems. Over time, this will help phase out the burning of carbon as a primary energy source altogether.

Here’s something most kids learn in their high school Earth Science classes, even if our paid-off politicians and short-sighted and carbon-addicted business leaders are in denial:

Alternative energies, for the most part, derive from the interplay of the Earth, Sun and Moon. That’s solar cells and solar collectors, wind turbines, hydro power and wave generators taking advantage of tides and other ongoing movement of water. The few exceptions are geothermal sources, tapping into the heat below the Earth’s crust. All these are practically inexhaustible and leave a relatively low ecological footprint. That’s why they’re called ‘renewable’ and ‘green’.

When brought to scale and with the proper technology—almost all of which is already invented and in use in many parts of the world—renewable energies can provide almost all our needs, from running heavy industry and powering land-based transportation to turning on your porch lights. We’ll still need a small amount of hydrocarbons to power aircraft, but even that can be reduced with electromotive high-speed rail.

What’s more, making the transition to clean and green energy requires a massive but productive increase in modern high-tech, high-value-added manufacturing and the jobs that go with them. That’s why Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers has been hammering away at their importance for years now.

That’s also the high road to economic and energy development for creating new wealth here at home.  But our legislature or at least a majority of it, along with the speculators bound up with the Marcellus Shale, want to take us down the low road to less sustainable low-wage growth and disaster-threatening ecological perdition.

This bill is simply the latest case in point. It’s time for the Blue-Green alliance and a job-building, progressive-minded majority to expose these shenanigans, get rid of the shale-related corruption and organize the independent political clout to put us on a proper clean and green course.

Turn the Tables on a Rigged Game
By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue
Our local conservative newspaper, the Pittsburgh Business Times, carries an instructive story this morning, July 21, 2011, about how to solve our revenue problems, only it fails to make the critical point. So I’ll lend a hand. It says:
“Pennsylvania casinos brought in $81.4 million in tax revenue from table games during the fiscal year that ended last month, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Of that, about $71.3 million went to the state’s general fund and another $10 million went to local municipalities and counties that host the state’s 10 table game casinos.
“The Rivers Casino on the North  Shore was responsible for $8 million in state tax revenue and $1.2 million in local payments through its table games operations during the past fiscal year.”
It goes on to break the numbers down even more.
Now I can enjoy a day at the Casino. I recently took my Mom and stepfather, a retired J&L worker, to the Rivers for his 84th birthday. I hit the nickel slot for $1.50 on my first try, but ended up leaving $5 in the hole.
But here’s my point. There’s a much larger casino in this country that has global reach. It’s called Wall Street, and enormous sums are bet there every second, with the biggest bets being placed by hedge fund managers gambling with other people’s money.
But where’s the ‘house take,’ like the tax revenues reported above? If they can get these amounts from the working class, what about the Wall Street class? 
That’s what a financial transaction tax would do, and it could pay a great deal of our country’s social needs budget with plenty left over. What’s more, it wouldn’t even put a burden on productive capital, such as a new green manufacturing startups.
Instead we get big-time gamblers in derivatives wanting us taxpayers to cover their losses. That would be like me going to the Pittsburgh treasurer and asking for a tax deal to get my $5 back that I lost the other day, but I still get to keep the  $1.50 I won on my first bet.
The bottom line is that we live in a class society with the wrong class on top. The boss press can easily report on the gaming taxes taken mainly from the working class, but the notion of taking a ‘house cut’ from the truly high rollers of finance capital, well, that’s ‘off the table.’ 
It’s time to turn this rigged game upside down.

Turn the Tables on a Rigged Game

By Carl Davidson

Beaver County Blue

Our local conservative newspaper, the Pittsburgh Business Times, carries an instructive story this morning, July 21, 2011, about how to solve our revenue problems, only it fails to make the critical point. So I’ll lend a hand. It says:

“Pennsylvania casinos brought in $81.4 million in tax revenue from table games during the fiscal year that ended last month, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Of that, about $71.3 million went to the state’s general fund and another $10 million went to local municipalities and counties that host the state’s 10 table game casinos.

“The Rivers Casino on the North Shore was responsible for $8 million in state tax revenue and $1.2 million in local payments through its table games operations during the past fiscal year.”

It goes on to break the numbers down even more.

Now I can enjoy a day at the Casino. I recently took my Mom and stepfather, a retired J&L worker, to the Rivers for his 84th birthday. I hit the nickel slot for $1.50 on my first try, but ended up leaving $5 in the hole.

But here’s my point. There’s a much larger casino in this country that has global reach. It’s called Wall Street, and enormous sums are bet there every second, with the biggest bets being placed by hedge fund managers gambling with other people’s money.

But where’s the ‘house take,’ like the tax revenues reported above? If they can get these amounts from the working class, what about the Wall Street class? 

That’s what a financial transaction tax would do, and it could pay a great deal of our country’s social needs budget with plenty left over. What’s more, it wouldn’t even put a burden on productive capital, such as a new green manufacturing startups.

Instead we get big-time gamblers in derivatives wanting us taxpayers to cover their losses. That would be like me going to the Pittsburgh treasurer and asking for a tax deal to get my $5 back that I lost the other day, but I still get to keep the  $1.50 I won on my first bet.

The bottom line is that we live in a class society with the wrong class on top. The boss press can easily report on the gaming taxes taken mainly from the working class, but the notion of taking a ‘house cut’ from the truly high rollers of finance capital, well, that’s ‘off the table.’ 

It’s time to turn this rigged game upside down.

  
A Stronger Steelworkers’ Voice Is Neededin the Marcellus Shale Anti-Fracking MovementBy Carl DavidsonBeaver County BlueThere’s a specter haunting Western PA. It’s the prospect of a working class divided by a fear of water pollution destroying the property values of small homeowners on one side, and on the other side, by the promise of new wealth from the exploitation of natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale deposits.A similar fear divides West Virginians over ‘mountaintop removal’ mining. Little towns are split between those who want food on the table and those fearful of poisoning their children.Steelworkers can certainly see the problem in our own terms. It takes a lot of steel pipe to drill down two to four miles, then drill out a horizontally for another mile in a dozen directions. The tube mills are getting the orders and steelworkers are back to work. On the other hand, steelworkers know the dangers of poisoning the ground and the rivers better than most.Everything goes somewhere. When the drillers lace 6,000,000 gallons of water with a ton of poisonous chemical brine, pump it underground to break up shale and release the natural gas, a lot of the water comes back up with the gas. A lot also stays underground. The poisonous brine that comes back up is caught in plastic-lined ponds that often leak. Some is reused, some spilled, some carted away in tankers. Some of the tankers leak or dump the brine along the way. A lot is partially treated by a few water treatment plants. Then it goes into the local rivers heavy with salt. Already the Ohio downstream has growing percentages of toxic brine. To repeat, everything goes somewhere.Is there a way to protect our jobs in steel and our way of life? I think so. Ban drilling within a specified distance from the Ambridge reservoir and the watershed of Service Creek that feeds it. This is a valuable and irreplaceable source of potable water for 30,000 customers. Similar sources of good water around the state also need protected.We need a beefed-up DEP/EPA to enforce new and enhanced safety regulations. A third step would be hiring local union labor at all the drilling sites. Local workers have a stake in clean water, and a union worker is more likely to blow a whistle on illegal or dangerous practices.Naturally, all these cost something. That’s why the crucial first step is a hefty extraction tax. Pennsylvania’s current failure here is an outrage that makes us a laughing stock even among other states where fracking is underway. I would make the tax high enough to make two pots—one to pay for the expenses above, the other for a Green and Clean Energy Fund to finance the transition to renewables. Gas is a bit cleaner than coal, but it’s still a fossil fuel that takes carbon from beneath the earth and puts it in the air. It’s not good for us in the longer run, and we need to start now funding the transition from one to the other.All these measures are consistent with USW policy, its Blue-Green Alliance and the steelworkers’ overall strategy for a green industrial revolution. A progressive view from the unions needs a louder voice in a broad coalition around the Marcellus shale issue.

A Stronger Steelworkers’ Voice Is Needed
in the Marcellus Shale Anti-Fracking Movement

By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue


There’s a specter haunting Western PA. It’s the prospect of a working class divided by a fear of water pollution destroying the property values of small homeowners on one side, and on the other side, by the promise of new wealth from the exploitation of natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale deposits.

A similar fear divides West Virginians over ‘mountaintop removal’ mining. Little towns are split between those who want food on the table and those fearful of poisoning their children.

Steelworkers can certainly see the problem in our own terms. It takes a lot of steel pipe to drill down two to four miles, then drill out a horizontally for another mile in a dozen directions. The tube mills are getting the orders and steelworkers are back to work. On the other hand, steelworkers know the dangers of poisoning the ground and the rivers better than most.

Everything goes somewhere. When the drillers lace 6,000,000 gallons of water with a ton of poisonous chemical brine, pump it underground to break up shale and release the natural gas, a lot of the water comes back up with the gas. A lot also stays underground. The poisonous brine that comes back up is caught in plastic-lined ponds that often leak. Some is reused, some spilled, some carted away in tankers. Some of the tankers leak or dump the brine along the way. A lot is partially treated by a few water treatment plants. Then it goes into the local rivers heavy with salt. Already the Ohio downstream has growing percentages of toxic brine. To repeat, everything goes somewhere.

Is there a way to protect our jobs in steel and our way of life? I think so. Ban drilling within a specified distance from the Ambridge reservoir and the watershed of Service Creek that feeds it. This is a valuable and irreplaceable source of potable water for 30,000 customers. Similar sources of good water around the state also need protected.

We need a beefed-up DEP/EPA to enforce new and enhanced safety regulations. A third step would be hiring local union labor at all the drilling sites. Local workers have a stake in clean water, and a union worker is more likely to blow a whistle on illegal or dangerous practices.

Naturally, all these cost something. That’s why the crucial first step is a hefty extraction tax. Pennsylvania’s current failure here is an outrage that makes us a laughing stock even among other states where fracking is underway. I would make the tax high enough to make two pots—one to pay for the expenses above, the other for a Green and Clean Energy Fund to finance the transition to renewables. Gas is a bit cleaner than coal, but it’s still a fossil fuel that takes carbon from beneath the earth and puts it in the air. It’s not good for us in the longer run, and we need to start now funding the transition from one to the other.

All these measures are consistent with USW policy, its Blue-Green Alliance and the steelworkers’ overall strategy for a green industrial revolution. A progressive view from the unions needs a louder voice in a broad coalition around the Marcellus shale issue.