Revolutionary Worker #1106, June 10, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
On May 17, Vice President Dick Cheney announced a sweeping National Energy Program focused on dramatically increasing the production of energy in the U.S. It is a plan for reckless new waste by the most reckless and wasteful society in human history. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham talked of an energy production increase of 45 percent over the next 20 years.
Cheney's plan is the first comprehensive energy policy for U.S. imperialism in 20 years. At its center is the overthrow of many current environmental restrictions--on the drilling and refining of oil, the damming of rivers, the use of coal, and the construction of new nuclear power plants. The plan envisions building over 1,300 new power plants across the U.S., five huge new oil refineries (at a cost of $75 billion), 38,000 miles of new natural gas pipelines, and a "national power grid" with 263,000 miles of new power lines.
The Cheney plan proposes opening up Gulf Coast waters and the fragile tundra of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for new oil drilling and pollution--while increasing strip mining of coal on now-protected public lands. And it includes massive government hand-outs of "corporate welfare" to virtually every company and capitalist who makes profit from energy. The Cheney plan contains 105 "initiatives"--85 can be carried out by executive action alone, and 20 require agreement from Congress.
This plan is designed to give U.S. capitalists massive amounts of cheap energy in future decades for their expected competition with major rivals--including the imperialists of Europe and Japan who are energy-poor and highly dependent on world markets for energy.
For this short-term imperialist advantage, the Bush administration is eager to ignore (and even mock) the great risk they are taking with human life, non-renewable resources, and the earth's environment.
Turning Up the Heat on the Planet
"Imperialism has produced a wasteful and destructive pattern of economic activity and industrial development. Its profit-above-all-else, blind expansionary nature, its turning of more and more of nature into a commodity, its wars and weapons of mass destruction--all this is strangling the fundamental ecosystems of the planet."
Draft Programme of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, May 2001
"Over a hundred governments represented on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concluded their meeting in Geneva by accepting a report which states that climate change is already having a 'widespread and coherent impact' on the planet, and that it is occurring in all environments and on all continents. Representing humanity's combined knowledge on the impacts of climate change, and based on observations in around 3,000 scientific studies, the 1,000-page scientific report puts an end to debate over whether climate change is occurring and finds that the results could be dramatic and far reaching.... According to the IPCC, firm evidence of change is already visible over 420 different physical and biological systems--from the shrinkage of glaciers on all continents and the decline in Arctic sea-ice to the lengthening of frost-free seasons and the increased frequency of extreme rainfall. Already species of mammals, invertebrates, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and insects are being affected."
World Wildlife Federation, February 19, 2001
"As you know, I oppose the Kyoto Protocol because it... would cause serious harm to the U.S. economy."
George W. Bush, May 13, 2001 on the 1997 international
Kyoto agreement on curbing greenhouse gasses.
This planned increase in electrical power production and gasoline consumption will have a huge impact on the natural environment.
Automobile fumes are a major source of pollution in urban areas. The sulphur from coal-burning power plants produces the acid rain that has already devastated forests in Canada and New England. Now the Bush administration is asking its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to weaken existing rules that restrict the burning of high sulphur coal.
But, in many ways, the increase of U.S. production of greenhouse gases may cause the most global and historic impact of all on the earth and human beings--by accelerating the climate warming process and affecting sea levels, food production, and countless ecological systems. Even if all pollutants were magically removed, the burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum) produces carbon dioxide (CO2)--which is the main human-made gas that traps solar heat within the earth's atmosphere.
With only 4 percent of the world's population, the U.S. already produces 25 percent of its greenhouse gases. Not even included in these statistics is the huge damage to the environment resulting from the worldwide transportation of commodities in a global economy that is dominated by the U.S. and other imperialist powers. All this is about to get worse.
George W. Bush refuses to acknowledge that greenhouse gases cause global warming. He repeats the oil industry propaganda that this has not yet been scientifically proven. In March, Bush announced that he was abandoning his campaign pledge to curb CO2 emissions from power plants. And he announced that the U.S. government would not honor any commitment to the 1997 Kyoto Protocols on curbing greenhouse gases.
Even before Bush came to power, the U.S. imperialists were incapable of taking any steps to curb global warming. Under Clinton and Gore, the imperialists supported such efforts in words, while doing the opposite. Vice President Al Gore personally went to the global Kyoto conference to gut any serious restrictions. At his demand, the conference only required the U.S. to cut its 2010 emissions to 7 percent below its 1990 levels.
Then, the U.S. pressed on without the slightest pause--increasing its CO2 emissions. In the 1990s, overall U.S. CO2 emissions rose 13 percent, while its power plant CO2 emissions increased over 20 percent.
Before Cheney announced his plans, the overall U.S. emissions in 2010 were already expected to be at least 20 percent above their 1990 levels. Now with this new energy plan for U.S. imperialism, greenhouse emissions are projected to increase by 35 percent over the next 20 years--with potentially global consequences.
More to Drill
"Instead of 'why drill?' for example, the basic presumption of the Bush team seems to be 'why not?'"
New York Times, May 18
To the White House Energy Task Force the tundra, coastal shelf and woodlands seem naked without a drilling platform. Their national energy plan will open up public and protected lands to oil drilling in unprecedented ways. President Bush has asked his Interior Secretary Gale Norton to inventory the public lands to better identify potential resources that can be handed over to corporations for exploitation.
The Cheney plan proposes to open up 1.5 million acres of Alaska's now-famous Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration (with the obvious intent of following that up with oil production and transport on that fragile coastal tundra). The White House also wants to drill a chunk of the Florida coastal shelf in the Gulf of Mexico that is called "Lease Sale 181." Both of these proposals have produced significant controversy within the ruling class itself.
An additional land grab is aimed at many western land owners who formed an important base of popular support for Bush's presidency. The Cheney plan calls for a single, integrated, centrally controlled "national power grid"--in which some areas can be designated to produce power (and pollution) while electricity is transported across country to industrial centers. To establish this network, the federal government intends to hand the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission new powers to seize private land (by the doctrine of "eminent domain"). This Republican government, which has so closely identified itself with the conservative anti-environmental "property rights movement" of the Western states, has quickly shown that the property rights it really upholds are the interests of the monopoly capitalists, not the ranchers and farmers.
On a global scale, the Bush administration is pressing to open up new oilfields that can weaken the strategic importance of existing Persian Gulf states. They have endorsed Clinton-era plans for a U.S. controlled pipeline that would take control of Caspian Sea oilfields from Russia. And they are talking about finding more oil in Colombia (another thinly veiled excuse for stepping up U.S. military intervention there).
Earlier this year, the Bush administration proposed a budget that cut research funds for alternative technologies for solar power, wind and other renewable energy sources.
In the mid-'90s, under Clinton-Gore, automobile fuel efficiency in the U.S. dropped sharply, as the government approved legal loopholes for the wave of huge, gas-guzzling SUVs. Cheney's new National Energy Program directs Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta to only consider fuel-economy standards that can be imposed "without negatively impacting the U.S. automotive industry."
"If you set aside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear is really very good."
Paul O'Neill, Bush's Treasury Secretary
"Everybody stay calm and cool and collected and try to be objective and as non-emotional as possible. The bottom line is we still have inadequate supplies. and the only way to close that gap is to generate more electric power. It's going to be coal-fired, it's going to be gas-fired, or it's going to come from nuclear power."
Vice President Cheney at the Nuclear Energy Assembly conference
Cheney called for being "non-emotional," but his audience of 300 capitalists and managers from the Nuclear Energy Assembly were almost giddy. They gave him standing ovations for his plans. The administration's National Energy Program calls for speedy approval of nuclear plant proposals, re-licensing aging nuclear power plants, lifting regulations, and increasing the profit in nuclear plant construction through government subsidy.
The Bush administration insists that current technology makes nuclear power safe. This was also the government argument 30 years ago during the last wave of nuclear plant construction. That building boom ended with the partial core meltdown and radioactive leak at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island in 1979. A powerful mass movement arose to oppose nuclear power--with massive civil disobedience at plant construction sites--and not a single nuclear plant has been built since then. At the Nuclear Energy Assembly convention, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reminded the crowd, "Up until the last few months, it was not polite to talk about nuclear energy." And conference organizers handed out Superballs that glow in the dark as fun souvenirs.
Nuclear power produces intense radiation that is deadly to human beings and other life. Disruptions in the elaborate cooling systems can cause the nuclear cores to overheat and melt through the floors of power plants--bringing massive radiation directly into the ground water and the larger environment. A 1986 core meltdown and explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine sent dangerous clouds of radiation for thousands of miles.
Even during routine operations, nuclear plants produce "spent uranium" that remains deadly for over 100,000 years. No safe means exists for storing or transporting the nuclear waste that the currently existing nuclear power plants produce. There are currently 77,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste piling up at temporary sites across the U.S. with no permanent way to store it.
The Cheney plan calls for moving all this waste (and the future waste that new plants will create) to a central, national storage facility at Yucca Flats in Nevada. How it will get there, and who will convince the people in Nevada and along the transport routes to accept it was not spelled out.
The Politics of a Class
"A fundamental imbalance between supply and demand defines our nation's energy crisis.... This imbalance, if allowed to continue, will inevitably undermine our economy, our standard of living and our national security."
National Energy Program, March 17, 2001
"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but is not a sufficient basis all by itself for sound comprehensive energy policy. We also have to produce more."
Vice President Richard Cheney, April 30, 2001
It is interesting to watch conservative Republicans like Cheney mock "personal virtue" when it comes to conservation. On this issue, the dog-eat-dog pragmatism of U.S. capitalism is on full display. In their world, real men drill oil wells; only "bleeding-hearts" and anti-Americans talk of global warming, radiation dangers and energy efficiency.
In May, Cheney personally called up the Rush Limbaugh radio show to charge that his critics didn't have "the knowledge or the guts" to take on the real issues.
In their propaganda blitz, the Bush administration is rolling out every conceivable justification for their new plan. They insist there is a desperate "energy crisis" that they are solving (even though their proposals will have no effect at all on the rolling blackouts in California or the price increases in gasoline and home heating). They insist their plan is key for "national security" and even argue that drilling in Alaska will help screw Iraq's Sadaam Hussein. They insist environmental dangers are vastly overblown by forces hostile to commerce and capitalism--and that (currently unknown) technological innovations will solve any problems farther down the road.
Their "bottom line" is that the Cheney National Energy Program is a last ditch defense of the "American Way of Life." What would happen if their plan is not adopted? One spokesman for the oil industry, Houston banker Matthew Simmons pumped up the hype: "Wake up, America. You won't be driving!"
In fact, this plan is about the short-term class interests of U.S. imperialism. The massive waste of cheap energy has long been a special "edge" for U.S. capitalists in global competition--and the Bush administration intends to "put the pedal to the metal" to mobilize this factor for the years ahead. This administration prides itself on a hard-eyed, ruthlessly businesslike, "non-emotional" approach to potential rivals and competitors.
This "national energy plan" is a plan for the larger capitalist class that was drawn, from start to finish, from the wish list of the monopoly energy corporations. Both Cheney and Bush personally spent years in the oil business. Cheney made $36 million last year alone as a ruling class "rain-maker" for Halliburton Company, a global corporation specializing in oil drilling supplies.
When it came to writing his National Energy Program, Vice President Cheney sent two aides to hold hundreds of meetings with any political forces who wanted "input." But the real details of this plan were hammered out in a series of ruling class conferences conducted by Cheney personally.
One was an extensive face-to-face with Kenney Lay, chairman of Enron Corporation. Enron is the world's largest monopoly corporation involved in energy distribution and is one of the power wholesalers making billions gouging California utilities for natural gas. Money from Enron helped bankroll the Bush presidential bid last year, and one of Kenneth Lay's political agents, Sen. Spencer Abraham, became the administration's new Energy Secretary. Another key planning meeting was with 15 or 20 top monopoly capitalists assembled by the Edison Electric Institute, a ruling class "energy trade group."
When President Bush announced his Vice President's plan, he said, "The plan addresses all three key aspects of the energy equation: demand, supply and the means to match them." In this blindly short-sighted view of "the energy equation," there is no room for anything beyond the needs of immediate capitalist profit and production.
For the oppressed people of the world, however, there are very different "key aspects" to these matters of energy production and consumption--including serving the needs of the vast majority of humanity, preserving the environment and preventing global warming, conserving non-renewable resources and ending massive capitalist waste, overthrowing the criminal lopsidedness of the world economy, and ending the monopoly capitalist stranglehold on the planet's resources.
The Cheney-Bush plan is a plan of enforced inequality, single-minded profit-making, ruthless capitalist rivalry, and global environmental disaster. Such crimes are reason enough to overthrow their class and its system.
(For more information see the article "Global Warming--The Evidence and Debate" .)
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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