October 28, 2020
US Oil and Gas Nationalization; Swedish Refinery Cancelled; New TUED Unions — TUED Bulletin 103
Three items in this latest TUED Bulletin:
- United States: “There May Be No Choice but to Nationalize Oil and Gas — and Renewables, Too” — Sean Sweeney in CUNY’s New Labor Forum
- Sweden: “A Great Victory Has Been Won over Fossil Capital” — Guest Post by Ulf Jarnefjord
- New Unions: FNV (Netherlands) and FUP (Brazil) join TUED
1. United States: “There May Be No Choice but to Nationalize Oil and Gas — and Renewables, Too” — Sean Sweeney in CUNY’s New Labor Forum
In August, the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies journal, New Labor Forum, published Sean Sweeney’s latest column for the journal. Titled “There May Be No Choice but to Nationalize Oil and Gas — and Renewables, Too,” the piece looks at the “perfect storm” of factors that, in the face of the economic impact of the pandemic, have exerted exceptional pressure on US oil and gas companies. As a result, industry experts see nationalization as a real possibility:
At the end the day, the financial viability of oil and gas is less important than the energy these concerns generate, which reflects just how dependent the entire economy is on fossil fuels. In other words, there may be no choice but to nationalize the sector.
It would be a mistake to imagine, however, that the crisis facing oil and gas companies is necessarily good news for a transition to renewables. As Sean writes:
The unfortunate reality is that the U.S. economy will consume large volumes of coal, oil, and gas for the foreseeable future. Until low-carbon energy and energy conservation can be scaled up, an accelerated phase down of gas and oil would simply mean that the United States will import more energy from overseas. And if large parts of U.S. production were to permanently come offline, then global prices will increase, and the winners will not be the climate, or workers; the winners will be the United States’ current competitors.
If nationalization is going to serve both workers and the climate, we will need to accept that a phase out of oil and gas is not a 10-year proposition. The transition to a low or zero-carbon energy system will take considerably longer than a decade. The entire economy has been built around fossil fuels, and it is impossible to change that in such a short amount of time. Nationalization can, however, allow the country to develop pathways to decarbonization that are socially just and also make ecological sense. It will not be quick and easy—but it’s the only way the vision of the Green New Deal can ever become a reality. The full piece is available on the New Labor Forum website, here. It was published simultaneously by Jacobin Magazine, and is also available here.
2. Sweden: “A Great Victory Has Been Won over Fossil Capital” — Guest Post by Ulf Jarnefjord
Long-time climate and labor activist and TUED supporter, Ulf Jarnefjord, has written a guest post for this TUED bulletin about the recent withdrawal by Sweden’s largest oil refinery, Preem, of its application for a planned expansion: “A Great Victory Has Been Won over Fossil Capital“:
On Monday, September 28, 2020, Sweden’s largest oil refinery, Preem, decided to withdraw its application for an expansion of its refinery in Lysekil on the Swedish west coast.
While the company cites the fall in demand due to the pandemic and lockdowns, Ulf argues that this should nevertheless be counted as a victory for the climate and environmental movements:
After massive protests from the climate and environmental movement for several years, Preem announced that they had withdrawn their application to expand the oil refinery in Lysekil. This is a great benefit for the climate, for democracy, for the environmental movement, and for everyone’s future. The message is that activism pays off.
At the same time, Ulf acknowledges that, although we may celebrate this development, “the battle is far from won.” The example of Preem “shows that the neoliberal market forces will never solve the environmental and climate emergency we are in the middle of before it is too late, the short-term economic gain is always prioritized before the health of nature and people.”
If we are to succeed in getting the workers involved in the much-needed transition to an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable society (which must take place now and not in 10-15 years), in order for them to become co-creators instead of opponents or delays in the process, we in the trade union movement must dare to take the match also in Sweden, in the way that many progressive unions have already done around the world. With a few small exceptions, the Swedish trade union movement has unfortunately not been particularly active during the almost 15 years that environmental / climate issues and fair transition have been discussed internationally within the trade union movement.
Read Ulf’s full piece on the TUED website, here.
3. New Unions: FNV Netherlands and FUP Brazil join TUED
The TUED team in New York is pleased to welcome two new union bodies to the TUED network:
- The Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) is the largest trade union body in the Netherlands, with 1.1 million members.
- The Brazil Oil and Gas Workers Unified Federation (FUP) is that country’s largest union of oil workers.
A warm welcome to both on behalf of the TUED network!
The TUED Team in New York