Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Seattle kickoff of 350.org's Do The Math tour, which will highlight the imperative for action to keep 80 percent of the fossil fuel industries' tar sands, coal, oil and gas reserves in the ground, or the climate is toast.
Bill McKibben and a cast of guests, including Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and City Councilman Mike O'Brien, along with video appearances by Van Jones, Naomi Klein, Josh Fox and more, called on the roughly 2,000 attendees packed into Benaroya Hall to join together to encourage institutions large and small to divest all fossil fuel companies from their stock portfolios, pension funds, and other holdings.
The tour seeks to inspire citizen-led boycotts, blockades, marches on oil companies' shareholder meetings, and a new Fossil Free Campus divestment movement modeled after the anti-Apartheid movement of the 1980s.
Mayor McGinn kicked the night off with a pledge to investigate the potential for Seattle to work towards divestment of its fossil fuel holdings, which received massive applause from the audience.
Before McKibben took the stage, The UpTake's Leif Utne had the chance to interview him about the 21-day, 21-city tour that will demonstrate the magnitude of the threat fossil fuels pose to a livable planet, the opportunity Tuesday's election results pose, and a bold new strategy to hit the fossil fuel industries where it hurts.
The corporate funded, Libertarian/Conservative “think tank” FreedomWorks is doing their best to convince Americans that taxpayer-funded energy subsidies and loans are a waste of our resources. Of course, that doesn’t apply to the massive giveaways to the dirty energy industry, only to the federal loan programs established to invest in cleaner, renewable energy companies.
Touting the superiority of the so-called “free market” over the actions of the government, a recent report titled “Free Markets, or Government Knows Best?” by Wesley Coopersmith broke down the amount of money that the federal government has allocated to renewable energy projects, per the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and compared the amount of money given to the number of permanent jobs created by each company. Here’s what Coopersmith had to say:
Under the 1705 loan program, taking up half of the funding form the Loan Guarantee Program, 2,378 permanent jobs were claimed to be created. If you do the math right, this works out to costing the taxpayer $6.7 million per job created. I don’t know about you, but if it takes the government $6.7 million to create one permanent job, something is wrong.
The combined amount of money given to alternative energy companies, through the 1705 and 1703 Loan Programs, totals around $19.2 billion. According to the USDOE, 3,498 jobs have been or will be created because of these loans. This comes out to almost $5.5 million in cost per one permanent job created.
Unfortunately, these projected permanent jobs created are an overestimation, if you take away the jobs lost due to six of these companies going bankrupt. Solar Millennium Inc., LSP Energy LP, Ener1 Inc., Beacon Power Corp, Abound Solar, and Solyndra LLC combined have received over $3.5 billion from the Logan Program yet have produced zero jobs and hurt the fragile U.S. economy.
Coopersmith also provided a helpful chart that shows exactly how much money each (of a select few) company received and how many permanent jobs were created. For credibility purposes, Coopersmith even linked back to the U.S. government’s official website and used their own numbers on permanent jobs per company, as well as how much each received.
The problem with Coopersmith’s analysis is that he omitted several important numbers in his calculations. For example, he only lists the permanent jobs created by each company, failing to add in the number of construction jobs that would be created by each project. He also used the total amount of money that had been allocated to each company, not the amount that had actually been paid.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.