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Our Best Shot at Meeting Paris Goals? Make Energy Public


Our Best Shot at Meeting Paris Goals? Make Energy Public

Sarah van Gelder

Mayors across the country have vowed to deliver on the goals of the Paris climate accord in defiance of President Trump’s decision to back out. But how can they, realistically, when the national government is questioning climate science and promoting coal, fracking, and pipelines?

"When a local economy is dominated by enterprises that work to extract value for Wall Street banks or corporations controlled by absentee owners, communities are drained of their common wealth."


Making public utilities public is a key to reversing the destructive effects of the neo-liberal corporate domination of the economy from which we have suffered too long. "Re-municipalization" of energy utilities is, as Sarah van Gelder reports, an important way to regain public control of this critical social function and speed up its transformation in the effort to reduce carbon emissions.

Fighting the propaganda of "mainstream" economics, which claims superiority of 'privatized' functions despite no positive evidence and the growing body of contrary evidence, is an uphill battle, since the mass media are controlled by the corporate elite. That is why local and regional organizing to reassert 'community sovereignty is so important.

Many "invester owned" public utilities, such as PNM here in New Mexico, drag their feet on solar and wind, preferring to invest in archaic coal and natural gas from destructive fracking, because they can make guaranteed profits on the larger quantities of capital invested and on the larger maintenance costs of non-renewable energy sources.

Simply put, this situation is a corruption of the public interest, and the public ought to organize to divest itself from the failures of privatized methods of performing public functions as quickly as possible.


Great article.

Couple of things.

Privatization is tempting; it can provide local governments with short-term cash infusions. What politician doesn’t like to fill a budget hole without raising taxes? But the infusions don’t last.

The monetary system that has taken leave of any reality is at the core of the issue. With real revenue from jobless taxpayers hard to come by, the "government" has to look for "an infusion of cash".

The facility created for public good by the government ultimately went to the hands of private contractors for creation. This has very often been a lucarative gravy train for the enmeshed few who can get these contracts. This is as old as the king of the hill.

What is new is that the fund called the government tax collection is now only seen as a means of enrichment for a few. The government employees who can also escape their scary hedged pension plans into private coffers as quickly as possible. The system of checks and balances is lost in the game as the guards of public well being and utility do not care about the quality of the product, just their own self enrichment. Directly privatizing the entire system is simply the next step in the process.

A transparent, computerized system is the only answer. Accountability through sharing would also mean an informed and critical populace. And that maybe the Achilles heel of any proposed system.


Ah-yup – as Wereflea noted on another thread, it goes to "Them":

Unfortunately, the Multi-NaZional Korporations which control Wall Street and hence our federal government also own the legislatures and/or the governorships in roughly two-thirds of the states, so – as in both Benton Harbor and Flint, Michigan – we are not fighting just the increasingly fetid swamp in Washington, we're also fighting state regulations that give an unfair advantage to the Korpocracy.


The very word "public" seems currently inferred as having some sort of ultra neo-liberal (shhh, don't actually say it...) commie-tainted-slippery-slope-to-perdition only the 'weak' turn to. The reality of course being that it is fundamental to any healthy society not bent on varying degrees of cannibalism as the US seems to be.

Public? Hmmm... saith the financier who thinks all hedges and hyper takes have already been exploited. Added to the admonition of taking energy supplies public is the clarion call to all members of the community - local/municipal, state and regional - to respond to the call and stand up and be counted precisely AS THAT PUBLIC!


Trump and his greedy Oligarch friends have made enough profit off of the public.

The Public must demand control of systems which we have been denied control of.


Someday, soon I hope, the majority of the people will start to see that the neo-liberal economics policy only benefits the profit greedy owners of once public operated services. This shift over the last 40 years or so has only funneled more wealth into the hands of the few and left average Americans stagnating, or worse, struggling to make do with less than their parents with no end in sight. The days of the "new deal" have vanished and now have a perjoritve taint, or worse, even though they had a way of evening things out, so to speak. One just hopes a reverse would be coming, as the Sanders 'revolution' showed last year. As the youthful come of age they can usher in a new way of running the government and ensure their place in history. I've watched the slide, and experienced it myself while working as the new century left me with far less than the decades before with more work for less money. We all have to get more "democratic" and take some of power sucked out of the workers, both white collar and blue, to get a bit more of the 'pie'.


Or as I read in another article take the private out of the, supposed, public systems. This will give a semblance of control back to 'the people'. This especially goes for the healthcare system.


Yes, yes, and fuck yes. The perverse profit incentives for inefficiencies because they burn more energy adding to GDP (god-damn profit) are wreaking havoc on this planet and its inhabitants--well, except for the sociopaths. The very term economic is being mocked before our eyes if I am capable of understanding its definition in every dictionary in which I've looked.


I'm not sure government will be better. But the trend toward privatizing at present in the West seems to have become a racket. Privatizing is not inherently less efficient in nature. The term fat government comes from government systems that have a way of bloating. But hey, what we're doing now sure as heck ain't working in energy.
Thing is, government ain't doing too hot either. Look at our government war management. We all agree to minimize it, right? That it is destructive, is bad for humanity... Contracted privately or mot or not, what a disaster.

When I lived near the New Hampshire border, that hands-on state decided that the government should control liquor sales because it could do a better job of protecting minors from purchases. Well, they collected taxes and very much stayed away from any sorts of limitations on alcohol.


You don't have to be sure if publically owned utilities will be better, you can look at how they were and are better as there are plenty of examples in the United States. California had a few public utilities delivering energy to residents (I think Pasadena had/has one) and those consumers were damn lucky to be insulated from the criminal behavior of Enron.

Please don't feed the 'all things government bad' conservatives.


Municipal utilities are are great idea, but we need to acknowledge that plutocracy is deeply embedded into all levels of government in the US and for public institutions to serve the public, we need to make local governments democratic.

We have a municipal owned/managed utility where I live. Democrats and Republicans, at various levels of government, have ensured that community solar is forbidden, solar panels can only be put on houses in certain limited locations, wind turbines are outlawed, bio-diesel is exorbitantly taxed, and gas pipelines carrying fract gas are given priority.


Privatizing is not inherently less efficient in nature.

Privatizing is always less efficient in nature as profits are part of the equation. Stockholders must be listened to. Government isn’t the problem, profits are.