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The New AFL-CIO Stand on Climate Change


The New AFL-CIO Stand on Climate Change

Jeremy Brecher

What Does It Mean for Labor and for the Climate?

Another proposal to create millions of good jobs is “domestic production” of advanced energy systems and “decreasing reliance on imported clean-energy goods.”


Well, its not outright denial of Climate Change and is an expression of openness towards working for solutions. So there’s that much.


Unions, on local and the national levels, have long been divided on environmental issues. Construction, extraction related Unions were at best cautious. This must of entailed serious debate.


The AFL-CIO has an obvious directive in its views to maintain employed union worker jobs and to facilitate growth for union members, and as such it is their duty as an organization to support movements to increase job growth. This makes sense for the organization, but it unfortunately continues the narrative of Americans focusing on the wrong aspects when it comes to energy. The # of jobs a sector of the energy industry employs is largely irrelevant when compared with the economic impact of energy itself. The coal industry only employs about 65,000 workers, but the value of the industry is not rooted in its workers but rather its products. Coal contributes about 30% of electrical generation in the USA, and without it you are looking at a loss of approximately 1/3 of US GDP- a value of $6.01 trillion. The net value of coal employees salaries and the money they spend in their communities is not even remotely close to that figure. This is why jobs specifically in the energy industry is largely irrelevant for economic determination of value. Yes solar can employ millions of Americans, but just because you employ millions of Americans does not actually mean that you have more economic value than coal. The value of solar is attributed to its market share of electrical generation, by which all industries rely for production of goods. Currently its market share is .9% according to the EIA.


“But this non-stance by the AFL-CIO, its support of nuclear, gas and coal energy, and its refusal to set timetables and goals is absurd.” What’s absurd is you think there is a legitament timetable for the transition to 100% renewable energy. This transition is extremely complex and requires extensive planning with severe risk assessment and feasibility. I have seen many studies looking into how we may go about transitioning and countless times I have seen thee studies failing to recognize the consequences of actions. For example, such a massive transition will require a significant magnituide of new infrastructure that is required to construct enough renewable structures for 100% generation. However, in order to give renewables an edge over natural gas and petroleum these plans call for an emissions tax or cap and trade policy which will significantly increase the cost to produce fossil fuels. On paper this seems like a win, but these reports fail to recognize that in order to construct such a massive scale of structures you would actually increase demand in fossil fuels to manufacture more concrete, steel and petrochemical products needed for these structures. Many environment organizations suffer from the delusion that renewables do not require fossil fuels for existence. Those hundreds of thousands of wind turbines we need to meet 60% generation are made of petrochemcials like polyester, polypropylene, xylene, ethylene, polyacrylonitrite, ether ketone, polyurethane, petroleum pitch. If you increase the cost of producing fossil fuels to make renewables more competitive you must recognize that you will also be increasing the cost to manufacture renewable structures.

Furthermore, even the most extensive renewable project reports have severe flaws that must be addressed. In the Jacobson plan many states will be reliant on hydroelectric imports from Canada, but this assumes that mutually agreeable contracts between the USA and Canada will be cost competitive against natural gas and that Canada will be inclined to agree with US policy. There is little to no evidence that the Canadians will support such policy, yet it is taken as a matter of fact. That is major oversight that must be addressed. Below you will find an extensive analysis of Jacobson study in which Willem Post, a consulting engineer with an MBA from University of Connecticut, goes into detail about how the study takes significant liberties in proposing this 100% Renewable Energy solution that are contrary to societies economic and scientific realities:


Another evaluation of the Jacobson Study:

I encourage you dispute his findings and supply evidence as to why the Jacobson Study is feasible.

Some additional feasibility outlooks and things to consider:


Who cares what the AFL-CIO says? They are a toothless tiger. A once proud king of the jungle that has now resigned itself to taking whatever table scraps Massa throws their way.
When they were helping beat up hippies in Chicago in '68, and not supporting McGovern in '72 or Carter in '80, they were not only sealing their fate, but in a real way killing us all as their tacit support of Reaganomics helped to eviscerate organize labor and thus the American middle class.
Now they are trying to kill us all by denying, or at least getting into bed with, the chief deniers.