Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Fossil fuel abolitionism

Après moi le déluge! Fossil fuel abolitionism and the carbon bubble - part 1

"To stand any chance of keeping global warming below dangerous levels, a large percentage of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground unburned"

"That means leaving these resources in the ground amounts to writing off many hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of assets, and that's before taking into account all the infrastructure that depends on fossil fuels - refineries, manufacturing processes, power plants, airports and conventional agriculture"

"That means writing off the current value of already invested wealth would involve writing off all the future wealth that capitalists in the petrochemical industries hope to own in the future as a result of their investments. Not to mention the other capitalists selling products to petrochemical companies. It is hard to imagine these capitalists writing off that wealth voluntarily. As Karl Marx puts it, with unintended valence as the ice caps melt, "Après moi le déluge! [after me, the flood] is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation."

"So a huge amount of capital is bound up with fossil fuels, creating a strong path-dependency for capitalist development. While a capitalism based on renewable energy is theoretically conceivable, there's no easy path between the present reality and the hypothetical green alternative"

" The passage from Marx quoted earlier continues: "capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer, unless under compulsion from society" (our emphasis). Marx was discussing the struggles over the length of the working day in Victorian England, but the argument applies just as pertinently to the health of the ecosystem. We are skeptical that policymakers alone will take the steps necessary to provide 'compulsion from society' to constrain capitalists. The state may intervene, but only if the state itself is compelled by some big push."


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