What’s next now that oil trains have been stopped here in Benicia? Check out the good news from Philadelphia, and dream about Benicia’s port in the future… Community, environmental, and labor groups working together for green infrastructure improvements and new green union jobs? Sounds good, yes! – RS
After Months-long Campaign, Green Justice Philly Celebrates Decision as Protecting Community Health, Growing Family-Supporting Jobs
Philadelphia, PA — The Green Justice Philly coalition applauds the announcement that Governor Tom Wolf and the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA) will dedicate $300 million to developing shipping capacity at the Port of Philadelphia and making green improvements to existing infrastructure at Southport, which represents a firm rejection of fossil fuel projects at the site.
Sheree Arnold, a community leader from Southwest Philadelphia said, “Today I told the PRPA about how toxic pollution affects communities of color in Philadelphia. Literally an hour after taking action today, the PRPA rejected fossil fuel expansion at Southport. This proves that when we stand up together and fight, we win.”
“Community, environmental, and labor groups have been urging PRPA to move our city towards a future that is sustainable and stable,” said Sam Rubin, Eastern Pennsylvania Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “This announcement is a clear rejection of fossil fuels, and will embolden groups to continue campaigning against fossil fuel infrastructure and for well-paying, green jobs in Philadelphia. We remain committed to the working families of the port and making sure that any future development of the port emphasizes family supporting, unionized jobs.”
Green Justice Philly–a coalition of over 25 environmental, community, and labor organizations– has been pushing for the rejection of oil and gas development at Southport for over a year now. The coalition effectively advocated for its position by building strong alliances with labor groups, winning the support of nearly two dozen city and state elected officials, and holding rallies at monthly PRPA board meetings. Earlier today, over 75 community members rallied, calling for PRPA to “open the door to a green jobs future.” The groups are cautiously optimistic about the direction that the PRPA is taking, knowing that the devil is in the details of this implementation.
“The people of Philadelphia, led by Green Justice Philly in alliance with labor, spoke loud and clear to the Philadelphia Port Authority and Governor Wolf that we do not want and cannot tolerate fossil fuel expansion at Southport. Our voices were heard and the outcome will benefit the City, its residents and its workforce by providing jobs that support a green economy rather than dirty fossil fuel development and the harm it inflicts on our community’s health and the environment. We will be watching the process closely to assure the public continues to be involved in the port’s future, but one thing is certain – the river and the City are better protected today because there will be no fossil fuel expansion at Southport and the current port facilities will be improved with green infrastructure such as replacing diesel equipment with electric power,” said Tracy Carluccio, Green Justice Philly Steering Committee and Deputy Director of Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
“Governor Wolf and the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority sided with clean air, public health, and jobs today when they decided against proposed permanent fossil fuel projects at the Southport site of the Port of Philadelphia,” said Matt Walker, Community Outreach Director with Clean Air Council. “They also decided in favor of positive environmental improvements and initiatives at the Port as well as long-term jobs. This decision demonstrates that Philadelphia will continue to be a leader in promoting a healthier and more livable future for its residents.”
“Protecting the health of our residents, providing good jobs and working to mitigate climate change are moral issues that transcend politics. We are grateful that we were able to build a broad multi-racial, multi-faith, coalition that could unite around the values of justice, sustainability and the well being of all people. In doing so we were able to stop the largest private equity firm in the world,”, said Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, steering committee of Green Justice Philly, representing the Philadelphia chapter of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light.
Green Justice Philly is a diverse and growing coalition committed to building a healthy, sustainable and economically just Philadelphia region. We work together to oppose the dirty fossil fuel industry that puts our neighborhoods at risk and makes our citizens sick, and cannot contribute to our long-term prosperity.
Repost from the Benicia Herald [Editor: This is an incredibly important look at Benicia’s past and future: “For multiple historic and geographic reasons, the city has basically missed the Bay Area’s burgeoning prosperity. While the town’s leaders pushed back against the insanity of bringing in Bakken crude by 50-car trains, no one has yet confronted the reality that the refinery and its wealth and subsequent tax revenue has peaked.” Cooke endorses Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and Steve Young for City Council. – RS]
Benicia’s future at stake in local election
By Grant Cooke, November 4, 2016
In August, I wrote a column about Benicia’s future, the New Economy and why Elizabeth Patterson, Steve Young, and Tom Campbell were the best choices to led our city as mayor and councilmembers respectively.
At the time, I was disheartened by the majority of council members’ lack of political will to put a halt to Valero’s Crude-By-Rail (CBR) project. Subsequent events in September, when the council majority reconsidered that position and rejected Valero’s CBR permit, did much to rekindle my belief that American small towns offer the best in representative democracy. I tip my hat to Christina Strawbridge in particular for her forthrightness and to Mark Hughes and Alan Schwartzman for their project reassessment.
I believe that Sept. 20 council meeting marked a turning point in Benicia’s history-a small step away from the overwhelming influences that the carbon-intensive industries have had on the city for the last half century.
Such decisive moments can be scary, both in municipal as well as personal life. Make no mistake, the refinery and the carbon-intensive industries have contributed the bulk of the city’s tax revenues for decades. Biting the hand that feeds, while momentarily liberating, invariably comes with consequences.
Heavy carbon and the extraction industries, coat-tailed by speculative developers like the Republican presidential nominee, provided the great bulk of U.S. wealth from about the mid-1800s to the late 1900s, or roughly about a century and a half. This Old Economy created oligarchs like the infamous John D. Rockefeller and powerful empires like Standard Oil. Modern day oil oligarchs like Charles and David Koch still stalk the land, spewing anti-science and pro-carbon, environmentally destructive ideology.
These industries and the folks who are enriched by them, are the ones to blame for the multi-layers of U.S. tax and political policies that have created the chasm in American life between the wealthy and the rest, the very rich over the middle class. That so many members of the middle class feel disenfranchised, and are willing supporters of a tax-dodging billionaire for president is one of the nation’s greatest historic ironies.
However, back to Benicia. After World War II, while most of the nation’s economic engine was relying on the wealth of the carbon and extraction industries, California and the Bay Area were discovering technology and the beginnings of the digital renaissance. Scientists from the declining defense industries mixed with the wizards from UC Berkeley and Stanford University. Sprinkling a few geniuses from the area’s national laboratories into this mix created the most extraordinary cornucopia of science and technological advances since Galileo and Da Vinci.
Now in early 21st century, the Green Industrial Revolution with all its digital age splendors and cutting edge science has taken a hold on the U.S. economy, dislodging the old extraction wealth with the new knowledge-based economy. Except for the Republican presidential nominee, many of the rapacious real estate developers have retired or were crushed by the interest-only, credit-swap craziness of the 2008 Great Recession. McMansions with dual HVAC systems have given way to Zero Net Energy housing and solar panels. Even Texas has become a major supplier of renewable energy-and Valero too, is invested in wind and cellulosic ethanol – something I never thought to see.
So where does that leave Benicia, the little Bay Area town that is heavily dependent on Valero and the carbon-intensive industries for tax revenues? For multiple historic and geographic reasons, the city has basically missed the Bay Area’s burgeoning prosperity. While the town’s leaders pushed back against the insanity of bringing in Bakken crude by 50-car trains, no one has yet confronted the reality that the refinery and its wealth and subsequent tax revenue has peaked.
Future city budgets face a hard slog. Safety personnel are jockeying for substantial raises, city employees want raises also, PERS retirement liabilities increase, and service costs continue to go up. At the same time, the residential population ages, capping incomes and reducing their willingness to support new taxes.
Time is ticking on the city’s economic model, and what to do about it is the pressing question. Benicia badly needs to reexamine its tax revenue and business development models. Serious thought and deep consideration need to apply, unvarnished assessments need to happen, and intelligent far-reaching planning needs to take place.
The last is probably the most important. How does a city plan to replace a declining carbon-intensive revenue stream? How can Benicia join the rest of the Bay Area’s Green Industrial Revolution and share in its prosperity? If the city fails to attend these issues, the eventual results will be regionalism and the city gives up its independence and self-determination.
I respect our current councilmembers. They all seem decent, honest and pleasant. Goodness knows I thank them for the time and work they have done on our behalf, and I wish them well in their endeavors. It’s just clear to me that some currently on the council lack the foresight and clarity of vision that Benicia so desperately requires to transition to a new future.
On the other hand, Elizabeth Patterson and Steve Young have extensive experience in planning and meeting transitional challenges. Further, they have an understanding of current realities, and a vision that encompasses a new economic model. Benicia’s future will be marginalized if it doesn’t join the rest of the Bay Area in the new knowledge-based economy, and we need leaders who can move us toward it. That is why I’m voting to re-elect Elizabeth Patterson for mayor, and elect Steve Young for City Council.
Grant Cooke is a long-time Benicia resident, CEO of Sustainable Energy Associates, and principal of DewH20. He is also an author and has written several books about the Green Industrial Revolution.
Grant Cooke: CBR permit denied and new Green Inudstrial Revolution developments impact Benicia
By Grant Cooke, September 22, 2016
History, or at least precedence, was made Tuesday evening when the Benicia City Council denied Valero a land use permit to bring in volatile Bakken and Tar Sands crude oil from North Dakota and Canada by train.
In what appeared to observers to be a stunning change of heart, the council unanimously agreed with the Planning Commission’s earlier recommendation to reject Valero’s project permit.
With other Northern California cities —and San Luis Obispo—watching carefully, the council’s action set a precedent and reaffirmed a city’s right to regulate local land use and protect the health and safety of its citizens.
The decision may have marked the first significant rejection by a California small town of a fossil fuel company’s proposed major business expansion, and probably notes the diminishing power of the industry in local and state politics.
Interestingly enough, the most prominent rejection by a small town of an oil company’s intended expansion occurred in Denton, Texas. Denton, a quiet and prosperous suburb of Dallas, in the middle of America’s oil patch, banned fracking (a method of shale gas extraction that uses large amounts of water pumped at high pressure into channels drilled into rock to release gas) within the city limits in 2014.
Benicia council’s decision has signaled the city’s first steps away from its past dependence on the fossil fuel industry and its Company Town identity, and marks a tentative step toward a new reality. While local, the decision was significant and reflects the growing momentum of the megatrend known as the Green Industrial Revolution, which is replacing carbon dependent economies with those powered by renewable energy.
Despite the decision, and for years to come Benicia’s tax revenue will still be highly dependent on fossil fuel, and so the developments of the Green Industrial Revolution with its twin drivers of carbon emission reduction and non-carbon energy expansion will have enormous consequences. As the Green Industrial Revolution expands, it will lead to the decline of the fossil fuel industries and correspondingly to the reduction of Benicia’s tax base and carbon-dependent economy.
Here are some other recent events furthering this expansion, and while not local, all have a bearing on Benicia’s future.
The first event happened at the recent G20 meeting in Hangzhou, China. The G20 meeting, which occurs annually, brought together the world’s 20 major economies to discuss international problems and potential policies and solutions. Leaders from the U.S., the European Union, China, Japan and Russia among others, came together for the two-day summit. Next year’s meeting is in Germany.
Woodrow Clark, my writing/business partner, is a member of the B20, a G20 subgroup that focuses on international business and economic issues. As a member of the group that delivered a policy report at the Hangzhou meeting, Woody had a front row view of the historic G20 meeting. Among the policy discussions that the meeting generated, there were some remarkable initiatives. One was that Russia agreed to join the US and China, along with the EU in addressing climate change. I imagine that India will also commit to GHG reductions next year at the G20 meeting in Germany.
This is an expansion of the initial US/China agreement from December’s UN Climate Conference in Paris. It increases the pressure on the fossil fuel industry, which is already beset by plunging oil prices, corrupt and chaotic politics, and furthers the rapid development of non-carbon renewable energy. Its impact on Benicia is indirect, unlike a report from Japan’s Eneco Holdings, LTD, which was part of the G20 Executive Talk Series. (Here’s the link to the vertical edition http://g20executivetalkseries.com )
A second development was also part of the G20 meeting and featured the showcasing of a remarkable chemical breakthrough by Eneco Holdings, LTD, from Japan. The company has the potential to be one of Asia’s largest energy companies with their development of a nano-emulsion technology. It appears that the company has succeeded in making a “complete fusion” between water and oil through the ultra-miniaturization of components at the molecular level. In simple terms, they have succeeded, where all others have failed, in mixing water and oil into a combustible fuel. The result is a mixture that is 70 percent water and stable enough to be a used in internal combustion engines. Further, it is safe and environmentally friendly, emitting about half the carbon, nitrous oxide, and sulfur dioxide released in traditional internal combustion gasoline and diesel combustions. Additionally, when produced in large quantities it will be significantly cheaper than conventional gasoline and diesel.
Originally produced for the Japanese market, Eneco’s Plasma Fusion fuel is being tested and used in China and other parts of Asia. With clean emissions levels, it is ideal for the heavily polluted Asian megacities, and should rapidly grow into a viable alternative to conventional gasoline and diesel. Just imagine how healthy West Oakland’s port area would be without its diesel contaminates? Regardless, this emulsion fuel will be a transitional fuel to hydrogen powered vehicles.
The third development that will have a significant impact on the fossil fuel industries is the continual plunge in the price of solar panels. Last week at a meeting, a solar developer told me that panel prices are now the lowest they have ever been in California, plus they are functioning at their highest levels of efficiency.
Driven by the economic principle of Zero Cost Margins—once the equipment is paid for, the rest of the energy is free—solar and renewable energy are expanding at the rate of Moore’s Law, or doubling about every 18 months. Developing and developed nations are rapidly adopting renewable energy, mostly wind and solar, as a replacement for fossil fuels. In about 20 areas in the world, particularly in Asia, solar and renewable energy are less expensive than fossil fuel. Even Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are developing large solar power generation sites.
Because of Russian aggression and threats of shutting off the natural gas supply, Europe has accelerated its transition from fossil fuel and atomic energy to wind and solar. Germany is a major user of solar energy despite the northern climate, and the United Kingdom is building the world’s biggest offshore wind farm called Hornsea off the Yorkshire coast. Hornsea will be the world’s first offshore wind farm to exceed 1 GW in capacity and will produce enough energy to power well over 1 million homes.
Closer to home, the United States’ Pacific coastline has enough wind and tidal resources to power most of the nation’s needs, and by adding solar to the mix, the U.S. could easily generate enough electricity for centuries to come. Roughly speaking, wind power costs about 2 to 4 cents per kilowatt hour and solar about 5 to 6 cents. PG&E charges around 22 to 24 cents per kilowatt hour, so it’s just a matter of time before on-site or distributive energy overtakes traditional energy delivery.
Further, the carbon industries and the large central utilities have flawed business models that are dependent on ever increasing growth and they cannot adapt to the lower prices available from renewable energy, or the increasing efficiency of vehicles and buildings. This is why Clark and I have written extensively on energy cost deflation and the shrinkage and decline of the carbon industries and the large central utilities.
Finally, we come to Sept. 8’s monumental signing by Gov. Jerry Brown of Senate Bill 32, the legislation that has catapulted California into a leadership role of the international efforts to slow global warming. SB 32 will force the state’s trillion-dollar economy, one of the biggest in the world, into a much smaller carbon footprint. In fact, the legislation requires the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, a much more ambitious target than the previous goal of hitting 1990 levels by 2020. Cutting emissions will affect nearly all aspects of our lives, accelerating the growth of renewable energy, prodding people into buying electric autos, and pushing developers into building denser communities connected to mass transit. (Details: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-jerry-brown-signs-climate-laws-20160908-snap-story.html ).
One other key element to California’s pursuit of clean air and reduced greenhouse gases is the state’s cap-and-trade program. The program requires the state’s heavy polluters to buy carbon offsets, or credits, to release emissions into the atmosphere, creating an additional operating cost for the oil and utility industries.
SB 32 and the expansion of cap-and-trade will have dramatic impacts on the state’s fossil fuel industries. Likely many of us are driving our last conventional gasoline powered vehicle, with the next one probably powered by electricity or hydrogen. It’s not hard to predict that since the Bay Area’s refineries are the heaviest of the area’s polluters, that the combination of reduced revenue from shrinking demand and increased costs of production and operation will eventually lead to refinery closings.
The fossil fuel industries won’t give up easily, there’s trillions of dollars at stake. Many of the industries leaders and the more prescient investment bankers know that the fossil fuel era has peaked and started to decline, which is why Russia overran the Crimea and is poised to take over Ukraine. Which is why the U.S. and Canada are being besieged by the fossil fuel interests to ignore or eliminate environmental and safety protections that hamper production.
Which is why Valero pushed so hard to transport volatile Bakken crude by rail cars through the densely populated Sacramento corridor and cram the trains into Benicia and a refinery that is not designed or equipped to deal with them. The industries, the refineries and all connected to the fossil fuel era, know that the incredibly lucrative period when oil was king and black gold flowed from the sand is coming to an end.
Bringing this back to Benicia, we see a city that is dependent on Valero for tax revenue and its governing process glimpsing a new reality. Small cities like Benicia that have been so dependent on the fossil fuel industries for so much and for so long, struggle to change. Other cities like those in the deindustrialized Midwest that have suffered sudden collapses of their major companies and tax bases have had to reinvent their economic drivers or just blow away. But it’s hard for a city like Benicia with its apparent prosperity and ease of living to understand that its fossil fuel base is in decline and that the future is elsewhere.
Grant Cooke is a longtime Benicia resident and CEO of Sustainable Energy Associates. He is also an author and has written several books on the Green Industrial Revolution. His newest is “Smart Green Cities” by Routledge.