Month: January 2018

Trump’s Assault on Solar Masks an Epic Crisis in the Nuclear Industry

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by Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman

Originally published at Progressive.org on January 25, 2018

As Donald Trump launches his latest assault on renewable energy—imposing a 30 percent tariff on solar panels imported from China—a major crisis in the nuclear power industry is threatening to shut four high-profile reactors, with more shutdowns to come. These closures could pave the way for thousands of new jobs in wind and solar, offsetting at least some of the losses from Trump’s attack.

Like nearly everything else Trump does, the hike in duties makes no rational sense. Bill McKibben summed it up, tweeting: “Trump imposes 30% tariff on imported solar panels—one more effort to try and slow renewable energy, one more favor for the status quo.”

The administration’s public excuse for imposing these tariffs is to “defend American workers,” and foster the production of panels here at home. The political impetus came primarily from two manufacturers—Suniva and SolarWorld—that manufacture in the United States, but are principally owned by foreigners. Ironically, a majority of Suniva is actually owned by Chinese investors, and the company is currently involved in a tortuous debt dispute that has clouded its future.

SolarWorld’s parent company, based in Bonn, Germany, has been involved in bankruptcy proceedings that prompted its owners at one point to try to sell the company’s American holdings, primarily a manufacturing facility in Oregon.

China’s record on renewable energy is mixed. The nation has long been committed to nuclear energy, and currently has thirty-eight reactors in operation. After the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, China staged a major re-examination of its new reactor projects, but has since committed to building another twenty.

But China has also poured immense resources into leading the world in photovoltaic cell production. It flooded the field with below-cost, government subsidized panels that helped drive the photovoltaics giant Solyndra into bankruptcy. Solyndra defaulted on a $500 million Obama loan, prompting a high-profile assault on renewables from fossil and nuclear advocates.

In 2011, then-U.S. Senator Sander Levin of Michigan charged the Chinese with unfair trade practices, saying in a statement, “China is systematically deploying an arsenal of trade distorting policies to corner the global market in green technology products, whether it be electric cars, wind turbines or solar products.’’

But in the years since, the burgeoning U.S. market for cheap Chinese panels has birthed a very large industry. More than a quarter-million Americans now work in photovoltaics, with most of the jobs in building desert arrays or perching the panels on rooftops. Except for the very marginal pressure from Suniva and SolarWorld, solar advocates have focussed on the rapid spread of low-cost panels, even if they come from China.

Powered largely by Chinese product, the cost of a solar-generated watt of power has dropped from $6.00 in the late 1990s to around $0.72 in 2016. Further drops are considered inevitable. At that price, there is virtually no economic margin for any other new energy production construction except wind and natural gas. Even gas—with its uncertain long-term supply—is on the cusp of being priced out.

Thus, the industry’s reaction to Trump’s solar panel tariff has been fierce.

“We are not happy with this decision,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the American Solar Energy Association, told Reuters. “It’s just basic economics—if you raise the price of a product, it’s going to decrease demand for that product.” Trump’s move is predicted to drop upcoming solar installations by 10 to 15 percent and cost some 23,000 jobs.

Sustainable energy professor Scott Sklar, in an email to The Progressive,estimated that Trump’s 30 percent tariff will, after four years, “retard the solar market by 9 percent, cause the loss of thousands of U.S. jobs, and not save the two companies that brought the anti-competitive tariff request initially. The tariff was a political statement to China rather than specifically addressing the health of the U.S. solar industry and increasing U.S. solar jobs.”


Two major developments in the nuclear power industry further illustrate the absurdity of Trump’s decision.

In California, the Public Utilities Commission has gutted a major agreement that would have kept two mammoth reactors at Diablo Canyon operating for several more years. The landmark deal—cut between Pacific Gas & Electric, the host communities around San Luis Obispo, the reactors’ union workers and two environmental groups—called for PG&E to collect some $1.3 billion from ratepayers.

But the California commission cut PG&E’s take to about $300 million. To continue running the two fast-deteriorating old reactors would require massive capital repairs. The company also has admitted that all of Diablo’s power can be otherwise produced with zero- and low-carbon green technologies.

While Trump’s tariffs may slightly alter the math, they’re not expected to make photovoltaics, wind, geothermal, or increased efficiency more expensive than the power Diablo might generate in the coming seven years. Thus, Diablo opponents like Linda Sealey of the San Luis-based Mothers for Peace are extremely hopeful for early shutdowns.

“We think this makes it likely they’ll shut as early as 2020,” she told me January 18 on California Solartopia at KPFK radio in Los Angeles. “They just can’t compete.”

A parallel fate may soon overtake Ohio’s ancient Perry and Davis-Besse reactors on Lake Erie. Because the increasingly decrepit nuclear plants have been priced out of the market and face huge capital repairs, their owner FirstEnergy has been desperately begging the Ohio legislature for massive bailouts, which it has so far resisted. As a result FirstEnergy is poised to go bankrupt, and may soon be bought out by financiers expected to insist the two reactors finally shut. A decision is expected in April.

The shutdown of four more major reactors would be a huge blow to the downwardly spiraling atomic energy industry.

The shutdown of four more major reactors would be a huge blow to the downwardly spiraling atomic energy industry. California’s booming solar business employs more than 100,000 Americans, more than are currently digging coal nationwide. The void left by Diablo’s shutdown would generate thousands of Golden State jobs and billions in renewable revenue.

In northern Ohio, massive wind potential is also poised to create far more jobs than are currently in place at the two reactors, with energy to be generated far more cheaply. Overall, the closure of these four high-profile plants would thus accelerate the already rapid run away from nuclear power toward renewable sources, regardless of any attempt by the Trump Administration to alter the course.

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Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman’s “California Solartopia Show” is broadcast at KPFK-Pacifica 90.7FM in Los Angeles. His “Green Power & Wellness Show” is podcast at prn.fm. His History of the US and Solartopia! are atwww.solartopia.org, which will publish his America at the Brink of Rebirthlater this year.

Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?

By Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman

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The US Supreme Court may be about to make a second Trump term inevitable.

 

The nine “Justices” have just heard oral arguments in an Ohio voter registration case. If their decision goes with Secretary of State Jon Husted, it would mean Republicans like him throughout the United States will be able to scrub from the voter rolls millions of citizens merely because they are suspected of wishing to vote Democrat.

 

In Ohio alone, millions of Ohio voters have tried to vote on Election Day over the past four presidential elections, only to find their names were erased from the pollbooks.

What’s technically at stake is whether the federal government has the right to demand fairness in purging voter registration rolls. Or will the secretaries of the various states be free to purge whomever they want.

In other words, it’s supposedly a “state’s rights” case.

But this is a country where an Attorney-General who fought for state’s rights to avoid accepting racial integration is now overriding the explicit choice of some thirty states to enjoy legal marijuana.

 

In Ohio, secretary Husted has become infamous for his extremely aggressive partisan purges. The state has roughly 5.5 million voters. GOP secretaries of state have become experts at the selective purging game.

 

In 2004, then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, stripped some 309,000 voters from the rolls and nearly all came from heavily Democratic cities – Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. In Cleveland, nearly a quarter, 24.96% of all voters were removed from the voting rolls.

 

Blackwell simultaneously served as co-chair for the state campaign to re-elect Bush/Cheney. Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Blackwell was officially in charge of running that election. The election was decided by less than 119,000 votes, giving George W. Bush a victory over John Kerry, who never said a word.

 

As many as 300,000 of those votes were flipped on electronic “push and pray” machines by a Bush family consigliere operating on an unbid state contract with a bank of servers in Tennessee between 12:20am and 2am election night.
Between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, an extensive study conducted by the Free Press examining all of the voter registration rolls in the state’s 88 counties found that 1.25 million had been scrubbed from the rolls. Again, these purged voters were overwhelming from Democratic precincts.

 

The latest Husted tactic is to mail letters to citizens who have not voted in the last two elections. He demands they write him back to confirm where they live. Husted’s letters do not contain return envelopes.

 

The now-defunct welfare rights organization ACORN and the Obama campaign had to engage in a massive project to re-register the voters before Election Day.

In the run up to the 2012 presidential election, the Free Press exposed the fact that 1.1 million voters had been purged, according to public records. The purges were highest in poor, minority and urban precincts.

The rural county boards of elections that are overwhelmingly Republican rarely strip any voters from the voting rolls.

 

In other words, if you receive junk mail from the Secretary of State, along with all the other junk mail you get, it’s not enough that it got to you without bouncing back. Husted instead demands a personal response, or else he will void your right to vote.

 

Part of his public excuse is that citizens who have died may remain on the voter rolls. But the obvious solution would be to link directly with the state’s coroner offices and integrate death notices into the management of the voter rolls.

 

Husted is also notorious for seizing on minuscule miscues to pitch ballots. An omitted middle initial, a name that has changed, forgetting to write your birthdate on an absentee ballot, or putting something on the wrong line….all are fair game for Husted to make sure you don’t cast a ballot, or that if you do it’s a provisional which he will then pitch in the trash depending on your age, skin color or social class.

 

In the 2016 election, Husted’s office failed to send absentee ballots to more than a million citizens, again virtually all in urban areas.

 

What can’t be explained is why, in a computer age with unlimited hard drives in a state that requires voters to show ID at the polls, you would strip any registered voters unless you knew they had died or you had evidence they no longer lived in the county.

 

Should the Court allow this to continue, GOP Secretaries of State around the US can be counted on to purge voter rolls deep and wide enough to swing almost any election.

 

The White House recently established a national commission to move the stripping to a new level. Blackwell was a charter member. So was Kris Kobach of Kansas (KKK) who pioneered the use of the Crosscheck computer program to strip the rolls in some thirty GOP-controlled states.

 

Last month Trump suddenly, without explanation, abolished the commission. But as investigative reported Greg Palast has shown, the registration stripping has been moved into the Department of Homeland Security. Where Kobach’s commission was opaque, now the partisan purge process with be essentially invisible. State officials who refused to provide critical information to Kobach may now have no choice with DHS.

 

In other words, America’s Trump-run FBI/KGB/Savak apparatus may now have the power to silently and invisibly remove enough potential voters to elect and re-elect whoever it wants.

 

That might include not only Trump, but Husted, who is running to become Ohio’s lieutenant-governor, and Kobach, who wants to be governor of Kansas.

 

This and much else could turn on the Supremes’ decision on the Ohio case. Should Husted’s right to purge whoever he wants from the voter rolls be confirmed by the Court, our sham elections will become an even bigger charade.

 

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Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-written The Strip & Flip Disaster of America’s Stolen Elections: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft, available at www.freepress.org along with The Fitrakis Files, at Harvey’s www.solartopia.org, his History of the US can be had.

 

The Two Bummer Reasons why Jeff Sessions loves Pot Prohibition

by Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman

Published at LA Progressive on January 5, 2017

Published at TruthDig on January 11, 2018

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The announcement by US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions that he’ll pursue federal pot prosecutions has two age-old motivations: power and money.

Financially, of course, the Republican party is vested in America’s vast private prison system. Every new arrestee means money in the pockets of the investors who own and operate them. Keeping those cells and beds occupied is the essence of the industry”and of Pot Prohibition.

The Drug War is a giant cash cow, not only for the prison owners, but for the cops, guards, lawyers, judges, bailiffs and all the other operatives whose livelihood depends on destroying those of the nation’s tens of millions cannabis customers.

Medical legalization in about half the country, and full legalization in California, Colorado and other states, represents a serious threat to this multi-billion-dollar incarceration scam. Sessions has risen to its defense.

Then there’s the power.

As long as so many millions of people smoke the stuff, marijuana’s illegality give police the ability to bust whoever they want, whenever they want. It is the core enabler of a police state.

In fact, Pot Prohibition is a major foundation of the Republican Regime stretching from the White House and Congress to state government, the courts and beyond.

The key is disenfranchisement.

Since the Drug War’s initiation by Harry J. Anslinger in the 1930s, the principle focus has been on people of color. Anslinger promoted the term “marijuana” to deal with cannabis because it has an Hispanic twinge and aroused paranoid bigotry among the white population.

While promoting films like “Reefer Madness” to make pot appear like some sinister force, Anslinger’s minions made cannabis into a racist menace.

But it was Richard Nixon who took the assault to its ultimate depth. Nixon hated blacks and hippies. He also had a serious interest in slashing into their communities, and depriving them of the vote.

In 1972 his own Blue Ribbon Schaefer Commission recommended against Prohibition. Chaired by Pennsylvania’s liberal Governor Richard Schaefer, it said the health impacts did not warrant a national campaign.

Nixon ignored all that. Amidst a terrible war and racial upheavals, he proclaimed Drugs to be America’s most serious problem.

His own staff knew better. As aide John Ehrlichmann put it:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people.

“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The Drug War gave Nixon the key to his “Southern Strategy.” Through a wide range of racist rhetoric and policy, he successfully campaigned to move southern white racists from the Democrats to the Republicans. But many southern states had substantial black constituencies. He needed to make sure they could not vote.

Slapping them in jail for pot was a powerful way to do that. Because pot is essentially everywhere, it also lets police arrest pretty much any black person they want at any time. According to Michelle Alexander’s THE NEW JIM CROW, tens of millions of blacks and Hispanics have since been busted. And independent survey by Prof. Bob Fitrakis has estimated the number of Drug War arrests since 1970 in the range of 41,000,000. At a cost of more than a trillion dollars, the US could instead have sent virtually everyone it busted for pot to a four-year university instead.

Instead, the assault has injected deep into the black and Hispanic communities a cultural toxin based in the prison culture. While busting peace, environmental and social justice activists for cannabis, politicians like Trump and Sessions damage the black and Hispanic communities while turning elections and driving the country to the right.

Sessions occasionally make absurd moral and public health claims for keeping cannabis illegal. But the damage it has done to individual lives and the broader community is incalculable.

Pot Prohibition has worked wonders for a fascist establishment keeps power only by using it as a way to crush its opposition, steal elections and fatten its pockets.

Anyone that says otherwise is blowing toxic smoke.

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Harvey Wasserman hosts California Solartopia at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7FM in Los Angeles, and the Green Power & Wellness podcast at prn.fm.

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He is author or co-author of about 20 books, including Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth atwww.solartopia.org.

Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter @Solartopia

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