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Trump and Turnbull – Imperialism’s climate vandals

by Bill F.

US President Trump has signed an executive order scrapping climate change laws that applied environmental restrictions to oil, gas, coal and coal seam gas extraction, and sure enough, the subservient Australian government is echoing Trump’s call to vandalise the environment.

Trump has torn up regulations that protect rivers and lakes from mining pollution, has reduced coal company taxes, approved two more oil pipelines that were previously blocked by environmental and social protests, and wants to lift fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. The Turnbull government is heading down the same track, but won’t need to do much about cars and trucks as our standards are pretty weak already. 

The Trump administration is also considering withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement which limits US greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28% by 2025 (compared to 2005 level). Australia’s commitment is similar, but even less – 26-28% by 2030.

These moves are designed to boost the profits of the giant resource and energy monopolies that stand at the core of US imperialism.

Plunder and Pollution
In Australia, companies such as Chevron, Woodside, Santos, Exxon, BHP, Origin, Arrow Energy and Shell have long-term contracts to supply gas to Japan and other Asian countries. Not content with their current reserves and with limited access to coal seam gas, they are now hell-bent on plundering domestic supplies, not only to meet their contractual obligations, but also to impose higher prices on the domestic market through the creation of an artificial shortage.

At the bidding of the gas export monopolies, the Turnbull government has launched a frantic campaign to force the state governments to lift their bans and moratoriums on coal seam gas extraction. It panders to the climate change deniers who disparage solar and wind and other sources of clean, renewable energy.

And, it ignores the fact that the gas giants already sit on massive untapped reserves on land and off-shore, and that any so-called “shortage” is contrived and manipulated. 

It also ignores the widespread community opposition to the whole idea of fracking and the devastation of water catchments, farming land and wildlife that follows. The Australian people have time and again registered their opposition to fracking and will certainly mobilise once more to defeat Turnbull’s plans.

The federal government has also proposed that the resources of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, originally established to finance renewable energy projects such as wind farms and solar-thermal power, be turned over to funding new coal-fired power stations based on the myth of “clean coal” and the speculative carbon capture and underground storage system.

Appeasing the climate deniers and apologists for imperialism, the Turnbull government is moving to grant the notorious Indian-owned Adani Corporation a $1 billion loan to build a railway line to haul coal from its Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland to an upgraded port at Abbot Point on the edge of the endangered Great Barrier Reef.

Missing out
While our public schools, hospitals and social services are suffering cut-backs in government funding and plenty of cash is flowing to support US wars and military provocations, the taxes paid by the corporate monopolies are minimal and the benefit from their plunder of resources is even less.

A Fairfax report investigated the application of the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT) by the federal government on the oil and gas industry. This sector is dominated by multinational ventures off the Western Australia coast and coal seam gas (fracking) in Queensland and NSW. It uncovered the shameful information that just 8 out of 149 resource projects paid any PRRT in the year 2014-15, in spite of collective revenues in excess of $25 billion!

The PRRT is structured to tax only “super-profits” and is not a royalty based on the amount of oil or gas extracted. Companies can then write off their exploration and construction costs to reduce the amount of tax due and carry forward this credit for years to come. According to the Tax Office figure obtained by Fairfax Media, these tax credits are now worth $187 billion.

From its production of 100 billion cubic metres of LNG, Qatar currently picks up $26.6 billion in royalties. For a similar amount of gas, the Treasury estimates the Australian government will get a miserable $800 million! This massive betrayal of Australia’s national interests demonstrates the abject collaboration of the local ruling class with the corporate beneficiaries of imperialism.

Choking on their muck
In our part of the world, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased 7.5% since the 2014 scrapping of the carbon price. Kelly O’Shanassy, chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation said, "This latest data provides more evidence Turnbull government policies that are supposedly designed to cut Australia's climate pollution are simply not doing the job.”

The latest National Pollutant Inventory listed 93 key toxins, including particulates that can spur premature death by worsening existing heart and lung conditions. One of the worse was the recently closed Hazelwood brown coal-fired power station which emitted 61,425 tonnes of toxins in the last year, including 700 tonnes of fine particulates that can enter the human blood stream.

Other notable polluters include Bayswater in NSW (770% increase in five years), Tarong in Queensland (237% in one year!), Bulga in the Hunter Valley (32% in one year), and Drake Coal in Queensland (25% in one year).

Nationalise the power industry!
Critical resources like oil, gas, coal and water and the associated infrastructure such as refineries, mines, ports, pipelines, power stations and transmission lines should be owned and controlled by the people, not these greedy foreign and local monopolies.

Only then can these industries be managed for the benefit of the people, with regulated pricing and strict environmental and export controls. Only then can the people make rational decisions on the phasing out of fossil fuels for energy and re-building manufacturing and other industries on a clean and sustainable basis.

This just isn’t going to happen under the current system of imperialism/capitalism when the dominant US imperialist ruling class and their local agents are profit-addicted to fossil fuels. 

Revolutionary change is what is called for – as the contradiction between monopoly capitalism and the working people is sharper than ever.

 

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