The Trial Lawyer Fall 2017 - Page 80

1. Demonstrations at oil refineries will drive those workers into the arms of their employers and towards Trump. For the past 40 years unionized oil workers have struggled against the oil industry to protect their health, safety and job security. The work is dangerous: At least 58 people have died at refineries since March 23, 2005, reports the Texas Tribune in partnership with the Houston Chronicle. In 2015, more than 5,200 unionized refinery workers went on strike, a rare event in an era of dwindling union power. But when jobs are directly threatened by calls for shutdowns, we should expect both the employers and employees to circle the wagons. 2. It’s not clear that shutting down U.S. oil refineries will reduce overall carbon emissions. There are 253 million cars and trucks on the road in America today and the average vehicle age is 11.4 years, reports the LA Times. While the number of plug-in electric cars is increasing, the total number is only about 570,000 as of 2016. By 2030, some projections show that half of all cars will be electric. The other half will still need refined oil. In addition, for the foreseeable future, refined oil products will be needed for a wide variety of chemical processes not related to gasoline. Therefore, it is not credible to argue that demand for refined oil products will vanish if refineries in the U.S. are shut down. The fuel for those gasoline-driven cars and production processes will have to come from somewhere. The question is from where? A related question is this: what will be the total carbon footprint of refined oil if it comes from far away — e.g. India or South Korea — and if the refining processes in those areas are less clean than in the U.S.? 78 x The Trial Lawyer Such questions require careful research, since different kinds of oil from different places around the world give off different amounts of greenhouse gases during refining; and since long- distance transport by ship, rail or truck emit additional and significant carbon pollution. Furthermore, in large part because of the struggles waged by U.S. refinery workers, the health, safety and environmental controls at U.S refineries are among the highest in the world. The same could not be said about refineries in India or South Korea, for example. 3. Attacking the livelihoods of oil refinery workers weakens the alliances needed for reduction of greenhouse gases and the transition to a clean energy economy. But aren’t there plenty of labor organizations that already support strong action on climate change? If so, why should we care about these highly paid fossil fuel workers? The answer relates to how we amass sufficient political power to curb greenhouse gasses. Nearly all of the labor groups that currently support strong action on climate change don’t have jobs at risk. They are healthcare workers, service workers and others who would not see their livelihoods threatened by job loss due the reduction of fossil fuel emissions. But if oil workers are in alliance with the environmental community, an important political message can be sent. It could show that the workers most impacted by the transition also want a cleaner and more stable environment for themselves, their families and their communities. Such an alliance would bring more resources, organizational muscle and troops to the environmental struggle and it would have the potential to put a dent in the power of the oil executives to rally their employees against environmental protections. 4. Talking about Just Transition and the New Green Economy is not good enough. But isn’t this job fear foolish? Doesn’t the new green economy now dwarf the old fossil fuel industries? Yes, it’s true that solar and wind are rapidly growing. But it’s very, very hard to make the case to an existing fossil fuel or manufacturing worker that he or she is going to get these new jobs, or that pay and benefits will be anything close to comparable. In the U.S. there is no just transition program that guarantees the incomes of those who lose their jobs due to needed environmental protections. Given four decades of attacks on organized labor, very few of the new green jobs are unionized or pay anything close to the fossil fuel/high energy jobs. Creating a just transition program is an