[Marxism] Naomi Klein on Big Green and fracking

Joseph Green jgreen at communistvoice.org
Fri Nov 28 13:59:17 MST 2014

Raghu, replying to me, wrote:
> I call bullshit. Who exactly from the "liberal/social democratic"
> establishment is supporting corn ethanol, fracking, or clean coal? Not even
> Al Gore as far as I know, and most certainly not the likes of Naomi Klein.
> -raghu.

My point was that there are bourgeois environmentalists who support fracking. 
I didn't say Naomi Klein supported fracking, but instead promoted her 
exposure of the activities of Big Green. According to her, one of those 
activities was that some of Big Green supports natural gas and fracking, thus 
harming the anti-fracking movements in various communities. She herself 
opposes fracking, and does it seriously, so she also exposes the groups who 
support it. That's what a serious opponent of fracking should do.

In her own words, on some of Big Green supporting natural gas:

"The big, corporate-affiliated green groups don't deny the reality of climate 
change, of course--many work hard to raise the alarm. And yet several of 
these groups have consistently, and aggressively, pushed responses to climate 
change that are the least burdensome, and often directly beneficial, to the 
largest greenhouse gas emitters on the planet--even when the policies come at 
 the direct expense of communities fighting to keep fossil fuels in the 

"And many of these same groups have championed one of the main fossil 
fuels--natural gas--as a supposed solution to climate change, despite 
mounting evidence that in the coming decades, the methane it releases, 
particularly through the fracking process, has the potential to help lock us 
into catastrophic levels of warming (as explained in chapter four). In some 
cases, large foundations have colaborated to explicitly direct the U.S. green 
movement toward these policies." (pp. 198-9)

Then again, in a section of the book labelled "Fracking and the Burning 
Bridge", Naomi Klein talks about certain "progressive groups" supporting 

"The gas industry itself came up with the pitch that it could be a 'bridge' 
to a clean energy future back in the early 1980s. The in 1988, with climate 
change awareness breaking into the mainstream, the American Gas Association 
became to explicitly frame its product as a resonse to the 'greenhouse 

"In 1992, a coalition of progressive groups--including the Natural Resources 
Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, Environmental Action, and Public 
Citizen--officially embraced the idea, presenting a 'Sustainable Energy 
Blueprint' to the incoming administration of Bill Clinton that included a 
significant role for natural gas. The NRDC was a particularly strong 
advocate, going on to call natural gas 'the bridge to greater reliance on 
cleaner and renewable forms of energy.' " (p. 2130

I don't know whether these groups, called "progressive groups" by Klein, 
should be called liberal or liberal/social democratic or whatever. But what 
we need to be concerned with is whether bourgeois environmentalism has 
promoted, and still promotes, bad things.

One of the great virtues of Klein's book is that she points this problem out.
One of my points is that there isn't unity in the environmental movement. In 
writing replies to Marv Gandall on this, I was dealing with what goes on in 
the movement as a whole, and the significance of Bloomberg being taken up in 
the movement (which was the point of the thread I was writing in), while Marv 
Gandall would talk about certain unnamed groups with a "liberal/social 
democratic" leadership with what he regarded as a sound program. I cut 
corners in replying to him, instead of expressing things in a longer and more 
explanatory way, so he thought I was saying that he himself supported 
fracking. *My apologies* -- my meaning, which was  not expressed clearly 
enough -- was instead that to overlook the differences in the movement would 
mean that we would have to simply be supporters of what was being done, 
things which we opposed, things which harmed the environment. The difference 
over fracking is an example of a concrete, real difference in the movement, 
which cannot be written off as mere abstract boilerplate denunciation. 
And by the way, Michael Bloomberg backs fracking. And Klein pointed that out.

Klein on Michael Bloomberg supporting fracking:

"The EDF [Environmental Defense Fund-JG] has also received a $6 million grant 
from the foundation of New York's billionaire ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg (who 
is strongly pro-fracking), specifically to develop and secure regulations 
intended to make fracking safe--once again, not to impartially assess whether 
such an outcome is even possible. ... The EDF has done more than help the 
fracking industry appear to be taking environmental concerns seriously. It 
also led research that has been used to counter claims that high methane 
leakage disqualifies fracked natural gas as a climate solution. The EDF has 
partnered with Shell, Chevron, and other top energy companies on one in a 
series of studies on methane leaks with the clear goal, as one EDF official 
put it, of helping 'natural gas to be an accepted part of a strategy for 
improving energy security and moving to a clean energy future." (pp.216-7, 
the parenthetical words are Klein's, not mine) 

So if the task were simply to rally more and more people around common goals, 
goals common to the entire environmental movement and Big Green, and if 
Bloomberg turns out to be a prominent representative of these demonstrations, 
then, well, you tell me what their relation to the militant movement against 
fracking would eventually turn out to be.

Raghu raises the issue of Al Gore and corn ethanol. Well, listen to Al Gore 
himelf, who says that he "cast the tiebreaking vote in favor of moving 
forward with a large national commitment to ethanol." He says that he now 
sees that in practice, first-generation corn ethanol was a mistake. (See his 
book "Our Choice", p. 117) 

Also see the article "Al Gore Mea Culpa: Support for Corn-Based Ethanol Was a 
Mistake" (Nov. 23, 2010): "Now he tells us. Al Gore says his support for 
corn-based ethanol subsidies while serving as vice president was a mistake 
that had more to do with his desire to cultivate farm votes in the 2000 
presidential election than with what was good for the environment."

Moreover, as far as the environmental movement as a whole, corn ethanol was 
one of its projects, a project of many bourgeois environmentalists.  And it 
is a government program, surely from that section of the bourgeoisie that 
talks the environmental talk. Surely no one thinks it was a project of the 
Koch brothers and Fox News and the conservatives.

And of course clean coal is a project of a major section of bourgeois 
environmentalism, including the Obama administration. 

As I say in my review of Klein's book, in my discussion of the IPCC report, 
and elsewhere, various bourgeois environmentalists, such as Gore and the 
IPCC, have fought outright climate denialism. But they also promote bad 
things which would lead us to ruin. How are we to deal with this? Well, first 
we have to recognize that there is a problem here.

-- Joseph Green

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