NYC en Lucha

Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores – New York City

Fight energy dependence and colonial dependence!

In this article, originally posted in Bandera Roja, Carlo Rivera Turner of the MST explains why “indignation against Fortuño” isn’t enough, and why we oppose natural gas in all its forms, not just the pipeline. If you’re in New York, this Sunday, February 19, at 11:30, support the MST-NYC contingent at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan.

Governor Fortuño doesn’t rule out natural gas

Carlo Rivera Turner, MST
Translation by MST-NYC

Governor Luis Fortuño declared recently that Puerto Rico’s public Electric Energy Authority (AEE) had to look for alternatives to the projected gas pipeline. According to the Governor, the AEE’s main objective is to end the island’s dependence on petroleum, but he insists on the use of natural gas. Among the alternatives he’s considering are the northern pipeline (the route crosses the island south to north, then runs eastward along the coast from Arecibo to Cataño), the use of barges or buoys, or some smaller pipeline with the purpose of gasifying the generating plants. The government’s plant is to substitute oil dependence for natural gas – in other words, another fossil fuel.

Opposition to the “Vía Verde” gas pipeline project by broad sectors of the People is almost absolute, with the exception of those who are personally profiting from it, such as AEE consultant Daniel Pagán. Even though public hearings at the Environmental Quality Board and the Planning Board were held for only one day, written statements were presented with greater scientific rigor and solid arguments against the project. Even so, permits were granted within 24 hours.

Among the groups opposing “Vía Verde”, both Casa Pueblo and the electrical workers’ union, UTIER, have expressed their support for the use of barges for natural gas as a means of transition toward renewable energy sources. However, for us in the Workers’ Socialist Movement (MST), the use of barges or other means for transporting natural gas is not an alternative. The reality of the Puerto Rico we live in is that we are governed by parties (PNP and PPD) of the rich and corrupt. In this scenario, who can guarantee that natural gas will really be implemented as a transitional alternative? The answer is no one.

The PPD and PNP are two wings of the same capitalist class, and they only serve to facilitate exploitation. We wouldn’t be surprised by the generous contributions that FENOSA (the Spain-based multinational energy corporation that seeks to deliver the gas) and ECO ELECTRICA (the corporation that runs an already-existing, privately-owned natural gas plant in Peñuelas, on the south coast of Puerto Rico) are probably giving these two parties every 4 years. If Fortuño gives up on the northern pipeline, or the PPD wins, the use of barges or buoys is the easy way out, to avoid mobilizing in the streets – it’s the conciliatory way. Natural gas, however, blows up not only in pipelines all over the world, but also in energy facilities. That’s why we don’t agree with having the pipeline run through the mountains, but we’re also opposed to having it built along the southern coast; and if Palo Seco (the main AEE plant in Cataño) is gasified, the air might be cleaner, but it would be a great time bomb ready to explode as soon as something goes wrong. As always, besides the environmental impact, the communities affected would be poor and working-class communities. If you don’t believe us, just ask the Fonalledas family (one of the wealthiest in Puerto Rico) which had the route changed so it wouldn’t run through their “little farm” in Dorado.

The time to head towards energy sustainability is now. The key to solving oil dependence through renewable sources is in the island itself, and begins with a change in our patterns of unrestrained consumption. Besides, Puerto Rico has great potential to develop renewable energy sources, such as the sun, the sea, the wind, micro-algae, and others. The realization of this potential can’t just be another campaign promise that politicians will pretend to keep in less than 4 years. This is why, in order to study the viability of renewable energy sources, funds should be assigned to the University of Puerto Rico, specifically for research and development of technologies to be manufactured on the island. This way, in the long term, we can break our dependence on foreign oil and gas markets, as well as on foreign technology industries.

Finally, it’s often said that Puerto Rico is small, can’t develop on its own, and other such colonized ideas. The development of renewable energy sources and energy self-sufficiency would therefore also help break ideological dependence, because Puerto Rico is in fact a resource-rich territory with great potential for self-development.

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2 thoughts on “Fight energy dependence and colonial dependence!

  1. This is a difficult issue. On the one hand, oil-fueled power plants, and the refineries used to produce that oil, are really dirty and the working class and poor, primarily of people of color communities around them are sick. There are powerful fights against theses refineries in many of these communities in the US. These are also workplaces with many health and safety challenges for the workers in them, and the union representing these workers has engaged in struggles to improve these conditions.
    But natural gas drilling cannot be given a free pass either, and we can witness today the many struggles against shale drilling–fracking. Natural gas power plants are the cleanest of any fossil fuel, but they are not pollution free. Here in NYC, about 8-9 years ago there was a community environmental justice battle in several communities of color where the state energy authority planned to place 11 small gas power plants, 4 of which were to be put in one community in the South Bronx where we had a major battle.
    Will converting to natural gas cost a lot of money and end up delaying a renewable energy infrastructure? Are there conditions under which these plants could prove to be a cleaner, temporary and useful transition and perhaps save lives? What is the best way to investigate these questions as scientifically as possible and debate these issues in a way that can build the mass movement constructively, and challenge activists to think more critically and on a deeper level?

  2. Pingback: A memorial for two workers: On fuel barges and their dangers – En memoria de dos obreros: Sobre barcazas de combustible y sus peligros « NYC en Lucha

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