Stephen Durham is a write-in candidate for U.S. president
As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast and my home state of New York, after leaving a trail of devastation and death in Haiti and the Caribbean, bloggers are asking, “Will this finally force Obama and Romney to talk about climate change?”
While no specific hurricane can be blamed on global warming, the general spike in violent weather is one way that the headlong consumption of fossil fuels ravages the environment. Global warming was a campaign issue for Obama in 2008, when his purported vision of hope and change included a bold new future powered by renewable energy sources.
But that was then and this is now. The loyalty of both candidates to the monster fossil fuel corporations is clear. Not a peep was said about climate change during the televised debates, and nothing will be said now.
Mitt Romney’s energy agenda is at least straightforward. Cancel any regulations that interfere with anything the industry wants to do in its pursuit of profits. Stick to the plan of guaranteeing these profits with $113 billion in federal subsidies for oil, gas, and coal over the next decade. Rationalize all this with the drumbeat of how desperately the U.S. needs energy independence in the interest of its “national security.”
Obama hears the beat of the same nationalistic drummer. He now has an energy policy widely dubbed “all of the above.” It embraces solar, wind, and other renewables; biofuels; the chimeras of “clean” coal and “safe” nuclear; and new drilling for oil (domestic oil production reached a 17-year high this month). After Obama raised hopes that he would nix the dangerous Keystone XL pipeline bringing tar sands oil from Canada to Texas refineries, his administration went ahead and began handing out permits to bulldoze a path for the pipeline’s southern portion.
But a special place in Obama’s heart is reserved for natural gas, the miracle child of the hour, which he touts at every opportunity. And the big development in natural gas exploitation is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Fracking is a “shock and awe” process of extracting natural gas locked in shale — a method that infamously produces ignitable tap water because of the methane it releases from deep underground. For now, thanks to protests by New Yorkers like myself, there’s a state moratorium on fracking. But it will take a powerful, radical movement to turn this fragile moratorium into a permanent ban.
One of my goals in running as the Freedom Socialist Party’s write-in candidate for president is to contribute to the building of such a movement. With my vice-presidential running mate, Christina López, I stand for a U.S. energy policy that is also a sound environmental policy.
We believe that the only way to make the necessary switch away from fossil fuels to sustainable resources is by nationalizing every sphere of the energy industry, from coal to nukes, under the control of workers guided by the input of independent scientists and affected communities.
We also advocate emergency conservation measures, starting with greatly expanding mass transit and making it free. It’s appalling to me that New York City and many other areas are doing exactly the opposite: slashing transit services and boosting fares. This is environmentally suicidal and just one more way that workers and the poor are being made to pay the costs of an economic crisis caused by Wall Street.
My vice-presidential partner and I have met with a positive reception to these ideas on the campaign trail, from Ms. López’ speech at a rally against nuclear power near Hanford, Wash., to my own speaking and writing about fracking. But Romney and Obama seem to have made a gentlemen’s agreement to avoid the thorny subjects of climate change and the perils of the current energy course. No matter who wins the White House, my running mate and I will continue to answer the silence of corporate politicians by calling for a socialist economic system — the change that’s needed if the planet is to be protected and the needs of its people met.
Presidential candidate Stephen Durham is a lifelong fighter to end discrimination; he’s been a rank-and-file strike leader and a radical envoy to Latin American unionists and feminists. A thinker as well as a doer, Durham has written on topics from the AIDS crisis to the Cuban Revolution, from freeing Lynne Stewart to the environmental disaster of hydraulic fracking. From the party’s storefront in Central Harlem, it’s a short subway ride to the international heart of capitalism. Durham has ridden that train many a time to confront the corrupt financial elite — often to march with Occupy Wall Street and conduct teach-ins on economics.