The Struggle Against Carbon Ash is the Struggle Against Capital

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By: Ángel Rodríguez

The struggle we are carrying out in Peñuelas is against very powerful people.”  This is how Janette Albino, one of the community leaders, described the fight against the depositing of toxic ashes en the community of Tallaboa.

The capitalist, who is owner of the means of production, uses these same means to generate profits which are appropriated through the exploitation of workers and the destruction of the environment.  Energy production is part of this cycle of capitalist exploitation.  The capitalist owners of the coal-fired energy plants are responsible for the debacle unleashed in Peñuelas.

Over the past years the US has seen a reduction in the production of energy from coal.  According to the Environmental Information Agency, coal based energy had been reduced by 10%.  This is due to the development of technology to extract natural gas more efficiently and cheaply.  Federal regulations to protect the environment and surrounding communities also contributed to this reduction.  For this reason, companies that generate coal-fired energy, the dirtiest and most contaminating, have decided to move their operations outside of the US.

The struggle against coal ash in Peñuelas is the struggle against the burning of carbon in Guayama by the Virginia-based AES Energy.  It is the struggle against “very powerful people”; against a billion dollar industry.  AES Energy has 29 coal-fired plants in the US.  Of these, 12 produce over 100 megavolts of energy.  The AES plant in Guayama produces 454 megavolts of energy burning 1.5 million tons of carbon annually and producing 300 thousand tons of toxic ash each year.

AES not only produces the dirty energy that is unwanted in the US in Guayama, they also export the production of coal-fired energy to South Africa and India with financing from the US Import and Export Bank.  Because the producers of polluting carbon-based energy have seen a reduction in domestic production they are now pursing profits by exporting.

Burning coal in Guayama by AES over the next 20 years is part of the battle between capitalists to maintain the energy monopoly.  Health and the wellbeing of the people are now part of the capitalist’s agenda for accumulating profits.  And as if this scenario were not sufficiently complex, the Wall Street Junta has entered the scene.  It was imposed on the colonial government through the PROMESA Law to ensure the payment debt to bondholders.  This law was pushed forward by Bob Bishop, a republican congressman who is one of the biggest defenders of mining interests and the burning of coal for energy production.

In order to ensure the debt payment, the Wall Street Junta demands that PREPA reduce its budget.  The so-called ‘revitalization’ attempts to reduce dependence on petroleum (51% of production) and shift to natural gas (31% of production) without touching coal-based energy at 16%.  Prepa’s savings will be redirected to debt payments and not to consumers as they have gone around trying to deceive people.   The working class should clearly understand these moves carried out by capitalists in the colony.  In this way we can see the whole panorama in order to organize against those that oppress us.