George Bush’s acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination made no mention of climate change. During the party convention Laura Bush had described watching her husband ‘wrestling with these agonising decisions that would have such profound consequences for so many lives and for the future of our world’. This clearly hadn’t involved much hand-wringing over the issue that will define the way in which we organise human society in the 21st century. Dubya did refer to a shift in energy policy, however, promising that the Republicans would make the US ‘less dependent on foreign sources of energy’. At the Democratic convention John Kerry had declared a similar goal: a ‘path to energy independence’. Such a policy could have significant environmental consequences, even if it were motivated less by concern for the planet than by concern over the price of oil – and the number of body bags returning from Iraq. For any US plan for energy independence would have to include a reduced use of the fossil fuels that accelerate climate change.
Both parties’ claims are, of course, unrealistic. Energy independence would mean finding different sources for more than half of the oil consumed in the US: 60 per cent of the daily total, to be exact. (Roughly a quarter of the US’s oil currently comes from the Middle East.) The natural instinct of Bush the oilman is to replace that oil with a home-grown variety of the same product, and his eagerness to drill in wilderness areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is no secret. That definitely would reduce the US’s reliance on imported oil: according to the US Geological Survey, oil from the refuge could replace imports from Saudi Arabia for nearly 20 years. Yet domestically sourced oil still couldn’t keep up with consumption; nor would it ease the increasing pressure on the US to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by burning less oil.
At the moment, Kerry is opposing opening up the Arctic, although he too is happy to dabble in fossil fuels. Both Republicans and Democrats are, for example, keen to extend natural gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and to construct a pipeline bringing natural gas from Canada and Alaska. However, both parties have recognised that alternative sources of fuel are part of the energy picture. Unfortunately, both support nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels, despite its pollution, safety issues and emission of carbon dioxide at various stages of its life cycle.
As far as less polluting alternatives go, Kerry aims to generate 20 per cent of the nation’s motor fuel and electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. This is an ambitious plan, particularly as figures from the US Energy Department show that only 1.5 per cent of motor fuel currently comes from alternative sources and 6 per cent of electricity comes from renewables. Kerry aims to meet his 2020 target through a $20 billion ‘energy security and conservation trust fund’, half of which is to be used to support
US car manufacturers in developing and building more fuel-efficient vehicles. One of the much-publicised fuel-efficient vehicles on sale in the States this summer is Ford’s new Escape Hybrid sports-utility vehicle. Described by Ford as ‘a vehicle that can take you to the very places you’re helping to preserve’, its critics have termed it a ‘patch job’ from the company with the lowest fuel-economy rate of the US’s major vehicle manufacturers. A hybrid engine (part petrol-powered, part electric) is a step in the right direction – so long as the electricity used is generated from renewables rather than nuclear or fossil fuels. But Kerry’s refusal to challenge the prominence of the private motor car, and to remind US citizens of how their railroads were ripped up to make room for highways, and how the production of these machines is incredibly resource-intensive and polluting, is symbolic of wider political problems.
To have any chance of getting elected a presidential candidate needs to assure US citizens that their way of life will not be threatened. Yet that way of life relies on a globally unfair distribution of resources, including energy resources. Energy independence would involve more than tinkering with vehicle efficiency; it has implications not just for foreign policy, but for the consumption patterns that underscore the entire American dream.
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History