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Welcome to planet Toast, being brought to you by Big Oil

PREFACE by Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO:

The following opinion piece is by my co-chair of the Washington State BlueGreen Alliance, KC Golden. KC is a tireless advocate for environmental and economic justice and a good friend of the labor movement. He and many other people were greatly concerned when Foss mentioned its proposed plan to secure a deal to house Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet at Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle.

While such a deal would create many needed union maritime jobs, it would also give the nod to Shell that we are fine with extreme drilling in fragile environments, to extract any and all barrels of oil, despite increasing climate disasters caused by our dependence on burning fossil fuels.

The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO fully supports the plan to modernize Terminal 5 which will begin in 2018. This project will allow the port to handle the new larger size vessels increasing the competitiveness of the Port of Seattle. This project will create hundreds of building and construction trades jobs and hundreds of permanent maritime jobs.

We also believe that if Foss can generate a productive use for Terminal 5 until that time, that that is a good thing. But increasing climate disasters pose serious questions that we need to answer as a labor movement: What is the cost of producing jobs that depend on drilling and burning every drop of proven oil or natural gas reserves in the ground? Can we survive the tradeoffs? Where do we draw the line? When is it too late? What alternatives are there for jobs in investing in the renewable energy economy?

I encourage and welcome responses to KC’s article. Please send to Thank you.


(Jan. 16, 2015) — Brothers and sisters, we have a lot of great work to do together. We can and are building the foundations for sustainable, broadly-shared prosperity – good jobs, healthy communities, and the kind of future our kids deserve. We’re committed to doing this work with you in a way that creates a more just, equitable Washington.

But one thing stands squarely in our way: the concentrated economic and political power of the oil industry. The Koch Brothers alone spent more on the 2012 election than the entire McCain campaign spent in 2008, and they reportedly spent a similar amount on the 2014 midterms. The effects of this political domination are devastating to working families and communities. Even worse, they are literally destroying the conditions for healthy human civilization – the food, water, and infrastructure systems we all rely on – by locking us into a future of climate chaos with ever-more desperate schemes to burn all the world’s carbon deposits.

This is not a theory. It’s not a political position. It’s not an “enviro” thing. It is a physical reality. Here’s how the world’s climate scientists described the choice before us in comprehensive report on climate science in November:


On the left is the planet our kids can have, if we overcome the fossil fuel lobby and build a thriving clean energy economy.   This planet would still experience some serious climate impacts, but we could adapt to many of them. We would still recognize this planet as Earth – a home worth fighting for. We have the technology to make this transition, the costs are manageable, and the opportunities are enormous. We pledge our solidarity in making this future a just and prosperous one – one in which economic opportunity is shared much more broadly and fairly than it is now.

On the right is a planet that would be so radically and violently transformed by climate disruption in this century that we’d have to give it a new name – say, planet Toast.   This is the path we are on now, the path where we just let Big Oil keep burning everything up, including the Arctic oil. Scientists choose their words very carefully, for fear that a Congress cowed by Big Oil’s power might cut off their research funding. But even they say this world would be unfit for human civilization as we know it. And you don’t have to wait to see what it looks like – recent disasters in Oso, in Okanogan County, in New York (Sandy), in New Orleans (Katrina), in the Philippines (supertyphoons) are just a preview of life on Toast.  Millions of people – the survivors at least – are struggling to recover from these crises today. The biggest injustice is that those who do the least to cause it – those who can least afford it – generally suffer the worst of the impacts.

I know, this stuff is harsh. It’s murder on my social life to be the guy who has to deliver this message. It sounds political and polarized. But it is, to the best of our scientific understanding, the truth. You can’t negotiate with physics or cut a deal with chemistry.

But the very good news is this: it does not have to be this way. We can still say no to Toast and yes to Earth.

Big Oil knows that no one would consciously choose the future they offer – a corrupted democracy, a hostage economy that works only for the fortunate few,… Toast. So their only hope is to convince us that we have no choice in the matter – that jobs and prosperity are only possible in a world where we keep making big new investments in expanding fossil fuel supply. Their message is: Resistance is futile. If the Port of Seattle says no to Arctic drilling operations, we’ll just go somewhere else. You can’t stop us. You need us.

This is where we must prove them wrong, by focusing together on building a sustainable, just future beyond fossil fuels, and drawing a firm line in the sand against this bullying. We cannot accept the hellish future they are condemning our kids to.

Does that mean we have to shut down the refineries and abandon all fossil fuel consumption and jobs tomorrow? Of course not. We can make this transition thoughtfully, patiently, equitably, and with respect and solidarity. We’re all locked up – as consumers, as citizens, as workers – in the power of Big Oil; it will take mutual respect and a shared commitment to a truly just transition to free ourselves. It will take decades.

What we CAN’T do is continue to invest in making it worse – in new fossil fuel infrastructure and exploration projects that lock us in to more fossil fuel dependence. That’s a one-way ticket to Toast.  We can’t keep feeding the beast that’s killing us.

Big Oil knows the writing is on the wall. They know we have better ways to power our economy than digging and drilling everywhere.   They know renewable energy is getting cheaper, electric cars and transportation choices are expanding, and we are rattling the chains and posing a real threat to the economic and political power that sustains their immense profits. That’s part of why they’ve lowered prices – to kill off the emerging competition.

And that’s why they are trying to accelerate investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure now, while they still can — to keep us locked in and lining their pockets for as long as possible. That’s what Arctic drilling is about. We should have no part of it.

Our future is not in an oily hole under the melting ice of the Arctic Ocean. Our future is right here, with each other. We can stand shoulder to shoulder and build a just and sustainable Washington, powered by clean energy, with broadly shared economic opportunities. We can stand for social and economic justice, a democracy that works for people, and a healthy, prosperous tomorrow.

Golden-KCThe only way forward is together.

KC Golden is Senior Policy Advisor for Climate Solutions. Along with Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, KC is co-chair Washington State’s BlueGreen Alliance.

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