Friday, December 08, 2006

Class warfare

below is a long article but its worth reading. it is a prime example of the way global capitalism dispossessess the lands, rights and resources of local people in order to increase accumulation of capital for a silent ruling class who already make and are in total control of loads of cash and power. David Harvey calls it 'accumulation by disspossesion.' Anyone that tells me class oppression and warfare is dead doesnt understand how it never went away. Who works? Who sells their labour to survive? Who owns the means of production, the companies, the media, the industries that make money? Class politics is right infront of our noses but we call it inequality or believe the markets will balance it out. Im not saying we all need to be marxists, because i'm certainly not and ultimately Marx's got lots wrong. But the way the world exists today is not to benefit all, or even to make it bearable for most, its about making profits for a small group who have too much money for their own good. The mobility of the middle classes misleads us all into believing everyone has a chance if they work hard. Think about that because it isn't a reality. Nor should forcing an aluminium smelter on people be one either.

anyways: Trinidad vs Smelter
From (i know food! weird.)

On December 6th, Trinidadians were experiencing an unusual event, a government symposium on aluminum smelters, or more appropriately "all the government will ever allow you to know about smelting"

As expected, the foreign "Aluminum Experts" brought in by pro aluminium forces all sung the praises of smelters and told us how well everything worked out in South Africa or Norway while our local economists, environmental and social experts continued sounding strong warnings against rushing into this kind of development.

We were treated to 8 hours of speeches from "Aluminum Experts" like newly appointed Energy Minister Lenny Saith (the old one is up on corruption charges!) and his brother NEC head honcho Prakash Saith and some imported experts like Alcoa's very own 'medical expert' Dr. Taiwo.

In case you couldn't stay awake through the entire 8 hours, here is what we learned on from all of the 'expert testimony':

None of the paid aluminum experts could make a clear point as to why it is so necessary that Trinidad needs to have Aluminum smelters. They tried to convince us of economic benefits with very little mention of true dollars and cents flowing into the pockets of the average Trinidadian. They tried to convince us that there's no risk to our health and our environment which was quickly countered with a long list of tons and tons of toxic emissions that we can expect from the smelters.

We learned that the smelters planned in Trinidad would be able to supply about 4 months worth of the world's demand of aluminum. That would explain why that both Alutrint and Alcoa are already hinting on doubling the capacity of the smelter in the future.

On the subject of health, we are probably more confused than ever. While one 'energy expert' cites a Norwegian study showing that there was no cancer risk, the next expert quoted a study from the same country showing, yes there was an increased cancer risk. I guess it just depends on who funds your study.

Another revelation that we found interesting was the statement from Prakash Saith that each one of the ten Ammonia Plants we currently have on this Island consumes half a million gallons of water a day, the six or so Methanol plants consume a million gallons each.

So, if you're still wondering why you have six water tanks in the back of your house and your pipe is still dry several days a week, here is your answer.

While on the subject of water, it was also revealed that the government had also already imported pipelines to supply more water to the new industrial estates and the smelters. Yes, the smelters that have NOT been approved by the EMA yet. Chatham is not even approved for an industrial estate but still zoned as agricultural land, but the pipes are here, my dear friends! Do not look for any more water in your pipes anytime soon, we are piping it to the smelters instead. For all you living abroad, only 26% of Trinidadians have a regular water supply.

Aluminum Industry experts like Colin Pratt warned us that we should not assume automatically that downstream opportunities will develop or be successful just because we are building smelters. There has to be proper planning and development of downstream industries and there has to be a market.

In South Africa, we've been told that crime and HIV rates increased in the
area where the smelter was built. We also learnt that short term contracts (temporary construction jobs) results in low term debt (as people shop on credit beyond their means).

Our local experts from the University of the West Indies presented studies that also showed that industrial areas in Trinidad like Pt. Fortin and Pt. Lisas are historically suffering from higher unemployment and poverty rates. For instance, Atlantic LNG in Pt. Fortin, they showed created mainly low income employment. The economists showed low level job creation is not worth the substantial invasion. Trinidad's massive investment of 15 billion dollars in the energy industry generates less than 4% of the employment in the country. All is not well in our industrial wonderland.

We were warned that the Alcoa smelter will have to be subsidized (something even Dr. Saith confirmed) and each one of the 1,000 jobs at Alcoa may come at a price tag of 400,000 dollars that we, the tax payers have to come up with, according to the UWI study group.

Mr. Goddard, the representative of the EMA confirmed that there are concerns about the carrying capacity of the Island, how much industrial pollution the environment can absorb. He simply stated that that maximum safe carrying capacity may have already been reached. He also mentioned that the proposed port is a major concern to the EMA. That port requires a 4 km dredge channel on a coastline that is already under threat.

And there is still no information on the secret agreements signed between Alcoa and the Government. Radio host Anil Roberts asked Prakash Saith "what is the price of gas promised to Alcoa in the agreement?"

Prakash Saith demonstrated that he seemed to have taken lessons in not answering questions from the master of avoidance, Wade Hughes of Alcoa. He answered "no price of gas is mentioned in the M.O.U."

And he is technically correct of course, the M.O.U. specifies a supply of electricity, not the gas to generate that electricity. In Trinidad, electricity generation is a regulated industry and only T&TEC can legally generate and sell electricity. Alcoa cannot build a power plant and generate power for their smelter.

Good old Prakash dropped another Alcoa-ism on Mr. Aboud later. When asked, "are you the chairman of the NEC?" he answered, "no" Well, OK, he is the President of the NEC.

Dr. Taiwo, Alcoa's resident African smelter doctor also went on to assure us how all these smelter health risks can be "managed" these days. He explained that there was a necessity for the Alcoa smelter to have a buffer zone to manage exposure to the population. So, why is there no buffer zone at the Alutrint smelter?

But thank God for Prof. Julian Kenny. As a 'simple biologist', he was able to explain to everybody in the room how illegal, irregular and irresponsible this whole smelter deal really is. To anybody who videotaped Dr. Kenny's presentation, please make copies and give it to your friends.

You can also download the text of his presentation in PDF format at this location: At the Chamber website, you can also download copies of the presentations of the other featured presenters. The web site however does not list the comments of the expert panel or the audience questions and responses.

The record also got set straight on the point that the late Dr. Eric Williams had envisioned a aluminum smelter in Trinidad. The reality is that Dr. Eric Williams envisioned a regional aluminum industry in competition with Alcoa. He had no plans of selling out our land to a foreign corporation like Alcoa for their own enrichment. Quite a different story than what is proposed by NEC, Alcoa and Alutrint.

One of the highlights of the TV broadcast carried by CCN TV6 was actually a public service announcement showing the virtues of the rainforest (yes, the same rainforest that Alcoa would like to bulldoze for their smelter) The programme showed that rainforests produce many medicines against many illnesses such as cancer, asthma, respiratory illnesses and more, yes, the same illnesses that are associated with the emissions of aluminium smelters. Well, isn't that ironic?

Our Rain Forests are also essential in helping reduce global warming and the greenhouse effect, the same greenhouse effect Alcoa's smelter will contribute to so heavily with as much CO2 from their smelter as 300,000 cars would produce. More Irony? Yes!

Our general conclusion is that this symposium has raised more questions and concerns than ever about establishing aluminum industry in Trinidad. It also raised more than enough questions about the industries that are already there and it has probably convinced more people than ever that the population need to be heard and consulted on this issue and that the unanswered questions in this secret deals have to be answered once and for all.

Yesterday's symposium did not answer these questions, did not shed light (or even heat) on the contents of the secret agreements. Why was Alcoa in the audience instead of on the podium when discussing their smelter? Why do we need secrecy and can't disclose the details agreement made with Alcoa? Where are these gas supplies located that can power the smelters for the next 20, 30 or 50 years? What then?


1st anonymous said...

How old is this news? Ecologists have to cry :(including me). I read the Norvegian research...I am just wondering how can somebody agree with it when there is big posibility of malignity of I read somewhere that production of aluminium is one of the highest for spending of energy..I have just one word for it: Money, money, money

Dylan said...

This is very recent news taking place in trinidad right now. The government is going to go ahead even though the local population, local scientists and ecologists are pleading with them not too. The money the government recives after it skims lots off the top will not even go to those who are being dispossessed and dislocated. its really bad news. There have been demonstrations, fights with politicians, loads of media coverage but the political system in Trinidad and those that have its ear (the industrial capitalists) dont give a damn. Small countries run by unrepresentative political systems and corrupt elites are at the whim of a global rich class. They see it as a job/deal, the locals, rightly so, see it as their homes and erosion of choice/power. they are disspossesed, robbed, it is the same as physical violence. This is punishment by capital and it might as well be capital punishment becuase both are forms of killing the people.

1st anonymous said...

When will they know what happens?...

Peter Vine said...

We must stop this project at all costs.
Please place this story in any available media in your country.

Peter Vine, Republic of Trinidad & Tobago

Iva said...

By the way, there is some on line petition for help to the trinidad forsets, everybody can sign it...