We have met the enemy and he is us.
Oh, you’ve never heard of Adani Carmichael?
No one force on earth stands in the way of a global transition away from fossil fuels more than Adani Carmichael.
Adani Carmichael is wealthy, slick, persuasive; seductive, some might say- impossible to resist.
Adani Carmichael has made the world an offer it can’t refuse. World powers, mainstream newspapers, governing bodies, and environmental protection agencies alike quail at the very thought of Adani Carmichael.
But Adani Carmichael is not a person, it’s not a collection of persons.
It isn’t even a company.
Adani Carmichael is a coal mine.
And it isn’t just any old coal mine. Adani Carmichael is one of the biggest coal mines in the world, but that isn’t even what makes it so special.
Adani Carmichael is one of the biggest coal mines in the world…and it just opened last year. But even that isn’t what sets Adani Carmichael apart.
It isn’t a question of when it opened, but also where.
What poor, emerging, benighted country drew the short straw of doing the world’s dirty work this time?
That’s right; it wasn’t Ghana- site of the world’s largest e-waste dump known by another name most Westerners have never even heard: “Agbogbloshie. It wasn’t Malaysia- which has been stuck taking plastic “recyclables” from wealthy nations like the U.S. for the past decade.
Adani Carmichael, in spite of enormous pushback from climate change protestors and environmental activists opened anyway- recently and in one of the wealthier countries of the world.
The simple answer at the heart of that question is the reason Adani Carmichael exists today, and probably why Agbogbloshie exists, too.
Wealthy countries like the U.S. still very much need coal…to produce most of our electricity. In fact, we need it more than ever.
Oh, yeah; the inconvenient truth about fossil fuels and $5-a-gallon gas spurring a hoped-for move to electric vehicles is that most of our electricity is produced by burning coal.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration breaks down energy production as follows: “In 2021, about 4,116 billion kilowatthours (kWh) (or about 4.12 trillion kWh) of electricity were generated at utility-scale electricity generation facilities in the United States. About 61% of this electricity generation was from fossil fuels — coal, natural gas, petroleum, and other gases. About 19% was from nuclear energy, and about 20% was from renewable energy sources.”
In essence, we haven’t weaned ourselves off fossil fuels so much as outsourced our fossil-fuel producing dirty work to emerging nations with fewer environmental regulations and labor laws.
“Choking on dust, Mir Abdul Hadi emerged from the narrow mine shaft with a sack of coal hanging heavy on his back and his skin stained black,” wrote Christina Goldbaum and Yaqoob Akbary for the New York Times on March 29, 2022. “For hours he had hacked away at the coal in the dark tunnel, terrified it might collapse on him.”
The piece was entitled, “Desperate for Cash, Afghans Toil in Mines That Are Deadlier Than Ever.”
“Faced with life-threatening hunger, thousands labor in the coal mines of Baghlan,” the authors wrote. “But safety measures that the former government once provided are gone.”
The passage was quoted by John Tammy of Real Clear Markets who summed up U.S. energy production post-globalization succinctly, if callously, thus: “Please remember the horrors of work necessary for survival in Afghanistan the next time some political romantic promises to bring back factory jobs, or mining jobs that ‘went overseas.’”
Ignoring the fact that outsourcing our energy production is a national security issue, as we’ve seen only too clearly over the past two years, Tammy misses an important distinction necessary for an honest conversation about U.S. fossil fuel dependence and domestic energy production.
The conditions Mr. Hadi is being forced to endure in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, while heartbreaking, bear little resemblance to work in modern coal mines in nations like Australia.
Adani Carmichael is having no trouble at all finding people willing to work in the mine for another very simple reason: They pay really, really well.
Mr. Hadi’s experience is instead similar to what workers endured during the pre-regulatory era of the U.S. immediately following the Industrial Revolution.
O dark side of unbridled capitalism, thy name is exploitation.
It’s the reason we have child labor laws; because, to our shame, we need them. But we do have them. Were it not for laws preventing such, 10-year old kids would still be working in the mines and factories of America. As they do now in emerging nations without the regulations and ability to prevent it.
The answer to the worst excesses of capitalism is regulation and a government body powerful and stable enough to enforce it. Imperfect as U.S. regulations are- filled with loopholes, obsolete laws and the glaring absence of new regulation for new industries, like the tech sector- they are still better than the alternative.
One of the worst aspects of globalization- besides diminished domestic production capacity, a 10,000 mile supply line dependent on petroleum, and a much wider wealth-gap- is that it allowed U.S. corporations to exploit foreign workers in a way they could no longer exploit American workers.
Reflecting on the kinds of exploitative capitalism which has allowed the U.S. to outsource so much of its energy production, its easy to forget another fact very inconvenient to the narrative that fossil fuel production is dirty, dangerous work suitable only for people in places like Afghanistan who are too impoverished and desperate to say no.
Namely, that one of the world’s largest coal mines just opened in Australia.
Changing to electric cars doesn’t end our dependency on fossil fuels; it merely goes from one to another. Plus, electric cars require a great deal of rare earth minerals, in which the Chinese Communist Party dominates the market and controls the supply. Ditto computerized microchips.
Whereas, Adani Carmichael just successfully completed its first shipment of coal in December of 2021, after withstanding a decade of protests, legal filings and delays.
“From day one, the objectives of the Carmichael Project were to supply high-quality Queensland coal to nations determined to lift millions of their citizens out of energy poverty and to create local jobs and economic prosperity in Queensland communities in the process,” Bravus Mining and Resources CEO David Boshoff said in celebrating the, “big moment.”
“With the support of the people of regional Queensland,” Boshoff continued, in what could be construed as a dig at environmentalist and activists who fought the mine every step of the way; “we have delivered on that promise.”
Adani Carmichael would like to remind the world that we may not like it very much; but we need it more than ever.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)