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Protesting individual oil pipelines, whose only transgression is carrying oil, is pointless.

Submitted by sudo in Green

I'm not talking about things like the Dakota Access Pipeline, because that one was also guilty of being built across native land without permission. I am referring to pipelines that are only guilty of carrying oil, and possibly leaking it.

What is the point of protesting these? Yes, they carry oil, which pollutes the atmosphere when it's burned. I agree that that is bad. But if the pipeline isn't built, the oil will still be shipped via rail, so you won't be putting a dent in the amount of oil being burned. To seriously reduce the amount of pollution due to burning of fossil fuels, you need to overthrow your country's capitalist regime, and implement a plan to eliminate all power plants and cars that burn fossil fuels in X years. That's the only way that it will work.

Telling individuals to swap their gas cars for electric ones won't work, because most countries, barring China, don't have electric cars that the average person can afford, and those who can afford them don't give a shit. Plus, if the electricity the car runs on is generated at a fossil power plant, then the whole point is moot. And if you're thinking of instantly banning all gas cars and instantly shutting down all fossil fuel power plants, then that will immediately tank the economy, transportation, and the quality of life. Everyone will now hate you, and they will either vote you out, or overthrow you, to replace you with someone who will turn the lights back on. Now you're back to square one, since they're using fossil fuels again. A gradual transition to a clean infrastructure is the only way to actually end fossil fuel use.

So, if that's what you want, then you should be protesting the government for failing to make this transition, and using that as a selling point for revolution. Not protesting individual pipelines.

The other reason I see people protesting them for is oil spills. But they don't realize that the alternative to shipping oil by pipeline is shipping it by rail car, which is even more prone to spilling (source). Before anyone says it, yes, I'm aware that Fraser Institute is a conservative think tank. But the numbers don't lie. So if they're trying to reduce the amount of oil spilled by getting rid of pipelines, they're being counter-productive, because that shifts that oil onto rail cars, which are more prone to spill than pipelines. So, unless there's something else that I'm missing, there's absolutely no point to protesting individual pipelines.

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WindTalk wrote

They are symbolic of the transport of 1) climate change denial, 2) wealth divide denial.

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PositiveFreedom wrote (edited )

Every new pipeline is accepting that we need to continue using oil instead of substantially investing in renewables or consuming less. Protesting these new pipelines is a clear message we are done with fossil fuels and it's time to work as a community to develop alternatives. Under the regime of the State that means policies that favor renewable and punishes pollution causing energy production.

Or to put it more explicitly, protesting the pipeline makes it clear to the government we are done with oil. Obviously the government responds best when profits are threatened and protesting the government is less effective at that than being able to shut down a pipeline.

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sudo wrote

Every new pipeline is accepting that we need to continue using oil...

Who is "we"? If a pipeline is built, that doesn't make me want to consume oil more.

instead of substantially investing in renewables or consuming less.

That's not going to happen to a meaningful degree under capitalism.

Protesting these new pipelines is a clear message we are done with fossil fuels and it's time to work as a community to develop alternatives.

A message to whom? Who do you think will listen? And community-level activism isn't enough to bring down big oil - it takes a national effort.

Under the regime of the State that means policies that favor renewable and punishes pollution causing energy production.

You're not going to get a capitalist state to enact meaningful punishments against polluting companies. There are a lot of companies where it's cheaper for them to pollute and pay the fine, than change the way they do things. Since the state works in the interest of large companies, the state won't do much to punish them.

Or to put it more explicitly, protesting the pipeline makes it clear to the government we are done with oil.

They don't care what we think. We're dependent on oil, and only they can break the dependency.

Obviously the government responds best when profits are threatened and protesting the government is less effective at that than being able to shut down a pipeline.

Overthrowing the government and getting rid of fossil fuels is much better than shutting down a couple of pipelines (and has anyone actually succeeded at shutting down a pipeline due to a protest?).

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PositiveFreedom wrote

Your argument boils down to do nothing until the revolution begins. Any other societal ills we should completely ignore until then? The revolution isn't happening any time soon and climate change is a real threat right now.

Is it effective strategy? Probably not. But I'm not in the habit of telling communities how to fight. And these communities are learning and building solidarity in these direct actions. Hopefully learning to become better revolutionaries.

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sudo wrote

I don't think we should do absolutely nothing. I think we should educate, agitate, and organize, about environmental issues as well as social ones. Climate change is indeed a real threat right now, but we can't do shit about it, unless we have state power. The people with state power right now don't care if millions of people march against fossil fuels, so there really is nothing we can do until the revolution.

But I'm not in the habit of telling communities how to fight.

What if you're a member of said community? Shouldn't you have a say in the way they do things?

If it was a protest outside the offices of some big oil company, and the message was, "Fuck you for continuing to pollute the planet," then that would be fine by me. And I'm sure people could learn a lot about becoming better revolutionaries through that. But specifically targeting pipelines, which are actually an improvement over rail (as far as spills are concerned) is really counter-productive. Right after the DAPL controversy, our communist party decided to join an environmental group in protest of a natural gas pipeline near us that had been under construction for a little while. I went and protested, but afterwards asked other party members exactly why we were protesting this pipeline in particular, and they didn't really know. So they were as confused as I was. I don't think having confused protesters is a good idea.

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[deleted] wrote

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sudo wrote

would you not consider protesting a means to "agitate"? seems like it is to me.

I would indeed consider it to be agitation. What I'm trying to say is that it's protesting pipelines in particular is counter-productive, since they're actually an improvement over what was in place before. Saying "get rid of big oil, and give us green energy" is perfectly fine, but targeting only pipelines just doesn't make sense.

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PositiveFreedom wrote

And if they succeed in shutting down a pipeline then move to blocking the trains that replace the pipeline?

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sudo wrote

Thus starving most people of their only means of transportation? Good luck getting them to like you after that.

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PositiveFreedom wrote

They could organize rides for those who need them, offer free bike repair and distribute free bikes for those who are able and willing, etc.

You want to educate the masses before violently overthrowing the State but it's unimaginable to educate people why we are shutting down oil?

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sudo wrote

Who is "they"? I sincerely doubt people under capitalism will care that much about their fellow community members to go through the trouble of doing all of this. I don't think you realize just how much we all rely on cars, trucks, and buses to get around places.

It's not unimaginable to educate people about why oil is bad, but it is unimaginable to completely shut down all fossil-based electricity and transportation without having green replacements standing by.

Yes, I get that we need to stop the advance of climate change as quickly as possible. But if you instantly shut off the power plants and take away everyone's cars, then everyone will hate you, no matter how much explaining you do. They will vote you out or overthrow you, and the next person will turn the power plants back on and give their cars back, so you'll be right back to square one. Creating a 5-year plan to phase out all fossil fuels really is the fastest way to do it.