Only Capitalists Have a Motive to Pollute

Only Capitalists Have a Motive to Pollute
reprinted from
The People
February 1997


By Linda Featheringill

Jean Dubail, an associate editor for THE PLAIN DEALER of Cleveland, wrote an article about air pollution. According to his information, 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide were dumped into the air over this country in 1990. Of this amount 16 million tons, or 80 percent of the total, came from large electric utilities. To fight this pollution, the U.S. Congress set up a system of "allowances," which gave the owners of each allowance legal permission to emit one ton of sulfur dioxide per year. These allowances are given to utility companies, which can sell "leftover" ones if their pollution emissions are below the amount covered by the allowances. Some of these allowances have been bought by environmental groups to prevent further sulfur dioxide emissions.

Dubail argues that this is a wonderful solution to the problem, and he says the system is working very well. He supports his beliefs by pointing out that sulfur dioxide emissions have dropped 15 percent since 1990. He credits the sale of allowances for much of this drop.

Dubail's pleasure with the allowance system doesn't seem to be based on facts. Since the technology to reduce drastically and quickly these poisonous emissions is already available, the 15 percent decline over a five- or six- year period is not impressive. He praises the efforts of environmental groups, although even he admits that they don't have the financial resources to buy allowances in the quantity necessary to make a substantial difference. Moreover, he fails to admit that even if these groups had unlimited funds, their impact would be limited because only the UNUSED emission allowances are put up for sale.

His praise of environmental efforts is primarily based on their use as an educational tool. He features the efforts of one teacher in the state of New York, in an area of high acid rain damage. This teacher has led his students in buying allowances and in conducting energy audits. His lessons have emphasized that worker demand is a major cause of pollution. The teacher is quoted as saying, "It really brings home that we, not corporate America, are responsible for the pollution."

This teacher has led his students to believe a lie. While it is true that energy should not be wasted and energy audits may be helpful in preventing some waste, workers are not to blame for the action of the electric companies because they -- the workers -- are not in control of the companies. Workers don't set policies, and they have neither the means, motive nor the opportunity for doing so. They can't even be blamed for competition that might cause the electric companies to forego installing of pollution-reducing equipment, since most power companies operate in a monopoly situation. More, capitalists do have the means, the motive and the opportunity to transform the air we breath into their personal garbage dump. The means are provided by their private ownership of the industries. The motive is the profit motive. The opportunity is provided by the inability of the working class and the unwillingness of the collective capitalist -- the political state -- to prevent this crime against nature and against society.

Dubail, however, supports the theory that the workers are to be blamed for pollution by utility companies, and states that this is a lesson we all need to learn. He goes on to suggest another lesson for us to learn: "Capitalism can be just as effective in solving environmental problems as in creating them."

This statement is hard for a thinking person to swallow. If capitalism can be "effective" in protecting our environment, why doesn't it? Why do we have acid rain and smog and holes in the atmosphere?

Members of the capitalist-subsidized media, including Dubail, do not act to serve the truth. They act to serve a system by "marketing" ideas that are based on a false premise. In this case, the idea is that of untrammeled, free-market capitalism. Capitalism, according to this idea, needs to be protected from government regulation. Capitalists spend billions upon billions of advertising dollars to support their propaganda mills -- the so-called "news media" -- to dupe the exploited working class into believing that these ideas comprise a serious philosophy of life, when what those ideas really represent are arguments similar to those a gangster's lawyer attempts to foist on a jury. They are merely rationalizations behind which capitalism seeks to justify its crimes, and the billions of stolen wealth it uses to pay for this propaganda makes the millions it used to finance the Democratic and Republican campaigns last year look like spare change.

Government regulations pose no threat to capitalism, and never have, regardless of how they may affect or place certain restraints on specific capitalist interests. Capitalism as a social system, and the capitalist class as a whole, not only needs the political state to survive, capitalism created the modern centralized political state as it emerged from feudalism at the end of the medieval era.

The real threat to capitalism and the crimes that capitalism commits against nature and humanity is an informed and active working class that is willing to take control of all industries. Taking, holding and operating the industries on a democratic basis means socialism. Only socialism can satisfy our needs while operating all the industries in harmony with the best interest of the whole planet. However, until the working class decides that it must take control of the economy and establish a new form of democratic government based on collective and democratic ownership of the economy, all creatures on earth will continue to suffer under the capitalist dictum of "business as usual."