Friday, 4 March 2016

PiS , Coal, and the EU and Energy Security.

Unfortunately, PiS, a far right populist political Party and Movement, has inherited, as ironic as this may seem, the mantle of the national-communists that ruled Poland between 1945 to 1990. As a consequence, it exploit the anger at the mass unemployment caused by the 'shock therapy' of the Balcerowicz Plan.
Between 1992 and 1996 productivity and GDP actually fell in Poland and, thereafter, surged. But this was only partially due to the Balcerowiz Plan , one which included rapid and doctrinaire neoliberal reforms that threw far too many of Poland's old working class on to the scrapheap of history.
This is a reason why PiS is hostile to any attempt to reduce dependence upon coal, as the coal industry is associated with the safe, in fact more protected' status of Polish workers under national-communism, an industry regarded as essential to Poland's modernisation back then in which miners were given the best wages.
The second reason is the affinity PiS has with the US Republicans on the supposedly 'sceptical' position towards the proven scientific fact of global warming. It is a 'heresy' to them because their Christian fundamentalist dogmas and so the wish thinking places Man as having the right to dominate Nature.
So, another irony, is that the Catholic religious fundamentalism in theory has much in common with the theory and practice of Communism. The world is there to be dominated and exploited to ensure progress. This dovetails with the other aspects of the regime in Warsaw in 2016 such persecution mania.
The EU will have a problem persuading Poland to phase out coal is not only the the disbelief in scientific evidence and facts that characterises PiS. It is that coal as a form of energy security prevents it from having to depend more on other sources such as oil and gas, much of which would come from a hated Russia.
Germany's politics has hardly helped any more than Greenpace and the Greens. The decision to phase out nuclear power in Germany, in some ways, beats Poland's stubborness on coal for utter stupidity and short-sightedness. The politics of irrationality plays its role in Germany just as much as in Poland.
The idea wind power, as opposed to nuclear power and fracked oil, done carefully and with respect for the environment, would be able to meet Poland's energy needs is farcical, though population decline and mass emigration of the young, caused by a failed and failing neoliberal system, would decrease energy demand.
The failure to drag Ukraine decisively into the sphere of interest of the EU, primarily led by Poland, has meant Putin was able to move in to seize Crimea and its oil and gas reserves. Drilling in Bieszczady proved both fruitless and unpopular with environmentalists, with Greenpeace being smeared as funded by Russia.
Such paranoia is hardly surprising. Greenpeace, apart from the anti-nuclear stance, clearly has failed to engage with the concerns of Poles when it dangles a Polish flag with a banner reading 'Who Rules Poland: The Coal Industry or The People'. The preservation of mining is not considered here an elite concern
On the contrary, keeping the mines open is regarded as part of a general policy of reindustrialising Poland after the deindustrialisation of the 1990s that left manufacturing towns from Bytom to Chrzanow and Trzebinia ( in the south ) decline and die almost overnight in the early 1990s.
PM Szydlo is the daughter of a miner from near Oswiecim. The collapse of the post-communist left and the utter failure of a new left to take off means there is almost no chance Poland is going to embrace wind farms. Towards Wroclaw, near Opole I saw a solitary windmill in a field. Few believe in it.
The EU is bound to be seen as a threat, especially over the environment, when the demand to reduce dependence on coal would mean a closure of mines and the devastation of towns, such as those in Slasks ( Silesia ) , such as Swietochowice, that remain deeply dependent on coal mining to prop up the local economy.
Should Poland shift to more of an an advanced knowledge and technological economy, and so not be regarded as a low wage cheap manufacturing outpost for EU and East Asian economies,-with the wholesale acceptance of the PO and, most likely, the PiS regime-sensible alternatives to coal would be found.
But, as across the world, energy is connnected to security, sovereignty and politics. Even should the EU move towards a low carbon future, there is no guarantee at all that other emerging industrialised nations are going to regard the EU as a role model to emulate, not least as it is already fragmenting.