March 15, 2013: Petcoke: producing, storing and burning it is all bad; Ryan Herriot and refugee health care in Canada

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Listen to entire program here:

Giant piles of black material began to rise on the Detroit side of the river over the last few months and local environmental activists have exposed the piles as petroleum coke, or petcoke. This material is produced when oil is refined and in this case what is being refined by Marathon Oil in Detroit is Tar Sands bitumen which produces far more petcoke than conventional oil.

 As has been well reported by local responsible journalists, the piles of petcoke produce dust and there are  concerns over the leaching of this material into the already over-stressed Detroit River. Local concerns are rightly over who is responsible for the storage of the stuff, what use will it be put to, and who is responsible to regulate the storage of it.

 In the meantime, I think we have to take a sort of longer look at Alberta Tar sands production responsible for the piles of petcoke on the riverfront, and at the fact that the Tar Sands production, itself a crime against humanity, is leaving a long trail of  environmental effects right across North America – and petcoke is a big part of that trail. Because, as listeners heard on Friday, petcoke is burned in power plants and, in the words of our guest, is the “dirtiest of dirty fuel.

 On the phone from Washington DC was Lorne Stockman, Research Director with Oil Change International, an organization that works to expose the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitate the coming transition towards clean energy.” He “has worked on oil campaigns as campaigner, campaign coordinator, researcher and author for over ten years. For the past three years, he has worked as a consultant with Greenpeace UK, Platform and Oil Change International as researcher and author of numerous reports and briefings studying investor risk in tar sands and other marginal oil sources.”

Click image to read full report: Petroleum Coke: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sands

Click image to read full report: Petroleum Coke: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sands

Lorne is also the author of  The Next Gulf: London, Washington and Oil Conflict in Nigeria with Andrew Rowell and James Marriott [, and he] holds a Master’s Degree from King’s College London.” He authored the January 2013 report on petcoke: Petroleum Coke: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sands.

Click image to read full article

Click image to read full article

In a recent Monthly Review article, Jim Hansen, the noted climate change forecaster and activist, is quoted as saying that “coal and unconventional fuels” as “death trains” which will break the carbon budget. We’re worried locally about petcoke, but really it doesn’t matter where it’s burned as it is the shared global environment that is ultimately at risk. Here is the full quote from the article:

Hansen and his coauthor Pushker A. Kharecha demonstrated in a 2008 article in Global Biogeochemical Cycles that the burning of the remaining conventional oil and gas is consistent with climate stabilization at or below 2°C (450 ppm atmospheric CO2). But this is true only if accompanied by a phase out of coal-fired plants without carbon capture and sequestration technology (a technology which is not yet feasible), and provided there is no recourse to unconventional fossil fuels—such as tar sands oil, shale oil and gas, and methane hydrates. Hansen considers coal and unconventional fossil fuels as “death trains,” not only because these are the dirtiest of fuels, but also because their use will break the carbon budget. Canada’s tar sands, he says, contain 240 gigatons of carbon while U.S. shale contains a further 300 gigatons. If we burn it all on top of conventional fuels there is no hope of avoiding the planetary tipping point. (Italics added)

The interview began with an overview of what petcoke is and how it is turning “US refineries into coal factories”.

The discussion includes the risks of a high sulphur and carbon material like petcoke being burned and pumped into the atmosphere. It’s important to understand that petcoke is a by-product of refining and is being dumped onto the coal market:

In the U.S. Dirty Energy Money is an interactive tool that tracks the flow of oil, gas and coal industry contributions to the US Congress. Click image for more

In the U.S. “Dirty Energy Money is an interactive tool that tracks the flow of oil, gas and coal industry contributions to the US Congress.” Click image for more

The Koch brothers have become synonymous with power in politics and now there is a third Koch brother, Charles, and his Oxbow Carbon company that seems to be at the centre of the ‘petkoch’ industry. Stockman explains and wraps up with a sense of the impact the report has had since its January release:

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Returning to the program since he was on last July is Ryan Herriot, a UWindsor 4th year medical student, and local campaigner for Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and that organization, along with the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, has been fighting the Harper regime’s abolition of the Interim Federal Health Program administered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada – without consultation I must add.

Herriot gave us an update on the situation since a successful rally at the Windsor CIC location last year and an important recent legal development:

Since Herriot will be moving from Windsor in the near future, and if you are interested in becoming involved in the refugee issue, you can contact him through his blog by clicking the image below:

Ryan-Herriot

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Featured CD:

Click image for more on this Windsor artist

Click image for more on this Windsor artist

Track played on air: “All the Birds”

March 8, 2013: International Women’s Day. Foreign dancers face exploitation in Windsor: ‘Natasha’s’ story

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Listen to entire program here:

We pass them all the time on Wyandotte St, downtown, on Huron Church, over on Seminole and various other locations without much thought. Mostly they are nondescript looking places, others though feature signs with provocative images, drink specials and lap dances. I’m talking of strip clubs. Rarely do we think of the human being inside working on stage, her person-hood reduced to objectified body parts.

 The women who work this trade face long hours, arduous work, low pay, and are often pressured into illegal activities. Increasingly, these workers are coming from other countries.

In my capacity as a worker advocate at the Windsor Workers’ Action Centre, I met a young woman who came in looking for help. She had come over on a contract and Work Permit for a specific club in Windsor and knew what here hourly rate would be, the cost of room and board and that was about it. She later found out she would be required to pay an additional $500 a week for “taxes” and if she was to earn enough to make it all worthwhile she was faced with many hours of overtime and risked being pressured into illegal activity to earn extra money.

'Natasha' in the CJAM studio ( Photo: Doug MacLellan & click image for gallery of his work)

‘Natasha’ in the CJAM studio ( Photo: Doug MacLellan & click image for gallery of his work)

She left that place for another and faced more exploitation, had her passport held by the employer, and was injured on the job ending up with a medical bill. She sought legal help last year and has applied for another work permit to work in the hospitality industry out west.

 Last year, CBC in Windsor reported that “  At least 22 foreign adult entertainers in Windsor, Ont., will have to leave the country when their temporary foreign worker visas expire within the next 11 months”, because “[c]hanges announced by Ottawa on July 4 [2012] now make it illegal for a an employer to hire any temporary foreign worker “linked to the sex trade” — and that includes strippers.”

On Friday’ s International Women’s Day program, CJAM Program Director Sarah Morris and I spoke with ‘Natasha’ ( her name was changed for security and privacy reasons) about her experiences and we began with her life in her home country:

In this segment ‘Natasha’ describes her decision to come to Canada and here experience in Windsor:

In this segment ‘Natasha’  describes her sense of insecurity when she quit one exploitative job for another. Pressure to be an escort or prostitute was intense and not in her experience as a dancer in European cities.

She described her hopes to stay under a new Work Permit. Mostly, she wanted listeners to understand that she is a human being with feelings who is here to make a better life for herself:

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Featured CD

Click image for more on this Windsor artist

Click image for more on this Windsor artist

Track played on air: “Something Holy”:

March 1 2013: CAW’s Local 444 president Dino Chiodo & labour issues

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Click image for more on OPIRG Windsor

Host disclaimer: I am a former union activist when I was working for a wage, and today I sit as a member at large on the labour council that Dino is president of and also I am president of the Windsor Workers’ Action Centre which receives some funding from CAW Local 444

Listen to entire program here:

In the studio was CAW Local 444 and Windsor & District Labour Council president Dino Chiodo and he was in to have a conversation about the coming attack on a key union provision through a private member’s bill in Parliament very soon: the Rand Formula.

Briefly the Rand formula was a key factor in creating labour peace after the 1945 strike Ford strike in Windsor, and enabled unions to collect dues from all members of a workplace thereby creating equality in representation and giving unions financial stability and a solid structure with which to process grievances and organize workers.

Dino Chiodo in the CJAM studio

Dino Chiodo in the CJAM studio

Without it, the ability of unions to function will be severely compromised. The provincial Conservative labour critic, MPP Randy Hillier, is pushing from the provincial end to make union membership voluntary as well so it’s important to remember that federal and provincial labour codes are under attack from more than one front so to speak.

Here Chiodo speaks about the formation of  unions, and the challenges facing workers and their union representatives:

Conservative MPP Randy Hillier, in a letter to the Windsor Star, stated that he “… tabled a bill which formed the basis of our proposal. The bill would have allowed workers to opt out of a bargaining unit, its union and its collective bargaining agreement altogether. Workers would then bargain directly with their employer like the other 70 per cent of Ontario workers already do; they would be entirely independent of the union and its bargaining agreement. The proposal would be consistent with the intent behind the Rand Formula and would not change the way free riders are handled.” Chiodo responds: 

Caller sample – taking apart unions will hurt non-union workers as well:

Featured CD

Click image for more on this Windsor band

Click image for more on this Windsor band

Sample track played on air: See It My Way: