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The Delusions of "Green" Energy


At the Verso blog, Alexander Dunlap, an anthropologist who researches the geography and politics of renewable energy, argues that renewables are hardly the environmental savior many think they are. He notes that the construction of renewable energy infrastructure, such as wind turbines, requires the mining of rare earth minerals, which is incredibly damaging to the environment and to nearby communities. For this and other reasons, Dunlap suggest that industrial-scale “green” energy should really be called “fossil fuel+” because it involves the same old massive energy corporations and perpetuates the same old capitalist system. Read an excerpt from the piece below:

With the rise of the green economy and climate change legislation, renewable energy includes the harnessing of wind, solar, and other apparently infinite “natural resources” to meet energy consumption on an unprecedented, ever expanding scale. However, contrary to the claims of its proponents, it by no means adequately addresses the real problem posed by current levels of energy consumption, which are driven by capitalist growth imperatives that ultimately cause the ecological degradation and climate change we see today. A focus on the technocratic issue of energy consumption often leaves unchallenged the political-economic violence of intrinsic to the social system that such energy powers.

Industrial-scale renewable energy does nothing to remake the exploitative relationships with the earth and ecosystems created and reproduced by “industrialized humans” — people acclimated to and dependent upon an industrial capitalist way of life. The excessive concern with possible energy solutions within capitalism as opposed to more fundamental social transformations expresses our inability to imagine any other way of living, blinding us to the deeper socio-ecological insurrection that climate change has made necessary.

Image: A wind farm in the Mojave Desert of California. Via the California Energy Commission.