From the Eco-politics listserv:
‘Energy Alternatives: Surveying the Territory’.
‘The Museum of Fetishes’
The main conflict in energy policy today is not between ‘business as
usual’ and ‘The Alternative’, but among the many different proposed
The difficulty is not just that these alternatives are so diverse; the
questions they address and the problems they aim to tackle are also
different, as are the criteria for answering them, the vocabularies in
which they are expressed, and the politics with which they are associated.
Figuring out what the assumptions and audiences of the various energy
alternatives are is half the work of assessing where a democratic and
survivable energy future might lie.
If the many divergent conversations about ‘energy alternatives’ taking
place today around the world are to be brought together, analytically or
politically, their points of difference and conflict as well as their
possible areas of synergy must be recognized and mapped.
To support uncritically any and all initiatives that describe themselves
as ‘energy alternatives’ would be to invite chaos and unending conflict —
and would make a liveable energy future impossible.
A new 96-page report, ‘Energy Alternatives: Surveying the Territory’, from
The Corner House and its partners, attempts to move discussions forward
not by simplifying the debate but by clarifying how complex it is.
It sketches four crucial differences among leading types of energy
alternative proposals and initiatives:
–They are organized around different questions and audiences.
–They rely on different conceptions of energy’s historical and social
–They follow different political theories and processes.
–They have different understandings of the relationship between the local
and the global.
The report explores each of these divides before outlining how — under
these conditions of radical, contradictory diversity — civil society
might best encourage the democratic dialogue and alliance-building that
constitutes the most important aspect of effective action toward a
survivable energy future.
NOTE: A limited number of paper copies of this report are available.
Please contact The Corner House for more information.
<enquiries AT thecornerhouse.org.uk>
‘The Museum of Fetishes’
Depictions of the alternative energy technologies of the future suggest
salvation is at hand — but most of the politics and material realities
associated with them are invariably missing.
This article accompanying the report attempts to bring them into the
picture, so that essential discussions about energy alternatives and
futures do not degenerate into an irrelevant show of magic tricks.
We hope you find these new postings useful and interesting and welcome any
Best wishes from all at The Corner House.
End quoted material.
I think this is a great way of looking at energy alternatives, and something I am thoroughly engaged with in my own work. I especially appreciate the reading of energy alternatives as discourses with particular audiences, problems and solutions. I also appreciate the bounty of work put into this nascent stage, understanding the political dimensions and theories which might help explain the conflict and disagreement between alternatives.