Energy Transitions as political struggles: delegitimising fossil fuels and valuing carbon resources

  • This paper offers a critical analysis and extension of dominant policy approaches on the transition to a low carbon economy, suggesting the need to embed that research within a much more political, politicised framework of socio-energy green transformation. We suggest that as a central element socio-energy transformation is a clear recognition of the often ‘dirty politics’ involved in any transition from ‘dirty energy’. Energy transformations are political struggles, not simply technological, market-driven policy decisions. We also contend that they are characterised by biophysical/ecological, cultural, political economy and ethical considerations and choices. We suggest political contestation, struggle and antagonism are central to understanding and analysing, as well as effecting low carbon socio-energy transformations. In this we argue one cannot neatly separate the analytical from the normative. All seemingly descriptive analyses of energy transitions are also prescriptive, and always already political and ethical. Key to energy transformation struggles we contend are strategies to delegitimise as well as reframe ‘fossil fuels’ as ‘carbon resources’ with multiple, better uses than burning them for energy.


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