New energy production must be decarbonised, decentralized and digitized

People's Power. Reclaiming the EnergyCommons
Forfatter: Ashley Dawson
Forlag: OR Books (USA)
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY / The climate crisis is an energy crisis. Today, the environmental movement must be careful not to support capitalist exploitation through well-intentioned green innovations.


According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global energy demand will increase by more than 30 percent by 2040. This means both having to create a new energy infrastructure and democratizing old institutions created by fossil capitalism.

Ashley Dawson is a writer, activist and professor of English at City University in New York. He argues that both the World Bank and environmental organizations like Greenpeace naively has bought the capital's argument that green growth can be decoupled from carbon emissions.

Energy that lasts

Climate jobs are part of the solution, Dawson writes. He sounds like the Norwegian social movement The Bridge to the Future – a collaboration between the trade union movement and environmental organizations. Dawson, however, is more socialist in the argument and has no belief that the jobs of today's fossil workers in the green shift can be created by the free market. Why not? Because the market looks at energy as a commodity. The revolution we are facing, therefore, requires us to look at energy as part of a global common good, which belongs to all of us, such as air, water and plants.

Local communities must therefore have what Dawson calls "energy sovereignty".

Dawson draws long historical lines to show that common property has usually been privatized. The plantation economy took advantage of the sun and wind energy, both on earth and when they sailed goods (including slaves) across the Atlantic. We therefore need continuous decolonialization. The transition to renewable regimes must be part of a broader shift towards more egalitarian, rather than capitalist, societies. If not, the renewable community will only be the same profit-one and the same property conditions as well Fossils industryone has suffered.

Energy efficiency

Germany Energiwende, and especially in the cities of Hamburg and Berlin, are cited as examples to follow. Here, both the state and local authorities have inspired citizens to join a national day. Dawson also highlights examples from various states in the United States. They show how local communities can connect to the energy grid and sell their self-generated electricity based on it Salt. It challenges the large energy companies, which promote increased consumption rather than energy efficiency.

Photo: pixabay

The profit motive must therefore be subordinated to social responsibility. Dawson cites examples from the United States of America in the 1930s where the cooperative movement also owned and decided on the electricity supply. Today we see daunting examples of similar thoughts in the case of solar panels. There is also a lot to learn from examples from Alaska, where indigenous groups run large communities for the common good.

In addition, Dawson writes, the dirtiest part of US electricity generation is added to poor African-American neighborhoods. Therefore, new energy production must be both decarbonised, decentralized and digitized. The latter gives the individual consumer greater opportunities for influence, just as many experience here at home.

State industrial control

The entire fossil sector is now undergoing a race to get the most out of it before it's too late, Dawson claims. Several of the rescue packages following the financial crisis in 2008 led to major investments in fracking. The rescue packages were designed so that the ownership power is placed with the large companies. We can of course risk the same thing now, too oil lobby who work hard for crisis money during the corona pandemic.

The necessary social and green shift requires much stronger state industrial control.

The necessary social and green shift requires much stronger state industrial control. This happened during the Russian Revolution in 1917, Mexico in 1938, Iran in 1951 and Iraq in 1961. Then the fossil industry was taken back from imperialist states such as the United States and the United Kingdom. This led to financial sanctions, regime change attempts and invasions. Dawson sees all of these as necessary precursors to the exciting international debate about a new economic world order that we received in the early 1970s. The idea was that states should have full national self-determination over own natural resources. We must mention Norway in the 70's as an example to follow.

energy Sovereignty

But the problem goes deeper than real estate alone. Oil and gas are very energy-dense sources. If today's and tomorrow's power needs are met from renewable sources, much of the land must be covered by windmills and other installations. Do we want it? Because we already see the negative sides of this. International capital invests in large wind farms in the global south, such as in indigenous peoples' territories in Mexico. indigenousone does not receive any of the profits generated, but only all the negative environmental and health consequences. This is downright imperialism, Dawson argues.

Foreign capital benefits from our natural resources.

Coal mining. Photo: Pixabay
Coal mining. Photo: Pixabay

Something of the same is happening here at home. It is one of the reasons for the great popular protests against wind power development along the coast and in the mountains. Foreign capital benefits from our natural resources. Local communities need what Dawson calls "energy sovereignty". This also applies in the mineral and mining sectors. Mining is one of the main causes of nature destruction and human rights violations. We also have our conflicts in Norway associated with the same challenge.

240 new coal-fired power plants in 25 countries

China's "belt and road project" is rolling over us now. The purchase includes at least 240 new coal-fired power plants in 25 countries. In addition, China is financing almost half of the proposed new kullcapacity in countries such as Egypt, Tanzania and Zambia.

The world is therefore facing enormous challenges if we are to reach the Paris goals. Dawson's book is an important input into this debate. He reminds us that the energy choices we now make will have far-reaching consequences in the future. He argues well that each country must sweep at its own door.

I willingly buy Dawson's thesis that strong state governance is needed to guide the market – and even more so now after the corona pandemic. The examples Dawson uses from Germany and the US show that we can create another future where sustainable forms of energy can contribute to increased democratization. Ultimately, it is all about moving away from the ideology of eternal growth. Dawson's book provides good arguments for that.

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