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Decentralization is a tactic to diffuse power and vilify institutions—clean energy policy under this guise empowers corporate forces

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Decentralization is a tactic to diffuse power and vilify institutions—clean energy policy under this guise empowers corporate forces

MacNeil '12 Robert, Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies In partial fulfillment of the requirements For the PhD degree in Political Science School of Political Studies Faculty of Social Sciences University of Ottawa © Robert MacNeil, Ottawa, Canada, 2012 "Neoliberal Climate Policy in the United States: From Market Fetishism to the Developmental State" http://www.ruor.uottawa.ca/en/bitstream/handle/10393/23587/Macneil_Robert_2012_thesis.pdf?sequence=1
On the pull side, the project looks at four particularly prominent selectivities used by actors to implement greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation, in cluding the use of a) sub national regulation within the fifty states, b) civil litigation to impose structural legal requirements upon the federal government to impose climate regulation c) favourable tax policies and government subsidies through appropriations riders, and d) the use of executive authority by the administration to create and enforce new emissions laws outside of Congress. On the push side, the project argues that the actors pushing for developmental state policies have also been forced to heed alternative implementation strategies because of the harsh neoliberal climate . The main way that this has been accomplished is by building the developmental state as a radically decentralized entity. That is, unlike the developmental states of East Asia and Western Europe – referred to as Developmental Bureaucratic States – which are often housed in a single location , with a single agency title, and a single budget, Washington has established what is commonly referred to as a Developmental Network State. This form of developmental apparatus is, by contrast, highly decentralized, with its activities being carried out across literally thousands of labs, coordinated across a labyrinth of hundreds of different office s and state level agencies, and its budge ts being extremely diffuse . This decentralization has helped to render the American developmental state considerably less visible than others found in Western Europe and East Asia, and has allowed it to develop and mature throughout the heart of neoliberal ism’s ideological ascendency. Following in this tradition, much of the alternative energy innovation policy in question has been forced to adopt this somewhat ‘hidden’ or stealthy characteristic in order to avoid political scrutiny. Finally, the project attempts to demonstrate that, in spite of their continued progress, the policies and institutions that promote and underpin this state led development of alternative technologies are always rather precarious and fragile, and that as these two competing logics continue to do battle with each other, the future of a technology centric American climate policy remains highly uncertain. The project thus traces the ebb and flow of this political battle over the past three decades, with a particular focus on the dev elopments taking place since 2009. Contributions to the existing literature In undertaking this type of analysis, the thesis aims to make at least three important contributions to the existing literature. The first is a critical rethinking of the implications of conceptualizing climate policy (and perhaps environmental policy more generally, though I do not extend the empirics beyond climate policy in this work) in terms of neoliberalism’s influence. By focusing specifically on neoliberalism’s tenuous relationship with the state’s broad requirement to foster accumulation, the project attempts to walk back the common depiction of neoliberal climate policy as being either anti state in its orientation, or otherwise solely focused on markets in abstract environmental commodities. In so doing, it further aims to generally reframe the common conception of the neoliberal state as an ‘absentee state’, and underscore the extent to which these pressure to promote accumulation may serve to enhance state capacity under conditions of market fundamentalism. Second, this thesis appears to be the first body of work to focus on conceptualizing US climate policy in terms of a developmental state logic. In so doing, it seeks to provide a new understanding of the federal government’s role in promoting and acting upon a technology centric climate policy, as well as contribute to the limited existing literature on the American developmental state. Finally, as there are actually very few book length studies of US climate policy from any perspective, the project aims to make an important contribution to stud ies of American climate policy in general, particularly underscoring the increasingly dynamic and robust shape of the country’s climate policy arena. Methods The policy process within large states (the US federal government not least of which) is a profoun dly complex subject of analysis, and thus direct and/or unambiguous relationships between objects and variables are extremely difficult to determine with certainty. As this body of work is largely an analysis of how existing structures shape the strategies of actors within the climate policy process, there are, in effect, three primary research tasks. The first is to develop an understanding of the historical evolution of the structures and selectivities in question and how they have come to play the roles that they have within the policy process. This has been accomplished through critical analysis of a range of secondary texts focused on each of the structures and selectivities in question. With regard to the developmental network state apparatus, Chapter 4 is the primary site of this analysis, while the four primary alternative policy pathways used to execute this logic are taken up primarily in Chapter 6 . In so doing, I am attempting to understand the factors that helped to consolidate them over time, as well as how and why actors within the policy process have felt compelled to recursively reselect for them. Beyond the use of secondary texts, government documents and reports (particularly from the Committee for Climate Change Science and Technology Integr ation) have been used to obtain and incorporate additional contemporary developments related to these structures. The second task is to attempt to understand the specific role of these structures and selectivities in the development of contemporary climate policies – specifically how they have shaped, refracted, and facilitated the goal of fostering accumulation under conditions of neoliberalism. With regard to the four specific alternative pathways, this task is taken up in Chapter 6, while the research on the developmental state is subject of Chapter 7. This has been accomplished through analysis of a combination of governmental documents (Congressional reports, federal agency reports and budgets, Congressional Research Service primers and reports , docume nts disclosed by federal R&D programs and agencies – particularly the National Climate Change Technology Initiative and Climate Change Technology Program), laboratory reports from the Federal Laboratory Consortium and Department of Energy National Laborato ry Network (budgets, objectives, project manifests, etc.), and the limited existing secondary academic literature on these structures and selectivities. Finally, I am attempting to understand how these structures and selectivities can be subject to change and alteration in the context of anti regulationist ideology and the changing strength of neoliberal actors in the policy process. This task shifts the analysis into the contemporary moment , as it assesses the major rollbacks that unfolded between 2010 and 2012 as anti regulationist actors enhanced their relative positions in the policy process and sought to reshape the selectivities used to achieve progressive climate policy. This task, which is the subject of Chapter 8, relies primarily on analysis of US newspapers, Congressional bill proposals , policy platforms, and (in particular) analysis of the 2012 budget passed by the Republican controlled House of Representatives, formally titled The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise. Pl an of the dissertation In Chapter 2, the existing literature against which the project situates itself is laid out and described in detail. The chapter is concerned specifically with the three main bodies of literature briefly described above – those focus ed on the so called ‘neoliberalization’ of contemporary environmental and climate policy, and the ‘Ecological Modernization’ literature’s assumptions regarding the political and legislative conditions necessary for progressive socio technical transitions w ithin a given polity. In so doing, the chapter attempts to set the predicate for understanding why these frameworks have largely misdiagnosed neoliberalism’s influence on American climate policy (as later suggested by this project’s empirical findings), and suggest why the theoretical framework presented in the subsequent chapter provides a more accurate starting place for thinking about the relationship between neoliberalism and climate policy. Chapter 3 then delineates the project’s main theoretical sup positions. This framework aims to both offset the claims of the existing literature, as well as provide a theoretical rationale for the empirical evidence presented in subsequent chapters. This section takes the form of four main theses which seek to provide both a synoptic understanding of the role of the state in the response to climate and energy crisis, as well as an on the ground explanation of how such policies are developed within neoliberal states like the US. Upon making the argument that states aim first and foremost to foster economic accumulation and self legitimacy, the role of neoliberal ideology is reconceptualized as an incidental (if highly influential) element of this much broader process – one which operates in tension with these first principle objectives. The concept of neoliberalism is, moreover, highly disaggregated in an attempt to both walk back its essentialist and homogenous depiction in much of the literature, as well as understand its dialectical relationship with the policy process.

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