The perm is bad:
1. The plan is a bad idea, and if it’s close we’ll win you should be skeptical about including a neoliberal concession
2. Doesn’t test competition, even if it’s compatible in the abstract—here’s an advocate for rejection
Glover et al 2006 – *Policy Fellow at the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Delaware, **Directs the Urban Studies and Wheaton in Chicago programs, selected to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Emerging Leaders Program for 2011-2013, ***2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Distinguished Professor of Energy & Climate Policy at the University of Delaware, Head of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy (Leigh Glover, Noah Toly, John Byrne, “Energy as a Social Project: Recovering a Discourse”, in “Transforming Power: Energy, Environment, and Society in Conflict”, p. 1-32, http://www.ceep.udel.edu/energy/publications/2006_es_energy_as_a_social_project.pdf, WEA)
When measured in social and political-economic terms, the current energy¶ discourse appears impoverished. Many of its leading voices proclaim great¶ things will issue from the adoption of their strategies (conventional or sustainable), yet inquiry into the social and political-economic interests that¶ power promises of greatness by either camp is mostly absent. In reply, some¶ participants may petition for a progressive middle ground, acknowledging¶ that energy regimes are only part of larger institutional formations that organize political and economic power. It is true that the political economy of¶ energy is only a component of systemic power in the modern order, but it¶ hardly follows that pragmatism toward energy policy and politics is the reasonable social response. Advocates of energy strategies associate their contributions with distinct pathways of social development and define the choice¶ of energy strategy as central to the types of future(s) that can unfold. Therefore, acceptance of appeals for pragmatist assessments of energy proposals,¶ that hardly envision incremental consequences, would indulge a form of self-deception rather than represent a serious discursive position.¶ An extensive social analysis of energy regimes of the type that Mumford¶ (1934; 1966; 1970), Nye (1999), and others have envisioned is overdue. The¶ preceding examinations of the two strategies potentiate conclusions about¶ both the governance ideology and the political economy of modernist energy transitions that, by design, leave modernism undisturbed (except, perhaps, for its environmental performance).¶ The Technique of Modern Energy Governance¶ While moderns usually declare strong preferences for democratic governance, their preoccupation with technique and efficiency may preclude the¶ achievement of such ambitions, or require changes in the meaning of democracy that are so extensive as to raise doubts about its coherence. A veneration¶ of technical monuments typifies both conventional and sustainable energy¶ strategies and reflects a shared belief in technological advance as commensurate with, and even a cause of, contemporary social progress. The modern¶ proclivity to search for human destiny in the march of scientific discovery¶ has led some to warn of a technological politics (Ellul, 1997a, 1997b, 1997c;¶ Winner, 1977, 1986) in which social values are sublimated by the objective¶ norms of technical success (e.g., the celebration of efficiency in all things). In¶ this politics, technology and its use become the end of society and members¶ have the responsibility, as rational beings, to learn from the technical milieu¶ what should be valorized. An encroaching autonomy of technique (Ellul,¶ 1964: 133 – 146) replaces critical thinking about modern life with an awed¶ sense and acceptance of its inevitable reality.¶ From dreams of endless energy provided by Green Fossil Fuels and Giant¶ Power, to the utopian promises of Big Wind and Small-Is-Beautiful Solar,¶ technical excellence powers modernist energy transitions. Refinement of technical accomplishments and/or technological revolutions are conceived to¶ drive social transformation, despite the unending inequality that has accompanied two centuries of modern energy’s social project. As one observer has¶ noted (Roszak, 1972: 479), the “great paradox of the technological mystique¶ [is] its remarkable ability to grow strong by chronic failure. While the treachery of our technology may provide many occasions for disenchantment, the¶ sum total of failures has the effect of increasing dependence on technical¶ expertise.” Even the vanguard of a sustainable energy transition seems swayed¶ by the magnetism of technical acumen, leading to the result that enthusiast¶ and critic alike embrace a strain of technological politics.¶ Necessarily, the elevation of technique in both strategies to authoritative¶ status vests political power in experts most familiar with energy technologies¶ and systems. Such a governance structure derives from the democratic-authoritarian bargain described by Mumford (1964). Governance “by the people”¶ consists of authorizing qualified experts to assist political leaders in finding¶ the efficient, modern solution. In the narratives of both conventional and¶ sustainable energy, citizens are empowered to consume the products of the¶ energy regime while largely divesting themselves of authority to govern its¶ operations.¶ Indeed, systems of the sort envisioned by advocates of conventional and¶ sustainable strategies are not governable in a democratic manner. Mumford¶ suggests (1964: 1) that the classical idea of democracy includes “a group of¶ related ideas and practices... [including] communal self-government... unimpeded access to the common store of knowledge, protection against arbitrary external controls, and a sense of moral responsibility for behavior that¶ affects the whole community.” Modern conventional and sustainable energy¶ strategies invest in external controls, authorize abstract, depersonalized interactions of suppliers and demanders, and celebrate economic growth and¶ technical excellence without end. Their social consequences are relegated in¶ both paradigms to the status of problems-to-be-solved, rather than being¶ recognized as the emblems of modernist politics. As a result, modernist democratic practice becomes imbued with an authoritarian quality, which “deliberately eliminates the whole human personality, ignores the historic process,¶ [and] overplays the role of abstract intelligence, and makes control over¶ physical nature, ultimately control over man himself, the chief purpose of¶ existence” (Mumford, 1964: 5). Meaningful democratic governance is willingly sacrificed for an energy transition that is regarded as scientifically¶ and technologically unassailable.¶ Triumphant Energy Capitalism¶ Where the power to govern is not vested in experts, it is given over to¶ market forces in both the conventional and sustainable energy programs. Just¶ as the transitions envisioned in the two paradigms are alike in their technical¶ preoccupations and governance ideologies, they are also alike in their political-economic commitments. Specifically, modernist energy transitions operate in, and evolve from, a capitalist political economy. Huber and Mills (2005)¶ are convinced that conventional techno-fixes will expand productivity and¶ increase prosperity to levels that will erase the current distortions of inequality. Expectably, conventional energy’s aspirations present little threat to the¶ current energy political economy; indeed, the aim is to reinforce and deepen¶ the current infrastructure in order to minimize costs and sustain economic¶ growth. The existing alliance of government and business interests is judged¶ to have produced social success and, with a few environmental correctives¶ that amount to the modernization of ecosystem performance, the conventional energy project fervently anticipates an intact energy capitalism that¶ willingly invests in its own perpetuation.¶ While advocates of sustainable energy openly doubt the viability of the¶ conventional program and emphasize its social and environmental failings,¶ there is little indication that capitalist organization of the energy system is¶ faulted or would be significantly changed with the ascendance of a renewables-based regime. The modern cornucopia will be powered by the profits of a¶ redirected market economy that diffuses technologies whose energy sources¶ are available to all and are found everywhere. The sustainable energy project,¶ according to its architects, aims to harness nature’s ‘services’ with technologies and distributed generation designs that can sustain the same impulses of¶ growth and consumption that underpin the social project of conventional¶ energy. Neither its corporate character, nor the class interests that propel¶ capitalism’s advance, are seriously questioned. The only glaring difference¶ with the conventional energy regime is the effort to modernize social relations with nature.¶ In sum, conventional and sustainable energy strategies are mostly quiet¶ about matters of concentration of wealth and privilege that are the legacy of¶ energy capitalism, although both are vocal about support for changes consistent with middle class values and lifestyles. We are left to wonder why such¶ steadfast reluctance exists to engaging problems of political economy. Does¶ it stem from a lack of understanding? Is it reflective of a measure of satisfaction with the existing order? Or is there a fear that critical inquiry might¶ jeopardize strategic victories or diminish the central role of ‘energy’ in the¶ movement’s quest?¶ Transition without Change: A Failing Discourse¶ After more than thirty years of contested discourse, the major ‘energy¶ futures’ under consideration appear committed to the prevailing systems of¶ governance and political economy that animate late modernity. The new¶ technologies—conventional or sustainable—that will govern the energy sector¶ and accumulate capital might be described as centaurian technics¶ 21¶ in which¶ the crude efficiency of the fossil energy era is bestowed a new sheen by high¶ technologies and modernized ecosystems: capitalism without smoky cities,¶ contaminated industrial landscapes, or an excessively carbonized atmosphere.¶ Emerging energy solutions are poised to realize a postmodern transition¶ (Roosevelt, 2002), but their shared commitment to capitalist political economy¶ and the democratic-authoritarian bargain lend credence to Jameson’s assessment (1991) of postmodernism as the “cultural logic of late capitalism.”¶ Differences in ecological commitments between conventional and sustainable energy strategies still demarcate a battleground that, we agree, is¶ important—even fundamental. But so also are the common aspirations of the¶ two camps. Each sublimates social considerations in favor of a politics of¶ more-is-better, and each regards the advance of energy capitalism with a¶ sense of inevitability and triumph. Conventional and sustainable energy¶ visions equally presume that a social order governed by a ‘democratic’ ideal¶ of cornucopia, marked by economic plenty, and delivered by technological¶ marvels will eventually lance the wounds of poverty and inequality and start¶ the healing process. Consequently, silence on questions of governance and¶ social justice is studiously observed by both proposals. Likewise, both agree¶ to, or demur on, the question of capitalism’s sustainability.¶ 22¶ Nothing is said¶ on these questions because, apparently, nothing needs to be.¶ If the above assessment of the contemporary energy discourse is correct,¶ then the enterprise is not at a crossroad; rather, it has reached a point of¶ acquiescence to things as they are. Building an inquiry into energy as a social¶ project will require the recovery of a critical voice that can interrogate, rather¶ than concede, the discourse’s current moorings in technological politics and¶ capitalist political economy. A fertile direction in this regard is to investigate¶ an energy-society order in which energy systems evolve in response to social¶ values and goals, and not simply according to the dictates of technique,¶ prices,
or capital. Initial interest in renewable energy by the sustainability¶ camp no doubt emanated, at least in part, from the fact that its fuel price is¶ non-existent and that capitalization of systems to collect renewable sources¶ need not involve the extravagant, convoluted corporate forms that manage¶ the conventional energy regime. But forgotten, or misunderstood, in the attraction of renewable energy have been the social origins of such emergent¶ possibilities. Communities exist today who address energy needs outside the¶ global marketplace: they are often rural in character and organize energy¶ services that are immune to oil price spikes and do not require water heated to¶ between 550º and 900º Fahrenheit (300º and 500º Celsius) (the typical temperatures in nuclear reactors). No energy bills are sent or paid and governance¶ of the serving infrastructure is based on local (rather than distantly developed¶ professional) knowledge. Needless to say, sustainability is embodied in the¶ life-world of these communities, unlike the modern strategy that hopes to¶ design sustainability into its technology and economics so as not to seriously change its otherwise unsustainable way of life.¶ Predictably, modern society will underscore its wealth and technical acumen as evidence of its superiority over alternatives. But smugness cannot¶ overcome the fact that energy-society relations are evident in which the bribe¶ of democratic-authoritarianism and the unsustainability of energy capitalism¶ are successfully declined. In 1928, Mahatma Gandhi (cited in Gandhi, 1965:¶ 52) explained why the democratic-authoritarian bargain and Western capitalism should be rejected:¶ God forbid that India should ever take to industrialization after the manner of the¶ West. The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom (England) is today¶ keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts. Unless the capitalists of¶ India help to avert that tragedy by becoming trustees of the welfare of the masses and¶ by devoting their talents not to amassing wealth for themselves but to the service of¶ the masses in an altruistic spirit, they will end either by destroying the masses or¶ being destroyed by them.¶ As Gandhi’s remark reveals, social inequality resides not in access to electric¶ light and other accoutrements of modernity, but in a world order that places¶ efficiency and wealth above life-affirming ways of life. This is our social¶ problem, our energy problem, our ecological problem, and, generally, our¶ political-economic problem.¶ The challenge of a social inquiry into energy-society relations awaits.
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