Surveying the Territory of Energy Alternatives

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  • Report: 'Energy Alternatives: Surveying the Territory'. Corner House, 2013.



"The main conflict in energy policy today is not between 'business as usual' and 'The Alternative', but among the many different proposed alternatives themselves.

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 entanglements.

--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."

More Information

Companion Report

  • Report: '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."