How Should Progressives Respond to the End of the Oil Age?

by Erik Lindberg

The August issue of “The Progressive” featured a series of essays on “the Big Spill” in the Gulf of Mexico, with the intention, I believe, of bringing our oil addiction into the foreground of political dialogue. In his article, “Energy Extremism,” Michael Klare thus asks a vital question about the end of the oil age. It is a question that has been painfully absent from any sustained dialogue: “How, then, should progressives respond to the current [energy] crisis?”

While I could not support the asking of this question with more enthusiasm and urgency, I was disappointed with his answer, as well as the others presented the August issue of “The Progressive.” For the rote and wholly unchallenging answer, which can be heard or seen in nearly all liberal leaning outlets, whether the “Huffington Report,” NPR, MSNBC, or “The Progressive,” is that we must petition the government to support and invest in alternative energy: “the only way,” Klare asserts, “we can overcome our dependence on increasingly hazardous fuels is to develop and install alternative energy systems” such as wind, solar, and geothermal. The job of a good progressive, then, is to lobby and petition for wide-scale government action and leadership. Or as Robert Redford suggests in his contribution: “these are the solutions that will break America’s addiction to oil, create jobs, revitalize cities, and put more money in consumers’ [!] pockets.”

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Erik Lindberg has a blog at Transition Milwaukee and writes for Energy Bulletin.

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