Across the country, NIMBY groups are organizing to block solar, wind, and other clean-energy projects, and to pass state laws restricting renewable energy development. Journalist Michael Thomas took a deep dive into the right-wing billionaires & think tanks behind these community groups. We discuss what he found.
So, an attempt to help address your frequent (and important) question about why the left and especially the climate justice movement is so allergic to and/or bad at propaganda.
We actually have a very informative experience with trying to apply a propaganda approach to climate — it’s called “biofuels” (latter repackaged as “second generation biofuels” and latter repackaged as “advanced biofuels” — I’m sure we’re due for some new attempted incarnation soon).
In other words, we’ve seen what happens when moneyed interests take an interest in climate — they figure out where the action is (or could be) and start promoting the hell out of it despite having as much actual basis for their claims as Elizabeth Holmes and Sam Bankman-Fried had for their plays.
As a research project, biofuels are defensible, but as soon as biofuels were commercialized on the basis of wishcasting, rivers of money flowed in and anyone who actually looked at the numbers was accused of being a shill for Big Oil (despite the obvious fact that NOBODY wanted biofuels to work more than Big Oil, which would have been deliriously happy if the infernal combustion engine didn’t need to die NOW and could be greened up with magic bean biofuels — - and if it had worked worth a damn, they would simply have immediately bought up all the biofuels patents and technology and kept right on without skipping a beat).
So I among many many others have a very jaundiced view of the left’s ability to model the right’s propaganda apparatus success, because the climate movement always always starts from the position of needing CHANGE and Big Oil/Coal start from needing only the status quo — it’s like the chess player who has “draw odds” — they win the game if they win, and they win if it’s a draw. The opponent cannot live with a draw (fight to a standstill) —- the opponent needing change has to win.
Not only is change harder to sell than not-change, but selling change based on a long-term threat to a society of monkeys who take a very short term view (have a very high discount rate, as the economists would say) is triply hard, because the people who first see and understand the need for change are . . . Scientists, the worlds absolute worst salesmen.
So I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that we’re not likely to get far until the folks who were pushing biofuels as deserving of lavish subsidies (most of which are still in place, and still leading to absolutely absurd outcomes and horrific environmental consequences) take a fearless and searching self-inventory and admit that they cost us (and our future generations) about two decades in terms of delaying electrification by insisting that there was a future that still had room for liquid fuels.
Digression: I think of the Keystone XL pipeline as the Greensboro Lunch Counter. Sure, whether Keystone got built has at most a minuscule difference in the world’s climate picture. Just like whether that Greensboro lunch counter in the dime store served blacks made only a minuscule difference in how blacks were treated in America.
I was so angry when the CA Public Utilities Commission, CPUC, last week voted 5-0 to essentially eliminate the Net Metering (excess rooftop $/kWh payment to customers) that goes to new households who adopt rooftop solar. This action by the CPUC actually inhibits the addoptation of rooftop solar as has been noticed in other states that ruled the same way. Even though I spoke at the hearing against the 3 California utilities, the bright side of the story is that the CPUC did Not enact a $700/yr Tax on people who have solar, which was also (crazily) on the agenda.
Awesome conversation. Thank you so much.
I know it’s a massive ask but have you considered plugging these interviews into Otter and putting the transcript out in the newsletter? Much less typing.