"Sustaining the Unsustainable: Why Renewable Energy Companies Are Not Climate Warriors" — Sean Sweeney in New Labor Forum
September 7, 2021
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In the latest issue of New Labor Forum — a quarterly journal published by the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies — TUED Coordinator Sean Sweeney tackles some persistent myths about private renewable energy companies.

These companies are often held up as part of the solution to the climate and ecological emergency. Those familiar with TUED's analysis of the failures of neoliberal climate and energy policy will likely understand why the chaotic, profit-driven approach to the energy transition, which relies on private companies and investors, is both failing to reach emissions reductions targets and failing to protect workers. Instead, what we need is to build a broad-based political campaign, anchored in the global trade union movement, that can demand and lead an alternative approach to the energy transition and climate protection — one that treats energy as a right and a public good, and that is grounded in conservation, equity, planning and cooperation.

From the New Labor Forum article:

In the fight to address climate change, renewable energy companies are often assumed to be Jedi Knights. Valiantly struggling to save the planet, wind and solar interests are thought to be locked in mortal combat with large fossil fuel corporations that continue to mine, drill, and blast through the earth’s fragile ecosystems, dragging us all into a grim and sweaty dystopia.

In the United States and elsewhere, solar panels glitter on rooftops and in fields; turbines tower majestically over rural landscapes. The fact that, globally, the renewables sector continues to break records in terms of annual deployment levels is, for many, a source of considerable comfort. Acting like informational Xanax to ease widespread climate anxiety, news headlines reassure us that the costs of wind and solar power continue to fall, and therefore wind and solar is (or soon will be) “competitive” with energy from coal and gas. The transition to clean energy is, therefore, unstoppable.


But there are several reasons why, in their current role, renewable energy companies could be more part of the problem than they are part of the solution.... As we will see, they are beginning to squander their “social license” by being party to a “race to the bottom” dynamic that risks turning workers and many ordinary people against action on climate change. Equally serious, large wind and solar interests’ “me first” behavior is propping up a policy architecture that is sucking in large amounts of public money to make their private operations profitable.

They are sustaining a model of energy transition that has already shown itself to be incapable of meeting climate targets. In so doing, these companies have not just gone over to the political dark side, they helped design it.

Read the full article at the New Labor Forum website, here.

For more information about the New Labor Forum journal and how to subscribe, see here.

In solidarity,

The TUED team