A second piece on nationalism in the context of the clean energy race was published on Mother Jones’ blog MoJo, and is evidence that the growing body of discourse around this issue has struck a very resonant chord. In the post, entitled “Harnessing Nationalism,” Kevin Drum offers poignant, if somewhat veiled, criticism of the rhetoric behind the “clean energy race” narrative.
Inspired by The New Republic’s Bradford Plumer, the post starts with a lengthy quote whose primary point is this: the clean energy race is not a zero-sum competition because everyone stands to benefit if China makes a significant effort to reduce emissions by investing in clean technology.
First, as Drum puts it, Plumer’s commentary may be an attempt at “intellectual honesty,” but honesty doesn’t make it completely accurate. True, the whole world will benefit from advancements in clean energy no matter where it comes from, but China is not motivated to compete in the clean tech industry by emissions reductions – it is driven by the potential for economic gain.
As a (rapidly) developing nation, economic development, not emissions targets, is the highest priority. Thus, the race is not about emissions, it is about whose economy stands to benefit from leadership in clean technology.
Drum views the clean energy race through “green” tinted glasses, as well, preferring the “race” rhetoric to the alternative: the apocalyptic narrative that has clearly failed to motivate effective climate change action. Rhetorically speaking, framing the need to reduce carbon emissions as a clean energy race is both more engaging and more productive. As he aptly declares:
If this kind of thing got us to the moon, maybe it can save the planet as well. I say we go along.
The clean energy race, however, is more than just a new and improved framing mechanism or encouragement of America’s honed nationalistic tendencies – it is an economic truth. What Drum misses when he writes off the recent proliferation of clean energy articles as hype, is that this issue could both be an effective rhetorical tool as well as a humbling reality. (more…)
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