Matt Huber is a professor of geography at Syracuse University. He writes about energy, economies and the way that energy sources have influenced modern societies and economies.
One of his first books was Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital (2013) which is very briefly described as follows:
Looking beyond the usual culprits, “Lifeblood” finds a deeper and more complex explanation in everyday practices of oil consumption in American culture. Matthew Huber, associate professor of geography and the environment, uses oil to retell American political history from the triumph of New Deal liberalism to the rise of the New Right, from oil’s celebration as the lifeblood of postwar capitalism to increasing anxieties over oil addiction.
In April 2022, Huber published a significant piece in Jacobin with Fred Stafford that explains how his research has revealed that most of the financial benefits associated with renewable power system development and electricity production “deregulation” have been captured by entities that the Left is supposed to dislike.
When we look at the actually existing decentralized renewable energy industry, we see many things the Left should abhor — deregulated markets, tax shelters for corporations, a rentier development model, and an anti-union industry dependent upon a transient and insecure workforce.
Though the environmental left may not want to accept it, the small-is-beautiful approach of decentralized energy provides ideological cover for a ruthless form of renewable energy capitalism. And even worse, it threatens our fight to halt climate change in its tracks.
Huber believes that large, capital intensive power plants have been valuable investments as anchors in our electricity grid. Contrary to the characterizations offered by critics and advocates of radical transformation, he believes that the grid is one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century and that we should add to its capabilities instead of seeking to completely rebuild it with a different generation model.
He notes that emission-free nuclear power plants provide many of the same benefits for workforces, local economies, and grid stability as large coal plants. He is strongly supportive of the coal-nuclear path that is gaining favor with the government and utilities.
Huber and I share strong negative feelings about the work (damage) done by a couple of influential renewable energy gurus – Amory Lovins and Mark Z. Jacobson. We also share deep respect for the work that Meredith Angwin is doing on educating the public and government leaders about the way our electrical grid is trending to a greater state of disfunction and fragility. (We both recommend that people buy her book Shorting the Grid, The Hidden Fragility of Our Electric Grid.)
I hope you enjoy the show, even if Huber’s self-description as a Marxist gives you an immediate sense of discomfort.
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