30 May 2023

Climate Change as Class Compromise? On the Limitations of Huber’s Marxism and Climate Politics

By Michael Levien

Reconstructing Marxism to illuminate the drivers, consequences and politics of climate change seems to me both critical and immensely promising. While the most pressing issues of the climate crisis are social in nature, climate knowledge is currently dominated by natural scientists and policy analysts operating with a conception of society that resembles mid-century structural functionalism. The homeostatic conceptions of “social systems” that one encounters in IPCC reports are incapable of coming to grips with the contradictory dynamics of capitalist development and the configurations of class power that drive climate change, distribute its consequences, and impede its resolution. The Marxian tradition has much to offer here. But Marxism is a living theoretical tradition with many branches and has retained its relevance by evolving in relation to the empirical world. How to bring Marxism to bear on the massively complex and globally uneven process of climate change—a phenomenon outside of Marxism’s classic concerns—is appropriately the subject of debate and demands theoretical reconstruction. In that spirit, I welcome the opportunity to continue the debate with Matthew Huber that starts with his original book, Climate Change as Class Struggle.[1] I also hope to steer it in a more generative direction, though I must necessarily start by identifying the misleading claims and contradictions in Huber’s response to my review of his book.

In brief, Huber attacks bogeyman positions I never advanced and fails to counter the critique that I actually made: that his book provides no convincing theoretical explanation, much less evidence, as to why energy workers in the fossil fuel sector have a direct material interest in leading a transition from fossil fuels. Because this central thesis about energy workers spearheading a class war against fossil capital is impossible to defend, Huber now makes a different argument about unions supporting renewable energy policies in alliance with both green and fossil capital. In other words, Huber’s theory of climate politics now appears focused on class compromise rather than class war. Clarifying, moreover, that he supports a decarbonisation strategy that would perpetuate the racial inequalities of the fossil fuel industry, he doubles down on his dismissal of the Black and Indigenous movements who have shown the far greater empirical tendency to participate in the climate movement than energy unions. Ultimately, Huber leaves us with a crude class-reductionist Marxism that has little purchase on the empirical world, lends itself to a regressive climate politics, and has the danger of weakening rather than strengthening the climate movement.

The bogeyman can be quickly dismissed. First, nowhere in my review did I suggest that the climate movement is “doing fine”—an impossible position to hold given the state of the climate crisis. Second, I never argued that the “professional class” should lead the climate movement—in his defensive reading, Huber apparently missed that I called his critique of elite environmentalism the “first strength of his book.” Third, I never claimed that white workers should be dismissed because of their race or that the left should not try to organise them. In fact, I am deeply concerned with their inability to do so, and this partly animates my current research in West Virginia and Louisiana. I agree with Huber’s argument that a Green New Deal type approach to climate change—which combines decarbonisation with direct material improvements to the working class—is the most promising alternative to liberal climate politics in the US today. I called this the “second strength of the book,” and I do see it as a step forward in thinking about how class and climate politics can be better articulated. However, I did wish that Huber provided more insight as to how this might succeed in gaining support among the working class, especially outside of cities and in regions where fossil fuels are extracted.[2]

My central critique was of Huber’s argument that unionised energy workers are the most likely agents for leading a renewable energy transition. This argument, made largely through theoretical casuistry and without any empirical evidence, can be generously described as counter-intuitive. It seems incontrovertible that workers in the fossil fuel industries have an immediate material interest in keeping their jobs, many of which will be threatened by decarbonisation. The class interests of many energy workers thus conflict with climate stabilisation. This constitutes a tension for the climate Left—between its commitment to workers and to a transition from fossil fuels. Liberal environmentalists and Democrats hardly address the problem, and there is thus a real material basis for fossil fuel workers’ enthusiastic response to right populist appeals to keep digging coal, fracking gas, and drilling for oil.

Overcoming such well-grounded opposition and turning it into support for an energy transition is an absolutely crucial task, but an extremely difficult one. Unions can always be brought on board to policies that create new jobs, but will never vote for shutting down fossil fuel facilities when it threatens their membership.[3] And there is no decarbonisation pathway that does not involve shutting down fossil fuel industries. There are existing proposals to mitigate this conflict—a combination of alternative green jobs and just transition policies—though, from the standpoint of currently employed fossil energy workers, this amounts to offering hypothetical (and typically lower-paying) jobs for real ones, and some welfare assistance to bridge the gap. In his book, Huber is sceptical of just transition policies (pp. 226-227), which are indeed unpopular among workers. But he evades the problem to which they respond by simply assuming, against reason and evidence, that the material interests of energy workers already align with a renewable energy transition. At the same time, he dismisses those groups who, empirically, have actually been leading the climate movement. Nothing in his reply bolsters his original argument against my critique.

From Class War to Class compromise: Huber’s Embrace of Green and Fossil Capital

In his response, Huber actually shifts away from his book’s argument in two ways. First, he backs off from his argument about “socialism in one sector,” admitting that he over-emphasized electric utility workers. Now his emphasis is on organized labour more generally. Having a significant fraction of organized labour broadly behind an energy transition would obviously be immensely helpful. Unions outside of the fossil fuel sector (or capable of growing in the green economy) may be natural allies. Huber points to some victories in states where unions have thrown their weight behind renewable energy policies. I also view these as hopeful. Almost without exception, however, all of the cases Huber mentions—and others, like Minnesota’s 100% renewable bill—involved “big tent” coalitions of unions, EJ groups, NGOs, and Democratic politicians,[4] and were hashed out by precisely the “college educated knowledge-workers” (p. 28) that Huber excoriates (unions are, after all, also run by college educated staffers, policy analysts and lawyers). This elite policy making looks nothing like the image he conjures of militant rank-and-file energy workers confronting fossil capital and seizing the means of electrical generation. To get unions and other groups on board, these bills involved putting in place precisely the “just transition” policies Huber dismisses in order to lessen the contradiction between fossil energy workers and a transition to renewables. Such bills represent a class compromise between private utilities and those energy unions that can straddle the fossil and green economy. Importantly, none of these success cases are in states where fossil fuel production is a large portion of the economy and thus where the contradiction is far more difficult to surmount.

What of the workers, unionised and mostly unionised, in the fossil fuel sector that are directly threatened by decarbonisation? Huber’s second shift of argument is to clarify that he thinks green and fossil capital, guided by industrial planning, will take care of them. Huber apparently believes that “green industrialisation”—including renewables, nuclear, geothermal,[5] and carbon capture and storage—will create replacement (union?) jobs in the same regions and employ the same workers on equivalent terms. This is precisely the position of liberal energy and climate policy, not to mention Democratic politicians, who repeatedly assure us that alternative jobs await displaced workers (and wonder, like Hillary Clinton, why anyone would want to remain a miner[6]). Huber does not seem to realise that his position is in line with this detached disregard—shown previously in the case of deindustrialisation and now energy transition—for social dislocations inflicted on the working class in the name of progress.

Huber’s optimistic view of the green economy empirically evades the massive dislocations that a successful energy transition would have, in any likely scenario, for the working class he claims to defend. There is no historical precedent for thinking industrial restructuring will work out in the interest of existing workers. Whether it is prior rounds of deindustrialisation that produced the Rust Belt or the half-completed transition away from coal in Appalachia, there is a massive historical and sociological literature on the effects of mine and plant closures, which have been especially devastating in mono-industrial regions (which is characteristic of many places where fossil fuels are produced).[7] Huber reproduces the typical argument of technocrats and policy boosters: in the aggregate, more jobs will be created than will be destroyed. In reality, the jobs are often in different places, for different people, of lower quality and with even lower likelihood of union protection. Huber gives us no reason to think that a transition from fossil fuels will be any different. While a green industrialisation is likely to make new working classes, it will simultaneously unmake others.[8]

My critique of Huber was that he had no strategy for dealing with the latter because he assumed their interests were already aligned with an energy transition. I argued, “While the climate Left should address itself to such workers (and the many other people living in regions dependent on fossil-fuel industries), this necessarily involves the formidable challenge of figuring out how an energy transition could be in their interest.” In his response, Huber seems to now admit that some just transition policies may be necessary tomake energy transition in the interest of energy workers. However, he now seems highly confident that green industrial capital will emerge with the scale, labour-intensity, precise skill needs, and equivalent pay/benefits to match fossil fuels, all on a timeline fast enough to match the necessary draw down in fossil fuel production.[9] While there is some reason to hope for partial overlap,[10] it is highly implausible that it will be even close to perfect. Uneven geographical development, as Marxists geographers like David Harvey have taught us for decades, is the sine qua non of capitalist development.[11] It is characterised by periodic bouts of restructuring that devalue assets, undermine existing patterns of investment and violently dislocate and disempower working class communities.[12] Short of an immediate transition to socialism, how will a massive transformation of the country’s energy system be immune to these dynamics? Politically, Huber’s position amounts to asking working class people in fossil fuel dependent regions to trust the economic and political elites (his so-called professional classes) who they have absolutely no reason to trust.[13]

It is not an attitude or program that will make any headway among the working class in places like Appalachia being devastated by the energy transition (from coal to gas) already underway. There, holding on to the few mining jobs that remain makes much better sense than trusting the promises of capitalists and politicians. In West Virginia, the economic and social devastation of coal country has been adeptly seized upon by coal companies to demonise anything related to climate action, transforming a once solidly blue union stronghold into a deep red state. This is the reason why Joe Manchin could get away with leaving so much money on the table for his own state, which would have overwhelmingly benefitted from the social programs—child tax credits, subsidised daycare etc.—of the original GND-inflected Build Back Better. His approval ratings actually went up after walking away from BBB and have gone down since passing the pared-down IRA.[14]

The Manchin saga demonstrates the difficult position of unions in an energy transition. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), a union with an absolutely heroic history of class struggle in Manchin’s West Virginia but now with a membership that is majority retirees, is in an unenviable bind: the absolute devastation of the industry and region has encouraged it to embrace economic diversification and support the investments of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). However, it opposed the one stick in the original BBB—the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS)—because it would clearly lead to coal being phased out more quickly, and it is hoping, against all odds, that carbon capture can keep coal fired power plants economical into the future (they already cannot compete with natural gas, and they will only be less competitive with this massively expensive technology).[15] Here is the type of dilemma Huber evades: no one deserves the support of the Left more than miners who have toiled under brutal conditions, suffered black lung, and fought coal companies for over a century. At the same time, it is hard to see how their understandable interest in perpetuating the coal industry is compatible with averting the climate crisis.

Instead of assuming the dilemma away, the challenge for the Left is precisely to understand the sound material basis for workers’ suspicion that an energy transition will not work out for them. Overcoming that will require an extremely robust and concrete material programme and ideological message that can counter the hegemony of fossil capital, which does rest on a real material basis–and remains far stronger in oil and gas producing regions than in coal country. While some of the GND ideas are a start in this direction, the fundamental problems to which they respond are glossed over by Huber’s argument that an energy transition is already in the interests of energy workers. Instead of criticising the IRA for the paucity of direct benefits to workers, which were largely gutted by Manchin from the original bill (and which I thought were central to Huber’s own conception of a GND), Huber now seems to have great faith in the trickle-down benefits of its massive subsidisation of green (and not green) capital.[16]

If we put Huber’s two amendments to his original argument together, it seems that he is now putting greater hope in the unionisation of new green industries rather than the current workers within the fossil energy sector. Of course, we should all support unionising a green sector that is currently less unionised and lower-paying than the fossil fuel sector.[17] This is going to be a massive and time-consuming project. But, when it comes to the enormously complex problem of dealing with the mismatch between present and future industries, between the skills they involve and the geographies they are likely to follow, Huber only repeats the pious assurances of liberal economists with the additional assertion that, by some unexplained route, industrial planning will be instituted in the United States in the immediate future to take care of the problem.

But Huber does not just put great faith in green capital: his embrace of carbon capture and storage puts him in lockstep with fossil capital and Republican (and many Democratic) politicians who wish to prolong the industry through costly investments in untested, uneconomical, and publicly subsidised technology rather than shift to renewables. In the electricity sector, this will amount to paying massive premiums to private utilities to not harm us with their emissions (I will return shortly to the other social costs of this strategy).[18] While one can rightly point out that nearly all emission reduction scenarios call for some amount of CCS, I am left wondering how precisely this constitutes “an antagonistic approach toward owners of capital” (p. 106). As a decarbonisation strategy, it is not even something the Left has to fight for, since it is what fossil capital is already pushing. But Huber’s embrace of CCS helps to make more sense of his dismissal of protests against fossil fuel infrastructure (and reticence about the unionised workers who want to keep it): Huber, apparently, does not think the carbon needs to be kept in the ground; he just thinks it must be put back there. Fossil capital can keep going and workers can organise for a larger share.

Despite all of the posturing and name-calling, Huber’s advertised “class war” turns out to be class compromise. It adds union boosterism to liberal—and not even liberal—climate policy and stirs.

Lack of Microfoundations

Much of the unsatisfactory nature of Huber’s arguments about the relationship between energy workers and energy transition stems from the level of abstraction on which he operates: his working class is largely an abstract concept rather than real people working and living in any actual place in the United States. His book gives us no insight into how coal workers in West Virginia, gas workers in Pennsylvania, or oil workers in Louisiana—not to mention the much larger non-industrial working-class population in those regions whose livelihoods, schools and fire departments are nevertheless dependent on the fossil economy—might come to see their interests as aligned with an energy transition. His book would have been immeasurably richer had he spent six months in, say, a small town whose coal-fired power plant was being shut down to understand the real dilemmas those workers and communities face; or had he even interviewed energy workers. The few researchers who have interviewed unionised energy workers and union officials on this issue find significant worry and ambivalence about a transition to renewables, with fossil fuel workers–and the building trades in states with significant fossil fuel infrastructure–being the least supportive.[19]

Content with some reductive theoretical principles, Huber studiously avoids entering the hidden abode of production to give us any insight into the labour regime of those industries, the subjectivity of workers within them, or of the very serious challenges facing labour organisers. There is no discussion of the powerful hegemonies of fossil fuel industries that have successfully convinced a large regional population that their companies’ interests align with the general interests (e.g. “Coal is West Virginia”). Nor does Huber grapple with the very strong absorption of many such workers into the Trumpian movement, which has had particular success in deindustrialised regions.[20] Pointing out the demographics of energy workers in the United States is relevant precisely because sociologists have shown that it is precisely white men without college degrees who have disproportionately voted for Trump,[21] and Huber provides little guidance for how the Left could win them back. Nor does Huber provide any analysis of the contradictory dynamics of fossil capitalism—whether the wrenching boom-and-bust cycles or the increasing capital-intensity, flexibilisation and attendant effects on worker safety in the oil industry—that might actually create openings for organisers.[22]

If gangs of Huberites decide to get jobs in electric utilities, petrochemical or nitrogen factories to turn their workforce into DSA socialists, I truly do wish them luck. But I do not believe that Huber has prepared them for the obstacles they will face, material or ideological.

Reductive and Race-Blind Marxism

I believe Huber pigeonholes my argument and is unable to see possibilities for disagreement within Marxism (or even about the complex role of unions in an energy transition) because he appears to have a Manichean worldview that consists of precisely two alternatives: you believe the material interests of two great classes[23] explains everything, or you are a PMC/liberal/identity politics defender of the NGO complex. It should be unnecessary to say that this is an impoverished lens for making sense of the world and can only give rise to bad analysis and distorted politics. His view of Marxism is anachronistic, dismissing a century of theoretical reconstructions within Marxism that were compelled by the empirical anomalies of 20th and 21st century capitalism, namely the ability of capitalism to mitigate crises and pacify the Western working class. Huber seems to want to disqualify from Marxism decades of debate over the mechanisms behind this pacification and over which fractions of an increasingly fragmented working class retain greater militancy. But wishing away the theory will not remove the empirical problem to which it corresponds. Huber leaves us with a wooden Marxism based on a mythical conception of the working class that provides no real insight into the actual politics of energy (or any other) workers.

Then there is Huber’s avoidance of any serious grappling with the deep and manifold ways in which race structures both American society and the world at large, and the consequences of this for the politics of energy transition. While Huber advances a conjectural theory of a mythical energy worker with an imaginary interest in energy transition, he treats any serious consideration of race as “moralistic” posturing and dismisses the very immediate material interests—dispossession of land, pollution of air and water, assaults on public health through carcinogenic exposure—driving the Black and Indigenous movements that have empirically taken a lead in the actually existing climate justice movement. He strangely reduces such movements to “NGOs”—even repurposing Marx’s comments about peasants to assert that “they cannot represent themselves”—while failing to recognise the analogous bureaucratism and professional management of unions. There is a jarring and absurd double standard here: it is moralistic to discuss the Black and Indigenous movements who have been fighting fossil fuel infrastructure, but a sober analysis to elevate the energy unions who have not. While the former are stuck in their local parochialism, the latter are the bearers of universal interests. The former are confined to their reformist organisations; the latter have limitless progressive potential despite all evidence to the contrary.

To illustrate where Huber’s climate politics leads us, it might be useful to contemplate what lay beneath and around Huber’s hidden abode of production. Most likely, the Louisiana nitrogen factory that Huber visited sat along the stretch of Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge known as Cancer Alley. I wonder if Huber understood that he was probably standing on a former plantation? The political economic succession “from plantation to plant”[24] could not be more logical, with fossil capital repurposing not only the land and transportation infrastructure but the social and political structures bequeathed by slavery and Jim Crow. If he drove by St. James Parish, he might have seen where a small group of Black residents—many descendants of former slaves—have somehow against all odds (and their white-controlled parish government) stopped a multi-billion dollar plastics factory from adding to their already horrific burden of toxic pollution and cancer (and 13.6 million additional tons of CO2 to the atmosphere per year).[25] It would, of course, be immensely helpful if some of the energy workers who commute past them in long lines of white pickup trucks every day could join hands and put their leverage at the point of production towards taking on the companies employing them. And, yet, I understand the compulsions of social reproduction—as well as the racial divisions—that keep them from doing so. Instead of helping us understand how such a coalition might be forged, Huber’s solution is to simply keep those factories going while injecting the carbon into underground reservoirs of untested safety. Even if CCS succeeds technically, economically, and politically (it is being resisted on ecological and livelihood grounds by white and black communities across the state), this lifeline for the fossil economy will keep the toxic co-pollutants pouring into the many places like St. James Parish, with all the intersecting race and class disparities that we know this to have.

I do find Huber’s race-blind climate politics morally objectionable. But it is also based on an inaccurate analysis of the US social structure that can only lead to a losing political strategy. It lends itself to proposed solutions that reproduce racial and class inequalities and generate profound costs with which Huber does not even reckon: whether it is CCS or, as a logical consequence of his techno-utopianism, the voracious grabbing of land from Indigenous and agrarian populations of the Global North and South to extract minerals for the high-tech green economy or to build hydroelectric dams.[26] It dismisses allies rather than identifying bases for coalitions (including those that lay behind the state-level policies he endorses). It is also bad for Marxism, which has undergone progressive reconstruction—by Du Bois, Fanon, Cox, and Hall among others—precisely to account for the ways capitalism and race structure social formations, without reducing one to the other. To ignore this empirically and theoretically—or to reduce it to liberal identity politics—is to dramatically misunderstand the social world and is absolutely self-defeating.

Huber’s attempts to revive a reductive and schematic Marxism and dismiss all else as “PMC” deviations will only appeal to a very narrow set of acolytes, and doom Marxism to irrelevance. To have to repeat Stuart Hall’s critique of similar dogmatism thirty-five years later seems sadly necessary:

[E]very commitment to the construction of a new political will must be grounded, if it is to be concrete and strategic, in an analysis of the present which is neither ritualistic nor celebratory and which avoids the spurious oscillations of optimism and pessimism, or the triumphalism which so often pass for thought on the traditional left. Ritual and celebration are for the religious. They are for keeping the spirits up; for consolidating and consoling the faithful; and for anathematizing the heretics. They inhibit advance, while keeping the spirit of sectarian rectitude alive and well. There is no alternative to making anew “the revolution of our times” or sinking slowly into historical irrelevance. I believe, with Gramsci, that we must attend “violently” to things as they are, without illusions or false hopes, if we are to transcend the present.[27]


I am sure that I do not know the solution to the largest crisis facing humanity. Yet, I am also sure that Huber does not either despite his self-assurance. His contradictory response to my critique suggests that he cannot defend his original thesis about energy workers leading a sustainable energy transition, and that his vision of decarbonisation is actually based on class compromise with both green and fossil capital. This is a pretty confusing strategy, and one that seems hardly differentiated from the capitalist classes or the liberal policy makers that I thought he would have us confront. It does not appear to be aimed at keeping carbon in the ground, and it would reproduce the social inequalities of fossil capitalism.

If Huber’s climate politics is contradictory and normatively troubling, I do not suggest dismissing this out of sheer dogmatism—the scale, urgency, and complexity of the problem we are facing does not allow for purity and petty name-calling. While never mentioned by Huber, it is a truism that the Global North is responsible for the vast majority of historic emissions while it is the Global South that is most exposed to the very material death, destruction and suffering this generates. The North’s colonisation of the atmospheric commons effectively kicks away the ladder to liveable—much less socialist—futures in the rest of the world. While the US Left must work through US society and politics to decarbonise the country as rapidly as possible—and this is an absolutely crucial task given its weight in present and historic emissions—it should above all do so out of a commitment to socialism globally. The efforts of Marxists and the left wing of GND advocates to make climate politics better articulate with domestic class politics are an encouraging step forward. At the same time, we cannot pretend that these forms of politics are perfectly overlapping; the ways in which they do not overlap are precisely the biggest obstacles we must understand and overcome to create a winning climate movement. To simply pretend that they do not exist is the acme of intellectual and political irresponsibility.


Arnold, Tyler 2022, ‘Manchin popularity drops double digits in West Virginia’, The Center Square, 13 October, available at:

Baccini, Leonardo and Stephen Weymouth 2021, ‘Gone for Good: Deindustrialization, White Voter Backlash, and Presidential Voting’, American Political Science Review, 115 (2): 550-567.

Biven, Megan Milliken and Leo Lindner 2023, The Future of Energy & Work in the United States: The American Oil & Gas Worker Survey, True Transition, available at:

Bluestone, Barry and Harrison, Bennett 1982, The deindustrialization of America: Plants closings, community abandonment, and the dismantling of basic industry, New York: Basic Books.

Broadwater, Luke 2023, ‘Manchin Clashes with Biden Administration Over Climate Law’, The New York Times, 16 May, available at:

Cha, J. Mijin, Vivian Price, Dimitris Stevis and Todd E. Vachon with Maria Brescia-Weiler 2021, Workers and Communities in Transition: Report of the Just Transition Listening Project, Labor Network for Sustainability, available at:

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Coulthard, Glen Sean 2014, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Dudley, Kathryn Marie 1994, The end of the line: Lost jobs, new lives in postindustrial America, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Edelman, Marc 2021, ‘Hollowed out Heartland, USA: How capital sacrificed communities and paved the way for authoritarian populism’, Journal of Rural Studies, 82 (2021): 505-517.

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Harvey, David 2006 [1982], Limits to Capital, London: Verso.

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Neumann, Dan 2019, ‘Maine’s Green New Deal aims to ‘link economic justice with climate justice’’, Maine Beacon, 16 April, available at:

Nostrand, James M. Van. 2022. The Coal Trap: How West Virginia was Left Behind in the Clean Energy Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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[1] See: and

[2]The failure of the initial and far broader Build Back Better bill to attract sufficient working-class support suggests the need to rethink how GND-style programmes might politically resonate. In a Monmouth University Poll, only 20 percent of those without four-year college degrees responded that Build Back Better should be a top priority of Congress (2022). The failure to build sufficient support in West Virginia–a state where the transition from coal is half completed and which would have benefited immensely from the social programmes in the original bill–was of course crucial to its defeat and dilution.

[3] As a Blue-Green Alliance official expressed to me, the unions in their coalition will not support it “If you say we can have clean energy but not natural gas,” but “if it means other jobs and a more diversified set of jobs, sure….” While the environmental groups and unions in the coalition can agree on anything that creates green jobs, disagreement over new and existing fossil fuel infrastructure such as pipelines “is a big tension in our coalition” (Interview, 2.14.12). This dynamic was also captured by the Just Transition Listening Project (Cha et al. 2016). Of the building trades, it observed, “This constant need to create opportunities for their otherwise unemployed members created a strong impetus for an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy when it comes to supporting construction projects, including fossil fuels and renewables” (2016: 27).

[4] See Neumann 2019; Spengeman 2022; Orenstein 2023.

[5] The 2008 U.S. Geological Survey identified 241 sites appropriate for hydrothermal geothermal energy production, which requires specific heat, permeability, and fluid conditions. All sites are concentrated within 13 states in the western United States, Alaska, and Hawaii (U.S. Department of Energy 2019).

[6] In a sit-down lunch with a Financial Times correspondent, Hillary Clinton expressed confusion toward people’s nostalgia for the mining life: “Whether they were from West Virginia or Tyneside, their lives were so grim and disease-prone and unhygienic – but the nostalgia for those days. I don’t know” (Luce 2022).

[7] See Bluestone and Harrison 1982, Dudley 1994, and Milkman 1997 among many others. For a remarkable study of deindustrialisation and mine closure in France, see Reid 1985.

[8] For the classic analysis of this dialectic on a global scale, see Silver 2003.

[9] Huber’s position here contradicts his ssepticism of private green capital in the book (p. 9).

[10] In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, there is some hope that oil and gas workers have the appropriate skills to plug or re-plug abandoned wells and that the offshore servicing infrastructure for oil and gas can be repurposed for offshore wind (see Biven and Lindner 2023, p. 4). Sicotte et al.’s (2022: 5) study, based on interviews with unionised energy workers, found significant concern in the IBB, UA and USW about “the mismatch of skills they would face if fossil fuel use were phased out.”

[11] For the classic analysis, see Harvey 2006[1982].

[12] As Harvey (1990: 294) puts it, “Capital flight, deindustrialization of some regions, and the industrialization of others, the destruction of traditional working-class communities as power bases in class struggle, become leitmotifs of spatial transformation under more flexible conditions of accumulation.”

[13] The Just Transition Listening Project (Cha et al. 2016: 2), which actually interviewed workers, found that attitudes towards a renewable energy transition were deeply shaped by “the trauma individuals and families experienced as their economies were devastated” by prior waves of capitalist restructuring.

[14] See Yokely 2022 and Arnold 2022. Seemingly in response to the blowback to the IRA in West Virginia, Manchin is now threatening to join Republicans in repealing it (Broadwater 2023).

[15] On UMWA’s position on carbon capture, see For an analysis of its economic futility in prolonging coal-fired power plants in the state, see Norstrand 2022.

[16] As Brett Christophers (2023) observes, the IRA has also created a major opportunity for finance capital to privatise America’s energy infrastructure.

[17]U.S. Department of Energy 2022; U.S. Energy Jobs 2020

[18] See O’Leary and Hunkler 2022. I owe this formulation to Sean O’Leary.

[19]  See Labor Network for Sustainability 2016; Sicotte 2021; Sicotte et al. 2022. Their findings also provide some grounds for hope, in that they find less purely ideological opposition to renewables, with it largely coming down to whether equivalent jobs are available that match their skillsets. “But,” Sicotte (2021) observes, “as energy workers have pointed out, jobs in renewable energy aren’t necessarily adequate substitutes for jobs in fossil fuels.” There is a great need for more research to capture the full gamut of energy workers, unionized and un-unionized, in different subsectors and regions.

[20] See Baccini and Weymouth 2021; Edelman 2021.

[21] See Lamont et al. 2017; Morgan and Lee 2018

[22] For an analysis of these, see Biven and Lindner 2023.

[23]Huber works with a dramatically simplified map of the US class structure.

[24] While there are many studies on this continuity, see chapter 8 of Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner 2002 and United Church of Christ 1998. 

[25]Mufson 2022.

[26] There is now much documentation of the green mineral rush—including its ecological implications, use of child labor and assault on Indigenous land rights—that need not be reviewed here. The US/Western Left seems less familiar with the social and ecological effects of large dams. There is a massive literature but see McCully (2001) for an accessible overview and Levien (2018: 35-43) on their role in dispossessing adivasis and rural populations in India. Coulthard (2014) provides a sharp critique of their role in American settler colonialism.

[27]Hall 2021[1988]: 13-14.