Not that long ago, some folks were arguing that clean energy -- unlike climate change, which had been irredeemably stained by partisanship (eww!) -- would bring people together across ideological lines. Persuaded by the irrefutable wisdom of wonks, we would join hands across the aisle to promote common-sense solutions. It wouldn't be partisan, it would be ... post-partisan.
Some day, I will stop mocking the people who said that. But not today. The error is an important one and it is still made regularly, especially by hyper-educated U.S. elites. They think clean energy is different from climate change, that it won't get sucked into the same culture war. They are wrong.
On clean energy, the material/financial aspects of the conflict are the easiest to understand. Wind, solar, and the rest threaten the financial dominance and political influence of dirty energy. Last week, the Guardian broke the story of a confidential memo laying out a plan to demonize and discredit clean energy, meant to coordinate the plans/messages of several big right-wing super PACs funded by dirty-energy money.
At the bottom of that same piece, though, is one of the best expressions I've ever seen of the cultural and psychological aspects of the conflict. Witness:
Opposing Obama's energy policies was a natural fit for conservatives, said Marita Noon, a conservative activist from New Mexico who was at the meeting. "The American way, what made CostCo and Walmart a success, is to use more and pay less. That's the American way." The president's green policies however were the reverse, she said.
"President Obama wants us to pay more and use less."
Not for the first time, it strikes me that conservatives understand the stakes of this struggle much better than liberals and centrists do, especially at a gut level. They're on the wrong side of it, but at least they get it.