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Fossil Fuels, the Ruling Class, and Prospects for the Climate Movement

Kevin A. Young (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA)

Trump and the Deeper Crisis

ISBN: 978-1-80455-513-2, eISBN: 978-1-80455-512-5

Publication date: 12 December 2022


The US fossil fuel industry is vulnerable to opposition from other sectors of the ruling class. Non-fossil fuel capitalists might conclude that climate breakdown jeopardizes their interests. State actors such as judges, regulators, and politicians may come to the same conclusion. However, these other elite actors are unlikely to take concerted collective action against fossil fuels in the absence of growing disruption by grassroots activists. Drawing from the history of the Obama, Trump, and Biden presidencies, I analyze the forces determining government climate policies and private-sector investments. I focus on how the climate and Indigenous movements have begun to force changes in the behavior of certain ruling-class interests. Of particular importance is these movements' progress in two areas: eroding the financial sector's willingness to fund and insure fossil fuels, and influencing judges and regulators to take actions that further undermine investors' confidence in fossil fuels. Our future hinges largely on whether the movements can build on these victories while expanding their base within labor unions and other strategically positioned sectors.




Thanks to Sasha Lilley and the late Richard Lachmann for comments.


Young, K.A. (2022), "Fossil Fuels, the Ruling Class, and Prospects for the Climate Movement", Young, K.A., Schwartz, M. and Lachmann, R. (Ed.) Trump and the Deeper Crisis (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 39), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 127-157.



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