Abolishing Fossil Fuels


In stock


Lessons from Movements That Won

By Kevin A. Young
Spectre and PM Press

Climate destruction is a problem of political power.

We have the resources for a green transition, but how can we neutralize the influence of Exxon and Shell? Abolishing Fossil Fuels argues that the climate movement has started to turn the tide against fossil fuels, just too gradually. The movement’s partial victories show us how the industry can be further undermined and eventually abolished. Activists have been most successful when they’ve targeted the industry’s enablers: the banks, insurers, and big investors that finance its operations, the companies and universities that purchase fossil fuels, and the regulators and judges who make life-and-death rulings about pipelines, power plants, and drilling sites. This approach has jeopardized investor confidence in fossil fuels, leading the industry to lash out in increasingly desperate ways. The fossil fuel industry’s financial and legal enablers are also its Achilles heel.

The most powerful movements in US history succeeded in similar ways. The book also includes an in-depth analysis of four classic victories: the abolition of slavery, battles for workers’ rights in the 1930s, Black freedom struggles of the 1950s and 1960s, and the fight for clean air. Those movements inflicted costs on economic elites through strikes, boycotts, and other mass disruption. They forced some sectors of the ruling class to confront others, which paved the way for victory. Electing and pressuring politicians was rarely the movements’ primary focus. Rather, gains in the electoral and legislative realms were usually the byproducts of great upsurges in the fields, factories, and streets.

Those historic movements show that it’s very possible to defeat capitalist sectors that may seem invulnerable. They also show us how it can be done. They offer lessons for building a multiracial, working-class climate movement that can win a global green transition that’s both rapid and equitable.

“Want to get rid of the fossil fuels that are destroying our future but are baffled about how to do so? Is climate protection an impossible dream? Are the fossil fuel forces just too powerful to take down? If you want honest, realistic, but also hopeful answers to those questions, read Kevin A. Young’s Abolishing Fossil Fuels. Young presents a careful analysis of the powers that are purveying fossil fuels—and of how ordinary people can defeat them by inflicting sustained disruption on the elites that are perpetuating climate destruction. If the original Abolitionists could take down the slaveholders—the greatest power in the land—why can’t we abolish fossil fuels? Kevin Young’s answer is we can. I hope this book will become the strategic handbook for the climate protection movement.”—Jeremy Brecher, author of Strike!

“Kevin Young’s Abolishing Fossil Fuels is the kind of book the US climate movement desperately needs. The historic victories against slavery, the auto industry, and Jim Crow offer us the chance to build on more than the moral successes of past movements for justice, but also the wealth of tactical lessons that helped working people wrench concessions out of the clutches of yesterday’s elites. Today’s activists and organizations must ask not only principled questions about what they stand for, but also practical questions about how to deal with those who stand against progress. Abolishing Fossil Fuels provides a tremendous place to start and should be highly encouraged reading especially for young climate activists.”—Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, author of Elite Capture

“It’s all in the vowels. Capital with an a means money while capitol with an o means law. Capital summarizes economic accumulation; capitol is the location of legislation. Fossil fuel capitalists lead us to impending deaths for the planet and the people, and a ‘genocidal consensus’ in the acceptance of those extinctions. History shows that local strikes, boycotts, demos, and riots against capital succeed while national electioneering and lobbying against capitols do not. This is a powerful argument, densely researched, and entirely convincing to avoid the clear and present danger.”—Peter Linebaugh, author of Stop, Thief!

“Kevin Young’s fast-moving and wise study combines a terrific idea for a book and fine execution of that idea. Abolishing Fossil Fuels calls for just that, and in doing so reminds us that the great abolitions—for example, of male monopoly on political rights, of management autocracy in the workplace, and above all of chattel slavery—have stressed dreaming and acting equally. In inspired moments based on long patterns of direct action, they have won. Young draws the lessons of those victories for climate justice and planetary survival, emphasizing how much success grew from a protest tradition and how little from any simple identification of change with electoral politics.”—David Roediger, author of Race, Class and Marxism

Additional information

Weight 10.6 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × 0.75 in



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