Giving It All Away

Ritchie Calvin
5 min readJan 8, 2024


Photo by Chris LeBoutillier on Unsplash

Burn, baby, burn!
Burn that momma down
” (The Trammps, 1976)

Drill, baby, drill!” (Sarah Palin, via Michael Steele, 2008)

In the 2008 presidential campaign, the hapless Sarah Palin made the slogan a cultural touchstone. Earlier that year, Michael Steele had used the very same expression, as a means to expression the desire to tap into oil reserves and to continue the national reliance on fossil fuels. At one point in time, environmental protect was not such a partisan issue. After all, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established by Richard Nixon in 1970. However, over time, the environment has become more centrally a Democrat issue, while the fossil fuel industry has become more of a Republican issue (while exceptions certainly exist).

Democrat are often labelled as “tree-huggers” while Republicans are labelled as “energy hawks.” Given that, the fossil fuel industry has tended to fund Republican candidates. According to Open Secrets, in the 2008 campaign, Exxon Mobil spend $29,000,000, Koch Industries spent $17M, Chevron $12.8M, and BP $10.5M. The list goes on. Four of the five top recipients were Republicans (with Barack Obama also making that list). In the 2024 campaign, Open Secrets already (we are still 10 months away from the 2024 election) records that Koch Industries has spent $25,500,000 — all of which has gone to “Conservative groups.” $0 has gone to “liberal groups.”

In 2016, candidate Hillary Clinton was extolling the virtues of clean energy. In the process, she infamously said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” The comment did not sit well in West Virginia, in coal country, or with Republicans. While she may well have meant that the shift from fossil fuel energy to green energy would alter the energy industry landscape, those aligned with the fossil fuel took it personally.

The sentiment — and the divisions — remains to this day. In early December 2023, Trump gave an interview in which he was asked to address concerns about him being a dictator. He said, “No” but added “except for day one.” A lot of attention — rightly so — has been paid to the dictator portion of that statement. However, he also continued the notion that we need to “drill, drill, drill” our way to low energy prices and oil independence.

Now, we know that industries change over time. Some professions and skills remain for a very long time. Others come and go. You probably do not know a lot of coopers, for example (they make wooden barrels). Wooden barrels were replaced by factory made barrels, and then later by plastic barrels. You probably do not know a lot of farriers (they put shoes on horses’ hooves). While once a vital job, the shift from horses to horse-less carriages rendered the job less vital. They are now merely a niche job.

The list of the professions that have been eliminated is long. Times change. Technologies change. Those changes are inevitable. Some day, this planet (assuming we make it that far) will be powered entirely by green energy. And as that happens, old professions will disappear and new professions will replace them. Coopers were replaced by factory workers, and then by chemists. Farriers were replaced by auto mechanics.

The same holds true to coal miners and roughnecks. They will be replaced. Granted the Clinton comment may well have sounded impersonal and uncaring. Doubtless she should have said something like: “Unfortunately these jobs and these traditions will change over time. As that happens we will make sure that none of the workers get left behind. We’ll make sure that they are trained for and ready to benefit from the new green energy jobs that emerge.”

Oh, some people would want to hold on to traditions. I get that. But many would want to move with the times and be prepared for the jobs that will emerge.

And that’s where we’re falling behind.

Technology develops FAST. Industries change quickly. However, we have swaths of the population and an entire political party wedded to the past. We all lose out because of this backward orientation.

Take EVs, for example. While all of the legacy car makers are working on electric fleets, they are well behind the game. We currently have one significant EV-only car manufacturer, Tesla. It has a large market share of the EV sales. More importantly, it has been able to leverage that market share into technological gains. Tesla banked early on charging stations. It banked on a proprietary charger standard. It looks as though the entire industry will now be using Tesla equipment and Tesla standards.

However, recent reports show that Chinese EVs are taking over European markets. Europe has a rich history of car manufacturers. Europe has a long tradition of loving their automobiles. However, a combination of a slowness to turn to EVs in Europe, government subsidies within China, and aggressive marketing has lead to the situation where Chinese EVs are making a dent in the European market.

A similar thing will happen here in the US. We are ceding green industries to other nations, and to China in particular. Even though China is not particularly known as green-energy-friendly, it sees the opportunity to get out in front of an entire industry. Chinese businesses want to be the leaders in EV design. They want, like Tesla, to be out in front of technological and standards design.

China is making similar moves in the solar panels industry. They have a huge share of the manufacturing market — 95%. They are setting the standards for how solar panels work, for how they are manufactured. We will be playing catch-up in all of these fields.

What that means is that people now in fossil fuel industries will not be prepared to move into the new green energy jobs. A) those jobs will be overseas, and B) we will not be in a position to define those industries.

We have a political party that defines patriotism as burning fossil fuels. The more they burn, the more patriotic they are — and can “own the libs.” We have a party that is ready to take up arms to defend their gas stove instead of buying an electric convection stove.

Such an attitude guarantees that workers in fossil-fuel-dependent industries will be left behind.

If we care about being leaders in technology and innovation, we need to stop drilling and starting designing. If we care about blue collar workers, we need to retrain them to work in green-energy-dependent jobs.

We need to make the shift before we burn it all down.

Ritch Calvin is an Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at SUNY Stony Brook. He is the author of Queering SF: Readings, Feminist Epistemology and Feminist Science Fiction (Palgrave McMillan) and edited a collection of essays on Gilmore Girls (McFarland). His most recent book is Queering SF: Readings (Aqueduct Press).