The Resistance Dilemma

From American and Comparative Environmental Policy

The Resistance Dilemma

Place-Based Movements and the Climate Crisis

By George Hoberg

How organized resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure became a political force and how this might affect the transition to renewable energy.





How organized resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure became a political force and how this might affect the transition to renewable energy.

Organized resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure, particularly conflicts over pipelines, has become a formidable political force in North America. In this book, George Hoberg examines whether such place-based environmental movements are effective ways of promoting climate action, if they might inadvertently feed resistance to the development of renewable energy infrastructure, and what other, more innovative processes of decision-making would encourage the acceptance of clean energy systems. Focusing on a series of conflicts over new oil sands pipelines, Hoberg investigates activists' strategy of blocking fossil fuel infrastructure, often in alliance with Indigenous groups, and examines the political and environmental outcomes of these actions.

After discussing the oil sands policy regime and the relevant political institutions in Canada and the United States, Hoberg analyzes in detail four anti-pipeline campaigns, examining the controversies over the Keystone XL, the most well-known of these movements and the first one to use infrastructure resistance as a core strategy; the Northern Gateway pipeline; the Trans Mountain pipeline; and the Energy East pipeline. He then considers the “resistance dilemma”: the potential of place-based activism to threaten the much-needed transition to renewable energy. He examines several episodes of resistance to clean energy infrastructure in eastern Canada and the United States. Finally, Hoberg describes some innovative processes of energy decision-making, including strategic environment assessment, and cumulative impact assessment, looking at cases in British Columbia and Lower Alberta.

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$40.00 X ISBN: 9780262543088 388 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 29 b&w illus.


  • “As this important book makes clear, policy makers must engage local populations in meaningful decision-making processes about renewable energy projects if we hope to address the climate crisis.”

    Shannon Elizabeth Bell

    Associate Professor of Sociology, Virginia Tech; author of Fighting King Coal

  • “While place-based resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure has contributed to climate action, it could also slow down the deployment of clean energy. Essential reading for scholars and practitioners alike.”

    Johannes Urpelainen

    Professor of Energy, Resources, and Environment, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; coauthor of Renewables

  • “As theoretically important as it is empirically rich, The Resistance Dilemma should be read by anyone interested in place-based climate change activism.”

    Doug McAdam

    Professor of Sociology, Stanford University