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This chapter sets out the contribution to ‘good energy policy’ that might be forthcoming from the (perhaps unfamiliar) field of ‘public theology’. It argues that an environmental public theology would commend a ‘grounded’ energy policy – one rooted in an explicit conception of a ‘good’ or ‘virtuous’ human life. After defining ‘public theology’, it identifies five convergent stances relevant to energy policy that seem to be emerging today among representative of most world religions: (i) nature as a ‘divine’ ordering marked by integration, equilibrium and harmony rather than as infinitely exploitable; (ii) a call for human ‘stewardship’ of nature; (iii) an acceptance of climate science and an urgent call to shift away from fossil fuels; (iv) scepticism towards unlimited economic growth and its attendant ‘consumerism’; (v) locating energy questions within a broader commitment to a just social order characterised by both an equitable global distribution of access to energy and a decentralisation of energy supply (‘environmental subsidiarity’).
Political science does not offer a distinct subdiscipline to address the subject of energy. Insofar as political science has addressed energy, it has focused on issues often neglected by other disciplines, notably the role of geopolitics and international relations, and the domestic politics of resource-rich states. Apart from the different subfields, we examine different approaches including realism, constructivism, liberalism and Marxism. The rise and fall and rise again of academic articles on energy in leading political science journals is reviewed and linked to exogenous forces such as the price of oil. Two distinct energy topics which have received attention are nuclear power and the oil crises of 1973–79 because of their wider geopolitical ramifications. Perhaps the most prominent or consistent thread through studies of the politics of energy is the question of energy security or energy independence. Finally, in recent years, energy has increasingly emerged as a focus for study in environmental politics and climate change politics in particular.
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