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Behind the Carbon Curtain: The Energy Industry, Political Censorship and Free Speech


Behind the Carbon Curtain is an exploration of how corporate wealth and power are being used to censor the free expression of ideas in America.  At a time in which there is much concern expressed for constitutional freedoms regarding guns, health care, and taxes perhaps the gravest threat to the most fundamental right in a vibrant democracy—free speech—has received little attention.


To understand the political and moral hazards of violating this right, there is no more compelling, contemporary context than the energy industry’s application of economic pressure on governmental bodies and public institutions to suppress the expression of ideas that are contrary to the financial interests of those who profit from fossil fuels.  Using a set of case studies from Wyoming—one of the most prosperous states with regard to coal, oil and gas—the book will recount stories in which university administrations, art museums, education boards, and research institutes have been coerced into destroying artwork, constraining creativity, limiting speech, abandoning studies, and firing employees.  


Accounting for 15% of the world’s coal production, Wyoming is a sociopolitical lens that magnifies the intensity of the conflicts between the goals of the energy industry and the duties of public institutions.  However, the issues are relevant to any state where fossil fuels are extracted—and in the coming decades many communities will be drawn into the battle between lucrative profits and free speech.  At stake are the most essential liberties of scientific and artistic expression in a just society, the very essence of universities, museums and laboratories as places of deep inquiry, and the moral duties of elected officials.


Behind the Carbon Curtain is only about energy-environment conflicts in the western US in the same sense that the Iron Curtain of the 20th century was just about politics in Eastern Europe.  The real story in both cases is much deeper and darker.  It is the story of human freedom, the control of citizens by those in power, the dire risks of dissent in times of fear, and the importance of speaking the truth about oppression—whether political, economic, or both.


New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press. ISBN:  978-0826358073



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