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Automobility and Oil Vulnerability

Unfairness as Critical to Energy Transitions

Ana Horta

Abstract

Climate policies in the European Union require a substantial reduction in carbon emissions from road transport. However, in the last decades the system of automobility has expanded considerably, establishing a process of path dependence that is very difficult to reverse. Changes in current patterns of automobility may increase oil vulnerability of citizens dependent on the use of the car, aggravating forms of social inequity. Based on an analysis of how television news framed a period of oil price rises in a country highly dependent on car use, the article shows that oil vulnerability may resonate with socially shared sociocultural meanings such as lack of trust in political leaders, which may aggravate the social perception of unfairness and compromise public support for energy transitions toward sustainability.

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Luísa Schmidt, Ana Horta, Augusta Correia, and Susana Fonseca

In a time of economic crisis the need to adopt energy conservation practices comes to the fore. It is helpful to evaluate the role of young people as both consumers and potential agents of change bridging the gap between school and family to encourage lower household energy consumption. Based on two surveys of parents and students of a secondary school in Lisbon, plus in-depth interviews with parents, this article analyzes the complexity of this challenge, highlighting adults' perceptions of their children's contribution to energy saving. Results show that parents see young people as major energy consumers. Young people's engagement with electronic equipment as essential components of their lifestyles and their belief in technology as a solution to energy problems thwart them from being promoters of energy saving. In this context of scarcity, parents try to protect their children's well-being and opportunities in life by accepting their children's unrestricted energy use.

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Ana Horta, Harold Wilhite, Luísa Schmidt, and Françoise Bartiaux

Energy consumption inconspicuously bridges nature and culture. Modern societies and cultures depend on intensive energy use from the extraction of natural resources. In fact, the industrialization process required large amounts of energy, but main sources such as oil and coal, have been gradually depleted and found to be heavily polluting the environment. Despite their environmental impacts, these resources have provided cheap and abundant power to fuel technological progress and economic growth. (See Agustoni and Maretti [2012] for a good historical summary of the relations between energy production and usages.)