In Fueling Resistance, Kate Neville dissects the processes, and political economy framework, of resistance to two different alternative fuel projects in two distinct and disparate locations. The comparison centers on resistance to a biofuel project in Kenya and a fracking project in the Yukon territory of Canada. The unwritten premise is that these two energy projects, and the subsequent resistance to them, may not have obvious similarities given their distinct characteristics and locations but in fact have several elements in common. Neville outlines how these cases can be viewed as similar and concludes that understanding the patterns of resistance to these two fuel projects could help in moving future fuel projects forward—even within the renewable market. The focus of the book is not necessarily the outcomes of resistance but the process and the social forces that shape the process.

Before dissecting the two cases, Neville sets the stage for understanding the sociopolitical context for the projects. Understanding the time frame is one important aspect of understanding what might influence communities to be receptive, or not, to these types of projects. The projects both occurred in the early to mid-2010s, a time when climate change was certainly in the lexicon, but also a time when security and the push for domestic energy production and energy independence were national priorities. The central argument focuses on three intersecting political economy factors that influence these two cases of resistance: finance, ownership, and trade relations. These three factors and their influence on the cases in Kenya and Yukon are then described in detail. Although it may be implied, Neville never specifically notes these three factors are merely a subset of all of the factors that affect resistance. There are certainly others, a few of which are explored at the conclusion of the text.

The distance between parties who will financially benefit, control, and operate a project and the communities who will live near and with the project clearly matters, and the book demonstrates how this factor contributes to resistance. In these contexts, ownership and finance of a project can set the stage for insider and outsider identities that can affect the degree of trust or mistrust communities have for those in charge of a project and therefore the project itself. Insider/outsider identities can also highlight different land values. In Yukon, the desire for a safe and healthy environment surfaced, and in Kenya, concerns about pastoral access and ecosystem disruption were among “insider” concerns. The book leans heavily on social movement theory to understand the processes in each of these locations, reviewing opportunities for mobilization as well as competing frames based on different values, particularly land values. Neville uses social movement theory to describe the symbols and frames employed to gain momentum for those on “both sides” of the projects. For example, in the biofuel case in Kenya, the project was linked to food (in)security, land grabs, and biodiversity, evoking symbols of water quality, hunger, and colonization. In Yukon, the fracking project brought values of water protection and extraction versus conservation to the forefront and used symbols of rivers, snowcaps, and caribou.

The impact of biofuels on agricultural markets, competing visions of landscapes and land uses, distrust of investors, and mixed-to-sour previous experiences with projects all layered on top of a long history of colonialism and land conflict that strengthened resistance to the project in Kenya. Themes of distrust of outside investors were paralleled in the fracking case in Yukon. In addition to finance and ownership, trade contributed to resistance in both projects. In particular, the facts that local benefits were limited and that the benefits of the projects would be felt in distant locations shaped the perspective that outsiders would benefit at the expense of local land loss. This perspective also speaks to the scale of projects required for investors to make a profit. Both projects required nonlocal markets, exporting the benefits out of the local community, to be economically viable.

Although the book’s focus is on finance, ownership, and trade as the political variables shared by these projects, Neville also discusses how these cases shared themes of scientific uncertainty and the importance of land use and competing values and visions of land, though not as independent influencing characteristics. Both cases happened during a time of technological developments and new scientific research regarding the carbon benefits of these technologies that “undermine(d) the climate justification for these energy developments” (13). In the biofuels case, there was significant controversy regarding the types of land that would be used and the effect those choices would have on potential carbon reduction—or carbon increase. Similarly, research was developing regarding fracking’s “fugitive” emissions that postulated that a full accounting of fracking would negate its benefits as well. Additionally, in the Yukon case, there was concern that moving forward with this technology would delay the adoption of or investment in more beneficial renewable technology options. While Neville does acknowledge both the problem with and the appeal of technological fixes that do not require changes in the power structure or consumption patterns, this idea is not a central focus of her research. In addition, discussions of power that underlie the ability to manipulate and manage the dominant frames in a contested project are not fully explored. Power relations are always an important factor between industry and community in contested projects.

Neville brings forward a “crisis frame” in the conclusion of the book. This frame is less integrated into previous sections of the text but is of significance in understanding the two cases, especially in the broader climate context. The concepts of crisis, climate change, and technology are woven together as a “warning” of sorts, indicating that we need to pay attention to the zeal we have for “quick fixes” to complicated problems, even in a time of crisis, such as the one we now face with climate change. Technology alone, especially technology fixes that do not address embedded issues of power, cannot solve what will require massive societal shifts in our economic system. It is not until the conclusion that Neville begins in earnest to push the concept of procedural justice, the importance of community participation, and the active engagement of communities affected by projects, ideas vital to environmental justice discussions.

Finally, she discusses more broadly how lessons from these cases could apply to renewable projects, such as large-scale solar and wind. This could be the most important takeaway from the text. What was learned here is not just applicable to the contentious energy projects examined in the book but can be applied to any project requiring a large land area or vital resource, whether a project is based on fossil fuels or alternative or renewable energy. Communities and developers will have different land values through which they view a project. This text focuses on and illuminates larger political economy characteristics of finance, ownership, and trade that will likely impact and potentially “fuel” resistance to future energy projects.