People stand between cooling towers of the Temelin nuclear power plant near the South Bohemian city of Tyn nad Vltavou April 12, 2014.
David W Cerny / Reuters

Describing how totalitarian regimes create revisionist histories to justify new and often sweeping social and political arrangements, George Orwell famously wrote, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” But in today’s aspirational democracies, Orwell’s maxim is often inverted: who controls the future controls the present.

Nowhere has this been more the case than in contemporary debates about energy and the environment. Over a half century ago, nuclear advocates promoted a future in which nuclear energy would be too cheap to meter. In the three decades that followed, the United States and other advanced developed economies embarked on a massive build out of nuclear power plants. For almost as long, renewable energy advocates have promised a hyper-efficient future powered entirely by the sun and the wind, and in recent decades nations around the world have invested hundreds of billions of dollars to

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