Flow and Friction: Networks of Power and the Infrastructures of Fossil Capitalism

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 12:45
Location: Hörsaal II (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Nicolas GRAHAM, University of Victoria, Canada
Recent critical scholarship has explored the importance of fossil fuels to capital accumulation (and the necessary mediating role of extractive industries to that relationship). Alongside this work, geographers and political ecologists have drawn attention to the importance of the ‘networked infrastructures’ that mediate or metabolize resource flows. Extending out from sites of carbon extraction, the pipelines, tankers, refineries, electricity grids and gas distribution infrastructures that serve to mediate energy flows, are integral components of the energy system and a critical aspect of our relation to nature. This paper employs and extends the concept of networked infrastructures via an investigation of the development of the liquid natural gas industry (LNG) in British Columbia (BC), Canada. It maps the web of technologies of extraction, transport, refining and export that are developed and are currently being proposed to facilitate the expansion of the industry, highlighting key networks of political and financial power expressed in them. While LNG continues to be promoted as a ‘bridge’ to renewable energy, such infrastructures, which are physical, durable and fixed components of the built environment, threaten to further lock in our ongoing reliance on fossil fuels, and cement the economic interests driving the carbon extractive sector. I conclude by discussing growing activism surrounding the infrastructures of fossil capitalism in BC, which concerns questions of local ecological degradation and represents a wider movement to address climate change.