On Strategic Comparison of Fossil-Fuel Production Chains: Drawing Lessons from North American LNG and Bitumen Cases

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 13:30
Oral Presentation
James (Jamie) LAWSON, University of Victoria, Canada
This paper examines the work-process and infrastructural foundations of power relationships and strategic possibilities that surround the material work processes of fossil-fuel extraction, refinement, and export. Drawing on the diverse literatures for analyzing commodity/production chains or networks, it contributes to the development of an analytical framework for its own power-oriented analysis. It draws on early mixed-methods research into three distinct export-oriented production networks (bitumen SAGD, strip-mined bitumen, and liquefied natural gas by hydraulic fracturation) that derive specific fossil fuels from extraction sites in the interior of Western Canada. Transportation and communications infrastructure are crucial in shaping and channeling the various flows necessary to project extractive capacity into resource frontier sites. They are also central in the degree to which concentration of flow control, quantitative flow asymmetries, and flow disproportion can give rise both to technical problems of production and power asymmetries in conflicts that target the network itself. Examples of this are evident in the degree to which different networks see conflict emerge over stages in routine extraction, upgrading and transport of the resource, or alternatively over disruption or delay in staged construction of new extractive, upgrade, transport, storage capacity. This comparative project is intended to generate a framework for explaining the particular sites of socio-political contestation that emerge regarding network impacts, and particularly those sites that correspond to particular nodes and corridors of the network itself.