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The rise of hyper-speculation in post-conventional energy futures

Authors: Magdalena Kuchler*, Uppsala University, Gavin Bridge, Durham University
Topics: Energy, Political Geography, Earth Science
Keywords: shale gas, uncertainty, speculation, futures, political geology, resource-making
Session Type: Paper
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In recent years, both Poland and the United Kingdom have rapidly become fertile (under)grounds for geological projections, industry ambitions and political objectives sutured around one specific natural resource: unconventional natural gas from shale rock formations. Despite very optimistic, yet highly uncertain estimates of the resource potential in both countries, no commercial production of gas from shales has been established to date. Although the Polish and British shale gas developments have been the subject of increasing attention from different scholarly domains, less attention has been placed on identifying and scrutinizing practices of volumetric resource appraisals and what capital and political movements they trigger and sustain. Building upon the burgeoning scientific work on resource-making and political geology, as well as emerging insights from STS, this paper examines the specific nexuses of speculation through which are combined knowledge production, capital accumulation and political power. By taking the Polish and British cases as empirically comparative points of entry into activities surrounding shale gas prospecting and exploration in the period between 2009 and 2017, the paper discloses and interrogates three distinct but inextricably interwoven spheres of speculation: 1) uncertain geological knowledge, 2) corrupt capital flows and areas of profit, and 3) political gamble. The paper argues that from these three unfixed fields of unknowability, risk and anticipation emerges hyper-speculation that may forge post-conventional energy futures for years to come.

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