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Accepted Paper:

Licensing the future: regulation as (anti)speculative technique  
Gisa Weszkalnys (London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)) William Otchere-Darko (Newcastle University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores petroleum licensing and regulation in the UK as (anti-)speculative technique, resting on an attempted, but compromised, moral and affective realignment between corporations and state in the context of contemporary concerns about climate emergency and national energy security.

Paper long abstract:

Petroleum licenses have widely come to be seen as the fulcrum of petro-capitalist relations in the context of climate emergency. While some petroleum producers in the Global North have declared a moratorium on exploration licensing, and others intend to cease issuing new licences altogether, fresh concerns about national energy security have boosted the UK government’s consistent support for oil and gas exploration. This paper examines how licensing and, more broadly, regulation seek to shape the flow of capital and hydrocarbons in an increasingly volatile environment. Specifically, it focuses on the UK oil and gas regulator's (recently renamed the North Sea Transition Authority) awkward ambition to reconcile its long-standing goal to "maximise economic recovery” with the government’s Net Zero strategy and on current efforts to design a so-called climate compatibility checkpoint for future licensing rounds. It highlights that, in addition to translating a liberal form of property and providing territorial exemptions, licensing and regulation set out duties and obligations and encourage a highly moderated form of “stewardship”. They circumscribe an emergent set of (anti-)speculative techniques which, we argue, rest on an attempted, but compromised, moral and affective realignment between corporations and the state. In doing so, they not simply reflect changing techno-scientific and commercial understandings of the North Sea’s geological prospects and potential. Rather, they seek to anticipate, and arbitrate between, contested expert knowledges, modelling and forecasts and societal requirements in order to shape energy (and economic) futures.

Panel P001a
Economic Moralities: Value claims on the future I
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -