Accepted paper:

Unconventional energy futures: rendering Europe's shale gas resources governable


Magdalena Kuchler (Uppsala University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper scrutinizes practices through which resource availability and recoverability are assessed and rendered governable. The analysis identifies visions of shale gas potential in Europe and interrogates technologies of quantification and prediction that produce evidence for future energy claims.

Paper long abstract:

Following the shale gas boom in the United States, unconventional natural gas extracted from shale formations has generated increasing attention in the European Union (EU). This considerable interest has been triggered by a range of often optimistic estimates and scenarios regarding the volumetric and recoverable potential of shale gas extraction from beneath the surface of the European continent. Despite large uncertainties and unreliability of geological-economic data, these assessments and projections are nevertheless translated (or lost in translation) into specific energy security policies and strategies, consequently fuelling and legitimizing political-technological hopes for certain energy futures in the EU. The paper critically examines tools and devices through which states of resource availability and recoverability are diagnosed, assessed and thus rendered governable (e.g. strategized and securitized). By combining socio-technical imaginaries and governmentality approaches, the analysis is guided by two objectives: to identify and map visions of shale gas potential in Europe contained in a range of resource estimates and scenarios; and to scrutinize practices and technologies of calculation, quantification, visualisation and prediction deployed to produce evidence for these future energy claims. By taking the case of inventorying and anticipating shale gas potential in Europe, the article demonstrates that unconventional resources and reserves are not stable and fixed objects but rather they are political, namely, due to their largely uncertain and contested character they are constantly (re)defined and (re)discovered through practices of volume measurements and recoverability estimates. Hence, the evidence for powerful future energy claims lies buried deep underground.

panel T078
Contested energy futures and temporalities in retrospective: instruments and practices of forecasting and scenario work