Techno-scientific promises as a negation of the future. The case of Enhanced Geothermal Systems
Paper short abstract:
This paper contributes to discussions on performances of socio-technical imaginaries. It examines the effects of promises of access to cheap, unlimited and regular power through enhanced geothermal systems (EGS).
Paper long abstract:
This paper contributes to discussions on performances of socio-technical imaginaries. It examines the effects of promises of access to cheap, unlimited and regular power through enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). Research on the sociology of expectations highlighted how projections into the future shape paths of technological innovation. Among such projections, techno-scientific promises are specific because they explicitly aim to actualize the future they enunciate by delivering a promised innovation. The current proliferation of such promises has resulted in what some call a regime of promises. In such a regime, promises of futures made possible by technological innovation become a key element for fostering public support and securing resources. EGS are a set of technologies to extract heat for power generation independently from tectonic formations. They come with a series of low-probability/ high-consequences types of risks such as induced seismicity. Hence their deployment has led to local public opposition. Based on an analysis of text and visual material from EGS projects, I show that to secure policy support and investments, EGS developers promise a future of abundant low-carbon electricity. In short, a future in which global warming has been tamed and people can live/consume as in the present. This implies a restrictive conception of the public as "enlightened" and capable of weighing risks and benefits. I argue that one effect of the promises of EGS is to negate the future as well as alternative forms of publics potentially called into being through debates on the decarbonization of energy production.
Encountering energy in systems and everyday spaces