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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Labours of technology : carbon capture and storage in Alberta, Canada Kennedy, Emilia


Since the mid 2000s, carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) has become an important component of climate change policy, and in some jurisdictions is the central state strategy for climate change mitigation. Although carbon capture technology has garnered attention as a so-called ‘technological fix’ for climate change, less is known about how it is enrolled in processes of knowledge production, and in the regulation of spaces, processes and people for the purposes of carbon control. Using the case study of Alberta, Canada - a high-income hydrocarbon producing jurisdiction - this dissertation investigates how CCS technology operates as a political technology, that is, as an instrument that produces new ways of thinking about and managing complex political issues. The research investigates what procedures, techniques, and modes of analysis enabled CCS to become the primary climate change mitigation instrument/policy of the Alberta government. The strategy for addressing climate change through carbon capture is situated within the regulatory and institutional historical context of Alberta’s hydrocarbon-based political economy. CCS is assessed as a ‘technological fix’ that enables the Alberta provincial government and associated actors manage the province’s triple climate crisis, consisting of the impacts of climate change, and attendant issues of social legitimacy and market access for the province’s hydrocarbon exports. Expert and participant interviews, and documentary analysis demonstrated that CCS expertise and capacity within the province were strategically translated from existing oil and gas technological and institutional capacities. Yet, advancing carbon capture as a carbon control measure necessitated the incorporation of additional scientific and economic rationalities, institutional and regulatory capacities, and extra-jurisdictional expertise. I find that overall, carbon capture and storage has failed as a technological fix for Alberta’s carbon control crisis because some of the very factors that led to its rapid ascendancy as a carbon control measure – a resource strong advocate community, its continuity with an existing political economic pathway, and others – made it susceptible to disruption from exogenous events, notably a climate policy vacuum and competition from other energy technologies.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada