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Settler geology : Earth's deep history and the governance of in situ oil spills in Alberta.

Schmidt, Jeremy J. (2020) 'Settler geology : Earth's deep history and the governance of in situ oil spills in Alberta.', Political geography., 78 . p. 102132.

Abstract

Alberta's bitumen industry is frequently identified as a key site of environmental politics in the Anthropocene owing to the scale of its fossil fuel extraction operations. While popular images of surface mining activities often focus these discussions, approximately 80% of the bitumen reserves in the Canadian province lie too deep for surface mining and are extracted through in situ technologies, including processes that inject high-temperature, high-pressure steam to mobilize geologic formations of the tar-like fossil fuel. This article examines how in situ extraction was governed in response to four flow-to-surface (FTS) events in which bitumen unexpectedly migrated to Earth's surface as the result of in situ operations. The governance response to these events is of particular interest because it counters the assertion that existing governance institutions operate on time scales that are incommensurate with those relevant to the Anthropocene. The Alberta case shows the opposite owing to how Earth's deep history was used to provide temporal syntax for a geotechnical debate that ensued over what caused the FTS events. By detailing the controversy over what caused the FTS events, and the search for “enabling conditions” that would link causal explanations to the spatial distribution of the four bitumen seeps, Earth's deep history was also made commensurate with the political geography of settler colonialism in Alberta. The article introduces and develops the notion of ‘settler geology’ in order to capture the naturalization of geologic forms of reasoning about Earth's deep history, the geologic force of anthropogenic in situ operations, and the temporal framework of settler colonial governance in Alberta.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2019.102132
Publisher statement:© 2019 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Date accepted:12 December 2019
Date deposited:07 January 2020
Date of first online publication:24 December 2019
Date first made open access:24 December 2021

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