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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/18995

Title: Producing Barrels from Bitumen: A Political Ecology of Price in Explaining the Classification of the Alberta Oil Sands as a Proven Oil Reserve
Authors: Hemmingsen, Emma
Advisor: Prudham, W. Scott
Department: Geography
Keywords: Alberta oil sands
resources geography
oil reserves
Issue Date: 17-Feb-2010
Abstract: In December, 2002, the oil sands of Alberta, Canada – earlier seen as an obscure, obstacle-ridden scientific project – were for the first time included in the Oil & Gas Journal’s year-end review of worldwide oil reserves. To explain this decision, the editors of this prestigious international petroleum magazine cited the basic neoclassical economic theory of price-driven resource substitution. This thesis contends, however, that the neoclassical theory in fact explains very little of how it became possible to profitably extract petroleum from Alberta’s bitumen-saturated sands. Merging insights from resources geography on the politics of nature-based production with scholarship on calculation and classification in Science and Technology Studies, this thesis fleshes in much-needed detail and dimension to the neoclassical account by emphasizing the role of key actors and decision-makers, many within the state but also within the private sector, who have actively negotiated supply costs and pursued technological strategies for the oil sands. In doing so, it argues that market prices and supply costs are not independent objects, but are underpinned by a malleable, contingent, and profoundly political process. As evidence, this thesis draws on national and international petroleum statistics, industry publications and public relations campaigns, as well as over 80 years of archived and more contemporary government documents, in order to show that substitution between two materially different resources is rarely an independently propelled or inevitable response.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/18995
Appears in Collections:Master
Department of Geography - Master theses

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