Capitalizing a future unsustainable: Finance, energy and the fate of market civilization

Liberal capitalist polities are being held up as the ultimate civilizational achievement precisely at a point in time when the energy-demanding built environments and growth imperatives of these societies are threatened by global climate change and the coming end of cheap and abundant carbon energy. Throughout the twentieth century, this pattern of energy intensive social reproduction was largely shaped by the oil and gas sector creating what I call a petro-market civilization. However, given the challenges presented by peak oil and global warming, transitioning to a low-carbon or green energyfuture has gathered increasing attention and investment. In this paper, I use a power theory of value approach to offer a preliminary assessment of whether this transition is likely given the entrenched power of the oil and gas sector in the economy. Although the twenty-first century may bear witness to a renewable and sustainable energy paradigm, current evidence suggests that investors are continuing to capitalize an unsustainable future premised upon non-renewable fossil fuels.

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