By Stefan Bouzarovski
The centrality of energy issues to contemporary geographical debates was demonstrated at this year’s Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Los Angeles. We have already seen a rapid increase of energy-related discussions at the UK equivalent of the AAG Annual Meeting – the Annual International Conference of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers. The last two RGS-IBG Annual Conferences saw energy sessions in almost every slot in the programme; this trend is now strengthening at the AAG too, not the least thanks to the effective co-ordination provided by its Energy and Environment Specialty Group. In addition to numerous energy sessions, the specialty group sponsored an excellent plenary lecture by Mike Pasqualetti from Arizona State University (you can listen to it here). However, energy themes were also present in numerous other sessions, as well as the plenary lectures provided by Mike Bradshaw (University of Leicester) and Christian Parenti (School For International Training).
I co-organised two sets of sessions at the conference. The first was titled ‘Politicising energy consumption‘ and involved Conor Harrison (UNC Chapel Hill), Rosie Day (Birmingham) and Matt Huber (Syracuse) in the organising team. The session featured presentations by Gareth Powells (Durham), Heather Rosenfeld (Wisonsin-Madison), Gordon Walker (Lancaster), Andy Karvonen (Manchester), Sara Fuller (Hong Kong), Saska Petrova (Manchester), Autumn Thoyre (UNC Chapel Hill), as well as two of the organisers (Conor and Rosie). The 8 papers at the session explored the different ways in which energy consumption can be conceived as a political site and practice. They highlighted the multiple and complex relationships between energy circulations within households and communities, on the one hand, and the everyday politics of technology, nature and social inequality, on the other.
The second set of sessions was titled ‘A golden age of gas? Understanding the geographical political economy of natural gas‘; I co-organised this with Durham University’s Gavin Bridge. There were seven papers at this session, including presentations by Joseph Dutton (Leicester), Arielle Hesse (Penn State), Deborah Kittner (Cincinnati), Adrian Duhalt (Puebla), Bret Gustafson (Washington), Carlo Sica (Syracuse) and Matthew Fry (North Texas). Gavin and I also presented papers, while Mike Bradshaw acted as a discussant. The speakers provided a range of different perspectives on the importance of the political economy of fossil fuels to the development of a broader energy research agenda.