Preparing For An Oil-Less Future: Energy, Climate Change And Green Business In Abu Dhabi

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This dissertation project investigates the production of renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures in an oil-rich country, as the era of abundant oil supplies is slowly coming to an end. Its centerpiece is Masdar, a multifaceted renewable energy and clean technology company in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, where I conducted nine months of ethnographic research between September 2010 and June 2011. I also pursued five months of fieldwork at the Technology and Development Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology between January 2010 and May 2010, and conducted research with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) office in Bonn in August 2011 and March and April 2012. Across these various sites, I interrogate the ways in which imaginaries of renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures are articulated and experienced both at a personal level and at the level of project management. By studying how emergent technology, knowledge, and governance on renewable energy and clean technology afford a potential reorganization of sociotechnical relations in an oil-rich country, I contribute to literature on oil and climate change, and to studies of energy transitions, sustainable urbanism,   iii technological imaginaries and knowledge production, as explored in fields of anthropology, science and technology studies and environmental studies. In my dissertation, I track five projects undertaken by Masdar: (1) the construction of an eco-city, (2) the establishment of a clean technology and renewable energy research institute, (3) the creation of a new energy currency, (4) the implementation of a driverless electric personal rapid transport network, and (5) the production of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) policy proposal. I argue that these projects articulate an aspiration for the manageability of ecological problems, wherein business models are thought to contain and resolve climate change without surrendering hopes for increasing productivity and technological complexity. Yet such projects also reveal unresolved tensions between different infrastructures of technology, knowledge, and governance, resulting in a growing accommodation of contradictions within the renewable energy and clean technology sector-viz: a carfree eco-city surrounded by a parking lot of SUVs. Through a close ethnographic investigation of these projects, I present a framework for analyzing how emergent technology, knowledge, and governance on renewable energy and clean technology come together to propose a reorganization of sociotechnical relations in an oil-rich landscape.   iv

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energy; climate change; eco-cities; futurity; Arabian Gulf; Abu Dhabi; Masdar


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Miyazaki, Hirokazu

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Geisler, Charles C
Pinkus, Karen Elyse
Fischer, Michael M.J.

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Ph. D., Anthropology

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Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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