Fossil fuel capitalism in Western Canada: an overview of the Corporate Mapping Project and fossil fuel flashpoints

During Dr. Fiona MacPhail’s presentation, “Fossil fuel capitalism in Western Canada: an overview of the Corporate Mapping Project and fossil fuel flashpoints” the four main themes of the project were discussed, a tool to conceptualize resistance was explained, and a specific example of the tool being applied was provided.

The four main themes of the Corporate Mapping Project included: (1) social organization of corporate power in the fossil fuel sector: directorships are interlocked, of the top 1,258 firms, 92% are connected through shared directors; (2) impacts of corporate power on society: fossil fuel companies donate large amounts of money to political parties, and multiple lobbying contacts are made each day; (3) fossil fuel companies at the ground level: hold corporate power in schools as they fund buildings, playgrounds etc.; (4) democratic discussion and just transition: exploring tools for monitoring corporate power and influence.

Dr. Fiona MacPhail took us through a tool that the project uses to conceptualize resistance to specific fossil fuel projects across the fossil fuel commodity chain nodes. The typologies used to conceptualize resistance included: (1) Productivist/distributional e.g. it doesn’t create enough employment, or the local region experiences the majority of the cost while the benefits lie elsewhere; (2) Procedural/consultative e.g. lack of consultation; (3) Ecological/recognition e.g. what are the environmental risks? The different commodity chain nodes include but were not limited to: exploration, distribution, refinement, consumption, and carbon capture & climate change. Dr. MacPhail showed us an example of how the tool was used to conceptualize the resistance to one specific fossil fuel project. In the end the fossil fuel project did not go forward.

The information was presented in a way that made sense, it was useful to have an overview of the entire mapping project first, an explanation of the tool Dr. Fiona MacPhail was presenting on, and then a specific example of how the tool was used.

The topic is related to my thesis as I am investigating market mechanisms that would increase support for environmental policy, and decrease carbon consumption. It was interesting for me to consider some of the themes that were presented as are barriers to implementing policy that acts to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

The speaker was very knowledgeable on the project and did a good job answering questions. When the question was outside of her area of expertise with regards to the project, she advised the audience member on who to direct their question to.