Fossil fuel proponents and governments have framed natural gas as a “bridge fuel” necessary for a smooth global energy transition. However, environmental and climate justice groups warn that natural gas will lock in high carbon pathways, in addition to creating significant environmental harms and health risks for affected communities. This contestation around the framing of natural gas reflects a process of interpretive politics, namely the struggle of different actors to define policy problems and present potential solutions to influence policy outcomes. In this talk, the authors explore the interpretive politics of natural gas in Canada by analyzing government climate plans and press releases produced by industry associations and other relevant, primarily non-governmental, organizations in the post-Paris era. They identify three distinct variations of the bridge fuel narrative around the purported clean energy benefits of natural gas driven by industry associations and provincial governments. Though the language of clean energy benefits is spreading, the meaning varies significantly by regional context. The malleable position of natural gas as a source of interpretive contestation has important implications for future coalition-building and decarbonization.
About the speakers
Amy Janzwood is jointly appointed in the Department of Political Science and the Bieler School of the Environment at McGill University. She completed her PhD at the University of Toronto in 2020. Previously, she held a SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of British Columbia. Her research explores the comparative politics of energy and the environment, including the political economy of energy transitions, the contested politics of fossil fuel production, and the policy pathways that move us towards more just and sustainable energy systems. Professor Janzwood is on the Steering Committee of the Women & Inclusivity in Sustainable Energy Research (WISER) network and a member of the Climate Social Science Network (CSSN). She is also affiliated with the Cascade Institute and the Earth System Governance Project.
Heather Millar is a political scientist specializing in Canadian public policy. Her research interests include provincial energy and climate politics; risk perception; policy learning and feedback; and social acceptance of new technologies. Her research explores the role of ideas, particularly uncertainty, in shaping policy variation. She examines causal processes of policy change, investigating factors that influence policy durability and legitimacy in comparative perspective. Her current book project explores the politics of provincial hydraulic fracturing regulation in Canada. Dr. Millar has published research articles in Canadian Public Administration, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Environmental Politics, Public Policy and Administration, Policy Sciences and Review of Policy Research.