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Cultures of Energy

Cultures of Energy brings writers, artists and scholars together to talk, think and feel their way into the Anthropocene. We cover serious issues like climate change, species extinction and energy transition. But we also try to confront seemingly huge and insurmountable problems with insight, creativity and laughter. We believe in the possibility of personal and cultural change. And we believe that the arts and humanities can help guide us toward a more sustainable future. Cultures of Energy is sponsored by Rice University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS, pronounced ‘sense’). Join the conversation on Twitter @cenhs and on the web at culturesofenergy.com
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Dec 15, 2016

All this Russia hacking talk has Cymene and Dominic thinking about Boris, Natasha, Rocky & Bullwinkle. To set matters straight (12:02) Yale anthropologist Doug Rogers joins us to talk about the intersections of energy, power and culture in Russia. We cover the Russian hacking story and what the American news media gets right and wrong about Putin. We dissect the key factions of capital that operate in a petrostate—finance, oil, real estate, military—and their different temporalities and interests. Doug talks about why low oil prices are such a concern Russia today and why Putin might be interested in steering a geopolitics that manages the prices of fossil fuels more tightly. Then we turn to Doug’s recent book, The Depths of Russia: Oil, Power, and Culture After Socialism (Cornell U Press, 2015) and explore the history of world’s first “socialist oil.” We talk about the differences between petrosocialism and petrocaptalism, and why mining and factory work always had higher social status than oil production in the Soviet Union. We cover Soviet era ecological degradation, the role of environmental movements in the perestroika period and their relative disappearance subsequently. We discuss how the Soviet experience of oil challenges Mitchell’s model of carbon democracy and learn how fear of socialist petrobarter led to the kinds of tax incentives and tolerance for cartelism that western oil producers continue to enjoy to this day. We also touch on the introduction of corporate social responsibility in the Russian oil industry, Lukoil’s recycling of petrowealth into cultural sponsorship, and state-sponsored discourse today about how good climate change will be for Russia. Whether you’re feeling petronostalgia or petrophobia this pod is for you! PS And so you don’t have to Google it, here’s shirtless Putin on a horse. You’re welcome.

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