Hydrogen for Future
Dr Don Slater (Department of Sociology) and Dr Rebecca Elliott (Department of Sociology)
Sociology of Climate Change, Science and Technology Studies, Economic Sociology, Cultural Theory, Participatory Research Methods, Just Transition
This research project examines the political, economic, and technological push to decarbonise the industrial society and transform it into a climate society. Focusing on hydrogen as one of the key materials for transitioning industrial ways of living from the reliance on fossil fuels to renewables, it combines interview, ethnographic, and documentary data to outline the central properties of a future under construction.
Hydrogen has for a long time been considered a back-up technology for the time after coal, oil, and gas eventually run out. Now, it is placed at the forefront of various strategies for climate change mitigation in several high- and middle-income countries. In contradistinction to earlier imaginations of renewable energy futures, the hydrogen strategies developed so far are, however, no longer focusing on the reimagination of the nature-culture relationship or the redistribution of political and economic power. Instead, hydrogen is understood as an instrument that enables the continuation of established industrial ways of production and consumption in a climate-neutral way.
Informed by insights from Science and Technology Studies, Economic Sociology, and Cultural Theory, the project questions this linear projection from the carbon past to the hydrogen future by asking for ways in which the material shift from carbon to hydrogen is also implicating the transformation of social practices. Starting from the Scottish city of Aberdeen as the centre of the declining British oil industry, I analyse how its tone setting local hydrogen strategy is implicated in local networks of power. Creating hopeful futures for some and substantial losses for others, the case study raises question about the justice of the transition process that are informing further participatory research in Aberdeenshire.