This paper argues that existing critiques of technical fixes are unable to explain our simultaneous enamourment and distrust with technical fixes, and that to do so, we need a political economy analysis. We develop a critical, theoretically grounded conceptualisation of technical fixes as imagined defensive spatio-temporal fixes of specific political economic regimes, and apply it to the case of geoengineering, or ‘clean fossil’, as an attempted technical fix of the climate change problem. We map the promises of clean fossil as proposed solutions to the problem of climate change in discrete episodes since the 1960s.
The paper shows that clean fossil promises have been surprisingly poorly aligned with the neoliberal regime, and explains how they have been moderately stable due to those misalignments. We also show that different liberal capitalisms could be supported by different clean fossil technologies, but also that illiberal or more egalitarian regimes remain possible alongside particular, perhaps radically re-envisioned, versions of clean fossil. Ambivalence towards clean fossil technical fix promises is intelligible, given the inherent instability of their co-evolution with neoliberalism and future political regimes.
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Energy Research and Social Science. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Energy Research and Social Science, 23, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2016.11.004