Tar Sands

TAR SANDS Tar sands-based crude oil is on the verge of becoming a primary resource for the world’s petroleum-based economy.  Largely flowing out of the Canadian province of Alberta, the development of the resource is proceeding in a piecemeal fashion with various elements of the necessary infrastructure being constructed without a well-understood or stated connection to the larger enterprise.  The result is a regulatory framework that lacks coherence and an oppositional environment characterized by numerous independent efforts directed at specific and localized projects.  Over the last several years, members of the Political Science department have authored a number of papers that examine various facets of this development process. 

The initial work on this project focused on the construction of an infrastructure that has made Minnesota and the Upper Midwest particularly dependent upon Alberta crude.  We then turned to a careful examination of the oppositional space that has emerged in response to tar sands development.  Much of this work is based on social network analysis, a method that allows us to look very deeply at the collaborative activity occurring amongst various organizations, in this case some 300 organizations participating in twenty-three actions.  Forthcoming work will focus on a regulatory structure that while complex and disjointed nonetheless offers proponents of further development the greatest opportunity for success.

Publications and Presentations:

“Tar Sands, Oppositional Spaces, and Regional Integration.” In preparation. Steven M. Hoffman, Randolph Haluza-Delay, and Joseph Janochoski.  European Journal of American Studies.

“Many Pieces, One System:  Regulatory Fragmentation and the Political Economy of Tar Sands.”  2014. Steven M. Hoffman. To be presented at the meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association.

“If the Rivers Ran South: Tar Sands and the State of the Canadian Nation.” Steven M. Hoffman, Thibault Martin and Jessyca Champagne (University of Quebec, Ottawa).  In John McNeill and George Vrtis, editors. Mining North America. University of California—Berkeley Press.   Anticipated publication date: 2014.

“Structuring an Opposition: Coalitions and the Development of Alberta’s Tar Sands.” 2013. Maria E. Dahmus and Steven M. Hoffman. “Presented at the International Symposium for Society and Resource Management. Estes Park, Colorado.

“Bedfellows and Other Strangers:  Tar Sands, Coalitions and Oppositional Rhetoric.”  2013. Steven M. Hoffman and Maria E. Dahmus. Presented at the Meetings of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Lawrence, Kansas.

An Unconventional Future: Tar Sands and the Next Stage of the Petroleum Economy.  November, 2012. Steven M. Hoffman. Invited Lecturer. School of Construction Management and Engineering.  University of Reading, United Kingdom.

“Hijacking Canada: Tar Sands and Oppositional Movements.” 2012. Steven M. Hoffman. Presented at Petrocultures, sponsored by University of Alberta.

“A Legacy of Dependence: Minnesota, Alberta and the Coming Tar Sands Future.” 2012. Steven M. Hoffman. Presented at Minnesota’s Environmental History, sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN.  To be published in Minnesota’s Environmental History. University of Pittsburgh Press. Anticipated publication date: 2014.


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