CAREER: Political-Industrial Ecology of Petrochemicals: Energy Metabolism, Landscapes and Governance

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will investigate regional transformation associated with resource development in shale gas basins. Petrochemicals in these regions are produced by chemically processing ethane, a by-product contained in shale gas, into inputs for manufacturing plastics. This project will study social and environmental relationships through the following activities: 1) analyze the potential environmental impacts along petrochemical supply chains; 2) stakeholder workshops with government, industry, civil society, and academic representatives to identify diverse perspectives on petrochemical development; 3) create an immersive virtual fieldtrip of petrochemical corridors; 4) design an online course on the energy history of shale gas basins; and draw on research, outreach and education components to identify potential negative socio-environmental outcomes of petrochemical development and mechanisms to mitigate those impacts.

The project will utilize theory and methods from political-industrial ecology, an emerging sub-field of geography. Political-industrial ecology aims to consider natural resource development in relation to their broader political-economic, historic, and environmental contexts. Through this political-industrial ecology framework the project will: A) produce a spatially explicit material and energy flow analysis of the petrochemical supply chain; B) develop a comparative governance analysis of the different federal, state, municipal regulations and private governance practices regulating petrochemical corridors; and C) perform scenario analysis of alternative governance arrangements that consider systemic risk and cumulative impacts. Collectively, the project will create a novel understanding of the inter-relationships between environmental systems, livelihoods and regulatory practices in petrochemical producing regions.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date8/15/227/31/27


  • National Science Foundation: $56,201.00


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