It is evident that our climate system is in breakdown, due to the global warming that has been caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels. The solution to this urgent challenge has often been presented as one of changing consumer behaviour — through carbon taxes and educating the public to use less energy (changing lightbulbs etc.), particularly fossil fuels. This presentation considers the role that large corporations and their political and cultural allies have played in both generating the climate crisis and legitimizing continued burning of carbon. From this angle, the solution to the climate crisis obliges us to confront corporate power and to move toward energy democracy, transforming corporate power into energy systems that operate in the public interest.


William Carroll is a critical sociologist at the University of Victoria with research interests in the political economy/ecology of corporate capitalism, social movements and social change, and critical social theory and method. His current research is focused around the relationships between corporate power, fossil capitalism and the climate crisis. He co-directs “Mapping the power of the carbon-extractive corporate resource sector,” an SSHRC-funded partnership of several universities and civil-society organizations which traces the modalities of corporate power and resistance within the global political economy, focusing on fossil capital based in western Canada.

Resource List

William Carroll (editor), Regime of Obstruction: How Corporate Power Blocks Energy Democracy, 2021.

Joel Kovel, The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?, 2002.

The Corporate Mapping Project, an academic and community-led initiative investigating the influence and power of the fossil fuel industry in Canada.

Matthew Huber, Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital, 2013.