Oilandscapes. The reconversion of fossil fuels meshes as “green energy backbones” for the territorial restructuring of the third industrial revolution

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Fossil fuels industry has always been carrier of huge spatial transformations: first of all, because the extraction of carbon-fossil resources requires the investment of huge amounts of funds to deploy a widespread infrastructural network, and secondly, because the associated industrialization process deeply contributed in the definition of new urban morphologies and settlements. We could affirm that fossil fuels and industrial revolutions represent two sides of the same coin. Since the end of XVIII century, the two industrial revolutions have been dominated by a fossil fuels’ monopoly in terms of energetic production, firstly driven by coal-based activities and later by oil. As already known, hydrocarbon resources are not equally and democratically distributed in the subsoil, and this has created over the centuries some vertical dependences between fossil fuels suppliers and consumers, which completely redefined the geo-political equilibrium among countries. One of the most remarkable effects of this unbalanced distribution of fossil resources in the subsoil had been, especially during the first industrial revolution, the territorial attractiveness of hydrocarbon-rich territories for the settlement of huge heavy industry sites. The consequent high concentration of employment reshaped the territorial hierarchies among population, countryside, urban areas and infrastructures. The aim of the first part of the paper is to investigate about the role that fossil fuels industry played in the definition of territorial hierarchies during the first and the second industrial revolutions. The analysis will be led through a comparative study of some GIS cartographies of two renowned European territories: the “Ruhr region” and the “central Veneto region”. In the second part of the paper, we will focus in a more proactive way on the “oil mesh of the North-Eastern Po valley” and wonder about how fossil fuels infrastructures could be “deengineered”, albeit maintaining their energy production identity, and imagined as “green infrastructures”, so becoming those landscape articulators which can foster the dialogue across territorial, urban and architectural scales thanks to their new socio-ecological role. The “scenario building” (Viganò, 2012 and Sijmons, 2014) will root its beliefs, assumptions and constraints around the vision of the “energetic transition towards the third industrial revolution” which, as advocated by the American economist J. Rifkin (2011), envisages a massive shift towards new renewable and territorially distributed forms of energy production.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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