Remington Steele and Carbon Capture and Storage. No, honestly.

remingtonsteeleThere was an episode of the 80s guilty-pleasure private eye show “Remington Steele” (starring Pierce Brosnan avant la 007) that has something to say about neo-institutional theory and economic sociology. Sort of.

The episode, called “Steele Knuckles, Glass Jaws” (the titles always had a pun on steel/still) has a boxer is trying to stay in a fight that he is supposed to throw, and needing advice.  Unfortunately, Remington Steele is not at the ringside, and his colleague can only recite Steele’s earlier generic advice.

“You just have to go back in there and hit him. You look for weaknesses, unprotected areas and wait for chances to score-”

The boxer needs something specific for the circumstances, but the expertise just is not present…

In the TV show, you’ll be shocked to learn, Steele turns up, gives the necessary advice and thus justice and order are restored before the final ad break.

In real life? Not so much.

The  coal industry has been getting a discursive pummelling from the scientists (stand up Jim “Coal-fired power stations are death factories. Close them” Hansen).  The burning of coal to generate electricity is thickening the blanket of carbon dioxide that is heating the planet.  In response to this charge of ecocide, from about 2003 to 2010 – with a peak in 2008, the industry and its political and ideological help-mates were keen on

“using technological promises to confer legitimacy or delay regulation”  (Geels, 2014: 269-70),

specifically around the long-touted hope of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

That hope has of late rubbed up against various physical and financial realities.  The Queensland venture ‘Zerogen’ folded in 2010 because the physical geography was wonky. The US ‘Futuregen’ project had its Department of Energy funding pulled (for the second time) in February 2015.

Rather like the hapless colleague in the TV show, the coal industry is still propounding unhelpful lines (see various speeches by Rio Tinto and BHP figures), because in terms of technological innovations that could keep the rule-making politicians and social movements at bay, what else have they got?

They could really do with a Remington Steele. Sadly, he’s as fictional as our hopes of a habitable planet 50 years hence…

[What do we learn from this?  I have a brain that retains all sorts of useless crap from 30 years ago.  It’s a drupal system designed by a demented monkey and maintained by an Alzheimic immortal goldfish.  So it goes.]


Geels , F. (2014) Reconceptualising the co-evolution of firms-in-industries and their environments: Developing an inter-disciplinary Triple Embeddedness Framework Research Policy 43 (2014) 261–277

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