Field’s research took him to Houston, whose position as the centre of US oil finance has been strengthened by the growth of shale oil production in Texas.  It involved meeting bankers, private equity investors, accountants, lawyers and financial consultants, a vital but underexamined part of the US oil system.

He explains: “Private equity firms work by soliciting investment funds which go into smaller oil and gas companies. These companies led the shale revolution by means of unconventional drilling technology.”

The executives Field met, he says: “Mostly think hydrocarbon extraction is a good thing, generating jobs, wealth and progress. They take pride in what they do and are optimistic, which is important given the industry’s boom and bust cycles.”

These oil industry participants use financial tools and metrics to understand the future, and tend to think of value in financial terms. But Field finds that these tools double as devices that make ethical sense of the world, perhaps by helping decide whether a particular pipeline should be built or oil well be drilled.

He adds that this community includes climate change skeptics who oppose renewable energy, and those who accept its importance. Still others accept that hydrocarbons are on the way out, but will be needed for a few more profitable decades.

Photo credit: Vlad Busuioc