Date of Award

December 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Matthew T. Huber


Capitalist State, Climate Change, Federal Power Commission, Historical Geography, Natural Gas, Political Ecology

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


In the 1930s U.S., a set of social forces and crises pushed forward state energy regulation. As states struggle to end greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil fuels, the threat of climate change demands new explanations for how energy policy emerges. In this dissertation, I explain the period of U.S. natural gas regulation between 1938 and 1978 from critical political economy and Marxist state theoretical perspectives. My main conclusion is that the capitalist state stabilizes markets for energy to serve capital with an auxiliary means of production. Based on that conclusion, I recommend that Marxist state theory be class-centered, i.e., recognize that the agency of mass movements and state workers to reform the capitalist state is structurally constrained by the state’s role of maintaining capitalist class relations. In the introduction I explain how it is important to consider capital-gas relations because natural gas is a greenhouse gas and burning of gas by capital is causing climate change. In chapter one I explain how energy is a means of production, how the state relates to it and the class politics that result when the state allows markets to provision energy. In chapter two I show how, why, and for whom the state stabilized natural gas markets during the Great Depression. In chapter three I argue that the state governed natural gas for capital as a whole instead of fractions of capital in the postwar period. In chapter four I argue that the state allowed gas into markets previously served by coal because it strengthened capital’s control over the means of production. In chapter five I argue that state gas law throughout the Fordist-Keynesian period locked industrial and commercial capital into patterns of high natural gas consumption. Along the way I engage with academic debates and literatures from energy studies, value theory and political ecology, among others. I conclude with a suggestion for state-energy relations that could replace capitalist state-energy relations and explain why that replacement is necessary given the threat of climate change.


Open Access