In this thesis I develop a generalized framework for understanding the relationship between politics and the observation of the future for sustainable energy and use it to explore the connections between politics and controversy surrounding a prominent energy future report. Given that the ‘observation’ of the future is instrumentally oriented towards bringing more information into present processes of decision-making, thereby intending to shape the very thing that they observe, I explore conventional perspectives on the relationship between politics and technology as an analogue for futures.
Following a review of the underlying concept of the political, I adopt an approach in which politics is conceived of as 'distinction', thus noting that controversy is a reliable indicator of politicization. I then use this framework to explore the connection between politics and controversy surrounding the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook. Tracing the emergence of a controversy surrounding this report, I identify three main political themes or allegations (bias, corruption, and irresponsibility) and explore the conditions of their politicization through a
series of interviews with key stakeholders in the controversy. I then explore four sites of contention through which these allegations are expressed. I conclude by discussing the findings of the 'internal' perspective with the 'external' framework, reflecting on my two primary research questions. Based both on the theoretical argument and the findings of the empirical investigation, I will argue that at the root of the politics of the future for sustainable energy is a question of realism: that is, what is or is not realistic to see, hope, or do about the future for