This article considers the genealogies of the ‘bioeconomy’ by investigating shifting conceptions of life, debt and regeneration across the disciplines of biology and political economy. Returning to the post-industrial literature of the seventies, it seeks to understand how the perception of economic and ecological crisis fed into the US’s decision to promote life science innovation as the cutting edge of its new economic strategies. There is an intimate connection, it argues, between the world oil crisis, US debt and the speculative reinvention of life. In this context, a number of methodological and conceptual questions become imperative. When capital mobilizes the biological, how do we theorize the relationship between the creation of money (surplus from debt; futures from promise) and the technological recreation of life? When capitalism confronts the geochemical limits of the earth, where does it move? What is the space-time – the world – of late capitalism and where are its boundaries? What finally, becomes of the critique of political economy in an era in which biological, economic and ecological futures are so intimately entwined? And when the future itself is subject to all kinds of speculation?