In petro-states, the governance of flows of oil and oil money is vital to state legitimacy (e.g., regulations, contracts with companies, social compensation in sites of oil extraction). This article explores how contemporary oil price volatility shapes oil governance and the terms of petro-state legitimacy in Ecuador. In recent years, a technocratic, populist regime, led by President Rafael Correa, promised to return national oil resources to “the people” and inaugurate a “postneoliberal” era of sovereign, oil-driven development. The performance of this promise, through augmented public spending, was contingent on international oil prices. We track the emergence of what we call a speculative petro-state, in which state actors claimed to successfully gamble on volatile markets on behalf of the nation, as an emergent strategy for cultivating popular legitimacy. Such claims took the form of petro-populist discourses and practices. First, the Correa administration characterized new contractual relations with oil companies and capital as evidence of Correa’s leadership in complex oil markets, seeking political legitimacy for the state through perceptions of Correa’s personal capacity to manage market risk. Second, as prices surged, the Correa administration channeled rents into building spectacular public works or “petro-populist landscapes,” as material verification of Correa’s petro-leadership in volatile markets. We track how market risk management became one key organizing factor of populist rule in Ecuador and we analyze how this case illuminates relations between populist politics and economic spheres. Key Words: Ecuador, governance, oil price, resource populism, volatility.