Energy and the State

AHA Session 161
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Clarendon Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Meg Jacobs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thomas Andrews, University of Colorado at Denver

Session Abstract

Energy systems have long been shaped by the state. Of course, “the state” is not a single or monolithic entity, nor is it static over time. The same can be said of energy systems, which come in a remarkable variety of forms. The papers in this panel reflect this diversity, examining the ways the military, regulatory agencies, state legislatures, city councils, and the federal government have acted as consumers, critics, defenders, regulators, and boosters of coal, oil, and wind energy. We address these topics from a range of times, places, and perspectives. Peter Shulman emphasizes the role of the United States Navy as a consumer of coal and the efforts it undertook to ensure a reliable supply around the globe. Christopher Jones examines city and state government actions that shaped the transport of oil during the nineteenth century. Robert Lifset analyzes the choices made by Oklahoma City regarding the development of oilfields within municipal boundaries. Nathaniel Deshmukh Towery studies the ways local, state, and federal governments have sought to appropriate the offshore resources of Nantucket Sound. The ultimate goal of this panel is to expand our understanding of the complex, nonlinear, and shifting relationships between states and energy systems. This task has both academic and policy implications. How states respond to our current energy challenges—wars in the Middle East, unequal global distributions, and the overarching threat of climate change—will shape humanity's future in profound ways. In a reactionary world in which our energy challenges are often reduced to sound bites, we hope to arrive at more nuanced conclusions about the possibilities and limitations of state intervention in energy systems, the historical contingencies that have shaped such actions, and the unintended consequences that have resulted.

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