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America’s Early Energy Sacrifice Zones

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Abstract:

Throughout world history, the production of energy has often come at great environmental cost. Environmental historians have demonstrated that mining coal, drilling for oil, damming rivers, ‘fracking’ for natural gas, and storing spent nuclear fuel have created what can be called “sacrifice zones”: landscapes whose ecosystems are exploited and often made inhospitable to suit the voracious energy appetite of homo energeticus.

My paper extends our understanding of the causes and consequences of sacrifice zones by analyzing the multiple geographies of environmental damage in America’s first energy transitions: the rising use of coal, oil, and electricity in the mid-Atlantic region between 1820 and 1930. Sacrifice zones, I show, were not limited to sites of production. By tracing the movement of energy along transport networks, I explore the varying environmental impacts at four locations—production regions, transport routes, processing centers, and consumption nodes.

This paper makes three arguments about energy sacrifice zones. The first is that transport infrastructure systems concentrate many of the environmental harms of energy production in rural areas by giving urban consumers easy access to the benefits of energy without experiencing the ecological costs of its production. The second complicates the rural/urban divide by examining the environmental costs of energy processing that often happen in liminal zones at the edge of cities at coal wharves, oil refineries, and electricity generating stations. The third is that material differences between energy sources shape the environmental consequences at sites of consumption; heating and lighting homes with coal, oil, and electricity, for example, exposed users to different types and levels of pollutants.
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Association:
Name: ASEH Conference – San Francisco
URL:
http://aseh.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p680502_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Jones, Christopher. "America’s Early Energy Sacrifice Zones" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Conference – San Francisco, Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel, San Francisco, California, <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p680502_index.html>

APA Citation:

Jones, C. "America’s Early Energy Sacrifice Zones" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Conference – San Francisco, Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel, San Francisco, California <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p680502_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: Throughout world history, the production of energy has often come at great environmental cost. Environmental historians have demonstrated that mining coal, drilling for oil, damming rivers, ‘fracking’ for natural gas, and storing spent nuclear fuel have created what can be called “sacrifice zones”: landscapes whose ecosystems are exploited and often made inhospitable to suit the voracious energy appetite of homo energeticus.

My paper extends our understanding of the causes and consequences of sacrifice zones by analyzing the multiple geographies of environmental damage in America’s first energy transitions: the rising use of coal, oil, and electricity in the mid-Atlantic region between 1820 and 1930. Sacrifice zones, I show, were not limited to sites of production. By tracing the movement of energy along transport networks, I explore the varying environmental impacts at four locations—production regions, transport routes, processing centers, and consumption nodes.

This paper makes three arguments about energy sacrifice zones. The first is that transport infrastructure systems concentrate many of the environmental harms of energy production in rural areas by giving urban consumers easy access to the benefits of energy without experiencing the ecological costs of its production. The second complicates the rural/urban divide by examining the environmental costs of energy processing that often happen in liminal zones at the edge of cities at coal wharves, oil refineries, and electricity generating stations. The third is that material differences between energy sources shape the environmental consequences at sites of consumption; heating and lighting homes with coal, oil, and electricity, for example, exposed users to different types and levels of pollutants.


Similar Titles:
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China, Latin America, and the United States: The Political Economy of Energy Policy in the Americas


 
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