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Energy Capitals

Local Impact, Global Influence

edited by Joseph A. Pratt, Martin V. Melosi, and Kathleen A. Brosnan

Publication Year: 2014

Fossil fuels propelled industries and nations into the modern age and continue to powerfully influence economies and politics today. As Energy Capitals demonstrates, the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels has proven to be a mixed blessing in many of the cities and regions where it has occurred. With case studies from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Norway, Africa, and Australia, this volume views a range of older and more recent energy capitals, contrasts their evolutions, and explores why some capitals were able to influence global trends in energy production and distribution while others failed to control even their own destinies.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: History of the Urban Environment

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xxii

The cities in this volume represent important energy capitals in the fossil-fuel era. Indeed, in their own ways they have played, and some still do play, important roles in the production, processing, and transfer of hydrocarbon energy sources. In turn, fossil fuels have had significant impacts on them. The relationship between the coal and petroleum industries and these cities/regions not only represents an economic connection with a global reach, but major political, social, and environmental links as well...

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Part I. Blessed by Fossil Fuels? Pittsburgh, Houston, Louisiana, and Los Angeles

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pp. 1-4

Historically, cities have built up around exploitable resources. Urban entrepreneurs competed to control the harvesting, processing, and distribution of the earth’s mineral wealth. Nearby salt mines, for example, allowed Salzburg (Austria) to dominate regional commerce for centuries, while “instant cities” such as San Francisco and Denver (United States) appeared in the mid-nineteenth...

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1. Pittsburgh as an Energy Capital: Perspectives on Coal and Natural Gas Transitions and the Environment

Joel A. Tarr and Karen Clay

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pp. 5-29

Throughout most of its history Pittsburgh has been closely identified with the fossil fuel coal as a source of both industrial progress and of environmental degradation. Located on top of the high-quality Pittsburgh bituminous coal seam, the city’s businesses, industries, residents, railroads, and steamboats benefited from the high-energy and easily available fuel. Coal has shaped the pattern of industrial...

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2. The Energy Capital of the World?: Oil-Led Development in Twentieth-Century Houston

Martin V. Melosi and Joseph A. Pratt

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pp. 30-57

Although incorporated in 1836, modern Houston is the product of oilled development in the twentieth century, when the southeast Texas town grew into a full-scale metropolis. Houston is currently the fourth largest American city in population and the largest in area, and it sits at the center of the tenth largest metropolitan area (in population) in the United States. Its self-proclaimed status as...

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3. Making a Lemon Out of Lemonade: Louisiana’s Petrochemical Corridor

Craig E. Colten

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pp. 58-76

A blended agricultural and industrial landscape dominated the lower Mississippi River floodplain in the late nineteenth century. Between Louisiana’s Gothic political capitol in Baton Rouge and the vibrant economic and social capital in New Orleans, sugar planters oversaw the cultivation of thousands of acres of sugarcane and managed the grinding mills that carried out the initial processing...

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4. Los Angeles, the Energy Capital of Southern California

Sarah S. Elkind

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pp. 77-90

Los Angeles has some competition for the title of Energy Capital of Southern California. Southern Kern County saw oil development before Los Angeles did; oil companies pioneered offshore oil drilling in Santa Barbara County. Opposition to oil drilling, too, is more associated with Santa Barbara than Los Angeles because of the massive 1969 blowout in Santa Barbara Channel, which many...

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Part II. Distant yet Central? Perth, Calgary, and Stravanger

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pp. 91-94

The U.S. energy capitals discussed in the prior section emerged as longstanding centers of production because of their proximity to the natural resources and because they possessed transportation networks, adequate capital sources, and the necessary business and political elite that allowed them to control the harvesting, processing, and distribution of those resources. Another group of cities, such as...

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5. Scoping Perth as an Energy Capital

Jenny Gregory

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pp. 95-110

Perth is a city that owes its prosperity to mining. It has witnessed successive mining booms—first in the 1890s, then the 1930s, the 1960s, and the 1980s, followed by the long boom since the turn of the twentieth-first century that appears to have saved the nation from the worst of the global financial crisis of 2009. Each boom has left its mark on the city...

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6. At Arm’s Length: Energy and the Construction of a Peripheral Prairie Petrometropolis

Matthew N. Eisler

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pp. 111-126

Rising from the southwestern foothills of the Canadian province of Alberta on the edge of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB), the northern portion of a vast geological formation occupying the heart of North America from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mackenzie River delta, Calgary is the headquarters of the Canadian oil industry. Over the last century, efforts to exploit the energy...

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7. Oil Shocks in an Oil City: The View from Stavanger, Norway, 1973–2008

Gunnar Nerheim

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pp. 127-142

During the twentieth century the oil industry became the world’s biggest and most pervasive business. From World War I until today oil as a commodity has been intertwined with national strategies, global politics, and war. Cities close to the production and processing of oil have naturally profited from the oil business regarding population growth and wealth. Some of these cities grew to become...

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Part III. Cursed by Oil?: Tampico and Port-Gentil

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pp. 143-146

The development of energy industries in any location carries with it benefits and costs. Whether a particular location can capture enough of the benefits—through the construction of infrastructure, the attraction of other industries, the recruitment and permanent residence of skilled workers, or the control of the generated wealth—to offset the costs depends, in part, on the economic and political...

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8. Tampico, Mexico: The Rise and Decline of an Energy Metropolis

Myrna Santiago

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pp. 147-158

There are cities in the world that have produced the energy that fuels the modern global industrial economies. Houston embodies the idea perfectly, as the premier energy capital in the United States today.1 Other cities in similar positions in the oil sector include Calgary, Alberta; Lagos, Nigeria; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Libreville, Gabon. Tampico, once Mexico’s most important oil port is no...

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9. Port-Gentil: From Forestry Capital to Energy Capital

Douglas A. Yates

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pp. 159-180

On September 3, 2009, violent riots broke out in Port-Gentil. Suddenly the world focused its attention on this undersized Atlantic seaport with its diminutive hovels and dumpy squats. Touted as the “oil capital” of Gabon, global television cameras instead revealed dirty markets, streets paved with garbage, pigmy doghouses, ramshackle sheds, and puny porticos from which swarmed...

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Conclusion: Comparative Perspectives on Energy Capitals

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pp. 181-196

The phrase “energy capitals” seems to strike a chord with scholars. In a world of oil shortages and debates over alternatives to oil, it has the ring of importance, the promise of relevance. But does it have analytical power? Can it help explain why some regions have benefited from energy-led development and others have not? In the recent past, a growing literature on the “oil curse” has focused on...


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pp. 197-250


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pp. 251-254


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pp. 255-266

E-ISBN-13: 9780822979227
E-ISBN-10: 0822979225
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822962663
Print-ISBN-10: 0822962667

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 15 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: History of the Urban Environment