In the 1980s, engineers developed new ways to use one of humanity's oldest fuel sources—wood—to create electrical power. This article uses envirotechnical analysis to examine the development of a wood-burning power plant in Flint, Michigan, and argues that when public officials began working with major energy corporations to build industrial biomass facilities in the 1980s and 1990s, new energy technologies designed to run on renewable fuels became part of an entrenched fossil fuel–based power structure that maintained deep historical inequalities. Like other examples of environmental injustice, the burdens of industrial-scale biomass power systems tended to fall on poor, nonwhite communities. By exploring the creation of the Genesee Power Station as part of an envirotechnical regime in Flint, this research seeks to develop conceptual bridges between the history of technology, environmental history, and environmental justice, and demonstrates the use of history to inform contemporary debates about sustainability.


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pp. 875-898
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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