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Routes of Power

Routes of Power

Christopher F. Jones
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Routes of Power
    Book Description:

    The fossil fuel revolution is usually a tale of advances in energy production. Christopher Jones tells a tale of advances in energy access--canals, pipelines, wires delivering cheap, abundant power to cities at a distance from production sites. Between 1820 and 1930 these new transportation networks set the U.S. on a path to fossil fuel dependence.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-41961-2
    Subjects: History, Economics, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Americans have been the world’s most profligate energy consumers for more than a century. During this period, copious quantities of coal, oil, and electricity have been used to manufacture goods, propel vehicles, illuminate the dark, increase agricultural yields, and provide entertainment. This ever-increasing reliance on energy has helped the United States become the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nation. It has also given its citizens unparalleled access to creature comforts. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, Americans can be cool in the summer and warm in the winter, fly thousands of miles in a few hours, savor produce grown...

  4. 1 Coal’s Liquid Pathways
    (pp. 23-58)

    Sometime in the fall of 1820, a group of men piloting crude wooden rafts piled with coal pulled into a wharf on the eastern side of Philadelphia. In one sense, there was nothing remarkable about their journey: farmers, traders, and lumbermen had been rafting goods down the Delaware River to the region’s main trading center for decades. Upon closer inspection, however, two things were unusual. First, the boatmen had begun their expedition on the recently improved Lehigh River, a waterway whose steep falls, shallow pools, and jutting rocks had previously frustrated attempts to deliver goods from the Lehigh Valley. Several...

  5. 2 The Anthracite Energy Transition
    (pp. 59-88)

    In 1851, prince albert and the British Royal Society of Arts invited manufacturers from around the world to display their crafts in England at The Great Exhibition of The Works of Industry of All Nations. Soon known as the Crystal Palace Exhibition, in reference to the giant iron and glass structure created by Joseph Paxton to house the exhibits, the event was a tremendous sensation. Millions of people visited the fair between May and October to see manufactured goods, scientific instruments, and cultural displays; it was so well attended that its profits endowed educational funds and museums. Moreover, as the...

  6. 3 Pennsylvania’s Petroleum Boom
    (pp. 89-122)

    On August 27, 1859, a remarkable event occurred in a remote area of western Pennsylvania: Edwin Drake and his driller William Smith struck oil. Unlike the spewing geyser of crude oil typically depicted in movies, their discovery was far less dramatic. In fact, it took a full day before they realized their good fortune. Because it was late in the afternoon on a Saturday, the men stopped work to observe the Sabbath. They had reached a depth of sixty-nine feet and the drill bit had just slipped an extra six inches through a crevice in the rock. Drake returned to...

  7. 4 Pipelines and Power
    (pp. 123-160)

    On June 4, 1879, a large crowd gathered in “intense excitement” to witness the world’s first test of a long-distance oil pipeline. As early evening began to settle in the central Pennsylvania town of Williamsport, they heard a “strange” and “distinctly audible” noise as air was forced out of the pipe. A few minutes later, a steady flow of oil began to pour into the collecting tank below. The assembled group began to cheer loudly and filled small bottles with petroleum to take home as souvenirs. Byron Benson and other offi cers of the Tide-Water Pipe Company gave brief speeches...

  8. 5 Taming the Susquehanna River
    (pp. 161-194)

    On October 14, 1910, Mayor J. Barry Mahool of Baltimore stood before a crowd gathered at the newly completed Holtwood Dam on the Susquehanna River. With much fanfare, he turned a knob on the power house and declared “the big Susquehanna River is now working for Baltimore.”¹ A “pulsating” current of electricity was sent forty miles in an instant and it was reported that lights were burning in Baltimore before the spectators even had a chance to applaud. A newspaper journalist predicted that “the waters of Pennsylvania’s great river will light the streets, drive the trolley cars, and run the...

  9. 6 The Electrification of America
    (pp. 195-226)

    On june 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was shot by a Serbian nationalist while visiting Sarajevo. A reserved man with little charisma, Ferdinand was not particularly loved in his native land. Nevertheless, his assassination led Austria-Hungary to issue an audacious ten-point ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia. When two of the terms were not met, Austria-Hungary invaded on July 28. Buoyed by a complicated series of alliances, the conflict spread quickly across Europe. Germany invaded Belgium, Luxembourg, and France; Britain declared war against Germany; and Russia attacked Austria-Hungary and Germany. Soon the Ottoman Empire,...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 227-240)

    Since 1930, the radical transformations in energy practices ushered in during the preceding century have been deepened and extended. Electricity production in America grew more than ten-fold between 1950 and 2000 while oil consumption practically tripled in the same period. Even though most people associate coal with the nineteenth century, its use nearly doubled in the second half of the twentieth century as well.¹ In America, as in the rest of the industrialized world, coal, oil, and electricity heat and cool our homes, transport us in cars and planes, and power the devices we use for work and play. We...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 241-296)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 297-300)
  13. Index
    (pp. 301-312)