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Energy Capitals

Energy Capitals: Local Impact, Global Influence

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    Energy Capitals
    Book Description:

    Fossil fuels propelled industries and nations into the modern age and continue to powerfully influence economies and politics today. AsEnergy Capitalsdemonstrates, 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. Chapters show how local and national politics, social structures, technological advantages, education systems, capital, infrastructure, labor force, supply and demand, and other factors have affected the ability of a region to develop and control its own fossil fuel reserves. The contributors also view the environmental impact of energy industries and demonstrate how, in the depletion of reserves or a shift to new energy sources, regions have or have not been able to recover economically.The cities of Tampico, Mexico, and Port Gentil, Gabon, have seen their oil deposits exploited by international companies with little or nothing to show in return and at a high cost environmentally. At the opposite extreme, Houston, Texas, has witnessed great economic gain from its oil, natural gas, and petrochemical industries. Its growth, however, has been tempered by the immense strain on infrastructure and the human transformation of the natural environment. In another scenario, Perth, Australia, Calgary, Alberta, and Stavanger, Norway have benefitted as the closest established cities with administrative and financial assets for energy production that was developed hundreds of miles away.Whether coal, oil, or natural gas, the essays offer important lessons learned over time and future considerations for the best ways to capture the benefits of energy development while limiting the cost to local populations and environments.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7922-7
    Subjects: Technology, History

Table of Contents

    (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.

    Energy Capitals: Local Influence, Global Impactspeaks to the intersection of fossil-fuel production and use and urbanization in specific locations around the...

  2. PART I. Blessed by Fossil Fuels?: Pittsburgh, Houston, Louisiana, and Los Angeles

    • [PART I. Introduction]
      (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 century to manage the trade associated with the gold rushes in their respective hinterlands.¹ What distinguishes energy capitals from other resource capitals has been the transformative and persistent power of fossil fuels. InSomething New under the Sun, John McNeill argues that by the twentieth century, humans became...

    • 1 Pittsburgh as an Energy Capital: Perspectives on Coal and Natural Gas Transitions and the Environment
      (pp. 5-29)
      Joel A. Tarr and Karen Clay

      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 development, settlement, population, and labor force composition. Its mining and consumption also drove the environmental contamination and physical alteration of land and water, as well as seriously polluting the air. Without coal and the advantages of its location, Pittsburgh would not...

    • 2 The Energy Capital of the World? Oil-Led Development in Twentieth-Century Houston
      (pp. 30-57)
      Martin V. Melosi and Joseph A. Pratt

      Although incorporated in 1836, modern Houston is the product of oil-led 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 the “Energy Capital of the World” is more than a hollow brag. In an age when oil and natural gas still dominate the world’s energy supply, the Houston region contains the oldest, largest, and most diverse complex...

    • 3 Making a Lemon Out of Lemonade: Louisiana’s Petrochemical Corridor
      (pp. 58-76)
      Craig E. Colten

      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. Small-scale, dispersed industrial activity was a fundamental component of a largely rural agrarian economy hugging the banks of the massive river.

      New Orleans in 1900 was the twelfth-largest city in the country and functioned as a classic mercantile city. Bankers and cotton factors...

    • 4 Los Angeles, the Energy Capital of Southern California
      (pp. 77-90)
      Sarah S. Elkind

      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 historians credit with energizing the 1970s environmental movement, at least in California. Cases could be made, too, for naming Hoover Dam, or perhaps the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, as California energy capitals because of the controversies that surrounded their...

  3. PART II. Distant yet Central?: Perth, Calgary, and Stavanger

    • [PART II. Introduction]
      (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 Calgary (Canada), Stavanger (Norway), and Perth (Australia) emerged as energy capitals despite their distance from initial refining locations, their late entry in the industry, the absence of significant manufacturing within their boundaries, and their remoteness from later oil discoveries. Instead, their business...

    • 5 Scoping Perth as an Energy Capital
      (pp. 95-110)
      Jenny Gregory

      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.

      This chapter first provides a brief overview of the history of mining booms in Western Australia and their impact on the state capital, Perth; second, outlines the history of resource industries—coal, gas, and...

    • 6 At Arm’s Length: Energy and the Construction of a Peripheral Prairie Petrometropolis
      (pp. 111-126)
      Matthew N. Eisler

      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 resources of this vast area have shaped the economy, built space, mythos, and culture of this frontier city and modern Canada. But it has been only since the early 1970s that Calgary began a remarkable rise from...

    • 7 Oil Shocks in an Oil City: The View from Stavanger, Norway, 1973–2008
      (pp. 127-142)
      Gunnar Nerheim

      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 national oil capitals. After World War II and until the early 1970s oil prices were stable at around $3 a barrel. During the last forty years, however, both producers and consumers have had to come to grips...

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

    • [PART III. Introduction]
      (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 maturity of the region when the key resource is discovered and developed, but also on the status of the larger industry at the time. Regions that possessed accommodating but ineffective or corrupt governments, lacked local financial resources to stake...

    • 8 Tampico, Mexico: The Rise and Decline of an Energy Metropolis
      (pp. 147-158)
      Myrna Santiago

      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 longer on that list. Its moment as an energy capital was short-lived but intense. Between 1900 and 1924 the city was the magnet that attracted resources from a globalizing world. It consumed habitats and nature from its immediate...

    • 9 Port-Gentil: From Forestry Capital to Energy Capital
      (pp. 159-180)
      Douglas A. Yates

      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 town dwellers dressed in rags, marching in anger against their corrupt and patrimonial regime. “GABON RAMPAGE AFTER POLL RESULTS” headlined the BBC, giving these riots a political interpretation: “Opposition activists clashed with security forces, after election results confirmed Ali Ben Bongo with 42% of...

  5. CONCLUSION. Comparative Perspectives on Energy Capitals
    (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 nations that have not benefited from the discovery of oil, but have instead paid significant social costs.¹ The majority of the cases in this volume examine regions in which the production,...