Energy History and Policy Roundtable: Introduction
In collaboration with H-Energy editors Bob Lifset and Tammy Nemeth, I am pleased to present a roundtable discussion on the interconnections between energy history and policy. In the emails that follow, you will see a number of opinion pieces responding to the prompt, “What do energy historians have to tell President Obama about creating a new energy policy for the United States?”
The short answer is: a lot. Historical thinking pervades energy policy discussions, as can be seen by calls for a Manhattan Project for renewable energy or the idea of freezing CO2 emissions at the output rate of a particular date. The following pieces by Bob Lifset, Peter Shulman, Tyler Priest, and David Nye make it clear that energy historians can shed light on a wide range of subjects, from understanding the Copenhagen summit to off-shore drilling, natural gas policy, and the many scales of energy policy.
Of course, these are just four voices, and there is much more to be said. You may not fully agree with the opinions of these writers. In fact, I hope you have strong reactions, both positive and negative, and express them clearly (and respectfully). The point of this roundtable is to stimulate a broader discussion among energy historians. I encourage you to reply to the list with your reflections. Consider, for instance:
- What arguments did you find most convincing? Do you have a different take on the issues?
- If you had thirty seconds with President Obama, what policy suggestion(s) would you make? Does it connect with your historical analysis, and if so, how?
- What are the best forums for energy historians to relate their insights? (As a side note, we are all aware that a listserv of energy historians involves some amount of preaching to the choir, but it provides a good starting point. Where might we go next?) Who are the appropriate audiences?
- What other connections between energy history and the contemporary world would you be interested in reading about or discussing in future roundtables? Some possibilities include the future of nuclear energy, the social implications of peak oil, carbon tax versus cap and trade, and renewable energy policy.
I hope you enjoy, are stimulated, and use this as an opportunity to post your own thoughts!
Christopher Jones is a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. He is currently working on a manuscript titled Energy Landscapes, an environmental and technological history of coal canals, oil pipelines, and electricity transmission wires in the American mid-Atlantic, 1820-1930.