A remarkable and welcome contribution to scholarly work available on energy transitions. It tells hidden histories and counternarratives around climate change, the history of environmentalism, nuclear energy, and nuclear risk. It illustrates the fraught, complex, contested, and nonlinear nature of energy transitions and how it can inform the current transition. A must-read for any energy historian.
Over the past 250 years, energy transitions have occurred repeatedly—the rise of coal in the nineteenth century, the explosion of oil in the twentieth century, the nuclear utopianism of the 1950s and 1960s. These transitions have been as revolutionary as any political or economic upheaval, and they required changes in infrastructure and behavior. Yet new energies never wholly replace old ones. This volume historicizes energy production and consumption while demonstrating how energy use has reshaped everything from social life and economic organization to political governance. It foregrounds the importance of energy for big historical questions about capitalism, democracy, inequality, the environment, and identity, and it argues that energy systems themselves merit attention as key agents of historical change. Given the urgency of climate change, and the central position that energy plays in causing and potentially solving global warming, this volume engages history as a discipline in the debate over what may be most monumental energy transition of all time: the shift away from fossil fuels.
Battles over energy are at the heart of modern economic and political systems. New Energies illuminates the complex history of energy transitions and points toward broad transformations resulting from a move away from fossil fuels. Theoretically engaged and conceptually wide-ranging, these stimulating essays will help provoke fresh approaches to energy studies.
Andrew Needham is associate professor of history at New York University. He is the author of Power Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest and coeditor of Indian Cities: Histories of Indigenous Urbanization.
Stephen G. Gross is associate professor of history and the director of the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at New York University. He is the author of Export Empire: German Soft Power in Southeastern Europe, 1890–1945 and Germany in the Age of Oil, Atoms, and Climate Change.