It's a Gas! Petroleum and Energy Transitions in American Life

February 13, 2006
It’s a Gas! Petroleum and Energy Transitions in American Life
Stern Center, Great Room

It's a Gas
Issue in Context
The global petroleum industry was born in the Appalachian Basin in Titusville, Pennsylvania when the first well was drilled in the summer of 1859. At the time, nobody could have predicted that the discovery of this resource would result in an era of unparalleled growth and development. Since then, the use of petroleum as a source of energy has become a defining characteristic of the 20th century.

However, with the dawn of the 21st century some concern has begun to surface about surging oil prices. It is said that inexpensive energy fueled the “American century” of growth and development. With the end of the era of inexpensive energy, we face either a future of high cost energy or transition to more affordable energy sources.

Dr. Black examines where petroleum-based living has carried us during the 20th century and takes a glance towards the future to come to terms with our current petroleum conundrum.

About the Speaker
Brian Black teaches history and environmental studies at Pennsylvania State University, Altoona. His research emphasis is on the landscape and environmental history of North America, particularly in relation to the application and use of energy and technology.

He is the author of four books, including the prize-winning Petrolia: The Landscape of America’s First Oil Boom, published in 2003 by Johns Hopkins University Press, and has written essays and articles published in more than twenty books and journals. His editorials or essays have also been published in the USA Today, the Christian Science Monitor, and the regional newspapers.

Black has received grants or support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute, the Pennsylvania Department of the Environment, Beeke-Levy Foundation, and the NEH. At the state level, Black works with the Pennsylvania History and Museums Commission as an advisor and consultant and also served as editor of Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies. At Pennsylvania State University, Altoona, Black teaches U.S. history and serves as co-coordinator of the college’s Environmental Studies program, which offers Penn State’s only four-year degree in this field.
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