Brian Black in Milan
Image: Penn State

Brian Black speaks at Transitions in Energy conference in Italy

Brian Black, distinguished professor of history and environmental studies, recently traveled to Milan, Italy, for the Transitions in Energy symposium, which seeks to question future historical research perspectives on past energy transitions. Black, who writes broadly about energy history, spoke specifically about the transition to fossil fuels in 19th century America. His paper “Harpoon to Derrick: Lessons from an Energy Transition of the 1860s,” is part of the book that he is currently writing about petroleum in American life. This paper uses the 1860s shift in illuminants from whale oil to kerosene made from petroleum to create a template for understanding other energy transitions throughout history.