UH Center for Public History Hosts Energy Capitals Workshop

Energy-led development has transformed a number of economies in cities across the world, driving infrastructure improvements, shaping labor markets and influencing educational institutions. But these "energy capitals," which include Houston, also face certain challenges in terms of environmental quality and public health.

Historians, social scientists and other energy experts, including Nobel laureate John Byrne, will explore these issues and others Friday and Saturday (May 21-22) at a workshop sponsored by the University of Houston's Center for Public History and funded by the National Science Foundation.  

"Energy Capitals: Local Impact, Global Influence," is free and open to the public both days. A complete schedule can be found at: http://www.history.uh.edu/energycaps/index.php.

Scholars will discuss the findings of 10 papers, each of which examined a specific energy capital _ cities and regions around the world with strong roles in energy production, distribution and/or technology. The papers detail the advantages and drawbacks of energy-led development in those cities.

"Houston has been called the energy capital of the United States and also the energy capital of the world," said Professor Martin Melosi, director of UH's Center for Public History and a Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor. "What happens here is instructive everywhere. And the city's higher education namesake is the place to ask the kinds of questions to be raised in this workshop."

"This (workshop) is a departure point, a place to begin the discussion," said Melosi, who added that a book may be published from the 10 papers. "This meeting is a place to begin asking questions about energy, the environment and urbanization _ what is the intersection of those issues?"

Professor Joseph Pratt, a NEH Cullen Chair of History and Business, said scholars and policymakers "have increasingly recognized the importance of and the need for a collective global effort to understand the common problems raised by energy-led development. Houston can become a leader in this area."

Melosi and Pratt will lead Friday's discussion titled: "The Energy Capital of the World?: Oil-Led Development in Twentieth-Century Houston." 

Byrne, who was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former President Al Gore for their efforts to raise awareness of global warming, will lead Saturday's discussions on Port Gentil, Gabon, and Perth, Australia. Tampico, Mexico, and Louisiana's Petro-chemical corridor, also will be discussed Saturday.

Note to media and others wishing to attend the workshop: Friday's sessions will be held in the Rockwell Pavilion of the M.D. Anderson Library. Saturday's sessions will be in the Bluebonnet Room of the University Center. For more information, contact: 713-743-0778