We are pleased to announce that Christopher F. Jones is the winner of the 2011 Joel A. Tarr Envirotech Prize for his article, “A Landscape of Energy Abundance: Anthracite Coal Canals and the Roots of American Fossil Fuel Dependence, 1820-1860,” Environmental History 15 (July 2010): 449-484. In his article, Jones uses the concept of an “energy landscape” as an effective new tool for visualizing the causes and consequences of society’s energy choices, as well as the contingencies that inform the process of energy change. Drawing upon but also extending the seminal work of William Cronon and James Scott, Jones demonstrates that entrepreneurs, boosters, and other modernists built a new transportation-based energy regime in advance of market demand. By transforming the built environment and aggressively encouraging consumers to adopt anthracite coal, Jones argues, this regime helped to foster the subsequent and ultimately unsustainable American shift to fossil fuel sources that has continued to this day. Prize committee members applauded Jones for his skillful fusing of a detailed empirical analysis of the American Mid-Atlantic region with the broader theoretical concept of “energy landscapes.” Jones also breaks new ground in incorporating the spatial issue of transportation networks into our understanding of energy systems. By offering a fresh approach to dealing with the complex interactions between cultural, economic, technological, and ecological factors, Jones makes an important contribution to the field of envirotechnical history and theory.
On the behalf of the prize committee: