Louisiana plays a large role in the US's energy economy. It is both the highest energy consuming state (per capita) and the 8th largest energy producing state in the US. Louisiana is also the fourth highest producer of natural gas (7% of the US's total natural gas production) and has 8% of the US's natural gas reserves. The state’s 17 oil refineries enable the capacity to refine 3.3 million barrels of crude oil per day, which is 1/5 of the nation's total refining capacity. Louisiana also exports a considerable amount of energy resources. The New Orleans port alone handled 1/5 of the US's coal exports in 2018, and the Sabine Pass Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export terminal exported 22% of the US's natural gas exports in 2017.
Though Louisiana is one of the last 12 states in the US that have yet to produce a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and currently generates only 1.8% of its electricity from renewable energy resources, the state has the potential to contribute significantly to the US's renewable energy economy. The state has considerable potential for geothermal energy and its wind resources have been estimated at 1,100 gigawatt hours of electricity per year. Louisiana's well-developed forestry and agricultural industries also have substantial promise as biomass energy resources. Though, as of yet, the state has not taken measures to develop and capitalize on these potential energy assets.
New Orleans is unique in that its electricity utility is regulated at the city instead of the state level. And this is a difference makes a difference, given that the city can plan and implement an RPS of its own, in lieu of a statewide standard. This process has recently been initiated. Energy Future New Orleans Coalition drafted a Resilient and Renewable Portfolio Standard (R-RPS) and submitted it for approval by the City Council on June 15, 2019. As of 2014, 57% of the city’s electricity was generated from Entergy’s nuclear power plants, 18% from natural gas plants, 4% from coal-fired plants, and the city sourced remaining 21% from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator from an assortment of resources. The latest draft of the proposed R-RPS includes a goal of achieving 100% carbon neutrality by 2040.
This may not be the right place to post/share this, and I am happy to delete or move it! But I wanted to make a plug for the 1619 Project, and this post in particular, as helpfully complementing some of the other readings (such as McKittrick and Moore et al) on America's plantation history.
I am interested in the Macro scale and the macro effects evident at a city-scale level. I remember visiting New Orleans in 2016 and vividly remember seeing several signs with a large 'No' symbol drawn and the text "neighbors not tourists" printed on the sign. Recently, as part of my research into New Orleans, I stumbled on this piece by the Guardian on how short-term rentals through platforms such as Airbnb are leading to gentrification in New Orleans. Highlighted in the article is how several Airbnb hosts do not reside on the listed premises. I remember the place we stayed, as we were a large party, having a 617 prefix number. The prefix stood out as I knew the code 617 represented Boston and was curious what someone with ties to Boston doing in New Orleans as a host. In a similar vein, the article also highlights the problem of absentee hosts, hosts who acquire property for the sole purpose of setting up the property as an Airbnb site.
To tackle the problem, one councilwoman passed a law that required any Airbnb hosts in residential zones to have a homestead exemption verifying they live on site. In this case, a city-wide measure was taken and passed into law affecting the micro. It is common to have one host having several properties in different residential areas in New Orleans. From a technical standpoint, it could be viewed that Airbnb as technology is developed and presented as a scalable product. With no limits to reproducibility. Meanwhile, real-life discontinuities exist in the form of such homestead laws. It is impossible to live in more than one homestead at the same time. In other words, the concept of the human is not scalable.
Likewise, neither is cultural heritage. The city of New Orleans positions its self as a city with great cultural heritage. It is through this heritage that they seek to draw more and more tourists. How do cities think of scaling up successful initiatives and how do they navigate the political, social, ecological, or economic entanglements. At what point is downscaling necessary? Is culture scalable?
Based on what I have found thus far regarding narratives surrounding the socioeconomic state of New Orleans, there are two predominant ones I have come across: New Orleans as the “laggard,” the city of play but not work, of poor educational quality, and the other of New Orleans as a "comeback" city shaping to a knowledge-based economy following Hurricane Katrina. The former reminds me of racist stereotypes typically used to describe groups of people deemed not to fit within the white supremacist narrative of progress. The other, post-Hurricane Katrina narrative, is portrayed in the media as a phoenix rising from the ashes, one of the “most rapid and dramatic economic turnarounds in recent American history.” I felt an almost visceral reaction to the assertion of one article that “It would be wrong to say the hurricane destroyed New Orleans public schools, because there was so little worth saving even before the storm hit.” I cannot help but be reminded of “terra nullius,” the “empty land” narrative implemented by colonial powers to seize and control land, dismissing the people residing on the land as insignificant to their broader aim of economic and political dominance. In place of public schools, charter schools are perceived as an improvement—but what of the people who were displaced due to the storm and long to return, yet cannot afford to send their children to a charter school and would be forced to bus their kids across the city? Many people end up not returning to New Orleans as a result. I find it interesting to compare these pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina narratives of New Orleans with the information I find from sources such as this one: a shrinking African American population, fewer young people, less affordable housing, increased segregation, etcetera. What do these demographic changes in the city imply for the “ecosystem” deemed ideal for Innovation hubs? As this article asserts, “New Orleans is making a big name for itself among innovative industries and entrepreneurs and the city’s unique vibe plays a big role in that.” On the other hand, City Councilmember Kristen Palmer asserts that “People have been consistently pushed out…If we lose our people and our culture, we lose our city.” What implication does this “burst” in innovation in New Orleans have for both the Anthropocenics of the city as well as its culture, a culture that is stereotyped as one long “party” with intermittent “emptiness,” as opposed to the realities of the people who have resided in the city for generations, or even the people who moved away after the Hurricane and long to return but to no avail? I am curious to see how education, job training (or lack thereof), and issues of housing feed into the anthropocenics of the city. How do grassroots, social justice and environmentalist activists and organizations (such as this one) perceive the changes in the city following the Hurricane compared to innovation hub technicians and CEOs? How do the social and environmental outcomes of Hurricane Katrina fit within the history of "natural" disasters and climate change in New Orleans? I think it is important to keep articles such as this one central to our focus as we move forward with this project.
The environmental legacies left behind by industrial production are pervasive in the air, the soil, and the water. This elemental elixer surrounds us.
In the field of STS, it is perhaps obvious to suggest that institutions have cultures, norms, standards, and professional ways of being. Yet, what are we to make of the results of industry telling its own past publically. The corporate origin story could be a footnote in Joseph's Campbells work. The allure of the lone individual working tirelessly until an innovation is produced and the market takes over.
Yet, the Wood River Refinery tells a different story. One about place, about people, about the terrible minutia of life lived within bureaucracy. Yes, the story told is glossy and teleological, but the question emerges. What can be learned about the stories industry tells about itself? What do these artifacts contribute to histories and what weight do we give to these stories within the Anthropocene?
The factory at Wood River is both a place where labor is maximized for profit, but also where worker devote 40 precious hours of their week. Lives persist and even thrive in the factory. Are the stories of these lives at Wood River?