Energy and Power: Germany in the Age of Oil, Atoms, and Climate Change

Wednesday, June 21, 2023, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT // 18:00 – 19:00 CEST

Book Launch with Dr. Stephen Gross

Dr. Stephen Gross, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at New York University

Dr. Eric Langenbacher, Senior Fellow and Director of the Society, Culture & Politics Program at AGI

Since the 1990s Germany has embarked on a daring campaign to restructure its energy system around renewable power, sparking a global revolution in solar and wind technology. But this pioneering energy transition has been plagued with problems: reliance on dirty lignite coal, deep social rifts over nuclear power, and dependence on hydrocarbons from Russia. Only by understanding the deeper history behind Germany’s turbulent experience with energy can we make sense of the problems and paradoxes it faces today.

Energy and Power offers the first comprehensive history of German energy and climate policy after World War II. It follows the Federal Republic as it passed through five energy transitions, beginning with the dramatic shift to oil that nearly wiped out the nation’s hard coal sector, moving through the oil shocks and the rise of the Green movement in the 1970s and 1980s, and ending with the transition to wind and solar power today. It shows how debates over energy profoundly shaped the course of German history and influenced the landmark developments that define modern Europe, from the Economic Miracle to the Cold War and the drive for European integration. The intense and early politicization of energy led the Federal Republic to diverge from the United States and rethink its fossil economy well before global warming became a public issue, building a green energy system in the name of many social goals, not only to protect our climate. But Germany’s experience also illustrates the difficulty, the political battles, and the unintended consequences that surround energy transitions.

Stephen G. Gross is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at New York University. After working at the Bureau of Economic Analysis (Department of Commerce) in Washington DC, he received his PhD in history from UC Berkeley in 2010. His first book—Export Empire: German Soft Power in Southeastern Europe, 1890–1945—explored the political economy of the Nazi Empire in Europe. Since 2015 he has turned to the history of energy and climate change, and has co-edited a volume with the University of Pittsburgh University, titled New Energies: A History of Energy Transitions in Europe and North America.

Dr. Gross’s research has been supported by the Fulbright Fellowship, the German Academic Exchange Program, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, and the Andrew Mellon New Directions Fellowship, through which he earned a certificate of sustainable finance at the Earth Institute of Columbia University.

This event is supported with funds from The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF).