The Age of Empire was driven by coal. The Middle East—as an idea—was made by coal. Coal’s imperial infrastructure presaged the geopolitics of oil that wreaks carnage today. Carbonization threatens our very climate. Powering Empire argues that we cannot promote worldwide decarbonization without first understanding the history of the globalization of carbon energy. How did this black rock come to have such longlasting power over the world economy?
Focusing on the flow of British carbon energy to the Middle East, On Barak excavates the historic nexus between coal and empire to reveal the industrial and imperial motives behind what is conventionally seen as a technological innovation. He provocatively recounts the carbon-intensive entanglements of Western and non-Western powers and reveals unfamiliar resources—such as Islamic risk-aversion and Gandhian vegetarianism—for a climate justice that relies on more diverse and ethical solutions worldwide.