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Refining Nature

Cleveland writer Jon Wlasiuk will discuss his book Refining Nature: Standard Oil and the Limits of Efficiency (Pittsburgh, 2017). 

The Standard Oil Company emerged out of obscurity in Cleveland in the 1860s to capture 90 percent of the petroleum refining industry in the United States during the Gilded Age. John D. Rockefeller, the company's founder, organized the company around an almost religious dedication to principles of efficiency. Economic success masked the dark side of efficiency as Standard Oil dumped oil waste into public waterways, filled the urban atmosphere with acrid smoke, and created a consumer safety crisis by selling kerosene below congressional standards.

“This is no standard history of Standard Oil. Refining Nature takes us back to the origins of one of the world’s most powerful monopolies and shows how the rise of Rockefeller’s empire degraded local ecosystems in and around Cleveland and northwest Indiana. In the era of climate change, many scholars have focused on the global environmental effects of the petroleum industry, but Wlasiuk takes a different tack, offering fresh insights on the way Big Oil undermined the ecological health of a region that came to be known as the Rust Belt.”
—Bart Elmore, The Ohio State University

FREE 7:00pm Event Link