Redefining Efficiency


Pollution Concerns, Regulatory Mechanisms, and Technological Change in the U.S. Petroleum Industry

by Hugh S. Gorman

Pages: 451; Size: 6″ x 9″
Series: Technology and the Environment


Today, pollution control regulations define how complex technological systems interact with natural ecosystems and competing human uses of the environment. Redefining Efficiency examines the evolution of this industrial ecology in the United States by tracing numerous pollution concerns associated with the production, transportation, and refining of petroleum over the course of the twentieth century. In doing so, this book demonstrates that a pollution control ethic based on the efficient use of resources emerged early in the century and met with enough success to undermine the first calls for strict government-enforced regulations.

Redefining Efficiency also chronicles the failure of this efficiency-based pollution control ethic and its replacement by another. This second ethic required society first to define its environmental objectives and then to institute policies to achieve those objectives. The resulting regulations, by restructuring the economics of pollution control, have since redefined the notion of industrial efficiency.

This book is a fascinating, well-researched examination of how the oil industry, government regulators, and the public as a whole have dealt with the pollution problems associated with the production of petroleum in the U.S. over the past one hundred years. Gorman’s thoughtful analysis dispels the myth that the oil industry did nothing to abate its pollution prior to the enactment of tough federal pollution regulations in the 1970s, while providing insight into the complex web of technological, economic, and political factors that constrained these early, largely voluntary efforts.
—Christine Rosen, University of California, Berkeley

Gorman’s work is the first to treat systematically a single industry’s environmental endeavors and it will stand as a landmark in that respect. But it is not just an environmental history. By infusing business and technological concerns throughout the narrative, Professor Gorman offers a exceptionally well-rounded view of an industry.
—Craig Colten, Louisiana State University

About the author

Hugh S. Gorman

Hugh S. Gorman is assistant professor of environmental history and policy at Michigan Technological University. He holds a PhD in History and Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

Additional information


ePDF, ePub, Paperback, Hardcover


University of Akron Press


Technology and the Environment


Hugh S. Gorman

Pub Date