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The Carbon-Consuming Home: Residential Markets and Energy Transitions


Home heating and lighting markets have played crucial and underappreciated roles in driving energy transitions. When historians have studied the adoption of fossil fuels, they have often privileged industrial actors, markets, and technologies. My analysis of the factors that stimulated the adoption of anthracite coal and petroleum during the nineteenth century reveals that homes shaped how, when, and why Americans began to use fossil fuel energy. Moreover, a brief survey of other fossil fuel transitions shows that heating and lighting markets have been critical drivers in other times and places. Reassessing the historical patterns of energy transitions offers a revised understanding of the past for historians and suggests a new set of options for policymakers seeking to encourage the use of renewable energy in the future.

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