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2004-05 Seminars


The Rise and Fall of the Manufactured Gas Industry in the United States

Joel A. Tarr
Carnegie Mellon University

Abstract
From approximately the 1850s through the 1950s, gas produced from the heating of coal or other organic substances provided a major source of energy in U.S. urban areas. Initially used most widely for lighting, it subsequently became an important energy source for other household and industrial uses. This talk will provide an overview of the development of the industry and its critical innovations and transitions as it competed with other sources of energy. It will also examine the importance of regulatory standards in hindering the move of manufactured gas from primarily a lighting fuel to a provider of energy for industry as well as households. The demise of the industry occurred primarily in the period from the 1920s through the 1950s with the shift from manufactured gas to natural gas as a major energy source. I will conclude with a discussion of the impacts of the MGP industry on the environment and their implications for the present.