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06/10/2021 - 06/11/2021 | online

Conference: Energy Transitions and International Cooperation in the 20th Century

Since the “Energiewende” has become a primary political goal, a growing body of energy historiography has analyzed both the causes and consequences of earlier energy transitions. Yet, so far, there has not been a systematic discussion of the connections between energy transitions and international cooperation. The conference, organized by the Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam, aims to fill this gap.

This conference is supported financially by the Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation.

PD Dr. Rüdiger Graf and PD Dr. Henning Türk
(Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung/Leibniz-Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam, ZZF)

Human societies have always depended on the use of energy but the dominant forms of primary energy have changed over time. Especially the 20th century witnessed dramatic energy transitions. Coal, as the major energy resource in the first two thirds of the century, was increasingly replaced by oil after the Second World War. Due to expectations of future oil scarcity and the experience of the first oil crisis in 1973/74, however, experts criticized the world’s growing dependence on oil and many governments sought to diversify their energy sectors by developing nuclear energy, which became an important factor in power generation. But, nuclear energy did not live up to its initial promises and, as environmental concerns have grown, renewable energies have emerged as serious competitors to hydrocarbons since the 1990s.

Our conference combines research on energy transitions with research on international cooperation mainly in organizations, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) or the International Energy Agency (IEA). We are seeking to address the following questions: How did energy transitions trigger the founding of new international organizations and how, in turn, did international organizations try to influence energy transitions? What were the effects of broader international developments, such as Cold War or the North-South conflict, on international energy cooperation? Was the wave of international institution building in the second half of the 20th century also a consequence of an increasingly globalized energy economy? And, if that was the case, will the increasing use of more local renewable forms of energy have an effect on the stability of these international institutions? Discussing these questions, the conference will aim to deepen our understanding of both energy transitions and the evolution of the international system in the 20th century.


Thursday, June 10

13.30 – 14.00: Welcome and Introduction
Rüdiger Graf (ZZF Potsdam) and Henning Türk (ZZF Potsdam)

14.00 – 15.00: Cold War Energy Cooperation: Eastern Perspectives
Susanne Schattenberg (Universität Bremen):
Making Bavaria Great Again. How a Provincial Minister of Economy Changed the Federal Energy Politics of West-Germany (1960s)

Michael De Groot (Indiana University): CMEA Cooperation and Energy during the Late Cold War

Chair: Ralf Ahrens (ZZF Potsdam)

15.00 – 15.30 break

15.30 – 16.30: Cold War Energy Cooperation: Western Perspectives
Robert Gross/Odinn Melsted (Universität Innsbruck): Creating the Conditions: The European Refinery Expansion Program and the Transition from Coal to Oil, 1948–1955

Victor McFarland (University of Missouri): The United States and International Energy Cooperation

Chair: Astrid M. Eckert (Emory University)

16.30-17.00 break

17.00 – 18.00: New Alliances: OPEC and “Third World” Cooperation

Giuliano Garavini (Università Roma Tre): The Venezuelan Project of a Global ‘Portioning’ Agency: the Creation of OPEC

Jonas Kreienbaum (Universität Rostock): From Cooperation to Friction. OPEC-NOPEC relations in the 1970s

Chair: Rüdiger Graf (ZZF Potsdam)

Friday, June 11

13.30 – 14.30 Coping with Assumed Energy Scarcities in the Long 1970s

Cyrus Mody (Maastricht University): Complementary Scarcities, Complementary Transitions: Oil, Food, and International Development in the Long 1970s

Henning Türk (ZZF Potsdam): The International Energy Agency between North-South-Conflict and Cold War, 1974–1984

Chair: Karena Kalmbach (Eindhoven University)

14.30 – 15.00 break

15.00 – 16.00 A Post-Carbon Age I: Atomic Energy Cooperation

Elisabeth Röhrlich (Universität Wien): An Indispensable Source of Energy? The IAEA, Industrial Development, and the Myth of Apolitical Technology, 1970-1986

Lukas Schemper (Rachel Carson Center, München): IAEA in the Age of the “Risk Society Paradigm”: Strategies, Policies and Discourse

Chair: Jan-Henrik Meyer (ZZF Potsdam)

16.00 – 16.30 break

16.30 – 17.30: A Post Carbon Age II: Europe and Renewables

Eva Oberloskamp (Institut für Zeitgeschichte, München): The Impact of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development on British and German Energy Policies

Stephen Gross (New York University): The Paradoxes of Concentration and Competition: European Electricity Market Liberalization in the 1990s

Chair: Duccio Basosi (Universita Ca’ Foscari, Venezia)

17.30 – 18.30: Concluding Comments and Discussion
Frank Bösch (ZZF Potsdam) and Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck College, London)

Information on participating / attending:
Papers will be pre-circulated.
To register please contact:
Rüdiger Graf ( and
Henning Türk ( by June 4.


06/10/2021 13:30 - 06/11/2021 18:30

Registration deadline:


Event venue:


Target group:

Journalists, Scientists and scholars



Subject areas:

Energy, History / archaeology, Politics, Social studies

Types of events:

Conference / symposium / (annual) conference




Marion Schlöttke



Event is free:


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URL of this event:

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