Louisiana: A Planetary Reactor

July 31st, 2020

A River Journey reflection on power, the simultaneously planetary and molecular petrochemical industry, and the petrostate.

With its ubiquitous backdrop of refineries and power plants, the stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans—commonly referred to as “Cancer Alley”—is dominated by the simultaneously planetary and molecular industries of petrochemistry. In this Anthropocene River Journey reflection, Benjamin Steininger, a historian of chemical industry, considers how processes at both scales underpinned the false promises heralded by the petrochemical age and sustain the power the petrostate continues to wield in the region.