There is a tendency among critics in the growing Energy Humanities camp to focus almost exclusively on the symbolic politics (and geopolitics) of petroleum. This reflects, I think, the way that the current dominant mode of resource exploitation shapes our consciousness, regardless of differences of time and space.
Yet while oil may be the fuel that drives US culture – and US imperialism – it is by no means the dominant fossil fuel. Coal is still incredibly central to global energy politics, notwithstanding its association with outmoded modes of production and outmoded moves of working class organizing in the developed world.
An absolutely crucial and heartbreaking series of articles in The Guardian discusses the impact of coal on rural communities in contemporary China. Coal is still very much powering economies, and wrecking lives, in the present.