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Abstract

The emergence of concerns about “peak oil,” the fallout from the Iraq War in terms of renewed calls for “energy security,” and the development of new technology to gain access to fossil fuels and gas long off-limits because of economic and environmental concerns has led to a boom of multiple kinds of energy development in and around rural communities in the United States. This article uses the lens of treadmill-of-production and growth-machine literature to understand these developments in south central Illinois, an area with rich farmland and a history of underground coal extraction. While this analysis finds the expected support from community elites for renewed coal extraction, despite health and environmental risks, we find that the farm community, concerned about damage to land critical for producing corn and beans, profitable at historical levels in part because of the biofuel boom, formed a strong opposition movement. In short, we find evidence of colliding treadmills of energy production. The findings have implications for the analysis of rural energy production in the United States and beyond.