Energy is the lifeblood of any society. It drives a society’s material culture and the reproduction of that culture. It is essential for the production of food, shelter, clothing, and for transportation, trade, and communication. This article makes the case for a rural sociology of energy. Relative to the impact that energy issues have for rural places and people, energy, as a subject area, has been understudied by rural sociologists and is infrequently represented in the journals devoted to rural sociology and rural studies. Energy production and distribution activities such as coal mining, uranium mining, hydroelectric dams, wind farms, nuclear, biomass and ethanol production facilities, transmission lines, pipelines, shale gas development, and other energy related activities clearly have major implications for rural life. These activities affect power relations in local areas, landscape and amenity values, labor markets, economic development, income, poverty, health, mobility, and many other thematic areas that are common in rural sociology and rural studies. This article presents an analysis of energy related content to the major journals where rural sociologists publish, including Journal of Rural Social Science (formerly Journal of Southern Rural Sociology), Rural Sociology, Sociologia Ruralis, Journal of Rural Studies, the Journal of Rural and Community Development, and Society & Natural Resources. Some speculation is offered on historical reasons for the lack of attention to energy issues. The article ends with an invitation to turn our collective sociological imaginations toward an explicit rural sociology of energy across several themes and through several specific research questions.

Publication Date