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Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  308 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Long dismissed as a relic of a bygone era, coal is back -- with a vengeance. Coal is one of the nation's biggest and most influential industries -- Big Coal provides more than half the electricity consumed by Americans today -- and its dominance is growing, driven by rising oil prices and calls for energy independence. Is coal the solution to America's energy problems?
ebook, 352 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Mariner Books (first published 2006)
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Jun 19, 2008 Tinea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: enviro-justice
Some good background information here, definitely a useful read, with old-time history, recent political/corporate history, and a good overview of labor, environmental, and toxic health effects of the coal life cycle from mining to burning.

However, after two thirds of the book carefully details all the reasons why the entire process of digging up and burning coal for electricity is fucked, the author caves in to pressure (was he paid off? the last few chapters come out of nowhere) and states tha
The Pfaeffle Journal
Jun 26, 2015 The Pfaeffle Journal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
This book was published in 2007 and not a thing that written about in this book has changed in the last eight years. The coal industry has lied and cheated its way into our daily lives and there is not one thing we can do about it.

The power industry does not want to move away from coal because it is cheap and easy. Still yet we see how an industry is running the political discourse of how we generate power in this country. With such political clout as the power companies have we will be a long t
Justin Tapp
This is one author's attempt to frame the modern American coal industry explain where it has come from and ask where it is going. I read Barbara Freese's Coal: A Human History after this book and I highly recommend Freese's work over Goodell's. Freese is a better writer and also takes the time to look at the broader worldwide history of coal, beginning in England, and looks at the development of the entire U.S. economy touching coal. Both books have a strong bent of environmental concern.

Is ther
Ron Smith
Jan 20, 2012 Ron Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The average person uses 20 pounds of coal a day for electricity. I'm using some of mine now to write this review. I suck.
Oct 05, 2011 Claudia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I ususally do not write a "book report" type review, but I made an exception in this case.

Because in the three years it took the author to write this book, 72,000 people in the US died from the effects of coal burning power plants—more than all those who died of Aids, murder and overdoses combined.

I took notes and then compiled them into an essay called "Old King Coal is a Merry Old Soul."

China now, Pittsburgh then. In China, coal is piled in precious piles haphazardly throughout small village
Mar 31, 2013 Misha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
on the planes so far, It goes well but the book is surprisingly short
it sort of reads like an extended new york times article, especially
since the most of the highlights (like micro particles, mercury
pollution, the miners problems) are covered in NYT. Also, it feels
like an article because the book is up-to-date -- there are citations
from 2006.

Well, he attributes human character traits to states. And you are a
malcontent. We should give the guy credit for fleshing out big coal's
relation to Bush' a
Antonio Baclig
Apr 18, 2010 Antonio Baclig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
America uses about a billion tons of coal a year, which works out to about 20 lbs of coal per person per day (basically all going to make 50% of U.S. electricity). How we have come to this point? And what are the unintended effects of such a large-scale use of natural resources? I have become very interested in these questions since starting to work at a company developing carbon sequestration, an emissions reduction technology primarily intended for coal plants.

Goodell’s book opened my eyes to
Japhet Els
May 04, 2008 Japhet Els rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A great backgrounder on the coal industry here in the United States. Gooddell does an fantastic job of providing a sound but biased view on the incredible power that coal companies have to do what they want, how they want, when they want.

Skipping over the heavy details of the history behind Big Coal, Gooddell focuses on the current status of the industry and the rising local activists working to push back against multi-billion dollar corporations who continue to pollute rivers and streams to th
Shin Furuya
Aug 07, 2011 Shin Furuya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives a great overview and detail description of lifecycle of coal from mining, transporting to burning with many testimonies from individuals who involved in each of these processes thus gives us more concrete idea about coal and related industries. The author also gives us the detail accounts of the reality of lobbying by 'big coal' and how influential they are to contribute to distort the reality of climate change. From the economy, environment, labor and politics, it covers compreh ...more
Dec 07, 2007 Kristina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in politics and the environment
With a title like "Big Coal," you'd expect a very one-sided diatribe against the industry. Surprisingly, this book also shows that getting rid of coal altogether is not a workable panacea. It questions the use of old technique coal processing and explores some of the new coal technology that would lead to a near zero emission process. The author also discusses all of the political ties between companies and government. The author discusses modern solutions that are being implemented in the devel ...more
Nicole Means
Oct 04, 2013 Nicole Means rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Energy consumers are quite ignorant about where our energy derives, but, according to the author, that's the way Big Coal wants to keep us. Isn't it ironic, they destroy our environment to provide us with electricity, but they do not want us to know all the horrors of what they are doing to our environment. Consumers are truly disconnected about the true price of power.I was under the misconception that coal was primarily used in "developing" nations, and not as much in the U.S. According to the ...more
Jul 22, 2008 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a discussion of carbon footprints and CO2 legislation I found this book timely, and well researched. Some friends have found the book preachy. While the author has his specific slant to the topic I thought the text offered the most thorough, comprehensive life-cycle analysis of the coal burning power plant I had ever encountered. His narrative is particularly strong when describing the coal mining process. Coal fired power plants have less tactile and narrative draw. I felt the author extrapo ...more
About mining and transporting coal, politics of coal-burning plants, and it's role in climate change.
See: Coal: A Human History by Freese
Fascinating to read and well-written. This is an eye-opening exposé of the coal industry. I didn't know we had gone so far back into the Dark Ages and were allowing the massive displacement of cleaner methods of energy provision. Most people have no idea that 50% of our energy comes from the burning of coal. To scare myself even more, I did a little research and right now there are 5 coal-fired power plants awaiting permits in the state of Texas where I live. Not new, "clean" plants either, but ...more
Andrew Sebastian
File Under: Biography of the Coal Industry in America
May 01, 2014 Madeleine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I give this four stars instead of five only because it now has portions that are a bit out of date. Worth the read, anyway. Very informative.
Mollie Simon
Aug 14, 2015 Mollie Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit dated now but still a great read
Apr 06, 2010 Rona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After volunteering in a small community in WVa where a coal mine had closed, I listened to individuals personally affected by this industry. The community's beautiful countryside decimated by mountain top drilling and the trees gone, health ruined because of foul water and chemicals in the environment, low wages and lack of health insurance ----- This book tells the history of coal in the US, it's influence on politics and why we still rely on coal for over 50% of our energy.
May 17, 2012 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stopped-reading
I recently read Lost Mountain and this was a good follow up book to that one. Unfortunately, I was side swiped by other books that had to be read for book club, or as loans and I put this book aside. I am clearly not getting back to this any time soon, so I just need to clear my conscience and let this go. I hate to start books and not finish them, but for now I have to say goodbye and move on.
Apr 28, 2013 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Puts a human face on the political and economic power of the American coal industry. The author visited coal fields, coal-hauling trains, and power plants, to present a solid criticism of the disconnect between environmental pollution and the economic assertions by industry that standards of living will suffer from greater regulation.
Rachel Brunette-chen
This is a brilliant look at the U.S. coal industry and how big coal continues to lead our country (through our local and federal politicians) down a dangerously polluting path. My heart really goes out to coal miners and people living near coal powered plants The long-term health effects of coal use are downright depressing.
Feb 11, 2011 Pete rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nothing super eye opening here (to me at least) but this is a decent overview on coal and our entrenched dependence on it here in the U.S. A good starting point if you want to know more about the great black rock. Written in 2006 it feels like it needs an update as things are changing so rapidly at this point.
Ricky Davis
May 21, 2008 Ricky Davis added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Environmentalist who are anti Nuclear
Recommended to Ricky by: Got it off of a Fresh Air broadcast, a talk show on NPR.
I am actually reading this book for the second time. It has eminded me the importance of turning off the light. It has reminded me that there is an important reason that we have for government. It reminded me that big business and corporations can not be trusted.
Heather P
I'm currently in the middle of this book and I am very intrigued by it. It has a lot of historical, political, and environmental issues in it. I reference it in conversation at least once a week. It's very informative and anyone that consumes coal should read it.
Andrea Mules
Jul 09, 2009 Andrea Mules rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, environment
This book inspired my Master's Thesis on abandoned mine remediation in Pennsylvania. It is wonderfully written and conveys the reality of coal and its impact. A must read for those who care about the environment and energy. And those who don't.
Mar 30, 2009 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
finding out more to fight against the dirty power plant the big guys want to put here.
Horrified to the very end. Unfortunately, it made me suspicious of the railroads, which I feel will help the global warming and fuel problem in the long run.
Ken Matthews
People who are outraged at the 'evil' coals industry will find this book great. I found it annoying-it had such a clear agenda, I felt like it was not at all an objective look at the coal industry. It was interesting though.
Jan 17, 2008 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative book on all aspects of the coal industry, from mining to movement to burning, and touches on the effects it has on the atmosphere, as well as policy implications for the future, based on past policies.
Coming from a coal mining region in PA, I've seen a lot of what has been described. This book also exposed that there was a lot that I did not know. A definite read for those interested in coal and energy from coal.
Jan 19, 2009 Cameron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
someone wrote in a blurb on the back that this book does to coal what fast food nation did to meat. true. it's just as well written too--a page turner in the nonfiction genre: the few, the bold, the proud.
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Jeff Goodell's latest book is How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climate, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2010.

His previous book, Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future, was chosen as one of the best nonfiction books of 2006 by Kirkus Reviews. The New York Times called it, “a compelling indictment of one of the country’s bigg
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