Review of "Coal Wars" by Richard Martin

Coal Wars The Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet by Richard Martin Coal Wars: the Future of Energy and the Fate of the Planet by Richard Martin, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

With good story telling, Martin paints a picture of coal's history—its hearth-warming blessings of cheap energy, its future-bashing dangers, and its slow demise, leaving too many lives disrupted. Meanwhile, our future is seriously compromised by an overdose of coal's signature, carbon dioxide.

Martin shares his personal experiences while visiting the coal country in Appalachia, Wyoming, Colorado, Ohio, and four areas in China. The picture he paints helps us understand the importance coal has played in human energy-dependent history, how it has created mining cultures whose roots go deep in China, Europe and the United States, and now why its demise is raising difficult questions.

The author doesn't preach answers at us. He makes a strong case, however, for recognizing that "market forces are going to kill off coal..." (Other sources have reported that there are more jobs now in solar than in coal, which is being out-sold by cheap gas.)

Three principles, he says, could lead to a "set of solutions." 1) Coal burning must shut down before carbon dioxide does us in: "A sustainable energy strategy requires making choices." 2) "We can't abandon the workers." They need a "GI bill" to provide support while acquiring education and training for new jobs. It would cost only 1 dollar per ton of coal. 3) "the Solution must be global," and the "...only mechanism...a price on carbon... [i.e.] stiff penalties for greenhouse gas emissions."

It's a dilemma not easily faced, for coal gave us the energy to build our technological cultures, and there is still a lot of it available. Like our dependence of gasoline and cars, it's hard to imagine how we could get along without it. But, unlike transportation, the alternatives are not only obvious but urgent, if we are to rescue the future.
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Published on January 15, 2017 10:33 Tags: coal, coal-wars, culture, economy, education, energy, jobs, mining, review, richard-martin, training
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Cary Neeper
Expanding on the ideas portrayed in The Archives of Varok books for securing the future.
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