By making available the almost unlimited energy stored in prehistoric plant matter, coal enabled the industrial age – and it still does. Coal today generates more electricity worldwide than any other energy source, helping to drive economic growth in major emerging markets. And yet, continued reliance on this ancient rock carries a high price in smog and greenhouse gases.
We use coal because it is cheap: cheap to scrape from the ground, cheap to move, cheap to burn in power plants with inadequate environmental controls. In this book, Mark Thurber explains how coal producers, users, financiers, and technology exporters drive this supply chain, while fragmented environmental movements battle for full incorporation of environmental costs into the global calculus of coal. Delving into the politics of energy versus the environment at local, national, and international levels, Thurber paints a vivid picture of the multi-faceted challenges associated with continued coal production and use in the twenty-first century.
Mark C. Thurber is Associate Director of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University.