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The Coming Age of Coal

By       Message Thomas Magstadt     Permalink
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From black coal
black coal
(image by erix!)

In an aggressive move to impose President Obama's environmental policies overseas, the Treasury Department on Tuesday largely declared an end to United States support for new coal-fired power plants around the world. The decision means that Mr. Obama's administration will no longer contribute to coal projects financed by the World Bank and other international development banks.  Michael D. Shear, The New York Times, October 29, 2013

Coal is pervasive in our society and economy.   It has a huge impact on our lives.   As a nation and a species, we will either wean ourselves away from coal-dependence in time to ameliorate the consequences of human follies past and present or we will bring upon ourselves far greater suffering in the future.  

Planet Earth's most plentiful fossil fuel, coal has been used for heating since the cave man.   Coal powered the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.   In the mid-20th century, many homes were still heated with coal-burning stoves and furnaces.

Anybody who remembers that time, who has ever had a close encounter with coal, knows that there's no such thing as clean coal.   All coal is dirty -- the only question is, how dirty.

Most people today have never used coal directly, never had a coal truck empty its contents into a corner of the basement.   Out of sight, out of mind.  

Like the military, it's big and ubiquitous, but largely invisible.   Hence, the illusion that coal is on the way out.  

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Here are a few historical facts and stats that provide a framework for deciding what is to be done.   The facts are self-explanatory; the implications are self-evident.


From Open cut coal mine Hunter Valley
Open cut coal mine Hunter Valley
(image by Beyond Coal and Gas)



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Oil Wells

The first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859 by Edwin Drake, who started the modern oil industry.   It was called "Drake's Folly".   Drake never patented the idea and lived on a meager pension until his death in 1880.   The first gas-power car was still several decades from being invented.



NO CARS IN 1859!

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Tom Magstadt earned his doctorate in international relations at Johns Hopkins (SAIS). He is a twice-tenured college professor and political science chair. He also served as a foreign intelligence analyst, a Visiting Professor at the Air University (more...)

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