Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Big Coal

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Big Coal

The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future

by Jeff Goodell

Big Coal by Jeff Goodell X
Big Coal by Jeff Goodell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2006, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2007, 352 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

This article relates to Big Coal

Print Review

Facts & Stats according to Big Coal

  • More than 1/2 of the USA's electricity comes from coal.
  • The USA burns more than a billion tons a year - an average of 20 lbs per person per day.
  • Coal plants account for 40% of carbon dioxide emissions in the USA.
  • According to alternate energy guru Amory Lovins of The Rocky Mountain Institute, by the time you mine the coal, haul it to the power plant, burn it, and then send electricity over the wires to a light bulb, only about 3% of the energy in a ton of coal is transformed into light. Just the energy wasted by coal plants in the USA would be enough to power the entire Japanese economy!
  • In the 1920s there were more than 700,000 USA coal miners, today there are more florists than there are miners.
  • Waste from mountain-top removal mining (removing the mountain to reveal the coal) in Appalachia alone has turned about 400,000 acres of once biologically rich temperate forest into flat, barren wasteland.
  • About 25% of the world's recoverable coal reserves are in the USA (270 billion tons), versus Europe (36 billion tons), China (126 billion tons) and Russia (176 billion tons).

How reliant is the world on fossil fuels?

  • Between 1950 and 2000 the world's population grew by about 140% but consumption of fossil fuels grew by 400%.
  • In 1999, 80% of the energy the world consumed was in the form of fossil fuels (coal: 24%, oil: 37%, gas: 21%); 7% was nuclear (led by France which gets about 50% of its energy requirements from nuclear); The remaining 13% was from renewable sources, of which 11% was from solid biomass including wood*, 2% hydro and less than 1% from other renewables such as geothermal, solar, wind etc.
    Source: EarthTrends 2003.

Interesting to note: The British Empire was built in part on its large deposits of coal. Ironically, through much of the nineteenth century, few people considered coal smoke to be pollution. In fact they considered it a valuable disinfectant because its carbon and sulfur were thought capable of rendering miasma** harmless.

*Technically speaking, wood is a renewable resource, so long as it's harvested in a sustainable fashion - which it often is not.

**Up until the middle of the 18th century it was believed that an invisible, foul smelling gas caused by decomposing matter, known as miasma (from the Greek for pollution) was the cause of diseases such as cholera.

This "beyond the book article" relates to Big Coal. It originally ran in August 2006 and has been updated for the April 2007 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Transcription
    by Kate Atkinson
    Over her two-decade-plus career, Kate Atkinson has reinvented herself as a writer several times by ...
  • Book Jacket: Exhalation
    Exhalation
    by Ted Chiang
    Exhalation is an assemblage of nine short stories and novellas written by Ted Chiang, a computer ...
  • Book Jacket: Disappearing Earth
    Disappearing Earth
    by Julia Phillips
    On the remote peninsula of Kamchatka—tucked away on the far eastern corner of Russia and ...
  • Book Jacket: The Island of Sea Women
    The Island of Sea Women
    by Lisa See
    Lisa See's latest novel, The Island of Sea Women, follows the lives of Mi-ja and Young-sook, two ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Guest Book
    by Sarah Blake

    "An American epic in the truest sense…"
    Entertainment Weekly
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones

A masterpiece of storytelling, and a 2018 Oprah's Book Club Selection.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Miracle Creek

My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie...

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I T S Form O F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.